A Travellerspoint blog


Off to Mui Ne

Taking a look at a new beach and touring the sand dunes.

semi-overcast 69 °F

My friends did not want to visit Mui Ne (MN) and decided to take the overnight bus to HCMC. I talked to them after the trip and both "V" & "R" hated the overnight bus. If you are a large person, close to 6' tall or over 200 lbs, this bus can be an ordeal. It is an impressive looking bus, large and new. But the reclining beds are not conducive to a good night's sleep, so say my friends. The shape and size of the beds were not to their liking. I took the day bus to MN by myself, so have no opinion on the sleeper bus.

I said goodbye to Huong, the front desk manager, and checked out of 'Nice Hotel'. I will be recommending this hotel to all those TP members heading for NT. I walked over to the Sinh Cafe office, next to Cafe Des Amis on Biet Thu St. The bus to Mui Ne leaves at 9:00am and it left on time, 80,000VND. The Sinh Cafe office tries to get you to book a hotel room in MN while in NT. At $30/nite for their affiliate, The Mui Ne Resort, I passed. I knew I could do better than that within minutes after arriving in MN. It was an uneventful 4 hour ride to MN. I had only allowed one day/night in MN, so I paid attention to the layout as we entered MN. It is a very long and narrow city, not conducive to walking around as is NT. We stop at the Mui Ne Resort, the HQ for Sinh Cafe. Of course several ladies meet the bus and try to convince you that The Mui Ne Resort is the place to be while in MN. It is nice; big restaurant, nice pool, beautiful rooms, but way out of my price range at $30/day. After a quick look, I went into the Sinh Cafe office and booked my bus to HCMC. After paying the 80,000VND, I asked the girls if they knew of a place with $10 rooms. There was a guy on a moto just outside the office and she waved him over. He said his family had a hotel just 50 meters away with $8 rooms. I hopped on his bike and took a look. It was OK, small fan rooms plus some double rooms with a/c, tv. Restaurant in the center courtyard. It also had its own beach, as do most hotels in MN. He quoted me $12/nite for the larger a/c room and I decided to stay in a better room. They run a tab at the restaurant, the way it was on Koh Samui years ago. They keep track on all your charges, pay when you check out. This place was run the same way. I cannot find the hotel name in my notes, sorry.

I had lunch and got dressed for my moto tour of the sand dunes. The guy who brought me to the hotel had quoted me $10 to see the dunes and Fairy Springs. I said I would pay $8 to him or go rent a moto and do it on my own. He agreed $8 was enough for a few hours sightseeing. I really preferred letting him use his moto as I did not want to rent one, put petrol in it and find the places on my own. I had lunch, put on my long pants, grabbed my windbreaker, camera and off we went. We stopped in town to put some petrol in the bike. He asked me to pay now as he did not have enough to fill the tank. No wonder he agreed to my $8 offer. We went to the white sand dunes first and it is farther than I thought. It took about 30 minutes to get there, getting buffeted all the way with high winds. It had to be over 30mph and it made for a difficult ride. I had on my sunglasses and hat, but was still getting sandblasted as we rode along. We had to walk the bike through a couple areas where the sand had piled up on the road. Once at the white sand dune area, you then walk a few hundred meters to a small restaurant/rental shop. I was not going to be sliding down the dunes, so I did not need the plastic sleds they rent. I then started hiking up the nearest sand dune. It is pretty spectacular, but the high winds made it a very short hike. Sand blasting you in the face is not conducive to hanging around. I took a few photos and headed back to meet my driver. He was hiding from the wind in the restaurant. Can't blame him. Off we go back to MN. Another exciting ride back, wind almost blowing us over several times. We stopped at the red sand dunes, right by the road. Plenty of kids hanging around, playing games and trying to rent plastic for you to slid down the dunes. I wanted to get a few photos, but was not up for sand sliding. I hiked up the large dune right by the road and got my photos. The dunes are impressive and I would have liked to see more of them. You would need better legs than I have or a jeep to appreciate just how large of an area the sand dunes cover. Back on the bike, we head for the Fairy Springs. It is right in town and I probably would not have found it on my own. A very small business is the parking area for the start of the fairy springs walk. Again, my guide chose to stay with his bike and let me try it on my own. You walk a short ways on a trail and then you take off your shoes or sandals and start walking upstream. The water was just ankle deep and warm. It is a very scenic area and worth your time. I took some photos and decided to turn it around after about 20 minutes of walking upstream. It is a pleasant walk and would be great to have someone along to share it with. One of the negatives of travelling alone. It was only a short ride back to the hotel and my tour was over. I thanked my guide and headed for my room. I needed a shower and a bit of rest.

