Mui ne

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2007

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 67- Beautiful Mui ne...
  We waited for the bus with our Swedish friends.  Although the bus was half empty, they forced us all to sit at the back of the bus.  As we began picking up random Vietnamese people, we realized that our "private tour bus" was doubling as a local one.  We made a typical stop at a rest area, but the owners of the restaurant were quite atypical.  They didn't pressure us at all to buy anything.  The landscape began to change dramatically as well.  We saw cows were grazing in an almost prairie-like setting.  Rolling grasslands stretched for miles.  Minutes later, the landscape turned to redrock desert and then to stunning beaches.  It was unlike anything Phil and I have ever seen. 
  We arrived at Mui ne, which is merely a long strip of hotels and restaurants along the beach.  The first hotel we looked at appeared way beyond our budget.  Charlie, the American manager, showed us the beautiful rooms with private balconies overlooking the ocean.  They shared the huge pool, with waterfall, with the four star hotel next door.  And we fell in love.  So, for twenty five dollars, we were in our glory.  There are no tides in Mui ne, so the hotels are actually built only fifteen feet from the surf.  We headed straight for the pool, which was completely empty.  We swam for a while, then sat on the beach and watched the kite surfers and windsurfers. 
  We needed some money, and the only ATM was a couple of kilometers down the road.  We passed Coco Beach resort, a totally cheesey Miami-style resort and the stunning five star Saigon Hotel.  On the way back, Phil surprised me and stopped at the gourmet ice cream shop serving New Zealand ice cream.  Although he cringed at the thought of spending $2.50 for ice cream in Vietnam, he relented and even enjoyed it along with me.  We read about Jibe's windsurfer's café in Lonely Planet, and decided to see what the buzz was about.  They were offering two for one beer specials, and we had a seat on two of the lounge chairs on the beach and watched the sunset. 
  We had a relaxing night in Mui ne.  We talked with crazy Charlie for a while, about life, America, and Vietnam politics.  We then had a bit of dinner at the little local restaurant next door.  The rest of the night was spent lying on beach chairs watching the waves hit the shore.  I could easily lose a month in Mui ne.  It is perhaps the most beautiful and relaxing town we have visited so far. 
Day 68- Mui ne- All of America in one town...
  We checked out of our hotel, and Charlie agreed to watch our stuff for the day.  We scarfed down our delicious breakfast and waited for our tour driver.  Son picked us up in a beat-up Jeep wrangler, and we set off for the day.  For ten dollars, Phil and I got our own private tour of Mui ne for the day.  Our first stop was the white sand dunes.  There we were handed over to Yate, our eight year old tour guide of the dunes.  We walked along the lake filled with enormous lilly pads up through the dunes.  Phil and I huffed and puffed up the dunes, trying to keep up with our little guide.  As we reached one of the peaks, Yate set down our "sleds" and motioned for us to go.  I went first.  I laid my stomach on the plastic sled, and down I went.  It was great!  I waited anxiously to see how Phil faired.  He loved it as well.  We went down a couple more times, and then asked Yate to take us back to the truck.  Back by the truck, I played with the cutest little puppy as Phil proceeded to get every last grain of sand off of him.
  Our next stop was the Red Rock Canyon.  Our driver pulled over on the side of the highway and pointed up a narrow trail, and told us to go.  A few meters up the trail opened up to a jaw dropping canyon.  It looked just like Sedona.  Phil and I were awe struck.  We climbed up and down the canyon, and once again were the only people around.  Some of the passages were extremely narrow, and we got a bit lost, but ended up finding the trail again.  We must have looked stunned when we arrived back at the Jeep.  Son asked us what we thought, but we were too speechless to answer. 
  Our next stop was the yellow sand dunes.  Here we were harassed by a dozen children all wanting to take us sledding.  We told them we just wanted a look at the dunes, and weren't sledding.  I asked why they weren't in school, to which they replied "I need $100 American dollars to go to school" (a total lie).  We only spent a few minutes at the yellow dunes.  They were quite beautiful, and as you looked out over them you could hardly believe you were less than a mile from the beach.  They were also uneventful, so we headed back to the jeep.  Son asked if we were ready to go back, to which I replied "after the waterfall we were promised to visit".  He laughed and headed out to the waterfall. 
  Pho was our guide for the waterfall.  He was fifteen, and I doubt if he has attended a day of school in his life.  The walk to the waterfall involved a kilometer trek through a stream.  Along the way, Pho showed us all of local plants.  He showed us a fern, that when you touched the leaves, it shriveled up in self defense.  We found a patch of four leaf clovers and beautiful banana leaves.  The walk was incredible.  On the right side of the stream, a wild rain forest guided the way.  The other side was lined with pure white sand dunes.  Pho seemed to enjoy our enthusiasm with his stream, and showed us everything he knew about the area.  The waterfall was small but beautiful.  We quickly realized the real draw of this excursion was the walk.  Mui ne is absolutely the most incredible town ever.  We described it as all of America in one little village.  It has prairie land, desert, canyons, and spectacular beaches.  It is easily the highlight of our trip so far. 
  Back in town, we went for a swim in the pool and had some lunch at our favorite little restaurant.  We checked into a small backpacker hotel down the road.  It was no where near as nice as the last, but for $8 you can't go wrong.  After a shower, we went looking for a restaurant for dinner.  We passed a big sign that said "E-casino, grand opening".  We decided to check it out.  It turns out it was the soft opening for the first casino is Mui ne.  They invited us to their grand opening the following day.  We ended up eating at a seafood restaurant next door.  Our food took forever, but we enjoyed our mojito and compare in the mean time.  The pork curry dish was certainly worth the wait, as was my red snapper with sweet potato.  For desert, we tried durian sorbet.  Durian is a popular fruit in Southeast Asia.  Most restaurants and buses ban durian from their premises because of their God awful odor.  Apparently the taste is just as bad.  Even Phil, who can eat anything, couldn't finish the dish.  After dinner, we had a beer by the beach and went back to the hotel.
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