Ok, “Deathtrap Highway” might be a little extreme, but Highway 1A is really quite terrifying. Highway 1D back near Quy Nhon was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken, but 1A usually just involves lots of buses and trucks running me off the road in dire danger of falling into deep concrete ditches. And that’s just when I’m riding on the shoulder. The actual road is so run over by heavy vehicles that there are foot deep grooves making it feel like you’re riding between two deep speed bumps that you have to cross every time you change lanes. Terrifying stuff. It’s supposed to follow the coast but I’ve found getting off of it as much as possible to the actual coastal roads is definitely preferred.
This time following the coast more led me to the tourist trap and water action sport capital of Vietnam, Mui Ne. I got here during the not windy season though, so it was an eerie ghost town like resort town. I think there are more resorts than people at this point. Perfect, just how I like my resort towns, not full of touts selling me crap and tourists.
Mui Ne is a small fishing village nearby the bigger provincial capital Phan Thiet. Both produce fish sauce that I smelled for the last few days of riding. The smell of sun rotting fish is less delectable when it’s perfuming the air and not flavoring your food.
Mui Ne resort area is actually Ham Tien village along the water. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of a whole strip of resorts removing the locals and not giving public access to the water. Much like the Vietnamese, I think I prefer Phan Thiet with its public beaches and parks, restaurants, and less tourist town focus. There is more interesting stuff inbetween the two and in Phan Thiet.
I’ve heard about how the Vietnamese revere the whale and have elaborate burial ceremonies for the beached specimens they worship as gods. I found a temple in Phan Thiet (Van Thuy Tu) which claims Southeast Asia’s biggest whale skeleton (22 meters/66 feet) and has a shrine in front of a whole room full of whale bones! I hear the temple is often closed for various reasons and indeed I thought it was when I arrived. They were under heavy construction and the whale skeleton was under a tarp. A construction worker happily showed me around before handing me off to an old dude in what looked like his pajamas smoking. This guy talked my ear off not realizing I didn’t understand a single word but I enjoyed his enthusiasm. He handed me some incense and beat a huge gong like drum for me as I prayed to the whales. I’m not usually a temple person but I did enjoy this one. While Vietnamese will eat just about any animal unfortunate to wander into their sight, they will not eat whales because they are sacred. I’m surprised any creature in Asia is sacred enough to avoid that fate!
I’m glad I showed up in low season. The rain ruined my laying out on the beach, but I imagine the sand flies that have already bitten me silly would’ve done the same. I do enjoy being in resort towns (Vietnamese or foreign) as I feel like I can be in a bikini safely. The low season lack of people on the beach and generally around is nice too, if a little empty. I have to wonder why the nightclub next door still blasts music on the weekends til 1 AM though. Alas, I have finished exploring and eating here and will be moving quickly to Saigon and the Mekong Delta now. Onwards and away from the beach!