A Travellerspoint blog

October 2008

Mui Ne Beach, round 2

…go on, eat the fish eyes.

semi-overcast 31 °C
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Since our arrival at Mui Ne Beach 4 days ago, Candy, Mike and I have seen more than Mike and I saw in 2 weeks last time around. It was also peeing down rain last time, so maybe that’s why. It’s still a little rainy and overcast, but the forecast looks good this weekend for some wind! Fingers crossed, people!

Looking for a hotel the first day was a fun little chore. The three of us slid into a taxi and headed toward the south end of the beach in order to saunter our way back to the north, stopping in each hotel to ask price and availability of the rooms. The range seems to be about $10 - $80/night, of the hotels we saw. We opted for the nice, simple room with A/C, hot water and mini fridge for $10/night at Nam Khai Guest House, just across the street from Wax, the bar where we spent most of our time last time – drinking Tiger beer and waiting for the rain to stop.

After finding and securing our rooms for the next night, we crossed the street and headed out to the beach for a wander back to our old hotel, the Hoang Kim Golden Resort, which is located pretty far to the north of the kiting beach – too long to trudge every day in the heat with the kites! Plus, they’re doing construction on all the rooms on the first floor, so we were woken up at 8am both days we were there. It took us about an hour to get to the hotel on foot…in the sand…and the heat…phew!

It was a lovely intro back into Mui Ne life, and speaking of lovely intros, I was lucky enough to get to share an introductory yoga lesson with my friend Candy later that night in the soft glow of the pool. I bought an audio yoga CD by Janet Stone (she teaches at Yoga Tree in San Francisco), which I synced to my iPod. Plug the iPod into portable speakers, place by the pool, and ta-da… instant yoga class! Candy did swimmingly as a first-timer, and I greatly enjoyed sharing the experience with her. Yoga has been central to healing in my life. Whether sharing the class with one or tens of people, or just on my own, yoga centers me, is my moving meditation, keeps me in touch with what really matters to me. It also happens to be a great workout. My and Candy’s session was intensified by the presence of one very large bat. Yes, I said BAT! While holding a pose as we faced the pool, he skimmed the water 3 or 4 times in search of bugs….that or he was scoping out who would be liberated of their blood, Candy or me!!! A few minutes later, I heard a commotion above my head and off to the right a little, looked over, and in the light of the pool just his head was visible – the rest of him was attached by his feet to the overhang of one of the first floor bungalows. He screeched. And screeched again. My heart rate shot up and I wondered if we should haul ass or brave the beast lurking in half-light, lusting after our blood. Then I wondered if the mosquito repellant I had nearly drowned myself in prior to our meditation worked on bats, too. Then I realized that this is real yoga, maintaining calm in the midst of calamity. Meanwhile, back at the ranch…. Don’t take my word for it, but citronella must be an effective repellant of bloodthirsty winged spawn of Satan…he just dangled there like a cling-on while we finished. Walking through the arboretum on our way back to our rooms, the bat dive-bombed us, and then fluttered through the front restaurant and off into the night. We returned to our rooms, unscathed.

The restaurant across from our hotel (as you’re standing at Hoang Kim, slightly to the left and across the street) was the location of a fantastic dinner that night. Fresh foil-steamed fish, rice and veggies, and Candy and I each had a fresh coconut, which contained lots more juice than I expected. Our hostess, Chin, was very attentive and kept picking more and more fish off the carcass in front of us and piling it onto our plates. Unfortunately Mike seemed to get mostly bones! Chin spoke English very well, so we chatted with her through most of the meal. I asked her how long she had worked at the restaurant, and she said that she didn’t work there, that she owned the travel agency next door. She noticed that her neighbors were very busy and volunteered to help them…how sweet! She then grabbed the eye out of the fish on the plate in front of me with her chopsticks and said, “Eating fish eyes makes your vision better!” and proceeded to plunk it down on my plate. Being an adventurous creature, I said, “Well…..uuhhhhh…..ok!” I picked up the eyeball with my chopsticks, gave it the once-over, and placed it in my mouth. Biting down was not the thing to do…I should have just swallowed…what was I thinking!!!??? It was pretty hard, I think I was gnawing on its lens, with very little aqueous/vitreous humor – it was very dry, so I chewed a few times and tried to swallow the bits. It really didn’t taste of anything, just had an odd texture, and I couldn’t stop the feeling of a fish eye swimming around and looking at the inside of my stomach.

