Thursday, 2 June 2011

Mui Ne, Beaches, Dunes and Pesky Kids, 3-5 April 2011

I was woken up at 6.45am by the annoying sound of the telephone ringing in my hotel room. Confused, I picked up the receiver and greeted the person on the other end with a sleepy “Hello?”.
“You bus to Mui Ne?” A lady enquired with a rushed and slightly angry voice.
“Yes?” I confirmed with intrigue.
“It's here now, you come now!” She barked.
“No, you said 7.30, not 6.45. You're going to have to wait!” I responded annoyed in the fact that I was being ordered around but dumbfounded that a bus in Vietnam turned up early. Luckily I had packed the majority of my things the night before and I just had to collect a few remaining things and brush my teeth. I managed to get downstairs by seven only to be greeted by the rather agitated lady whom I had spoken to earlier. She forced me out of the door with her eyes and a flick of the hand pointed to the minibus a little further down the road. I got in and then spent the next 30 minutes driving around Dalat picking up other people from their hotels. Once the minibus was full, we drove a little further out of the centre to meet a coach that was going to take us down to Mui Ne.

Mui Ne towards the end of the day
The journey was relatively short but exciting as we descended through the mountains on an incredibly bumpy road. I arrived in Mui Ne around four hours later and the temperature difference was immediately noticeable as the sun was out in full force. It was the first time I had properly seen the sun without the accompanying rain clouds for a long time. It was marvellous. I checked into the Mui Ne Backpackers but the dorm was full so I stupidly agreed to stay in a single room which was $16 a night. This idiotic mistake was proof that I had become tired and complacent. I should have just walked away and found somewhere else for less than half the price, but I just couldn't be bothered. The room was nice though; air-con, plasma TV, fantastic en-suite and a fridge for my Dairylee slices. I had a couple hours rest whilst the midday sun was beating down strongly before making my way onto the beach.

Road turns to sand
I sat on the beach for an hour or so, had a swim in the sea and read my book for a bit, all the usual things you do on a beach. I can't sit on a beach for very long without getting bored. Mui Ne is a haven for kite surfers as the wind curving along the South China Sea around the southern Vietnam create one of the best beeches in the world to take part in the sport. I would have liked to give it a go but it was terribly expensive to even consider it. I left the beach and wondered back to the hotel, had a shower and then went to get a meal. As I was looking for a restaurant I was struck by the amount of signs and menus that had Cyrillic translations, presumably Russian. It was the first time I had seen Cyrillic since I left Mongolia before Christmas and I began to remember how to read it. I was shocked that Mui Ne was a popular Russian tourist spot, but I suppose for the Eastern Russians, Vietnam and China are the closest and most likely beach venues to them that they can afford.

Deserted beach
The next day I took yet another motorcycle out to explore the area surrounding Mui Ne. My first stop was supposed to be the inland sand dunes but there were too many touts there at the time looking for money, so I paused for only a moment to take a photo. That moment was too long as a child took the opportunity to hop on the back of my bike and say “I take you to 'so and so', I am your guide.”. I responded by rebuking him and ordering the cheeky little git to get off my bike. He did and I moved off completely shocked by the cheekiness of the child. Further along the road cut through the land and emerged on the coast where a long golden beach stretched out for a long way. I took the opportunity to stop and check it out, and I'm glad I did as it was completely deserted. I took a dip in the sea and relaxed sitting in the refreshing water for a while until a wave crashed in bringing a huge crab that landed a few feet to my right, obviously unhappy to be on the beach its claws were snapping away as it scuttled back into the sea. I love the sea, but don't like the illusive sea creatures that bite and sting, so I took this opportunity to collect my things and get back on the bike for further adventures. I continued on the same road for a while as it left the coast and the dry soil on either side turned to a red colour. I reached a cross road where the condition of the road deteriorated to dirt and so I turned back and headed back towards Mui Ne. On the way back, I got a chance to open the bike up as the road was in good condition and empty only stopping for something to eat in an oversized and underpopulated restaurant by the sea.

