Tag Archives: GoPro

The Luxury of Life

To relax and sleep in a luxury hotel, knowing the next day ahead will lead to amazing things, is something quite nice. To come back everyday to a newly cleaned room with fresh linens, new toiletries, and fresh towels is also quite nice. The soft comforters on my bed are always welcoming and the pillows I sink into are hard to leave in the morning. I don’t like when the room service rings my doorbell in the morning, waking me up, so I press the ‘Do Not Disturb’ button near the hallway so they know to stay away. It’s hard to get up from some of the best sleep I’ve gotten in months, but the fact that the breakfast buffet is waiting for me and we have a whole day worth of exciting activities in store is all the more reason to get my lazy carcass out of bed! We immediately headed downstairs before the time slot for breakfast expired.

Afterwards, we came back up to the room to formulate a game plan for the day. We both still really wanted to go jet skiing, so we searched the web for places nearby where we could accomplish this feat. We found a jet skiing site in a city close by, just outside of Dubai called Sharjah. Let’s go there! Sharjah wasn’t too long of a drive away. We made it pretty quick and our cab pulled up to a marina that lined up to the city scape. Along the shore, there was a legion of jet skis of all shapes and sizes along the beach. We went to one of the rental companies and each got our own jet. I had a yellow and white one while Chris had a gray and white one. We had the jets for a whole hour!

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I wore my GoPro and sped across the marina filming everything. Later on, I swapped the camera to Chris. There would be points where we would try and cut each other off with our skis and splash one another in the process! The backdrop of the marina was pretty cool; teams of skyscrapers along the beach with the sun burning high in the sky.

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We grew a tad bored of jet skiing in circles and decided to spice things up a bit. I challenged Chris to do a backflip off of his jet while it was moving and I would capture it on camera. He rose to the challenge so we got in position for it. I turned off my jet and stayed in one spot while Chris rode pass and flipped off his ski! But, as he did this it looked like his head hit the back of his jet and all I heard was a loud “thud”!

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He popped back up out of the water and it turns out he bashed his knee and not his head. He cut himself up pretty badly and was bleeding all down his leg. He lost his key to the jet in the process. I rode back to the rental company and asked for another key. They charged us 200 dirhams for another key just like I expected. They warned us before riding that a lost key would cost us 200 dirhams which equals to about $60. Anyways, I gave the key to Chris and we rode back to the shore. Our time was up and we wanted to get back to Auris.

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After Chris bandaged himself up, we went to the Mall of Emirates for a quick lunch. We managed to find another food court on the opposite side of the mall. We opted for Mexican food this time and I found myself ordering up tasty tacos. Afterwards we went back to Auris and lounged around. We went up to the pool to play around with my GoPro under water and came up with some really cool and creative footage! We may eventually put some of it on YouTube in the future!

We knew that we would want to spend our last night in Dubai going all out and a good way to do that is by going to an extremely nice restaurant in our best clothes. I didn’t have anything great on me but a polo shirt and some dress pants with gym shoes! It did the trick though. We went to a pretty nice looking Lebanese restaurant in the mall and had a whole sofa booth to ourselves! I completely expected to order up a bottle of wine but it turns out that this restaurant didn’t serve alcohol, which didn’t surprise me. I tried to order drinks at Auris a couple of nights ago but they too didn’t serve any alcohol, just ‘mocktails’. Anyways, we started off with hummus and I LOVE hummus! It came with a very light, warm, and hollow type of bread. Also with olives. All the bread we’ve been getting in Dubai gets served with olives. For my entree, I ordered up a filet dish of some sort. I’m not exactly sure because it was in arabic. When the waiter delivered my entree it was nothing like I expected. I expected a piece of filet but instead it looked more like fancy canned dog food. I still ate it and it was still pretty good! Chris’ food looked like the meat pattys you put on White Castle sliders except a tiny bit bigger but his was also still pretty good. It was Lebanese and different from anything we were used to. We came in with an open mind and got a really great meal!

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The desserts we had at the end of the meal made everything perfect. I enjoyed a banana split while Chris had a german chocolate cake. The german chocolate cake here was nothing like we have back at home but it still tasted pretty good.

