photography, travel, Vietnam

How did we make it through 3 days without Luu?





The last stop on my month long tour of Vietnam was Mui Ne, a beach about 5 hours from Saigon. 

The two couples and I stayed in a darling little hotel right on a beach filled with eclectic items, because who doesn’t love a romantic weekend for 5. We were jumping through the warm waves when Vivi was stung by a giant jellyfish.  Daniel ran to the hotel office to see if they had anything to help her. The owner gave him a bowl of soy sauce. I’m not so sure it help her. We guessed that the jelly fish that got her was one of the 3 huge clear ones that we saw  floating throughout the water… not much desire to swim after that. There were also tons of scurrying crabs, a dead bat, a dead dog and lots of beautiful shells all over the beach.

We awoke early one morning to visit the sand dunes and red cliffs. We took a tour in a Vietnam War era American Jeep. It was quite a fun ride. We had left our shoes in the dirt under the shade of a lovely tree because the two kids who decided that they were our tour guides told us it would be a good idea. We figured they were right because we were about to walk through a shallow stream (full of cows). After passing the cows, they boys ventured off to climb a small sand hill. We all followed them, assuming we were seeing something that must have been worthwhile if they were going to have us track through the searing sand. No, oh no, no. We got to the top and they had us hang out there for awhile. Maybe to check out the view? I’m not so sure.  The kids had us stand on the top of this sandy hill, barefoot, with nowhere to stand in the shade.  I never saw anything because my feet were in such excruciating pain that I ran back down the hill to soak my feet in the cow river (really it was named the Fairy River, but none of us were quite sure why). The next morning my feet were still sore. The kids tried to get a tip out of me for our amazing tour, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I could not pay someone for causing me pain, even if it was a kid. After that, we visited both red and white dunes, both with the comfort of our shoes and at least a little bit of shade. They were quite beautiful and silky to walk through. At the white dunes, we enlisted the help of two young girls who had their brothers rent us plastic sheets to use a sleds. They then carried our sleds up the hill for us (folding them up on our backs and pushing us up the hill). When we got to the top, they held up the plastic sheets to give us shade. When it was time to go down, they would lay down our sheet, motion for us to get on and take our feet and push us down the sand dune, running down the hill chasing us so that they could get our sheet when we hit the bottom and help us walk back up the hill. Near the end, my girl must have gotten tired of running down the hill, because she dove onto my back after she had already pushed me and slid down the hill laying on top of my back. These girls got a good tip from me afterwards because I figured that every bit of sand that was uncomfortably stuck to my body was a reminder of the fun I had had with them. 
So that night we went to dinner at place that was full of people, so it had to be good, right?? I think this was when we all started to miss Luu, our tour guide. Daniel never got his food. When I went to the owner to tell him, he never once looked up while I was talking. When Vivi was given a plate of chicken and bacon, she grabbed the menu and pointed to the part (written in both Vietnamese and English) to where it said chicken and baby corn (which is what she ordered). Once again, the owner would not even look at her. She also never got chicken and baby corn. Also, nowhere on the menu was bacon listed. So by then we have all had enough and asked for the bill. Forty-five minutes later, we are presented with the bill. We were over charged. And by the way, Daniel also never received his food. At this point we assumed that explaining that we had been overcharged would be a fruitless endeavor. We paid exactly what we owed and ran out of there, no tip, no looking back.
The next day was our last. We had a bus to catch back to Saigon, so we went for lunch before our long drive. The bus was supposed to pick us noon at our hotel. At 11:50, we saw a bus that looked similar to the one that we took into town on it’s way to our hotel. We already knew that we were the only people on that bus who stayed that far into town, but assumed it must have been a different bus, because our bus was not to arrive for another 10 minutes. We leave at that time and walk back to our hotel. They informed us that, indeed, that was our bus and it had decided not to wait until our agreed pick up time and had left without us, but was stopping up the road. We called a taxi, rushed in and had him speed to the next stop, where we then waited for at least 30 minutes before the bus driver decided that he had had enough to eat, drink and smoke and that we were allowed to go. At a rest stop half way through, I had discovered that my wallet had been lost/stolen sometime during all of the afternoon’s excitement. It had my drivers license and about $20 worth of Vietnamese Dong. I had my passport and travelers checks in my luggage so I was not all that concerned. My flight was not to leave till 3 the next day, so I figured that I could change enough checks in the morning to pay for my last night’s hotel, food for the next day and the taxi ride to the airport. So, we leave the rest stop and continue on to Saigon, when the heavens release a flood. The only time I had ever seen water rise at such a rate was during my accident in Costa Rica, so this bus ride was not so amazing for me. From our dry, comfortable perch on the bus, we could see motorcyclists riding through a river of trash filled water that hit midway through their calves.

Eventually we made it back to Ho Chi Minh city for one last night. We all went to dinner for one last night together but we were too tired to go out after that. We also met for breakfast in the morning for last bowl of pho. Then, Neil, Hannah and I trekked around town to get our travelers’ check. By the time we hit the sixth place that told us that they did not cash travelers’ checks, I was in tears. I had 45 minutes before I had to leave the city for the airport and I still had to walk back to the hotel, pack up and hopefully shower after this sweaty run through a humid city. At bank number seven, we hit the jackpot. I cashed my checks, hugged my new British friends and ran back to the hotel with 10 minutes to pack, shower and call a cab. With all the commotion in the last few days, we joked that Luu had called everywhere we went to tell them to give us a hard time so that we would realize who much we had needed him.
I made it through customs with time to spare when I sat down to watch some Olympics while I waited for my plane to board. This is when I finally realized that a locket from David and my camera card from the first 2.5 weeks of the trip had been in my wallet. I sat and cried a little, so disapointed with the important treasures that I just realized were gone. With that, I was ever so grateful to walk down the fold out ramp when my flight to Japan was called. Despite the last 3 days, the first 3 were wonderful and I am thankful to Luu, my tour group and all of the lovely Vietnamese I met along the way who made my trip a great glimpse into the continent of Asia. 
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