Mui-Ne, Nha-Trang, Ha-Noi & E-Nough
Mui-Ne, Nha-Trang, Ha-Noi & E-Nough
I left Saigon after two days, with zero ambition or interest in ever returning to the godless place. I was travel fatigued, jaded, and after such an ugly initiation to Vietnam, needed something completely fresh to alter what had become my new default, toxic disposition. So getting some sea air in the relatively obscure beach town of Mui-Ne seemed like a good idea.
Six hours by bus west of Saigon, Mui Ne barely registers as a town – a strip would be the better term. It’s lined with beach bars, guesthouses, seafood BBQ restaurants and kite surfing schools (sort of a big thing here). The aggressive hustle of Saigon totally dissipates out here and everyone seems to be taking it easy, including the dis-proportionate amount of normally volatile Russian tourists. There was only one problem: Me.
I’d been on the road for 5 months, which aside from Krakow, had involved no breaks lasting beyond a week. Prior to this, the longest I’d ever been on the road for continuously was 1 month. But taking Krakow into account, I’d had almost zero breaks from a riotously fun – yet reckless and routine-less lifestyle of boozing, partying, and mindless spending.
On top of this, my immune system was on the roller-coaster of its lifetime and I was developing a deep chagrin for the typical standard of company encountered while backpacking around South-East Asia. While I was continuing to meet and connect with lots of awesome people, my tolerance level for the opposite end of the spectrum was abruptly screeching to a halt. The next Essex ‘chav’ or West Sydney Bogan I see wearing a ‘same same’ singlet may find themselves with a bar stall smashing into the side of their head with no provocation what so ever.
While sitting on the beach, I couldn’t relax – but rather was exhaustingly pondering the next 6 hour bus to my Nha Trang layover, the flight up to Ha-Noi, and organising my travel arrangements into Laos. I also had no clue as to what the hell I’d be doing for Xmas and New Years, sans the facts I’d be without my family for a second year in a row.
William Blake once said, You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.
It suddenly dawned on me how ridiculous this all was, and what I needed to do.
Originally I was going to fly to Bali mid-January to crash with 2 friends who also work online (one who I’d been staying with in Krakow). The setup is goddamn impressive. They’d taken a one -year lease on a luxury (but amazingly inexpensive) Villa just outside of Kuta, in order to have a comfortable and productive work environment – as well as been close enough to cut loose whenever needed. But mostly, they’d been working on Internet projects and getting shit done. Just like I was now ready to get back into.
It was an easy decision. The next cheap flight to Bali from Ha Noi was on the 19th so I locked that one in. I’d have left sooner, but I was meeting up with my original internet marketing mentor, Leo, in Ha Noi, and had locked in a tour around Ha Long bay (Vietnam’s scenic showpiece), which had come highly recommended to me from a number of people. Feeling better, I thought to actually make the most of where I was and do a whirlwind tour of the areas famous sand dunes and rivers. It was actually pretty cool, Other than nearly getting bitten by an unspecified snake (If anyone can tell me what it was that’d be great, since at one stage it was semi wrapped around my foot. See below)
Following this I bussed up to Nha Trang for a one night lay-over. Had I not been so zealous in getting up North I may have actually lingered in Nha Trang a little longer. It’s overwhelmingly Russian (and by nature many Russian girls) with perhaps the cheapest Diving schools and trips anywhere. If I’d done my PADI Open Water Course here it would have cost a paltry $US200. Alas, Ha Noi would be far less charming.
Flying 90 minutes north to there for $60 with Viet-jet, I stepped out of the plane into what may as well have been fucking Finland. A frozen version of Saigon was not what I’d signed up for, but I hadn’t exactly done my homework on the seasonal weather trends of Northern Vietnam either.
The next 6 days were a bit of a lazy blur. It was cool hanging out with Leo, but I was counting down to Bali and coming down with a cold – so much so that I even bailed after Day 1 of my relatively expensive 2 day prepaid tour around Ha Long Bay, the Scenic showpiece of Vietnam, seen below as of 16 December 2013.
This was the ‘highly recommended’ tour I did. Except you have to put aside the featured promotional photos and replace them with sleet rain in 8 degrees C temperatures, along with a 5:1 guy/girl ratio. The crux of the tour was to force pump everyone with as much over-priced alcohol as possible, with the guide egging everyone to bring as much cash with them for said purpose.
Finding out that there was a returning tour with which I could jump boats to come back early, I did just this and returned to Hanoi – this time walking into the relatively cozy ‘Lucky Hotel’, just a few doors down from the Original Hanoi Backpackers where I’d been staying. Unbelievably, it was only a few dollars more a night than a freaking dorm.
As my last night and day in Vietnam, I wanted to ensure everything was on my terms, and not on those of a bunch of drunken kids on an Arctic booze cruise. In this I succeeded. I went out and got a good meal, hung with a few cool people from the hostel, had 2 beers – and ended back in my hotel room with a cool girl who I’d clicked with from before.
And with that I was done with Vietnam – the log-off definitely being superior to the sign-in. I guess that’s what happens when you take charge of your situation and recognise what you need to change in the now, as opposed to just sailing along on the auto-pilot you determined earlier.
Peace out from Bali. It was the right call.
Here’s home for the next 6 weeks with my amigos Clay and Drew: