DEXtination : MUI NE
When Roch - my college friend based in Vietnam, mentioned that she will be coming home this October for good, out of spontaneity I thought of visiting her just before she comes back. I invited our other blockmate and a couple of friends but to no avail. Even so, I still booked myself a flight because I really felt a need to have a vacation, a time to reflect and to have fun. And I think I deserve it. Besides, the CebuPac's promo rate is pretty cheap. :) Also, by doing this I'll be able to cross out two entries from my bucket list: to travel abroad (I'll be more specific with my succeeding entries; and yes, this is my first time out of the country) and to travel alone (well not exactly).

Meet Roch. :)
I had no plans of thoroughly researching about Vietnam, our accommodations and itinerary because I thought Roch - being there for almost 2 years, already knows the best and at the same time affordable places, food and activities to try. Sure she did, but I realized that I don't wanna be clueless and it's still good for me to know a little about the country I'm gonna visit.

As I was googling, I was surprised when I learned that one of my favorite blogger - Chyng, went to Vietnam last July as part of her backpacking SEA adventure. Whoa! Her post gave me a clearer view of what to expect. Her experience and tips helped me a lot deciding on our itinerary. Thanks Chyng! (I hope she'll be able to read this.) What more surprised me was when another favorite blogger - Sheena, also went to Vietnam last August. Hmmm.. it seems everybody is going to the same place. And it made me more excited! The picture of the yellow sand dunes she posted on her blog made me look  forward to experience it.

I thought these blogs were signs that I made a right decision. I was a little bit hesitant and guilty when I booked the flight because of the expenses at the expense of my credit card bills! Lol.

Aside from reading blogs and forums, I didn't have much preparation.
my CebuPac's itinerary receipt
iConfess : When I booked this, I thought I'll still be in Saigon on Sep 28 AM and my departure is not until 1:20 PM. I just realized that it's actually 1:20 AM when we're finalizing our itinerary. Yeah I know, how stupid of me. Hehe.

Btw, there's an hour time difference between Vietnam and the Philippines so don't wonder if you noticed in my itinerary receipt that it looks like going to Saigon is shorter than going back to Manila.

So, all my bags are packed and I'm now ready to go. :)

Day 1 : Sand-day in Mui Ne
welcome to Tan Son Nhat Int'l Airport!

I arrived at Tan Son Nhat Int'l Airport at around 12:10 am, 20 minutes earlier than ETA. I was thrilled because this is my first time to step to a foreign land. Yay! Anyway, as I was heading to the immigration officer, I was composing in my mind what will I answer if asked what will I do in their country, for how long, where will I stay and other possible questions but I was surprised when he just checked and marked my passport. No questions asked.

When I stepped out of the airport, I immediately heard Roch calling me. And at that moment, I was relieved knowing that I can categorically say that I arrived at Vietnam safely.

We headed to De Tham St. at Pham Ngu Lao (the famous backpacker's area in District 1) to check-in to Dong Phuong aka Orient Hotel. Roch specifically chose this because this is just in front of our tour coordinator's office and bus stations going to Mui Ne, Hanoi and Pnomh Penh.
hello Dong Phuong hotel!
our room
Dong Phuong is just a 2-star hotel and we got our room for USD 10 per pax so I didn't expect anything fancy. The room has basic amenities like air-conditioning and cable TV, but are otherwise not outstanding, just tidy. There's also a free WIFI and the staff is very accommodating.

After checking-in, we just cleaned ourselves and rest. It was a very tiring day for me because I came all the way from our sportsfest (I didn't play any game, just cheered for our team but I felt exhausted). It's also a  busy day for Roch and she came all the way from her despedida party.

baguette, omelette, sausage, banana, coffee, iced milk tea
I woke up at around 6am and at around 7am, we went to the reception to check out and told them that we're gonna leave our things in their storage room and get it back the following day since we're going to Mui Ne that day. There's no additional charge for it. :) Then we proceed to the hotel's resto to have breakfast. Roch told me that baguette is Vietnam's pandesal and so I tried it. And the default for their drinks is iced -- that's why I was surprised when they served iced milk tea when I actually want it hot. Who drinks cold beverages in the morning anyway? -- THEM. :)

After breakfast, we went to our tour coordinator just outside the hotel, paid our balance, got our bus ticket and a letter to be presented to the resort that they booked for us. For this trip, we shared USD 45 per head. The tour coordinator are the ones who reserved our bus seats, booked our accommodations to the resort and contacted tour guides. We can do this ourselves but it's pretty much convenient to avail the coordinator's services. Besides, they charge in a reasonable price.

