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VIETNAM | Saturday, 24 June 2017 | Views [187]

Mui Ne, Vietnam

Tre, my previous Homestay host, recommended that instead of traveling to a town called Da Lat in the mountains, I should go to the see the sand dunes in Mui Ne. He recommended this alternative because the Vietnamese were on holiday and Da Lat is their primary destination. I took his advice made plans for a small stopover to see the red and white sand dunes, a canyon walk, and a visit to a traditional fishing village. Other than those attractions Mui Ne didn't have much else to offer so two days was probably enough. Given the short amount of time I chose to stay in a hostel which are typically known for cheap shared dorm accommodations. The cleanliness and general layout can vary greatly between hostels. Most hostels are advertised on a phone app that searches multiple places in an area you are interested in staying. On occasion, the pictures and descriptions provided do not accurately represent the hostel, therefor, reading the reviews can be helpful, especially if a hostel has many reviews. I somehow missed the description of this hostel being described as a "party hostel", I think the name speaks for itself. Overall the accommodations were very clean. I shared an air conditioned room with three other girls who were fortunately not the party types. The evenings were a bit noisy at the hostel bar but ear plugs helped. Not all hostels have a bar, restaurant, and pool, but they tend to be included at the party hostels.
My one day in Mui Ne began with a sunrise jeep tour of the white sand dunes which were small but still unique given the sudden change in terrain. The red sand dunes were very disappointing given the litter covering the area and the warning to carry our backpacks on our chests due to pickpocketing as the vendors create a distraction by harassing you to buy trinkets. Preservation of natural areas in Vietnam is disheartening; beautiful areas are often completely disrespected. I saw this in Ha Long Bay and it continues to be visible in the streets, around housing, and in the natural landscapes. The trip continued with a visit to the fishing village. Fishing villages aren't actually villages but an area along the beach where local men, women, and children are tightly bunched preparing caught fish. While it appears like one big communal effort to prep the fish, typically individual family operations all at work in the packed area. The energy is active as the fisher men and women quickly work to get the fresh fish to the markets each day. Large antique looking fishing boats are seen further away from the shore and are uniquely painted red, blue, green, and yellow, with each boat different from the next. Smaller circular boats transported fish, crabs, shrimp, and other sea creatures I could not identify to the mainland. The catching and transport jobs were mostly performed by men while the women would separate and clean the fish brought in the large nets. Watching the routine was almost like stepping back in time, a generational practice passed down and unchanged in their lives. In one perspective it was fascinating see the tradition and in another saddening to know their lives will never be more than fish after fish everyday until they're too old to work. An impoverished life is a persistent theme in Asia and I can't decide if not knowing anything else creates a chronic suffering or stronger connection with family, religion, and the here and now. I believe I've mentioned this in other posts but I still can't get grasp on whether or not knowing nothing else is what makes them rich in life. This conversation may be easier to have with a more affluent local person but that's not the perspective I would like. My perspective of American culture tells me that having everything doesn't ensure happiness or connection with family and religion. I know there is no formula for contentment in life, but I suppose I want to see how other cultures value life and our existence.

The last stop was the Fairy Walk through a stream flowing in a small canyon with red sandy walls. The walk was pleasant but the real benefit was my new found friendship with two Irish gals on my jeep tour. I appreciated the interaction and sharing and laughing about our cultural differences. Later that evening I met them for dinner and we parted having exchanged information that later led to another meet up in Saigon. As I walked back to the hostel that night I walked along the coast, high tide was coming in. During the day the beach had many tourists but at night only a few visited, usually love struck couples. I enjoyed being alone and listening to the thunder-like sound as the waves crashed on the shore. I watched the waves unfold rolling from one end and down; the crashing that ensued just after the white crest appeared on the waves reminded me of the way a child jumps into the water, willing, effortless, and beautifully carefree. I began to laugh with an underlying sense of wanting to cry at the same time, an experience I welcome. I believe the polarity of these two emotions is a union where my core is fully appreciating life in that moment. I can't even say I strive to have that feeling again in the future, somehow I know there is no way to cultivate and recreate the experience. It
doesn't occurs at some cliche moment of "letting go" of all barriers in life. I'm honestly not concerned where it comes from, why it comes, and I do not seek method to recreate it. I just enjoy it.

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