A communist time monument featuring soldiers and a traditional star - a grim reminder of the past - stands side by side with half a century old architectural creations. Someplace else words Ave Maria, lit in neon. Colorful tubes outline also a nimbus of the Virgin Mary, reminding Vegas in miniature. Little Vietnamese kids surround guests of the country - they curiously follow travelers, flashing white teeth and laughing all the way. That is Vietnam of today - along with red pioneer ties, modesty and amazing tolerance.
Vietnam is one of the poorest countries in Asia, poverty being felt on every step, despite of internet cafés and supermarkets, flooding western culture into this corner of the world. Yet, a scantily developed infrastructure and lack of fashionable hotels have saved Vietnam with its population of 87 million from a careless touch of mass tourism. Even cheating of tourists, outspread elsewhere in the world, is nonexistent here, giving another reason for visit Vietnam without much delay.
The capital of Vietnam does not stand out with grand architecture, with mostly gloomy communist time buildings rising up there. A never fading feeling that Ho Chi Minh City (its former name Saigon is still widely used) should present something more beautiful. At the same time Hollywood created stereotype image of Vietnam and the war of 60ies has influenced local shopkeepers, too. Pseudo-replicas of army watches, grenades and other war-time attributes in ample choice are available at markets and small shops. The originals have long since been stowed away in safety of private collections, leaving hardly any hope at all to acquire an authentic war-time compass, for example.
Numerous mopeds - old and new, modern and clapped-out - race the city streets. Vietnam is called a moped country and they are everywhere. Yet no much hope has to be held for a traffic culture - noise and non-stop honking are common there. The best way to feel the rhythm of the streets is to make a ride oneself, picking a way among vehicles, numerous cattle and pack animals laden with bug bundles. Fortunately (or maybe not) road police is nowhere to be seen.
However, a genuine Vietnam unfolds outside the big cities. Fishermen villages along the South China Sea shore are a good starting point to learn more about this country and to get a feel of its intact nature. Fishermen drags ashore full buckets of huge Tiger shrimps almost the size of a lobster, making Vietnam a true paradise for seafood lovers. Although cooked in a less sophisticated way then at top-notch European restaurants, food is savory and very fresh.
Unfortunately, quite often a scenic beauty is marred by unbelievable filth - a sack of drowned animals washed ashore, big half-rotten fish or even a whole pig! Everything people don't need any more ends up in the sea - the same place where little kids paddle in the shallow water. In the city it is much the same. A huge rat shoots past where the locals prepare food outside on the street. Or someplace else an unbelievable stench almost makes to hold ones nose. Snow-white clothes certainly are not the right choice for exploring Vietnam.
A true Mecca of kitesurfing! Already at the very first glance a small fishermen town, located on the eastern coast, seems more charming then grim streets of the city. No exclusive hotels or boutique lodgings, yet kiting enthusiasts name Mũi Né among the best areas for catching the wind. Spectacular sights of Mũi Né beach urge to visit it, too. In the end of a working day hundreds of small and yet even smaller fishermen boats return ashore, all of them beautifully adorned. Some of them seem not much bigger than a large colorful wash-bowl. A surreal sight opens from above - as if an entire armada, led by Columbus himself, coming ashore of just discovered America.
Fishing in Vietnam, as elsewhere in the world, is mainly men's activity, yet the whole family gets involved. Small kids, following their mother's instruction, toddle along the water's edge in a neat row with other family members among them, too. Big and small hands grab a fishing-net, drag it ashore and untangle caught fish. Swiftly they are thrown into buckets and just a couple of hours later served at nearby restaurants.
