28.03.2010 - 01.04.2010 35 °C
So we arrived in Mui Ne, after the bumpiest bus ride we have had so far. I think we got about 1 foot of air! Another large amount of time for a relatively small distance; that's Vietnam for you!
Mui Ne is actually really just a stretch of highway, with the beach on one side (behind many resorts) and shops etc on the other side. We were staying on the non beach side (unknowingly! our hotel had two locations), but it was a nice place with a huge pool so we were'nt too sad.
We spent the arvo and the first day between the beach and pool; Mui Ne has a sand erosion problem so there is not much beach to choose from, but what there is is amazing. Kite surfing is rife here, which made going into the sea a dangerous task. Safe to say we were pretty relaxed, hopping in and out of the sea or pool, lying on sunlounges, applying sunscreen... The third day, however, was the trip to the sand dunes in an old school Jeep. I think I (Ann) was just as excited about the jeep as the sand dunes! And it did not disappoint, no windows, rickety, doors hard to work. Loved it! Our "english speaking" driver (who spoke no english) liked to drive up the middle of the road, which was fun as well. He was actually one of the safest drivers we've had! We went to the "fairy stream", (which I'd pictured in my head as in the middle of nowhere, but was actaully in behind some shops), and walked up that for a bit. Luke fell over in the fairy stream, which was a nice change for me, as I am the one who falls over/gets stung/hits her head/trips up/stains clothing. Unfortuantely no video was taken of this momentous event.
Then we were on our way to the dunes! The driver pulled over on the side of the road at one point and said what I thought was "Grand Canyon"... I thought he was overstating the situation a bit, it was a little canyon, probably about 3 metres deep at the deepest point... we have since learned he was saying "Red Canyon"... but there were no rangers there either? I did think I saw Ron from the Harry Potter series, but it was a mirage.
Then onto the white sand dunes. This is where my hatred of sand came in.
Now I usually have no issue with sand; you want the beach, you get sand. However, big sand hills with no refreshing ocean to dip in or lovely grass umbrellas to recline under are only nice in photos! So we took a lot of photos. Some are of me sitting down, as a rest from the hard yards it was to walk on the dunes. It really was very pretty but a bit hard to get photos that didnt have the 5 busloads of Vietnamese tourists in them, but we managed. After my large amount of hatred, I was a bit skeptical of the red dunes, where we were going for sunset, but thankfully we didnt have to walk as far, and got good pics with no tourists in (apart from us). The photos of me are quite odd as the wind was up and I got red sand stuck to my face - sand, sunscreen and sweat make a mean combo! After the lovely sunset and playing with the settings on the camera, it was time to go home, very hot, sandy and over sand dunes in general. The pool at the hotel saved us, as we got straight in (and left about 10kg of sand on the bottom of the pool).
The next day it was time for another bus... this time back to Saigon. We'd been wondering if we would still like Saigon as much the second time around, after seeing so many other cities... we did. It felt like home, strange though it might sound. We immediately set off to see if there was availability at our first guesthouse with our new bus friend Richard, from Holland. It would seem that a lot of people from Holland travel and are friendly; we've met a lot of them! If you tell a Vietnamese person you are from holland they will say "yes! wooden shoes! tulips!" in a similar tone they use when you tell them you're from Australia: "Kangaroo! Sydney! Melbourne!". We didnt get the same guesthouse, but one owned by the girl's uncle, and just around the corner. We had a rest and a shower to get rid of the Bus Grime, and met up with Richard to go to dinner and drinks. We went back to Allez Boo, the bar we frequented last time, and were remembered with smiles, hugs and high fives! Was a lovely feeling, and validated our warm Saigon related thoughts. Saigon is a dangerous city - dangerously fun! We had another big night, and got home at 4am.
The next day we were off to Phu Quoc Island, which is a small island at the bottom of Vietnam/Cambodia (but it is part of Vietnam, despite being mostly under Cambodia... intrigiung). Waking up a little "weary" (read: Luke was fine, Ann was a schmozzle), we rushed around getting ready to go to the airport. After a few interesting incidents (I had accidentally thrown my bank card in the bin in our room, general rushing around), we finally got to the airport on time, and started the flight... which was fine. A bit of turbulence, but fine!
