In February of 2010, during spring break in the Korean academic calendar, we travelled to Cambodia and Vietnam, where we based ourselves in Ho Chi Min City and took shorter excursions nearby. The farthest north we got (not very far at all) was Mui Ne, which is a tourist town on the coast. Mui Ne is known for its sand dunes and kite surfing. We felt like spending a couple days on the beach, so we jumped on a bus for $10 and prepared for the 4-hour ride which — like most of Asia — turned out to be closer to six. Of course, the fact that we had to stop to change a flat tire probably didn’t help.
It took forever to crawl out of the never-ending city. Ho Chi Min sprawls endlessly. The modest houses all had Vietnamese flags in front, and it seemed as though everyone wore a straw/bamboo cone hat. We stopped at a restaurant along the way and ordered some Pho, which was the first time I’d tried it. Maybe it was just that place, or that region, but I was definitely not a fan. (For most of the trip I ate baguette sandwhiches, which were amazing. Real bread! Such a treat after living a year in Korea. They were sold at carts on almost every corner. A footlong baguette with tomato, cheese, and cucumber cost around 50 cents. Fine dining!)
We arrived in Mui Ne and found a room for $12, then got ourselves on an excursion tour. The first stop was the “Fairy Springs,” which was a stream cutting through the deep orange sand, with white dunes on top. Geographically, it was pretty amazing. Olefactorally (did I just make up that word?), it was horrendous. The area apparently is known for a fish paste, and the clay pots were in close range to the stream. Rob described it beautifully as rotten Kraft Dinner — sweet and rancid at the same time! Thankfully it cleared up farther down, and were were able to enjoy ourselves.
From the Fairy Stream we went to the harbour. My favourite thing about Mui Ne was definitely the round little row boats, which I called “walnut boats.” The people who steer them daily must have really strong cores and good balance. The harbour was packed day and night. After seeing the harbour, we took a jeep to go check out the white sand desert. Along the way we got a glimpse of the countryside, include graveyards and farmers moving their cattle along the road.The desert was almost shocking. A desert in the middle of the jungle?! We stopped at a popular spot that renting out crazy carpets for $1. We rented one from local children and did our best to slide down the dunes, which was much easier said than done, as it turns out. Such a neat spot!….. and stuck! Every time! Rob was much better at this than I was.We had dinner that night with other tourists, two of which we’d actually met in the Philippines just a couple weeks earlier! None of us had planned on being in Mui Ne, so of course we had a round of beers to celebrate the coincidence. The next couple days were spent on the beach, dozing in the sun and watching kite surfers who come from all over the world for the optimal wind conditions on that beach. The days we were there were “slow” days, and there weren’t many out, but enough to keep us more than entertained! After our quick holiday within Vietnam, we boarded a bus back to Ho Chi Min.