Coco opens the window and discovers a small balcony, slightly dusty but nonetheless pleasant. The room itself is spacious and the floor tiles have been freshly mopped. I chase a lone cockroach from under the bed. Then I check the balcony and its access, looking for any nearby gutters.
The houses in the area lie stilly, their occupants quiet. Residential-looking. But to my left, I can see the coast and its tranquil palm trees.
We arrive in Mui Ne at the very end of the afternoon, as the skies blaze bluely. We’ve elected to stay a bit further from the main town, in hopes of finding a better price, but also a more secluded location, closer to the beach. This was the logic we applied, with success, during our stay in El Nido.
But though we may be becoming more experienced, no matter how habitual this routine, there is some apprehension anyhow as to whether this budget accommodation will fulfill its promise.
It does. Soon after, we wander along a wide, wet beach. The receding tide has left the sand nicely packed, patterned with a million rivers and rivulets decorated with small seashells the colors of a rainbow. So many small cities and towns lining the river banks of these newly formed miniature worlds, which will be washed away by the next moving of the tide as swiftly as they were made, only to re-appear again, rebuilt from the same pieces in a whole new arrangement.
An elder woman drags her fishing net towards the waters, ankle-deep. About six or seven children playfully chase her, carrying other pieces of the fishing gear.
She sits down in the moving sand and water. The children do so too. She has a bright, toothy smile. In her nets are caught a dozen blue crabs. She smiles as the children laugh. A wise old woman. The sunset tears through the skies. The clouds are as blue as the crabs.
Coco and I are happy to be here, and we stay for a few days, our first bit of rest since Hoi An. On the second day, I take up the hotel owner – a kind, honest man – on his motorbike rental offer.
“Do you know how to ride a moped?”
“Would you like to try it first?”
I do not know how to ride a moped. The last time I tried was when I was about twelve and had to stop after a yard or two because I nearly lost control of the moped, which was too heavy to hold up. So I muster self-control, hop on, back it up carefully till it’s set in the right direction, and deliberately throttle forward with a firm hand, so as to gain stability.
The feeling is immediately exhilarating, and, about fifteen years after my first try, I’m a lot more confident. I whizz by the first ten yards as in a dream. There’s a small sandy dip ahead, and I brake slightly, and the front wheel loses its adherence and skids to the right as it gets swallowed in the sand, and this causes one of those split seconds of uncertainty during which the fabric of life can be molded by the strength of mind alone, and with that realization I consciously throttle into, and out, of the skid, and regain stability.
Adjust for a U-turn, slowing down, the turn is shaky, but I eventually return to the hotel owner, who gazes indifferently, and whose only feedback is a minimal, beautifully mindful:
“Be careful of the sand.”
“Yes, I will be very careful.” And I mean it, with all my heart. “Thank you.”
Soon Coco and I are off to the Sun.
The road opens, flat and even, as the sea glimmers to our side. I can hear the road-trip music glaring in my head, and an aerial drone shot of the moped as we glide along the coastline.
Coco knows I’m a clown, so I do my best to reassure her about my good intents. Fortunately for us, the road is in great condition, the traffic close to nil, the views of the beach to our right and low-lying dunes to our left idyllic…
This is one of a few times in life when one can say, and feel it, if only for a short while, in good faith after having thought it through: everything is perfect.
There’s a cemetery and star-spangled graves, a stormy-looking cloud looms in the distance. After a short break we hit the road again, and I push the gas with increasing confidence, onto the wide open road. Occasionally, a group of cows appears to the side, and I brake considerately, unused to these occurrences, and the cows look at us sheepishly, busied by the thought of feeding grass to be found on the other side of the road.
We reach a turn in the road, and diverge onto a dirt-driven path, patched here and there with sand. Focus.
A cattle-driven wagon passes by, led by a boy walking on its side, and his father sitting at the helm. Lone houses scattered through the countryside, some low lands, pastures.
We reach the Mui Ne sand dunes before dusk, at the perfect time. The last dune buggies full of tourists are wrapping up their tour and leaving the premises. On the dunes, only one other couple is left to soak in the silence of the sands. Two Vietnamese youths celebrate the end of their workday by sliding down on their own cardboard luge.
At the foot of the dunes there are two empty cafes and a group of Vietnamese locals playing cards.
We walk through a set of flimsy planks among the marshes and reeds, and buy an overpriced beer to share on the sand dunes.
(Something about sand dunes and their irresistible appeal: vague memories of crossing the almighty country of China by land to find Buddhas hidden in the midst of the forlorn desert).
The clouds turn blue. A chilly breeze sweeps through the sand. Coco and I cuddle in the dunes. The other couple is making their way out when the guy decides to give the cardboard luge a go. He slides down the sand hill. The youths wrap up their day with another sale and wave the couple off with a smile. Nobody is left but us.
I keep an eye on the lowering sun, eager not to push it too far into the night
Luckily the headlight works.
That evening we amble through a nearby ‘resort’ hotel along the beach and settle sensually in its pool at night. A teenage security guard, unphased, reminds us gently that the premises are for patrons.
Walk through the red Sand Dunes, the Fairy Stream, golden copper mud flowing at our feet.
On our way back we see a cop pulling over two Caucasian youths. Surely pretexting an obscure amendment and receiving the corresponding bribe. Our increasingly tanned skintone is once again paying for itself during these Asia travels (more on this later).
The next day we visit nearby fishing villages. The region is know for its fish sauce, fragrant or odorous depending on one’s familiarity. Large basic containers are strewn throughout the region.
Visit nearby fishing village. They have a good laugh. Have a meal. Local life.
We try a seafood meal in Mui Ne at one of the strip restaurants (plastic tables and red stools in the open air.). There is a large Russian diaspora, and quite a few shops displays in Cyrillic.
This is Mui Ne, Vietnam. The salt air will carry us to our next destination.
This destination and travel story is part of OOAsia, a Year-long Journey and Travels through Asia. This the second installment in the OOA Journeys:
- OOAmerica – Travels through North America and USA Road-Trip
- OOAsia – Travels through Asia
- OOAmericaS – Travels through Central and South America
- EurOOA – Travels through Europe
- OOAfrica – Travels through Africa
- OOACeania – Travels through Oceania
- OOArabia – Travels through North Africa and the Middle East
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Share the road!