It was hot hot hot on Phu Quoc Island! The owner of our resort later told us he cant remember it ever being this hot at this time of year... of course not. It is one of the most beautiful places we have seen, and also one of the least developed. There is a small township but outside this the roads were unsealed and everything pretty spaced out. It certainly isn't a place you could walk around easily! Shows such as Ship To Shore have given me the impressions that islands are small and stroll-able - I should know better! We got to Beach Club, which is where we staying, and it was so pretty! A bunglow, right on the sand, those grass covered umbrellas, recliners, and cold beers - perfect! We dumped our stuff and hopped into the sea... where something started biting us! Commonly called sea louse, or sea lice, they are technically bits of jellyfish or microscopic jellyfish or something, and they don't like getting trapped, so they sting you! With an "Ow!... Ow! Ow!" I jumped out of the water, and had a freshwater shower (apparently the worst move). Luke stayed in for a bit but that was the end of the sea for me, apart from a couple of very quick dips. That night, we had a nice dinner in the restaurant, and had an early night, in preparation for my birthday the next day!
It really is odd having a birthday away from everyone (especially my birthday buddy Sars - who to plan a party with?!). I woke up, happy to have a "Day of Ann", and we had breakfast, where I threw caution to the wind and had chocolate banana pancakes. Delish! Then it was onto motorbikes again, to go around the island and to scout out my birthday present; Luke told me I was to pick a necklace made of the local grown pearls. Nice! We went to a couple of pearl farms, and chose a lovely one. I am now ready to meet the Queen when she comes to get me from the airport - sweet! After a lunch we headed home to chill out in the bungalow, and Luke made me log onto Skype, as he'd lined up a few special guests - some friends and fam to talk to! Lovely, I chatted my head off, and then we went out for tea, at the restaurant owned by the son of our Swedish friends from Ha Long Bay. It was lovely and they gave me some cookies for a birthday present. It was a lovely day spent in one of the most intriguing places we've seen; it was hot and the water bit you, but it's hard to find a slice of real vietnam now unless you really go off the beaten track (and we didn't really... we are sub standard backpackers? who cares, we've had a ball and learnt a lot).
The next day we had a downtime day; chilled at the bunglow, and then took the motorbike to scan for a pool (where things didnt bite you). We ended up at La Veranda, the poshest hotel on the island - sweet! It was amazing, the staff wore safari suits (and hats!), and all addressed you as Sir or Madam, and said Good Afternoon rather than Hello. Amazing! We went to ask if we could swim, and after a massive communications battle, where I'm sure they didn't understand that we wanted to use their pool and were willing to pay), they motioned us through. Paradise! All leafy, manicured but tropical gardens, and fancy old people. We hopped in the pool, feeling very cheeky. To feel more at home, we adopted fancy personas, such as Lucas Winthorpe III, and Ann Card (haha), and both spoke like 100 year old English men. It was great fun. We lasted a couple of hours until the guilt at answering questions about when we checked in got to us, and we scooted home on our trusty moto. A delicious bbq dinner and we were off to bed.
That was yesterday. Today we flew back to Saigon, then went on a mission to find calculator watches that I have sworn not to pay more than $5 for. The big market near us didn't have them! They did have handbags and silk dress things and earrings however... whoops! Then to the post office and to dinner... which was delish. Tomorrow we fly to KL, and the next day we fly to London, arriving at 10.30pm on Easter Saturday; whoops! We have a room at a friend's house to live in, and are looking forward to not moving every 3 nights, as we have done since early Feb.
The trip has been a resounding success; we have seen a lot and had no massive dramas. Some small ones: stolen money, sunburn, long bus rides, tiredness, terrible accommodation and hangovers, but nothing epic and nothing lasting. We have met some new friends and spent some time with old friends in new cities, which was amazing. We have loved almost every minute of this trip, and are looking forward to coming back to SE Asia to see things we had to miss and revisit favourite places. Well worth the time and money if you are considering coming this way.
Some stats and facts about our trip:
Best meal – Moon Restaurant, Hoi An, set menu
Best town - Hoi An
Best sightseeing event - Temples of Angkor
Best room – Sunshine 3 Hotel, Hanoi
Worst room: Luang Prabang! Moved after 1 night
Worst Food: KL
Best moment –Angkor Wat sunrise/Motorbikes on Cat Ba Island
Number of hours on bus – 54
Number of different accommodations – 22
Number of meals cooked personally – 0
Number of countries visited – 4
Number of km travelled - too hard!
Number of clothes washed (by us) 0