Sunday, 1 January 2012

Mui Ne - A Holiday from the Holiday

Mui Ne was about a four hour bus ride from Nha Trang and during the trip the sun started to shine.  It seemed it had been a while since we had enjoyed a blue sky day.  We had been feeling dark enough about spending Christmas away from home and the grey skies were not helping matters much so seeing the sun sure perked our spirits.

When we arrived at the resort in Mui Ne Eric commented, “Ah, this is what tourists who come to Vietnam for a short holiday think the country is like.”  We had booked into a lovely resort to have a bit of a holiday from our holiday over Christmas.  The grounds and facilities were beautiful and it was quite removed from the Vietnam we had experienced thus far.  It reminded Eric of the resorts we have stayed at in Mexico and Hawaii, beautiful but quite removed from real life in the country.

Every day numerous pots throughout the resort were filled with fresh floating flowers like the ones below.

As you can see from the above photo.....the beach at the resort was very was the pool below....not!

With Christianity not the main religion throughout Asia, we had thought that Christmas would not be the big deal here that is in North America.  We were very wrong.  We had been seeing Christmas things since early November.  Everywhere we went places were decked out for the season.  It seems as though holidays of all sorts are taken even more seriously in SEA, not in a completely commercial way in that everyone expects lots of loot but certainly in a festive way.  We had actually grown a little weary of hearing familiar Christmas tunes blasting out of speakers everywhere.  Hearing Jingle Bells and seeing decorations of Santa in his sleigh when it was 30 degrees seemed to make us even more homesick.  Anyway, we were all still a little blue in spite of the fantastic surroundings we were blessed to be in. 

The pictures below show some of the Christmas decorations at the resort.......

On Christmas Eve the hotel put on a major celebration.  As we watched them get ready for the big event and saw the poolside, which overlooked the beach, transform into a bit of a fairy tale setting our spirits started to lift.  The fact that a package that we had arranged to have sent from Canada had arrived just in the nick of time sure helped.  Santa was on his way.  He was not overburdened with things for us but he had not forgotten, phew!

Christmas Eve turned out to be fantastic.  There was more delicious food than we have likely ever seen in one place and it was not just standard Asian fair.  We savored every bite of mashed potatoes and turkey smothered in gravy and we also tried our best to enjoy succulent seafood fresh from the BBQ, pumpkin pie and lots of other tasty treats.  As I looked around it was not that hard to appreciate that this was likely to be the most relaxing Christmas I may ever experience.  All this good food and not a single trip to the grocery store or a minute in the kitchen required!  Add a magic show put on by Santa, Christmas carols performed by a choir from HCMC and lots of fun dance music by a very talented band from the Philippines and the result was a wonderful evening.  I couldn’t convince Rob to hit the dance floor but with a little incentive Eric proved to be a good sport and danced with his Mom.  We certainly missed our Christmas Eve traditions but we will be back at the Fairfield United Church for the service next year and Butchart Gardens will be waiting.  We enjoyed what we had.

After the celebrations we were more in the festive spirit and able to tackle the task of decorating.  We had managed to find a few bags of things that could pass in a punch for tree ornaments but we had not managed to find a tree.  Well, the lamp in our room was green and sort of had the right shape so we used our clothesline cord and duck tape (never leave home without it) to create our Mui Ne Christmas tree.  It took about five minutes.  In Canada the decorating starts in November and lasts until 5 minutes before relatives arrive!!  We even had a few small things to place under our newly adorned Christmas lamp.  Being without stockings we had to forgo the “stockings were hung” bit but we had no fireplace anyway so we didn’t sweat it.

Christmas morning I woke up before the kids and again I was feeling pretty blue knowing that the day would be a far cry from what it would be if we were at home.  Even more than this, I was thinking of my parents and my niece and nephew who were spending the first Christmas without my fun loving brother who is no longer with us.  After the loss of a loved one special occasions, particularly celebrations as significant as Christmas, take on a different note.  You still have to move forward, creating new memories and being thankful for your life but you also look back to memories and times shared with the loved one who is gone.  Every Christmas I will be remembering my brother Gordy ‘s solo rendition of Silent Night sang on the many Eves of my childhood in front of the family Christmas tree. 