Once we got back to Auris, we went back up to the rooftop and had ourselves another shisha, but this time it was apple flavored by suggestion of the staff. Last time it was a grape mint flavor. It was a great end to a luxurious three days here in Dubai. I was going to miss my soft, big, cozy bed most of all! Dubai has been wonderful (and expensive) but worth every penny. I already plan on coming back here to relive the life of luxury again one day soon. But next time I think I will convince my friends from home to join me for the next trip out here. It was a little sad to be leaving paradise, but also bittersweet. What’s great was that the next day, we would be headed to Morocco! But what sucked was the time we would be leaving…5 am in the morning! We didn’t really go to bed early either so this journey to Morocco was going to be a drag, but I’m sure the effort would be worth the price!

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License to Krill (Part Two)

Today is my final day of scuba training! This morning, we would take two more dives in different locations, practicing a different set of skills in each area. We set out to sea early in the morning to our first dive spot called The Pinnacle Rock. It was here that we would dive to our deepest depth yet – 18 meters underwater! Some of the skills we practiced mainly had to do with running out of oxygen underwater and how to ascend properly when you have no air left. Besides that, the dive here was pretty neat. We went along the anchored rope beneath the ocean, equalizing every few feet along the way. I could barely see the ocean floor below me, schools of fish were all around, bubbles were everywhere – I felt a sense of serenity. I was able to perform tasks fine during this dive, like the mask clearing, equalizing and other skills perfectly when no one was watching. I also noticed that I use up a ton of oxygen, more than anyone else in my dive group. I was aware of this last summer in Zanzibar, and it’s still the case now. Whenever Natalie would signal to me asking “How much air I have left in my tank”, my number would always be much lower than everyone else’s – especially the deeper I am underwater. Sometimes it’s so low that Natalie sends one of the dive assistants to resurface with me so I don’t run out of air. I asked her, is it normal that I use so much more oxygen than everyone else? She said that it’s completely fine and that everyone breathes differently. I just breathe heavier than the norm, even outside of the water. Overtime I will use less oxygen, the more I dive.

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After diving at Pinnacle, we sailed to our next and last dive spot, Shark Island. It’s called Shark Island because the huge rock island is shaped like a shark fin.

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This was perhaps the best time to dive; the water was super calm and clear, the sun was shining bright, and visibility was amazing. But it was also here that I was going to have to take off my mask underwater, put it back on, and then clear it. I was a bit nervous because I was going to have to do this on the ocean floor, and if I freaked out, it wouldn’t be good. We descended to the very bottom and Natalie had me watch Viola and the others do it. Piece of cake for them. And piece of cake for me…when no one is watching and testing me! Weird I know. But we went through other tasks, like how to navigate underwater with a compass, and floating at a neutral buoyancy right above the floor. Natalie decided she wanted me to wait until we were about to resurface to do the mask clearing, so first we went on our dive!

I brought my GoPro on this trip, mainly because I wanted to capture footage underwater. But I was told by previous divers that I would need to hire a videographer if I wanted underwater photos. The dive instructors wanted us to concentrate on diving and not fiddling around with a camera, especially while learning. I was disappointed…but there was no way I could leave this without getting some underwater footage! There was no videographer nearby our resort to hire and the one I found costed a pretty penny. Skip that man! I have my GoPro which is great underwater, it’s such a waste not to use. So my plan was to sneak it in with me and use it very subtly and when the instructors weren’t paying attention. I put the GoPro in my wetsuit, snug against my chest. During our final dive, I would casually pull out my camera and record everything while holding it close to my body so it wouldn’t look blatantly obvious. Sometimes, I would tap the others on the shoulder, pointing to my camera, signaling them to smile and wave. I grew a little lax and at one point, Natalie turned around and saw me with my camera. But instead of her signaling me to put it away, she made a full on rockstar pose and resumed guiding us. This let me know that it was okay to have my camera, then I started to record everything!

