Early morning we got on the bus to Mui Ne beach, our intended first destination to spend some time and relax after the chaos in Ho Chi Minh City. Mui Ne beach is a strip of road with guesthouses, resorts and bars a few kilometers outside the small fishing town Mui Ne, 220km east of Ho Chi Minh city, approximately 5 hours by bus. The bus was one of the open tour buses, we had booked it via our guesthouse, and it picked us up more or less on time. This was to be the first of many sleeper bus experiences in South East Asia, and it turned out pretty good – the bus had air-conditioning and was equipped with resting chairs that could be moved into an almost lying position, and there was almost enough space to stretch out. Anne and me spent the major part of the 5 hours drive to Mui Ne beach dozing off comfortably and looking out of the window, seeing the unfamiliar Vietnamese landscape pass by – bananas and palms instead of trees, and settlements of few colourful houses with shops for almost everything one can imagine, little cafés and eateries offering the typical dishes of Pho (soup) and Com (Rice).

After about 3 hours the bus pulled into a rest stop area, where vendors sold fruits, food and other refreshments. Anne bought some fruit, and we finally had our go at the famous Durian, our so far first and last encounter. After trying the first bite I knew that I belonged to the part of humanity that dislikes Durian – no way I could get over the unpleasant sweaty-rotting smell, the sickly sour-sweetish taste and the viscous texture. Luckily we also had some dragon fruit, that was a lot better. We also got into a conversation with a guy traveling on our bus – Slava, from Russia – whom we offered some of our fruit for trying. The last bit of the bus ride went buy quickly, and around noon we were dropped off on the burning hot street at Mui Ne beach.

Getting off the bus was like running into a wall of heat – it was considerably hotter than in Ho Chi Minh City, and instead of the grey clouds we had encountered there the the sun was beating down from a clear blue sky. We checked our guidebook for a recommendation on a place to stay, and since Slava also did not know where he wanted to stay, and also wanted to do some kite surfing, we decided to look for a place together. Both Anne and me thought it was hilarious, we each had a big backpack stuffed for 2 months, and this guy carried nothing but a small backpack and a pink paper shopping back. The first recommendation turned out to be a bit of a failure – it was nice, but had not access to the beach. After looking at two more Anne and me settled down at Hong Di Resort, in a room with fan and mosquito net for 10 USD, and a garden with palm trees and hammocks, straight on the beach. Slava wanted to look around some more and find his kite surfing school first before deciding on a room. Anne and me had a quick shower and went out to get some fresh fruit and a sarong for the beach, and – first and foremost – a coffee. Coffee was easy, there was a small café across the street that tried to be french and almost managed, at least when it came to the price range. The coffee was good though, strong Vietnamese coffee with a dab of sweet condensed milk at the bottom.

Refreshed, we went for shopping and looking around town – we found almost anything else but not a sarong, they must have gotten out of fashion. Walking around we noticed that a lot of the resorts and restaurants and shops also advertised in Russian – apparently this was a popular holiday place for Russians. On the street we ran into Slava again – he had found a kite surfing school he liked and got some more fruit, introducing us to the pretty and delicious Rambutan (the nicer tasting cousin of the litchi) and said he’d also stay at the resort, so we would meet later. Anne and me continued looking around, and met a very nice woman selling fruit. She helped me pick a mango by its smell – first fresh Mango in Vietnam – which turned out to be delicious. After a while it got way too hot, and we went back to the beach for a swim. Anne went ahead and me went to join her soon, picking up Slava on the way. We went for a swim, and then a beach walk, while Anne stayed back – she had been stung by a mean and evil jellyfish (luckily the more harmless big variant, as we were told there were really nasty small ones around) and didn’t feel like getting into the water again. Since there was no wind going it was useless to think about kiting, and Anne and me were not so sure about it anyway – we didn’t feel like waiting for the wind.

So the best activity was to go swimming, and since Slava and me had been lucky with the jellyfish we went out again, and saw guy doing stand up paddling. I had wanted to try that for a while, since I had been in Pavia in Italy a couple of years ago and spent an evening on the riverside, watching the tranquil river and the SUPlers making their slow and steady progress. Ok, the ocean is not as tranquil, but this was worth a try, so I swam up to the board and asked if I could try. Sure I could said Tom, the paddle guy, first I should climb aboard and then paddle out of the surf area a bit because the waves make it more difficult to keep balance. I tried, first kneeling then standing up, and it worked alright, til a wave caught the board and whopped me off into the sea. I tried a few times more, it is actually fun 🙂 then I let Slava take the board. We had some great fun playing around, and afterwards back on the beach had a short chat with Tom, and agreed to meet for dinner after a short shower.

Dinner was at a place across the street, a delicious red snapper, and quite a lot of talk – both our guys were really fun company. Afterwards we went to a club next door, where there was supposed to be a party (with really few people, another advantage of off-season) We played a few games of pool in teams, me having never really played and miraculously ending up in the losing team every time, which earned me a couple of piggy rides on the back of my poor partner around the pool table. Afterwards we just sat down at the beach, watched the stars and the fire burning down, talking and drinking mojitos…until there was a remix of Nirvana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’ on, to which Anne and me danced in the shallow water of the low-tide beach. Unfortunately Anne lost her phone from her pocked, we found it in the water, but it had become totally unusable, leaving her without time and internet (the small connection to the world back home). Tired and extremely happy about this eventful day, we went to sleep late.