Nhân Thành in Ninh Thuận

I present you – Mui Dinh beach – arguably one of the most secluded beaches in south Vietnam. The adrenaline junkie in me didn’t let this opportunity go – to capture this hidden gem in this risky angle.

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How did I find that spot? Let me go back in time and please read through this blog how it unfolded.

My skin was longing for fine sand and salt water. 2 months of no beach was really taking its toll in my sanity. Lo and behold one of my students and turned out to be one of my closest Vietnamese friends, Nhân Thành aka Paul, randomly invited me to his hometown in Ninh Thuận province. Hence the title (sige paki bigkas po ng title 10 times). K thanks. He wanted to tour me around and meet his family – well that escalated quickly. Lol! I wouldn’t mind the language barrier, trust me, especially since this view was waiting for me. Overlooking Ninh Thuận province…

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Who was I to say no? Of course, I was defo on board. We booked the sleeper bus tickets and off we went to a new adventure. Ninh Thuận is approximately 300 km from Ho Chi Minh city and I didn’t see much on the way cos it’s pitch dark, so I just slept all the way through. When I got off the bus, the province was slowly waking up and the early risers were already on the church to attend mass. Yup, that’s my first time in a sleeper bus in Vietnam, good thing Paul took a stolen snap clearly showing how settled I was at my spot. Not really, I am 5’7″ (170cm) and the couch was kinda small for me especially when I tried to straighten my legs. What more for the Caucasians?

After breakfast, Paul took me to Cham temple tower, Po Klong Garai, near the coastal city of Phan Rang by motor bike. It took us around 1.5 hours to get there under the scorching heat of the sun. But with this view and complex architecture dating back to around the 13th century, I didn’t complain.

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I marveled at the temple’s beauty and was so dumbfounded up to a point where I ventured to some places and took photos which were off limits, oops. Like this one –

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Anyhoo, the guard was so understanding,  he let me get away with it. So don’t be like me, travelers, be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t jeopardize your stay in a foreign land for the sake of Instagram. I was pretty sure this one below wasn’t a restricted spot, check out how masterfully the bricks were stacked –

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Now for the exciting part, we were heading now to the *drum roll please* beach! Then, I saw this huge sand dune in the middle of nowhere – what to do, what to do?

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From medieval times to Arabian nights real quick. I’ve never been to a desert and Mui Dinh sand dunes was the closest I had to make up for it.

It’s a must to rent a motorbike when exploring Vietnam. You would have the luxury to stop whenever, wherever. I spotted this after the sand dunes and asked Paul to pullover and have a quick look. This is the other side of Mui Dinh beach.

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Beach time! It took us an hour to get here from the temple. We had to park on the highway (roughly a kilometer from the beach), luckily, there’s another group heading towards the beach. Instead of walking all the way, we hitchhiked. Hitchhiking a bulldozer, it’s 100% safe –

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As we were descending, a picturesque view came into life.

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I wanted to hop off and run to the beach. Oh wait, did you see those pile of gargantuan rocks on the far end? I bet you already knew my thoughts. Yup. The moment I saw it, I just knew, I had to climb it. But before that let’s appreciate how beautiful this secluded paradise is.

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Fishermen use basket boats here and I was so fascinated by it, I just had to mingle with them and do a photo shoot.

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Disclaimer: Climb at your own risk. I swear there were times I wanted to back out due to the steep slopes, razor sharp rocks, uncharted bushes (where at the back of my mind, there might be snakes or wild animal). I was freaking out. But I am no quitter. If there’s a will and there’s no way, make a way! That’s what I did and look at this view from the top!

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I asked the locals if there were Filipinos who visited the area, they said they couldn’t recall any. Can I claim that I was the first here? Yes, no? Fine, I guess it’s safe to assume I was the first Filipino to climb these rocks with my bare feet haha!

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So if anyone out there (Filipino or not), who was able to go up here, tag or message me please. Would love to collaborate with fellow rooftoppers slash thrill seekers.  When I was up there, this fisherman caught my attention.

