We were all ready to get an early start on the road, as per Vu’s advice, but that was simply not in the cards for us this morning. We tried to get to bikes washed at a building up the street, but the owner was outside and just shook his head, pointed to our bikes, and said no. His buddy at the cafe next door explained to us, “He won’t clean your motorbike. He is very tired today”. Hmm, I don’t know why he bothered showing up to work then…
Right at that moment, my bike refused to start. I punched the electric starter over and over again while rolling the throttle and praying the engine would come alive. All the men sitting outside enjoying their coffee at the cafe came over to my bike to attempt to revive it. Even with all their testosterone and brain power, Blue Steel was not going anywhere, so one man coasted away down the hill. I had no idea where he was going and started running after him, only to find him and my bike a few hundred meters away at a mechanic. Thankfully, after a few minutes of fiddling around and a payment of 50 cents, he had my bike up and running again.
We rushed up to the hostel rooftop in the hopes that we hadn’t missed breakfast. Luckily, we weren’t the only ones and Vu kindly cooked us omelettes while chatting more about his second hostel he’s opening up down the street. We stuck around enjoying the conversation, but finally had to hit the road and make tracks after saying goodbye to our Vu and our new friends.
I could see why we were advised to get an early start as soon as my front tire hit the first of many giant craters and potholes. As soon as the road improved and we could pick up some speed, the massive ruts started up again, forcing us to crawl along at a snail’s pace. Just as we were winding up a steep hill with incredible views of the surrounding vast terrain, I noticed Byron’s exhaust pipe was dangling by only a few bolts, and was scraping against his tire. There weren’t any towns for the past hour of driving and it was doubtful we could push it on to the next one. Two teenage boys pulled up on their scooter and came over to see what us foreigners were doing stopped on the side of the road with perplexed looks on our faces. The Vietnamese are ever resourceful, and soon one of them had gathered wood from the side of the road and lashed the wood and the scorching hot exhaust pipe together to the bike frame by a bungee cord. It would have taken me hours to even think to do that, if at all. We thanked him repeatedly and continued gingerly up the hill until we could find a proper mechanic.
It turns out the next “town” was a good 30km away from our breakdown point. The mechanic was thorough and made sure every part on Byron’s bike was in working order. I had only asked him to tighten the chain on my bike, and the next thing you know, he was selling me on a brand new rear brake shoe. I couldn’t argue with new brakes, so about an hour after stopping, we finally made it back on the road to Mui Ne.
Before we left for Vietnam, all I pictured were jungles and steamy forests. Today’s drive alone took us from towering pine trees to dunes as sandy as the Sahara, to bone-dry scrub and brush, to wide open fields and plains with cows roaming in herds across the freeway, to white sand beaches against crystal blue ocean. Vietnam is a much more diverse place than I could have ever imagined.
Mui Ne consisted of one main road that followed the ocean, with every inch of waterfront property crammed with luxury resorts and hotels. Restaurants, massage parlors, souvenir shops and scooter rental shacks dominated the other side of the street. Luckily the height of all these venues didn’t exceed two stories, leaving at least some of the scenery untouched. Most of the signs had Cyrillic writing on them to accommodate the influx of Russian tourists, just like in Nha Trang. We picked more modest accomodation on the non-beach side for $15 at the Green Hill Resort. That’s not to say it didn’t have an enormous swimming pool, immaculate landscaping, and modern rooms with AC. It’s wonderful how far your money can go in Vietnam.
After a quick dip in the pool to refresh ourselves after the blistering hot and sweaty drive, we ended the night with dinner and a fish massage. We dunked our feet into the giant fish tank and immediately, I felt little nibbles underneath, in between, and on top of my toes. It was painfully ticklish, but I gripped the plastic seat and endured through the dead skin feast. It turned out to be more than just a tourist trap as I removed my feet smooth as silk.