When cleaned up and rested, I had dinner at the restaurant. The food was good and very reasonable. Many meals for less than 25,000VND. There was nobody to chat with, so I decided to take a walk after dinner. I chatted with several ladies that were touting their restaurant or guesthouse. There are several places close to my hotel that were right at $10/nite. MN has plenty of high end resorts with prices to match, but there are places to stay that will not break your budget. When I got back from my stroll, there were two girls sitting at the restaurant playing cards. I did not know the game they were playing but watched anyway. I asked them if they wanted to learn a new game. Ann from Sweden and Sadia from Iran, now living in the UK were ready for a challenge. I taught them 'up & down', basically spades, but trump changes each round by turning over a random card. They beat me and were ready for another round. I lost that round as well, but had fun chatting with them. They were off to Nha Trang next, so I scrolled through my photos and showed them some NT shots. I gave them an address card from the Nice Hotel and gave them some ideas on where to eat, sightseeing, etc. It was now almost 11:00pm, so I called it a night.

The next day I had BF, read my book and then walked the small beach out front. Some photos and back to shower and pack. I walked over to the Sinh Cafe and got ready for the bus trip to HCMC. I was only in MN for about 24 hrs, but did think it is worth a stop. I like NT much more, but Mui Ne is a decent beach, worth a few days when in VN. Below is a fan room at my hotel, the beach, Fairy Springs and some dune shots.


Posted by vegasmike6 23:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

On The Road to 'Paradise'

My motorbike trip north to see the Paradise Resort

semi-overcast 87 °F

My friends wanted to just laze away the day, so I decided to rent a motorbike and go see the beaches north of NT. Huong at the front desk got me a bike for 40,000VND, plus 30,000VND for petrol. I also wanted a better helmet with a face shield. I was quoted 10,000VND extra and agreed. It was raining on/off that day and I did not want rain hitting me in the face at speed. I got my windbreaker, backpack with my camera, VN guide book, water and took off. There is a new road that is being built that follows the ocean as you leave NT. Still under construction and not many using it. That was a good choice as you do not want to be out with the trucks and buses if you don't have to. I stopped at the section that is still dirt and took some photos. Off again, it stopped raining and the sun came out. I left my windbreaker on, just to cut down on the sun exposure to my arms. However, I did make a foolish mistake. I had on shorts and the tops of my legs got a dandy sunburn. When riding a motorbike for hours, wear long pants even if it is hot outside. You can always change into your shorts/bathing suit once you get to your destination. My bad.