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Going back, I couldn’t help noticing these structures in the heart of Phan Rang.  Ninh Thuận Museum – a modern museum with captivating light display.

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Zooming in to see the intricate details of this architecture.

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Opposite the museum stood this huge 16th of April Park Monument. It commemorates the event that transpired on April 16, 1975. 43 years ago, north Vietnamese marched to the south of  Vietnam.

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Let’s zoom in again, I wanted you to see it the way I saw it.

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My time in Ninh Thuận was brief yet memorable. I met Paul’s family and they were just so welcoming. They let me in their home like I was part of their household. The language barrier was there but their hospitality and genuine interest in me prevailed. Not to mention, how great the food was – it’s like an everyday feast.

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The Nguyen boys always ready for the camera.

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H O W    T O   G E T   H E R E ?
By Bus:
From Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), take the bus bound for Phan Rang – Thap Cham at around 8-12 USD and will take about 5-6 hrs. (Choose from these bus companies – Phuong Trang, Lien Thanh, Thien Tri, Hoang Anh).
Then from Phan Rang, rent motorcycles to explore Mui Dinh beach, sand dunes and lighthouse. This will cost about 4-6 USD per day. 
By Motorbike:
From Ho Chi Minh to Phan Rang, take the Highway 1A to Chăm Văn Lâm village (about 15 km), turn left, then head to Đại Bàng mountain (about 8km). Then, go 7 km to Son Hai, from here, drive straight into the desert or walk, then walk to Mount Mui Dinh about 1 km away. (Words and directions from Paul, cheers bro). 
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If you have a few days and dongs to spare, I highly suggest you rent a motorbike, and waze your way around Vietnam. And you just might find an awesome discovery like this.
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Quickies, out. x
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A Phnom Penh Post

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D E C I S I O N S ,  D E C I S I O N S

My 21 day visa-free stay in Vietnam was coming to a close, I opened my laptop and googled “How to extend visa in Vietnam?” It turned out extending a visa would cost me a neck, ok done. Haha nope, but a whopping $300. I. Cannot. Afford. That… Juggling options in my head and low key panicking where the hell am I gonna get money, I decided to go to Cambodia. I was not gonna shell out that amount of money for a visa extension, hmmm might as well travel, right? So here’s the plan: exit on my 20th day, cross the border to Cambodia, party in Phnom Penh, party harder in Siem Reap, then apply visa on arrival in Vietnam (which costs $85: $35 for visa approval letter plus $50 for the stamp). Whew! I paid for the visa online and got my approval letter two days later allowing me 3 month stay with multiple entries.

Phnom Penh is just roughly 7 hour bus ride away from Saigon. My third time exiting a country, ugh (ubos na ubos na me). Second time solo backpacking. And my first time in Cambodia. Also, first time celebrating Christmas away from my family. A bit sad but still hyped AF.

On my first day in Phnom Penh, I stayed in a hotel. Nah, this was not a hotel nor a hostel. It’s the mansion of my couchsurfing host from Nigeria, Silver (pictured below, left).

We didn’t get to talk much, he’s busy with an event so I just rested with a hungry stomach in his pad. The following morning, he took me to breakfast. Literally just took me, I ate while he and his friend watched me eat. He said they don’t normally have breakfast. Weird. Anyways, I have a long day ahead so we awkwardly parted ways. Thank god.

D A Y  2   I N   O U D O N G   M O U N T A I N

Sokleab, a tuktuk driver, contacted me in Couchsurfing and asked if I was willing to join his tour and share cost with another tourist. He got me at sharing the cost, so I said yes. Now we were off to Oudong, a town 40 km from Phnom Penh.

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Back in the day this place was royal residence and Cambodia’s former capital for more than 250 years until 1866. Sokleab, Geoffrey and I hiked mountain Phnom Udong to witness a few majestic temples and rewarded ourselves with this view.

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It was a whole day of marveling at the grandeur of Khmer architecture. Here are just some of the sights and temples I took pleasure in capturing –

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Don’t be fooled by the serene water, this pond has starving “little monsters” waiting for the tourists to toss a bread or two.

