Central Vietnam

Mui Ne, Nha Trang

If Only Our Family and Friends Could See Us Now,
Soaking It Up With a Mud Bath. Clean Living!
The Famous Red Sand Dunes of Mui Ne. We
Sand Surfed Down the Dunes

One of our favorite adventures here – we rented bikes to ride to the red sand dunes. We parked our bikes at a restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious lunch for $1.00 (same price as the Saigon beer). While eating a young man pulled up on his motorcycle making his deliveries of ice bags (weighing about 100 pounds each)! In the rear of the restaurant locals sat in hammocks chatting away whilst some snoozed. This culture knows how to rest – a lot ot learn from them as we passed one rest stop after another driving through Vietnam (people hang out on hammocks and table/chairs that are generally designed for children.

We rented dune slides from a young Vietnamese girl who led us to a very steep dune, placed sand on it and pulled it forward for us each to get on our slides. Both of our slides only made it half-way lurching and embedding in thick sand below. A blessing though as the sand felt like placing one’s feet into an oven (scorching hot). We’d push our slides up to step on them as we attempted to get back up the hill – we had Teva’s on – what were we even thinking! We continued riding and watched the locals living their lives mainly from the fronts of their homes on porches playing games (dominoes, dice or cards); making fish nets with long needles in their hands staring down; and even women in large round hats, scarves, long sleeve shirts, pants and gloves drying out fish on the sidewalks and sloped embankments (for Fish Sauce) which this area is known for.

A Trio of Friendly Kids from the Fishing Village
Near Mui Ne

We stopped by some of the fishing boats and a young girl and two boys posed for a photo. They then asked for 10,000 dong (about 25 cents – not breaking the bank). We handed it to the girl and asked her to share it. She smiled and ran off with the money. The boys grumbled and asked for money. Instead we spied the girl ahead and reminded her of her promise to share. With a wry laugh she whipped out some smaller bills and paid off the boys. Quite the cunning little sales woman – lessons to be learned by all.

The Ubiquitous Red Flags and Banners Made You
Very Aware of the Political System of Vietnam.

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Mui Ne is Famous for Its Fish Sauce, and One Whiff
of the Air and You Know You Have Arrived
Mui Ne is Famous for Wind Surfing and Kite
Boarding. Getting Big Air! This Guy Was Awesome.

On a beach run I savored this fresh, salty air while water splashed on my toes as I observed a Vietnamese beach wedding and fishermen in their round floatboats so thin from their daily scourge of difficult work. In the background of the diligent fishermen are kite surfers flying in the air with such skill and confidence. Wind surfers whip by with precision force.

Mui Ne is famous for Kite Surfing. Many experts were staying at our hotel from France (and most married to Vietnamese women with bi-racial children). The Kite Surfers had such deftness as they took flight, did twists, and landed as if on a pile of marshmallows. They would then lift up and take air once more. One can only admire this amount of skill, agility and how they accomplish this with grace.

The Old Culture of Drift Fishing on the Open Sea
and the New Culture of Sailing the High Winds

There is such a contrast here with Vietnamese fishermen diligent in their craft (using a boat like from the children's rhyme Rub a Dub Dub - Three Men in a Tub). Meanwhile an assortment of kites fly in the air all around them propelled by the kite surfers with many being airborn - delicately landing and steering into a new wave to show off their confidence and ease with their sport. The fishermen floats farther out for more of a catch as the Wind Surfers dart at rapid paces on either sides - most sails afloat with skilled navigators. With one glance one observes tourists enthralled in the background, people engaged in water sports and the fishermen earning their living in the background with their meager round boats.

Sunrise From Our Hotel Room Overlooking
Nha Trang Beach and the South China Sea

We were dropped off by a tourist bus in Nha Trang (with no announcements by the driver) – found a taxi to discover we were only two blocks away from the Nha Trang Lodge (a large high rise – we had a spacious room with a huge balcony overlooking the Sea). Our first night we had dinner at the hotel and ordered a bottle of Dalat Red Wine (local) – only $4.50 for the bottle. Our server brought it out and set it beside us – We eventually got his attention and asked if he could please open it and pour it for us. Jim ordered a dish with pork and received vegetables instead. The server argued, “No you no order pork, your order this.” We were the only ones in the restaurant at this point and he appeared to be the only server too….so Jim chose to eat the meal and so our time began…..The next day we had a full on breakfast buffet (the normal morning offering at most places) – this one had all Asian specialties (Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese) with European – baguettes with cheese and jam (I chose the latter). We found Vietnamese food to be so healthy yet at times bland – not many spices (yet we loved all the veggie and tofu choices – well, we are Californians, right)!

One of Three Beautiful Waterfalls We Hiked to in
the Lower Central Highlands Outside NhaTrang
Suzan Holding Up a Huge Rock Slab While Our
Guide Looks on in Amazement.

We hired a guide to take us on a hike – what an experience. Utter beauty. We walked below a piercing blue sky in a thick dense jungle with green bushes, palm leaves, elephant leaves, alongside boulders, streams and waterfalls – some were trickles while others exploded through granite rocks creating a series of pools. We laughed when we saw middle school girls in uniforms (white blouses and blue pants) all giggling themselves leaning into one another and splashing each other (in their school clothes) – on a school day too (hmmmm….) We climbed to the third level of waterfalls (which became a bit technical at this point) and our Guide seemed to be a bit agitated with Jim who continued to stand on ledges with his camera always dangling or in front of his face. Then he said he was going to dive into a pool below on level 3. That was about it for me…I know I married an adventurous man (even more so than me) yet …enough. He chose to jump in rather than dive and from a lower platform (after swimming and checking it out) so he did survive.

