Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sliding the Red Sand Dunes

Vietnam has a lot of stuff going on in a small country. We've seen quite a bit of it in our travels, from the limestone teeth of Ha Long Bay to the flooded plains of the Mekong Delta. As our time in Vietnam is coming to an end, we decided to travel with our friend Christiaan to Mui Ne, a town in Vietnam that is home to a geological feature we haven't seen yet, the red sand dunes.

After the lushness tropical goodness of the rest of Vietnam, we were surprised to come upon the otherworldly desert austerity of the red dunes at dawn. The only thing piercing the Mars-like quality of situation was the hordes of wealthy Saigon tourists being disgorged by the fleet of tour-buses arriving every 15 minutes. And the wedding pictures being taken at the top of one of the dunes. And the swarms of poor children renting pieces of plastic used to slide down the dunes. So, it wasn't so much Laurence-of-Arabia-solitude, but the pictures are really convincing, aren't they?

We did manage to hike away from the bulk of people, led by a group of great little kids who helped us find a great vista point for the sunrise and instructed us in the finer points of sliding down the dunes.

We were also fortunate enough to find an amazing resort in Mui Ne to round out our time in Vietnam. We had a beach front bungalow with a couch, and two beach chairs with a wide umbrella. What more can you really ask for? This place definitely ranks in our top 10 of most beautiful places ever. And No, Christiaan did not stay with us.

The real clincher: 8 dollars for a 1 hour massage on the beach. 'Nuf said.

Since Christiaan just finished his Massachusetts Bar exam, we decided to treat him to a beach massage. And so began the following dialogue, conducted in Vietnamese, translated by me for my American companions. I may have taken some dramatic liberties.

It is clear that everyone now assumes that Holly and Christiaan are married. My masseuse is a funny, good natured young lady.

Doannie's Masseuse: [to Doannie] So, are you married?

Doannie: Yes, that's my wife right over there.

DM: [incredulous] Really?

Doannie: [gesturing towards Christiaan] But that tall white guy over there? He's single.

DM: [coyly] I have been waiting for a tall, handsome American to come and sweep me away. What kind of women does he like?

Doannie: Hey Bubs, what kind of women do you like?

Christiaan: I like talkative, fun girls.

Doannie translates.

DM: [Excitedly] Oh, I am very talkative and fun.

Christiaan: But I live in Boston, and it is very cold.

DM: [as if speaking to a dense child] But if two people love each other, it doesn't matter. If you come back in two weeks, I will learn to speak English for you. If you say that you will accept me, I will spend a sleepless night, restless with excitement. If you say no, I will come to this beach and drown myself in the ocean. [thank goodness, she was laughing through this]

Christiaan: [with the fervor that comes when you only know one Vietnamese word that happens to come in very handy at this moment] Khong! Khong! (translation: No! No!)

But it all turned out well in the end, with no broken hearts, but rather, with an unfinished bridge between two ships passing quietly in the night. I might also add that I think that Christiaan owes me for a translators fee and because my massage suffered as my masseuse's attentions were decidedly elsewhere.

Plus a couple of random pictures: Here's the highly illogical Vietnamese fishing boat. Basically a floating donut.

Here's me learning how to kite-surf.

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