Get a taste of Vietnamese tradition but it’s not in Hoi An
words & photos: MATTHEW COWAN
Mui Ne as a holiday destination receives its fair share of criticism. It’s a shame because the area has a lot to offer, especially for water sports enthusiasts. There are even hot air balloon rides over the famous sand dunes these days and the main road heading north out of town is a delight for motorcyclists.
But there is more to the place than just Ham Tien, the well known tourist strip between Phan Thiet and Mui Ne townships that has attracted tourists for years.
Ham Tien, which most travellers blanketly (and misleadingly) refer to as Mui Ne, has a long stretch of developed beach with resorts, bars and restaurants right on the water — in some cases, too close to the water. As a result, attempts have been made over the years to thwart the erosion that threatens these developments, and it’s these measures that have been the root cause of some of the negative feedback about the area as a holiday destination.
There is still much to like about the area, however.
Further along 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 it takes very little effort to get to.Suoi Nuoc Beach is approximately 10km from Mui Ne township and almost midway along another 10km stretch of unspoiled beach where Full Moon Village, a resort that offers exceptional villa accommodation and amenities, is located.
Full Moon Village has a number of 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, on-shore breezes carry the sound of the gentle shore break into your bedroom, inviting you to hit the beach.
Each villa has a small gate at its entrance that borrows from the more traditional and bigger temple gates that you might see in Cholon in Saigon or Hoi An or Hue. At night, two red lanterns on either side 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 timber 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 whole space on-theme. 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 matching timber furniture with the centrepiece being a low-set traditional table positioned in the centre of the 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.
One afternoon when the monsoon rains rolled in from the ocean, it was the perfect place for me to sit and take in the atmosphere as thunder cracked overhead and the rain droplets drizzled down the windows. The red ceiling lanterns in the fading light radiated a romantic hue that had me wishing I had someone to share it with.
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. Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m fond of an afternoon nap, especially on holidays, and these bedrooms do the trick just nicely. I’d imagine anyone with kids would be grateful that the bedrooms are tucked away to the side and can be sealed off from noise with a solid timber door.
Full Moon Village has a spacious two-story restaurant and lounge space by 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.
This resort has a little bit of everything for everyone. Romantics can hideaway in their villas and order everything to come to them (including massages), families can use the watersports equipment to go surfing or kayaking, and people looking for some adventure can hit the highway and visit the sand dunes nearby or organise a hot air balloon ride to see them from the sky.
But perhaps the best thing 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 lost, and tourist coaches bullying you off the road like they own it.
Full Moon Village is at Nguyen Co Thach, Suoi Nuoc, Mui Ne. For more info go to, facebook.com/Full-Moon-Village-Resort-505319412970893