Beachside in Mui Ne, Phan Thiet
Getting up at 4 am, even before the roosters began to crow, was no treat, but catching the 6:50 Vietnam Airlines flight from Danang to Nha Trang was the only way to ensure that the beach could be reached in daylight. A 50-minute flight and four hours in a bus took the travellers to the Sunny Beach Resort in the village of Mui Ne in Phan Thiet. After a delicious seafood lunch at the hotel’s restaurant, including the first proper hotpot of the trip, swimming attire and suntan lotion were quickly applied. Then off to the beach!
What was meant to be a lazy stroll in the sand, enjoying the sunshine and over 30 degree heat, turned into a one hour workout complete with sandblasted legs and salt-sprayed faces. The wind was unbelievably strong and seemed to pick up force towards the evening. Not so fun for sunbathers, but the dozens of kitesurfers seemed to be enjoying themselves. A quick dip in one of the resort’s two infinity pools was welcome after the surprisingly strenuous activity. As the day had been long, the closest restaurant across the street from the resort, called Minh Ka, was chosen for dinner. Ok food and service at reasonable prices, but a bit of a disappointment after getting used to the tasty food elsewhere.
All through the night, enormous waves could be heard crashing or more like exploding on the beach, causing a thunderous noise and even making the ground shake a bit. In the morning, it became apparent that this was not a normal situation: the waves had been so strong that the sand embankment had collapsed in places and a couple small buildings along with lots of trees had toppled over, with debris being dragged out to sea. Luckily the wind calmed down a bit over the next two days, although the ocean was still not inviting enough for a swim.
The two full days of relaxing in Mui Ne were spent doing exactly that: having slow breakfasts, laying by the pool, reading books, taking a swim once in a while, staring at the waves, and not planning anything. Breakfasts at the resort were nice with plentiful arrays of fresh fruits, but otherwise food here turned out to be a disappointment overall: the main (and apparently only) street, running parallel to the beach, was lined with restaurants, but all more or less served the same things and were mainly aimed at making the numerous Russian tourists happy. Not a culinary feast. Minh Ka as well as Dragonfly served ok Vietnamese food, but the mediocrity of the food made Hattivatti’s companions turn to western delights on the third evening, meaning wood fired Italian style pizzas from Santimatti.
For the second morning, alarms were set to ensure waking up before sunrise. Watching the day break on the beach while local fishermen went out in their odd little round basket rowboats to set out their nets was worth getting up before the sun. Taking into account that the whole Phan Thiet area is still populated by fishermen, the sorry state of the food offering was all the more of a letdown. However, the continuing increase in tourism, which is apparent at least based on the amount of new resorts being constructed along the coastline, may hopefully change the cuisine situation in the future.
Back to Saigon
Although lounging by the pool was fun, the travellers were not that sad to leave Mui Ne and Phan Thiet behind after three nights. The bus took off at 9:30 am and headed first along bougainville-bordered roads and then through dragon fruit (pitaya) and rubber tree plantations towards Saigon. A novelty along the way was a stretch of freeway where the bus was pretty much the only vehicle, as mopeds were not allowed on this recently opened road.
In Saigon, bags were dropped off at the familiar Le Duy Hotel before last minute shopping began. Some decently priced Chuck Taylors, which are all made in Vietnam anyway, were purchased at an official Converse shop and a couple postcards were bought from a street vendor. A stop was also made at Mekong Quilts, a shop run by a non-profit organization trying to better the lives of poor women living along the Mekong River. Spending a few dong here felt like the right thing to do, taking into account that Hattivatti and friends had been happily spending millions over that past two weeks.
Then on to the Pasteur Street Brewing Company for some good beers before heading to the Ben Thanh Street Food Market, a new street food venue with dozens of stalls which had only opened about a month ago. So nice to have flavorful food again! Pho soup, fried spring rolls, and Vietnamese rice cakes were enjoyed with gusto.
After dinner, it was time to brave the moped-infested streets for the last time. Crossing roads was no easy feat here, but it was fascinating to note how quickly one was able to learn the proper way to maneuver among the traffic, seemingly safely at least. However, unlike the delicious food, this was something no one was going miss back home.
All tours must end at some point and so it was time to head to the airport in the morning. All work and day-to-day normal things had happily been forgotten over the past two weeks, so it had been a successful vacation! The only thing left was the not-so-fun part, a 12-hour flight back home to the cold winter. Oh well, at least one traveller now has a new coat to deal with the weather, thanks to the stay in Hoi An.
So long, Vietnam, definitely hoping to see you again!