Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Memorable Mui Ne

It was time for a weekend with friends. Business trips had run their course, the weekend was beckoning, Saigon was its normal bustling self, and the beach resort town of Mui Ne (mOO-NAY) was a mere 4-hour drive away. My friend Kevin was making his inaugural first flight to Vietnam to meet me and my local friend Chau was taking a much deserved break from the stress of planning her wedding, which will take place in October this year. The three of us needed to get away from what had become a vicious cycle of work and planning, so we put our sights on Mui Ne and didn't look back.

Inspired by the movie Easy Rider, Kevin and I ventured out on a much smaller scale and rented motor bikes while we were in Mui Ne. I am not sure which one of us was playing the role of Peter Fonda or Dennis Hopper, but you can trust that absolutely no one was scared of seeing these two motor bike marauders meander down main street. The resort that Chau booked for us was brand new and had only been open for six months. Each of us had our own plush bungalow with rich hard wood floors, rattan furniture, spacious surroundings, and a sea view. Just across the street were little seafood restaurants owned and operated by locals who prepared fresh catches of the day.

One of the great things about Vietnam is the food. It is so light, healthy, and of course tasty. Now a restaurant in Vietnam can be housed in a fancy French-inspired colonial shop house or it can be any patch of sidewalk where you can throw out some folding tables and stools. Chau took us to the later example and we loved every bite. Chau showed Kevin and me the finer points of how to create the perfect Vietnamese rice paper roll (see photo). There were plenty of delectable sauces to tempt the palate as well. Now Vietnamese are known for their relatively small physical stature, so the stools and tables they use reminded me of what a small girl from a Western country might use as Dollhouse Furniture. With our knees firmly planted under our chin, Kevin and I pulled up a seat alongside the locals and dug into one of the tastiest meals that we had on this trip. It was good fun and definitely worth the back ache.

As with most weekend getaways, eventually you have to come back to reality. In our case, Kevin and I had to head back to the airport in Saigon in preparations for departing back to Singapore. But before we did, we took a pit stop at one of the hundreds of local Vietnamese coffeeshops in Saigon. Vietnam is a country where you will never find a Starbucks because their local take on this global beverage is just so good that Starbucks would be out of business in a week. Vietnamese coffee is extremely strong and potent. The rich grounds are placed into a brewcup filtering device that is placed right over the top of your glass. You can actually see the filtered coffee enter the glass at your table. Most common is to have the coffee served over ice along with sweet condensed milk. When stirred together, this concoction is a tasty pick-me-up that always hits the spot when I visit Vietnam. The three of us were able to briefly relax at the coffee shop and reflect upon a relaxing weekend. The next day would bring back the familiar efforts of work and planning, but not just yet. There was still coffee to drink and laughs to share.


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