The red sand dunes
As I reached the sand dunes again, I searched for an empty spot where I could park up away from any of the annoying boys and men that wanted my money. I found a place and as soon as I took my helmet off, a boy began running towards me from behind shouting at me. I ignored him and continued to walk up the red sand dune which produced an distressing amount of heat. The sand dunes are huge, there's a red and white one but I only visited the red dunes. As I was taking photos, I could see the boy who was shouting at me was now sitting on my bike, either waiting for my money or trying to steal it off me before I got back. I couldn't relax with him sitting there whilst my wallet and passport were sitting beneath the boy, so I headed back down and was greeted by the boy ordering 10,000 Dong. I looked at him incredulously and asked him why to which he stated that he had looked after my bike for me. I responded by telling him to get off my bike and told him that I was not going to give him any money because my bike was OK without him looking after it and I didn't ask him to. The boy continued with his demand and I ended it by igniting the bike's engine and speeding away from him as he began to swear at me. I was so furious and eager to get away from the money grabbing child that I forgot to put my helmet on and only realised when I went to wipe the sweat from my forehead.

The Fairy Stream
I got back to Mui Ne around twenty to thirty minutes later and made a stop at the hostel for a quick break from the sun and to have something cold to drink. Whilst I was drinking my cold Coca-Cola, I talked with the Australian owner and he told me something interesting about Norwich that I didn't know before. It actually stands for Nickers Off Ready When I Come Home! With this new piece of information fresh in my mind, I headed back down the road on my bike to the Fairy Stream, which is a wonderful and somewhat magical stream flowing just outside Mui Ne. I pulled up off the road and was greeted by the usual people getting you to park your bike up and paying for the privilege. Then I was set upon a young boy who wanted to be my guide down the stream, I of course declined his offer of assistance and with a series of forceful 'no thank yous' I managed to part company. I got to the steps where you walk down into the stream and was offered the service of looking after my trainers, which again I declined as I could quite easily carry these and there was no way I was going to pay for it. As I was walking a few feet upstream a couple of young boys ran up behind me and started walking with me. It annoyed me as I knew their friendly manner came with the ultimate price tag at the end and there is nothing you can do to get rid of them. 

The stream from the top of the sand dune
I continued walking in the warm water stream on the soft red sand trying to be as polite as possible to these boys until we reached a sand dune and they asked me whether I wanted to climb it. Of course I did. It was hard work as the sand was soft and slipped away easily under each step but I got to the top eventually rejoining the two boys who had got there way before me. The boys then asked me whether I wanted to go back as they had to go to school. They told me that I shouldn't go any further up the stream as it was all 'same same' but I told them that I didn't want to return just yet hoping that they would just turn around and go with just a pleasant 'goodbye'. My heart sank as they held out their hands in demand for cash and my hopes for two young Vietnamese boys who just wanted to be friendly and had no concept of money were demolished. I find it terrible young children are being brought up like this. It's as though their parents are using them to get money off tourists because we may feel more sorry for them and are more likely to give to children than adults. To their ungrateful disgust, I reluctantly gave them 10,000 Dong (around 30p). They immediately sneered at my offer and asked for more. This is when I should have taken it back and said go without but I told them that they should think themselves lucky that they got that as they didn't actually do anything worth a monetary return. Without a word of thanks they left running down the sand dune obviously cursing me. Feeling a lot calmer after the children left, I continued up the stream a bit further all by myself. It's a marvellous stream, really peaceful and the landscape is utterly bizarre. Again a photo will tell you more than my words... I returned to my bike and steamed off back towards Mui Ne.

Strange rock formations
My next stop was the cash machine. I love going into ATM booths here as they are usually really well air-conditioned so I make sure to take my time whilst withdrawing money. I spent the next half hour riding aimlessly around the area seeing what I else I could find, but my search turned up empty handed as I goto several dead ends but nothing interesting do I returned to the hotel and handed back the motorcycle to the annoying man I hired it off and sat by the pool just checking my emails. As I was doing so, a couple of familiar faces peered round from reception, it was Jonas and Louis who had just arrived from Mui Ne. I knew they were coming as Louis text me earlier in the day, so I quickly dumped my laptop and headed out with them to find a hotel. We did find them a nice little hotel, to my annoyance it was cheaper than the dorm I was staying in but I only had myself to blame. It was too late to change hotels as I had made the decision to move on to Ho Chi Minh City the next day.

