Since the ride to Vung Tau was only around 200km, we took the morning to explore the red sand dunes in Mui Ne. Although the mountains of sand were just off the busy road, it felt like we were placed in a scorching hot desert in the middle of nowhere, with the eerie silence hovering over the shimmering heat waves of sand. The moment was soon ruined by a crowd of people, fresh off the double decker tour bus, “oohing and ahhing” noisily. Local children and women went up to the group pleading with them to rent their thin sheets of plastic to pitifully attempt to slide down the dunes.
After hop in the pool, we packed and were on the road by noon. The gas station was packed with cars and motorbikes vying for the attention of the single gas attendant, making it impossible to ask him for advice on which oil to buy. We zoomed off in search of another station, but one hundred meters on the road and I started feeling a burning hot spray of liquid on my left arm as my helmet visor became splattered with oil. Welp. I had forgotten to put the oil cap back on in the madness of the crowded gas station. Luckily the cap was still lying in the road, and a moist towelette or two got us back on the road and out of Mui Ne.
The seaside road took us past an equal number of flourishing resorts as it did abandoned ones. The concrete shells of these massive venues blemished the land, all in varying states of completion and decay. Some looked like they might have been open for a year or two before shutting the doors, with their glittery entrance signs next to cobblestone driveways. Others didn’t get past the visual concept phase and still had their idea boards by the side of the road, announcing an opening date that would never be reached. It was eerie to drive past them, and made me wonder why some of them were successful while so many failed.
The smooth flat road allowed us to keep up our speed past sand dunes, palm trees, and petite seaside towns. The buildings started getting closer and closer together as the traffic tripled in density. The surrounding area of Vung Tao was bustling with metropolitan activity and it refreshed my traffic-driving skills that I would surely need for the big day to Saigon tomorrow.
To our relief, the whole city wasn’t overcrowded and deafening and actually had a beautiful stretch of road along the main beach. We picked a modest hotel directly across from the waterfront and enjoyed an evening stroll along the beach before a seafood dinner. Vung Tao was nothing like Mui Ne or Nha Trang since this was where the Vietnamese people went to vacation and relax away from the tourists. They turned the karaoke up loud, passed around the rice wine, and partied in their own fashion as we looked on from our plastic dinner table.