KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We were thrilled to learn that there had been a last-minute cancellation at the beach resort in Mui Ne and that we would be able to spend two nights there, the first night being New Year's Eve. Donna and Duncan announced that the New Year's Eve dinner would be their treat. Things were really working out in our favour. It would not matter as much if Mui Ne was experiencing power cuts; we would be by the pool or on the beach in any event.
We travelled again with the Open Tour bus ticket and the bus even came to the villa to pick us up, along with all our luggage. We were hoping for a bigger bus, the one that arrived was only medium size with little room for luggage, so once we were seated the conductor stacked all the backpacks in the aisle between the rows of seats. Then, once we were out of Dalat, the driver kept stopping to pick up local Vietnamese passengers. It seems like it's a little racket on the side to earn a few extra Dong.
The trip was short and pleasant as we travelled on a new road that was built in the last few years to give access for the construction of a water pipeline that was just completed in August 2007. There was little or no traffic on the road and we made it to Mui Ne in just over three hours. Hurray, more time on the beach! We settled into our room and just as we were ready to head to the pool, I looked down from the balcony and saw that Duncan was already poolside with two cold Tiger beers waiting on a tray. Now there's a man with his priorities straight.
We had a great afternoon, lounging by the pool, playing Scrabble with Hunter (he opened the game with a seven-letter word - TRAPPED) and we had to fight hard to catch him. The waves were hale and hearty and before long, Anil, Duncan, Donna and the boys were body surfing in the South China Sea. I stayed out for fear of getting pounded by the surf. The waves broke dangerously close to the stone steps the hotel has constructed to prevent serious beach erosion. After breaking my arm six months earlier in Malaysia, I wasn't about to risk injuring it again, or any other part of my body for that matter. I stayed under the beach umbrella for most of the day and ventured into the pool now and then to cool off.
In the late afternoon we were chased away from the pool deck so the staff could set up the buffet and the tables for the New Year's dinner. It was great to have a shower and relax in our room for a while. The sunset was beautiful and the pool area looked even more lovely in the evening. The boys had their own room and they were happy to hang out there or in the Internet room where they could 'chat' their friends back home. The dinner was fabulous, an amazing buffet of Vietnamese and Western foods with an emphasis on fresh seafood. This wasn't really to our taste, but the others enjoyed the array of foods. There were door prizes, a small bit of dancing by young women in semi-traditional costumes and promises of festivities when midnight rolled around.
Well, to keep the suspense to a minimum, I should tell you right away that we all packed it in about 11:00pm. It had been such a long day, with the bus trip from Dalat and then several hours in the sun. That's our excuse, and we're sticking to it.
Early to bed, early to rise. Anil and I were up shortly after dawn and it was a lovely time of day to sit on the balcony and drink hot tea. The sea was calm and the beach deserted. It was a great way to start a new year. We met up with the gang at breakfast and enjoyed a great meal. The restaurant is really only open for breakfast so they put a lot of energy into making some lovely side dishes. Then it was time to drag ourselves out to the pool deck for a second day in the sun. An even better way to start a new year.
I was still nursing my bad cold so stayed in the shade reading my book while Anil walked with Donna and Duncan down the road towards the village looking for some aloe vera lotion to soothe Duncan's sunburned back. They came upon the local market and had a great time looking at all the stalls and trying to search out some aloe vera. No one seemed to have even a clue what they were asking for; it probably has a completely different name in Vietnamese. They were beginning to give up hope when Duncan spotted two or three small pots of aloe next to a stall that was closed.
Duncan tried asking the shop keeper next door how much he wanted for a piece of the plant but no one seemed to understand what he was getting at. Finally, he broke off a piece of the plant and offered money. They wouldn't accept it and sent him on his way. Anil imagines that it would be the same situation if Duncan were sitting sunning himself on his lawn one day, and someone came by and offered to buy some of the dandelions on his lawn. He'd just say - take them, and scoff at the idea of being paid for what is essentially a weed. Duncan came back to the pool with his aloe vera plant and the biggest smile on his face. It had been a great adventure. Donna came back with the cutest black and white hat. She had enjoyed the experience of shopping for it in the market too.
One more lovely night at the beach, and a great dinner at a restaurant next door. We had to check out the next morning at noon so we were at the pool early to soak up the rays. Before long, the men were back in the pounding surf and I suggest to Donna that we take a walk on the beach. She was concerned at the strength of the waves near the resort steps, but I urged her on. We just waited until a wave broke and retreated, and we scurried along to the quieter section of sand. Just a small distance along the beach we came upon the area where the fishermen pull their boats up onto the sand after a night's fishing. They were busy untangling their nets and sorting their gear. They paid little attention to us as we took pictures of their boats and continued walking along the beach.
It was a great time with Donna and over all too soon. We had to get back to the hotel, shower, and pack before time for checking out. We were almost back at the hotel steps when a wave washed up and swamped our feet. As I stepped to avoid the wave, my rubber flip-flop sandal popped off my foot and was carried out to sea. It was just a hotel issue sandal and I should have let it go, but when it was washed back into shore on the next wave, I chased it down and managed to grab it with my hand. Just as I did that, the receding wave sucked off my other sandal.
While all this was happening, I really wasn't paying attention to the surf and suddenly a rogue wave hit me square in the back, just after I had planted my left foot on the sand, pinning the floating sandal. Down I went with a twisting motion and the strain on my knee and ankle made me yelp. The worst thing was that I couldn't seem to keep myself from getting sucked out into the surf and was so relieved when two local men who must have been watching my antics with the sandals ran out and pulled me to my feet. How embarrassing!
Now I ask you, what am I supposed to do to avoid getting hurt on our travels? Should I trade in my passport for a rocking chair in a nursing home? Here were the guys in our group, body surfing and all I was doing was going for a walk on the beach. When we arrived at our hotel, Anil ran over to tell me about this huge wave that came out of nowhere and sent them all flying along its crest. What a thrill! Unfortunately, I had to tell him that it had almost crippled me. The look on this face said it all.
I just had to limp my way to our room, shower and change and when we went for lunch, I asked for some ice for my ankle. It really began to hurt when we boarded the bus for Saigon and I was happy to have extra-strength Tylenol with me to dull the pain. It was a long five-hour trip to the city and my ankle was stiff and swollen when we arrived. Not the greatest way to start a new year.
Hunter was a real help and lent a shoulder to me as I hobbled to our nearby hotel. I was able to rest for a little and then join the others for a great feast at the Taj Mahal restaurant. If was Donna, Hunter and Aidan's last night in Vietnam and we wanted to have a final meal together. Duncan and Logan had another two full days with us before their flight home. I went to bed that night wondering how my ankle was going to be in the morning and if this was going to be the injury that would sabotage our travel plans. It's not too difficult to get around with a broken arm, but it would be a different story trying to hobble up and down dozens of stairs on crutches. A terrible way to start a New Year, indeed.