Adventures in Mũi Né

  • By Daniel
  • 2009-11-16 23:11:00-0800

I dreamed about Sarah Palin doing art projects for President Obama while he was busy running all over Washington DC trying to escape the secret service because they were holding him back from doing the things he wanted to do. I woke up with Doe-A-Dear stuck in my head.

I went to take a shower, and upon increasing the "heat" dial on the electric hot water heater that was attached to the shower, the light in the bathroom flickered and went out. In the pitch black with my hand still on the dial, I decreased the temp and the light flickered back on.

Fishing Boat After showering I got dressed I poked my head out the front door of our room and some mysteries from the previous night were unraveled. Beyond some local fishermen taking their nets out of the circular boats and emptying them there were many boats anchored not far out in the ocean. Two guys on a motorbike rode down the beach and parked near the fishermen. I wanted to ride a motorcycle on the beach.

Tien and I went to get breakfast, which was supposed to be included in the price of our hotel. On the way we passed some older Vietnamese men with a lot of missing teeth who were drinking beer and eating crabs for their breakfast. We also saw some chained up monkeys, a golden lizard that I was not familiar with, and a dozen small dogs. We found our way to the large dining area of the hotel restaurant. It was an open walled lodge type of building with a tall peaked roof and only one of the 50 or so tables was occupied.

The owner of the resort interrupted our conversation to sit with us while we were waiting for breakfast. He had much the same character as the sleazy guy on the bus the previous night and the guy we stayed with in Binh Duong. Later Tien and I would talk about how many of the Vietnamese men who go to America and come back have this very haughty attitude, and she would express her hopes of not becoming like that.

The bread was stale, the food was bland, and the price was not included with our room. Bien Nam was probably the worst deal I've ever gotten on a room, and I do not recommend it to anybody who is going to Mui Ne. With that in mind we went for a walk on the beach which we now saw was home to many other hotels. We walked along the beach, stopping at each to inquire about vacancy, price, wifi and to see a room. There were varying qualities of hotels and we settled on one that had wifi in the lobby, a friendly staff, a much cleaner room, a halfway decent view of the ocean, and for 25% less per night.

As we were walking along the beach there were numerous jet ski's parked on the shore. I hadn't seen a jet ski in Asia except on the river in Thailand, and wondered why because they're so speedy and nimble, the aquatic equivalent of the ubiquitous motorbike. Here they were on the Pacific Ocean being used for entertainment.

We checked out of our old hotel without so much as a word from the owner asking us why we were leaving or asking us to stay and I thought that he was probably used to having one-night guests. We checked into our new hotel and took a nap. Tien was sleepy, but I was not, so after a few minutes of restless napping I got up and shaved my face and head.

When Tien finally got up we were both pretty hungry, so we decided to go to town. We stopped by the lobby to return our key and I played on their wifi just enough to discover that they had a wireless with no connection to the internet.

We went out front to try to wave down somebody to give us a ride into town. Not many people were passing by, and most already had passengers, so I thought we might as well walk down the road while trying to hitch a ride. It was remarkable though that I had been asked innumerable times before if I needed a motorbike when I did not, and here I was without one in sight. It wasn't like Malaysia either where a taxi mysteriously appeared from behind a building just when we needed it.

We walked for a while and found some guys sitting in front of a hotel with some motorbikes there. Tien talked to one of them and he said he could find another person so we could both ride into town for 25k each. Just after he left to go find another motorbike rider willing to give us a ride, the valet told Tien that we could probably rent a motorbike for the day for not much more than 50k. A second man on a motorbike came by, then the first man came back with a third guy on a motorbike and what ensued was a long bickering argument about how we needed to rent from the guys we first spoke to even though they were not going to allow me to ride their bike, which was something we wanted. In the end I said "fuck it" and we left the three stubborn motorcyclists there and started walking down the road again.

