Thursday, 19 April 2012

A Wet and Windy Weekend in Mui Ne

We recently had a long weekend here in Vietnam to commemorate Hung Kings.  We didn't know until the last minute, however, whether we would get the Friday off or the Monday or, perhaps, both, so we were unable to book flights or accommodation in advance.  When we were told, a couple of days before, that we would have the Monday off work, we made a decision to go to Mui Ne, a coastal resort some 200km from Saigon.

We booked a nice hotel through our favourite booking site, Agoda, and then tried to book train tickets to get us there.  No chance!!  Apparently, you need to book months in advance to guarantee seats on the one service of the day, especially during a holiday weekend!  So, we ended up going by tourist bus from Pham Ngu Lau, a journey we were assured would be as quick as the train, with the added advantage of getting dropped off at the door of our hotel.

With everything sorted, we booked a cheap hotel in the backpacker district of Saigon for the Thursday night and took the staff bus into the city after finishing work.  We spent the evening in our favourite Indian restaurant, Baba's Kitchen.  Back at the hotel, we went online to catch up with the news and check our e-mails before going to bed.  I clicked on a link to the latest blogpost by @SaigonNezumi, a fellow blogger based in HCMC, and this is what I saw!  Scary stuff!!  And it appeared that Typhoon Pakhar would hit land at the very place we were headed to for the weekend!  We followed a few more links as we tried to decide whether we should call off our trip.  The BBC world weather site confirmed that Pakhar was indeed in the South China Sea heading for Vietnam, but predicted that it would have been downgraded from a typhoon to a tropical storm by the time it made landfall.  So, armed with this information, and paying more heed to the measured response from the BBC rather than the near-hysterical (our interpretation - no offence meant to my American friends!) information being put out by the American Embassy, we decided to go ahead with our plans.

Next morning, after a good breakfast prepared by our hotel owner, who assured us that the storm would be at its worst much further north than we were going, we made our way to the travel agent's office round the corner.  There, they were all smiles and dismissed any idea that we would be in any danger from 'a little bit of wind and rain'.

We, therefore, boarded our bus (rather later than scheduled as is the norm here in Vietnam) and headed out of the city with, seemingly, every other inhabitant of Saigon!  The journey was tortuously slow due to sheer volume of traffic.  We had already been on the road for over four hours (the predicted time for completing the entire journey) when we reached our hal-way stop!  After buying refreshments, we got back on the bus for the final leg.  As we got closer to our destination, the weather worsened, the sky grew dark and visibility was reduced to almost nothing.  When we were dropped off at our hotel, the bellman rushed across the road with a large golfing umbrella to try to protect us from the torrential rain that was now falling!

On checking in, we were told that, instead of the 'partial seaview' room we had booked, due to the number of weather-related cancellations, we had been upgraded to a luxury room at the front of the hotel with a 'full seaview' - all the better to watch the storm rolling in off the sea, as it turned out!!

Souvenir anyone?
We decided to venture out as soon as we had dropped our bags as it was only raining and all the indications were that it would only get worse!  We walked the full length of Mui Ne's main drag, ducking into a couple of bars and restaurants along the way to avoid the worst of the rain.  Our first impressions were good, in spite of the weather!  There was a wide selection of eating and drinking places, some shops selling souvenirs of varying quality and plenty of travel agents offering half-day and day trips to local attractions.  There were a number of beach-front resorts and we were able to catch glimpses of what appeared to be a beautiful wide sandy beach.  Had the weather been better, we were sure this would be a great place to spend a few days!  Judging by the number of signs written only in their language, this opinion was obviously shared by many Russian tourists, too!

With darkness approaching and the weather showing no sign of improving, and having reached the end of Mui Ne's main street, we hailed a cab to take us back to our hotel where we dried off and changed before venturing out again for dinner.  We stayed close to the hotel this time!!

Rebuilding the beach
Typhoon Pakhar, as predicted, did make landfall during the night, but I'm pleased to report that the BBC had got it right and it was 'only' a tropical storm by the time it did.  Even so, the next morning found us confined to the hotel.  It just wasn't worth battling the strong winds and rain.  We watched out of the window as one or two brave souls fought in vain against the elements.  By late morning, however, we were going a little stir-crazy and decided we had to get out.  We got a taxi to take us back down to the far end of the resort where we had seen one or two bars offering comfy seats and free wi-fi - all we needed to while away the afternoon.  We settled on Jibe's, a surfer bar right on the beach, where we could sit and watch the waves lashing the shore whilst enjoying good food and a few beers.  As is usually the case in these situations, we were kept entertained by 'people-watching' - there were certainly a few characters around us!!

By the next day, typically (as we were due to leave at 1pm!) the storm was abating and we were finally able to go for a walk along the beach.  There were a few intrepid guys kite-surfing, making the most of the still-strong winds, but, otherwise, the beach was largely deserted.  There was a lot of debris left behind by the storm and the clean-up operation was already in full swing.  The 'beach' at the far end of Mui Ne had been washed away completely and we were fascinated to watch an army of workers filling sandbags to rebuild it!

As we walked along the beach, we could more clearly see the resorts which we'd glimpsed from the road and agreed that this would indeed be a nice place to come in better weather.  So, we decided to investigate a couple of hotels a bit more closely and then made the rash decision to book one, at a ridiculously expensive price, for the next long weekend at the end of April.  So, we will be returning to Mui Ne soon and have everything crossed for a sunny weekend!!

See more of my photos here.

2 comments:

  1. Im glad to see that people are actually writing about this issue in such a smart way, showing us all different sides to it.
    Hotel JB

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for reading, Kery & thanks for the comment.

    ReplyDelete