A Travellerspoint blog

April 2011

Mui Ne

sunny 27 °C
View To Muine on KyleMac's travel map.

We arrived in Mui Ne at about 2am. Mui Ne itself is just a one street town on the edge of the beach, with pubs and clubs lining the beach front, and hotels and housing scattered along the other side of the road. The bus just kicked us off at the edge of town and drove off before we even had a chance to wake up and get our bearings. Immediately we were surrounded by harassing motorbike riders who insisted on taking us to a good cheap hotel for $15 - $20. We had learnt by now that the going rate for a motorbike ride is around 50 cents a kilometre and Mui Ne itself is probably only 10km long at best, so we passed on their offers and decided to try and find something ourselves. However, the motorbike riders in Vietnam have some supernatural ability to sense uncertainty and getting away from them was impossible. In Ho Chi Minh there is no closing time and nearly every hotel had a receptionist that slept in the lobby, effectively making them 24hr, Mui Ne on the other hand was most definitely shut! We anxiously walked the strip of Mui Ne looking for any sign of life apart from the creepy man on the motorbike shadowing us into the darkness. Tensions were rising as he kept on swooping in informing us we were lost and we needed him to help us. With thoughts of back alley murders creeping into our minds we needed to get away from him, so we found a gate that was partially open and we walked up into a pitch black property with no idea what was up the top of the driveway. No one was awake and there were no lights on so we started yelling Xin Chao (Hello) into the darkness. Thankfully two Chihuahuas woke up and ran over to us causing a ruckus. It wasn’t long before an old couple came out and we asked if this was a guest house, luckily it was, and for the first time in an hour we felt safe again.

In the morning after the sun was well up we ventured out to see what Mui Ne had to offer. A few quotes from our Lonely Planet guide book include; “The best all-round beach in Vietnam”, “Activities abound”, “You’ll smell Mui Ne before you arrive, and you’ll see the pungent source in clay vats along the palm-lined road. This is nuoc mam (fish sauce), for which Mui Ne is famous”.
In our two days in Mui Ne we probably saw about 20 tourists in total, it was almost like a ghost town. The beach appeared to have been hit by a large storm and suffered massive erosion; the stairs down onto the sand hung two meters above the beach itself. There were no beach activities occurring while we were there, although it obviously had a history of wind/kite surfing from the various street advertisements. Our nostrils weren’t even assaulted with the thick scent of fish sauce as we failed to encounter a single clay vat during our entire two days.
Mui Ne was a real shame for us as we had read so much great stuff about it.
We’re not sure why it was like that when we arrived. Maybe it’s just past its hay-day, or we came during a lull, but whatever it is, Mui Ne didn’t live up to its reputation. Maybe next time we visit Vietnam, we’ll stop in sleepy Mui Ne to be greeted with a lively beach town that we so sadly missed.

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Our next stop is Dalat, a mountain city in the central highlands that prides itself in its flower and strawberry farms (yum!).

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:23 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach vietnam mui_ne muine Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 3

sunny 31 °C
View To Muine on KyleMac's travel map.

Our last day cruising the Mekong Delta :( If only we had more time!

This morning we went out on a quiet, dawn cruise through the stilt villages. These ingenious people have literally constructed houses that sit on top of a large canoe. Pretty hard to imagine until you really see the little boat nestled down just above the water line and a huge house sitting on top of it!

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At one point a chicken coop even floated by us!

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The cruise was really beautiful and peaceful as we slowly drifted by the locals conducting their daily duties on the water, but in true Vietnamese style something unexpected was about to occur.
The young lady that was driving our boat through the villages got a bit too close to one of the houses moorings and drove over the rope to the house. Needless to say a woman in her 60’s ran out from the house and the two of them began an epic screaming match. I thought I had been transported into an Oliver Stone movie as the battle raged over my head. Our tour guide even sunk into his seat, as if he could somehow avoid being stuck in the middle of it. Eventually we just drove away and left the woman behind to deal with whatever problems were caused by our tour.

