12.02.2015 - 16.02.2015 28 °C
As I mentioned in a previous blog we made our bus to Mui Ne on time and made it to our destination without any issues. What I failed to elaborate on was the 5 hour bus experience itself which was a bit interesting on its own. I couldn't have been happier when we boarded our bus and saw that it was what I know now as a "sleeper bus". There were 3 rows of seats, one along each window and the one right up the middle of the bus with each seat reclined back into a sleeping position. This was unreal and very much a welcomed surprise after jamming my knees up on cramped planes for most of our long travels so far. So now it was just a matter of curling up in my seat and nodding off until we reached the coast. Not so fast there Shayne....what proceed to take place over the next 5 hours was what I describe as the longest All Ontario Championship victory tour I have ever been a part of! You see when hockey teams win a championship it is not uncommon to jump in the fire truck or in the back for some pick up trucks and ride through your home town honking horns and sounding sirens to let everyone know you are the champs. Well I don't know what the hell we won, but our bus driver was on the horn more often then he was not from start to finish. I was never so thankful for having my iPod and headphones! Basically, honking is a very well accepted practice on the roads to let scooters and other motorists know that you are coming up behind them and to get the heck out of the way. Now, mind you, we are doing this in one direction and as you might expect traffic coming the other way is doing the same. What that all adds up to is an extremely long game of chicken where drivers are honking and flashing their lights as they bob and weave between their lane and other side of road passing vehicles that just aren't keeping the pace they are after. It is really just best to look out the side of bus and not pay any attention to the gong show that is taking place in front of you hahaha. Another detail I noticed missing from this bus once we got cruising was that there was no washroom......anywhere. Now, I have held it before for a long time but the thought of 5 hours was a little daunting. Thankfully we did make a couple pit stops along the way which allowed for some snacks and a washroom break. The washrooms along the way where a true indicator of just how bad you had to go, never did the saying "just get in and get out" apply better! But that is what this whole experience is about - seeing how the rest of world lives and stepping outside of our comfort zones.
As much as sleep was what I really wanted it just wasn't going to happen on this bus trip. Not because of the noisy horn, but because everything that we passed by along the way was new to us and we really didn't want to miss out on seeing something interesting and new. Rolling into Mui Ne was very picturesque as the sun was shinning bright over the South China Sea. Instant relaxation set in as we toured along the beach strip eventually making our way to the Rang Garden Bungalows (hillside). We where greeted by a Vietnamese man named Tan (pronounced "Tin") upon our arrival who immediately threw me off with his intermittent Australian accent. He was very very kind and as I toured around I noticed his business commerce degree hanging on the wall from a university in Australia - now it was starting to make sense. A couple noteworthy things from the short few hours we had been there was that many places advertised prices in American dollars and almost all store signage was accompanied by a Russian translation. The Russian translation peaked my curiosity and I would soon learn that a lot of the hotels and restaurants in Mui Ne where owned by Russians. With the commonality in their government structures this soon started to make more sense.
We had 4 nights and 4 days to chill out in Mui Ne before we headed off to the Central Highlands to check out Dalat. So, how did we spend our time.... As we have done in most places we started by just walking around and checking out our surroundings to see what we had access to. After a good nights rest on day two we rented some good old peddle bikes to tour around the town. Before we did that though I decided I had some energy to spare so I got up around 6:30 and went for a run, with my destination being the fishing village which was just 4km to the north down the coast. Well I won't even try to B.S. everyone and let on that I ran the whole way there and back, but considering I had been living off a diet of cheap beer and a mix of western and noodle/rice dishes, I thought I did pretty good. The way to the fishing village was peaceful and I eventually made my way down the beach where I walked amongst fishing families who where hauling in and sorting through there catches. The ocean breeze was fresh and the smell of fish, along with other sea creatures, dominated the air. After walking the shore I climbed some stairs and just sat watching the people do their thing on beach. Nets where being emptied, catches being sorted and sales of the freshly harvested sea creatures where happening in real time. The sun was starting to warm and my pale skin had no sun screen on it so I jumped back on the road and made my way back to the hotel with a great appreciation for just how important the health of our bodies of water are to the livelihood of soo many people. Now, back to the bikes. For $2 US we rented bikes from our hotel that resembled the kind of bikes you might have found laying around in your grandparents shed back in the day. A little rusty, a little faded, definitely not what the cool kids where riding around on, but they got you from point A to point B so you couldn't complain. We spent the day making our way up and down the strip with a good long stop at the public beach area where we saw hundreds of kite boarders doing there thing out on the water. The beaches where really nice and unlike in some places, we where not subjected to constant pushy vendors wanting you to buy there trinkets and other goodies. There where a couple of women selling fresh fruit but that was it. The kiteboarding scene is huge here and if you look at our pictures you will see just how big it really is. After a great day of exercise and site seeing we saddled up for some dinner at Joe's Cafe and some excellent live music. If I have't mentioned it already, I absolutely love sitting in bar, sipping away on a cold beer and listening to bands showing off their talents. Music is another one of those common grounds that I have discovered while travelling and it is has become quite clear just how big of an influence the UK and North America has been on the rest of the world when it comes to popular music. Sitting in a beach front bar listening to a Vietnamese guitar playing gentleman rock the Beatles and Eric Clapton was a really cool experience....a very simple one yes, but one I won't forget and which always leaves me with a smile on my face.
