Category Archives: travelers

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.

72 hours in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark

When you decide to extend your layover and hop cities to make the most of your weekend you experience more than what your in-flight magazine says.

Day 1: Woke up to a bright and sunny Bhubaneswar. So we stepped outside for breakfast and what better way to start the day than idli, vada, chop mix and some fresh coconut water.

 

 

 

Museum of Tribal Arts & Artefacts, Bhubaneswar was the top choice (thanks to lonely planet ) and it did not disappoint us. The past few weeks, I had been learning about tribes in Orissa so I was already familiar with the tribes of the region, and to see their material culture was an added bonus to my understanding of these tribes. We started with the tribal huts and moved from one hut to another as we could notice the variation between the architecture, art and artefacts. One of the interesting bit was the totem pole in front of the Saora hut.

 

 

 

 

 

Dalama, Bhubaneswar was our destination for lunch because it served traditional Oriya thali.

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Centre of Advanced Study in Anthropology, Utkal University was our next destination and they had the most impressive cultural museum in any Indian university.

 

 

 

Surfing Yogis, Konark have been on my mind for a really long time because I have always wanted to surf and who would not want to camp by the beach? So we made way to their address on google map because the phone numbers were not working and we could not communicate before hand. But it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as their camp site looked shady and the tents were dirty and they were charging very high for a night’s halt. So we made way to Puri instead.

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Jagannath Temple, Puri is one of the major Hindu pilgrimage sites in India. It is a sweet place -literally. There are varieties of sweet shops all over the streets and the shops nearby. Since it is a temple town, the priests need their cows, which means milk, which eventually becomes sweets (to shorten the long story). Unfortunately my sweet tooth disappeared for the evening so I opted for tea instead. The only thing I missed was the cheesecake mentioned by lonely planet (which I didn’t get to taste, and got made fun of by my friends).

 

 

 

Puri Beach was crowded but it was so good to hear the waves. It was equally fun to see people enjoying the activities on the beach. There were camels, sand artists, vendors, couples, families and just travellers by the beach. The best part however was the sea food bonanza that we devoured and savoured till we had to stop. If only we had access to all that sea food with that price on a daily basis 🙂

 

 

 

Day 2: Woke up feeling like we were on vacation. Because our mini detour from Surfing Yogis landed us at this place with a pool. The palm trees and the blue sky certainly had that holiday effect so we were only eager to start the day.

 

 

 

Model Beach, Puri had a very calm and soothing atmosphere. There were a few palm trees and camels making it seem like we were probably somewhere in Dubai or so. It was clean and quiet except for the crashing waves (and we did not mind that). Figures it is also part of the sustainable community-run beach tourism initiative.

 

 

 

Waterfront Grill Cafe, Konark was where we lunched and feasted on some wine and mullet fish. The chef  was a friendly fellow who would make his rounds to the different tables and asked people how they liked their food. This personal touch probably made the eating experience more enjoyable.

 

 

 

Ramachandi Beach, Konark was absolutely stunning. It was another of those hidden beaches where no one frequents. It is for the select few who have managed to venture to its shores and I could only be so very thankful for our time there. Swimming in the sea, jumping with the waves and witnessing the most humbling sunset as the fishermen wrapped their lucks for the day was sheer bliss.

 

 

 

Lobster was discussed during lunch and the chef prepared a lovely lobster dinner for us.

 

 

 

Day 3The plan was to go to Chandrabhaga beach for sunrise but we went back to Ramachandi beach and glorious would be an understatement to describe the morning beauty. With few people on the beach and waves that were softer than the previous evening, I had to do a cartwheel to celebrate the day 😉

 

 

 

Konark Sun Temple, Puri is an archaeological monument at its best. It is one of UNESCO’s world heritage sites and has tourists thronging from all parts of the country. The stone structures and carvings tells stories of life, love, lifestyle, belief, death that Tagore even went on to say that the “language of stone surpasses the language of man” in this place.

 

 

 

Book Festival at Janata Maidan was waiting for us when we got back to Bhubaneswar. And we ended up buying about ten books to end our weekend affair.