12th February 2012
We breakfasted early and then took a mid-morning bus for the long trip to Mui Ne, a beach town up the coast from Saigon. As bus journey’s go it was quite good, the Sinh Tourist bus was clean, new-ish and we got free water and hand towels. There were quite a few europeans on the bus and the boys made themselves known to the fellow passengers, in a good way. We passed a very enjoyable trip chatting with the couples in front and behind us, and the boys bonded really well with the couple behind.
We arrived as night was falling and the bus dropped us right outside our chosen hotel. It was $24 a night (after some intense bargaining) for the a/c room in the new building across the road from the original one, and we had a 20m walk to our pool. The room was clean and came with a fridge.
Mui Ne is famous for its red and its white sand dunes, and for the local kids “selling” rides on their “sledges” for a slide down the dunes. It also has a 10km stretch of beach (just across the road) – talk about a one road town.
We settled in, had a swim in the pool and then headed across the road to a little restaurant for dinner. Then off to bed.
13th February 2012
From the ride in on the bus it was clear that this was far from a compact town and if we wanted to visit anywhere we were going to need some transport. We ate breakfast at the hotel restaurant next to our hotel, which was nothing special but cheaper. Whilst tucking into our scrambled eggs the (I presume) owner came to talk to us and started on the hard sell for scooters and tours. We thought it wise to check with our hotel vis a vis their scooters, and as they were the same price as the man next door (rent my scooters and there will be no trouble with the police) we went with our hotel – it keeps things simple!
Then it was time to hit the pool.
We splashed around for a while and met an English couple and their two children – Luca was very taken with their daughter and Oskar bonded well with their son. Leaving the lovely water behind, we jumped on the scooters and headed up-town to find one of the recommended restaurants in the lonely planet guide. Their review had said fawlty towers service, but good food, and they weren’t wrong. When we arrived at the restaurant we headed for the tables by the sea (as they were empty) but changed our minds quickly as a wave crashed against the wall and sent spray over the tables.
After lunch we headed back past the hotel to the fishing village that lies at the north end of the beach. It was a very pleasant ride in the sunshine past bobbing boats and bustling fish markets with a few fish sauce factories thrown in. We stopped on our way back to walk down a large flight of steps to the shore where basket-like boats lay in the sun and a million shells lay discarded in piles on the beach.
Leaving the picturesque scene behind we headed back to the hotel via some shops for provisions, and then it was once more into the pool, dear friends, once more. And it was there we remained until the sun sank low on the horizon and hunger drove us to eat. Nothing special, but filling enough, and so to bed.
14th February 2012
Valentine’s day – the one day in the year that you are supposed to declare your love, anonymously or not. To send cards and flowers and be romantic. Most people I know pooh-pooh this annual event with an almost Scrooge like Bah-Humbug! And I am inlined to agree. If you love someone, why wait until 14th Feb to say so? Flowers should be spontaneous and cards too… not just because tradition (or advertising, really) tells us to do it. Romance should be year-round, not a case of doing it on one day and then forgetting about it for the rest of the year.
Mind you, our present location is pretty good for romance – if only we could get rid of the kids for the day ;o) Instead, we content ourselves with some chilling by the pool again. Odd that we are a stones-throw from the beach and we haven’t been in the sea yet – well the waves are pretty strong here and this stretch of water is best enjoyed on wind surf or kite surf rather than bathing.
As afternoon draws to a close we jump on the bikes and head up the coast, past the fishing village to the red dunes of Mui Ne. Pretty easy to reach and to find, we ignore the café owners offers of free parking and draw up at the foot of the hills. There are quite a few people there to enjoy the sand and the sunset, but there are more there to flog you the sledges, all of them children.
We skirt around a few of them as we trek over the dunes, but inevitably we are besieged by a dozen of them who follow us over the dunes. We negotiate a good price for the 3 boys to have 2 goes each – but when we come to pay, they shake their heads and say no no no, not 10,000, we want 100,000. Smiling at them, we stuck to our guns and only paid them 10K – after all the slide down was pretty disappointing.
Jumping back on our scooters we scooted back to the hotel to clean up (sand everywhere) and then walked up the road to a highly recommended Italian restaurant run by a Frenchman and a Swiss. Apart from having to wait for more than an hour for our food to arrive, despite us having arrived early, the food was really good. We toasted a Happy Valentines to each other and to our long lost girlfriends (the boys did, that is) and after dinner sauntered amiably back home to bed.
15th February 2012
Last swim, then Sinh Tourist bus to Dalat, hotel (Sinh Tourist hotel) dinner at V Café
Our short sojourn in Mui Ne had come to an end. After breakfast there was time for a swim and some packing before our bus to Dalat at 12pm. Dalat in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, home of the Easy Riders and their tours of the waterfalls, native villages, silk factories etc.
The bus was late and it was small – this did not augur well for the mountainous roads ahead of us, time for some travel sickness pills! After a few more stops to collect the last of the passengers we were on our way. The driver seemed to take the most direct route, through the mountains rather than along the coast and up the new road.
This meant that we got some fantastic views of mountains and valleys, of dams and hydroelectric pipework, and of rice fields and quarries. At one point we passed a plateau high in the mountains where the flat land was almost all given over to paddy fields. The road was both breath-taking and in a really poor state. In some places half the road had been washed away into the steep drop beside it – the non-road cordoned off by crash barriers – this reduced the road to a single track lane – anyone for a game of chicken?
It was a little hard to get photos… honest!
Around 4 hours later we pulled into Dalat, at the Sinh Tourist hotel, with the rain pouring down. We took shelter inside, and ended up staying there – at least for one night. We could check some other places out the next day.
Dinner was at the V Café across the road, and was pretty good I have to say. And then, as when we have a long road trip anywhere, we heard our beds calling us – it could be something to do with the mountain air as well I guess. Tomorrow there would be lots to explore and some easy riding to do.