Vietnam ~ Solo Excursions

The Short Bus


30.10.2008 – 30.10.2008 rain 0 °F
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Dalat….I’m finally here!! For anyone thinking about taking the bus from Mui Ne to Dalat, I would caution you to find alternate options. I found the bus to be miserable. First, I expected a much larger bus and was herded into a 24 seater which was about the size of the ‘short bus’ at home that carries the handicaped children to school. It would have been much more fitting for about 12 people instead of 24. And of course, it was full!

I was terrified that I would over-sleep (although now I think that might have been a blessing), so I set my alarm for 0530 for an 0700 departure. I was ready and waiting outside at 0650 just in case. Craving a morning coffee, I opted not because I figured as soon as it was placed in front of me the bus would arrive. Ahhhh how wrong I was! So, packed and ready to go with my Lonely Planet in hand I sat….and waited….it’s 0710…and waited…0715….craving some coffee….waiting…0730…..5 more minutes?…..0745….maybe I missed the bus….waiting….0800…..looking for the number for the tour company….0805….the bus finally arrives!!!

I’m quickly herded onto the bus with an empty seat beside me, thinking this must be my good karma, because the seat in front of me is so close that my knees barely fit. Next stop….my empty seat is taken, d#%n!

The girl that sat beside me was very nice, Lee (I’m sure I am butchering the spelling) from Singapore. She is on holiday for 17 days to travel to Halong. We shared some conversation before it got to loud to continue.

The Vietnamese man in the seat in front of me apparently thought that his comfort was paramount to anyone else’s.. His window was wide open the entire way and although a little cool air would have been nice, by the end of the trip I felt like I had ridden 5 hours in the jeep from the day before, my hair slapping my face the entire way. Then just to make matters worse (remember my knees are tight against the seat in front of me), he decides to lie his seat all the way back. So suddenly out of nowhere….his head is slammed into my lap without warning! Now maybe it would be nice to have a mans head in my lap but come on!! This was ridiculous…. I managed this for about 10 seconds….took a deep breath so as not to say anything horribly not lady-like and tapped his shoulder and politely told him to remove his face from my chest!! He kindly obliged….with a horrible grimace my way.

The road to Dalat is not a smooth one. Between dodging huge holes in the road and the ox-carts carrying everything you can imagine, most of the trip was taken at about 10mph (or so it seemed). Except of course when we finally got into the mountains with no guard-rails then the speed seemed to increase as quickly as the elevation. Most of the time it was better to pretend to be asleep than to watch the passing scenery or the cliff that I was sure we were going to tumble down or send some unsuspecting moto-bike down as we took the hairpin turns on the WRONG side of the road!

There were a couple of stops along the way but I was careful not to wander far from the bus due to yesterday’s display on the streets of Mui Ne. As we were having breakfast (lunch for me), some girl suddenly ran screaming at the top of her lungs chasing after a bus. We were certain that the bus had ran over a friend/companion of hers and she was hysterical. Come to find out it was her luggage. Somehow, the bus left her with her luggage still on board.

As we arrived in Dalat, I had planned to taxi to another hotel than the one that the bus dropped us at but I was way too tired to deal with finding a taxi and hoping that another hotel had vacancy. So here I am at a shit-hole guesthouse, The Trung Cang Hotel. Actually, it isn’t really too bad. I have a double room that is HUGE, clean, with two beds, hot water (real hot water…the shower was wonderful), cable TV, mini-fridge and a window that wont close. Breakfast is free and there is wi-fi in my room! All for a mere $7/night!

So by this time, I am starving. Having only eaten a few grapes on the ride here (for fear that motion sickness would set in if there were anything on my stomach). I basically dropped my bags and tried to head out of the hotel. I checked in at the desk to drop my passport and let them know that I would only be staying one night The clerk at the desk brought out a tour paper and wanted to give me his sales speech….I quickly informed him that I was headed out to find something to eat and I would think about tours later. He did not appear happy but I didn’t give him any other option.

Leaving the hotel, I attempted to find the town center and the market. Certain that there would be food to be found. True to form, I headed the complete wrong way!! I quickly figured out that I was not in the right place and turned myself the right way. Soon, I was approached by the well-known Easy Riders!

