The journey into Mui Nei was a typical Southeast Asian bus ride, it was overpacked and full to the brim of people, drove entirely on extremely bumpy roads and made Roxanne and I go crazy over our desperation for the loo as there were no toilet breaks the entire journey.
I headed to Mui Nei mainly for the elusive sand dunes, and to be quite honest saw not a lot else of the place due to our lovely hostel (Backpackers). It had a walkway around the pool which led onto a decked area literally over the beach, the views and weather were perfect and so relaxing after the storm that was Da Lat, so lots of time was spent here, sunbathing, eating and watching the windsurfers at play.
It was here I reunited with my friend Alex from Bangkok, we tested the local seafood fried rice and exchanged travelling stories from the last month. I brought him along and introduced him to Roxanne and Andrew, where within minutes of meeting we were all playing in the sea, rolling around in the giant waves and getting knocked off our feet. We met up with Alex and his friend Josh later on in the evening and headed off for dinner. Not long after sitting Andrew had the honour of being shat and weed on by a local bat hanging from the cafe ceiling, much to our amusement for the rest of the trip. Dinner led onto playing cards and drinking games by the ocean and hitting the local nightclub Banana Bar, which was a really cool outdoor cushioned bar, with an inside dance floor. It was an eventful night, involving me flying flat on my face after a round of limbo, a mistakenly lost (and eventually found) handbag, a giant thunderstorm, lots of bare chests and lots of lunging on the dance floor.
Surprisingly despite major hangovers the next day was a success, Rox, Andrew and I woke up and jumped in our jeep for the day with an Aussie chick, Frenchman and a bearded English guy. The first stop was the Fairy Stream, we were dropped off at the end of a smelly alleyway and walked off into the unknown. Finding a little shack, with wooden signs saying Fairy Stream we removed our shoes and walked straight into the shallow river. It was actually really nice, feeling the sand below and walking upstream chatting away with my jeep companions. We followed the river for several minutes before being hustled out by a local man offering to sell rides on his ostrich. I for one was not about to jump onto the back of a giant ostrich and my group members felt the same after seeing the damage the heavy leather saddle had done to the birds back and feathers.
We continued walking up the river, discussing the absurdity of the ostrich tourist ride and the owners obvious annoyance towards us, when we found ourselves looking at a giant sand cliff face, we could have continued walking up the river, but the cliff seemed to appealing. We climbed up the cliff, writing our names in the sand as we went, and reached the top for a beautiful view over the river, gorges and surrounding trees. It wasn’t normal beach sand, but a thick orange type which left us all covered after the pretty dangerous descent back down. At the bottom of the cliff we were met by a local kid, who called himself ‘Ian’ and wore a ‘Torres’ football shirt, he guided us to a little waterfall a short walk/climb away from the river. It was quite polluted and appeared to be the local hangout for teenagers, after Ian unsurprisingly asked for a tip we made our way back through the river, navigating the deep rocky areas to avoid completely falling in.
The next stop on our jeep day out was the white sand dunes, it was pricey to hire a quad bike (ATM) at 500,000 (£14) dong for twenty minutes, but we decided to do it anyway. Here I shared with Bryan, the Englishman, with whom I felt quite safe as he explained he was motorbiking the entire length of Vietnam.. Bryan drove first, with me holding on for dear life on the back as he revved and sped up the sand dunes. It’s hard to see with sand where the dunes actually start and finish, we sped up one of the largest dunes and immediately dropped down over the other side, speeding down into a giant bowl shaped dune. It was bloody scary. I no longer felt safe holding onto the metal tray I was sat on, and resorted to holding onto Bryan’s head instead-much more secure I think. It was crazy fun, and we headed back up to try it again, once at the top we met Andrew and Roxanne, who were also having a blast speeding over the dunes. Ten minutes in and it was my turn to drive, it was hard to control on the sand and within minutes I sent us flying into a big ditch which was actually quite steep, resulting in the quad bike on it’s side surrounded by the broken plastic body casing, and a cut on my leg.. Other than that we were both fine, and decided Bryan should drive for the rest of the time as I was far too shaky..and also quite bad at driving. After dropping the quad back off, we sat (I stood, due to still shaking) and looked out over the dunes we had just rode, it looked like a giant desert, yet right next to the sea, they were pretty impressive to see.
The next and final stop of the day was another sand dune, this one was even darker orange in colour and offered the chance to go sand sledging. I watched as others sped down on sledges, which are just large sheets of plastic, and Roxanne and Andrew had a race to the other side of the dune. It was a nice spot to sit and watch everything going on around me, and to contemplate how I was feeling about my trip. I felt so happy to have made such good friends, it eased any homesick feelings which occurred, but I knew ultimately I was here alone and would soon be saying goodbye to these 2 brilliant people, this hit home as I watched everyone playing in the sand around me, and is probably the hardest thing about travelling alone. Roxanne and I did of course eventually end up play fighting in the sand, rolling down the dune and pulling each other all the way down, bringing me back into present day thoughts, it was great fun and left us feeling excited and tanned as we were covered all over in the orange sand.
We only had one night paid for at our hostel, as our bus to Ho Chi Minh left at 1am, so after returning from the sand dunes trip Rox, Andrew, Bryan and I all jumped in the pool, played gymnastics and chatted away late into the night until it was time to say goodbye and jump onto another bus…