We pulled into town on the afternoon bus from Saigon. Heat waves shimmered off the pavement, and the smell of pungent fish sauce assaulted our sinuses. Saigon, our entry point into Vietnam, had been sheer chaos. Amazing, intriguing, delicious and dripping in history to be sure, but absolute chaos. After risking our life and limb on a daily basis exploring the city, we were more than ready for a different type of traffic jam. Enter Mui Ne.
A scenic five hour bus trip from Saigon, Mui Ne sits picturesquely on the beach. As the self-proclaimed “fish sauce capital”, the odor is…. memorable, if the breeze is just right. While many of our fellow backpackers scattered in search of budget accommodations, we headed right to our flashpacker abode at Mui Ne Cottages. Low slung bungalows bordered a refreshing pool. Palm trees swayed in the breeze, revealing the lush sand beach just beyond the pool.
The town offers a few sightseeing options, combined with a typical SE Asian beach culture. More cows than people crossed our path those first few days. After the emotions of Cambodia and the pace of Saigon we were content to not stray far from our home. Our days were spent lazing in the pool or on the beach, watching villagers pull in their fishing nets, a joint effort shared by dozens.
Young boys scampered effortlessly up coconut trees to toss down the fruit. We watched as they swung their machetes within inches of their bare feet in wonderment, idlely discussing the disparatey between how “protected” US children are, in comparison.
Morning and afternoon, farmers drove their cattle along the beach, shuttleing them from one pasture to the next. Just the type of entertaining traffic jam we had come in search of.
We headed to the Doi Cat dunes for some sand sledding, only to be abandoned when our 7-year old “guide” demanded more money in tips than we were willing to pay. Finding our way back, in a slightly meandering fashion, we were in awe of the vast beauty, so unexpected so close to the sea.
We cooled our feet walking along the Fairy Stream, admiring the lush beauty, unexpectedly so close to the arid dunes.
We spent hours observing the local fish market, hovering close to attempt to better understand the proceedings and vigorous bargaining.
Eventually, our time at the beach ended, and we headed north to explore more of that complex, gorgeous, frustrating country. But for a little while, Mui Ne was exactly the soul soothing stop we had hoped for.