It’s Not all About the Destination.

It’s also about great company. I met these girls in Ho Chi Minh City and we all happened to be traveling to Mui Ne, a city on the backpacker’s trek up north. One left the night before and one came with me the next morning on a sleeper bus. I stepped onto the bus to view rows of beds! Though it had a slight stench, I couldn’t help but wished all buses were sleeper buses, where there are two-tiers of beds- one to each person.

Four and a half hours later, we were dropped off at a restaurant where they told us we had to stop and eat, switch buses and then take us the remaining thirty minutes to Mui Ne town. I ordered rice, which at this point I no longer crave. Waited. Waited..and waited. After an hour, all of us travelers were frustrated, where was this bus and why would we stop just 30 minutes away from the destination?

After a few arguments and heated exchanges between the bus driver and travelers, we decided to google map how far the hostel was. Of course the bus driver lied and the hostel was 1.5 km away. Instead of paying another ride, we decided to trek on foot, carrying 40 lbs. of backpacks in hot heat. Let me tell you how much I resented myself for packing so much. Finally after a twenty minute walk, we walked into our hostel which unexpectedly was paradise. I’m talking an infinity pool lined with lounge cgairs and backpackers soaking up the sun, a restaurant which also had a giant movie screen and sitting area to watch awesome movies at any time of the day and a game room stacked with darts, pool and foozball. All for the low price of $6 a night!

I spent the entire day lounging and didn’t leave the resort-like hostel until night time when I went in search for dinner. By that time us three friends recruite two more amazing travelers- an Aussie and German. We went against the backpacker law and went for Mexican food ( which was definitely not Mexican food). After, three of us we dressed for a night out on the town at a place called Dragon Beach Bar.  We walked into a bar that was on the beach front, completely exposed with these giant beds each group can take up, bean bags lined up so you are directly staring at the beachfront and two dancefloors, each for your enjoyment.

We chose the beds, some shisa and buckets of alcohol ( yes, buckets of alcohol are served in Southeast Asia). We sat for hours talking, sharing stories, laughing uncontrollably and in those moments I couldn’t be more thankful for the company I was with. It made me realize that each place is amazing in itself that I go to, but the company I share those moments with make it twice as memorable. We had so mmuch fun that we didn’t realize the clock turned three.

Oh no, two of us had a sunrise tour that began at 4:30 am. We laughed it off, partly from the night we had and partly to say ‘Oh God, today will be quite the day’. The next hour dragged on slowly, us staying awake and preparing our electronics to see the notorious red sand dunes that are found in thise town. More people began to circle around, waiting for the tour guide to get us. My luck, it was a completely exposed jeep without any windows and I had planned this sand dune outfit to be a beautiful white dress to contrast the sands in all the right ways. Only this outfit did just the same against the wind-complete opposites. The cold early morning wind hit my skin like bullets and sitting in the trunk, the only shield was to crouch down low to have the trunk block the wind from hitting me. I dodged in and out of sleep until finally we reached the sand dunes.

We walked sleepily over to where there was a bunch of quads that would take us to the sand dunes. Instead of taking us directly to the dunes, they drop us off and give us the option to rent a quad or walk. Traveling for so long, I’ve developed a new tactic to help save money. I translate the costs in to this- I can spend that money ($6) or I can pretend someone is paying me to walk $6 and so it’s like a job that I’m working. I opted to earn money. Walking across dunes with no sleep proved more challenging with each step and so Lise, my friend, began to blast “I would walk 500 miles” to help motivate us during the walk. We began singing and dancing our way to the top of the dune where we awaited sunrise. Though it was overcast it was still beautiful. The main attraction was the sight of all the sand I was surrounded by, tons of white sands to fool you into thinking you were in Saudi Arabia. It was quite amazing. We snapped photos, GoPro a video of us running down a hill and I made the decision to roll down the side of the hill, as if I was a kid rolling down the side of a grassy hill.

I left with a crunchy taste in my mouth, an outcome of my sand dune rolling. Apparently we walked too slow and so we were picked up by the tour guide and given a ride on the quad back to the front where we would go to the next destination- the red sand dunes.

The red sand dunes were smaller than the white, but having only seen white sand this was the cherry on top! I had never heard of red sand ever existed, let alone in Vietnam. It was everything I had hoped,  the beauty of the sand with it stretching for so long that you can choose which sand dune you would like to conquer, sit on and marvel at all the beauty around you. We even had rented a sled-like slab in which we can sled down the side of a dune. As soon as  I reached the bottom, I turned back and saw a 70 year old Vietnamese lady plunging down the side on her belly. All I could even think were that I hope remain a child at heart at that age.

We finished and moved on the fishing village just to see it. Vietnam is apparently his on seafood, and at this bay, they had dozens and dozens of fishing boats that littered the entire sea. Many of which were oddly shaped, instead of the typical shape of a boat, these were round like floating soup bowls all painted these vibrant colors. I took a look around, seeing hundreds of Vietnamese people on the shores with the traditional Vietnamese hats on and bowls filled with sea creatures from crabs to snails.

I moved along the shore then saw a man running with a huge eel in his hand. He runs past me towards a pole and the next second he swings the eel like a bat against the pole repeatedly. I gasped just hearing the crunching sound of it being beaten to death and fled immediately, unable to watch anymore gruesome sights. Being a vegetarian, I feel my reasons are constantly expanding. To know that we give little acknowledgement to killing live things makes me despise eating meat to a whole new degree.

The last destination helped buffer the previous sad scene I had witnessed. Lise , Isabelle and myself got out of the jeep and walked towards the fairy stream where we walked in water that went to our ankles and was surrounded by there fairy shaped dunes. They looked magical, laced with white and red sand, made in the shape of upside down icicles. It was so peaceful and calming to walk along such shallow water with nothing to do but admire the natural formations.

And to think I could have had been motivated to make it through that day if I wasn’t with the right company? So I must repeat, it is great to travel solo, but what makes it that much more amazing is meeting like-minded people to laugh and venture right along with you!

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