Fish Sauce and Sand Dunes

I always forget how much I like moving quickly through a region. I don’t get quite the same involvement with the locals as I would if I moved slowly, but because I am stepping from one place to another with relative speed, I get to take in the country as a whole, not a series of individual locations that I may or may not like.

I am currently reading a book called Catfish and Mandala, which is about a Vietnamese-American who returns back to Vietnam with his bicycle. He starts off the book by biking up the west coast, and I immediately identified with him. I find myself still having dreams about biking down the PCH-1 in California. Reading about biking is making me want to jump back on my bike right now.

Anyway, I am in Mui Ne, the fish sauce capital of Vietnam. If you don’t know what fish sauce is, consider yourself lucky. It is made by putting fish in a barrel to ferment for a while, then they mash them together and collect the runoff. This goes into bottles and is shipped around the country, where the Vietnamese (and the rest of the Southeast Asians) put it liberally on absolutely everything. It doesn’t actually taste so bad, but the smell is miserable. I mean, imagine fermented fish… blech.

Besides fish sauce, Mui Ne is known for its sand dunes and cliffs. We rented a motor bike and tooled around for a while, exploring back roads and the sand dunes. We took a sled ride down the dunes with some children who were playing on them, and had a blast. Once again, my camera is screwed, but I spent some time cleaning it and it is better now. I may pay to get it cleaned the right way in Bangkok before I go to Nepal.

Because we spent so much money ($9 each per night) on our nice place in Saigon, we opted to skimp last night, and used the hammocks we bought at the market to camp out between palm trees on the beach. The weather was perfect, and we just walked into one of the nice resorts on the beach today and used their pool as a shower. Chlorine does wonders for body odor… In the middle of the night we were woken up by a bunch of people asking if they could use the palm branches and coconut husks that we had piled up for our fire. We said yes, and watched lazily from our hammocks as they built a small fire on the beach and huddled around it. After a time, we got up and joined them. We had no idea what time it was, just that the moon had traversed the entire breadth of the sky by this point and there was still no pre-dawn light. We shared our crackers with them and they shared their fire. One of them was 70-years-old, which is ancient. The iceman mentioned that they had been around here for a long time, long enough to remember a lot of the crap that went on, so I when the one guy who could speak a little English asked where I was from, I told them Canada. Then we had to draw a map in the sand to show them where Iceland was.

We are waiting in the travel place to hop on a bus to Nha Trang, where we will do some SCUBA Diving…

The kids jumping off the Dunes

Some of the Boats in the Fishing VillageĀ 
fishing village
The interesting little round boats the fishermen use

My bed
Our hammock beds