I stopped many times just to get in the shade, rest my bum and drink some water. The new road ties into Highway 1 north and you cannot get too far off track. The directions call for you to turn right after the Hyundai Shipyards and head east. It is not very easy to find Doc Let beach after that turn, but I just kept blundering along and finally did see a handmade sign that said; 'Paradise Beach Resort'. Good enough for me. It is dirt/sand from this sign on and I was not sure it was going the right way. They could use a few more signs after you get off the paved road. But, it was a nice sunny day and I was enjoying just riding along. I finally did see what looked like the entrance to a resort and pulled into the shade. I saw a jeep with Paradise Resort stenciled on the side and figured I was at the right place. A young lad saw me pull up and ran off to get someone. It turned out to be the owner. A 81 yr old man from Croatia who has built the Paradise Resort. The 5 yr old lad turned out to be his son. He was quite proud to tell me he had a one son in his 50s and one that was 5. I congratulated him on his prowess and we discussed the wonders of Viagra. I also made a wild guess that he had married a much younger VN lady when he moved here. True, he admitted and then informed me that his wife is expecting! With is stud credentials assured, he ask me where I was from. When Las Vegas was the answer, he got excitied again. He had been there many years ago and wanted to tell me his experiences while gambling in Vegas. This happens quite often when I travel. All know of Las Vegas and many have been there or would like to visit. He invited me to use the facilites and have lunch with the guests. I had time for a swim and read a bit before lunch was served. It really is a nice stretch of beach. Perfect sand and warm, clear water for swimming or snorkelling. They do offer kayaks and have a boat for fishing and short excursions. But what Paradise Resort is really selling is peace and quiet. Most guests go there to decompress from the fast lane and enjoy the solitude. I shared a table with a nice family from Melbourne Australia. They wanted to know about my trip, Las Vegas and our election. Not a big surprise, they did not like our current president. Mr. Bush has angered most foreigners I met while in SEA. We had a lively discussion and a very good lunch. Plenty to eat even for a veggie like me. Well worth the $4. I said goodbye to my table companions and had another dip in the ocean, therapy for my injured toenail. A bit more reading and it was time to head back to NT. It is about 2 hours on a moto, plus stops to get out of the sun or give your bum a break. I took some photos, mounted up and headed back to NT. Decided to stay on Highway 1 all the way. It is shorter than the detour for the new road. Once back in NT, I decided to go see Bao Dai's villas down by the docks. I have been to NT four times before but never went over to the villas. You pay your entrance fee and leave your bike at the booth. It is a pretty steep climb to the villas and not sure I would recommend going. Hard to photograph and you can only enter one building. Nice view of the bay, but hardly worth the effort IMO.

I had enough sun so I headed for my hotel. I turned in the bike to the guy who lives right behind Nice Hotel. He has a bike rental sign, so you can't miss him. I was not charged for the better helmet as a different man checked me in. They do look for damage to the bike and you will have to pay if you get in a wreck or damage the bike. I don't recommend renting a motorbike in SEA unless you are an experienced rider. Yes they are fun, but the downside is significant. You are riding illegally, as we don't have a VN drivers license. If you fall off, you are going to be hurting and perhaps get to sample the local hospital. The real downside is if you get in an accident or the bike is stolen. Your happy holiday in VN just came to an end. You will be dealing with hospitals and the police if you get in an accident or have to replace the stolen bike. Really consider the pros and cons before renting a motorbike while in Asia. A word to the wise.

All in all, I had a pretty good day. Yes, I got sunburned and had a sore bum, but I can live with those problems when compared to the joy of a spending a day sightseeing in VN.


Posted by vegasmike6 00:32 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Nha Trang Bay Tour

sunny 87 °F

We signed up for the bay tour before I injured my toe, Hanh's Green Hat Boat Tour, 100,000VND for the day. I was going even if I had to limp and wear my tennis shoes. I did not want to get my toe wet that day, or stepped on. Many other operators besides Green Hat to pick from, all run the same tour, same price as well. They all pick you up from your hotel around 8:00am and take you to the docks. Then you run the usual gauntlet of vendors selling: hats, water, snacks, cigarettes, etc. We did buy straw hats for 5,000VND. Very cheap way to avoid too much sun on your head/face. If you are hair challenged as I am, you need to wear something on your head all the time you are in the sun. I brought a baseball cap, but this straw hat provided more protection. Your lunch is included, but you will be charged for drinks on the boat. A bottle of cold water is not a bad purchase at the docks. Or bring one with you on the van. Both will be cheaper than what they charge on your tour.

