Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Back in Vietnam, Back in Mui Ne

I'm back in Mui Ne...

Another long hiatus from the blogosphere may be ending (it’s too soon to say for sure). But for now, at least, a quick update…

After nearly two years in Japan, and very little time for myself, I’m back in Vietnam, in Mui Ne to be exact, with quite a bit more time on my hands. I’ve now been back for a little more than two weeks and I’m trying to see what I can share about the places, people, and food I encounter here. Generally it’s been good, though the gloss and shine of years past seems to have worn off the country, as the economy is doing poorly and people seem less optimistic. Also, a few nights ago, while getting ready to leave a restaurant in the company of friends, a horrific motorbike accident occurred within about 60 feet of where we were sitting. At least one passenger died, and perhaps all three did. One never wants to see such things happen, but it’s especially jarring after just moving back. After inquiring with others about current traffic conditions in Mui Ne, I started hearing numerous stories directly from people who’ve lost loved ones in road accidents here. I’ve already decided that if I continue to feel unsafe on the roads, it will be time to leave Mui Ne and give the Hoi An/Da Nang region a shot. Eventually, though, I’m pretty sure I’ll end up in Saigon again. Even though Saigon’s hospitals aren’t up to international standards, they’re light years ahead of medical care in this part of the country. If one gets sick or injured in Mui Ne, it’s at least a five-hour journey by car to Saigon. And that’s assuming the car doesn’t get into an accident on the way there…

Until I have more time to collect food and travel experiences in Vietnam, I’ll give a quick update on my novel, Lotusland, which is set to come out in April 2015, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War. I’ve been working with an editor on it for the past several months, and about 10 days ago I submitted what should be the final changes, most of which dealt with style issues. I’m now working on developing a promotion strategy and hope to start on it soon – contacting people who will hopefully be interested in my work, and who might be willing to lend a hand in bringing it some good publicity. I’m also getting back, albeit slowly, into the rewrite of a novel I completed several years ago. I hope to have it done and accepted somewhere before my first publication is available.

Here’s a teaser of what I hope will be more blog posts coming from Vietnam. I’ve been hitting some old haunts recently rather than explore new options, though it doesn’t seem like there’s very much new here worth blogging about. If anything, there are more western restaurants in Mui Ne now (and chintzy shops), but I’m not particularly keen on eating in those places. While I can still get meals nearby for less than US$1, they’re harder to come by – impossible to come by in Mui Ne itself, which is a resort area. But even so, one can eat cheaply and well in Mui Ne. And drink some of the world’s best coffee…

Seaside seat at Cay Bang restaurant.
Mì xào haỉ sản at Cay Bang. While the fish is pretty expensive here, this only cost 70,000 dong ($3.30).
An order of garlic-sauteed greens and claypot fish (cà bớp: cobia fish). Price tag: $4.25. In most restaurants, cà bớp is by far the most common fish found on menus. It's a bit depressing, as the skin tends to be thick and rubbery and without that much flavor. Of course, Vietnamese sauces help in the latter regard.
For a hotel restaurant with a view of the beach, this was great. Gà xào xả ớt (sauteed chicken in a chili and lemongrass sauce), boiled mixed veggies, rice, and tea – after VAT and a service charge, still only $7.60. Poshanu Resort.
Cà suốt with a stack of fresh herbs, sesame rice paper, and beer brewed on the premises of Hoa Vien, a Czech-Vietnamese restaurant.
Terrace at The Cliffs. One of the better views in all of Mui Ne.
Cà phê sữa đá in the shade, with a view of the ocean. A perfect place to write.

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