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Dunes, Diving & Custom Clothing

Saigon is a city torn: capitalism pulling it towards the developed world while the communist regime keeps it trapped in the past. So we left Ho Chi Minh City in yesteryear and moved north along the South China Sea.

Mui Ne - White Sanddunes - Ash Builds Up a Thirst Mui Ne - White Sanddunes - Lilly Pond - Man Wading Into the Water

First stop, the massive dunes of Mui Ne. Having not set an alarm, we awoke with the sun having turned our room into a sauna. A short while later, I negotiated a rental of a sick Honda Airblade moped for our exploration of the coast line. Thirty minutes along a deserted road and a fishing village’s bay jammed with junk boats revealed itself. The sight caught us off guard, what with all the uniform blue masts and yellow trimmed hulls. Further along, the unmistakable vision of giant sand dunes came into focus. The pavement gave way to a shifting granular surface that required Ash to walk while I carefully navigated the machinery across. We threw some Dong (Vietnamese currency) to three kids hanging around to safeguard our “hog” while we hiked the white dunes.

Mui Ne - White Sanddunes - Vietnam Boys Mui Ne - Fishing Village - Boats In Bay

Approaching an oasis pond full of blooming lilypads, we rented a rolled up piece of teal plastic that would serve as a sand sled. Twenty minutes uphill under the blazing sunshine and we reached our destination. We peered over the edge only to have the brilliant sand sculpture dissolve beneath our toes. I scoped out the sledding hill void of any snow and gave it the ‘ole college try only to humiliate myself by sliding all of five feet. Having learned from my initial failure, the second attempt can only be classified as a mild success. We opted out of additional winter sports atop the neighboring red sand dunes. It broke our hearts, but we reluctantly handed over the keys to the Honda Airblade and climbed to the top row (the bottom was crawling with roaches) of a sleeper bus bound for Nha Trang.

Nha Trang Beach - Woman Selling Lobsters Nha Trang Beach - Greg Chilaxing

Nha Trang - Ash Sipping Her BelliniOur hopes were high after reading that Nha Trang was Vietnam’s beach “paradise.” Our expectations were soaring. No beach could have lived up to the image conjured up in our minds. Yet we made the most of it by drinking “3 3 3” brand beers (pronounced ‘Ba Ba Ba’), consuming freshly grilled squid kebabs, and relaxing at the Sailing Club. We booked a two tank scuba dive at Hon Mun ($40!), located a short distance from Nha Trang. Being the only two certified divers, Ash and I were treated to a private guide of Vietnam’s intriguing underwater world. Armed with a digital underwater camera, the ocean became our playground. For a reason unbeknownst to me, Ash began an underwater flying exhibition, her arms out as if she was performing the angel balance. Chuckling with a respirator in your mouth and mask suctioned to your face causes some serious problems when forty-five feet beneath the surface. But I had no choice but to laugh.

Nha Trang - Diving Hon Mun - Greg's A+ Entry Nha Trang - Diving Hon Mun - Moray Eel

Nha Trang - Diving Hon Mun - Ash FlyingWe came across a zebra striped sea snake slithering across the ocean floor, examined straw coral, swam alongside a turtle, and even had starfish in our hair. Just when we thought we had enough fun, Huy (our diving guide) instructed me how to fill my BCD vest with enough air to stand upside down underneath the dive boat. It was an odd feeling being underwater, feet firmly against the hull, and breathing normally. Ash and I agreed that it wasn’t the best diving, but certainly the most fun. It was supposed to be a quick jaunt back to Nha Trang. That was until the engine refused to start and the dive boat had to be towed back to shore. So Nha Trang wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Could have fooled us.

Nha Trang - Diving Hon Mun - Ash Holding Rock Starfish Nha Trang - Diving Hon Mun - Greg Stirring Up Clown Fish Nest

Hoi An - Ash Getting Fitted for Her Gorgeous White CoatOne long overnight bus later, we settled into the tailoring capital of SE Asia, Hoi An, Vietnam. It was Ashley’s dream come true for four days of non-stop shopping. The town itself is beautiful with its French architecture painted a faded burnt yellow. Some roads are paved, others cobblestone, and most are dirt. Yet they all offer the same product: cheap, custom fit, quality clothing. The first day was spent examining twenty plus shops comparing craftsmanship, cost, and specialties. We hit the streets early the ensuing morning negotiating prices, trying on prototypes, and being fitted to ensure ample time was available to evaluate our goods the next two days. All this shopping made the man accompanying this ravenous woman thirsty. Ah… I discovered a local beer joint offering mugs of refreshing lager for just $0.18! Ash was happy, I was even happier. With cold and cheap beer at our fingertips to keep the good times going, behold our shopping spree spoils:

Hoi An - Yellow Streetscape Hoi An - Suit Fabric Choices

Hoi An - Greg Trying on His Gray Pin Stripe Cashmere Suit- Three dresses (deep blue, pink, baby blue) for Ash and her sisters (Kiley & Bailee) – $15 each

- White wool winter coat with blue silk insert and embroidered (Ash) – $55

- Long pink casual shirt (Ash) – $18

- Gray pinstripe cashmere suit with embroidery (Greg) – $90

- Navy blue pinstripe cashmere suit with embroidery (Greg) – $90

- Button down shirt (Greg) – $12

- Long light blue dress (Ash) & long yellow dress (sister-in-law Kim) – $22 each

- Deep blue silk cocktail dress (Ash) – $45

- Black travel shorts (Ash) – $22

- Brown corduroy blazer with embroidery (Greg) – $30

- Button down boy shirt (Ash) – $12

- Blue silk nightgown with our friend Amy’s (recently married) new initials embroidered – $19

- Shipping clothes & assorted items to three different USA addresses – $120

Hoi An - Ash's Coat Prototype Hoi An - $0.18 Beer, So Good, We Were Repeat Offenders

We treated ourselves to all of Central Vietnam’s offerings: dune sledding, underwater merriment, and a brilliant new wardrobe. A breath of fresh air… until troubling Hanoi.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

  1. Arriving in a new and strange place with no accommodation booked can be fun and exciting. Except when the clock strikes midnight and you find yourself riding on the back of a moto searching for a guesthouse, relying on the integrity of the driver. Such was the case as we rolled into Mui Ne, Vietnam. Since that episode we have pre-booked lodging when arriving after sundown.

  • World Wide News Flash

    Dunes, Diving & Custom Clothing…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)

  • Connie Hum

    Incredible! I'm literally “following your footsteps”! I'm in Mui Ne now and will probably be in Nha Trang sometime next week, after heading to Da Lat first! I really hope to catch up to you guys and meet up for a beer!

  • fofs

    Connie – How did you like Mui Ne & Nha Trang? We skipped Da Lat, so are anxious to hear how it was. Happy travels!

    - Greg & Ash

  • Kelly Harmon, TRAVEL

    Enjoyable blog Greg & Ashley!

    I didn't make it to Saigon or Nha Trang; ended up focusing on northern Vietnam… such an exotic and unique place to travel. riding a rental scooter in the busy streets of Hanoi, hiking with the indigenous hill tribes in Sapa, custom-tailored clothes and a culinary odyssey in search of Hoi An crabs at Quan Nhan, etc. BTW, I completely agree about the skilled tailors in Hoi An. they're genius! my only regret was not having more room in my backpack.

    cheers! @hiptraveler

  • fofs

    Kelly – You are quite the brave and skilled gal renting a moto in Hanoi. You are nuts! Loved your Flickr site, great photos.

    Greg & Ash

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