Road through the desert
After Jonas and Louis dumped their bags in their rooms we headed out to a seafood restaurant that I had been recommended by the people in the hotel. As walked through the restaurant to the seating area that overlooked the sea, we met up with the other people that were staying in my hotel and ended up joining them for the evening. I am always weary of eating seafood in foreign countries as it's easy to get food poisoning from it. I think it's something that has been instilled in me by my mother who was always careful when we were on holidays. There is only a certain amount of restrictions you can put upon yourself when travelling as you still need to enjoy yourself and experience different foods. My one rule is to only have seafood when I am by the sea and only have fish when I'm near a river. My friend Luke didn't follow this rule during our Eurotrip he decided to have a seafood kebab in Bratislava, Slovakia which is a land locked country, he ended up with severe diarrhoea for a good couple of days afterwards. So following my rule, I ordered Shrimps in Beer which turned out to be fantastic and of course had some more beer on the side to supplement it.

Fishing is still a big source of income...
Following our meal we headed to the crazy golf course to meet the rest of the group who left before us. It was a great laugh, I played against Jonas and Louis and believe I actually won because of a freak shot when I used the Andy technique of smacking it and see what happens. The ball launched off to the right, bounced off a rock which bypassed the rest of the course, went over the hill and straight into the hole. My first hole in one. After the golf course, we headed to a bar on the beach. The beach bar was not exactly lively, although the music was pumping out of the speakers with tremendous volume no body was dancing. It was far too hot to dance so most of us were sitting, relaxing and drinking on the beach with the cool breeze comforting us. It was an incredibly relaxing affair until Regina appeared. I met Regina, an American girl, a few hours before back at the hotel whilst I was sitting beside the pool. Regina was buzzing like she had taken ecstasy or some stimulants as she was bouncing around dancing all over the place without a pause for breath. She got me up to dance and Jonas shortly followed. I couldn't keep up with her as she had an unbelievable amount of energy. Instead of going all out on the dancing front I brought out the ECD (Energy Conservation Dance). ECD mainly consists of your feet making slow repetitive kicks or taps whilst your index fingers do the majority of movement. It's a great way to take part in the dancing whilst retaining energy especially in a warm climate. This didn't last long as Regina and I took the dancing to the dance floor by request of the barman. The barman obviously wanted us to kick start the dancing, so that's exactly what we did as we were soon joined by a couple of Russians, a couple of American guys and a few British girls. I tell you, that place started to rock and then drip with the condensation of sweat on the ceiling! Hmmmm.... Nice I hear you think!

One last photo of the stream
After an hour, I retired from my dancing career as I feared that I would have no water remaining in my system to function for much longer so I returned to Jonas and Louis who were talking with an American man on the beach. It was marvellous outside, the breeze immediately began to cool me off. Regina soon followed and finally sat down, exhausted next to me and the American started telling us about the glowing algae in the sea that lit up as you moved your hands producing kinetic energy. We thought this required further investigation as we didn't believe him. The five of us stripped down to our underwear and dived into the sea and it was heaven, I was finally cool and as we looked down and moved our hand excitedly under the water, hundred of specks flickered as the algae lit up. It was amazing. We spent ages in the water in awe at this natural wonder and then our gaze turned to the stars. I realised that I hadn't seen stars for a while like I had in Mui Ne's constantly clear skies. The waves suddenly became stronger and the bar began to clear up and close so we took this as a sign to leave the sea and the bar. I was going to head back to the hotel as my bus to Ho Chi Minh was early the next morning and the others went to another bar. My bus was actually only four hours away, but my mind was buzzing as it usually does after a night out, so I sat outside by the swimming pool for a while cooling down before I finally felt as though I could sleep.

Next time, Ho Chi Minh Vs Agent Orange

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