Well, not quite deserts but vast collections of sand, which when encountered from their respective centres, give the distinct feeling of what it would be like to be stranded in the middle of an arid abyss; tiny grains of sand whipping into your eyes, nose and mouth at speeds fast enough to inflict a decent amount of pain on your skin! And then of course there’s the heat! But, I’m getting ahead of myself in this tale... A few days earlier
We left Cambodia with torn feelings; sadness at saying goodbye to friends, co-workers and students who we had grown very fond of over the previous three months – but also excitement, not just with the prospect of entering a new country on our horizon after months of relative standstill, but also with Amy’s father again coming out to join us for our sojourn in Vietnam. As some of you will be aware, our paths crossed just over a year ago when Ste joined us in our adopted home for three weeks which culminated in our epic hike in Seoraksan National Park in South Korea’s north east! Well, apparently he enjoyed the Asian way of life so much he
was keen to pack his rucksack for another jaunt half the world away!
With that nostalgia fresh in our minds, together with the outlook of another great few weeks together, the six hour ride from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh seemed to pass by in a flash. Although, I must admit I was anxious to shake off some of the travellers rust which had no doubt accumulated over the previous few months. The kind where you will allow yourself to be sold to by taxi drivers, moto drivers and other such unscrupulous characters who will offer you “very good price!” Whereas before, we were well educated and battle-tested to deal with these folk, it took a few seconds to re-register with us that, whilst travel in South East Asia is relatively straight forward, you still have to keep your whits about you!
After checking into our hotel, we were delighted to discover that we had air conditioning, a bath and hot water! After surviving since Chiang Mai on cold showers and nothing remotely resembling a bath (unless a river counts!), the prospect of a hot bath or shower and a genuine feeling of cleanliness almost prevented us
from even bothering to leave the room! Well, this wouldn’t make for a good entry if that was the case, so I’m glad to report that after we each used up most of the hot water in Saigon, we eventually made it out to explore the city feeling like new people!
We actually arrived in Saigon a day before Ste’s due appearance, so had the opportunity to do a bit of walking around to see some of the sights. Given the time constraints of Ste’s visit, together with those of our own, we had only set ourselves a time frame of three weeks to see Vietnam, and since it’s a deceptively large country, we only wanted to spend two nights in Saigon. Whilst there may be some expats and travellers alike who claim it sacrilege to only spend two nights in a city as vast as Ho Chi Minh, we find ourselves committing the cardinal sin of travelling: racing against time!
Not that we mind too much. As I indicated earlier, I was itching to get on my feet and moving again after three months in the same place, so I’m hoping the enthusiasm for the novel will
carry me through the undoubted exhaustion I will feel, given the copious distance we aim to cover in the next three weeks.
After spending a day meandering through the streets of Ho Chi Minh, we fondly greeted Ste at our hotel and then headed out for dinner together, huddled in conversation relaying stories to each other and renewing the other on current affairs! A few Saigon Beers and some good food later, we were starting to feel the tiredness and since we aimed to move on the following day, we headed back to the hotel for some rest. The following morning, we purchased some bus tickets to take us north up the coast to the fishing town of Mui Ne.
Arriving in the night, we were driven to our chosen hotel for the next few evenings, a quiet little spot towards the northern end of the beach. Mui Ne is a rather long stretch of sand, over which surf quality waves come crashing over, smashing into the coastline - for us this provided a good few hours of fun, wading out into the water and then simply jumping into the huge waves, allowing ourselves to be carried a
few meters towards the beach before excitedly repeating, giddy as school kids! It was, therefore, with bemused looks on our faces that we watched what appeared to be a local Vietnamese woman, elderly in age and bathing costume-clad, wading out into the water for what I can only assume she thought would be a leisurely afternoon swim. What she either didn’t account for or simply didn’t care about, where the size and power of the waves, which abruptly crashed into this woman, tossed her about for a few moments, before leaving her dishevelled on the sand. Regaining her feet she simply shook her head, admitting defeat and retreated. I sincerely hope she didn’t try again the following day!
After our own swim in the ocean, we each sat with a few beers and watched as the sun set over the ocean, retiring behind the distant highlands to the west, planning our following day as we watched this beautiful sight.
The following day, we hired a couple of motorbikes and hit the road in search of Mui Ne’s famous sand dunes! They aren’t exactly difficult to find! The first set of dunes lye around 10km from Mui Ne. Red
in colour, they are but a brief introduction to what lies ahead. After partaking in a little sand sledding with some of the locals (for a price!), we stopped for some refreshments and to gather ourselves together after the battering we took from the sand, after which, we hit the road for another 22km in search of the White Sand dunes.
Lying further from the coast, the white sand dunes cover a far greater area than their red counterparts, and when traipsing over their peaks, as I said earlier, it gave an insight into the feeling of those marooned in such an expanse of nothingness – the absence of any defining features, the lack of colour and of course, the lack of people! One man’s paradise...
Although, it’s not completely true for me to say “lack of features” – these dunes are ever changing, both in shape, size and location. As the wind blows, it reveals tiny changes in their makeup, small rivets and interesting patters on their face! Indeed, when we attempted to retrace our steps, not long after our arrival, they had virtually disappeared!
However, what will not soon disappear are the memories we will
take from this day – the freedom of the motorbikes, the wind blowing across our faces as we passed the beautiful coast and of course, all that sand!
After a truly enjoyable start to our Vietnam adventure, it was further north for our next stop...
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