Not Really a Blog

May 11, 2012

Mũi Né

I arrived to Mui Ne from Dalat using the Easy Riders early in the afternoon and chose a room close to the old village. Mui Ne got famous among tourists recently, apparently. It is a long beach strip in southern Vietnam, famous for its winds, which attracts kite-surfers, and the different dunes around the area.

The old village is quite picturesque, as it is a fishing village and has lots of boats in its harbour, which makes for nice pictures. It is not uncommon to find tens of people taking photographs at any given point there.

Mui Ne

It’s even been the cover photograph of one of the editions of the Lonely Planet for Vietnam:

Now, that’s one thing, but the rest of the touristy area is a different world. Basically the whole beach strip is a succession of hotels, guest houses and restaurants non-stop for a few kilometres. Literally non-stop, parallel to the beach and to the main road of this town. Which is a bit more inconvenient than it seems as you have to cross through one of these establishments to reach the beach.

Mui Ne

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Mui Ne fishing village

So, having a scooter here is a must, as there’s no way you are going to walk like 9 km to get to the nicer spots in this place. And well, driving in Vietnam, I should just post an entry on this blog about driving in South East Asia, starting by ‘It’s illegal to drive unless you have a Vietnamese issued driving license‘ to ‘100 ways in which you can kill yourself or end up permanently disabled by driving in Vietnam‘. I’m sure it would be a success among readers ;-)

Mui Ne 17
Boats in Mui Ne

Mui Ne 45
Sunset in Mui Ne

But the thing that I found the weirdest here is that it’s full of Russians. Everywhere. I found it extremely difficult to meet people as most of them were Russians with mostly no command of the English language. Damn, even the menus were written in Russian in restaurants. I don’t know why, but everywhere you go you can breathe russian. Even the kite-surfing schools were employed by russians for russians (!).

Mui Ne 4

Mui Ne 5

Mui Ne 6

Mui Ne 7
Jump jump

Yeah, kite surfing seems to be the big thing here. it’s literally filled with people kite-surfing. Schools everywhere, experienced surfers jumping above the waves also. It was nice to see all these people doing their stunts.

Mui Ne 18
Vietnamese kids

The beach is not particularly impressive. Good for kite surfing but not so good for swimming. Although it’s nice to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is rising or setting.

Starfish
Starfish on low tide

Sunrise
Sunrise

Stars over Mui Ne
Orion under the palm trees

But Mui Ne is also famous for its dunes, as it seems like a big local attraction which gets visitors all day round. It’s funny because around these dunes bars and restaurants have sprung up to take care of all the tourists that go there. It’s also full of kids who try to get you to buy something from their family owned restaurants. The deal is, you buy something from them, they’ll keep an eye on your scooter or bicycle. Which is a good way to get to know them a bit as they are easy to talk to, they want to know a bit about you, where you’re coming from, etc.

Mui Ne 10

You can just walk the dunes, which are prettier at sunset, getting them in an even more intense orange colour. Or you can just rent one of the sliders and then go down one of the dunes. Don’t worry if you go there, you’ll be harassed by zillions of kids who want you to rent their board ;-)

The sand slider I

Sand slides

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Nice place to come, but preferably come with some friends or having notions of Russian as it’ll be difficult to make new friends ;-). And with lots of energy to try kite-surfing. Have a look at my full gallery on flickr if you fancy these photos.

From here, next step, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City!

March 31, 2012

To Dalat and then Mui Ne

From Nha Trang we decided to visit Dalat, which is up in the Vietnamese Highlands. It’s a bit of a change compared to all the other places I’ve been in Vietnam as it is further inland and 1500 m above the sea level. The central highlands is a plateau that borders with Laos, Cambodia and other southern provinces in Vietnam. It also changes as it has a year-round cool weather due to its altitude.

So we decided to pay it a visit for a couple of days with the intention of hiring some easy riders and have some fun (more below).

Dalat is known for its French colonial architecture where the train station is probably the most obvious example.

