My first experience as a hitchhiker in Vietnam was delightful, as well the family who gave us the ride. Since the first experience was good, the next day we returned to the road to try our luck again. Our destination: Mui Ne sand dunes.
Mui Ne has white sand dunes and red sand dunes. This time I’m heading for the furthest ones: Mui Ne white sand dunes. Already in the street, we stopped in the shadow with our thumbs up for about 5 minutes, it was pretty fast until we got a ride. It was two men in a car, one of them spoke little English and the other, not a word. They were brothers, but communication was not easy because of the language barrier, so I don’t know anything else about them. They were very friendly and took us to Mui Ne sand dunes even though they weren’t in their way. We took selfies, laughed, and left the vehicle with the most excitement as Mui Ne’s white dunes were right there beside us. They look wonderful and so, so white!
We went there right after lunch. It’s very hot, so you don’t see many more people besides us around here. No other tourists are in sight. The sand burns our feet, but on the other hand, we have a photographic scenery all to ourselves, with no footprints ruining the undulating patterns that the wind is drawing in this desert scenery. Mui Ne sand dunes, especially the white ones, are huge. You see sand until you lose sight. It’s a place I didn’t expect to find in Vietnam, and this kind of landscape is charming.
We had the lovely scenery all to ourselves until … a jeep pops up the dunes. It is literally ruining the whole landscape leaving tire marks everywhere, which was annoying us, I confess. But who is the idiot who comes here to spoil our sight and our silence? At first, I thought it was some jeep tour in Mui Ne sand dunes performed by experienced drivers, but they weren’t. They were actually very bad drivers as they ended up getting stuck in the sand. We were actually cursing them for being there at the moment, but we certainly weren’t expecting them to get that stuck in the sand dunes. Mui Ne sand dunes have a steep slope so we were thinking that it could happen, so it wasn’t so unpredictable. The most unpredictable thing here is that we would end up trying to help haha.
Yes, it’s true, we were cursing them, but as we see them in need of help, as good human beings, we step in to try to help after taking all the photos we wanted of the area.
They were two young Vietnamese and their English level was based in one word: Hello, which made the whole situation very funny. So we, three western girls, are there digging in the sand to try to free the wheels of the jeep and, despite several attempts and a lot of sand everywhere, the time we spent trying to help was useless. We dug and dug for more than 30 minutes but the jeep was so stuck in the sand that we found no way of getting it loose.
While we were there, the two young Vietnamese got help from another five very skinny Vietnamese boys that were around, and they didn’t look very strong… They also tried to help, but ten minutes after realizing that it was not working they “abandoned the task”. We had been there for a while and the situation was not improving so a short time later we also had to abort the mission. However, the whole process was very funny as our conversations through Google Translator were hilarious as each sentence written by the Vietnamese made no sense at all. Phrases like “The Cat is tall,” or other nonsense ones provided moments of laughter between the three of us. We apologize to the Vietnamese for not being able to solve the problem and follow our way not before taking a selfie with “Ball” and his friend. One of the guys’ name was BALL which was also funny. We ended up spending about 1 hour there!
We continue our journey exploring the dunes when we see the help of the Vietnamese arriving. It’s a tractor that managed to pull the jeep from Mui Ne sand dunes in minutes. As we have been so devoted to helping them, we thought they could give us a ride, so we are going to try our luck and ran towards them. Unfortunately, they were not going in the same direction as us, nor were they willing to go, so we went in the same direction as them and moved further away from our Hostel. We didn’t actually know where are we going next, or why are we even going lol. We couldn’t understand each other during the conversation sponsored by google translator, so we thought they might take us to a nice town around. But, they left us in a “dining area” which is basically a cluster of restaurants on the side of the road with nothing interesting to do or see. There nothing there but restaurants. I don’t know why we went with them in a direction that we were not supposed to go, because now we have a bigger problem: the sunset is happening and we are 30 km from the hostel in the middle of nowhere. We have to get a ride before night falls.
There are no tourists here, so each person we meet gives us a puzzled look but still with a smile. Many try to help by offering taxi services, but we don’t want to spend a lot of money, so we stand on the side of the road with our thumbs up at all those inquisitive glances on us. The locals must have found the whole situation very strange, but they were still smiling, probably laughing at us and thinking that we are crazy. We weren’t able to hitchhike, so we found another solution.
While walking on the area, we met three young guys sitting drinking their milk tea, who greet us, so we tried our luck. We told them where we want to go and after several price negotiations, we reached a consensus. We found our way back forms 100K dong with some strangers that were just enjoying their drink by the street. We thought it was a good deal and they looked trustworthy. So there we go. Each one of us has his personal motorbike driver so before departing we ask them to stay close to each other. We were fearing they would split and take us wherever…
The whole situation was fun and the trip to the hostel was pleasant, as our fears had no reason to be. They always kept close to each other and we were always smiling every time they were overtaking each other. They were driving really fast. For several moments I had my glasses trying to get off my face due to the strong wind in my face. The ride was long and we stopped once in the middle of the dark for the toilet but my driver was super gentle and worried, telling me to keep the torch of my phone on so other drivers on the street could see me.
Their English was very basic, even mediocre, but here is the challenge and the charm of interacting with the locals. So, we didn’t speak much! When we arrived at our destination we invited our drivers for a beer in our hostel which amazed them as it was a good looking place filled with lighting decorations. We could see how delighted they were with the place and how delighted they were with so many foreigners, standing beside them to see how taller they were. They had never seen so many foreigners in their life haha. We enjoyed the beer in the between conversations sponsored by Google Translator one more time. It’s getting late for them, so we took a lot of selfies together and said goodbye. I think we just made the whole day for this guys! And they made the day for us, more than Mui Ne sand dunes.
It was a fantastic day full of unexpected and hilarious events that became possible thanks to this adventurous hitchhiker spirit. We had a lot of fun because of this close interaction with the locals. I’m sure the day would end up being much boring if we just went on a tour to the dunes. I’m also sure this doesn’t happen to this guys any other time before, so we made each other happy.
Once again, this experience leads me to say that the best of traveling is the contact with the local community and the Vietnamese are nice people! What a day!