Mui Ne beach
Mui Ne – the pristine coastal town
A total eclipse opens the eyes: in 1995 people from all over the world met on the beach at Mui Ne to watch the eclipse of the decade. But in the darkness, some saw even more – a vocation paradise of the future.
The trip to South Coast Mui Ne runs through a magnificent mountainous landscape with hairpin bends aplenty. Tourism has hardy touched the southern highlands, which makes the drive all the more appealing. The south coast, and with it the busy National Road 1 from Saigon to Hanoi, is a mere 170 kilometers (100 miles) or so away, so that an easy, slow trip is in tune with the glorious countryside and spreads good humor. At Dai Ninh, the Gougar Fall beckon, and around 30 kilometers further, in the area of Di Linh, are extensive tea plantations founded by the French which stoll Form the main source of revenue for the region today. Continue along the secondary road 28 toward Phan Thiet, unless blasting operations are going on for the new access road to the mountain rain forests in the Di Linh Highlands – are mote area that today offers stunning excursions for nature-loving travelers.
The harping bens grow fewer, and we begin to descend from the highlands to the coast. The afternoon sun bathes the plains in warm colors. Is that the sea we can smell already? In Ba Tu we turn left, shortly afterwards crossing the main Saigon-to-Hanoi railway line, and approach the sand dunes of Mui Ne. The tiny fishing village is set in a desert landscape of dunes around 30 meters high which glow at sunset in a vibrant reddish yellow. Of course, clambering around – on all fours – in the dunes is all part of the fun. The grains of sand crunching between our teeth and in the hair are actually trophies for our strenuous efforts, and something to be proud of. Anyway, an evening sworn in the sea washes we choose to stay, returning it to its origins on the sea bed. wherever we choose to say, the best resorts are all right by the sea. The Sailing Club is a delightful example of a small, cozy group of bungalows, the perfect place to relax. Thatched houses are scattered through the luxuriant gardens; residents in those nearest the beach can almost dangle their feet in the sea from their terraces, and watch more energetic guests kite surfing, snorkeling, or sailing catamarans. Dunes, beach, and palm trees are an appropriate way to begin a bathing vacation on the endless beaches of the southern coast. The nearest larger, Phan Thiet, is only 15 minutes away by Xe Om scooter.
Phu Quoc – Island Paradise on the Gulf of Thailand
Take time out on Phu Quoc – sun, sand, and inner peace. Has the pilot of this incredible, sonorously droning prop plane taken a wrong turning? Is it a mirage, or is their really a lonely island in the crystalline waters, just visible under the right wing? A glance out of the cabin window almost hurts your eyes, so bright is the contrast between the white sand of the beach and the blue sky. But it’s true. This is Phu Quoc– shades of the Caribbean. A relaxed atmosphere already reigns in the tiny airport. No cries of “Hey, mister” from itinerant vendors. Friendly islanders offer their hotels and guesthouses with some restraint. The pleasant breeze eases cool sea air between skin and clothes.
This is the very best place in Vietnam to experience sunset on the beach. This has something to do not only with the relaxed “Barcadi feeling”, but also quite simply the fact that the beaches face exactly west, while all the mainland beaches face east. Romantics on the mainland are therefore advised to watch the sunrise instead. A new day begins, adventure is the air. Islands are there to be explored. But how? Do we dare to mount a scooter without Xe Om? It’s worth a try. Xe Om means “embrace” – in this case, the passenger embracing the scooter driver. And of course, the driver needs to be paid. So let’s try going alone! The roads are good, the mopeds have automatic gears, and it’s a lot of fun. One world of warning, though: never use the front brake, not even in an emergency!
“Go south, easy rider” – wherever you start your ride, going south is a good idea. The reddish sand track leads past glorious empty beaches, ending in the picturesque fishing village of An Thoi. It’s well worth a longer stay; the An Thoi islands off the coast are among Vietnam’s most beautiful diving and snorkeling locations.
From the northern tip of the island, the name of which, incidentally, means “beautiful country”, we can look across the rolling hills as far as Cambodia in clear weather. The island’s national park is also located here. When returning to the west coast, it’s worth visiting the “land of pepper” around Khu Tuong. The pepper plantations are easy to spot: the green plants growing up their long stales are up to three meters high. The plantation owners are friendly and can recount many an exciting and inFormative tale about their crop.
No need for map or compass to find the town. Napoleon claimed that he could recognize his home island of Corsica blindfolded from the scent of its herbs, and the same applies to the capital of Phu Quoc. But if you’ll pardon me for saying so, what characterizes Duong Dong isn’t the scent of herbs – it’s the smell of fish. Many might consider it the finest fragrance in the world, because the source of the smell is also a source of prosperity and rich flavor: Nuoc Mam, Vietnam’s delicious fish sauce. A complex fermentation process is employed to coax grea vats of dried sardines into maturing to produce the tasty brew. Vietnam supplies the whole world; the sauce is one of the country’s top exports.