Already knowing that I plan to do the Easy Rider trip, I told him that I needed to eat and then I would talk with him. He directed me to a place in the market and I had a fabulous lunch/dinner. After, we discussed the options for my Easy Rider trip.

I have booked 7 days from Dalat to Hoi An (hopefully off of the tourist trial) at a price I am not planning to share. I have read many things about the Easy Rider trips and hope that I am as happy with my trip as others have been in the past. My itinerary travels through several small villages (with an optional home-stay) and includes Lak Lake, Buon Ma Thout, Pleiku, the old DMZ, Phouc Son and several others taking the scenic route to Hoi An. I’m very excited about the trip. We are leaving tomorrow morning after breakfast. We will tour around Dalat a little more (took a couple hours today) before leaving town for our journey. My driver is Stephane and he speaks fluent english, french and vietnamese. I rode around town today with him for a couple of hours and he seems a very capable driver. He states that he has been doing Easy Rider tours for 16 years….

Today, we toured the Truc Lam (Bamboo Forest) Zen Monastery, walked along the shore of the Tuyen Lam Lake (paradise lake according to my guide), and indulged in a tram ride (which was a little scary and I’m not fearful of heights). I was happy that he dropped me at most places and allowed me to explore for some time alone. He then joined me and explained some of the history/stories about the places that I saw. The Monastery was beautiful and actually a working Monastery. There is a huge bell in the garden and reportedly, it rings only at New Year. (something about placing family names on paper slips inside the bell for good luck or something like that…I really need to pay more attention). After, we shared a coffee at a pleasant coffee shop near the market and I am now relaxing at my hotel.

Planning to make it an early night, I am comfortable in my pj’s here at the hotel. My body aches from the bike-riding, bus-jostling, and climate changes. It’s nearly cold here at 67 degrees!

Life is good…..

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Hoi An


06.11.2008 – 06.11.2008
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I had a wonderful day here in Hoi An. I slept in, for the first time on my trip I slept after 8am! Had a leisurely walk simply taking in the sights. I stopped for breakfast and coffee at a cafe facing the street and enjoyed about two hours just watching the people pass by and the workers open the shops across the street.

After breakfast, I wandered around some more. Not really knowing where I was going…just walking. I meandered into a local coffee shop where I watched the Vietnamese men and boys alike, play round after round of chinese checkers (i think). I picked up a book prior to this at one of the bookstores I passed along the way and read while I people watched (actually didn’t get much reading done).

Wandering around some more, Hoi An is a beautiful town and has a wonderfully relaxing feel to it. I took some pics of the local fishing boats anchored at the dock and some young local boys took my picture with them (not sure why).

I made my way to a place to grab a bit to eat and started chatting with another lone diner. Brynt from England. He is traveling north to south and we shared recommendations, a few beers and great conversation. It seems that the topic of conversation, whether with the Vietnamese or the other travelers, always turns to politics. Obama, apparently is not only the American choice but also the choice of most of those that I have met. I find it interesting some of the comments regarding McCain and Palin. Most seem to agree with my opinion that Palin is much of a joke and they are equally glad that she is not going to be in office. My impression is that everyone seems to think that Obama will actually do some good for America. I guess that time will tell. I also found it interesting that Vietnamese, UK, and Australians that I have talked to have all followed the American presidential race. I dont know of any Americans that follow politics in other countries (although I am certain that there are some).

While chatting with my newly introduced UK friend, the table next to us joined in conversation. A very nice couple from Australia. I didn’t catch their names but they too are traveling North from here only leaving tomorrow. I am planning to stay 2 more nights here as it is very relaxing and enjoyable.

I wandered around a bit more and found a place that stated it had wi-fi and wanting to try to connect with home, I stopped in and ordered dinner. As I was attempting to connect to the internet, one man from the table next to me walked over and invited me to join them for dinner. I joined them and had a wonderful conversation over dinner and drinks. Rob, and two others whose names I cant remember are from Holland. They have all traveled to many places. I felt very jealous and embarrassed that this is my first travel out of North America. It’s sad how little emphasis Americans put on travel. So many other countries are much better traveled and in turn, better educated and (in my opinion) less prejudiced than American’s.

Last night I spent some time reflecting on my trip (feeling very home-sick) and asked myself again, ‘what am I doing and what do I hope to accomplish/prove by doing this’? I still dont know the answer to that question. I feel like I have seen so much yet so little in comparison to what is out there.

