But there is more to the area than just Ham Tien, the well-known seafront tourist strip between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne that’s lined with resorts, bars and restaurants.
Further up the coast past the township proper of Mui Ne is another stretch of coastline that has remained much less developed and offers a more laid-back ‘Mui Ne experience’ for holidaymakers. And there’s one accommodation option worth the extra drive for.
Tradition with Comfort
At Suoi Nuoc Beach, approximately 10km from Mui Ne township and midway along a stretch of unspoiled beach, is Full Moon Village, a resort that offers exceptional villa accommodation, amenities and watersports activities.
Full Moon Village has two and three-bedroom villas with their own gardens set on 200sqm blocks. My villa for three nights is villa number two Custard Apple (the villas are named after fruit), a two-bedroom, self-contained villa right across from the resort pool (which is one of the best I’ve seen in Vietnam) and a short walk to the beach and resort restaurant. In the mornings, onshore breezes carry the sound of the gentle shore break into your bedroom, inviting you to hit the beach. In the evenings, an almost deafening cacophony of frogs can be heard in the resort grounds as they call out to each other for a suitor.
Each villa has a small gate at its entrance that borrows from the more traditional and bigger temple gates that you might see in Hoi An or Hue. At night, red lanterns illuminate the entrance giving it an ethereal feel that you don’t often come by at other accommodations in and around Mui Ne.
Through the gate winds a short path that takes you to the spacious front porch via a neatly manicured garden with small frangipani and fruit trees. On the porch is a large inviting Jacuzzi and day lounge, but it’s at the door into the villa where you’re swept away with thoughts of life of the old Vietnam.
Inside the front door, the open-plan living room and kitchen harks back to traditional Vietnamese architectural designs with dark, solid timber columns that support beams and trusses holding up the gabled terracotta-tiled roof. Traditionalists will love the mortice and tenon joinery that’s been used to pull the place together.
The beams are inlaid with intricate oyster-shell motifs while the timber window frames and front sliding door keep the space light and airy. Perhaps the only thing that breaks from tradition are the modern ceiling fans, but given the climate, this is easily forgiven.
The villa is beautifully decorated with wooden furniture; the centrepiece being a low-set traditional table positioned in the middle of the living room where guests — small families or couples — might come together to enjoy a light meal or afternoon tea before heading out to explore the area. There’s a positive feng shui to the place.
The bedrooms are less traditional and spacious but their simplicity is a thoughtful counterbalance to the intricacies of the living area and the rest of the villa. I’m fond of an afternoon nap, especially on holidays, and these bedrooms do the trick nicely. I’d imagine anyone with kids would be grateful that the bedrooms are tucked away and can be sealed off from noise with a solid timber door.
Something For Everyone
Full Moon Village has a spacious two-storey restaurant and lounge space overlooking the beach that offers meals at all times of the day. The buffet breakfast is plentiful and the menu offers a broad range of Vietnamese and international dishes served up by friendly local staff. There’s no need to leave, really.
This resort has a little bit of everything for everyone. Romantics can hide away in their villas and request that everything comes to them (including massages), parents can throw a surfboard or kayak at teenagers who can’t sit still, and people looking for adventure can hit the highway and visit the sand dunes nearby or ride aloft in a hot-air balloon to see them from the sky.
But perhaps one of the best things about Full Moon Village and Suoi Nuoc Beach is that they challenge your perceptions of what Mui Ne is, which too often is the one of touts trying to coax you into their seafood eateries, hot and flustered tourists suffering from sunstroke traipsing the main road, and tourist coaches bullying others off the road like they own it.
For info click on fullmoon-village.com.
PHOTOS BY MATT COWAN