Once we fight off the vendors, everyone gets on their assigned boat. Just follow your guide or fellow passengers. It is a bit of a rugby scrum at the dock, coming and going. Dozens of boats all load and unload at roughly the same time. Keep your guide in sight. On the boat and off we go. These bay tours can have the feel of a cattle boat. They are pretty crowded and they herd you on/off many times during the day. One option if you want fewer people is to go out with the scuba divers. They will take non divers out for the day, $15 includes lunch. You will get more snorkelling time with the dive boats, not any time on the several islands the tour boats stop at. Most choose the tour/cattle boat option since it is only 100,000VND, includes lunch, all the cheap wine you want to drink and has a party atmosphere. Our boat had mostly VN people on it, probably 2/3. The rest a mix of western countries and few Japanese. The tour guides rattle off their set spiel, first in VN, then English. You are out of luck if you don't speak one or the other. I think one of the guides could of spoke French if needed, but he was not asked to. First stop is usually the snorkel stop, Mun Island. We had a nice sunny day, so many hop into the water and start swimming/snorkelling. With my injured toe, I stay on board and take photos. You do have a another option. A guy comes by in a glass-bottom basket boat. Several of the VN ladies get in and off they go. This way you can watch the fish w/o getting wet.

We motor to another area and the staff get out the microphone and keep us entertained. Karaoke is encouraged from all that think they can sing. I know I can't, so keep a low profile. Over to Mot Island and more swimming/snorkelling. Then the 'floating bar' makes its appearance. Get a life jacket and swim over to the 'bar' and have all the sweet, cheap red wine you can handle. Every guide has the: "Don't say no, say YO!" yell down pat. They want everyone 'happy' and being drunk helps that along. "V" & "R" get out there and say "YO". "H" and I stay on the boat. After everyone gets back on board, lunch is served. They put out a real spread, even a veggie like me has plenty of choices. This is like a Vegas buffet, eat all you want. If you leave hungry, it is your own fault.

Now we head to Tam Island for beach time & water sports. You have to pay a fee, 10,000VND for entrance. National Park, protected area or another way to make a bit of money, I am not sure. Everybody pays and you try to pick a spot. Sand is free but you have to pay to use the chairs or lounges. We opt for the seawall and stay out of the sun. Most hit the water again or go parasailing, jet skiing, banana boat, something. A very pleasant hour, weather permitting. Last time I was in NT it was Feb. and not many got in the water. Raining and cool. Today was perfect. There are 4 or 5 boats all tied together and you have to walk across several boats to find yours. Not for the old and stiff, like me. I manage but it is an adventure. Most are younger than I am and have fun jumping boat to boat. With my injured toe and battered back, I am last to arrive onboard our boat. In Asia, the old are venerated because of their experience and wisdom. I keep this in mind as I hobble on/off the boat. I am not sure the smiles and shaking of their heads at my display is exactly reverence, but I am going to go with that theory until proven false.

A large display of fruit is waiting for us when back onboard. You won't go hungry today. After we stuff ourselves with a variety of fruit, we motor over to Mieu Island for the aquarium. I have seen it before on a previous trip and don't need a repeat viewing of a second class aquarium. 25,000VND if you do go. I read my book in the shade and held down the fort. You really can use the tour for your BF & lunch. Won't need much dinner either. I recommend a light BF, maybe toast/tea and hold out until they serve lunch. This way the tour is basically free. You can spend 100,000VND on BF & lunch in many NT restaurants. Back to the docks and the van ride to your hotel. We got back about 4:15pm. All in all, a decent day out on the water.


Posted by vegasmike6 12:27 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

I Get To Visit A VN Hospital!

