Vietnam ~ Arrival and Mui Ne

Jet Lag?


22.10.2008 – 25.10.2008 overcast 89 °F

First of all, I have two previous entries that I have somehow lost…

I dont know what it is about today. The weather is nice, actually hot and I have actually enjoyed quite a bit of the city today. Every time I turn around today, I am nearly in tears. From the start of the day and trying to find someone to re-charge my cell phone to the end of the day and my travel pillow being lost. In between, there has been a myriad of things that have simply pissed me off. I hope that all of my trip is not this way or I am likely to spend it in a nice hotel room somewhere with my head buried in a book!

Let me share my day with you….

I woke up around 4am and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Considered taking a sleeping pill but didn’t want to waste away the entire day sleeping, so stayed awake and finally got out of the hotel around 9am.

My first mission of the day was to re-charge my cell phone. I tried to call Trinity this morning (finally got a time when I thought we would both be awake) and found that I was out of minutes. Was quite disappointed, really wanted to talk to her today.

I walked who knows how far and went to at least 5 different phone shops and no one could help me. Finally, I broke down and called ‘Ha’, my moto-driver from yesterday. I had hoped to avoid hiring him again today because I felt like he over-charged me yesterday. So, Ha was able to help me find another cell phone store and we were able to successfully load money onto my phone. The men asked me how much I wanted to put on (they told me 10, 20 or 40) and I told them $40 usd. When they were done, they told me that they needed $10 more!! They had me listen to the message stating how much $$ was on my account but it was in dong and I had no idea….I was pissed and gave them another $10. Had Ha take me to the ‘end’ of the walking tour from my Lonely Planet book and drop me off. He was quite disappointed that I didn’t want him to wait for me. I paid him for his time and told him thank you. I find that it is very difficult for me to tell the people here ‘NO’ when I know that I should. I don’t have a problem with it at home but for whatever reason, I find it difficult here. I guess part of it is that I don’t want to give a bad impression of people from the US.

As well as needing to re-charge my phone I also needed to get some cash changed. Before I called ‘Ha’ and as I was searching out a place to charge my phone, I all the while was also looking for a jewelry store in order to exchange some cash. In Vietnam (I can only speak for Saigon right now), the moto-bikes and cyclo’s are all over the place and they hassle you every minute of the day to take a ride. They will all say ‘hello’ and as soon as you respond, they will hassle you for a ride. I was so sick and tired of this….two options 1. be friendly and say hello, only to be hassled for the next 20 minutes or 2. be rude and stick up your nose and ignore them. I choose the former and therefore was hassled a LOT!! Finally, I broke down and got a cyclo and asked him to take me to the closest jewelry store to exchange some cash. I asked him how much this would cost and he informed me that 100,000 dong (about $7) First, this is way too much for what should have been a 5-10 min trip and second, he proceeded to cart me to some silly pagoda. It is difficult to not be rude but I just wanted to go and get some cash….so, at the pagoda of course…they want more of my money!! Told them that they needed to get it from my driver I didn’t ask to come here.

Oh!! The pagoda from this morning…almost forgot! They let me walk right in and I looked around and on my way out they wanted $200,000 dong I was pissed!! Of course, I hadn’t exchanged any money yet and so I tried to pay them with usd (didn’t feel right not paying) So, they wanted to give me 50,000 dong back from a $20 usd!! btw $20 usd is about 320,000 dong. I just shook my head and told them more…finally got $100,000 out of them but still they screwed me! Guess I have ‘sucker’ written on my face today…

So, my 5-10 minute trip to the jewelry store ended up taking nearly an hour. After I exchanged my cash, I went to the cyclo driver and gave him his $100,000 dong. Told him thank you and started walking. He yells at me….$200!! I wanted to tell him to f**k off, but instead I simply reminded him that we agreed on $100 and walked away.

My lunch excursion today was just as much of a hassle….first, I wanted rice and asked for rice and pointed to a place with RICE!! What did I get….frekin NOODLES!! I didn’t want noodles….I wanted rice! Tried to get it fixed but it wasn’t going to happen, so I ate it….or some of it. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t rice either!! Then I went to pay and guess what….the price changed from what was written on the menu board hanging above the counter. The sign said clearly 20 and the lady asked for 32!! Granted, this is actually only about $0.75 difference in usd but it still pissed me off.