The next day we rented bikes to ride to the fishing village about 10 miles north of the beach.


As far as I can tell, the whole stretch is called Mui Ne. I don’t think any of us have been on a bike in a very long time. That being said, none of us crashed or was hit by a speeding passenger bus the entire time! All along this road, there are houses, food stalls, moped repair, clothing, snack shops and stunning views of red sand dunes on one side, and the South China Sea on the other.

The fishing boats were fun to see…they all seem to be similar. There are small bowl-shaped rowboats that they use to paddle out to the big boats, and then they moor the smaller boat while they go out fishing, which seems to be mostly at night or in the wee hours of the morning.


We ran into a few local girls selling trinkets, and they followed us all the way down the steep steps to the water, holding our hands and touting their wares.


They were so sweet, and spoke English quite well. I asked one of the girls, Jae, where she learned English, if it was in school. She said she didn’t go to school, and that she was taught by a tourism agency. I’ve heard that school isn’t free, so those who can’t afford to pay go to the streets to sell trinkets etc to tourists…seems so sad to me, but they seemed very happy and chatty, and they seemed to all be good friends. As we were getting back on our bikes, it looked to me like they were pooling the money they made from us and dividing it.

That night to reward ourselves for all our efforts during the bike ride, we proceeded to get tipsy at the bar called WAX.


The next day, dangling by the thread of a hangover, we three booked a jeep tour of the nearby white and red sand dunes. We learned that if you’ve seen one sand dune, you’ve seen them all. The sky was particularly wild with pre-storm plumes of white fluffy cumulonimbi, which made for some majestic photos of the landscape. See the photo gallery for more pics.


The nearby Lake of Tears was full of reeds and lotus flowers, and the ponies used for tours on the dunes were cooling themselves in the water, some almost invisible under the water with just their heads poking up out of the water.


The Fairy Stream was the highlight of the tour, a stream that runs through a chasm of red and white sand and lush greenery and tropical flowers.


We waded through the ankle-calf deep water for about 30 minutes, and then headed back to the jeep to continue the tour. This was actually the first stop, followed by the white dunes, the red canyon, and the red dunes. Here’s a photo of the red canyon.


We ended our day with a drink at SNOW, an uber-cool sushi restaurant next door to our hotel – soft blue lights and plush, white décor. They happen to have wifi, so we brought the computers and had a tech moment. Later, back at the hotel, we hung out in Candy’s room before heading off to dreamland…saying goodbye to Candy was sad. It was great fun having her around, but hopefully she’ll be back this way before Saigon. If not, I plan on meeting her in Saigon for a couple days before she goes back to the US.

Yesterday was a very low-key day, as we topped up our tans on the beach, practiced poi, and had a light and early dinner before retiring to our room for rum & coke and 3 more episodes of Battlestar Galactica (not the 1970s version)…if you haven’t seen it, it’s a great series!

Today after breakfast, as the rain eased off, I jumped into a cab and headed out to the local hospital to see if I could arrange a tour and possibly some volunteer work. To my dismay, it seems to be a tourist hospital, triaging toe injuries and drunken head traumas. It was actually very quiet with only one patient getting a toe bandaged. I met the Traditional Physician, Vo, who had many local acupuncture patients coming in about ½ hour, so I waited and was able to observe his practice. It was fascinating to see. He had 2 patients on tables in separate rooms, and about 6 more in the waiting room. He sees about 15 – 20 patients per day, a decrease from 50 per day since moving here from nearby Phan Tiet. Despite our language barriers, we were able to communicate somehow, and it was a very enjoyable experience. He was surprised at the length of study I am about to embark on in the field of Natural Medicine – 6 years. I still am not sure if he was able to gather that I am about to start my studies, not just finishing them. He showed me his acupuncture book, which looked like it was hundreds of years old – it was beautiful. I was touched by his eagerness to share his practice with me, as well as his patients' willingness to allow me in the treatment rooms with them.