Mũi Né is located about 200 km or 2 to 3 hours drive from Saigon. Mopeds, in line with the best Vietnamese traditions, are in use here as well. A confused newcomer on the road instantly gets encircled by at least five other motorists. Almost every Vietnamese man drives a moped and a repair and service of these two-wheel vehicles are in their charge as well. A rental rate of a moped is about 10 US dollars per day and no one holds any suspicions that it could be stolen. No deposit is required - just pay and ride! Locals trust foreigners and are ready to help. Moreover, no need to bother for a return of a vehicle either - precisely at agreed time an owner is there at the hotel and gesturing energetically tells that time is over. Soon you get used to it and leave a moped with an ignition key just at the hotel.
Even such a trifle as a repair leaves you amazed. A shabby vehicle gets dissembled, cleaned, repaired and put together again in front of your very eyes! Fuel is refilled and a master explains what kind of damage had occurred. And in stead of a huge amount of money expected to be asked for the service, a guy requires just a couple of dollars. A tourist or a local - in Vietnam it does not matter.
Thap Poshanu Cham Tower is a part of a large French estate, built in 1911. Today it is one of the most popular tourists' attractions in Mũi Né, yet no broad smiles and loud welcome can be expected. You may go inside and pray for your God, if you wish, if not - it's your own choice. A short chat with a local Buddhist monk does not appear to go into any philosophical depths either. While a monk himself, smoking a pipe, inquires about casual things, his disciple busily repairs and lubricates his bicycle. And does not miss an opportunity to a boast a bit about his master's prosperity - after all, he owns a bicycle...
Ta Kou Nature Reserve is another spot not to be missed. It features the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam. Situated on top of a mountain, the 49 meters long magnificent statue lies instead of a communists' destroyed pagoda and guests are taken there in a cable gondola.
In Vietnam it turns out that winter joys do not necessarily need any snow. Red Sand Dunes, perhaps the biggest draw of tourists, are located at Mũi Né beach, too. A speedy slide down the dune on a plastic support it is too tempting to resist, even in the heat of +32°C! Of course, no sledges available there, yet Vietnamese kids instantly buzz around and are ready to share their own inventory with foreigners. In this case shyness is given up and they ask some money...
Plenty of modest lodgings are available at Mũi Né and seasoned kiters, requiring just water and wind, does not look for anything more. Sunshine Beach is one of such spots. A small two-story hotel consists of just 18 rooms, starting from 12 dollars per night, including a breakfast. It is served in a palm grove just some 10 steps from a water edge! A pleasant bonus is a free wireless internet connection. You can have a delicious breakfast in a fabulous, exotic environment and right away share your impressions with your folks at home - in the other side of the world via Skype. Fantastic!
It seems as good as it can get. A wide range of DVD movies, yet mostly piratical, are offered for evening relaxation - just chose from a catalogue according to your taste, return to your room, switch on TV and in a while a performance will start. A perfect backpackers' lodging! Yet, for those, who prefer a bit more elegant place, the right choice would be Coco Beach or Full Moon Beach. Cozy, tasteful bungalows with thatched roofs, sinking in palm tree groves, with lovely blue swimming pools in front.
- The best vehicle to explore a coastline of Vietnam is a motorbike, while for a longer journeys a rented Willy (an army jeep) suits the best.
- In Vietnam payments in USA dollars are accepted as well.
- Plenty of restaurants are available in the city, while a choice can be based mostly on one's own intuition. More refined eateries orientate chiefly on German tourists, being the vast majority here.
- With most Vietnamese being Buddhists, there is no threat of getting robbed.
- Drinking water is of dubious quality; rather drink sealed bottled water available in shops.
- Wash your hands as often as possible!
- Vietnamese language is a native tongue in Vietnam, people, however, are able to communicate a little in English, too.
Deluxe bungalow starting from 75 USD per night
58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Mui Ne Beach
Binh Thuan Province
Phone: (062) 847 111-2
Fax: (062) 847 115
Full Moon Beach
Standard double bungalow starting from 25 USD per night
Mui Ne Beach
Binh Thuan Province
Phone: (062) 847 008
Fax: (02) 847 160
Posted in 2008.Share it:
Keywords: Vietnam, Mui Ne, Muine, hotel, Asia