I don’t know whether it is my heightened senses due to being out of my comfort zone, but I feel like things in Vietnam can change so quickly you almost get left behind. Whether it is the gentle cyclo drivers who kindly ride you around the city giving you a good tour, ending in your robbery; to the gentle lapping of the Mekong in the quiet stilt villages, turning into a frightening mid-mekong skirmish.

Haha I guess it’s all part of the experience, and what an experience it is!

After all this it was back to Ho Chi Minh, where we waited in a bar for a few hours before catching our bus to Muine.

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The bus was awesome – it’s called a sleeping bus and it’s basically just 3 rows of bunk beds all the way down the length of the bus. Pretty awesome, but the sleep wasn’t that great :)

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Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 23:12 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 2

sunny 30 °C

It’s the start of day 2 in the Mekong and we find ourselves on a boat heading up the energetic river to the floating markets.

The markets themselves are made up of 50+ boats anchored near each other, with each boat sporting a large pole poking straight into the air with an example of whatever they are selling tied to the top of the pole.

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We were driving along heading into the main market area when out of nowhere a large hook was grappled around the side of our boat. My first thought was that I was about to meet Johnny Depp and his horde of pirates but when I turned to see where the hell this hook had come from I was confronted with a man in a small boat selling coffee. A couple more expertly placed hooks and our two boats had effectively become one, and his spruiking began :) I must admit the coffee was awesome and after everyone had indulged themselves the hooks came off and he was back out hunting for the next boat full of tourists.

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After checking out the markets and admiring the locals conducting all their business on the water we headed down one of the small rivers that branched off the main one into a little village that makes noodles, and raises pigs for their livelihood. The strangest thing we saw was one of the women making the noodles snacking on a cup of 2 minute noodles, didn’t give us much faith in the noodles they were making but she seemed happy.

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^^ Floating petrol station
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^^ This is someones house!
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^^ River toilet - a never ending circle of feeding the fish and eating the fish...
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Off to another little village further down the river where we strolled through orchards with every fruit you can imagine.
Too much food-observing today and not enough food-consuming, it was time for a feast… a delicious feast of eels :) Not too bad actually, although the mushroom sauce it was with was like soft jelly, which was a bit of a freaky texture.

After lunch it was back on the bus and up the delta to Chau Doc – a town nestled on the Cambodian border. We were lucky enough to visit a beautiful mountain temple that was still full of monks! Pretty cool!

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Now we are spending the night in Chau Doc, and still one more day left to explore the amazing Mekong Delta.

Cheers, Kyle

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^^ Chau Doc Square

Posted by KyleMac 01:37 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Mekong - Day 1

sunny 33 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip on KyleMac's travel map.

It is only fitting that while in South East Asia you visit the Mekong, and no place better than from Vietnam.

The delta region covers around 39,000 square kilometres of Vietnam and Cambodia and for only $30 each we have organised a 3 day, 2 night trip inclusive of accommodation, breakfast, and lunch. A special thanks to Kim from Kim’s Place in Ho Chi Minh for organising this trip for us at such a good price – especially after hearing what some of the other people on our tour paid.


^^ First Day of the Trip

The tour began with a bus and boat ride from Ho Chi Minh to Ben Tre where we were treated with a pony-carriage ride with the locals as well as a delicious visit to the coconut candy “factory”. I call it a “factory” but in reality it is just several women sitting around a thatched hut, husking coconuts, cooking them, and hand moulding/packing the candy.
After buying some delightfully delicious coconut candy and sampling some suspect snake wine we were on our way to Unicorn Island!

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^^ Looking at the Mekong from Ben Tre jetty

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^^ Ready for the boat trip

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^^ Excited for Ben Tre

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^^ Buffalo just hanging out

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^^ Coconut Candy

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^^ Yum

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^^ Delicious Snake Wine

We entered Unicorn Island via local canoes - driven with extreme accuracy through the winding canals deep into the Island’s centre. No one spoke English and we were shuffled into a big bamboo pagoda and sat down at a few large tables. All of a sudden large fruit platters starting arriving and a traditional Vietnamese band played while we feasted.

