The next stop on our Vietnamese adventure was Mui Ne (pronounced Moo Nay), a speedy four hour bus journey from the old capital city. After some research this laid back beach town became a high priority on my list for a little bit of down time after the mayhem of Dhaka and Ho Chi Minh. Wanting to feel at one with nature, we discovered a hostel that boasted beach sleeping, and booked ourselves in to tents for the night.
Shortly after arriving I was glad we’d made the decision to stop here, as I soaked up the beach sights and gorgeous weather- a sunny change from rainy Ho Chi Minh. The view from our tent was glorious, although in the thirty-something degrees heat, it wasn’t much of a relaxation haven. Why had I thought tent air conditioning might be a thing?
Sleeping was sufficiently uncomfortable as I’d gracefully dragged a considerable amount of sand into my bed, despite my fool proof strategy of giving my feet a good shake before getting in.
We had an early start the next morning, as we’d booked ourselves on to a sunrise tour- starting time 4.50am. Despite feeling less like going when my Carly Rae Jepsen alarm assaulted my ears at 4.20am, the sunrise quickly changed my mind, as we were driven along the coast in a 4×4, whose driver had selected some banging 90’s ballads for the occasion. We reached our first stop, the white sand dunes, just as the sun was rising and as we stepped out of our transport, a shiny dune buggy was presented to me. Although the price was a little hefty for forty minutes, I couldn’t resist feeling super cool rallying around the Vietnamese sand dunes and gave the little man my money without hesitation.
Despite feeling cool blazing around on my rental, I was a rubbish driver and the feeling that the buggy would tip at any time lingered as I sped around at some 20km/h. It wasn’t long before the buggy had enough of me and dug its heels into the sand like a spoilt child. And there I was, stranded. I say this, but in sight were a crowd of Chinese tourists fiddling with their selfie sticks some fifty yards away.
As I revved the buggy to the max in the hope of suddenly gathering enough momentum to dig me out of my ditch, assistance appeared in the shape of a small sand dune cowboy. I use this term loosely as this rogueish sandal wearer was not your average cowboy. After expressing my woe he hopped on the front of the dune buggy, did his thing (the equivalent of some dune buggy handbrake turns), and suddenly we were rocketing across the sand dunes. It turns out I hadn’t been driving at the top speed. After arriving at a flat point where he felt I could manage, Mr. Dune Cowboy hopped off. I thanked him for his help after which he smiled and said, “Tip”. Feeling silly for presuming the man had unassumingly given me forty seconds of his time, I reluctantly gave him two American dollars I had on my person (dollars often seem to hold more weight in Vietnam).
After returning my buggy and dismounting, travelling on foot felt instantly like a demotion. We headed back to our 4×4 to hit the next stop; the red sand dunes. This was a quick stop. We rented large pieces of plastic in the hope of zooming down the dunes on them, but as seemed to be the theme of the morning, we couldn’t pick up much speed. Still the views were a sight to behold.
Our final stop was a small fishing village. By this time we were exhausted, and if the musical 4×4 had wanted to head home, that would have been fine with me. When we arrived however, I was instantly charmed. A boy of two or so approached me immediately as I descended the steps as the tour guide advised. Grabbing my baby finger, he pulled me towards a small shack.
As he pulled me I mused to myself how this fearless child had learned to approach strangers, presumably with the intention of selling things. Another child approached me then (I guess his sister), and tried to hand me seashells. I politely declined, as I didn’t want to fall into another “tip” trap, but as I entered the shack the mother or grandmother of the children beckoned me to sit down. One of our travelling group followed shortly behind me. The smiling lady handed us fruit, and as we hesitated to eat this hairy unknown, she showed us how to break the skin with our teeth. Despite not wanting to fall into a trap, I wanted to offer the woman some money for sharing her food with us-it was evident her and her family had very little. She smiled and shook her head, extending her arms from her chest towards us, to show she was gifting them to us.
With not a common word of language between us, we sat together chomping on this mystery fruit, smiling and laughing as the young boy handed me different toys of his and took photos of me holding them. This was apparently very amusing to the little boy, who cackled as I made my best “I’m holding a plastic duck” smile.
After a couple of minutes our tour guide beckoned us back to head off. We thanked the family for their fruit and kindness and reluctantly headed back to our mobile disco.