In spite of all of this, i was able to see a good part of the city (and I have the blisters to prove it). Although quite ugly in most places, there are a few oasises of beauty. I did take some pictures today so I will try to get some posted soon.

Mike and Kim made it in last night and it was such a relief to see them. They let me babble and complain and share my day as we drank a few beer. I am looking forward to heading to Mui Ne today and hopefully a little quieter area.

More soon….

ps Hopefully I will find the two previous posts and get them online.

Better Days!


25.10.2008 – 26.10.2008 overcast 86 °F
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Arriving to Mui Ne via bus wasn’t the horrible experience that I could have imagined. The ride was smooth (actually not, but I managed to sleep through most of it). We stopped about half-way for a break and I headed to the bathroom while Kim and Mike got some snacks. We ended up all trying some sort of pork wrapped in dough with tiny little eggs inside. It was an interesting flavor, I’ll admit. None of us ended up eating them. I am terrified of eggs…but that’s another story. We opted on the chips and peanut brittle instead.

Dinner at the hotel was ok, but I’ll remember next time not to get the pork. It was pretty difficult to chew, but otherwise a decent meal. I was able to satisfy my craving for RICE, and Mike indulged with me. We shared a couple of beers and off to bed for me. I think that the jet-lag caught up with me. I slept nearly the entire 4-5hr bus ride then to bed early and here I am awake at 0700.

The coffee here is amazing! I bought myself some grounds and a coffee-maker (dont worry, it isn’t near as large as my Cuisinart at home! It will actually fit into my backpack! I only need to find a way to make hot water and I will be in heaven with my own coffee in my room!

There is supposed to be wireless access here at the hotel restaurant, but the signal is so low this morning that I am typing this and going to post it later. Hopefully I wont lose this one.

So far, the beach is much more peaceful than Saigon. I was happy to see Saigon behind me as we drove out of town. I don’t know that I am looking forward to returning on the end of my trip. It’s my understanding that Hanoi is much the same as Saigon, but I will overlook that in anticipation of Halong Bay.

I’m not sure how long I will stay here at Mui Ne . Long enough for sure to see Kim and Mike do some kite-boarding! Kim seems a little worried that the month away will cause here to have lost all her new-found skill but I am confident that she will do fine. I’m really looking forward to watching them up close!

It’s overcast here in Mui ne this morning. But the air is a little cooler and no rain…yet. When I woke this morning, I walked out on the balcony and the water is beautiful. The China Sea…I think? The fishing boats are all over and not surprisingly, it looks exactly like the many pictures that I saw when planning my trip. I took a few quick shots from the balcony but hope to get to the fishing village and get some close-up interactions with the local fishermen.

Just a few thoughts that I have noticed so far about the culture here:

There is a lot of sitting around! Everywhere you look, there are people (men in the majority), sitting around drinking coffee/tea/beer on these little plastic garden chairs. You know, the kind that you buy at Wal-Mart. Only, they use the kids chairs instead of the full size ones!
There is a lot of Sweeping going on. You can look far and you will find some Vietnamese woman or girl with a broom in her hand sweeping the steps, the sidewalk, or the road! It’s a constant thing.
Uniforms. It would seem that every place of business has a dress code of sorts. Usually simply a shirt of the same color. While walking around Saigon, I noticed that the nail/hair salons have quite an interesting dress code that I am sure the men in America would enjoy. Tight skimpy shorts and top or short, tight dresses. I didn’t get any pictures. (sorry Dad).
Moto-bikes, moto-bikes, and more moto-bikes!! Enough said…
Work ethic. It seems that although life is laid-back, there is a lot of work going on. Everyone seems to know what their job is and they appear to take it seriously. People seem content at working. I don’t see the unhappiness that I find in America. Everyone seems to know the job that they need to do and go about it with a good attitude. And although I noted earlier that there is a lot of sitting around, there is also a lot of hard work going on.

Smoking. Being a smoker, I have of course noticed the smoking culture. It appears that most (if not all) of the men smoke. I have not yet seen one Vietnamese woman smoking. Smoking is allowed everywhere.