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It’s hard to describe the sensation you get from freely diving, meters and meters under the sea. As cliché as this sounds, it really is like exploring a completely different world – like a strange alien planet. Except this time, you’re flying through this new world, weightless, and you’re always with other explorers who share the exact same feeling as you do. You never knew exactly what kind of marine life would pop out unexpectedly, or what ship wrecks you would come across.

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It was nearing the end of the dive, which meant it was time for me to clear my mask! During the dive, along with recording everything, I was thinking to myself “What is it that I do differently on my own than when I’m being tested in front of Natalie?” I figured it out! For some very, very odd reason, every time I try and clear my mask with Natalie, I exhale out of my nose…and mouth which results in water flying into my nose. On my own, I naturally just exhale out of my nose when clearing my mask. I don’t know why I do that, but I figured thats the reason. I got to try it when Natalie tested me again and presto! Mask was cleared in one fell swoop. I could literally hear Natalie cheering with joy underwater as she pumped her arms in the water for me! Myself, I was relieved. 🙂

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And that was that! We resurfaced and celebrated like kids! We took the boat back to Sunshine Resorts where the instructors gave us our temporary license (our permanent license will be mailed to us!). Later on, Viola and I went and enjoyed dinner with the Aussies who dove with us at a Thai restaurant down the road. Then afterwards, Viola and I drank away the night with the two Aussie guys at the beach, where we all went for a night swim under the moonlit ocean. The water here in Koh Tao is extremely warm, no matter if it’s day or night.

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If I had more time here, I would continue my training for my advanced license which would include diving during the night and going through ship wrecks. Exciting! But, for now I have to put a hold on that because Viola and I were headed to another island called Koh Phangan.

There’s a full moon ahead…

Descending Dragon’s Bay

Halong Bay is considered one of the new seven natural wonders of the world and is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you come to Vietnam, it’s one of the excursions you MUST do. It definitely seems like the pleasure trip; fortunate passengers literally sailing through thousands of small islands made of limestone aboard a wooden ship.

One of many thousands of small island at Halong.
One of many thousands of small island at Halong.

Sounds like heaven! However, the only way I would agree to go on this outing is if I had a pirate ship. I’ve seen pictures of it on the internet and it’s definitely possible. Lucy felt the same. We booked a tour through Ethnic Travels. Their whole mantra is taking their guests to places where most tourists don’t go. Sounds perfect! And one of their boats resembled a wooden pirate ship with giant red sails! We’ve turned down many tour companies offering us a cruise through Halong Bay because their boats didn’t look anything like a pirate ship, but with Ethnic, we were also able to nab a great deal, thanks to Ibrahim who is a master bargainer.

A minivan picked us up in the wee hours of the early sunlight. Inside it were six other passengers who would join Lucy and I on the ship, including a couple from the Netherlands, Jurre and An. It was about three hours drive east in northern Vietnam until we finally made it to the port of Halong City. There were many tourists and fellow backpackers crowded about, eagerly waiting to board their boats. What made our cruise extra special was that the eight of us had an entire ship to ourselves, unlike most other ships where there could be 20+ passengers on just one vessel. In addition to Jurre and An, in our group we also had a couple from Switzerland and two friends from Singapore. It was a solid bunch and we were primed to board our ship!

Ha long means “Bay of Descending Dragons”. The legend goes like this:

In the ancient world, when our ancestors were in a war with barbaric adversaries from the northern region, the heavenly gods blessed our ancestors with a family of powerful dragons to help defend their earth. The dragons descended upon the empty sea, which is now called Ha long Bay, and began to spit diamonds onto the calm waters. Upon hitting the surface, these diamonds transformed into thousands of small islets, becoming a complex barrier against the barbarians. With the help of the dragons island barriers, our ancestors were able to defeat the barbarians and keep their country safe. The family of dragons fell in love with the peaceful waters and with the gratitude of the people, and so, decided to remain on earth. The mother dragon lives in what is now Ha long Bay and her children live in Bai Tu Long Bay, an area of equally rich waters neighboring Ha long Bay.

What a cool story! Not only will I see Halong Bay, but the next day we will be able to see where the dragon children live in Bai Tu Long Bay!