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The intricacy of  it all got me speechless!

We also encountered some aggressive monkeys, this was the only one who posed for me.

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Plus I got to eat frogs, zoom in to the right of the photo below. I didn’t like it. At least the coffee made up for it.

 

T H E   B A C K P A C K E R S

We got back at the city at around 6:00pm and I checked in at Dynsey Flashpacker Hostel. It so happened that Geoffrey was staying at the same backpacker lodge I booked online. And for some reason, we were sharing the same room. What were the odds?! FYI this was one of the cheapest hostels here in the city, it cost me $4 a night.

The best thing about backpacker hostels is that aside from interacting with the locals when you are in a foreign land, you can meet a lot of travelers from around the world. Share a story or two, drink a beer or two (not for me, I usually drink 5 – 6 beers and I’m just getting started, eat new delicacies with Sokleab and Geoffrey, and heck yeah even join a mini birthday party when you literally met the celebrant a few seconds ago, I’m not talking about you Andor 😛 It was a roller coaster fun celebrating your birthday, Jenna. The only girl I know who decided to celebrate her birthday visiting S-21 and The Killing Fields. Then there’s Franck who I got all the good stuff. Franck, do you remember the name of the funny Chinese guy? 🙂

(From L-R, clockwise – Sokleab, Franck, Jenna, Andor and Geoffrey modeling for our tuktuk ride)

C A M B OD I A ‘S   H O R R I F I C   P A S T

I won’t dwell on the details of my visit to S-21 and The Killing Fields museum, it’s something you have to experience it yourselves. I was appalled and speechless after that ordeal. I know humans are cruel but to do that on their own flesh and blood, their own countrymen was beyond comprehension. And to think that this happened just 40 years ago, a modern day case of inhumane act fueled by blinded beliefs. I really hope and pray, History Will Never Repeat Itself. 

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“Never will we forget the crimes committed during the Democratic Kampuchea regime”

R E A L I Z A T I O N S

If you have a day to spare in Phnom Penh, I highly suggest you take time to visit these museums and contemplate how we, in our own little way, can stop atrocity like this from happening again. I know you’re thinking about NoKor, Syria, Venezuela, or even your respective country. Yes, it’s happening right before our very eyes, monstrosities still exist today. Are we doing something about it, anything just to even address these? I will leave this open ended.

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Such innocence, let’s strive to keep it this way. Let the kids be kids, let them have a better life.

A N O T H E R   D A Y ,   A N O T H E R   A D V E N T U R E

The next day I joined another city tour with Sokleab and this time around I was with a family from Malaysia. They were really nice and friendly.

We went to Silk island and learned how silk farming created a sustainable livelihood for the farmers and weavers, we also enjoyed fresh, humongous mangoes from locals, and fed some animals in the zoo.

We then tried some rice cakes at Central Market, and ended the tour at Independence Museum and Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

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Independence Monument

Later that night, I hopped from one famous spot to another: Wat Phnom, Night Market, chilled at riverside, and met another backpacker from Switzerland, Dany. Sokleab took us to Royal Palace, Diamond Island, and Love Park.

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Wat Phnom

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View at riverside
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Royal Palace
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Diamond Island
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Love Park

A    D A Y    B E F O R E   C H R I S T M A S

Another first for me – to celebrate Christmas away from family. I was kinda sad but the adventurer in me couldn’t contain the excitement. It’s always the unknown that exhilarates me. I packed my bag, had breakfast and checked out of the hostel. Boarding a bus bound for Siem Reap and staring at the window, I couldn’t help but think of my mom, my brother and my dogs back home. They were really supportive of my decisions (yes..dogs included), even though I had major bad ones. I guess that’s what your family is for – to celebrate with you in good times and to understand you in times of the bad. Why does a bus window bring out all these emotions?! Anyone else feeling the same way? Damn these movies and K dramas!

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That’s it for now, I will be talking about my Christmas in Siem Reap, my itinerary and expenses for the entire trip on my next post! Aahhh it’s gotta be good!

Quickies, out.
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