Near H’ô Tràm, we picked a yellow cantaloupe like melon to eat later and continued northward.
As the fields changed from melons to spiky dragon fruit trees, we pulled over in a town to look for the roast pork sandwich stands mentioned in the Vietnam Coracle since I thought I had seen a pig sign. Rob pulled over in a shady patch outside a house to check the map. Turns out that a large group was lunching on seafood on the patio. They motioned us over to join their feast and plied us with beer and a variety of seafood. Luckily we had our recently purchased melon to share.
With a combination of the only Vietnamese we knew (1, 2, 3, cheers! – mot, hi, baa yo!) And the Lonely Planet dictionary, we managed some conversation. We learned how to say spicy and tried áwp/snail. Rob responsibly refused beer refills (the Vietamese think it is perfectly reasonable to have 5 beers with lunch and then get back on a motorbike, we disagree) and we managed to get back on the road north.
We stopped in Phan Thiet for a 10k dong bánh mi and an ATM before continuing on to the Mũi Né Backpacker Village. We paid a premium $25 for a large double room with en suite bathroom and access to a gorgeous pool across the road from the beach. The poolside was so pleasant we actually never made it to the beach proper. We played pool volleyball for awhile then tossed a football around. Dinner was a beach front restaurant (sand on top of a concrete pier) that served tasty and reasonably priced seafood and beer. Recommended by Lonely Planet, Lam Tong Restaurant was our go to spot for food and drinks with a view. The squid with garlic was so good!
We signed up for the sunrise sand dunes and more tour for the next day. It was slightly more expensive than the afternoon tour, but came with free breakfast and would allow us to spend the afternoon by the pool (and not baking in the sun on the dunes). Four am the next morning came quickly and it was a bit hard to drag ourselves out of bed in the darkness.
Stop 1: Sunrise at the White Sand Dunes. It wasn’t very peaceful with all the ATVs zooming around the dunes. The local drivers seemed to be enjoying driving erratically around way too close for comfort.
Stop 2: Red Sand Dunes. Not particularly memorable except for the horde of children trying to rent you sleds for the sand dune. The steep area isn’t very long so we skipped out and got a pho snack instead. Most of the other folks on the tour didn’t realize that there were a bunch of stops.
Stop 3: Mui Ne fishing village. 10 min stop to let our driver have breakfast and for us to take pictures of the scenic harbor and market.
Stop 4: The Fairy Stream. Wandering up a peaceful stream that emerges from the sand dunes. This was the other highlight of the tour, although some of the women were a bit squeamish about walking in the water, particularly with some livestock around.
Stop 5: Breakfast back at the hostel that was quickly followed by a nap.
We had lunch at Lam Tong and watched the plethora kite boarders and wind surfers sail across the water. Then, the afternoon and evening were spent enjoyable hanging at the pool. Dinner was a delicious and cheap bahn mi from a roadside cart as we wandered around the beach road. We saw a number of seafood restaurants, many offering crocodile shown with the full head attached but all skin removed from the body. Returning to the hostel, I killed Rob at cricket/darts and we met some fun Canadians and Brits also heading northward on motorbikes. The mozzies finally chased me to bed but Rob checked out a beach club with some of the other hostel folks. The next morning we left for Da Lat.