As above, so below at Sandunes Beach Resort & Spa

No 3, Vol.6, May - June 2015

Many people come away from a Mui Ne beach holiday without realising they never actually went to Mui Ne. The Mui Ne tourist area today stretches from the cliff tops just beyond the Poshanu Champa Towers. This area is actually in Phu Hai ward of Phan Thiet City. From there, you go downhill to the long sandy strip that epitomises Mui Ne for most people and on which most of the hotels and activity is centred. This is actually in Ham Tien Ward. You have to continue to the base of the peninsula of Mui Ne in order to reach the large Mui Ne fishing village. Beyond this and still in Mui Ne Ward is the secluded Hon Rom Bay with another long, beautiful beach. It is on this golden strand that in that a number of hotels have sprung up in recent years. In its windy season, this is the place to be for lovers of aquatic sports. I went along with my family to experience the newest of the Hon Rom hotels still on its soft opening – ‘The Sandunes Beach Resort & Spa’ which looks set to become a Mui Ne star.
For me, the short stay was all about spending prime time with family whilst soaking up nature. For one thing, we woke up to the joyous singing of birds, which we do not get in the city. Above us loomed the famed Red Sand Dunes and also the open reception had a huge wall of sand behind it. Below were the sands and muddy areas of the beach with sandpipers darting in and out of the lapping waters. Above was the infinite azure sky, while below lay the deep blue of the eternal ocean. Beneath were the svelte green lawns. Above was the leafy verdure of the coconut fronds. Adding to the green credentials of 'Sandunes' were the solar panels and grass growing on the roofs of the villa accommodation. The architecture of these and the main block reminded us of the power of wind coming as they did in the form of sails somewhat reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House.
My wife and daughter went for a paddle on the beach. I prefer the swimming pool and there is a magnificent three-tiered one here. The first is small; a paddling pool for the kids. The other two-not too deep-are for Mum and Dad. There were many Vietnamese children splashing around, as this was a public holiday. I found this a very family-oriented place, as there was also a fine kids play room near reception. Meanwhile, down on the beach, my wife and daughter were digging out starfish. Our baby granddaughter has asthma and starfish provide a cure, my wife explained. ‘We can also make starfish wine’, said my wife. Indeed, I have seen this in Saigon supermarkets. I also spotted a huge beached jelly fish. My wife investigated, even picking it up. Later, ‘Sandunes’ management told me the species found here is not poisonous. I have eaten and enjoyed jelly fish. My wife told me the one she saw would sell for around fifteen dollars in a Saigon market.
All of the over one hundred rooms at ‘Sandunes’ have an ocean view. Our room was on the upper level of one of the many bungalows set among gardens sloping to the sea. The balcony equipped with sunbeds on boards was like the deck of a ship-great for a sundowner and not only do you get complimentary coffee and water here, but also a bottle of red wine. The ample room with parquet flooring had a huge bed with a painting of beach and sea shells above it. The gleaming white bathroom had a large bathtub and there was a walk-in shower. If you require a wide-angle view over the whole bay, book a room on the upper levels of the main building.
On to the delicious fresh food you can eat here. First, my wife remarked on how spotlessly clean the Para Kite Restaurant was. She is Vietnamese and I left it to her to select some Vietnamese dishes. Firstly, the fish cooked in a clay pot packed in the flavour. My wife has introduced me to a wonderful fish which feeds on crabs and retains something of a crab flavour. If you want a change from the usual snapper, mackerel or tuna I suggest you try ‘ca bop’, which in English is known as cobia fish. Our other main dish was very tender chicken on the bone with a strong lemongrass taste. The rice was fluffy and perfectly done. To round matters off, we had water spinach and a sour soup (canh), a taste for which I recommend visitors to Vietnam to acquire. My wife rated the whole ensemble very highly, which in my book is equivalent to a Michelin star.
If you tire of beach relaxation, you can rent a bicycle and explore the mainly flat Mui Ne area. Do not forgo a ‘Lawrence of Vietnam’ adventure. Make sure you enjoy a clamber up and slide down the Red Dunes, which are right on the hotel's door step. When we were there, it was a public holiday and many local people were doing just that. Reception can arrange excursions too. Phan Thiet was the last bastion of the Champa Kingdom. A visit to the Po Shanu Towers is well worthwhile. Cham people still live here and you get to know them in a visit to one of their villages. Why not complete your Phan Thiet experience with cable car ride to enjoy the views from the Buddhist Mountain of Ta Cu?
I sat down for a chat and a Vietnamese coffee by the pool with Mr Nguyen Trong Quang, the General Manager. Dressed in smart casuals, he had a sunny disposition worthy of a beach hotel. He has had plenty of start-up experience working for the ‘Six Senses Evason’ group. Here he is steering an almost exclusive team of Mui Ne villagers, as well as a chef from Hanoi. He told me he spends a lot of his time on training. We discussed the current downturn in Vietnam tourism. Whilst recognising the need to diversify markets, he is confident matters will normalise by the time the hotel gets into full swing. Now is the time to go to ‘Sandunes’, as you can enjoy promotional rates at least until to the Grand Opening, which is slated for the next national holiday, National Day, on September the second.
In short, ‘Sandunes’ offers you all you need for a beach holiday. You are immersed by nature on both land and sea. The rooms are bright and cheerful and equipped for the perfect chill-out. Pool and ocean give great aquatic relaxation and the food is excellent. I can guarantee you will come away feeling refreshed with your batteries renewed by solar and wave energy.

Photos: Sandunes Beach Resort & Spa

Sandunes Beach Resort & Spa
5 Quarter, Mui Ne Ward, Phan Thiet City, Binh Thuan Province
Tel: (062) 3748-868
Email: info@sandunesbeach.com

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