As we boarded the ship, we were treated to a lunch in the cabin. Lunch that contained seafood…lot’s and lot’s of seafood. Blah! Thankfully there was rice, chicken, and a medley of sautéed veggies to hold me over until dinner. Soon enough, we began our descent through the bay!

Not a fan! But I managed to at least try a few bites.
Not a fan! But I managed to at least try a few bites.
She was loving it! After all her favorite food is prawns.
She was loving it! After all, her favorite food is prawns.

Technically, I am a tourist, but I really don’t care for that label. I prefer “adventure seeker”. I climbed to the top of the ship and set my eyes across the distance, past hundreds of islands, through the courses of our route.

All aboard for adventure!
All aboard for adventure!

Before boarding the ship, I was a bit worried about becoming sea-sick. Regular readers already know that motion sickness has been my worst enemy while traveling amongst the continents. And stupid me forgot to bring prevention tablets for this trip. Fortunately, the waters in Ha Long Bay were blissfully calm and serene. The ship glided smoothly among the surface of the sea, like an airplane in a clear sky. Islets of limestone, scattered around the region created a soothing, tranquil effect. The clouds were as white and puffy as I’ve ever seen. It was the perfect day for sailing.

Happy as a clam :)
Happy as a clam 🙂

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After a couple of hours, we cruised to a floating village. Literally dozens of small, worn wooden homes and shops floating on the water. Four locals came to our ship by rowboat and picked us up for a tour around their village. In this village, children learn how to row and swim at the ripe age of four! As peaceful as it is here, it can be a bit of a drag. There isn’t really anywhere to walk to and since this village is so far from towns on the mainland, the villagers must often wait long periods of time for water and food to be delivered. In any case, the villagers catch, sell, and trade a hefty amount of fish and crustaceans; a couple of food sources they will never run out of.

Floating Village
Floating Village
Children learn to steer a boat at an early age.
Children learn to steer a boat at an early age.

After rowing for a bit, we boarded our ship and sailed to a spot on the bay that was surrounded by numerous caves and towering islands. We then had the opportunity to jump into the water! My neck hasn’t felt 100% yet so I first jumped off the mid-deck. Awesome fun! The water was warm and deep. I immediately got out and went to the top-deck and decided it was okay for me to jump. I decided wrong. My neck felt a sudden painful jab as soon as I hit the water, and sent a jolt down my spine. I didn’t flip or anything, just kinda jumped like a silly man into the water. I played it off like nothing was wrong. The others had no idea! Most of us decided to swim about 100 yards over to a cave nearby called “Drum Cave”. It hurt me to much to freestyle swim, so I backstroked the whole way. I couldn’t really hear or see what the others were doing, but I just knew to swim to the entrance. When I made it, I looked up and saw the others going the opposite direction. I didn’t know why, the entrance was right here by me! Anyhow, as I started to slowly climb the sharp rocks, I was getting cut up all over my hands, legs, and feet just by the slightest touch of a rock. I didn’t even make it to the entrance because I was getting slashed up so much as the others, who were still so far away, looked on. I looked at my fingers and saw all of the blood collecting on each of my fingertips. A shark is going to come get me! I saw our tour guide flagging us to come back to the boat. But, why? We just swam out here? Did she spot something in the water? I saw the others starting to swim back. So off I went too! My mind started to play tricks on me. My neck was hurting so I had to swim upside down and my blood was spewing into the ocean, so I fastened my pace, juuuuust incase a shark really did pick up my blood trace and wanted to take a bite out of me. In the process, I grew fatigued and switched to resting strokes. At one point, I looked up and saw the others had already made it while I was still so far behind. I eventually made it to the ships anchor and kinda chilled there for a bit, regaining a bit of energy. In the process, the anchor was also scrapping my legs, so off I swam back to the ladder onto the deck, finally! My neck and chest were hurting and my fingers were a bloody mess. Lucy bandaged me up and I went to go put on my neck brace. “Why didn’t you guys swim to the cave?” I asked her. “We wanted to go around the other side and the water was warmer where we were”, she replied. Pssshh.

An and Jurre!
An and Jurre!

