ceF in vietnam – part 6
going coastal

October 23rd, 2010 · 16 Comments

one of the many astounding things i see in vietnam everyday…

i arrived in mui ne 2 days ago. it’s a haul from saigon, about 4 hours and i swear my driver takes valium for breakfast because he somehow manages to drive below the already painfully low speed limit. on the upside this allows me to practice a more zen approach to getting from a to b, which really, if it took, would be a very good thing for the likes of me who pretty much puts the pedal to the metal every chance i get. and then there’s the other benefit of the speed of life here in vietnam – i get to see everything around me for just a little bit longer.

i keep noticing how vietnam has its own static pace. whether you’re in the cities, in a village or on the water, the level of energy here feels constant. somehow this country has a certain grace to it. i feel it everywhere and it remains seemingly unchanging when i move throughout this land. vietnam just is.

for right now my travel adventures have been simple ones consisting of daily tasks such as finding a banh mi for breakfast (.50 and damn good), some aspirin (not as easy as you might think) and a few small custard apples for lunch. looking back, each of these little events were strangely fascinating in their own way – and i never so much as thought to pick up my camera. perhaps it’s all becoming ever so slightly familiar… could that even be possible?

the view from the door of my room

this place was right smack on the beach and really, just a perfect location. so there i was in my little bungalow with nothing around me but the sound of crashing waves. being that no setting could have topped this, and being that i was also a bit road weary and sleep deprived, i decided to order room service – take a chance on the food and sit out on my patio and have dinner.

if one were not to care about food, one may have enjoyed this immensely. case in point: here is a picture of my salad…

ok. the colors have been altered a bit to make this flashless night shot viewable. but what we have here is a squid salad. iceberg lettuce, tomato wedges, and chunks of battered and fried squid. it was dressed with that flawless concoction of lime juice, water, fish sauce and sugar – but still… c’mon. where are the fresh herbs? the cucumbers… and why was it fried?

to follow came a whole steamed fish on a platter which was very good and fresh. mui ne is a working fishing village – more on that in my next post – so one can expect great seafood here but the sauce was thickened with corn starch or the likes thereof and then ridden with this knorrs seasoning powder that is used over here with abandon. oh well. it was dinner and it was kind of fun in its own handicapped way. the setting was incredibly romantic and dining alone on the beach, sitting outside with the palm trees swaying in the night breeze is an interesting psychological exercise…

yesterday i didn’t follow michael’s advice and i allowed myself to be enrolled in mui ne’s cooking school on the beach. these classes are offered in nearly every town and it seems they all pretty much teach you various versions of pho, spring rolls and a salad, along with garnish cutting techniques. the instructor was sweet as she could be and reminded me of a little vietnamese wind up happy doll. her english was so heavily accented and lilted with cheeriness that i understood very little of what she was saying. 

the high points were twofold. a coconut smoothie over ice and ulricke, a very cool german woman who i went out to dinner with last night. she is lovely and we were up until 2 am drinking wine, sharing photos and swapping stories. 

ok, we talked about men. a lot.

banh xeo, a rice flour pancake with turmeric, stuffed with sprouts and shrimp

tomato skin flower. this was the instructor’s handiwork. i passed on making one of my own because i am of a rebellious nature… 

the salads here are my favorite. this one had shrimp and squid. the red pepper garnish magically reappears…

and there was more. but really, just being on the beach and in that environment was fun and funny and well, kind of wonderful. 


where we had dinner… super cheap and right on the beach… the vietnamese are very big fans of very bright lights. this, i could live without…

$11 bottle of wine. completely drinkable. the toilet paper napkins were more foreign to me than anything else last night…

grilled squid with lemongrass and chili sauce over sliced cucumbers. perfect.

and there were puppies! and this little guy and i hit it off bigtime. and then he crashed hard on my handbag.

he and i have a dinner date this evening…


Tags: asian · travel

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amy (Minimally Invasive) // Oct 24, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Claudia, I love this series of yours more with each post. Your writing’s hit a whole other level here, and dare I say makes me want to visit Vietnam even more than I already did. Continued safe travels to you…and post more puppy pix if he’s still lurking around!!