I was feeling pretty sad when I opened my email and read the following from a dear friend:

Hi Lois. I was thinking about you today while I was having a typical mom's Christmas eve day.  I am going to recount my day to help you try and appreciate where you are this Christmas:

7:30 AM - make another trip to Thrifty's to get things we forgot in
the 3 trips we did yesterday

.       Start the stuffing

.       Wrap presents

.       Make breakfast for kids

.       Pack up baking for child 1 to take to work and for my yoga instructor

.       Go to yoga (Yay!)

.       Arrive home to a kitchen that looks like a bomb went off in it

.       Continue making stuffing

.       Start trifle

.       Get cranberries going

.       Finish stuffing

.       Custard for trifle doesn't work - dump it out and start over

.       Struggle to lift the turkey off the roof

.       Stuff the turkey

.       Finish trifle

.       Put turkey in oven

.       Do a ton of dishes

.       Wrap more presents

.       On the way to pick up child 1 at work, stop at the Bay to get
gift certificate because I get stressed that child 1 is falling behind the child 2 & 3

.       Pick Child 1 up at work

.       Wrap more presents

.       Clear the wrapping off the dining room table

.       Get changed out of my yoga gear

.       Set the table

.       Check the turkey anxiously (will it be done early or late this

.       Do I feel a migraine coming on?

.       Will anyone be as late as usual?

.       Ready, let's go and have fun

MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Enjoy the break because it may the last Christmas for a
long time that you are doing what you did instead of doing what I did!”

Oh how I laughed and how I was reminded of everything I will likely be doing not only next year but for many years to come!  I was so thankful for the reminder.  Here we were, although not with our extended family, at least together as a small family, all in good health and in an absolutely beautiful place with nothing to do but enjoy it.  Best count our blessings and get on with the day.

The Red Dunes

The landscape around Mui Ne is very desert like.   Just outside of our resort on one side of the road were white sand beaches and on the other side were red sand dunes that could be part of the Sahara.  On Christmas Day we wandered over to the red dunes and Eric went sand sledding. We “rented” a crazy carpet from one of the many kids who were eager to take us up into the dunes and show us how to plant the sled and take off.  It was a really windy day and sand was whipping everywhere so we didn’t chance getting the camera coated with sand and as a result we have no pictures.  Eric, did, however, take his video camera and made a pretty cool video. To take a look at the video try the following link (you might have to copy and paste it into your browser):

The rest of Christmas day was pretty low key and relaxing and although we missed home very much we managed to appreciate what we had – which was a lot.

Most of our time in Mui Ne was spent relaxing at the resort and enjoying the many things to do on the property (tennis, ping pong, badminton, etc).

The kiddie room proved to be a great spot for ball wars...

In addition to fun at the resort there were also some outstanding natural sites that we enjoyed visiting.

The White Sand Dunes  & the Red Canyon

The dunes were beautiful and in addition to the red ones just outside of the resort there were white ones close by.  At the white dunes along with riding 4 wheel drive dune buggies you can also go for a ride on an Ostrich.  You heard correctly, Ostrich rides.  Fearon and I had a blast jumping on these creatures that look like they are from Dinotopia and jiggling around on their backs as we went for our Ostrich ride - how cool was that.  

Eric thought it was cruel ro ride the strange creatures and he preferred riding the dune buggy.  He had no problems taking control of the vehicle and when I saw him doing doughnuts in the sand I got a little concerned about what might lie ahead when he graduates from dune buggies.

Close to the white dunes there was a red canyon that we went for a walk in.  The color of the canyon reminded me  of the red sand in Prince Edward Island and around the Bay of Fundy.  As you can see from the pictures it was lovely.

Fairy Stream

Another highlight of our time at Mui Ne was the Fairy Stream, an incredibly  picturesque stream that cuts its way through beautifully coloured dunes and rock formations and eventually makes its way out to the ocean.  It was magnificent to walk wading through the cool water feeling the soft sand underfoot and admiring the wonder of the natural landscape around us.

The time between Christmas and the end of 2011 passed really quickly and before we knew it we were ringing in the New Year.  The resort had a celebration that certainly equaled if not surpassed the one at Christmas.   We had more seafood than you could imagine along with heaps of other delicious food and fantastic entertainment.  We enjoyed the evening with a wonderful family from Denmark whom we had spent quite a bit of time with during our time in Mui Ne.  We even managed to stay up past midnight.

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