Sunday, July 6, 2008

Immensely Sized Flying Grey Monster Bugs - Mui Ne, Vietnam

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” - Tim Cahill

To view photos from Mui Ne, click here.

To view Kiteboarding photos from Mui Ne, click here.

Sam, James and I arrived in Mui Ne expecting to be eaten alive by tuk tuk drivers but instead were greeted by 3 rather mellow moto drivers who actually took ‘no’ for an answer – how very charming! It seemed fitting then that we would end up at a guesthouse called Mellow, which set the tone for the rest of our stay.

That evening, we went to a restaurant on the beach to have what would be the first of many entertaining dinners together. When we were about to pay our bill, one of the servers came out and opened up a valve on a pipe to empty an awful smelling liquid that made its way onto the beach and directly into the ocean. Of course, for someone from a country that hides its polluting ways, this was rather appalling. I asked the server what it was he was doing and suddenly he didn’t speak very good English. Then the other server came over to clear a plate and also completely dodged the question. It was obviously sewage but I just wanted them to admit it and perhaps start a conversation about it.

When traveling through a developing country one has to remember that they have had big problems to tend to and it takes money and education to keep a place in check when it comes to the environment, but I do believe in many cases, it is just plain ignorance and inconvenience (laziness) and I wish to put a stop to it. Why people think it is a good idea to unload their crap into the sea is beyond me.... It doesn’t exactly make one crave seafood when what we dump into the ocean is demonstrated right before you. Pardon my language but is this not like shitting where you eat? Mui Ne is an 11 km stretch of beach that is seemingly quite beautiful at first until one takes a closer look. In front of the touristy resort areas, the garbage is not as bad but a walk further north down the beach, where most of the local fishermen are, the Styrofoam, plastic and various other detritus becomes much more apparent. The amount of litter I saw on the bus ride between Ho Chi Minh City and Mui Ne could almost be likened to driving through a landfill. Give a local a piece of garbage to dispose of and they will just throw it on the ground for you. Arg! And the beaches....don’t EVEN get me started! So before I go on another environmental tangent, I will stop there...for now.

46,000 – estimated number of floating plastic pieces per square mile of ocean, according to a 2006 UN Study.

We met the fourth party, Annete, of our little group the next evening while dining at what was to become our favourite restaurant. Anette was on her way home back to Denmark after traveling through New Zealand and Australia. This was the first of many enchanting dinners together full of tasty delights, stories, laughter and SERIOUS debates ranging from politics to the existence of the name it, we covered it.
Our first excursion was to the sand dunes. On the way, we stopped at the Fairy Springs where we waded through a long stream and trekked up and down steep, sandy hillsides to observe sweeping views of lush scenery and waterfalls. Eventually we made our way to a bay filled with colourful little boats and children selling their wares. We made fast friends with the kids which again had me wondering how I could smuggle them home in my backpack!

Then came the grand finale! We got to the sand dunes shortly before sunset, which didn’t really matter because just as we got there, the clouds rolled in (as per usual)! It still made for a beautiful powder blue sky highlighted with rain clouds behind a sandy brown horizon. We had to walk quite a long time to get to the dunes and then of course uphill to the top where we could take our crazy carpets and zoom down the hillside. We were already covered with sunscreen, sweat and bug spray, so adding sand to the mix just made us good and dirty....which makes for the best showers EVER. And speaking of showers....

One thing that I won’t miss about Mui Ne are the immensely sized flying grey monster bugs that seemed to want to terrorize me wherever I went...despite having saved several of their lives! The owners of our guesthouse kept the light on in the bathroom at night for those of us blessed with small bladders. This would be not such a trying experience if the immensely sized flying grey monster bugs were not so attracted to this light! Each time I visited the bathroom, I would find at least one of these creatures lying on their backs frantically flailing their skinny appendages so they could turn over and fly away. What was God thinking when he made such a thing? They are like kamikaze pilots! As much as I was disgusted by these ‘things’, I still saved at least one or two of them on a nightly basis by taking the pool cue (cause what bathroom doesn’t have one) and nudging them on their bellies until they glommed onto the end and I could flip them over. I went to bed that first night feeling very satisfied and quite sure that my bug karma was upped a few quotients. To my dismay, the next morning I found that both victims had been eaten alive by insidious ants. I found myself speaking out loud to them: ‘Why didn’t you fly away when I turned you over? Don’t you get it??’ I was quite preoccupied with the failure of my rescue mission when I realized I was not alone. I turned around just in time to hear the snicker of the janitor looking quite entertained by my conversation with the dead bugs.