Vietnamese Diet:
Croissant with jam for breakfast
Vegetarian spring rolls for lunch. (remind me not to order vegetarian next time as they were LOADED with mushrooms and I hate mushrooms). Still made myself eat about 4 of them.
Spicy chicken and white rice for dinner (fabulous)!

Two days and no cheating but I can feel a craving for some potato chips!

Life is good…..

What Vietnamese Diet??


07.11.2008 – 07.11.2008 semi-overcast
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First off, I have to say that I am loving Hoi An. It’s beautiful, I’m not getting hassled like in Saigon, and the food is WONDERFUL!

So….I’m off the Vietnamese diet for the time being. I guess if I lost any weight, I’ve certainly gained it back by now. I found a wonderful bakery today…the French influence here in Hoi An is certainly evident in the sweet treats! I had my first ‘real’ chocolate today and I was in heaven…. In addition to the bakery, there are several wonderful restaurants here in Hoi An. I should probably take note of the names of some and pass them along but I haven’t had a bad meal since I’ve been here. I have spent two days of simply wandering around….stop for coffee….wander some more….stop for lunch….wander a little more and have a sweet….wander a bit and stop for coffee…. Sounds like a lot of hard work, huh? Oh, and of course I’ve had a couple of items of clothing tailored for me. Nothing spectacular, just a skirt and a top. I also purchased a couple of silk scarves today for about $5/each.

I am truly enjoying myself here, my only regret is that I don’t have anyone to share it with. Although i have met some wonderful travelers, there doesn’t seem to be many people traveling alone. Most are either very young (and wanting to drink all day) and in groups, or much older and traveling with a tour. Today’s interactions included a German couple that were delightful and gave me all sorts of advice on Hanoi, a New Zealand tour guide for Intrepid Tours (she has been doing tours here for 2 years and is going to be starting tours in Western Europe next year…I decided upon talking to her that I WANT HER JOB!), and a Canadian here with a tour group. There was also a brief interaction with a very young group of French. What wonderful diversity!

So far, Hoi An is my favorite place here in Vietnam. I am sad that I am going to have to leave soon. I have certainly stayed longer than I had planned and if I am going to get through Vietnam I am going to have to get moving soon….although it feels so comfortable here that I think I could stay forever!

Plan is to leave here on Sunday morning to Hue via bus. I should arrive in Hue around noon-ish. Sun-Mon in Hue then Tuesday night bus to Hanoi and Halong Bay through the weekend. (Unless there is more flooding in Hanoi). I would still love to get to Cambodia on this trip but it doesn’t look promising at this point. Instead, I am thinking of heading back to Saigon and taking a Mekong Delta tour prior to meeting my friend Kim again….I really should have done this at the beginning of my trip but you know what they say ‘hindsight…..’.

Today I visited My Son Holy Land (which is mostly a pile of stone rubble). I have to say that I wasn’t real impressed. I took some pictures and will share them as soon as I have an opportunity. It was hot, sweaty and way too packed with 60 y/o tourists! (not that I have anything against 60 y/o’s)!! In fact, I think it’s great to see them traveling….I wish that more people from home would/could travel, it’s a wonderful experience!

I think tomorrow I am going to try to visit the hospital (If I can get the nerve) and see if someone there would be willing to let me tour around a bit. There is also the possibility of renting a bicycle and visiting China Beach and maybe taking an evening cooking class. There is a wonderful local dish here called the ‘white rose’, shrimp in rice paper and steamed! Yummy!! Then again, I might just wander around and eat all day too….time will tell!

Life is good…..

Leaving Hoi An


08.11.2008 – 09.11.2008 rain 76 °F
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So my last day in Hoi An included a two hour breakfast, wandering around, a two hour early afternoon snack, wandering around, a two hour lunch, a short nap at the hotel (I was just so tired after all that eating and walking). a two-hour dinner, and more wandering around…then early to bed. Sounds like a pretty difficult day, huh?

I did manage to go to the hospital also. Not as a patient…thank god!! It’s quite ‘old school’ with the nurses in all white with caps! I took a couple of pics of empty rooms, trying not to be too intrusive. The ER was pretty full but nothing looked too serious. There was a couple sitting outside with a small baby that looked under a year old, and as I walked past them they called me over and showed me some pretty bad looking burn on the baby’s legs…I couldn’t talk with them because they didn’t speak any english but I felt so very bad that I couldn’t help them. Not sure why they were sitting outside, maybe they dont have money to pay and were hoping for some free assistance? I dont know but it broke my heart!