Ti, Roch's Vietnamese bear - in the bus on our way to Mui Ne

Mui Ne, which means sheltered peninsula in Vietnamese, is a 5-hour land trip from Saigon. On our way, Roch told me about her experiences in Vietnam. She shared that Vietnamese are generally kind and trustful but are expressive - they raise their voice to emphasize a point but that doesn't necessarily mean their angry. English is taught only in high school that's why only few knows how to speak the language. In speaking their language, accent is very important because if you sound differently, they may not understand it or misinterpret it. She told me that once she asked some locals where is Juice Bar and they ended up bringing her to a store that sells juice. Haha, close enough.

baguette pork sandwich + iced coffee = 25,000 dong
Half-way our trip, we stopped so that travelers can get some food. And for the second time this day, I got myself a baguette with pork and veges on it and an iced coffee! The sandwich reminds me of subway only cheaper and tastier.

Welcome to Hoang Hai (Ocean's king) resort!
Hoang Hai's facade
We arrived at Mui Ne at around 1pm, we checked-in at Hoang Hai's resort. I liked Hoang Hai, it comprises of bungalows and villas overlooking the sea. It also has a pool and jacuzzi bathtub but we didn't have much time to explore the resort coz somebody will pick us up at 2pm to tour Mui Ne's spots. We only had time for a few shots (of course)
on the way to our villa
our room :)

overlooking the sea

smile Roch!
take a pose Dex!

At exactly 2pm, the person who will tour us to Mui Ne came to pick us up. We actually booked for a public tour but nobody else did that's why we we're only accompanied by a driver. It turned out to be a private tour minus the guide. It'll cost us an extra if they send a tour guide for the two of us that's why we refused. Good thing that Roch has been to Mui Ne thrice this year and 6 times in her entire stay in Vietnam. So, there's actually no need for a guide. Besides, this is not a historical tour.

our companion in our Mui Ne trip

On our way, we talked about how laidback the province is, we saw simplicity in their lifestyle and ways. This is good because this means that they preserved their culture amidst globalization.

fish sauce much?
Fishing is the primary source of income of a common local (unless they own a resort, restaurant, or kite school hehe) and as expected, they also make fish sauce which explains the stinky smell along the way. But hey, I think they produce the best fish sauce ever!

Roch acting as my personal tour guide

Our first stop is the Fairy Stream. Based on the name, I guessed that this is where they believed fairies live. Hehe. Some kids offered to accompany us as we walked towards the waterfall but we refused. We knew that they would ask for money for their service and we didn't want to disappoint them.

if you look closely in the water, you'll realize that it's actually clear. it's the color of the sand that makes it look muddy.

up to the fairies habitat; i'm not ready for this hike.

At first, I wasn't amazed with what I'm seeing until I saw the hill of orange sand. I didn't expected to hike but I just can't resist the sand and the view from up there.

a closer look of the fairy stream's sand

the sand banks were very nice and picturesque

the fairy stream
No wonder why tourist visit this place and I'm glad I've seen this myself. It's very peaceful at the top and the view is just ecstatic. There are also nice rock formation along the stream.

the rock! formation

Next to our itinerary is the fishing village. It's a very large fishing village with hundreds of boats anchored in the sea. The view is nice and overlooked not only the sea and fishing boats, but also the beach and fishing village lined along the shore.

boat fest!
welcome to the fishing village

My excitement geared up a notch when I knew that our next stop is the white sand dunes. The yellow sand dunes is actually nearer but it's better to see the white sand dunes in broad daylight and the yellow just before sunset. From the fishing village, we traveled for 35 minutes (our driver had to avoid many wandering goats and cows) until we reached the white sand dunes. It's heavenly afar but more beautiful when you're actually there. I was in awe. When i saw it, I told myself that this is all worth it.

the white sand dunes is awesome!
On arriving at the white sand dunes, we were greeted by a small group of children who wanted to rent us a thin piece of flexible plastic that we could use to slide down the steep sandy slopes. But again we refused. Based on what I read, it's not worth it coz  you'll not really slide, instead will be pushed by the kids.Added to the fact that sand will be all over your body.