I had my big toenail ripped off, ouch!

semi-overcast 91 °F

The day started off normal enough. After BF, the group decision was to visit the big market and see if there were any bargains to be had. It is quite a walk from the Blue Star, so we took a taxi. Split 3 ways it is very cheap way to get around NT. I really wasn't fired up to 'shop until I dropped', but went along for group harmony. I did find a VN t-shirt that looked good, but could of done that a block from my hotel. After shopping, the new plan is to walk over to a bank so "V" could change a travel check into VND. It was not too far, but it was sunny and HOT! I still had my umbrella purchased in DaLat, so I was not getting too much sun. Lucky for me they have chairs in the VietCom Bank. It takes awhile to change a Canadian travel check into US dollars into Vietnamese dong. But, I was sitting in an air con lobby, so I was not complaining. Then the group decision is to walk back to our hotels. I vote that is this stupidity. It is too far and too hot. After a bit of arguing, "H" votes with me and then "V" switches his vote when I tell them I will pay for it. Now it is 3 against one and we hail a taxi. I am happy to pay 20,000VND rather than endure another death march in the VN sun. I learned my lesson in DaLat. That slog took a lot out of me. My legs hurt not only that day, but the next as well.

Once back to our hotels, we agree to meet in an hour and hit the beach. We meet at Blue Star lobby and walk across to the main NT beach. It is Sunday and heaps of VN people are out and enjoying their day off from work. Most are hiding in the shade of the tress, good strategy on a hot day. We price the beach beds closest to us and get a surprise. This lady wants 30,000VND for one beach bed. It is 3:00pm, hardly an all day rental. She won't budge and we walk off a bit pissed off. This is more than we pay in Pattaya. I know the Sailing Club is less than that, so we head down the beach. They want 20,000 for a beach bed and I agree. "V" & "R' decide even this is too much considering the time and they head for the trees. I pay and get ready to read my book. Unfortunately it is partly in the sun and I want full shade. I should of got the guy who takes your money to do it for me. First mistake. I get in front and try to drag it into the shade. Mistake #2 it turns out. These things are solid wood and are heavy! I got in the front and try to drag it a few feet into the shade of the umbrellas. Unfortunately I drag it right over my toe. Well, that is not exactly true. The solid wood front hits my big toenail square on and rips off 90% of it. Ouch! It is bleeding pretty good and there goes my idyllic afternoon on the beach. I limp across the sand in my bloody sandals and show my friends my damaged toe. They suggest a hospital but don't know where. It is only a block to Octopus Divers on Biet Thu St. I know these guys are familiar with injuries and the location of a hospital. There is only 1 guy there at this time of day, the rest are out diving. He gets a motorbike taxi guy and tells him the name of the hospital. Off we go with my foot balanced as well as I can on the footrest. 5 minutes later we are at the emergency room entrance. I limp into the ER and show the first person I see my toe. He scurries off and finds an English speaking guy. I don't know if he is a Dr, a PA or nurse, but he knows what to do. A quick consult and they decide to rip off the entire nail. I lobby to save the nail, but that is not possible, all agree on that. He irrigates the toe, then gives me a shot of Lidocaine to numb the area. He waits a few minutes to let it work and finds out how I injured my toe. He then gets out a large pair of tweezers to remove the nail. I brace myself and with a quick jerk, off comes the entire big toenail. Luckily, it really did not hurt very much. In fact, the toe did not hurt very much after the first few seconds of the accident. Good thing, as I am not a real hero when it comes to dealing with pain.

Now that the toenail is off, the guy uses disinfectant and then wraps the toe in a dressing. I limp out to the see the Doc and he writes a prescription for pain pills and antibiotics. They make up the bill and give it to me. I am pleasantly surprised to see that it is $15 for the visit. Compare that to going to an ER in the US. I thank everyone involved and limp out to the parking lot. My moto guy is still waiting for me, as agreed. He takes me to a pharmacy close to my hotel and I fill the antibiotic part of the prescription. The one he wrote down is about a a dollar per pill. Since I need 3/day for 7 days, I object to a $21 bill. She tells me about another antibiotic that is much less money but still effective. 30,000VND for this antibiotic. Now we are talking. I pass on getting the pain pills filled, it does not hurt. I pay my moto guy and limp into the lobby. Huong, the front desk lady says she would have called a Doc to the hotel if I had shown it to her first. Well, I did not want to limp that far when I basically knew it was beyond a pharmacist or a friend attending to it. Besides, if I had done that, I would not have visited a VN hospital and had a new experience. Professional and affordable. I got good care at a reasonable price. I suspect VN citizens pay even less, but so what? I was happy, the Doc was happy, a win, win deal for all involved.