We walked for a while and it was actually pretty nice to use my body, something I'm so used to doing in the USA but don't get much chance to here in Asia. There were beautiful trees with flowering leaves, and the ocean was visible through a thin line of trees between the road and the beach. Eventually the second motorcyclist from the argument came up to us on the road, talked to Tien for a while and we agreed to rent his bike for a day for 180k. I'd never driven a manual without a clutch though, and I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do so without first watching Tien. As soon as she took off down the road I realized that it was just like riding an auto except you could kick a pedal to change gears without worrying about the clutch.

Flat Tire in Mui NeRenting the bike was a great idea. We were now cruising down Highway 1 of Vietnam right by the ocean with warm air on our face on our way to find food for our hungry bellies. We passed a herd of water buffalo and a bunch of people who were drying fish on screens and then found ourselves at a dead end. We were lost again.

We wandered around some coastal villages, finding several dead ends, and were just about to make some progress on finding our way to town when we got a flat tire. Obviously this was incredibly lame since I was hungry and it wasn't our bike anyway, but at least there was a moto shop right there where we had it repaired within 30 minutes. We had to buy a new tube and kept the old one as well as the contact information of the shop who did the work. I also took some photographs, but mainly because that's what I do.

With our new tire and some instructions on how to get to town, we headed off still in search of food for our bellies. I honestly was beyond the point of hungry and didn't care much anymore, though I knew I should eat. Mui Ne PalmsWe rode and rode and rode. We saw a lot of cool things, like the harbor where most of the boats anchor, some cool buildings, forests, animals, but amazingly we couldn't find a restaurant. We passed all the way through town and out to where the sizzler was, though we never did find that, and all we saw along the way were cafes with snacks, but no real food.

We found a sign for The Mui Ne Easy Riders that said "I'll show things the lonely planet did not." I thought that was awesome, and it was accompanied with pictures of Vietnamese bikers on proper motorcycles geared up with luggage and white people on the back.

We went all the way back through town and found ourselves lost at the first dead end we had found, which was a kite surfing camp.

Finally we gave up and went to get some gasoline and as dumb luck would have it, we found a restaurant. Too tired and frustrated to show our joy, we pulled over, ordered some food and drinks, and were promptly attacked by about 50 flies. I'd never seen a place with so many flies. I ordered a beer and the man went and pulled the bottle out of a crate of empty bottles, a hat, a helmet and other miscellaneous things. When I was done with my beer I set the glass down there were like 15 flies crawling all over it within 30 seconds. It was probably due to all the dead fish, since we were in a fishing village. We got our food to go because the flies were too much.

On the way back to the hotel we stopped to get a hot dog, which is not the same as it is in America. In Vietnam a hot dog is some kind of triangular crepe thing with no meat in it. We took a different route home and found ourselves riding along a big field of sand and trees where kids were jumping into the sand the same way I did when I was their age. We found our way up the big roads and vacant round-a-bout from the night before and were soon cruising that beautiful section of the coast again. The day was beautiful, the ocean was beautiful, I had my fiancé with me, I had hot food to put in my belly, and we weren't lost. I was happy. So happy I had Tien stop so I could take her photo. As I was composing my shot a used trash bag blew up against my leg.

Cruising Highway 1, Vietnam Back at the hotel we sat on our bed and watched the ocean beyond the tin roof cabana where nobody was sitting. Since it was so late, just about sunset, the heat had worn off, so we decided to go back to the sand dune park nearby and have a look around.

Children greeted us with sleds for rent to slide down the sand dunes. We valeted the bike and started hiking up the dunes. Two kids followed us trying to rent us a sled for 30k, which we were not interested in. There were a lot of other people there watching the sunset, even many white people. I always try to smile and nod a greeting to other travelers as I pass them if it's appropriate, and it always amazes me how white people don't want to talk to each other or acknowledge each other's existence.

Before heading home we got some snacks and a deck of cards. Back at the hotel the internet was still down and they didn't know why. I knew why though. It was misconfigured and was getting no responses to its DHCP queries. It probably needed PPPoE, but those settings were not remembered in the firmware, which means it may have been hard reset as a last ditch attempt to fix what is probably an unreliable DSL connection. I hate DSL.

Back in the hotel room Tien washed our clothes and we hung them to dry on a rope that I brought to use for just such an occasion, then I taught her how to play a card game that I know but don't know what it's called.