Life's a beach I'm just playing in the sand
I've been in Vietnam for just over 2 weeks and I am absolutely in love with it. I had no intentions of staying longer than 2-3 weeks and now I am already planning to get my visa extended because one month is just not enough time. I thought my travel bug had subsided but it seems I have been bit again!
The journey began with a 2 day boat ride down the Mekong River from Cambodia and into Vietnam. I was very underwhelmed by the Mekong and found it to be a bit dirty. I was happy to arrive in Ho Chi Minh and experience the craziness that characterizes Saigon. Arriving during Chinese New Year, I spent the first few nights partying with new friends and celebrating Tet. I ended up staying in the city for 5 nights which was longer than planned but I was having such a good time I decided I didn't need to be in a rush. Visiting the war museum was eye opening and emotionally scarring for me. I found myself fighting back tears the entire time as I stared into the faces of those whose lives have been destroyed by a disgusting and unnecessary war with none other than my home country. I could go on for longer about my thoughts on the war but I'll save that for another day.
My friend Rose who I traveled through Burma with met up with me on the second day in Saigon and we have been traveling up the coast together. Our adventures have been endless and we aren't even half way up the country yet. Our first destination after HCMC was Dalat. We took the overnight bus from Ho Chi Minh expecting to arrive around 8am forgetting that the Vietnamese have no concept of time and instead we arrived at 5am, half asleep and freezing cold. We got the worst seats on the bus and while the 20 other passengers were comfortably sleeping, I felt like a popcorn kernel in the microwave bouncing and rolling around for 5 hours straight. We went to our hostel hoping they would have an open bed we could crawl into for a few hours...no such luck. Instead we found a lobby with 3 others already sleeping on a mattress on the floor and when we asked kindly if the boy could also fetch us a mattress or atleast some blankets and pillows we were met with a blank stare and shown the time repeatedly. Yes sir, we are very aware that it is now 5:30 in the morning, we have not slept and would like you to please provide us with a pillow. Communicating with Asians who don't speak English is like trying to use sign language with a blind person, it just doesn't work. We finally managed to clear off a wooden bench and secure ourselves a blanket and curled up in the fetal position for 2 hours before the entire hostel woke up and the day began.
Within 15 minutes of waking up from my 2 hours of sleep on a wooden plank, I was tying my sneakers and heading out for an action packed day of abseiling down rock cliffs and waterfalls. I was not entirely sure what I signed up for and once I saw the demonstration I had a mini panic attack. "I have no coordination when I'm this tired, I am totally going to be the one that falls and cracks their head open" was one of the thoughts going through my head. Good thing I have travel insurance! Knowing that it's all a mental game, I gave myself a little pep talk and stepped up to the plate. I successfully rappelled down an 18m rock wall into some frigid mountain water. It was so much fun! Once I did that, I was awake and ready for the rest of them. We slid down waterfalls like slides, jumped into white water pools and floated with the current through the mountains and up to a 25m waterfall. This time the fear got to me again as I watched the group in front of me hesitantly descend down with water plunging into their faces. A little Asian girl slipped within her first few steps and instead of trying to recover and stand up she sat there crying and yelling for help as the waterfall slammed into her head. I can not let this happen to me! I had to really hype myself up for this one, I considered skipping it but that would just be lame, I had to do it! My turn finally came and I am happy to report that I made it down without a hitch. I was actually surprised at how much easier I found it. I also had such a blast that I wanted to do it again! Instead I jumped 7m off of the next waterfall and floated down to the last 15m cliff. I had so much fun all day, I may have found myself a new hobby for the future.
A big family dinner with the hostel and quite a few bottles of wine called for a fun night and a not so fun morning and bus ride the next day. The road from Dalat to Mui Ne looks something like this: pothole, 5 feet, pothole, 3 feet, pothole...you get the idea. For FIVE HOURS. It was miserable. Anyways we made it to Mui Ne, a small beach town overcome by Russians with a beautiful coastline and sand dunes to marvel at. It's a main destination for kite surfers which was our reason for going since Rose is into that. I spent my days lounging by the pool or riding a quad along the sand dunes. Another favorite new hobby! Vietnam is becoming my little playground and I'm just having so much fun.
From Mui Ne to Hoi An is about 16 hours on the bus so we thought we would stop at some other coastal towns along the way to break up the journey. We spent a night in Nha Trang, another Russian beach town that is actually much nicer than Mui Ne but was desolate and therefore quite boring. Yesterday we left Nha Trang for Quy Nhon, another rather quiet and boring beach town. I have been pleasantly surprised by the parks in Vietnam. Almost every town we have been to has had a wonderfully landscaped park on the waterfront and has made the chore of going for a run much easier. Our main destination is the tiny village of Bai Xep 10km south of Quy Nhon and we were very eager to finally get there this morning after 2 nights in uneventful places. After a nice morning run we got on what we thought was the correct bus only to realize 45 minutes later that we were going in the wrong direction and were now 40km away instead of 10. I can't help but laugh in these situations. They are frustrating but with the right attitude, they are just another part of the adventure. After 2 hours on the bus we finally made it to Life's a Beach, a quaint little guesthouse right on the water. It is absolutely magical and I fell in love the second I walked through the gates. Worth the 2 days of traveling? Yes. The ocean is the most magnificent shade of blue and there are cliffs and rocks and fishing boats and smiling children and I'm just so happy to be here! For $6 including breakfast tomorrow morning, we are spending the night in hammocks. I am so excited! Right now I am sitting on a bamboo bed in the sand, looking out over the ocean at hundreds of tiny sparkling lights dotting the horizon and listening to the waves crash on the shore with an almost full moon in the sky above me. My mermaid heart is full! Life is just so perfect sometimes I can't do anything but smile.