Mui Ne, Vietnam

26 Aug

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Mui Ne, Vietnam

The bus ride to Mui Ne, a beach town known for kite surfing, was 5 hours from HCMC and luckily for us we had a comfortable sleeper bus. (The sleeper buses in Vietnam are more like the first class seats in a plane that totally recline into a horizontal position and less like a lazy boy chair.) We were dropped off on the main street at the hottest point of the day which is usually around 1pm or 2pm and we hadn’t booked a hotel in advance. It hadn’t occurred to us that it might be busy as it was the weekend and Mui Ne was a popular getaway for HCMC folk. Sweating buckets we gave up looking for budget options and decided to splurge ($30) for one night only on an air conditioned bungalow at Thuy Thuy. The hotel had a beautiful pool, a gym, full restaurant and even an adorable puppy running around the grounds.

Once we had gotten settled and dropped off our bags we visited the more hostel-like accommodations of Austria Vietnam across the street and booked a room there for the following 2 nights. Once we had sorted ourselves out for our stay in Mui Ne, I changed into my bathing suit and hit the pool to read my Lonely Planet Vietnam while J.J. rested as he still wasn’t feeling well.

After the sun had set we decided to scope out the restaurant scene. As we crossed the street who did we run into but Olivia, Troy and Pato! They too were looking for somewhere to eat dinner and invited us to join them. We didn’t make it a late night as we were trying to get J.J. healthy again.

First thing in the morning we packed up our things and moved to the less luxurious but beachfront Vietnam Austria before venturing next door to Joe’s where we had breakfast and some amazing coffee. We spent the morning reading a book (J.J.) and German fashion magazines found in the lobby of the hotel (me) in the lounge chairs set up overlooking the ocean. Whenever I took a break from reading (ok, looking at the pictures because I can’t read German) I was graced with an amazing view of turquoise water dotted with kite surfers and wind surfers being pushed along the sea.

In the afternoon we met Olivia, Troy and Pato at their hotel just down the road for a group tour of the sites around Mui Ne. We were picked up by a jeep that resembled something that may have been used in the war by the army. Our trip started with a visit to Fairy Stream which is a very shallow red-brown coloured stream enclosed by amazing red sand dunes, some of which had hardened into rock-like formations, and lush greenery. Along the way we stopped to allow Troy the opportunity to ride an ostrich which was hilarious for us, but I think if it had been me I would have been scared. The ostrich ran quite quickly, bucking around, and turning its head back to face Troy as it opened its beak wide. Strange little tourist attraction, the ostrich riding.

Our next stop was a local fishing village. We were able to walk down the cement steps from the road down to the ocean where we could get a close-up look at the local fisherman casting their rods and their nets into the ocean and pulling in the day’s catches as a number of kids rode their bicycles along the wet sand. I have to say, the smell of the fishing village didn’t really do much to stimulate my appetite.

We left the fishing village in search of the white sand dunes. Here we could rent an ATV to drive up and down the rolling dunes as well as rent crazy carpets to toboggan down the sloping sand. Unfortunately the ATV rentals were expensive (relatively, of course) and we would have had to wait for someone to return one so instead we headed off toward the dunes on foot, crazy carpets in hand.

As we got further away from small warehouse-like building where we had parked the jeep dark clouds began to roll in, replacing the clear blue sky of earlier that day. Eventually the wind also began to pick up and let me tell you that being sand-blasted from all angles in what is essentially a desert is not so much fun. We walked back to where the jeep was parked just as big rain drops began to fall. In no time at all we and the other tourists and our drivers were huddled under the awning of the warehouse watching a killer thunder and lightning storm roll in.

The locals played a rowdy game of cards for money and as we watched we noticed a family of puppies huddled under the table of the card game. I spent the duration of the storm luring out the puppies one at time and cuddling with them before sending them back under the table to snuggle with their mum, dad, brothers and sisters.

Our final stop of the tour was to be the red sand dunes which is said to be incredible for sunset. Unfortunately by the time the storm passed and the rain lightened up it was already beginning to fall dark. Instead we headed home to shower off our sandy bodies before meeting up again for dinner.

We chose a BBQ place called Hoang Vu along the main road and we all had the mixed kebabs which were delicious, so much so that Troy and J.J. had 2 full dinners. We then visited Joe’s next to our hotel for a drink and some live music before calling it a night.

The next morning we slept in a little bit and headed next door to Joe’s for breakfast, where the food is good and the service is generally not. Every time we’ve gone there I feel like ordering a smile, but they have pancakes with real Canadian maple syrup and good coffee so you can understand its appeal. When we were finished we went back to Vietnam Austria to meet an Aussie who ran local kite boarding lessons. We wanted to talk cost as well as time commitment. Unfortunately with plans to leave Mui Ne the following morning and the wind conditions not being consistently great we didn’t have enough time, though it was cheaper to learn to kite surf in Mui Ne than it was in Bali. Instead of learning the sport we opted for a laid back beach day, again watching the kite boarders and wind surfers.

At dinner time J.J. and I set off in search of Snow, a restaurant we’d learned about in Lonely Planet. Unfortunately it was further down the road than we were willing to walk and as we came upon Hoang Vu we decided to eat there for a second night in a row. Again it was delicious!

Back at Vietnam Austria J.J. used the slow exposure feature of his camera to get some amazing shots of the lightning seemingly striking into the ocean. We then booked a bus ticket and a hotel for the following day in Nha Trang, another beach destination known in Vietnam for its scuba diving and island amusement park.

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