Still using glass IV bottles and I only saw two nurses and no Dr’s the time that I was there….

I’ve arrived in Hue and it feels like more of the same as far as Vietnam cities go. Stopped into Thu Cafe for a bite to eat (nothing spectacular) and booked a tour tomorrow afternoon of the local tombs, Bunker Hill and some Pagoda’s. It should be a good time. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Right now it’s raining (imagine that….rain in Vietnam)! Need to make a pit-stop somewhere for some necessities (deodorant, and soap as well as some snacks). Then it’s feeling like a short afternoon nap, before I wander out and try to find a place for dinner.

The bus ride here was so much better than the last one. I got the sleeper bus this time and although I didn’t sleep, it was so much more comfortable. Able to stretch out my legs and relax with a pillow and blanket included the trip was finished in no time. Although I did have an early morning wake-up in order to make the bus at 0700!

My skype still isn’t working here and I am quite upset. The cell phone that I bought when I got here won’t charge and I have no other way to contact anyone. So if you haven’t hear from me, that’s why! Miss everyone so very much!! feeling a bit homesick but not yet ready to go ‘home’!!

Life is good….

Hue (Way)


10.11.2008 – 10.11.2008 overcast 63 °F
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I’m sure that no one is going to understand this and I am not even sure that I understand it. I AM HOMESICK! Yes…ME! Believe it….

It’s difficult for me to understand my emotions right now because I normally try to be such a strong person and keep myself under control, but homesick is the only way I can describe how i felt this morning. I was sad and feeling sorry for myself for being lonely. I spend 99% of my time without close friends and family around. Why now? The only explanation I can think of is that I am really alone here. No one really speaks my language. I have not yet met another American. I feel out of place with the locals (although they have been nothing but overly friendly) and I feel out of place with the other travelers (mostly because they are so well traveled and I’m not).

I guess taking this trip alone wasn’t the best possible solution for me. I’m not scared nor have I felt intimidated any any of the places that I’ve been. I just cant stop thinking about being able to share everything that I’ve seen and done with someone else and it would be so wonderful to have someone beside me to share in all the new experiences. So…who wants to take the next trip with me?? There will be another and hopefully sooner than later. And…if I have to go alone, I will!

I guess if I’ve learned nothing else during this trip, I have learned what it is to truly be alone….

After I was finished feeling sorry for myself and pulled myself together, I visited the Citidal. All I can say is that it is amazing. It’s certainly something that you must see. enjoyed a liesurly morning walk through the maze of palaces and pagoda’s. It is truly beautiful. I can only imagine what it was like in it’s day of splendor.

The remainder of my day was spent (yes again) on a moto-bike tour of some of the sites surrounding Hue. At least there wasn’t any rain and the sky was mostly overcast so the sun wasn’t too intense.

We visited a small Japanese Bridge that was donated to the people of this little village on the outskirts of Hue. It was as beautiful as the one viewed in Hoi An, only made more special due to it’s location. The bridge is placed in the middle of a huge rice field between what looks to be two small villages. My guide was telling me that some rich emperors wife donated the bridge and it’s still used today as it was when it was first constructed. The villagers don’t have to walk across the mucky waters anymore and they also use the bridge as a shelter from the mid-day sun while working in the rice fields. It’s not uncommon to find the workers napping here during the heat of the day.

We visited two separate pagoda’s that were much like all the other pagoda’s I’ve seen. Then we visited the ‘tomb’ of one of the emperors. This was an amazing complex of buildings, with a moated river flowing through it. I’m not sure how many acres of land the site encompasses but it’s quite a large area. There is a theater, a complex (mostly debris) where the Emperor’s concubines were housed, And very ornate staircases, statues, and tomb entrances for the Emperor and his wives. It is reported that the Emperor had no children of his own and I was surprised to see a tomb for his step-son!! Who would have thought that they recognized step-children way back then….wonder if he was red-headed?

Overall, it was a full day of walking around and exploring the local historical sites. I should really have read up on the history of Vietnam prior to coming here. I know that there was some Moroccan invasion near the time of the French war and wonder if these Emperor’s were of Moroccan influence (they look more Chinese influenced than Vietnamese). Something to investigate….

