Mui Ne

This is a town built resort on resort like life-size game of Monopoly. To be completely honest, I didn't explore much.  It seemed to offer one main road, where the resorts hosted verdant villas next to the beach, and they were clearly the Boardwalk and Park Place (no rocks in the water and a decent swath of sand) of Mui Ne, while hotels were sometimes a strange version of a Vietnamese Marvin Gardens.  (Don't even ask me about the Water Works, as I suspect much of it was piped out to sea.)  If you crossed the street away from the resorts and hotels, you quickly found yourself in a game of Monopoliya, where the resort worker guest house could be found on Pushkin St and next to it you would find a RR named Kursk to take you on a inland tour to Dalat, where you could ride elephants, which are endangered.  My son even bought a pro-Soviet Union shirt on Gorky Avenue, aka a shop by the name of Thai 2.

Confused? The town clearly caters to Russian tourists, and this creates a weird cultural goulash.  On one hand, the shops and restaurants clearly act as one can expect a Vietnamese-owned business to act.  Too many people waiting around to help you, a younger brother hopping on his bike to purchase the Vinamilk for your mango milkshake, and most kitchens serving as both a restaurant workspace and a place to prepare the owner's meals, since the restaurant is just an addition of thatch space in front of the owner's home. Add another cultural layer of Russian signage, entreaties in Russian to enter market stalls or pay a motorcycle cab to take you up the road, servers and restaurant clients who communicate in broken English, and just down-right tourist shtick, and you have a panoply of the bizarre.

In all, Mui Ne is relatively close and easy to reach from Saigon if a person wants a couple of days away from the city and time on the beach.  We returned, my head ringing with the word, "Da!"  I have already overcome the shell shock of seeing so many bald, overweight men singing at the pool bar, reddening like coral lobsters. Almost that is.  I heard Russians come to Vietnam because they don't need visas since Russia always supported Vietnam politically and militarily.   Clearly, they continue to support the Vietnamese economically, at least in Mui Ne.  When the next beach vendor comes with monkey in tow and the Russian alphabet slathered across his umbrella, I now know why.

On the road to Mui Ne, one sees how the country is filled with a life uniquely Vietnamese.  Mui Ne teaches that the country can absorb other cultural influences, as well as anywhere else, if it means making a Dong.

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