Firstly I’m going to have to eat my words somewhat about food in Vietnam. Seems if you let a flock of tourists descend on a place it’s only a matter of time before someone has to cook something edible, otherwise they won’t stay long.
The solution seems to be, don’t order off of the menu. Look for the places that offer fresh BBQ and then turn up about 6pm. You can get a good sized snapper, the biggest prawns I have ever seen, rice and veggies…cooked over a metal bucket with charcoal in…for a very reasonable price. In fact forgo the prawns and you can get the fish (big enough for 2) and trimmings with a couple of beers for about 7 dollars (the prawns triple the price…but they are worth it!!!).
We have scouted out a few fairly decent places now. Breakfast is typically at a place called “Mellow”…a small hostel run by a British guy and his Vietnamese wife. The food isn’t great (we haven’t found a good breakfast anywhere), but they will scramble an egg for you with some toast…actually they’ll scramble the thing beyond recognition, but at least it’s still better than the usual partially fried egg you find elsewhere. The real reason we go here is that you can also pick up free wireless internet from the posh hotel over the street, so it’s a chance to check emails over breakfast (which I also have to admit has been occurring at what most would usually consider the luncheon hour…oh well, did I mentioned we don’t work these days!!!).
Talking of checking internet, there are another couple of options. “Snow”, is a very trendy sushi restaurant/bar/nightclub a couple of doors down from where we’re staying. Cocktails are good but very expensive, food is not good and overpriced…beer and wireless internet are reasonably priced and free respectively. I have my suspicions that the place is run by the Russian mafia so just something to keep in mind if you’re ever there!
WAX is a bar/restaurant across the street from where we are (actually the place we stayed last time). It’s overpriced, the food is bad, but the atmosphere is good and they also have free wireless.
“Before & Now” is a restaurant a few doors down providing “Italian & Vietnamese Food with Real Italian Chef”. I am some what suspicious about the claim “Real Italian Chef”…personally I was expecting to see some big, red faced, Italian pizza chef, however in reality it’s a small Vietnamese chap who to be fair makes up some very fresh pasta and doesn’t over cook it. It’s managed by a very sweet Vietnamese lady who makes you feel welcome without bugging you.
And whilst we’re on bugging…there is a restaurant over the street that serves good BBQ but the woman in there is possibly the most irritating person we’ve met on our travels (or maybe a close second to the woman from the Spirit Café in Bali…see previous posts!). She will stake you out from anywhere up to a mile away to try and get you into the restaurant…at which point she will proceed to read the menu to you and then tell you how you should come back there for 3 meals a day for your whole stay…continuously throughout your dining experience. At first I thought, oh she’s just trying hard, but now I’ve decided she’s just extremely annoying. I’ve noticed she sets up her employees at strategic places along the “strip” (the whole town of Mui Ne stretches along about a 10 mile stretch of road) to try and poach customers from other restaurants. Luckily there is a place next door, “Mango”, which serves even better BBQ in a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. I can also say that they serve the biggest prawns/shrimps that I have ever seen…I’ve seen smaller lobsters in the past. I am considering volunteering my services to Mango a few evenings a week, to sit outside the annoying woman’s place and tell people they should eat next door.
Other services in Mui Ne…there’s a liquor store 2 doors down from where we’re staying…cheaper than everywhere else, and maybe I’m going in there too much or something, but they’ve started to give me “frequent shopper” discounts and free bottles of water with my purchases. And there's a grocery store up the road where you can get out of date UHT milk that doesn't smell bad and doesn't seem to make you sick!
…and finally if you’re really stuck for stuff, jump in a cab for the 15 minute ride to Phan Tiet, the town south of here. Ask your cab driver for the “Co-op Mart” and you’ll be deposited at a big supermarket type place, that lacks in the fresh food department, but that serves up most supplies that you might need (They even have bread…not Bahn Mie…see previous post).
And so to the wind…there was a definite buzz about town a couple of days ago when we went for breakfast (at 11:30am)…I was semi confident the forecast was coming together and that we were going to get wind, and everyone else seemed to be in agreement. By the time we got down there at 12:30 it was indeed blowing and there were lots of kiters out and lots of lessons going on. We are pretty much in the dead center of a beach that stretches a few miles each way around the Mui Ne bay. Most places where people kite in the USA seem to have people congregating in a bit of water 50ft by 50ft…I’ve never understood why…so it was nice to see kites spread out along the whole stretch of beach. It wasn’t overcrowded though, Kim tells me she counted 40 at one point, which in an area that size seems quite sparse.
I put up my 12m and went for a few runs, and was nicely powered up in very consistent winds…not gusty at all. The water is very choppy and there is a little bit of swell, but not really clean enough to wave ride.
I came in to spot Kim on her first day back on the water (with new harness). The wind direction here is totally opposite to anywhere else she’s kited, so this also meant starting off on her so called weak side which she’s had very little practice on. To add to that, we were lucky enough in Bali to have the water to ourselves, so it was also the first time she’s kited in “traffic”. I sensed a little apprehension, but before I knew it she launched her 9m and was up and away, tacking back and forth and getting used to the choppy conditions. I suspect looking back on it, urging her into cold, 10ft swells to body drag without the board at Pismo Beach in California a few weeks before we left on our travels, is starting to pay off!
We both got a good few sessions on the water, and the wind actually picked up throughout the day, before we eventually threw in the towel at about 4:30pm when the sun was starting to go down.
I have to admit, we were both in a pretty embarrassing state, physically, after the first day on the water…both suffering from aches and pains in muscles we didn’t no we had.
Yesterday was a hot hot day…possibly the hottest day since we set off on our travels…there was wind, but it wasn’t quite as strong as the day before. We didn’t need many excuses to just lie on the beach, but even that only lasted an hour in the sweltering heat.
This morning we woke up to see Obama getting elected, it seems much to everyone’s relief. Strikes me people are more interested in the fact that he’s the first African American president than anything he has to say about politics or running the country (although I suspect the cab driver we had in Manila a few months ago, who insisted that there’d been a black president in the past, is still sticking to his story!).
Anyway, the wind was blowing hard when we went for an early lunch (at Before & Now…see above)…while we ate it really started howling. We headed down to the beach and proceeded to get sand blasted by the wind so went back to the room to get the gear but by the time we got back it had dropped a little. I went out on the 9m and found that the conditions were stupidly gusty…one minute struggling to keep the kite in the air, the next getting picked up out the water. I came in and Kim rightly decided not to go out for a bit. It was carnage out there, people struggling with their kites out at sea, whilst learners were being thrown in the water near the beach only to see their kites fall out the sky. As I was kiting I saw boards floating about everywhere in the water! I do have to say though, that everything looked very safe, there were no people getting dragged along the beach or anything…people were staying out of control in the water!
As I came in on my third outing on the 9m I managed to somehow whack myself where it hurts with the board, which was a little unpleasant…that was enough for me to call it a day. Kim decided to give it a go, but as I walked into the shallows I managed to stub my toe on a rock and rip the toe nail off…that definitely convinced me I should quit for the day! I rinsed off my bloody stump and then blew up the 7m for Kim. She went out and made a valiant effort, but the lulls in the wind were so weak that she couldn’t get going, so she came in and swapped onto the 9m. When she tried to launch it was so gusty that even keeping the kite in the air was a challenge…I also tried one more launch and decided it just wasn’t worth it, so we packed up.
It was still fun day. Seems we might actually have to get up a bit earlier tomorrow and catch the more steady winds before the storms start to blow through.