Vietnam Fun (Or Not Really) Facts
As kitesurfing becomes more and more popular, people are starting to venture outside their countries (and comfort zones) in search of new experiences, different riding conditions and this unique little something that makes a kitetrip an unforgettable experience. And so, more and more kite travelers hit the shores of Mui Ne, Vietnam, a curious land where motorbikes rule the streets, where everyone can be a millionaire and where censorship is still perfectly alive and kicking.
The air there is hot and moisty, iced coffee almost unbearably sweet and seafood as popular as McDonalds back home. It is a land of magic, in its pure and unravished form, and like every neverland country, it has its own rules and regulations which make life in its madness a once in a lifetime experience. I could write pages and pages on Vietnam here, but instead I'm going to focus on 10 things that I personally find most useful/interesting to know. It's not much, but maybe - just maybe - it's this little push YOU will need to book YOUR ticket and go there to see all of that for yourself.
Puppy one, puppy two, one for me and one for you...
If you ever see a dog in Mui Ne that is more than one year old, you can consider yourself lucky. Puppies are everywhere, on the streets, in the households, running free in the restaurants... but grown up dogs are very rare. Why, you ask? Well, turns out it's not just a gossip that Vietnamese have a taste for dog meat. And even though it might be repulsive to some people, this is just a cultural thing that one has to accept. Some countries eat horses, some eat dogs... Most dogs are transported to Saigon or some other big cities, but I'm sure if you looked, you could find some barking meat&rice in Mui Ne as well. If you are (like me) not interested in this kind of 'local cuisine', you can always try crocodile meat - it's not bad at all and tastes a lot like chicken!
On bikes, helmets and vietnamese driving licences
In Vietnam motorbikes are way more common on the streets than cars. Wearing helmets is obligatory both for the driver and the passenger – if the police stops you and you don’t have a helmet, a standard $10 fee is charged. If they check you for a vietnamese driving licence (which in most cases you obviously won’t have) they will confiscate your bike and you will have to pick it up at the police station later after paying a fine. Helmets can be bought almost everywhere and they are pretty cheap, but most of them are just a colorful piece of plastic with a strap, so they provide zero protection in case of an accident.
On food and where to get it right
Mui Ne has lots of small local restaurants with delicious Vietnamese food. It's usually just a few tables in front of someone's private house, where all the food is prepaired by the members of the family. If you want a more 'social' experience, Lam Tong is THE place where everyone goes for breakfast/lunch/dinner/late night snack. The food there is very good and very cheap - banana pancakes with milk, tofu with lemon grass and chili, chicken or pork in claypot, fresh springrolls, lemon juice, jinseng pineapple milk… the possibilities are endless. I've been going there for a few months and it never got boring... The only downside of Lam Tong is the waiting time – sometimes you would get your food very quickly, but usually you have to wait way too long, especially if the restaurant is pretty crowded. It's not that bad though, as in Lam Tong you can always see familiar faces from all over Mui Ne – chances of sitting bored and alone at table are close to zero :)
On rum and other pleasures
Rum is THE thing in Vietnam. It's cheap, very common and really popular. Mixed with coke and ice, it is the standard must have on every night out. Perfect while playing pool or relaxing on beanbags in one of your favourite clubs. Prices in shops range from 20.000 to 80.000 ($1-$4) for a bottle, but if you know where to go, you can find a small rum factory in Mui Ne where it's possible to buy it for even less... funny country, where alcohol can be bought cheaper than water.
On money and other weird things
It is the thing that confused me profoundly right after I’ve arrived. Jesus Christ, so many zeroes on every single note! One dollar is roughly 20.000 here and yet, for 1$ you can buy 2 bottles of water OR a bottle of rum OR 4 coconut cookies OR a sandwich OR four cups of sugarcane juice… and if it wasn't enough, money in Vietnam is waterproof, which means you no longer have to worry that you forgot a 100.000 note in your boardshorts and went for a ride. It's very convenient while organising downwinders - just take some cash with you, kitesurf as far downwind as you want and then catch a taxi back!
On pubs, clubs and places to be
Mui Ne is famous for its night life. Pubs and clubs are everywhere, all you have to do is decide what do you want to do - play pool, drink, have a swim in a heated pool or maybe dance like there's no tomorrow? It's all there, either within a walking distance or a short bike ride away. The pub I personally fancy the most is Dragon Beach. Even though its name changes a few times every season, this pub is absolutely the best to hang out with friends in the evenings. Open air area with beds, beanbags and a pool table is perfect for chatting and meeting new people. Everyone ends up there at some point of the evening. Happy Hour from 8PM till 10PM.
On waves and places where all the surfers go
Some say that the most popular kitesurfing area in Mui Ne is too choppy for waveriding. But even if you are going to become one of those people, fear not - about 20 minutes bike ride from the town, right after Mui Ne fishing village, there is another kitesurfing spot perfect for waveriding. It's called Malibu and it is THE place where surfers usually go. The waves there can get up to 3m, which creates nice surfing/waveriding conditions. Freestyle fans can find there something for themselves too – the water is flat between the waves, just perfect to try and land that new trick you've been practicing for so long! If you ever go to Mui Ne, don’t forget to ask locals about Malibu, it’s definitely a spot you have to see.
On what to drink when it's 30 degrees
Cold, refreshing, flavoured somewhere between sweet and sour. Costs only 5.000dong (25 cents). Iced sugar cane juice is one of the Vietnamese guilty pleasures and if you haven't tried it, you haven't tried the flavours of Vietnam. Prepaired right in front of you in a special machine, it quenches your thirst like nothing else!
On fruit and how to get your daily witamin fix without spending loads
Being a hot, sunny and humid country, Vietnam is a great place to grow all kinds of fruit. Pineapple, watermelon, dragon fruit, mango, this country is definitely a vitamin rush paradise. You can buy fruit in every shop, on all the local markets or from one of the old ladies carrying fruit platters up and down the beach. There are stalls selling smoothies on every corner and all that for 20.000 ($1) only... If you're looking to buy a lot and as cheap as possible, take a morning ride to one of the markets in town - great selection and fresh fruit deliveries every day!
Row, row, row your boat
Blue or black, wooden or plastic, round, coconut-shaped local fishing boats. There's just no way you could miss them in Mui Ne, as they are everywhere. They have no engine or a normal helm or a rudder – only one paddle attached at the back, which can be moved from left to right, making the boat move forward. Sounds easy, but in reality steering those things is really difficult – make one wrong movement or two and you will end up going in never ending circles. Ask one of the locals for a ride on their boat, might be a good chance for a new experience!