We all then spent the rest of the evening on the top deck, reveling under the moonlit, night sky.

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The next day we woke up pretty early. Kayaking to caves a bit further away was on the agenda. Lucy and I got into our kayak and paddled away! It was drizzling a bit, with a few booms of thunder, but not enough to stop us! We paddled our way through to a cave, almost hidden behind a giant limestone, and docked our kayak on the sandy shore of a small island.

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On the island was the entrance to what turned out to be an enormous cave that you could see through to the opposite side. Our tour guide told us that this is called “Fairy Cave”. There was a huge crater in the center of the cave edged out with boulders that grew in size the further you went. On the opposite side, we had a framed view of another island, about a few dozen meters across the water. Worthy of photos, but I didn’t have a camera on me, in fear of it getting wet and destroyed. I must go back to the ship and retrieve my GoPro! The others were walking around the cave so Lucy and I decided to hightail it back to the ship. As we kayaked away, it started to rain and thunder heavily. It was so sweet!

Lucy in the front!
Lucy in the front!

Once we made it to the ladder of the ship, I went up, retrieved my handy GoPro and jumped back into my kayak. l wondered why the others didn’t follow us. Where did they go? It continued to downpour but Lucy and I were lovin’ it! On the way back to Fairy Cave, we witnessed sinister lighting strikes shatter the sky as the surface of the sea fluttered with zillions of pelting raindrops. We made it back and saw our group standing near the entrance. Apparently, they were waiting for this storm to succeed, by the suggestion of our tour guide. Whoops…

Anyhow, Lucy and I trekked back into the cave, now with my GoPro in tow, to document what we’ve seen. Worth the effort.

Lucy and I went into the cave while the others waited for the storm to slow.
Lucy and I went into the cave while the others waited for the storm to slow.
Fairy Cave
Fairy Cave. I am that bright orange spec.
Our group!
Our group!

Later on the same day, we sailed back to the dock of Halong City. We parted ways with the Swiss couple and the two Singaporean friends. A couple from Barcelona, Spain joined our group and we took a minivan to Bai Tu Long Bay, the next destination of this excursion. Our new boat was a bit smaller, as we didn’t have any private rooms this time. The rain and thunder ceased and we were able to set sail through Bai Tu Long Bay. Bai Tu Long was similar to Ha Long Bay except the islands were noticeably bigger and more connected than the limestone islets of Ha Long.

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We cruised for a few hours, some of us even falling asleep on the roof of the boat. We eventually reached a large island where bicycles were awaiting each of us. We biked about three kilometers to a secluded beach. There was no other person there but the six of us and our tour guide. After playing around there for a bit, we continued on our bikes through the island to a small village.

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At the village was a guesthouse where we would stay the night and enjoy authentic Vietnamese cuisine. It included fried spring rolls, sticky rice, strewed spinach, chicken, and of course tons of seafood. Bleh! I enjoyed the non seafood things and then called it a night in one of the hottest sleeps in Vietnam thus far!

The morning we woke up to pouring rain and muddy streets. Thankfully we didn’t have to ride our bikes all the way back to our boat, but instead we took a miniature pick-up truck thingamajig back. The pouring rain turned into a harsh thunderstorm, so instead of kayaking again today, we just sailed back to shore. The water was a tad choppy so I made sure to lie down, not look at the water, and try to fall asleep so I wouldn’t get seasick. Worked like a charm! When we returned to the dock, the storm began to lessen, so our tour guide arranged us rowboats to a nearby island. On this island, was a tall mountain with a cave hidden within it.

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One of the dragon children was rumored to live here deep within the caves. There were dragon statues and simulacrum hidden within the overgrown brush of the islands’ forest.

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Jurre, An, Lucy, and I climbed maybe a quarter of the mountain and found the entrance to the cave; and in we went.

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This cave was deep. It was long and maze-like. Not to mention, total darkness. We needed torches to navigate through. It looked as though a small museum was being built here awhile ago but has been abandoned, maybe temporarily or maybe not. It was kinda eerie because the abandoned showcases and other random man-made objects lying around rendered a haunting influence within the cave.