Instead, we just rented motorbikes. We found it costly for 100,000 dong for 20 minutes each but hey, this is my first time here (and probably will count years until I go back) that's why we tried it. The motorbike is actually a new thing here accdg to Roch.

Roch in her yellow motorbike on her way to the steep
very steep white sand dunes

good thing we had motorbikes

Roch motorbike stopped and we can't start it again. :(

Roch with sand in her hands
jump shot!

after so many tries, i perfected this jump shot! :)
Situated along the white sand dunes is the Lotus River. Here, we saw a couple doing their pre-nup photo shoot. Nice.

a fisherman in the lotus river

After an hour, in as much as we don't want to, we returned to the jeep to bring us to our next destination - the yellow sand dunes. We were so eager to see the sun set in the sand dunes.

Hello Red Canyon!

nice shot!
We were surprised when our driver stopped to a side of the road. I thought he will just pee, but he mentioned red canyon. Roch didn't know about it but then we went down to see it. The canyon was a small cliff that has eroded away to create a beautiful and deep red craggy ridge, and we're fortunate to view the incredible appearance and colour of this natural phenomenon. However, it's very small that's why nobody notice it anymore. In fact, we were the only one who stopped there.

first glance of the yellow sand dunes

When we arrived at the yellow sand dunes, there were many tourists and locals. But still we walked up to get a view of the area from the highest point and to witness the sunset. Unfortunately, there are a bunch of dark clouds that's why we weren't able to.

no sunset for us. :(
The yellow sand dunes were nearly as large as the white ones, and just as impressive, but I favoured the white dunes due to its lack of tourists and more serene atmosphere.

There were many children and adults at the top, sliding down on rented pieces of plastic sliders. After a few moments to reflect and watched everyone having fun sliding downhill, we decided to leave. Besides, we were so hungry and tired already.

many children in Mui Ne hang around tourist attractions acting as guides or selling things.
But before we go down, we again met a group of kids offering sliders. But instead of renting, we just asked one of them to take picture of us together. Ba (the girl's nickname which means three in Vietnamese), asked us to do jump shot. She even thought me how to do it (when I failed) using my own camera. Haha. Poor me.

Ba speaks English well. Even though she doesn't go to school, she asked somebody to teach her every afternoon. The other kids (I forgot their names -- Ba's sister and friend) don't speak English. Roch gave the 1,000 dong each and after we bid goodbye to the kids, we headed to our jeep and back to resort.

When we reached the resort, we gladly thanked our driver for accompanying and bringing us to the wonderful wonderful spots in Mui Ne. We gave him 5 USD as a tip.

Roch wanted to have dinner to a bar/resto with live bands. We asked the receptionist where is the nearest restaurant that offers this and she offered that we can have dinner in her restaurant upstairs (apparently she's the resort owner)  and she'll just ask her staff to play music for us. That was a very nice gesture :) but we refused.

seafood fried rice = 35,000 dong

grilled tuna with garlic and pepper = 59,000 dong

After cleaning ourselves, we had dinner at Quan Viet - a resto just in front of the resort. Roch ordered seafood rice and I tried the grilled tuna with garlic and pepper. Roch told me that I should eat Vietnamese food but I was so hungry and exhausted that I want to have a familiar meal. The grilled tuna is very tasty and the garlic and pepper is just perfect. I loved the seafood rice too.

videoke night at Cafe Sao Bang (60,000 dong for 1 hour)
some Vietnamese chips being sold at the cafe
After dinner, we asked for the nearest bar with Karaoke and they point us to Sao Bang. There we spent an hour to sing our favorite songs and unwind. After that, we headed to the resort to rest. Roch decided to sleep early while I tried the resort's pool. But it drizzled after an hour, so I decided to call it a night.

This was a very long and tiring day but like what I said, the places we visited was all worth it. :)
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  • DEXpicable Me

    DEXpicable Me
    i always wanted to write. i want to voice out my opinion on issues that interest me. i wanna chit-chat about tv series i'm hooked and music in my playlist. i want to talk about math and politics; culture and literature. i want to share my story and be relevant. and with this labyrinth as a medium, i'm making myself vulnerable by letting you in to my life. it's up to you to depict it. you may see it differently. you may be lost. but in this maze, there is only one way out and i hope you find it.