I checked with the guys at Octopus Divers later that day and all of them recommended salt water treatment. It proved to be good advice as it scabbed over in a few days with frequent use of salt water. I made my own, table salt and bottled water. I poured it over my toe several times a day until I was happy with the scab forming. This accident really only effected one day out of a 30 day trip to SEA. I feel fortunate that my stupid accident did not ruin my trip. It certainly could have if it had become infected. By keeping it clean and using the antibiotics, I dodged that bullet. A potential disaster turned out to be a educational experience, for me and now, for you. Don't hesitate to use the VN medical system if you injure yourself or become ill.

Posted by vegasmike6 21:45 Archived in Vietnam Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Switching To A 'Nice Hotel'

sunny 86 °F

I am not a good sleeper and noise tends to wake me up. I was up at 6:00am and decided to get the day started. At 7:00am I was walking the streets around my hotel just getting prices to see if I wanted to move. I hit several on Hung Vuong & Biet Thu St. Nothing special but competitive with where I was. I saw a sign off Hung Vuong St that said 'Nice Hotel'. It was down a small alley maybe 20 meters. I like quiet rooms, so this looked promising. Big, clean lobby, 3 computers and an elevator! I have never stayed at a hotel in VN that had an elevator. It is always trudge up 3-5 flights of stairs. Now I am thinking it will be out of my budget range. Huong, the manager was very professional and quoted me $9/nite. I asked to look at a room and was shown one on the 3rd floor that was being cleaned. Not large, but had a real bed, not a block of foam you so often get in cheaper rooms. Large TV, clean bathroom, small fridge, good air con. Everything was just nicer than at the 62 Tran Phu Hotel. I told her I would stay 4 nights, she lowered the price to $8/nite. I walked back to 62 Tran Phu and started packing. I was farther from the beach, but so what? Now it was a 4 minute walk instead of across the street. I will trade that walk for a nicer room at a better price every time. Hanh was not working when I checked out, so just paid my bill and left. No explanation needed. I have stayed at 62 Tran Phu at least 4 times, but will not go back. A 3 minute walk and I was checking in. I left my passport with the front desk, they also have a lock box for you behind the desk. Better place for your money than in your room. You sign the back of a taped envelope so you know if anyone has tampered with it. I was in/out of my envelope several times and it is a good system IMO. I got good news when I arrived. There would be a room available on the 8th floor by 10:00am. There is a balcony on the 9th floor that has a great view of the ocean. I went up there several times for the view, the breeze and to take some photos. One of the perks of staying at the 'Xihn' or 'Nice Hotel'. You also can use the computers on a share basis. They are not the fastest ones I have been on, but they are in your lobby and I never had to wait more than 10 minutes. Guests were pretty good about sharing when others were waiting. I left my bags behind the front desk and went to meet my friends. We had agreed to meet at 9:00am at the Blue Star lobby. Since Des Amis is right across the street, we had our BF there while I waited for my room to be cleaned and ready.

I will be recommending the Nice Hotel to any TP member that is going to Nha Trang. You can e-mail them at:
<nicehotel@vnn.vn> I saw them answering e-mails while I was at the front desk. People were reserving a room via e-mail. I have never reserved anything in 5 trips to VN, but it is not a bad idea during high season.

Photos of my room and the view from the 9th floor.


Posted by vegasmike6 10:39 Archived in Vietnam Tagged lodging Comments (0)

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