Mui Ne & Da Lat

Mui Ne

We had an early rise for our pre-booked bus to Mui Ne, which is approx. 200km east of HCMC, on the coast. This involved being at the bus office at 07:00, we had to walk along Bui Vien St to get there, and there was still people in and outside a few of the clubs & pubs still on it, with music blaring away!
We checked in, got asked for our destination hotel and I was told that we would be dropped off there, given our tickets and a bottle of water each, then told to wait outside.
A short while later, a man shouts out our destination town, and then we are escorted along the street, across the road, through the park and eventually get to the bus, already hot and sweaty and put on to a bus which the air con is not yet running… thankfully the driver was there to start his bus and we all get seated. The bus takes around 5 hours, and although the sleeper bus stages of our open bus tour of Vietnam look like decent buses, the one we got for this journey was not the best, with small seats not really designed for larger people!

We had bought some more water plus a few snacks for the journey, though to be honest we had eaten them before we got out the city boundary, and it wasn’t long before we were going through the Vietnamese countryside. It was all very flat to start with, till we got a bit into the journey and we saw a few hills, rice terraces and other crops, but still not that interesting to look at. We had one short toilet stop and after about 5 hours, we were in the small coastal town of Mui Ne. For some reason the driver stopped at a couple of hotels, to let mostly national tourists off and missed our stop. So, on arrival at their office, the young girl quickly got us a lift back along the mile or so in another waiting bus, and we soon arrived at our new home for a few days, Mui Ne Backpackers Village at around lunchtime.

This is a typical backpackers hostel, with a mix of dorms and private rooms, a pool, organised tours, hostel reps and of course a bar with various happy hours throughout the day. And the guests are mostly an 18-30 crowd, with the usual few characters who hang around for longer than they really should, who probably don’t leave the hostel unless it’s to go to the ATM for more booze money!

We knew this few days were going to be messy, and yes, we indeed got very messy with them all. The first afternoon/evening was spent at the bar drinking cheap beers, and as we quickly discovered, there was one rule for drinking in this bar.
You always had to drink alcohol with your left hand. If you were caught doing so with your right hand by the reps (or anyone else looking), they would shout ‘BUFFALO’ and point at you. You would then either need to down that drink, do a ‘Funnel’ or even a ‘Shotgun’ if you had a full can available. I had to do their funnel once, and after that we were super careful!


They were having a Vietnamese Feast that evening, we joined in with that and got some BBQ food, rice dishes and various other snacks plus a free beer to go along with our free welcome beer. The food was ok, apart from some potentially uncooked fish, which got given to a little cat who has made himself at home in the hostel over the past week apparently.
After the food was finished, it was time for the Hand Grenade Happy Hour, which are a shot of tequila next to a shot of Jager and both balanced inside the pint tumbler and a shot of red bull at the bottom of it. You down the tequila, then the Jager falls into the red bull, and you then down that.
They had a leader board which resets every Sunday, so we had arrived for the start of that week. We had a couple that first night, then we played some drinking games and then we got talked into walking along with the group to a nearby club called ‘Dragon Beach’, which was empty and shit, so we stayed for one and then went back to bed.

The next day we had a lazy morning, had a decent Full English breakfast at the hostel, and then took a walk along the road to book our bus ticket for the Wednesday to take us to Da Lat.  We managed to get booked on the afternoon one, which we knew would be better than trying to get up at 06:00 for the morning one. We decided to also book on the tour for the Dunes the following afternoon, meaning we didn’t need to get up early tomorrow either, which is just the ideal way for hostel life!
The afternoon was again just another day on the piss, where we bonded quite well with a few of the reps and current guests.

One of the many characters at the hostel, a young English lad called Harry who always walked around in just his budgie smugglers, was forever doing belly-flops into the pool, mostly for ‘shits and giggles’. His catchphrase which became a hostel motto and even made it onto one of the blackboards was ‘Ok we’ll just have a couple of more beers, then get on the piss!’ 


The reps get a few beers free each day, and they mostly ‘Shotgun’ them which involves piercing the can then opening the ring-pull and down it goes in one. Either that or the funnel comes out, and usually some guests all join in, basically repeating this on a daily basis. And as they were doing a bucket of 6 cans for 100,000 VND (£3.30), it was a never-ending process all of the afternoon/evening. As people tried to leave, some were persuaded to stay ‘One More Night’, no wonder people ended up there for weeks! The reps Elliot, Badger and Dek were all brilliant though and it did make for an amazing atmosphere the whole time we were there.


Dinner that night was next door at an Indian place, and while the food was pretty good, the portions were small.
So, you’re getting the story now, we drank a lot, tried to keep up with the young ones and by the end of the 2nd night, we had 9 Hand Grenades on the leader-board too as Sadie’s were going down as Scotland too.
Thankfully, we managed to avoid going to the club this time and had a relatively early night at around 1am, albeit a bit drunk.

Our final day here started off well, we got up and had another fry up and then we went off on our tour. Pick up time was 13:20, and we knew this would take a few hours and keep us off the booze for that time at least! A Jeep arrived and us and another 6 guests bail in and off we went.
First stop was the Fairy Stream, which is just along the road in Mui Ne and is what is best described as walking up a muddy water stream with lots of sand and rock formations on each side of it.


Some local tried to charge us 5000 VND each, which we refused. We were the only ones out of our jeep to even bother going up the stream, our driver gave us 40 mins and after getting to the waterfall at the top, we had to turn right back round again. And I didn’t even bother to look at the waterfall, Sadie took a photo and it looked very disappointing!

Next stop was to what they call Fisherman Village, which we drove onto the beach through a lovely smell of raw sewage and raw fish combined, nearly all of us puked at the smell of it. All we did was stop on the beach to see a lot of boats anchored just off the shore, took a couple of pics and then left via the same route as we all held our noses and tried not to breath in at the exit point! 


