Mui Ne Beach

Trip Start May 03, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Sunday, October 22, 2006

OK - so up and out of Saigon - or so I thought! Time to name and shame - I had booked my onward ticket through a suprisingly local branch of STA Travel. I said my goodbyes to the family that owned the hotel I was staying in - a nice couple with a half-spoilt six -yr old son and a daughter of around fourteen (she was kept busy after school by having to help clean the rooms). Jumped on some bike-motto down into the tourist quarter - always keeping my fingers firmly crossed as we whizzed through traffic, perched on the back with my kit somehow wedged between! STA was a joke - situated in a narrow, busy tourist agency infected street - their 'booked' buses having only moment to pull in and pick up folk before being told to move on by the traffic cops. With zero organisation I ended up waiting for an hour - amongst the confusion of a dozen buses pulling in and pulling out (all at approx the same time - 7.45am - rush hour) to all destinations, picking up all sorts from all over town - I somehow missed my bus. I wasn't alone - another couple suffered the same fate - and as we ran down the polluted street - it was obvious that we'd never find the right bus, it was an absolute shambles! I stormed into STA and told them the score - with no apology I waited another ten minutes before being ushered onto the back of another motto with the promise that I'd be taken to the 'bus' that would now be at the central bus station!

After a nervous dodgem ride with what seemed like a thousand other bikes we eventually pitched up at the central station - my bus was still waiting but it was full. Sure I had a reservation - but it was obvious that this was the stop where the locals piled on to any empty seat paying much less than us 'tourists'. I was obviously mad and made it quite clear what I thought. After a short discussion later my motto driver/interpreter from the agency said that all would be ok since I could sit behind the driver in the middle of the gangway on a plastic chair!! I went crazy and point blank refused - not only would it be highly uncomfortable - but considering the way these guys drove over here, it was stupidly dangerous! I demanded to be driven back to STA where I sat and scowled for an hour before it became obvious to the manager that something had to be done since my mutterings to prospective western business that trooped in through the door was losing him money! The trick worked and I ended up on a smaller bus which finally got me out of Saigon, a real hassle in itself!

Spare you the detail of the journey - 4-5 hrs later we arrived at the coast. Sand, almost Mediterranean scrub and a blue sea - welcome to Mui Ne. Actually we weren't dropped of at Mui Ne at all - but about 6kms back along the coast road on the bay - a palm tree lined track with guesthouses, the occasional shop and cluster of small hotels here and there. Jumping off I resisted the efforts of the bus driver's assistant to get dragged into some travel agent where I could book accommodation, instead I selected a friendly face in amongst a group of motto drivers vying for our trade. Indian Style I told him to take me further down the road, away from this little tourist trapping and find me a gaff on the beach and not too expensive. The weather was fantastic; a nice breeze from the sea was more than welcome after time spent in a polluted city. The guesthouse was spot on - a few bungalows and a pleasant looking two storey building in amongst various plants and greenery, all small scale - and all very quiet. The reception was in some open air wooden structure which also served as the restaurant/bar - although picking up the sea breezes - a fan lazily wobbled high above. An emotionless face greeted me behind desk, but I soon cheered the young lady up with a bit of RGW wit, then got her to guide me around the available rooms, settling on a rather large room up on the second storey - with shuttered windows that opened up over the shore, a couple of fans, large bathroom and tasteful patio area at the top of the outside stairs - it was pretty much spot on! I didn't even have to break the budget - paying about 4 quid a night!! The beach was only exposed at low tide - directly below my room was a kind of shaded veranda and a few bamboo recliners - a wall and steps down into the sea. Over the next few days it was all about R&R - I pulled a recliner onto the wall, read, knocked back the occasional cold beer and cooled off every now and again by simply rolling off my perch and dropping 6 feet into the water below - perfect!

I seriously liked this part of the country, it was so unexpected - the landscape was almost arid when one thinks of the tropics - the buildings, their colors reminding me in some ways of the eastern med. I did one day trip - hiring the services of the motto driver that had picked me up at the bus stop. First stop was Mui Ne proper - quite simply a large fishing village - it's port packed with all sorts of unusual craft - but predominantly a type of coracle that the locals wobbled about it, standing up and using only one large paddle that was swirled in the water - rather than pulled, some of these guys positively speeding along in these strange boats.

After Mui Ne we headed off to the red sand dunes - more like a red canyon where I sweated my way around and up the interesting gullies. Next we sped off in the direction of the white sand dunes - along a coast that made me swear I'd come back and spend longer exploring - and perhaps staying in more rural out of the way places on these amazingly undeveloped beaches. The white sand dunes we spotted a mile or so off - inland next to a blue lake - what a scene! Interesting that they were no where near the sea - as we neared the size became apparent - they were huge - a piece of the Sahara in this alluring little corner of Vietnam! Next to the lake shaded by a few pines the driver lounged at the small shack run by a few lads. I set off into the dunes and was just taken back by their grandeur - I selected the highest one and plodded my way across, up and down the untrodden sands. I was suddenly transported back to that classic film - 'Ice Cole in Alex' as I struggled up the dunes and sweated me way further and further into the middle and to the highest point. I felt like a kid again with real excitement as I crested sharp ridges with huge drop offs - it was like being on snow at times! Finally soaked in sweat I made it to the top and looked around in awe - took a few pics, shot a short video and then took a different route back - charging down the steep inclines and generally having a lot of fun. Stumbled back to the shady shack, flopped down into a chair and downed an ice cold coke - quite possibly the finest coke this side of the Mekong. On the way back to base we stopped off at some stream where I walked up in the middle of it - eventually walking through a gentle gorge - it would have been more scenic without the plastic/rubbish strewn banks! I shot a video wading up - like I was supposed to be some marine back in the war - I found it and still do find it funny!

Ok - so that was Mui Ne - just a little gem of a place where I rested up, topped up my tan, ate and slept well - the sound of the sea and it's breeze sending me off to cuckoo land in a very short space of time each night. But before we move on I must mention the fantastic sunrises I witnessed, on one morning I awoke early and looking out the window was greeted with such an incredible dawn light that the following day I got up even earlier and had a stroll down the beach to take a few shots. I'm struggling to describe the scene here - let's just say it was one of those moments etched to memory!
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