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We could hear bats flying about, but could not see them. We went for several minutes, with diverging paths coming every few careful steps of the way. Our tour guide suggested we turn around because it was easy to get lost inside. I agreed that it was easy to get lost, but I wanted to continue further. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my own torch and I would have been lost in the cave forever. On the way back, Lucy spotted a spider the size of my fist!

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We exited the cave and continued our way up the mountain. Once we reached the summit, we had a great view of Bai Tu Long Bay! This completed the end of our stay at the bays. The three days flew by and was as relaxed as I imagined. Except for the whole bleeding in the ocean thing, but that’s a story in itself!

Later on in the day, we packed our bags and took a van back to Hanoi. As soon as we got off the van, Lucy and I immediately took a taxi to the bus station. Literally, no times to go to a hotel and regroup. We parted ways with the cool couple, Jurre and An, but only for the night. The next morning we would all reunite, after a long 11 hour bus ride to the northwest to an otherworldly place called Heaven’s Gate or more famously known as Sapa.

Halong, you have been an amazing host!
Halong, you have been an amazing host!

Journey to the White and Red Sands of Mui Ne

Our mission: reach the red desert of Vietnam to witness an alluring crimson sunset. But in order to get there, we had to make our way through a few other areas of interest first. My group of twelve split into two off-road jeeps and set off along the southern Vietnam coast!

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The first site we went through is an area called ‘Fairy Stream’, a hidden gem in Vietnam. Basically, it’s a stream that goes through a small jungle and eventually winds through mountainous walls of white rocky slopes laden with red sand that seeps into the water. The stream runs over a bed of soft maroon sand that comes up to your ankles. It was boiling hot outside but the stream was running at a delicate temperature and the white walls and dense jungle that blocked the sun cast cool shadows on random plots of the pass. All of those elements combined creating a magical setting, which gave it the name, Fairy Stream.

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As we walked in the beginnings of the stream trail, a local came out of seemingly nowhere and cheerfully said to us, “Want to ride an ostrich?”. My eyes instantly lit up. “Um, YES!” If any of you have been paying attention to my blog from back in the day at all, then you’d know I have been trying to ride an ostrich ever since my trip to The Garden Route last summer in South Africa. The reason I couldn’t then is because I was simply too heavy. My weight has remained the same ever since, so I doubted that this random Vietnamese guy would let me ride one. “I want to but I weigh too much!” I said to him. I don’t think he understood me at all. He just wanted me to ride the ostrich solely for my money. I debated it, because I didn’t want to hurt or strain the ostrich, so Lucy gladly went first as I thought heavily over it. This particular bird was very tame, unlike the ones in South Africa who would go crazy and chase you all over the place. Also unlike the one I took care of in Peru who consistently tried to bite my head off. But no, this one waited for Lucy to get on its back, and did a lap around the field, and brought her back full circle, peacefully. It was a quick ride, so I figured I’d try it out too.20130705-141314.jpg

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Checked that one off my to-do list FINALLY. After that, the sun baked us as we walked further along the stream. The slopes along the stream grew into jaggy walls of red sand and white deposits that resembled stalagmites. This was a very cool (not literally) spot to see, as it was pretty unique. At certain points, we were able to climb the sandy hills up to the more rockier areas.20130705-141456.jpg The walls grew larger as we furthered down stream and as the jungle started to shrink away, Fairy Stream transformed more and more into a cavern. It was so scorching hot out that we decided to head immediately to the next area of interest. We went further up along the coast to the fishing market village. This place reeked of something foul, like garbage! It was a pretty cool sight for the eyes, but a pretty wretched smell for my nose. Scores and scores of colorful boats were floating on the shore, catching fish to sell to locals and tourists nearby. We didn’t stay here too long, mainly because the stench was almost unbearable, but also because we wanted to make sure we had enough ample daylight for the sandy dunes. So onward we went!

Fishing Market Village
Fishing Market Village

After a bit of a drive, we made it to the first of the two sand dunes, the White Sand Dunes. These dunes are actually bigger than the red dunes; so big that it looked like a desert took over this part of Vietnam! So big that most of us decided that the best way to trek the dunes was to ride quad bikes over the hills!20130705-141540.jpg

Lucy and Shantai cruisin' through the dunes.
Lucy and Shantai cruisin’ through the dunes.