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^^ Loving it

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^^ Winding through the tight canals

The island makes its money from honey and fruit and everyone seemed surprisingly calm while they were passing around a bee infested honey tray straight from the hive – no smoke or protective clothing was required.

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^^ Bees!

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^^ Some random guy just arrived with a snake, so we held it :)

After a quick boat ride back to the mainland and a bus ride further into the delta we found ourselves in Can Tho – where we would spend the night.

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^^ Walking through Can Tho street markets

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^^ Street vendors have everything

After such a long day we were ready to feast, and in true Vietnamese style we were not going to be disappointed. We sat ourselves down in a restaurant opposite a huge golden statue of Ho Chi Minh and were treated with a banquet! We had spring rolls, yellow noodle soup, Vietnamese pancakes, steamed wontons, garlic beans, and my favourite – chopped snake :). After gorging ourselves we sat outside and drank 40 cent beers – 750ml. We got slightly worried when a woman walked past the front of the restaurant and started projectile vomiting in the gutter, but I’m proud to report that we were 100% healthy the next day :). If you are ever in the area I must recommend that restaurant, it is called Quam Com Mekong – 38 Hai Ba Trung.

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^^ Can Tho feast!

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^^ The snake was the highlight

All over Vietnam there are people who work street stalls and little vendors that sell everything you can imagine. While we were sitting outside the restaurant having beers, all of the street sellers that line the street started screaming and running off with their little ‘stores on wheels’ down the street and into the alley ways. When we looked up the road we saw a Humvee full of military clad police driving along slowly. The thought crossed our minds that maybe we should run away like all the locals as well, but our beer induced confidence let us stay and watch as the street emptied of all local traders. The street was silent and we asked our host in the restaurant what was happening. He informed us that it is illegal in Vietnam to street-sell or do anything considered “dodgy” in front of Ho Chi Minh and only 15 meters away from us was a 10 meter tall golden Ho Chi Minh statue! After a sigh of relief we thought it was pretty funny, and the outlook of being executed in the street by some militant gang we didn’t know about dissipated! It wasn’t even 10 minutes after the cops had left that the street was bustling and full of vendors again :).

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^^ Hanging out with Ho Chi Minh

This was the end of day 1 and I hope the next 2 days are just as good!!!

Cheers, Kyle

Posted by KyleMac 01:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged statue vietnam feasting ho_chi_minh can_tho ben_tre coconut_candy Comments (3)

Cu Chi Tunnels

sunny 32 °C
View 1st Day Mekong Trip & Ho Chi Minh on KyleMac's travel map.

Today we went to the Cu Chi Tunnels. Our guide called himself Lionel Ritchie and whenever he wasn’t telling us about the tunnels, he was singing.

The tunnels themselves are pretty amazing and after only 100m’s my legs were burning from trying to walk/shuffle in a space no taller than waist height. I can’t even imagine attempting this with a full pack and a gun. No wonder they just preferred to bomb them.

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The next stop was the shooting range where I attempted to shoot some targets with a machine gun, I wasn’t very successful but I looked cool so that’s okay.

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On our way back from the tunnels to Ho Chi Minh we stopped at a place called Handicapped handicrafts, where people with all kinds of disabilities make things from vases to paintings and mosaics. Heaps of cool stuff there, but nothing within our budget.

When we were back on the bus Lionel told everyone to get their passports out for the Cambodian border crossing. It was obvious he was joking but a few older couples at the front of the bus fully freaked out thinking they were going to be dumped in Cambodia with all their stuff still in Ho Chi Minh. After a laugh at their expense and a few more songs from Lionel we were back at our hotel ready to plan tomorrow :)

Posted by KyleMac 23:44 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam tunnel cu_chi machine_gun Comments (0)

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