Life is good….

Better Days….


11.11.2008 – 11.11.2008 0 °F
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I just realized that I am homeless….

Well, not really (i do have a home in Indiana). But I am homeless for right now. Checked out of my hotel this morning due to a 5pm overnight bus and I am currently sitting in an internet cafe having a great breakfast, enjoying the traffic sites and cruising on the internet. No real place to go and nothing that i feel I must see here in Hue today. Just sitting around waiting for the 5pm bus.

I was able to get a new cord for my cell phone today so I will be able to connect with home at some point (after I can get the phone charged). Talked to my mom and Trinity this morning for a whopping $12.50!! Damn…that was expensive!

The sun is shining today and the temp is about 75degrees. It’s a beautiful day.

Edited to add:

Oops! Thought that I had already posted this so it’s a little late in posting. The phone cord that I purchased worked for about 20 minutes after I finally checked into my hotel after the overnight bus….still no phone! (lessons learned).

Taxi’s, Puppets, and getting lost….


13.11.2008 – 14.11.2008
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Finally arrived in Hanoi after a harrowing overnight bus ride. The sleeper bus was a bit different this time as there was a sort of ‘capsule’ for your lower legs/feet. Thinking that I was choosing the lesser of two evils by choosing to ‘sleep’ in a top bunk instead of the closterphobic lower bunks… I’m still unsure if I chose correctly or not. Sleep was haphazard. There was constant swaying being in the top portion of the bus, I was fearful at times that I was going to sway right over the edge of the bunk onto the poor people below me. The karaoke was interesting but not quite enjoyable, and the constant horn honking (still haven’t gotten used to this) was enough to keep even the dead awake. But, I arrived safely.

Arriving in the morning, I was certain that I was not going to be able to check into a hotel for hours. This thought along with the fact that sleep had evaded me, and i hadn’t had a cigarette in nearly 12 hours, was enough to put my mood quite foul as the taxi and moto-bike drivers soon found out.

Descending from the bus, the swarm of drivers mobbed me. ‘taxi? moto? where you go? you want taxi? i take you to hotel? taxi? moto? where you go?’ My initial response was polite and plenty of ‘no thank you’s’ but they just wouldn’t stop and each response got nastier and nastier. I just wanted to figure out where I was and have a smoke!! Finally, I told one poor soul that if he didn’t get out of my face It would be a cold day in hell before I would ever ride with him. I think they got the point as they all stepped back….only about 2ft!!

Finally figuring out where I am (about 2-3km from the city center), an European couple and I decide to share a taxi.

Checked into the hotel and took a nice hot shower and my mood improved greatly. I never have been a morning person…. I headed over to the Kangaroo Cafe to get my Halong Bay tour scheduled. I have to say, I am impressed at this point with the Kangaroo Cafe. There was no big push to sell me any of their tours. I was handed a book to look through that thouroughly explained the different options and nearly had to lasso someone when I was decided and ready to book! Everywhere else I have been has hounded me and stood over my shoulder and given a hard sell but the people here left me alone to decide which was a very nice change.

Next on the agenda is to book the Water Puppet performance for later in the evening. This was done quick and easy and then I wandered around the city. I had actually taken my lonely planet with me with intentions of following the ‘walking tour’ of the city but very quickly got distracted and lost and no longer knew how or where to go to get back to my walking tour so it was abandoned. I aimlessly wandered through the city, taking in the sights, sounds and smells (some not so good). Finally stopping for a coffee and a snack I asked the server where I was on the map. The spot she pointed to was nearly off the map!! I guess I wandered much further than I had thought. Miraculously, I made it back to my hotel for a little afternoon nap.

The water puppet performance was not as good as I had anticipated. Although paying for ‘premium’ seats for a whopping $60K dong (about $3.50 usd), my seat was horrible. I was in the 5th row, which should be good for about any performance, right? Wrong…this particular stage (being water) is actually set much lower than the traditional stages so I could barley see anything due to the heads of the people in the 4 rows in front of me. If you go, I recommend demanding either front row or paying the lower fee and sitting much further up in the theater. The entire performance was set to traditional music, which was interesting but due to my not speaking Vietnamese, I didn’t understand any of what was going on…. The puppets themselves were nice and the maneuvering of them took some talent. 2/5 if I had to rate it.

