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Riding a scooter to Russia.

VIETNAM | Friday, 19 November 2010 | Views [1258]

A dero dwarfed by the brown looking 'white sand dune'

A dero dwarfed by the brown looking 'white sand dune'

I've heard of time-warps, sometimes believing I had passed through one when I see my moustache in some reflective surface. I think the 70's are alive and well until reality makes a rare appearance in my mind. I've heard of worm holes as well, those cosmological oddities that link vast areas of time and space. Sort of like a moustache as well, spanning generations, nationalities, and often, gender. I never would have thought either time-warps and worm holes could have existed in Vietnam, or more specifically, Mui Ne.

They must exist though as it's a Russian revolution here, where the Ruskies are taking over the holiday resorts of their communist comrades. Questions were asked in Nha Trang about the overwhelming presence of signs in Cyrillic. Answers were found in Mui Ne where every non-Vietnamese was Russian. Drinking Black Russians every day only drove the point further home about Mui Ne being an Indochine Moscow. The point was hand delivered and signed for at the front door when we were constantly being addressed in Russian before English.

Having never been to Russia, it's difficult to comment on the 'normality' of the Russians we saw travelling. Their fashion sense could be called 80's disco tarted up to look semi formal, straining the eye sight taking in each outfit like staring at the sun. Attempts to blend in make the men look like they've raided Tutankhamen's wardrobe, and women prove the need to normally wear make up like a theatre mask. Most of the womens clothes are missing about a metre of material, thoughtfully making the most of natures limited resources.

The raping of resources happens in restaurants where a lifestyle of nutritional shortcomings are overcome with every meal. Four meals per sitting is the average order, with a table of four taking the title at a BrauHaus with 14 meals between them. Waiters were combining plates just to fit them on the table, making sure there was plenty of space for the half litre steins of lager that was washing everything down. More food was left untouched than what Uma and I would eat in a week. Had they wanted a doggy bad for the eight untouched plates, they would have needed a complimentary suitcase. We were unable to find out the real reason why the local crops and creatures were demolished when no non-American could possibly eat so much. Super sizing may be a relatively new fad but their girths would frequently prove otherwise.

To escape the gaudy clothes and harsh sounding syllables that could possibly be quite friendly in intent, we hired scooters twice more during our 10 day stay. Sand dunes don't sound that exciting as a tourist destination, but we chose to visit them for more than just the chance to fill the camera with sand. A 20km ride along the opposite coast line to our previous ride was worth it in itself. Plus, the bottles of vodka and Kahlua I had brought to play barman myself were not lasting as long as I had hoped, so I had to leave the poolside before whole Vietnamese families became dependant on my alcohol expenditure.

The red sand dunes were first, where the touts found us before we figured out we'd arrived. Sand surfing salesman nearly crash tackled our scooter as we slowed down to take stock of our surroundings. Rubber mats offer the ride of your life if the most exciting thing you've ever done was computer generated. The slopes weren't steep enough to offer much speed, but were far too sharp an incline to want to scale again for another slow second or two feeling how well rubber mats can grip sand. Seeing some other sucker wish sand surfing was a Wii game saved us from missing a nice sunset while trying to find a sand dune steep enough to want to ride.

Finding the white sand dunes proved to be far more difficult thanks the Vietnamese hatred of helpful signs. Luckily they laid near a beautiful lotus filled lake and choosing to head down an unmarked and unmade road in the rough direction of our destination proved to be a rare right choice. There was a big sign pointing to the White Sand Dunes car park like that was far more important and confirmed at the last possible moment that you had uncovered a well concealed secret.

There was enough touts and lazy youths lounging around to believe that any sort of business sense might have impelled one of them to point suckers in the direction of the white sand dunes location. Nah, and as just reward for actually making it there, not only did they not hassle you, they hardly served you when they had too. I guess no one tips a tout as that's often accounted for in their inflated foreigner price. Surf mats were strewn around like they were too tired to ride themselves, and few tourists troubled the tranquillity.

The dunes themselves were exactly what you think of when you think of piles of sand. The top layer was animated to exfoliate by a strong wind that Uma wasn't for once, responsible for. The white sands contrasted nicely with a blue sky, and the green lily pads that were punctuated by lots of large pink lotuses. Had such variation broken the monotony and desolation of the Mongolian Steppes I would have drawn a comparison.

The next day I wish I had drawn a map instead. We had sought out the sleeping Buddha of Takou Mountain on our first trip and settled instead for a rather unspectacular lighthouse. A polite and usually helpful travel agent had drawn us a map, finely detailing the route to the lighthouse that wasn't going to help us find anything other than more frustration. “Oh, you want to go to sleeping Buddha? Well, just go further that way'', she gestured with a wave that could have meant flying there was the only option.

Riding a few kilometres beyond what the Lonely Planet had stated the distance was in its precisely vague way, we were about to give up when the entrance appeared out of nowhere. Super stoked we had actually found something we were looking for, we splashed out on the deluxe package consisting of taxi, cable car and entrance fee; $3. The cable car lost out to VinPearl Land in length but scored points for better scenery as it scaled the side of the mountain.

To compensate for the humiliation of having a profoundly shorter cable car, a 49 metre reclining Buddha had been built 2 metres longer than the previous biggest one located in Wat Po in Bangkok. Instead of aiming for one-upmanship, a more solemn space could have been made if they invested some money in garbage disposal. The sanctity of the place was somewhat spoiled by large mounds of half burnt rubbish littering the site. Good thing the Buddha was sleeping and largely unaware of what little minded people were doing to his sacred space.

The ride back made me regret not knowing the name of the patron saint of road accidents. Thick clouds brought down the shades of night like God was scheming deviously behind them. Lights were constantly flashing out of nowhere, far brighter than the reflected candle light our scooter feebly put forth. All manner of bugs were using my eyeballs for target practice and car horns became an audible version of a bull-bar. Never do the bigger vehicles offer any sign of gratitude for yielding all but the very edge of the shoulder to them. Thanks enough is simply being allowed to live; something I was far more grateful for after finally making it home that night.

Tags: misadventures, on the road, sight seeing

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