Tuesday morning we woke up with the intent to go to some white sand dunes that were about 20km north. We got breakfast at a place just up the road on our way. There was a modeling show on TV and I was watching it to see what gear the photographers were using. They were interviewing the models a lot and I wondered what they were talking about. I guessed that the show was in English, but the sound was down and drown out by really loud Vietnamese music.
Over breakfast we talked about our plans and decided to go straight to Nha Trang instead of stopping along the way at some temples. Tien wasn’t excited about our bad luck finding things to do in Mui Ne, and since the second place we had planned to go was pretty remote she expected it to be much of the same.
Back on the road, we headed off into unexplored territory that looked not much like what I’d seen in Vietnam before. I caught the scent of a Colorado summer in the air. We saw a lot of farm animals, including geese that were hanging out with cows and goats and water buffalo. We passed by a lot of sand and the landscape turned into rolling hills with trees scattered around it, much like the high Colorado prairies.The road turned into dirt and sand mixed together and the motorbike became a bit wobbly because of the sand shifting under the bald tires. We could see the white sands in the distance on the far side of a lake by a small forest.
We eventually made it to a spot where a few motorbikes and jeeps were valeted at a little shack, so we did the same and began walking through some trees next to the lake that was at the foot of the white sands, through some shops, past some other tourists and up towards the sand dunes. A kid followed us much like the two from the night before, asking us to rent his sled and pointing things out to us.
We walked around a bit, but sand is sand so there wasn’t really much to see. We took some photos and the kid kept asking if we wanted him to take our picture. Eventually I conceded, thinking he might charge us for it. He took two, then had us stand somewhere else and took two more. When I looked at them I was very pleasantly surprised at his composition, each pose taking one wide and one close shot. I tipped him a few thousand dong and we headed back to our bike. He trailed behind and complained endlessly in Vietnamese that the money I gave him wasn’t clean enough and he wouldn’t be able to use it to buy cake.
Tien had driven on the way out so I got to drive on the way home. This was my first time in like 12 years riding a motorcycle on dirt. We quickly sank our rear tire in a spot where I had gotten off to walk before. We both laughed and Tien got off so I could wobble my way up out of the sand and across to where the dirt was solid again.
As we headed back the way we came, over the rolling hills and through a pretty countryside I thought again about buying a motorcycle one of these days so we could just cruise the countryside at our own pace, not having to rely on buses. I also changed my mind about Mui Ne being a lame place to go, it’s pretty nice outside of town in the countryside.
There was a herd of cattle that had been grazing in a field where there were many graves marked with swastikas, a symbol of power and not of Nazi affiliation, and now these cattle were taking up the whole road. I squeezed by and then stopped and watched a big truck make its way by, something I wasn’t sure would be easy for it to do.
When we arrived back at the hotel we returned the bike, packed and checked out, but our bus wasn’t coming for two hours. There was a warm breeze coming in through large open windows and blowing around the chandeliers in the lobby where the Internet was still broken. Tien and I decided to go wait by the beach. There were no hammocks, which was a disappointment, but we found a little table to sit at and enjoy some drinks while playing cards with the ocean waves breaking about 50 feet away. Tien kicked my ass at the game I had taught her, I only won twice.
After exhausting the topic of photography I realized I forgot my headphones in my backpack which was stored in the cargo area. This was a pretty bad thing to do since I was then forced to endure the most epic movie I’d ever seen and then hours of loud Vietnamese theatrical comedy.
The bus had headed north beyond the white sand dunes, introducing us to even more beautiful countryside and coastline. The bus was comfortable too so it was an enjoyable ride. We even stopped for 15 minutes at the first rest stop I’d seen that had Internet access. My iPhone GPS worked too, which kinda made sense because we were near Da Lat and it had worked there. It continued to work as we headed north and I wondered if the norh of Vietnam had the mobile infrastructure to accommodate the retarded assisted GPS in the iPhone. After all, my phone hadn’t been unlocked when I was in Hanoi, so I wasn’t sure it didn’t work there.
It began to rain right at dusk. I also began to feel sick in my throat. I had been feeling a few symptoms once in a while for the past day or so, but this was the first real evidence that I was coming down with something.
When we got to Nha Trang it was still raining lightly. As I was getting into a hotel shuttle I noticed a motorbike stashed in the cargo area of a bus, a brilliant idea that I wouldn’t have expected to be permitted.
We checked into a hotel that I’d seen reviewed somewhere online, The Manchester. Our room was on the sixth floor with an ocean view and deplorable wifi access.
On our walk to find dinner, just when I thought we’d gone the wrong way from restaurants we came across an authentic Italian restaurant where two men were talking loudly in Italian. After sitting down an older Italian man, the cook, came out to introduce the specials and show us the list of Italian wines. I got the chefs special and as I sipped my wine I pulled out my iPhone and found an Actiontec wireless network. It almost felt like we were sitting in Sunnyvale.