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Snake Wine. Cobra, Spiders, Other Snakes and
an Assortment of Crawling Critters Comprise this Juice
Po Nagar Cham Tower, Built Between the 7th and
12th Centuries by Hindus for Worship.
The Cai River Harbor in Nha Trang as the Sun
Sets on Another Peaceful Day.

We decided to explore the area and find a boat to go to an island. The tourist office wanted $30 per person for one island. We walked outside and a taxid driver yelled over, “What are you looking for?” We mentioned a boat to an island and he said, “My brother have boat – take you wherever you want.” After some negotiations we climbed in and jetted off to the harbor. Along the way we passed this island that had carved into the mountains Vin Pearl. We found out this is a five star resort – Ukranian businesspeople purchased the enire island to develop this resort which starts at $200.00 and up (As most of our accommodations were deluxe and about $50.00 or so per night one can only imagine). This resort has a shopping complex, amusement park, 2 ferries to transport guests and even a cable crossing over the Sea!


We boarded our ‘tourist boat’ which looked like it could easily take 20 folks (and we were only ones)  they even had snorkel masks aboard. We asked for a non-touristy island yet most importantly with the best coral and fish AND a restaurant for lunch. Our boat brought us to a rocky pebble beach with small slats of sand – local people sprawled out on picnic tables, hammocks with coverings with piles of food in front of everyone and lots of beer – folks laughing, playing games, and children running around, People sit in circular rows around a “hot pot” with a woman stirring it and serving up the food (whenever plates become empty).


We first went to snorkel and my mask did not fit! After many failed attempts, I wandered around the island until I found a mask for purchase – I only had one choice and thought it would fit (NOT)!! When I returned with the mask I found Jim already toweling off – he only saw 2 fish and a lot more floating trash! We then decided we’d walk the island – well that took all of five minutes. Then we said, OK Let’s have Lunch.  We went to counters and asked for menus and we had blank expressions from all of the folks. Turns out this is a place where everyone brings their food. Our boat wasn’t returning until 4:PM to pick us up! We convinced one woman to slice up watermelon for us (and we paid her)…and along with some beer and water (which we could purchase) this was our lunch. The bathrooms at this place were of course of the sit and squat variety (though this one required holding the nose at the same time)…..so altogether our patience and flexibility were quite tested on this day – we’d almost given it up until we spied a trail behind the bathrooms – we’re always ready to find out where any trail leads. This trail took us over a hill and through a very colorful and ornate graveyard. Each grave like a small house and painted a different bright color. We reached a ledge and discovered another village (we later found out that we would have found our lunch at restaurants there – well how were we to know no one told us)! And by this time we had to turn around so as not to miss our boat! Since we hadn’t paid our boat guide yet the boat was certain to arrive for us! Very glad to sail away – it was a beautiful place though – stunning scenery and what an interesting experience. They had taken us to a non-touristy place per our request (sometimes we guess the tourist places aren’t so bad---at least one can get fed). And maybe find a snorkel mask that fits.

We ended our day with yet another adventure – while out walking on the sidewalk near the Sea – we crossed a huge bridge and came in full view of some distant ruins. We’d secretly hoped we’d have time to see the Cham Towers (ruins) and there they were so we scurried toward them. Along the way we watched people eating outside on the sidewalks on small red and blue plastic tables (like Kindergarteners would use). Several glass cases with pots of raw squid, octopus, crabs, lobsters, and fish with head/eyes intact – were all lined up along our path. We arrived at the Cham Tower 15 minutes before closing. We went into the Hindu Temple to see Siva (Shiva) – several statues so ornate with angelic eyes – just looking at theme I felt my body tenseness vanish. A peaceful composure overtook me. Local people came in and prayed, bowed head a few times and held hands up in prayer while holding burning incense. These towers originated in the 7th-12th Centuries – Hinduism from India influence. We stayed well into dusk and while walking back saw some kids playing in a large dragon costume; passed a fishing village with dilapidated wood piles like shacks with open walls, dirty kids and dogs running around in front and piles of garbage along the banks with a large rat scouring through it. Sad to observe how some of the villagers live (if one can even call this a life. Oh how blessed and fortunate we are).

The Nha Trang Coastline
Countryside Outside of Nha Trang, as We Approach
the Central Highlands Area.
Jim Sand Surfing Down the Red Sand Dunes.

We rented blue slides from a young Vietnamese girl who led us to the place to slide - a dune with steep elevation. She prepared the slides for us by placing sand on it then pulling it forward - then we were to sit on it and go yippee all the way down. Except we only went half-way! Our slides lurched and embedded in the sand which turned out to be a blessing as the sand was scorching hot - as if we were barefoot out in the Sahara Desert. We wore our Teva's - what were we thinking. So with each step - the feet covered in molten sand (or so it felt). The young girl came down and helped us up. I thought she was about 13 yet learned she was 9. I asked her about her schooling. She replied, "I'm finished school. I'm finished." And now she rents blue slides.......