The watery-blue sky gave way to an emblazoned sun. The sea below shimmered intensely. The winds were slight, the sea was quiet. The waves, however small, took their time. To the left, the bay swept out of sight beneath a shallow land bank. Before it does, the village and a myriad of fishing boats are anchored off-shore. Across the road, palm tree branches and clustered coconuts tower above a stone seating space, supposed to be an open-air restaurant overlooking the splashing sea.
Mui Ne possesses an unhurried atmosphere; a place to take it easy, to let your hair down. Sun-drenched beach locations have this quality. Sihanoukville in Cambodia, I could name, is another.
Mui Ne offers more. It’s called kite surfing – a relatively recent twist (excuse the pun) to the surfing sport, and an added bonus to any, or would be, enthusiast. Until seeing the activity in full swing from the bus, I’d never given it much thought, or even knew it existed.
I went downstairs and ordered an omelette and baguette roll with a Lipton tea and honey. The Keng Guesthouse has a homely feel. The woman who runs it with a quiet assistant or two, is rather modest with an unpressured attitude towards her guests.
The dorm’s other occupant was a young Danish guy hoping to study architecture. He is very much into the kite surfing craze, having spent twenty-five million Vietnamese Dong on the full equipment from a store along the road.
Sitting at the front of the restaurant, I gazed at the sea landscape and watched a stream of motor bikers slip by.
“It’s interesting. Vietnam’s a big motor bike society. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anywhere where there’s more. It seems that ninety per cent here is the motor bike,” I commented.
“Almost everyone in Vietnam has one,” the Dane replied. “It’s a kind of status symbol, although a bit shortsighted because some are too poor to pay for the fuel. They’d be better off buying a bicycle.”
“But it’s certainly utilised. I see the bizarre way some carry or handle goods and luggage on it as quite amusing. It’s all about economics and which way’s the cheapest.”
He went off to get himself and his surfing equipment ready for the winds that would pick up around eleven am. I packed a few things and headed for the beach. I couldn’t wait for the sunburn.
I stopped at a tourist reception area and went to exchange some Chinese RMB.
“I can only give you two hundred and fifty thousand. I’ve checked the rate with the bank.”
“But in Hanoi I got three hundred thousand, and in Hoi An two hundred and ninety.”
He wouldn’t budge.
“A hundred isn’t enough. Can you exchange more?”
I handed over 200 RMB. He handed back 500,000.
I had to walk quite a distance before finding an alleyway that led to the beach. Others are reserved for hotel patrons.
I saw the words ‘Thai Store’ in large lettering above a wide shop and went inside. My eyes fell on a pile of western style baseball caps with the country’s emblem, the yellow gold star sewn in front. I came back later.
The wind got up, disturbing a few sand grains. The waves swelled and mounted in increased rapidity making it impossible to swim properly. Nobody, however, was that interested, except playing around in the sucking waters.
I stood watching the surfers cling to their taut kite pulleys, rapidly skim the water’s surface, into the glistening mass. I pondered at the predicament of others who’d fell into the turbulent waves. It looked exhilarating and addictive, but decided the fun was expensive and not for me. After playing around in the crashing waves and getting sunburnt, I left the beach and bought a cap.
The store proprietor, preoccupied in front of a computer, could hardly be bothered to serve me once I’d got his attention.
“Twenty thousand,” he said hurriedly.
It was supposed to be thirty thousand.
I stopped at a restaurant and drank a couple of Saigon beers, being cheaper than the Tiger brand. I also ordered a plate of French fries. The owner, with his son’s help, was cementing the driveway. They began by embedding the gravel, then the mixture was poured in.
I sauntered back to the shower room where I shivered in tepid water, immediately feeling the chilled after-effects.
I went outside and walked for a few metres into the cool night and ordered a plate of scallops in onion oil and a pot of Vietnamese green tea at a nearby seafood restaurant. The wind hurried, making sparks from a charred burning open stove dance merrily in my direction.
The sunburn kept me from sleeping a wink. It behoves you to take precautions.
Vietnamese seafood is very tasty, and Mui Ne is a place to taste it, whether you order shrimp, lobster or snapper.