Had a wonderful dinner after the show then retired early for my Halong Bay trip in the morning.

Life is good….

Getting there is half the fun?


16.11.2008 – 17.11.2008
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At the Hanoi travel agency, I talked to the agent about the best way to get to Mui Ne in the least amount of time. Since there isn’t any airport close to Mui Ne and I really didn’t want to go back through Saigon, I was told that my option was to fly to Nha Trang and then take a local bus to Mui Ne. The agent assured me that there are near hourly buses that run from Nha Trang to Mui Ne. Great, I think. I will leave at 0900 and arrive around 1030 in Nha Trang. An hour to the bus, possibly an hour wait then a 4 ½ hour ride to Mui Ne. I anticipate arrival in Mui Ne around 5pm. Still plenty of evening left to have dinner and drinks with Mike and Kim.


That isn’t quite how it ended…..

Plane leaves on time. I arrived at the airport and checked in with the ticketing desk. The nice lady behind the desk tells me ’29, HURRY’. Shit, I am thinking to myself that somehow I have gotten the times messed up and my flight is getting ready to leave. I rush across the hall to line #29. There are two people in front of me and I am a little nervous that I am going to miss my plane. A third Vietnamese lady pushes her way in front of me and I nudge her back behind me. No way am I going to miss my flight! I get to the counter and am told that I need line #28 if I am going to check baggage! Shit!!

I press over to line #28 and use the Vietnamese method of getting to the front of the line. Just pretend that there isn’t a line of 20 people waiting. I proceed to push my way to the front of the line. There doesn’t seem to be any rush from the clerk checking my bag. My boarding ticket is handed to me and I am told ‘gate 10’. Thinking that there might be a wait for security, I quickly make my way to gate 10 security. There are only 2 people in line in front of me! My lucky day! I am still unsure why the first lady was adamant that I ‘hurry’ but I rush through security and get to my gate. Flight to Saigon is just announcing final boarding. The flight board soon changes and my flight is on schedule for 0900! I still have over an hour to wait! What was the damn ‘HURRY’ all about?

Luckily there is a smoking area so I grab an iced Vietnamese coffee and head to the smoking area for one last drag before my flight. My flight is uneventful other than the fact that the boarding/un-boarding process is a little different than I am used to. All of the passengers are loaded onto buses and taken about ½ km to the plane to board and we are boarded at both ends of the plane according to our seat assignment. Other than the hassle of the bus it’s rather efficient. When we disembark, it’s much the same although the plane is only about 1500 meters from the terminal and we are still all herded onto buses! We could have walked it faster than the time it took us to all get on the buses!

I’ve arrived in Nha Trang, or actually about 25km outside of Nha Trang. Again bombarded by the taxi drivers and all I want to do is smoke a quick cig before heading to the bus station. A young backpacker approaches me and asks if I would like to share a taxi into the town center and I decline (regretfully, I’ll find out later). I stomp out the butt to my cigarette and grab my taxi. I attempt to negotiate a price and am told ‘meter’ Sounds good to me so off we go…

My taxi was $400K dong!! I find out later (too late) that the taxi only should have cost me about $200K dong from the airport per Lonely Planet!! I asked the taxi to take me to the bus station and inform him that I am headeed to Mui Ne. It takes us nearly 45min to get to the CENTER of town (now I am wishing that I had shared that taxi!). I am delivered to a travel agency…immediately I am upset and inform the driver that I need the Bus Station! Remember that travel agent in Hanoi? So, off we go to the bus station. I arrive at the bus station and they all look at me like I am an idiot! There are NO local buses to Mui Ne!! The only way to Mui Ne is to take the bus from the tourist office!! Thankfully, my driver is waiting for me. We continue back to the same Travel agency that we have just left and the lady at the counter shakes her head and rolls her eyes (not really, but that’s how I feel).

I explain that I need to get to Mui Ne today and find out that the next bus out isn’t until 7:30pm!! It’s about 11am now….. At this point I am cursing the travel agent from Hanoi! I promise that tomorrow he is going to get a phone call and a piece of my mind!

I book the only bus to Mui Ne and wonder what I am going to do for the 8 hours that I now have to wait to head out to my destination. First order of business is notify Kim and Mike that I am going to be much later than expected. I am directed to the nearest internet cafe which smells of urine and old cat litter and send a quick note to let them know I am going to be late. Hoping that the email will get checked before Kim starts to worry….

