Yesterday was a full day on the road running back from Phan Thiet to Mui Ne and then on beyond on the not so new now coast road as far as the amazing fresh water lake in the sand dunes. . .and back again, so something over 100 km to arrive at the same hotel room, but it was a pleasant place. I was determined to find any active new construction (boats, not hotels) and I found hotels being built, not boats. Sigh. But the weather was truly lovely, puffy white clouds in a blue sky (okay, some of those clouds had lightning in them, but they didn't rain on us). It made for pretty seascapes and bright colors on fishing boats.
Phan Thiet is a harbor town with a large and interesting fishing fleet and at least 3 boat yards that I've documented. . .and not a scrap of new construction in any of them, just lots of maintenance (a good thing by and large. . .maintenance). It's the only big town or small city I can think of that Lonely Planet says to give a miss. . .kind of sad, the town is perfectly nice, though they have an odd idea about breakfast eggs. I ask for a "banh my op la" which almost anywhere in Viet Nam will get you a fried (or scrambled) egg in a split baguette, with cucumber, pate, margarine, soy sauce, cilantro, grated daikon and/or carrot. . .you get the idea, a rich and varied breakfast treat. . .for about a dollar, or less. In Phan Thiet the same request gets you two eggs frizzled on the bottom and raw on the top still in their little tin frying pan. . .and two baguettes to eat with them. Oh. . .also a lot of salt. I worked on that a little, and maybe they'll get the idea now. Goodness.
But on to Mui ne. . .Mui Ne lies on a rocky peninsula sticking out from a long coastline of sand. It's a stunning location with a superb bay lying at the foot of the town. The overlook with the paved stairs down to the beach (it's a long hike for an old guy) is probably the most famous "beach scene" in Viet Nam, a lovely bay, charming village and probably 300 fishing boats anchored at any given moment, all sorted by size and type ("don't you anchor that dragger here, this is a squid fisherman's block. . ".or some such). Tourists line up 20 deep to photograph it. You need to be there early on a slightly hazy morning to get the best photo though, not mid afternoon.
It's almost 23 km from Phan Thiet to Mui Ne and essentially every inch of the way is white sand beach, covered in hotelsm, guest houses, restaurants and beauty parlors (with or without massages). Some of the hotels and restaurants are very very up scale. I saw one place with two golf courses bragging that they have rooms starting at $2,500,000 VND. . .about $125. Starting! And they were bragging!! All the way down to places I've stayed for less than $10. Quite a range. Russian is the third language all along Mui Ne beach. . .Vietnamese first I think, then English. . .and close behind (based on signage anyway) Russian. I think the letter "pi" from Greek is also the letter for "P" in Cyrillic. . .They way they spell pharmacy is suspicious. . .A"pi"teka. . ."Apothecary" pretty much. .
Mui Ne itself is still very much a Vietnamese town. No tourist spots at all, only one guest house I've noticed (and it's NOT a tourist place), a really great bike mechanic's shop but the little horse simply isn't needing much since she got her new battery. . .I let them oil and adjust her chain. . .all that running the day before in gritty rain let it wear a bit, and she wanted to say hi to him anyway. And there's lots of good street food and coffee, just nothing set up for tourists at all. It shows real dedication I think.
They call the terrain "sand dunes", which I suppose is strictly correct. . .they were probably placed by wind action after the sea ground up whatever to make so much sand, but now the "dunes" are a bit more like "hills", with quite a lot of cactus and scrub brush to anchor the sand most places, and very little in the way of migrating dunes, certainly nothing like the Sahara. It's a dramatic and pretty scenery though, with the bright red and very white sands (the dunes are either red or white. . .don't ask, I've no idea yet).
But I didn't start this to write about scenery. . .I have a new boat to show off. You've perhaps heard me complaining that people are building fiberglass tubs to replace the round, woven bamboo boats on the coast and at Mui Ne last year I saw the first DIESEL POWERED ROUND FIBERGLASS TUBS. I was offended. I admit they work amazingly well, they just look awful and they'll last a long time and desecrate the beaches and be abominations. . .but otherwise they're fine I guess. Obviously they suit a lot of the fishermen. Well. This year we have a new variation on that theme and. . .this is painful to admit. . .I like them. These are essentially the same sort of thing, a fiberglass tub, BUT it's different. Sort of. I mean, it's a boat, not just a tub. It has a bow and a stern and sometimes a proper skeg for its stern tube and a nice (usually but not always) traditional wooden rudder. Yes, I admit it's a little short. . .9'6" to be precise. . .and a little broad in the beam. . .7'3" and it's pretty deep for its length (as is the 8' diameter typical plastic round tub), 41" deep forward, 31" amidships, 39" aft. . .that's really a lovely sort of sheer line. . .well, compared to a flat round tub. Anyway, I think they're cute. I usually prefer Pretty, but in the absence of pretty. . .cute will do.
So here are a few photos at random from around Mui Ne and Phan Thiet.
|This isn't top of the line by any means, only 2 swimming pools and no golf course. But it's kind of photogenic. Sort of.|
|It isn't so much that life in paradise is awful, she was just really peeved at her older brother and her mom.|
|There she is, the Better Tub-Boat (or is it Boat-tub). Not all of them have proper eyes though, this one is well within tolerances to be called a TRADITIONAL Tub. er. boat.|
|And these are Linh and Mai (on the left). Two of the sweetest little beggars I've ever met. Someone has taught them how to ask for money ten different ways, and to keep at it until your tourist drops. I'm a tough nut, but this one was hard.|