Sun burnt Russians, snake meat restaurants and a beach (aka Mui Ne)

This post is well overdue so thought I’d reminisce while everyone else is on holiday and we are on staycation in Saigon.

About a month ago, a group of us went on a trip to Mui Ne after graduating from our intensive CELTA course. It’s a great feeling of accomplishment finishing something like that and we were all ready to blow off some steam (aka drink heavily poolside). This explains the lack of photos – being a tourist takes effort when relaxing ok?

So we hired a private minibus and filled it with around ten bodies, eager to get to the resort. We left early, like butt crack of the morning early and still, getting out of the city was a complete mission. The thing with travelling by an actual car or bus as opposed to a motorbike in Saigon is that it takes you FOREVER to get anywhere. The speed limit must be around 40km p/h even on the highway so it’s a bit tedious. Still, we all made it in one piece and after trying to communicate our need for a coffee/bathroom stop, the driver pulled over eventually (an hour later). That’s when we (Tom) bought this:

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It’s rice whiskey apparently. Three litres of it. We still have the bottle (?) actually.. along with most of the contents. It tastes kind of like sake mixed with a strong unidentifiable spirit and nothing like whiskey aside from the burn that ensues after the smallest sip. I do remember an ounce of desperation at one point where someone had mixed Fanta with it. It was not good.

Anyway, so we arrived at the resort and after being shown to our non air conditioned rooms (waaaah) we headed straight to the pool. The staff were amazing and super friendly. We got a free delicious yoghurt drink and basically slothed by the pool for the rest of the day. It was just what everyone needed and when the place looks like this, why bother missioning it to the beach?

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Apparently we had good timing as that night, the resort was putting on a party. Usually I’d be a bit skeptical of a resort party (takes me back to the ‘traditional show’ we were witness to in Koh Samui) but these guys were pretty professional. The parties happen quite regularly and are called “Chasing the sun“. They run them at the resort and hundreds of people come from Saigon and surrounding towns to, as the title implies, stay up till dawn partying. About 800 people turned up to the one we were at and most people ended up in the pool fully clothed. Sign of a good night I reckon.

It’s actually quite an incredible feeling being there as it really doesn’t feel like you’re in Asia. The place is packed with Russians. As is the rest of Mui Ne we found out. I’m not sure why but it seems to be the number one spot for them to holiday. You’d think that because they come here so often that they would have discovered the benefits of sunscreen for those of us with paler complexions but no. I saw some crazy red bodies there.

Speaking of crazy, the restaurants in Mui Ne are something else too. For one thing, there doesn’t seem to be many (if any) Vietnamese places around. The theme of choice is ‘display your prey’. Outside most places you’ll see Turtles, snakes, fish, eels, frogs, lizards, crabs (the list goes on) cramped into tiny tanks waiting for the reaper. It’s depressing to say the least. We decided to give one place a go and were ‘treated’ to a show where a snake was slaughtered in front of table who then took a shot of the thing’s blood chased by a vodka shot. I’m sorry, I just don’t get it.

Luckily, just down the road from our hotel was THE BEST BARBECUE EVER. It’s so good that it deserves caps. Back home, barbecue means throwing a couple of sausages on the grill and making a salad but this place is more like the American style barbecue. I had the spicy chicken burger several times and then discovered the ribs….wow.  All I can say to describe it is juicy, smoky and tender. The coolest part was that it was run by a local Vietnamese family who were really awesome fun. The setting is a pile of sand amongst some coconut trees. They showed us how they climb up there to get the drinking coconuts (yes, also amazing). As well as this they have a swing made from a kite surfing harness (kite surfing is as big in Mui Ne as exotic meat) and that’s totally fun after a few beers. I wish I could link to the place or tell you the name but it didn’t seem to have one- we only saw a sign that read: Smoked Food. It’s just down the alleyway leading to Mui Ne Hills resort though.

After a couple days of chilling, partying, recovering and chilling some more we thought we should probably check out the beach. It’s a really windy coast – hence why kite surfing is huge- but still a great swimming beach. There are some jerk jetskiers to avoid though. No such thing as buoys to mark the speed limit here! The only issue with the beach is that if you want shade (which to be honest, you need) you either have to be a guest of a beach side resort or pay ludicrous amounts for a lounger. As our accommodation was on the hill we had to do what any normal person would do. We put on our confident faces and strolled through a resort pretending to be guests. It worked a treat and we lounged there for a good few hours before deciding we may have pushed our luck and should probably bail.

So overall, Mui Ne is a great place to visit if you need to get out of Saigon for a bit. It’s only about a four/five hour drive but feels like a different country (or continent at times). The hustle and bustle of the streets is completely absent. In fact, the side walks are unnaturally deserted which is a crazy concept after living in District 1 for so long. Go there for some space and sun…and snake meat if that’s what you’re into.

I’ll leave you with a link to the video that was taken at the party we went to. Gives you an idea of the vibe. Also, the girl dancing in the end credits is one of our good friends Gypsy. She was owning it that night so only fair that they give her a solid minute of screen time…

https://vimeo.com/63476156

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