mui ne fishing village

we chanced upon the fishing village of mui ne.
(though we had read about it),
we were actually heading towards the sand dunes
when we saw boats by the shore and stopped by for a peek.

fishingvillagefishingvillage0fishingvillage3fishingvillage4
since we had a delayed start, the apparent morning activity was absent
but we managed to catch some of these women
selling raw fishes, crabs, and lobsters
that could be cooked in the nearby shacks
so we could enjoy the fresh catch of the night.fishingvillage2fishingvillage7

our excitement was perhaps quite visible
as we amusingly took photos after another
as a toothless fisherman
offered a tour in his round-bucket-like-boat
there was money involved,
but we gladly obliged and enjoyed our ride.
fishingvillage5

the best part however
was another chance entry
to a restaurant nearby
that served fresh seafood
as we ate all of this
for just two dollars.
fishingvillage8

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mui ne

Mui ne is your ultimate vacation destination (but not many people know that).
When people go to Vietnam, they skip Mui ne, because it is neither the capital nor the infamous HCMC. Although it is just a few hours from HCMC as we took a morning bus from Saigon and by noon, we were in Mui ne.

Mui ne is like any other beach town with one stretch of the road leading to different “tourist points” along the coast. I looked around for maps of Muine but this banner was the only map I could find hanging in the first place we ate at Mui ne.
muine7

It is a small town with a growing tourist industry and you hope it remains the same because the pace of the place is what one needs on a vacation. Tall palm trees, blue skies and empty beaches is ideal and if there are surfers, swimmers and other water sport activities one can only be thankful that it is not at all crowded and everyone can find their own things to do.

But Mui ne is not only about the beaches. There are so many things to do for anyone and everyone. The best way to get around is hire a motorbike, ride around town -outta town and enjoy all its treasures. This wonderful place is home to sand dunes, a fairy stream and a fishing village one cannot miss. The vibe is such, we actually went around looking for a place to rent (for a month or two) wondering if we could afford because we are definitely going back to Mui ne.

Cu Chi Tunnels and District 7

On our third day in Saigon, we took a half day tour of Cu Chi Tunnels. By the looks of it,  the Viet Congs definitely gave a tough time to the American soldiers. Like I mentioned in my previous post, these guys have mastered the art of tunnel warfare. The American soldiers had no idea how they were operating. They would move underground in these tiny tunnels thanks to their smaller framed bodies as well which was allowed them to fit under these holes and make way to the American base, ambush them and come back with much ease as it baffled the Americans what was happening under ground.

These tunnels looked tiny but a few of these were made available for tourists who wanted to experience the same.

Overall, it is not just the tunnels but traps and their whole machinery of how they would partake in tunnel warfare.

 

District 7
In the evening, our local friends suggested we go to District 7 -the up and coming swanky township in Ho Chi Minh City. While District 7 reminds me of Hunger Games, it was nothing like the districts of Hunger Games. There were malls, new apartments and a lake. One of the things about Vietnam is, they hardly build high-rise apartments as we see in newer cities etc. Also, they decided not to ruin the lake and built their city around the lake. It was pretty.

Mekong Delta River Run

The Mekong river begins in China and runs through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. So an opportunity to ride down the Mekong on a boat for one full day was definitely on my mind. (I don’t know why we didn’t do this last time because I think my father would’ve loved it). But yes, there are many tours that take you down the Mekong; our local friends advised us to go to The Sinh Tourist -apparently the oldest tour operators in town and we were set.

We started from their office at Ho Chi Minh City around 8am and looked like a whole lot of people had signed up for the same. There were four buses and we drove out of the city to a place called My Tho where we were transferred to a boat as we rode down the river…

We stopped at the Coconut farm where they make coconut candy, paper, cookies and even make-up products. They had maximised their usage of coconut raw materials to their advantage and was even known as coconut village.

Lunch time in coconut village was equally interesting as they prepared spring rolls wrapped in coconut paper and served vegetables, fish, pork and rice. It was a pretty good lunch. This island village also farms honey so they gave us honey tea after some hike around the village.

Then we went for a buggy ride in the village followed by a cultural program with local artists singing Vietnamese folk songs where they also served us the different tropical fruits.

But they saved the best for the last as we got on smaller boats whose captains were mainly the women folk as they paddled through the green palms and river alleys as if we were in some spy movie. The river run was long for her perhaps to row the entire stretch so she turned the engine and the sights and the sounds made it seem like we were in the scene of some James Bond movie.