One night while in the shower, I heard a noise coming from the window shutters. I didn’t really take notice until I saw the shutters start to separate and a shadowy silhouette of what looked like a bird started to form. The next thing I knew, one of the immensely sized flying grey monster bugs was swirling around me unruly in a counter clockwise FRENZY! I was .... well, NAKED and in a public area, so I stood paralyzed and from deep in my belly up through my lips came the girly-est, most embarrassing, high-pitched noise my voice box has ever made. I came to my senses and grabbed the towel and ran full tort out of the danger zone! Sam met me just as I was exiting wondering what had happened. All I could do was point into the shower room where the immensely sized flying grey monster bug was (as it does) frantically flailing its skinny appendages upside down on the floor. Once I caught my breath, I grabbed my trusty pool cue and saved the murderous, suicidal creature, as I now felt it was my duty! After that, they fell on me from the ceilings in restaurants and continued to try to off themselves in our bathroom. Perhaps I had done something evil to these bugs in another life and they gave me numerous chances to redeem myself? Regardless, I don’t miss Mui Ne in that respect!

Most days consisted of the 4 of us meeting for breakfast and then it was over to Jibes for lattes and sunning in their comfy beach chairs. I usually edited photos inside watching kiteboarders and windsurfers whip by, drinking espresso and wondering if this was me really living this life? Then in the afternoon, we would all eventually congregate again at Wax where they served the FINEST Vietnamese coffee and offered up bean bags to lay on the beach with...sigh.

Then we would all go back to our guesthouses to freshen and meet yet again for dinner! The food was amazing in Mui Ne. You could get anything from traditional Vietnamese food to pizza, pasta and best of all espresso! I have never had dessert so much as I did in Mui Ne. In fact, I don’t remember a night that I DIDN’T have it! It usually consisted of some kind of coconut or banana combination with a pancake or ice cream – ooh la la!

Mui Ne is best known for its kiteboarding and windsurfing. We came just on the cusp of the end of the season, so I took the camera out for a couple of late afternoons and photographed 2 kiteboarders, Steve and Rich, both from England. I loved it! This was much easier than photographing surfers on the North Shore since the action happens much closer to shore and I needn’t bother with a ridiculously long lens.

James, Sam and I decided to rent motos to take the 30km trip to Ta Cu Pagoda where the largest reclining Buddha lives. Driving there during the day wasn’t too crazy with traffic but coming back was a bit of a different story. Vietnam as I mentioned before is not the SAFEST place in the world to rent a moto. When people pass each other, they basically put the pedal to the medal and lay on their horns at full speed to say, ‘get the hell out of the way or somebody’s gonna die!’ On the bus from HCMC to Mui Ne, our bus driver was constantly beeping his horn at either animals or people crossing the road or as he was passing other vehicles. If we went through a village or town, instead of slowing down or having stop signs or traffic lights, he just honked the horn all the way through town to clear the way so they don’t have to slow down. The three of us stayed close together and fastened our helmets for a wild ride back through the exhaust and cornucopia of motos, bicycles, trucks and chickens. Surprisingly, we all survived the drive home and despite the danger, were VERY grateful for the cool breeze on our faces – a nice respite from the hot, muggy weather.

Oh and by the way..the largest reclining Buddha in Vietnam was definitely large and a beautiful sight along with its surroundings (see photo album)!

We finally parted ways after 11 fun filled fabulous days together. Anette went back to Denmark and Sam and James went to Thailand to meet some of their friends from England. When I departed Mui Ne, I left with tears in my eyes...these days will always be a cherished part of my memories on this journey.

Coming up..Nha Trang and Hoi An!

No comments: