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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My Instant Family in Ho Chi Minh City

The Situation

I had a good job back in the Philippines, the pay was adequate, too, but I felt that there’s something missing, something I have yet to find. Purpose? Mission? Maybe. Love life? We’ll see. I have thought long and hard and decided to risk everything. So I quit my job and packed my bags for the “greener pasture.” There’s only one plan – that is, to land a job in Singapore before my tourist visa expires. 24 days later, I was still funemployed at the most expensive city in the world. You’ve read that wrong – it should be f’ing unemployed. But don’t curse, kids. Leave it to the adults, especially the jobless. Anyway, I needed to exit and so I booked the cheapest flight to Vietnam. I was all down, sickly and stressed the entire time I was in Singapore. I could easily say that was my lowest point – alone and far from my loved ones. To make matters worst, I learned that our puppy died back home mauled to death by her older sister and brother. Murphy’s law everybody!

There’s a famous saying from Mark Twain:  “…you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” But why do I feel like the universe is really determined to break me? Why do I feel like I made the wrong decision? A massive mistake.

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As depressed as I was, I had to move forward and pray. And by forward, I mean out of the country, else I might get deported. I prepared everything from my flights, to hostel bookings and itinerary. This way, I won’t have problems in the airport. I also posted my travel plans in Couchsurfing. I wasn’t expecting much from that app since I wasn’t able to find hosts here in SG but I was shookt with the responses from Vietnam. I got 2 hosts and a handful of local travelers willing to accompany me on my impromptu trip. I decided to cancel my hostel booking and accept Ricardo’s offer to host, I figured I can save money while living with the locals and learning their culture. I also didn’t want to celebrate my birthday alone roaming the crazy streets of Saigon.

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S A I G O N

I arrived at Saigon in a humid, Thursday afternoon, 26th of October. I took a Grab Bike from the airport to District 9. Lakas maka Hunger Games. Saigon boasts a lot of skyscrapers, soon to rise buildings (perfect for my rooftop climbs), and vast highways catering to the progressing economy of the city. The streets were overrun by motorbikes, undeniably alarming to a point when you’re literally rubbing elbows to a fellow commuter. But the riders were just chill and reserved, so I wasn’t scared at all – documenting the 22km ride through my Instagram stories. District 9 is situated 21km away from the more popular, touristy districts which only means it’s way cheaper here. Guhreat.

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Easy English Community

Finally, I met my host Ric and he introduced me to his cousins and students. Apparently, he’s a full time English teacher who rents an entire building for his company – Easy English Community.

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And yes, that’s where he lives and teaches at the same time. How cool is that? Later that night, I joined his classes and got to meet more of his students. They’re all warm and welcoming. I really felt that I didn’t deserve their kindness. This was the first time that I traveled with no concrete plans whatsoever. I just wanna get out of Singapore and get lost in Vietnam. But the Easy English Community found and took me in like I was no stranger. The following day, Paul brought me to all the famous spots in HCMC with his motorbikes, offered to treat me drinks then took me to must try restaurants and coffee shops.

I got to visit some of them in the University of Technology and Education (UTE) c/o Ric where we had small chit chats, a few get to know you’s and exchanged Ph to Vn cultures. They even greeted me a happy birthday which I really appreciated.

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From L-R: Diamond, Sally, Maria, Roger, Eric, Kid, Michael, Lufy, Paul, Dylan, David, Sarah, Julia, Ricardo, May and Richard. Whew!

The one thing I will never ever forget was the fact that Ric and his dear students prepared a mini party for my birthday, they cooked and stayed up late just to celebrate my birthday. They even let me watch them play Football.

Motorbikes in the City

The next day, I got not only one but four tour guides. They volunteered to join me as we all explore District 1. As it turned out, they are tourists in the city. Most of them didn’t have the time to see the famous spots and I was so happy they got to visit these places the first time with me. It also made the trip into an adventure slash Waze and Google maps dependent ride haha!

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Kicking it off with one of the many pagodas here in HCMC. Viện Minh Đăng Quang pagoda is such a beaut!

And then, I found out that Kid (this kid in white shirt) skipped his class to accompany me. More so, he can talk and practice English. Not an excuse but I’ll take it. Here’s a sneak peak of our fun times in Saigon Zoo.

I arrived in Vietnam alone and lonely but in a matter of hours I gained friends, a family even, I never thought possible. That was the first time in a long time that I felt genuine happiness.

Hồng Ngự and Nong Lam

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Sally’s parents preparing food for the goats in a laid back afternoon in Hồng Ngự

Ric’s kindness is never ending – he brought me to Hồng Ngự, his hometown, which is a 5 hr bus ride from the city. I got to experience the country side of Vietnam. I will be featuring more of this on my next article.

His students were just as kind. Kid, Lassu and Yumi insisted on bringing me to another university – Nong Lam. We had photo shoots, long walks, a quick volleyball game, interactions with a few students, had some good street food finds and lots of laughs.

I Can Get Used To This

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Speaking time with Clinton

Thank you Ric for reaching out, for doing the extra, extra mile in making sure I am enjoying my stay, keeping me involved in your classes and to Diamond for teaching me how to make Vietnamese coffee. I love talking to your students, sharing a bit about myself, my hometown and helping them in my little way to be confident in speaking the English language.

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Typical Speaking night here in Easy English Community

To cap off my stay here, Ric decided to bring me in the early morning to the infamous Black Lady Mountain (996 masl) and later that night, I got to be a teacher to one of his classes. I really didn’t want to leave HCMC but I know I have to.

My first ever international students, we pulled it off guys and girls.

Ric, keep doing what you do best, who knows I might join you in the future! I know it’s hard doing everything all by yourself, just ask if you need help and always take it easy. Til our next adventure my brother from another mother.

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Ric and I hiking the Black Virgin Mountain before I return to Singapore

Thank you for accepting this lost stranger and kept feeding me baby duck haha!

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Not as instant as their coffee but here’s my instant family in HCMC.

I am still on the process of figuring things out, we all are. I don’t know where my feet will take me next. But I have a pretty good idea where I might be next month.

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For now, quickies out…

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Credits to Noob GFX for the Lightroom Creamy presets I used for some of my photos here. Follow them and see their awesome stuff!