The last thing that I will comment on is the attitude toward women (so far). I have found that the Vietnamese men seem to have a much different attitude toward women than American men. I don’t see men leering at the women, no matter how beautiful. The amount of respect toward women seems great. Although I will note that it seems that the women do all of the domestic chores and the men seem to have a lot more leisure time than the women. The dating/courting would seem to be quite different also. I have seen many couples siting idely at the park on benches enjoying time together. Simply sitting close, holding hands and enjoying each others company. It’s very sweet to see.

I am going to leave you now and enjoy my iced Vietnamese coffee….life is good!

The Vietnamese Diet


26.10.2008 – 27.10.2008 overcast
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The culinary delights of Vietnam leave a little to be desired for me. I am trying but having a difficult time adjusting to the food here. Certainly no gourmet dishes for me. Although eating on a budget might be part of the problem, My food experiences so far have been less than desirable.

I think that I mentioned the ‘snack’ that we got on the bus on the way here to the beach….some sort of eggs and pork wrapped in a sweet dough? Ekkkkk! And my lunch in Saigon, when I really wanted rice and instead was served some sort of noodle soup (with eggs). I dont know what the deal is but I am afraid of the eggs. I think it goes back to my days at SF General and working with the
Philipinos there. There was one nurse, Armando who brought in this egg (a Phillipino delicacy) that had a fully formed chick inside….and he ATE it!!! So I am terrified of eating any eggs here for fear that I will chomp down and get a lovely wing or beak….

So yesterday morning at breakfast I ordered the banana pancakes. Sounds yummy, right? Not! The pancake was quite doughy and very greasy and although the banana’s were good, there just wasn’t anything to it. Kim got eggs and bean(s) and the eggs were all soupy and the bean (s) were covered in a bright red sauce that Kim stated tasted very tomato’y. Lunch yesterday consisted of some sort of grilled sandwich which was literally, cheese (not like our cheese) and tomato between two pieces of white bread and grilled in some sort of sandwich maker. Although it was tasty, it certainly wasn’t on my list of foods to crave.

Last night’s dinner was the exception. We had bbq fish (some wierd looking thing with bright blue on its skin) and rice and veggies! It was fabulous although I kept thinking that I wished Daddy were here so that he could have shown the locals how to fillet it!! Had to pick around all of the bones and it was a bit of work to be careful not to swallow any! Speaking of Daddy….you would be in heaven here. I was watching the fishermen yesterday and thought of you. I can just imagine you out there fishing all day in one of the round ‘boats’ and loving life! I will hope to post some pictures of the boats tomorrow. We are headed to the fishing village today, on bikes!

So back to the Vietnamese diet….

I think that I stand a very good chance of losing some weight during this trip. With the lack of food options and the extra excercise ie at Madam Cuc hotel we ended up on the 5th floor…which is more like the 8th floor…wish I had counted the steps.

Yesterday was a busy day….coffee and check in online, then off for a walk…a long walk on the beach. The water is smooth and calming, the sound of the waves makes you want to lie back with a fruity tropical drink and lounge away the afternoon. After our walk we took a quick dip in the South China Sea, which was as warm as bathwater. Before dinner Kim gave me my first lesson in yoga beside the pool. I loved it. Although there are several ‘poses’ that I cant even begin to do relative to a lack of flexibility…I can see that yoga would be a great work-out for the mind as well as the body. Kim copied the program to my sd card so that I can practice on my own. Yeah…thanks Kim!

We are changing hotels today. The original hotel is doing construction and they have woken us at 0700 for the last two days. Packing and moving this morning then off to the fishing village sometime today….

Life is good…..

Biking to the Fishing Village


28.10.2008 – 28.10.2008 overcast
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Today Kim, Mike and I moved to a different hotel in order to be closer to a beach that they can launch the kites from. Still no wind for them :o(

We took a great bike-ride today north to the fishing village. I’m not sure how far it actually is but I think Mike said that it’s something like 6km ? The bikes are old and rickety but all three made it to the village and back without any issues. The traffic is a bit perilous at times, with the big buses and the multitude of moto-bikes, and an occasional cow, chicken, or goat. I just kept straight ahead trying to convince myself that ‘they will see me and go around….I’m sure they see me and will go around…yes, they see me and will go around’ yep, it went something like that in my mind. So…happy to report no fatalities, although I felt that there were a couple of close calls.