The next day we signed up for a jeep tour around Mui Ne which took us to some of the popular places in and around the town. Our jeep just may have been last serviced during the Vietnam war, but luckily I got the front seat while the rest of folks (including sherry) where packed into the back 2/3 of the vehicle. The middle row where Sherry sat was still comfortable, but I am not sure how the girls in the back faired out being as there was very little, to no suspension in this war relic. The major highlight on this tour was the white sand dunes that are located about 40 minutes outside of the town. The drive there may have also topped the highlight reel as we cruised along nicely paved roads looking out over the coast for almost 30 minutes. We came across many burial grounds as well during our drive and I couldn't help but notice that many of the tombs prominently displayed what I know as the Nazi Swastika. This was quite puzzling for me as I couldn't immediately make the connection between the two countries. So, once again it was Google to the rescue. After doing some reading I came to understand that the Swastika was first recognized as a symbol of peace and prosperity before it was adopted by the Nazis which completely changed the connotations that came with its presence. After the global perception change around this symbol the use of it on Tombs became less and less but there still are many tombs that had its marking before the Nazi's adopted it which still do to this day. The last leg of the trip to the dunes was off-roading at its best as we bounced all over the place traversing sand and rough roads. We got stopped just short of our destination when another tour jeep become bogged down in the sand in front of us. I didn't need to be told, I knew it was "go time" , which is why I was half way out the truck already when the driver tapped my on the shoulder and waived me towards the stuck vehicle to help get him out of our way. This wasn't mud, this wasn't snow, which I am quite used to pushing vehicles out of, it was sand, so I knew it wouldn't be to tough. My only concern was making sure I translated whether we where pushing him forward or backwards as i didn't feel like getting a tire track tattoo on this trip. We quickly had the jeep on its way and it was just a few short minutes before we got to the dunes. Unfortunately we only had 45 minutes at these dunes but we made the best of our time climbing to a really nice peak where we took in the views all around us and watched the many tourists running up and down throughout the vast sandy landscape. Another unfortunate item to note was that our camera had died so we did not getting any pictures while at the dunes. Feel free to Google Mui Ne white sand dunes to see what we saw, it is worth the time to look for sure.
When we returned from the jeep tour, the next stop was dinner out as it was after all Valentine's Day. We settled on Jibes surf shop and restaurant as we knew they were putting on a buffet that night. The meal was excellent, with plenty of variety for everyone's tastes. Now, one thing I will make note of, was that as we ate our dinner just 60 feet from the ocean, I began to notice some of our furry little friends racing between the large stash of surf boards lined up against the shop (rats). This was not an uncommon scene for us by now, but for those that may be making their first trip to south east Asia you may want to prepare yourself for this. For the record, we never once got sick from any food and we enjoyed almost every meal we had, but there are some standards you are going to have to compromise when it comes to dinning out or else you may never eat or you will go broke eating at the really expensive places. But if you are eating those expensive places then you may as well have went somewhere else as you will be missing out on some of the real parts of Vietnam (my opinion only).
Our last day in Mui Ne I decided just to take some time to chill and catch up on some writing while Sherry rented a bike again and toured around the town. It was nice to have the downtime and to enjoy the rang garden bungalow poolside area.
That evening we paid up our tab at the hotel, had a good chat with Tan and then crawled into bed for a good sleep as we needed to be up around 5:00 in the morning to catch our bus to Dalat which was 6 hours away - no big deal though at least we had a sleeper bus to ride on.....
Just a quick final note on our time in Mui Ne.... It was really nice to be out of the city and in a more relaxed environment, but I am not sure if this was the best beach area we could have went to during our time in Vietnam. A couple other places we heard a lot of good things about are Nha Trang and Hoi An. As with all our other stops we certainly have no regrets about our time spent in Mui Ne, but the cleanliness and the immediate access to sandy beach was a bit of a take away from the overall experience. You never know unless you try something for yourself and I am glad we had the opportunity to try Mui Ne out!
Shayne and Sherry