Posted by kmpossible 06:27 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Cuppa tea then?

3 weeks in England

rain 11 °C
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Mike and I spent the last 3 weeks in England, the mother land. I was very excited to have the opportunity to learn to speak English, as opposed to American English, and to have cream teas. I think I learned more English slang than ‘proper’ English, but that was fun too! If you aren’t privy, cream tea consists of 2 warm scones, a pot of jam, a pot of clotted cream, and of course tea. My initial reaction: “clotted” cream? …my only association to the word clot is through science courses – as in blood clot. Eeeek! Clotted cream has nothing to do with blood, thankfully. It’s a sticky and slightly sweet, thick cream. Put that on your warm scone along with the jam and voila, a very tasty snack! Wash down with hot tea (with milk) and repeat as often as possible for maximum weight gain! I’ve packed on a few lbs in this fashion – but I think the fish & chips, sausages and real ale have something to do with that, too. No bother, a waist is a terrible thing to mind, especially when faced with 5 weeks of Vietnam’s nauseating culinary offerings.

We were hosted most graciously by Mike’s family – the first week with Jim and Sandra, his parents, the second week with Melanie and Paul, his sister and brother-in-law, and a few days at Grandma Jean’s followed by a few days in London. I think benevolence and hospitality are in the water in the UK – I felt so at home everywhere we went! Mike’s mom hand-made a bag for my yoga mat during the week we were yachting and touring ancient sites (and ancient PUBS!) with Mel and Paul.

Everyone cooked for us, which was really fantastic, and they even put up with my egg-eating. =) …for those who don’t know, I eat eggs probably 5 breakfasts per week. Especially since traveling over the last 5 months – seems you can always find eggs for breakie, though you may not want to eat them (see Koh Samet entry!). I thought a Christmas Cracker was something you eat, or maybe slang for Santa Claus, but Mike’s mom put me wise to the English custom over Christmas dinner, which we ate on October 18th. A cracker looks like a huge piece of taffy, twisted paper at both ends, except it’s wrapped in foil papers of all different Christmas-y colors. Everyone at the table has a cracker in front of their dinner plate. You hold one end in your right hand like you’re passing a baton to the person at your left, and they grab the other end with their left hand. You grab the other end of the person’s to your right, and so on around the table. Then everyone pulls them apart at the same time and they explode. Not like with dynamite or C4, just a little pop and you open it up. Inside, you get a paper crown, which everyone instantly dons, a joke on a little piece of paper, and a small trinket or toy – mine was a fingernail brush! That’ll come in handy for sand removal (the war on sand continues!). It was so much fun! I hear the previous year was a bit more fun – the fire department came and everything…someone lit the dining room carpet and hallway on fire with an out-of-control candle. Our families are going to get along great, I have a feeling!

It was, of course raining a bit during our stay. Seems like every time we tried to leave whatever house we were in, it would rain. Insert standard response here: Cuppa tea then? Seriously, I love all the tea drinking that goes on. ….and all the ale drinking for that matter (thanks Mel and Paul!). If taking the browns to the superbowl is a challenge for you, HAVE ANOTHER PINT OF ALE! It really, really, reallyreallyreallyreally works! I never knew it was possible to ‘let one fly’ with a man on deck…the human is a multitalented beast. Poop spelled backwards is poop! Anyway, we ate like kings, drank like sailors, and slept like it was going out of style.

While in London, we saw all the sights, and for Mike’s birthday, his parents treated us to a show. We saw Wicked last Wednesday night, and it was superb. If you like the story of the Wizard of Oz, you’ll probably like this. The production was incredible as was the singing, dancing and costumes.

There’s so much to tell, I’m sure I’ve left out many details…..and the jet lag is squashing my little brain into a ball and hurling it repeatedly at the inside of my skull. …..thud…….thud…thud……. Why does jet lag erase my memory? I packed my bag this morning to go from Saigon to Mui Ne Beach (we’re now in Vietnam), and I don’t remember doing it. I open my mouth to talk, and the words don’t go together…can’t complete…..sentence! I’m tired but I can’t sleep, I’m poor but I’m kind, I’m short but I’m healthy, yeah….shit, channeling Alanis Morissette again.