Dalat 4
Train Station

But possibly the thing that most people know about Dalat is the Crazy House (Hằng Nga guesthouse). From wikipedia:

…popularly known as the “Crazy House”. Described as a “fairy tale house”, its overall design resembles a giant banyan tree, incorporating sculptured design elements representing natural forms such as animals, mushrooms, spider webs and caves. Its architecture, consisting of complex, organic, non-rectilinear shapes, has been described as expressionist. Its creator, Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga (also known as Hằng Nga), who holds a PhD in architecture from Moscow State University, has acknowledged the inspiration of Catalan Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí in the building’s design.

So, have a look at some of the pictures

Crazy House

Dalat's Crazy House 4

Dalat's Crazy House 6

Dalat's Crazy House 15

Yeah, Crazy crazy….

Marielle
Marielle

Marielle and I arrived to this city and spent a day and a half just enjoying it. And to be honest, the weather was just great, sunny and not hot. So we enjoyed walking its streets and eating its food. Really good. We even caught some action along the way.

Oooops
I think they are embarrassed

20120120-DSC_3571

Dalat 5

Wheel

More about Dalat (Full flickr set)

 

But what we really wanted to do is grab one of the Easy Riders for a ride around Vietnam. The Easy Riders is a term that now applies to many groups of people who do basically the same. They give you a ride on the back of a motorcycle around Vietnam. The original Easy Riders due to its popularity has made appear lots of spin-off which basically offer the same thing. The idea is that you choose what kind of itinerary you want and how many days you want to do it, and then they pack everything on the back of the motorbike (and the front), you jump in and then they take you around while stopping frequently on different places which are usually not easily reachable from main touristy cities (you might like the many spots they stop or you might not, but they are interesting nevertheless).

From Dalat to Mui Ne 1
That’s how they pack your stuff on the motorbike

We wanted a 4-day tour starting on Dalat, going around the border with Cambodia and then going south to Mui Ne, but due to the Tết Holiday (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) which was starting in two days, we just had to reduce it to two days. During these holidays basically everything shuts down (and they even say that finding bus tickets is difficult, but I didn’t have any problems. The easy riders stopped though). Well, I took a 2-day tour, Marielle took a 1-day tour as she had to go to Saigon to catch a flight. So be it, two days.

I have to say that the experience was awesome. A bit tiring, but a lot of fun. So, if you are thinking of going to Vietnam, don’t even think about it, just get on one of these tours. You’ll love it. Make sure you also have your camera with you (and, just unlike me, make damn sure your filters are properly attached to the camera, as I saw, like in snow motion, how my $80 polarizer filter dropped off my camera while we were going at around 80 km/h, seeing it crashing on the asphalt. I think I shed a tear).

Among the highlights:

American Airport
American airport abandoned in Dalat

Weasel
Weasel (AKA shit coffee)

I think I have to introduce you to the weasel coffee. So, they feed weasels with coffee beans that go through their systems. Then they collect them from their droppings (good euphemism) and then they toast it as normal coffee. It seems it’s one of the most valued coffees in Vietnam. More information in Wikipedia. As I’m no fan of Vietnamese coffee (sorry guys, I kind of hate it), this didn’t actually made me appreciate it more.

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Me trying weasel Coffee :-P (Photo courtesy of Marielle)

From Dalat to Mui Ne 17
My rider

From Dalat to Mui Ne 25

From Dalat to Mui Ne 26

From Dalat to Mui Ne 29
The Highlands

Dead Snake
Dead Snake

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From Dalat to Mui Ne 37

Oh yeah
Little I knew that my filter was about to drop off :-(

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Kid on a bike
Kid on a bycicle (Love this photo)

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Feeling the speed

And finally I arrived to Mui Ne. I have to say that I really liked this. It was fun and I got to see parts of Vietnam I never thought I was going to see. I really liked the ride through the forest going from the highlands down to sea level. It was actually a shame to see that so much forest has been destroyed due to Agent Orange, as you see big chunky patches missing. The parts where there’s still forest/jungle, it’s actually very very cool.

So now you know, boys and girls, if you go to Vietnam, get one of these, get on a predefined tour or a tailored one, and enjoy yourselves! :)

(Full flickr set)

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