Walking out of the internet cafe and heading toward the beach (certain that there will be food to be found along the beach-front), I run into Eddie Murphy! You know the african american comedian? I am certain that you have heard of him and probably seen some of his movies at one time or another….

Ok, it really isn’t Eddie Murphy…It’s Eddie Murphy II or so he calls himself. He is a riot! Has me rolling with laughter (much needed at this point). We chat for a few minutes as he tries to sell me an ‘Easy Rider’ tour. After he finds out that I have already taken a tour, he gives up on the sell and I ask him where I can find some good food, with only one cup of coffee this morning and a couple of M&M’s on the plane…I am starving! He offers to drive me a couple blocks down the road for free (yeah…nothing is free). I’m dropped off at a local Vietnamese restaurant with a great view of the ocean. Well, it’s a great view if you squint real hard and turn your head just the right way to see through the trees. I ask him to come back in an hour and give me a tour of the city and we negotiate a price. Lunch is good, not great but good and filling. Mr. Murphy returns promptly in an hour and waits for me to finish my lunch.

We stroll around town and stop at the Cham tower. I am feeling like a cheap-skate and don’t pay to go inside the grounds. Next we go to the Temple. There is a HUGE white Buddha at the top of the hill and I find another traveler sitting and listening to some local women verbally fighting with each other. This is the first that I have seen anyone angry in Vietnam It’s interesting to watch the interaction. They are nearly screaming at each other. I chat with the other traveler about the culture and what we are seeing and our travels. I have nearly forgotten that I have a paid driver waiting for me. I say my good-bye and head back down the hill. There is another Buddah part way down the hill. It’s a reclining Buddha and is Huge also. At the temple, there are a group of children chanting/singing/praying and it’s mesmerizing. I have now been in two different Temples where there is (I think) praying occurring and both times it has had a very calming effect on me.

My hour is nearly gone and I don’t want to pay for another hour so I suggest that Mr. Murphy take me somewhere close to where we started that we can have a good Vietnamese Coffee. The Green Cafe is our destination and the great discovery is that they also have free wi-fi! I’ll be back here later….

Mr. Murphy suggests that I take a hotel for a few hours of rest and a shower. I guess I must smell? I think that this is a great idea! After coffee, we head a few blocks away and negotiate a great price for a few hours hotel room. I pay Mr. Murphy and he heads his own way. I relax for a couple hours, stretch out and have a wonderful hot shower (only wish I had some clean clothes with me).

It’s now pushing 5pm so I head out to the Green Cafe again for a Pineapple drink and some spring rolls to hold me over for the bus ride to Mui Ne. The internet is great and I’m able to get one blog posted but the spring rolls are a little tasteless.

At 6:30pm I start walking to the travel agency to catch my bus. They told me to return at 7pm. I’m there by 6:45pm. I sit and chat with one of the agents (different from earlier) named Chau. She is very sweet and at 29, she is married to a Vietnamese man living in America. She dreams of going to America to be with her husband and it seems that it is quite a lot of work to get accomplished. She tells me that with an attorney, she should be able to be in the states in 12-18 months. She is very excited and asks me all about America. At 7:30pm, someone calls and states that my bus is going to be late and will arrive around 8pm. At 8:15pm I am still waiting. Finally at 8;40pm, a moto-bike driver arrives and after a few minutes of Vietnamese I am told to go with the moto-bike driver to the bus… I lug the big backpack and hop onto the back of the bike. With my eyes closed, we rush through the street traffic, me nearly falling off the back due to the extra weight! Ahhh…my bus, finally!

It’s currently 9:27pm and we are finally on the out-skirts of Nha Trang, hopefully headed to Mui Ne! I was told that Mui Ne is not a scheduled stop for this bus (after I booked it) and am hoping that the conversation that Chau had with the moto-driver was transferred to the bus driver. None of them speak any English so I cant confirm my plans with them. I’m nearly out of battery power and the bus is totally dark so I am going to end this now. I’ll update on the outcome soon….

Life is good….

Update: Arrived in Mui Ne at about 2am. Mike and Kim were awake and waiting for me…love them!! Chatted for just a few minutes then off to bed…