Sunday, November 30, 2008

Leaving Mui Ne?

It has been about 2 weeks since we came to Mui Ne, Vietnam. Twice we have have booked bus tickets to leave and twice we have canceled them because... why leave? It is beautiful here, the people are friendly, and the food is cheap and great, especially at "The Popular Restaurant".
There are two main businesses in this town: fish sauce and surfing sports.

The windsurfing is SO GOOD here that this man came all the way from Holland just to enjoy windsurfing in this spot while his friends back home endure the freezing rain and snow.

OH, and a special note for the Japanese readers: Wilco (pictured above) has NEVER heard of CASTELLA! Tara and I were shocked! Castella, the famous Dutch sponge cake of Nagasaki, in fact seems to be a JAPANESE sponge cake. We were SO surprised by this that we had to find other people from the Netherlands and ask them about castella, but in fact NONE OF THEM have EVER heard of castella cake!

The other big attraction in Mui Ne is this emerging desert. One day we hired a jeep and driver to take us to these sand dunes. They made for some fun pictures!

Tara decided to use the wide open spaces to practice ballet.

Of course I prefer soccer to ballet. This little boy was happy to have somebody to play with!

The coast stretches for many kilometres of beautiful beach. It's not very crowded, and as you can see here, windsurfing is very popular.

Or you can sit back and take a nap.

Tara on the balcony of one of the hotels we've stayed at in Mui Ne. The beach is right there behind the palm trees. This hotel is also conveniently located next to our favourite restaurant where a whole grilled fish is 50 000 Vietnamese Dong, or around $3 US. Mmmmm...
At this restaurant you may not always get exactly what you ordered, but the food is so good and cheap that we never care. One night we ordered lemon rum drinks, and thought that they tasted very different than usual. When we asked for the bill:
"4 rum and cokes... 80 000"
"Oh, but we ordered lemon rum... that should be 60 000."
"Yes, but we made rum and coke! 80 000."
I laughed and paid for the rum and cokes.

So, in summary, Mui Ne has been so enjoyable that we've kind of lost track of time. Tara and I have both taken some windsurfing lessons, wee have met a lot of nice people here, and we've been relaxing, enjoying great food, and mostly sunny weather. However, for the past few days the wind has died down, and the sun has been hiding, so it may be time to move on and see what fun the next town holds for us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From the Windy Coast

Hello from Mui Ne, Vietnam. We have been moving down the coast of Vietnam at a casual pace, enjoying the different activities and atmospheres of the little towns along the way. In Hoi An we made a visit to a tailor where we had suits and dresses made to our liking. We were able to pick out the design and material ourselves and the products look great for a very reasonable price.

In Nha Trang we got our first real taste of a beach town, and I took up diving as a new hobby. Nha Trang is crowded with backpackers, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to keep them all satisfied at night. In fact there are so many restaurants competing for the backpacker business that the price of beer during "Happy Hour" went as low as 7000 Vietnamese Dong, or 42 cents (US), and restaurant staff walk around the city handing out flyers and trying to attract your business.

We're now in Mui Ne, a much smaller, quieter, coastal town with one main street... and that's it! In Mui Ne everyone's crazy about windsurfing or kitesurfing. On a good day the sky above the beach looks as though it's filled with a flock of seagulls. Tara and I both took a windsurfing lesson which resulted in some serious sunburns. The first couple hours were spent getting on and off the board, but we were eager to try again this morning. Unfortunately the wind was SO strong today that we opted for sitting by the beach instead - the wind and waves weren't very forgiving of beginners. If the wind is calmer tomorrow we'll have another chance to windsurf before taking the bus to the next stop: Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City as it's now known.

Pictures of tailored suits, scuba gear, and our picturesque spot in Mui Ne coming soon.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

3 Weeks in Review

2 days on a ship
2 days on a train
2 days sick in bed, and
2 days of rain...

But that only accounts for 12 days of the past 3 weeks, so let me fill you in on some of the other adventures since we left Japan. As some of you know, our departure was delayed by 1 week. We left Japan via Osaka port on the morning of October 10th.

The good ship Su Zhou Hao was our home for the next 2 nights. For the first day (travelling in between the islands of Japan) the water was very calm, and the ride was enjoyable. Unfortunately the second day was on open waters, and much rougher. Around 80% of the passengers - including Tara!- spent the second day feeling pretty sick.

But at last we arrived in Shanghai, safe and sound! The experience of arriving on a ship is really different than coming into an airport. Instead of flying over the city and landing in a vast, remote, parking lot we entered directly into the heart of Shanghai. In the background here is some of Shanghai's famous architecture.

Our friend Brahm met us at the port, and was infinitely helpful in getting us started in China. He taught us how to catch a taxi, and most importantly to ALWAYS COUNT YOUR MONEY when shopping! It seems that shop keepers in China have a habit of "accidentally" giving you less change than you should get. Anyway, thanks again, Brahm!

This is a view looking down inside one of Shanghai's tallest buildings. There is a LOT of construction ongoing in Shanghai, and bigger and stranger buildings are being built every day.

We spent a few days with Brahm and friends in the Shanghai area, but we weren't so thrilled with Shanghai city and decided to move on to Beijing. The train took 10 hours and cost less than $50. Beijing is packed with things for tourists to do, and we entertained ourselves there for several days. My 3 highlights were definitely: hiking on The Great Wall, eating Peking Duck, and watching an acrobatic performance.

Are we there yet?


We hiked for 10 km on an older stretch of the Great Wall. The scenery was breathtaking, as was the hike. I think Tara was a bit scared of the heights in some parts, but she was tough and kept going!
Naturally, I kept my cool.

We also spent a day wandering through Tianenman Square and the Forbidden City. These were interesting to see, but they didn't impress us nearly as much as the wall or the acrobats!

I have some good video footage of the performance which I will try to post on here soon. It will be easier than explaining the tricks they did. For now, take my word that these are some talented people!

From Beijing we caught a train down to Hanoi and we have been here for about 6 days now. Unfortunately it has been raining heavily for the past 2 days, and prior to that I was sick for 2 days (presumably food poisoning), so we haven't really done much here yet. But during the middle two days we visited the beautiful Ha Long Bay area, did some kayaking and enjoyed an afternoon on the beach. We enjoyed the beach so much that on Monday we will head down the coast of Vietnam in search of some sun and sand.

I hope you are all well.