07 March 2011

What I Wake Up To Every Morning

From the window of my little room, I can see and hear the ocean which lies less than 50 yards from where I sit. Mui Ne is a bay without giant waves crashing on the shore. Still, I can listen to the constant ebb and flow of the water as it laps upon the sand and rocks me through the night.

In the continual warmth of the day, most often cooled by a gentle wind, I gaze up at the coconut palms backed by brilliant blue skies and wonder if there is anything more beautiful in the whole wide world.

I have no idea why it took me over six weeks in Vietnam to finally get to a beach where I know I belong. In part, I wanted to visit with friends and be in a place that I knew well which happened to be in the big city. And then there was the decision of which beach to go to. Contrary to what one reads in the guide books, I do not find the tourist beaches to be very alluring here. And I am just not up to roughing it on a secluded patch of ocean of which there is probably no shortage.

There are, of course, a few beautiful islands, but then you are stuck on an island, costs are high, and there really isn’t any local population to delve into, which is important for me when I travel.

It was around six years ago that I first came to Mui Ne. It was my first trip to a Vietnamese beach, it was close to Ho Chi Minh City where I was working, and friends told me it was lovely. I was happy to find a hotel that was away from the central area that everyone seemed to rave about.

I remember walking a few kilometers down the road to the “center” of tourist-town. It consisted of one hotel after another, no space in between. The beach was packed with mostly young ones drinking, surfing, parasailing, and sitting on the beach. It was not my scene; it had not been my scene even when I had been one of the young ones.

For me, the beach is solitude and waves, collecting seashells and meditation. When I was last here, I remember enjoying my somewhat isolated retreat where I could go out every morning to watch the fishermen pulling in their nets. I also knew that just a few years prior, this area had been only fishing villages and figured that in another few years even that stretch of beach would look like the crowded areas.

So that was my dilemma; where was I to find that elusive beach atmosphere with some of the conveniences but without the party-life and noise? I searched and searched on the internet and finally decided I might as well give Mui Ne another try. It was the right decision. Not everything in Mui Ne has been overbuilt. Sometimes one simply has to take the risk of ending up in hell to find paradise.

The fishermen are still here. They still go out in their little boats and still haul their nets in every morning. I like to sit at the beach entrance to my hotel and watch the morning rituals of pulling in the nets. But it makes me self-conscious; as if I am intruding on their time with the sea. Or maybe it bothers me that I am the rich gal who can afford to watch them work so hard for so little money. I want so much to capture it all on film, but it seems too invasive.

This morning I did go out and I did take pictures, along with several other tourists. But before I left the beach I handed one of the women a bit of money, thanking her for letting me take photos. I will never be comfortable with the rich gal status I carry with me when in countries like Vietnam. I only hope that I am making a favorable impression and not offending those who live here and who have called it home for centuries.