Last night as we sat talking with my friend Candy in our room on the 921st floor of Madam Cuc’s Guesthouse and Guiness Book of World Records’ title holder for the world’s longest and most treacherous spiral staircase, I remembered walking into the oldest cathedral in England, which is in Chester. Chester is also birthplace to a most handsome, kind, bright, graceful and tall guy we all know and love – Mike! The cathedral has quite a few stained glass windows, my favorite being the section of mostly blue glass just inside the entryway. It was exquisite with daylight – ok, cloud cover – illuminating the panes. The stone work in that building is incredible – quite cold (temperature) inside as are most Catholic and/or old churches I’ve been into, but with a feeling that you can only get from a place that’s been standing for 1000 years, and has been filled with those carrying in their hearts a similar feeling of reverence and a corresponding want for peace and harmony. After my liberation from the organized religion of my distant past, my spiritual views are now inclusive rather than exclusive, which has made for an abundant experience of all spiritually-rich places, be they cathedral, temple, shrine or pagoda.

Posted by kmpossible 06:45 Archived in England Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)


...where the men are men and the goats are scared!

all seasons in one day 21 °C
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Ah Illinois...land of corn...and fast food. Eating at my Dad's was a highlight to the trip - he cooked chicken in the smoker (a 6 hour process), venison steaks on the grill (from a deer my Dad shot last spring), and served up as much beer as you could drink. Aside from that, the only food options in Galesburg where we stayed were fast food joints and bars - deep fried appetizers, french fries, burgers, etc. No wonder folks in that area seem to be expanding well beyond a conceivable waistline. I often wondered why I get sick every time I go back to Illinois, and I think I've cracked it. It's the unhealthy food! I'm convinced. Aside from at my Dad's, I barely glimpsed a fresh, un-fried vegetable crossing my plate, or feedbag, during meals. Even breakfast was a challenge - I had to order eggs and toast ala carte in order to avoid getting 2 pancakes, 2 eggs, 2 sausages, 2 strips of bacon, a "mammoth muffin", toast, AND hash browns. It's obviously cheap to eat this way, as the big breakfast was only about five bucks...and getting more for less must be a good thing, right? Not exactly. Just ask your heart after eating all that...well, fat. "I'll take the big breakfast....and....hmmmm...well, yes, a cardiac surgeon."

I'm absolutely terrified at the changes in the landscape in the nearly 10 years since my departure from the "Bible Belt", where religious zealotry is rivaled only in, well, any other extremist, narrow minded religious community. But I digress. There are no more hedgerows or fences between fields for that matter, and virtually no trees whatsoever in/near the fields, as they've all been ripped out in order to enslave more of the tortured topsoil to the almighty Corn. It's a big problem. A monoculture is a bad idea, no matter what variety - it encourages disease among the species, depletes the soil (and/or other resources) of certain necessary nutrients, and then requires tons of chemicals to feed it and keep it pest free. ...for the interested reader: The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (more info here: http://www.michaelpollan.com/omnivore.php). Where have all the animals gone? To the factory farms, that's where - another large monoculture, requiring antibiotics in order to live, and passing on disease to us.

I got to catch up with my friends Monita and Jamie Jo while I was in Illinois - here's a photo from our night out...good times!
We wrangled up some cold beers at a bar called Crappy's North (!) and sat around a big table with my dad, Mike, and some other people I went to high school with, whom I haven't seen in over 10 years, including Larua Jean Cheline (now Johnson) and Money (his real name is Mike). The band actually finished it's set with Free Bird...I thought they were joking until several folks pulled out their Bics. There's a lot of that going on in Illinois, nicknames, I mean. Scruffy & Bits, Meathead, Moose, Horndog, and HarleyJon to name a few. What a bunch of characters! It was great to catch up with the folks from school, and also friends of the family who came to Dad's on Saturday night - quite a few motorcycles arrived! Also, my sister, her husband and their 2 girls visited, as did my grandma, and my mom came out for a while as well - a good time was had by all.

Posted by kmpossible 08:09 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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