One of the things to be appreciated is how they are doing tourism in this country. Giving a peek of their lives to tourists who wants to go to Mekong delta, they have promoted their coconuts products, their local villagers who prepared lunch and the folk singers who sang for us. And these women who now gave rides to tourists in their boats. The best part again is how when we ran across women who had already completed their trip in the river, they would flash some cash suggesting “don’t forget to tip”.

It was the women helping women because I have noticed the Vietnamese people don’t necessarily ask for tip directly. So to have your friends aide you in coaxing your customers to give you some pocket change is brilliant. And who would not want to give a few thousand dong after that surreal Mekong delta river run…

Seventy-Two Hours in Saigon

Visa on Arrival in Saigon (compared to Hanoi) was a crowded affair.
The lines were long and people had to wait for half-an-hour or more to get their visas processed but it is worth the wait.
After stepping outside, I used Uber for the first time (it was downloaded in my phone for long but I had not used it yet). Proved to be quite handy in a foreign country as the driver knew exactly where to drop us off.

Day 1: Saigon is the most popular city in Vietnam and hosts about 10 million people and 8.5 million motorbikes. It is amazing how everyone is in tune with the traffic and its rules. The infamous Notre Dame Cathedral was under construction but the post office was still very grand with Ho Chi Minh looking down on us.

The best part about today was walking around the city. Walked about 13 kilometres getting easily distracted by its wondrous sights and sounds. They say it is only when you walk -you get to smell, see and taste the place.

When we got tired, we sat around turtle park and ate the street food. It looked like a favourite hangout for locals, and the youngsters seemed to be enjoying themselves too.

One of the best things about Vietnam is the food in general. There is so much to eat and if you don’t know what to order, you might just miss on the many varieties of food. But when you have local friends, you actually get to eat the best that the city has to offer.

———–
Day 2:
Mekong Delta River Run is a popular tourist attraction and I don’t know why we didn’t do this last time around. Probably has to do with the limited time in Ho Chi Minh City but one must get on a boat and ride down the Mekong Delta. It almost feels like you are in some Bond movie cruising down the palm trees with local mafia waiting for you in the other end.


———–
Day 3: The first half was spent at the Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels were used by the Vietnamese to fight American soldiers. They have basically perfected the usage of tunnels in guerrilla warfare as the Americans had no idea where these guys were coming and ambushing and killing them. Our guide was a young girl who had just graduated college and was really good with the information she was telling us. I will write more about her when I do a separate post on this experience.

Towards evening we walked in the Nguyen Hue Walking Street near the People’s Committee Building with the Ho Chi Minh statue. It was apparently a canal during colonial times which has now become a pavement and a wonderful public space. Families, couples, friends and travellers all seem to relish the mood of the street with many vendors and street artists doing their own businesses. There is a mixture of both the old and the new as everyone at one point notices the old building where American journalists apparently used to live, and next the high rise building next to it.

Back in Vietnam

The last time I was in Vietnam
I knew I wanted to wanted to come back.

We had traveled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh
and spent a night in Hoi An -Danang.

But it was too short a time
to get to know the country.

So I am back here
traveling, learning and experiencing.

As I make way
from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi

Immersing in the local culture
and enjoying the Vietnamese experience.

Top Reads for 2017

I have given up trying to read 51 books a year because firstly it is 2017,
I probably spend more time on my phone than with books (lame excuse I know)
but I still try to read and I do want to read more.

As for 2017, I could only read 16 books.
but I think there were some real good books this year.

My top three reads for 2017 were

 

The Great Derangement/ The Ministry of Utmost Happiness/ No Path in Darjeeling is Straight

The other books included:

  1. Son of the Thundercloud by Eastern Kire
  2. The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai
  3. The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh
  4. Thamel: Dark Star of Kathmandu by Rabi Thapa
  5. Bicycle Dreaming by Mridula Koshy
  6. Into the Hidden Valley by Stuart Blackburn
  7. The Thing around your Neck by Chimammanda Ngozi Adichie
  8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  9. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
  10. Landour Days -a writer’s journal by Ruskin Bond
  11. The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith
  12. The Nine Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat
  13. The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
  14. There’s a Carnival Today by I.B. Rai (Manjushree Thapa)
  15. No Path in Darjeeling is Straight by Parimal Bhattacharya
  16. Mad Country by Samrat Upadhyaya

Regardless of how many books we read,
the point is to keep reading…