The weather again, was overcast and we got a little wet on the way back. It was a great work-out and I even got a little sun despite the clouds. My backside is a little sore from the rock-hard seats but overall, not in too bad shape. We stopped along the way for an iced coffee and a bite of lunch. Spring rolls for Mike and me and noodle soup for Kim. Yummy….

I have been craving a bit of chocolate but have been told that the chocolate here has some sort of additive to keep it from melting so it reportedly has an off taste and I guess I would rather have no chocolate than bad chocolate.

We took a great video today of our bike-ride. Mike mounted the camera to the handlebars of Kim’s bike. It’s a little wobbly but overall it’s a very good representation of what the local area looks like. I will try to get it posted somehow soon, but I’m not sure when or how. If you look closely, I think you will see a bit of sweeping and sitting going on!

The fishing village really didn’t amount to much other than the landing point was pretty cool with all the boats docked. I suppose that we should have gone in the early morning in order to see all the fishermen off-load the daily catch.

We walked down to the waters edge at the landing point and were met by 5 young girls selling stuff. I broke down and purchased some post cards for about $2 usd. The girls were ages 14-15 and they all looked so much younger than that. It’s hard to tell the age of the locals here, they all look so much younger than they are. If I had to guess, I would have thought them to be around 8-9 instead of Trinity’s age. I did manage to snap a couple of pictures. I find the young to be very pretty and the older women very ‘worn’ looking.

It’s raining this afternoon, so we are resting inside and I am currently watching Harry Potter on HBO. whooo hoooo

Tomorrow, I am going to try to figure out the bus for Dalat and hopefully book a place to stay. Still working out all the details of my trip but hopefully it will go smoothly. I am a little hesitant to leave here with the security of Mike and Kim but I need to press on if I am going to see anything other than the beach.

Life is good….

Daily expenses (usd):

Hotel $10
Postcards $2
Breakfast $3.50
Lunch $1.90
Dinner and drinks $10

Total for the day: $27.40

(I am going to try to keep up with the cost more for myself than anything. Ignore it if you want)

Brothers Grimm


29.10.2008 – 29.10.2008
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Yesterday felt like a page out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Kim, Mike and I signed up for a jeep tour of the white and red sand dunes. Fortunately, the Fairy Springs were included, for me it was the highlight of the trip.

We started the tour with a wade through the Fairy Spring. I’m not sure of the origin of the name, but I’m most certain that there is some sort of magical tale behind it. I was quite leary of taking off my shoes and wading through unknown waters….who knows what might live in those waters. Fortunately, there were no incidents except for Mike scratching his leg pretty good on the rusty jeep! Hopefully he had his tetanus shots!!

The red rock formations were beautiful, the pictures do not do them justice. The red mixed in with the white in a multitude of formations is indescribable. It did remind me somewhat of the Red Rocks in Sedona, Arizona.

After the Fairy Spring, we took a 30km drive out to the Lake of Tears and the White Sand Dunes. I think the highlight of this part of the trip was the ponies cooling off in the water. The Lake of Tears has an interesting story that I only caught part of and wish I could find more information about…something about a man and a woman and I’m sure some sort of love story with a sad ending. The ride it’s self was quite bumpy and uncomfortable (although I have to say that I did get the best seat in the middle). Poor Mike and Kim were on the edges where the seats were separated (not really sure how to explain it other than I am sure that it wasn’t comfortable). I tried to swap places during the trip but they are both too damn stubborn….!!

Another 30km back and we got a glimpse of the red canyon. This looked stunning but the main entrance is apparently closed and the government (I think) is going to start charging admission at some point in the future (according to our driver…).

I think we were all simply beat from the bike ride the day before and the jeep ride out to the white dunes because when we got to the red dunes, none of us wanted to get out and walk up them!

Daily expenses (usd):

Hotel $10
Day Trip to Fairy Springs and Dunes $9
Coffee/Breakfast $2
Lunch $ ???
Dinner and drinks ~$5

Total for the day: $26 + lunch

Highlight: Fairy Spring
Annoyance: Taking my shoes off all the time! (Those that can wear flip flops/thongs don’t know how easy they have it) :o(