We then set off the 30-minute journey to the White Sand Dunes, while they are no Sahara Desert, they were still pretty impressive. We had already decided to take the easy option to get to the top, so the both of us jumped on the back of a waiting quad and zoomed off up the sandy hills, at a fair pace too. It cost 200,000 each for the return trip, so not too bad and save a 30 min walk each way. Up at the top it was so windy we were getting battered by sand onto our face and bare legs, it was like standing in front of a sand blaster! Quickly taking some photos, we then got the quad back down the hill, and they guy must have went about 50-60mph down a steep slope, I had to hold on for my life!


Final stop was at the Red Sand Dunes, and compared the previous stop, it was a disappointment. Young kids try to rent you a ‘sledge’ to slide down them, realistically it was a thin piece of Perspex and you would need to be light as a feather to go anywhere down these slopes. We got 50 minutes here, and clearly everyone else was as bored as us within 15 minutes, so we headed back to the hostel well before 5pm, just in time for the 120,000 VND (£4) buckets of Gin!


This is when the day started going wrong, as we got a bucket to share, which is 4 x double gins and topped up with tonic. We made quick work of that one and got another one straight after. Then we had a few more beers before getting on the piss (LOL), and deciding to decline the Mexican Theme evening at the hostel, we went next door for yes... Mexican!
But with more choice of food and slightly cheaper, but stronger beer, the Saigon Red is a nicer drink and we had a few there, along with some lovely grub. Sadie wanted to take the sombrero that she had for dinner next door, and return it the following morning, but the waitress was having none of it… but I managed to sneak one off the front tables anyway!

It was then time to go back to the hostel, yes in time for the Hand Grenade Happy Hour, and not to mention the 2-4-1 tequila shots for the Mexican day!
Another one of the hostel characters was Paddy, yes an Irishman from HCMC who had came to the hostel about a week ago and despite having ran out of money, was still able to get pissed every day. He was a great laugh though and was always falling fowl of the Buffalo rule!


So, around this point, we were both pretty drunk already, and much of the evening after that I can’t recall to blog about, though Sadie does remember slightly more than me

Here are the hazy memories – 
  • Sadie had given her shoes to Harry to wear to the club
  • We ended up going to the club and Sadie had to walk there barefoot
  • We danced a bit (apparently)
  • I needed my bed, refused to walk and no taxis in sight, so ended up on back of a motorbike
  • I fell off to the ground getting off the bike, which would prove to be a sore one later
  • I went back on the bike to go find Sadie, who said she would walk but got on a bike too

Neither of us remember going to bed, and being still a bit drunk in the morning, we tried to cancel our bus journey and try and stay ‘One More Night’, which they wouldn’t let us do without having to buy a whole new ticket.
So we got packed, checked our score on the leader board which was now 21!, said our goodbyes and left in a taxi to our bus both not feeling too good, but needing a rest from the booze for a bit!



Da Lat

Our bus journey was awful, again the seats were uncomfortable, we both felt shit and on top of that, I seemed to have a growing pain in my chest, which to me from experience felt like broken or bruised ribs. That along with another crazy bus driver, a bumpy winding road and lack of decent AC, made this journey feel like hell. It was a more scenic journey though, which took about 4 hours or so, with a quick toilet stop, before we pulled into Da Lat.

We got a taxi to our accommodation for the next 4 nights, (which we later changed to 3) which was called Tay Backpackers Hostel, and was up a side street about 10-15 mins walk from what was the main part of the city. This place was £8 a night for a private room with bathroom, and boy was it priced correctly. It’s probably one of the worst rooms we have stayed in, with no ventilation in the tiny bathroom, horrible bedding and uncomfortable mattress, felt damp and had a horrible feeling about it, not to mention the place is run by kids who just play the PS4 downstairs 24/7.
On top of the horrible room, my chest was getting more painful and I thought when I woke up during the night, that there may have been some serious internal damage done. I remember lying in bed in that much pain that I awoke Sadie, potentially with a view to getting to a hospital. Luckily, I remembered I had some super strength Nurofen left-over, so had one and eventually managed to get back to sleep after a couple of hours.

In the morning, it wasn’t as painful, but still really sore so we held off going to hospital, and went and found a pharmacy, and got some more strong Ibuprofen. After a lazy morning, we went out to see some of the town, as the external stuff we wanted to see such as temples, waterfalls etc would all involve a motorbike/taxi journey, and I wasn’t feeling up to that just yet.


We went up to the Crazy House, which is an ongoing project by a local architect, which also has some rooms you can book for an overnight stay. The place cost us 50,000 VND each to get it, and it is a weird maze of different rooms, bridges, tunnels, corridors which are all themed. It’s a weird place, and an ongoing project it seems as it expands with construction work all around, clearly no H&S issues at all! In the evening it was just out for a quick bite to eat and back to rest up.


 
 

The next day we decided we didn’t want to stay around much longer, so after going out for a lovely breakfast, we then went and booked our bus for the following day to Nha Trang and booked an extra night there instead. We told our hostel here that we were checking out a day early, and then basically held up in our room all day getting the blogs and photos updated, then out for some lovely Vietnamese food at night. Plus I’ve been feeling a bit better with not as many chest pains, think the painkillers are working and will keep taking them till they are finished.

We are both really hoping that Nha Trang is a better town to explore and do some trips out, if I am feeling fitter, with a better accommodation choice and then we can try to get back into loving Vietnam.
As with Sadie not being well in Saigon, and then the over-indulgence in alcohol in Mui Ne, then the shit hostel here in Da Lat, we are both falling out with the place, which I guess is unfair and we need to give it a chance.



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