Everyone partnered up, but I wanted my very own quad. It was dubbed “The Green Frenzy”, a mean little beast that never once lost it’s power. The sun was still blistering but the heat played no factor into the amount of fun I was having, sweeping through the sands. It was my first time on a quad bike so of course I may have flubbed once or twice. I got my quad stuck in deep sand as I was going up a steep dune twice. I had to get off my bike and push it out of the hole I buried myself into as my feet were sinking into the sand. I got the quad out out both times but it sure did take the life out of me! We all had the quads for about twenty to thirty minutes before we were directed to drive back to the starting point. We had to hurry on to the next and last area, the Red Sand dunes.20130705-141522.jpg The Red Dunes get it’s name because…well…the red sand. These dunes were a bit smaller in scope than the White Dunes but still a sight to behold nonetheless. As soon as we made it there, we were bombarded by local children who all wanted us to rent sand sleds from them. I once read on a website somewhere that no matter what, DO NOT rent a sled from these kids. I don’t remember the reason as to why exactly besides the fact that they try to rip foreigners off. I’ll have to look it up. I was also amazed at how great their English was, even some better than the older students at the college. They probably get used to tons of foreigners telling them the same things so they know exactly what to say from memory. I was able to avoid them (they were very determined to sell me a sled) and made my way to the red sands. I knew this was going to be a great opportunity for a few amazing photos so I brought my trusty Nikon. I didn’t even think about the potential danger of all the sand in the wind that could destroy my camera! I was a bit worried about my baby so I had to shoot fast. I also had to get the settings right for others to take the shots with me in it. I was able to get a few in.

Everybody get your Saig On!
Everybody get your Saig On!
Brother and sister, Peter and Nancy, can't stop making fun of each other!
Brother and sister, Peter and Nancy, can’t stop making fun of each other!
Peter and I, handstand battling!
Peter and I, handstand battling!

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Lex, Tom, Lucy, Shane, Shantai, Me, Sophie
Lex, Tom, Lucy, Shane, Shantai, Me, Sophie

Before the sun actually set, Lucy and I had a brawl as we made our way back up one of the dunes. She may disagree, but I won the match.20130705-141336.jpg20130705-141340.jpg20130705-141345.jpg20130705-141354.jpg20130705-141406.jpg20130705-141414.jpg The heat started to lessen. There were clouds that blocked the sun a bit, but it was still a cool finish to this hot journey. The best part was just chillin’ on top of the dunes with everyone, relaxing as the sun slowly sank back into the horizon.20130705-141626.jpg By the end, we were all so beat and worn. Also, very sandy. The idea of going back to the resort and jumping into the pool sounded very satisfying. So back to the hotel we went!20130705-141834.jpg We all rinsed off, played in the pool a bit, and headed to a restaurant nearby called Jibes. It’s an outdoor restaurant with hip music, hammocks, and tasty food. It was the end to an almost perfect night, but then the weirdest thing happened. Lucy, Tom, and Addie all of sudden dropped like flies. It happened almost simultaneously. We aren’t too sure what happened but we think it was a form of heat stroke or possibly food poisoning. I didn’t think it could of been food poisoning because we all ate almost the same things. Had to be a heat stroke; we were in the sun all day. The three were out for the remainder of the night and for pretty much the whole of the next day. Very strange. During our last day in Mui Ne, some of us who weren’t sick went swimming into the ocean for the remainder of our time. This is where we would part ways with Shantai. She was on her way to Nha Trang beach, as the rest of us went back to the college. In a few days, she would make one last stop in HCMC to visit us one more time before she headed back to Edmonton, Alberta. We took another sleeper bus back home. While on the bus, I was able to go through most of the photos I took over the weekend. The weekend that amounted to an extravagant few days along the eastern coast of this amazing country with amazing friends. 20130705-141432.jpg

An Asian Vacasian

After a full week of teaching, taking care of orphans, helping the disabled, and working in the hospital, twelve of us volunteers decided to hit the road to Mui Ne beach. We woke up early Friday morning and took a sleeper bus about six hours to the east coast. This was my first time in a sleeper bus and in case you aren’t familiar with it, it’s essentially a bus with long seats that recline all the way back so you’re able to sleep easier. I really enjoyed it! However, if you are way over six feet tall then I don’t recommend it.