  • 2 homegrown countrygirl // Oct 24, 2010 at 5:21 am

    Really enjoying your travel stories and pics… thanks for sharing your journey! (What a cute guy your date is!)

  • 3 Tim Johanson // Oct 24, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Once again i am entranced. Are you sure this Michael guy is all he’s cracked up to be?

  • 4 Terry Moran // Oct 24, 2010 at 6:58 am

    Claudia, love being transported by your writing and your pictures. There is a wonderful rhythm to your writing. Thanks for giving us a peak into your life.

  • 5 flutter // Oct 24, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Claudia, I have to tell you that you are inspiring me so much with this trip and your open spirit.

    Oh, and cute puppies NEVER hurt.

  • 6 Angela Kaset // Oct 24, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    you’re a writin, shootin’, eatin’ fool. Never stop.
    And yes, drive slow. It makes life seem longer.

  • 7 ethel // Oct 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

    There’s so much to say to you but to sum it up
    Keep those photo’s coming and Claudia your writing is ready for a cover story in Travel and Leisure. I am loving it all. The photo of the chickens on the bike is fabulous. The room on the beach after a long ride had to be heaven, I could go on and on ,,, STAY WELL .

  • 8 Lesley // Oct 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Yes, please keep it up. I’m enjoying your trip quite a bit!

  • 9 Joan in the 88th Street Zone // Oct 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Hi Claudia,
    When I was there in ’04, the avian flu was The Big Concern, so I smiled at the opening photo. Everybody in the autumn of that year crossed the street when they encountered chickens! I used to write about the flu every year, and it’s still presenting in certain places this year. But I don’t think any chicken would dare mess with you, Claudia, fearless, adventure-magnet that you are. Keep lovin’ the universe, which is obviously lovin’ you back in Viet Nam.
    xoxo, Joan

  • 10 Rachel (S[d]OC) // Oct 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

    *Phew* Finally caught up with all of your Vietnam posts. (One of those things I kept saying I needed to block out time to read and then they just kept coming…) Just gorgeous. The food! The people! Even the weird icky food looked beautiful. I was pleased that not all of those dogs ended up as dinner too. Thanks so much for sharing this. I think it’s wonderful that you had such a yen to see a place after hearing about the food and you made it happen (sounds a bit familiar actually…)

    Can’t wait to read more!

  • 11 yveala // Oct 29, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    wonderful, wonderful and more wonderful…the photo of the chickens – wow – great view – great looking food, and a friends – it’s all…well..wonderful! remember details, i’ll want them when you get home…take care

  • 12 Aunt Flora // Oct 31, 2010 at 9:09 am

    We enjoyed your latest entry and photos! You’re really amazing and I agree with Ethel that you’re ready for a feature story in a travel or food magazine. You open doors to a world that most people never would explore. When I think of Vietnam, images of the war come to mind. With your blog, I now have a different perspective of this country as it is today. Continue this new chapter of your life and journey in good health. Quite an adventure and what beautiful displays of the fresh food. Thanks for sharing!

  • 13 reina @36 // Nov 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    What a wonderful read this has been! Though not sure about your “date” with the pooch?….hope that’s not the fret part.

  • 14 Chris // Nov 2, 2010 at 8:42 am

    So far, this has been the best vacation that I have never taken.

  • 15 Eric // Nov 4, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    The photos are just amazing, I love the picture with all the chickens on the Scootter!!!
    Love to visit one day!

  • 16 Leslie Ellis // Nov 14, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Yes, American is incomprehensible when accented and lilted with cheeriness. And the Knorr’s soup thing…I can only imagine how you might have been planning to fix that dish! Puppy on the purse? Priceless.

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