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The sleeper bus.

We left HCMC around 8am and arrived to Mui Ne around 1:30pm. The bus dropped us off at a resort called ‘Lotus Resort’. I was a bit skeptical because the place I booked is called ‘The Lotus Village’ but we walked into the hotel anyways and were instantly amazed by the beauty of this hidden paradise. As the others “oooh’d” and “aaaah’d” over everything, I went to go check us in at the front desk. Turns out they couldn’t find my name under the reservation because this is the wrong hotel! I booked for Lotus Village…not Lotus Resort. Crazy bus driver.

No worries though because our actual resort was just 4km down the road. So we hopped on a taxi and before you know it, we were there…The Lotus Village Resort. I liked this place much better. Imagine an oasis full of palm trees, staircases made of marble, and plush lounge chairs covered with umbrellas made of leaves and straw. In the center of this oasis is an infinite pool that lit up at night. An oasis surrounded by bungalows, with bathtubs made of slate and some of the softest, coziest beds in town. The China South Pacific was just a few meters away from the resort. So close, that at night you can hear the waves crashing into the stone walls of the village. Near the pool was a full service bar, concocting fresh cocktails and fine delicacies to enjoy as you basked underneath the sun. Yes, this was absolute paradise. It reminded me of my stay last summer in Zanzibar with my team in Tanzania.

The Lotus Village
The Lotus Village

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Our bedroom. Very cozy.

The twelve of us split up into three rooms. Lucy, Tom, Sophie, and I shared one room. Allison, Addie, Shantai, and Lex shared another. Peter, Nancy, Shane, and Steffanie (Whirral, U.K) actually stayed in a hotel just a few meters next to ours in a hotel equally as nice. But our pool area was definitely better, evident by the fact that they would always come to our pool instead of theirs! No problem by us. As a matter of fact, the first thing we did when we arrived at the resort was jump into the pool! This is where my GoPro came in handy.

Underwater rumble!
Underwater rumble!
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Peter swimming by for the camera.

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Sophie and Tom
Sophie and Tom
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Steffanie!

After a little fun, a few of us walked down the beach to see what Mui Ne had to offer along the coast. There were tons of seaside bars, restaurants, cafes, and hotels. Along the way I spotted shacks that offered kite and wind surfing lessons. I would like to try kite surfing sometime before I leave Southeast Asia so be on the lookout for that! We looked for a place to eat later and found a hippie restaurant down the street, by the suggestion of Shantai. Food was nice; not enough to fill this guy up though!

Later on that night we played in the pool some more. As the others went into the whirlpool to play a game of “Never Have I Ever”, I went into my room to check on some things and in the process, I accidentally fell asleep. The bed in my room was just so cozy and lush. Besides, I don’t really like playing that game anyways. 🙂 I am glad I got to get some sleep relatively early because the next day was action packed! After one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in awhile, Steffanie and I spontaneously decided that we wanted to jet-ski. So thats exactly what we did! 20130702-155434.jpgThis was both of our first times ever on a jet-ski and that became evident when we overturned the jet-ski not once, but twice!

Oooops...
Oooops…

I drank so much salt water from falling into the ocean so many times, I thought I was going to be sick. Tom strapped my GoPro to his chest and swam out to see to try and capture some photos of us but I didn’t even notice him because water was constantly splashing against my face. At one point, Steffanie and I both fell into the water while the jet’s engine was still running. The jet went around in wide circles before it finally came right back to us. Thankfully!

Oops sorry didn't see ya there Tom!
Oops sorry didn’t see ya there Tom!
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Me and Steffanie

The day just started and jet-skiing along the coast of the South China Sea was just the beginning to what turned out to be one of the funnest days here in Vietnam yet! Stay tuned!