Howzat

Well it had to happen didn’t it ? I guess I have been lucky really but it was bound to change.

While the English cricket team have been being clinically taken apart by their Australian rivals and then slaughtered in each successive Test Match I have been avoiding any contact with Australians but last night I had my Humphrey Bogart moment as two walked into the bar I was sitting at. Of all the gin joints in all of the towns in all the world they had to walk into mine

They were actually I think rather embarrassed by the way England have gone so meekly under the cosh and were almost apologising for the way Australia have thrashed us. They were rather delighted to get the England captain out for a golden duck ( sorry North America it’s a cricket term ) out first ball ( you are probably still none the wiser ).

After a little jovial Pom bashing which was quite amusing I asked the older guy how long he had been here. He replied 9 years which is quite a long holiday ! In fact he obviously lives here in Mui Ne and so proved to be a font of knowledge about the place.

He told me that when he came here in 2004 there were almost no Russians and very few real hotels. That started to change in 2007 but the Russians coming here were what he called more middle class ones travelling as couples or small families and were both polite and spent money in the town and the hotels. In 2009 a group of Russian developers were told that there was a plan to build an airport at Mui Ne to allow direct flights from Russia and they started buying land and building hotels to meet the expected demand. A tour operator was found to sell the hotels to a much broader mix of Russians.

The airport was a myth of course and apparently there are still some huge concrete shells of massive hotels dotted down the coast. Mue Ne itself expanded rapidly and Russians flooded in in droves. Most could afford the cost of the holiday paid in Roubles but little else. Spending in the restaurants and hotels dropped as numbers grew dramatically.

In 2011 the Russian tour operator went bust stranding 400 plus Russians in Mui Ne and leaving all the hotels with no payment. The Russian Embassy paid to take their subjects home.

A new tour operator was founded ( aren’t they always) called Pegasus and on the game has gone though some hotels are now more wary about taking Russians in large numbers hence the huge disparity in numbers staying in them. Some are chock a block, some less so and some with almost none. The Villa Aria seems happy to have them in groups even being a place with just 20 rooms. I looked at another small place yesterday called The Mia resort and there were none there at all.

So we had a complete history of the place which at least kept the guys off the cricket.

I remember my first holiday in Italy which was to Rome in 1957. After a few days sightseeing we took the small hire car to Fregene which them was a small beach resort area near another little fishing village called Fiumacino ( now the site of the main airport ).

Sitting on the beach there I remember seeing a guy pedal a cart along the beach selling ice cream and Coca Cola. We couldn’t eat the ice cream of course because back then you couldn’t drink the water in Italy and therefore no ice in drinks and no ice cream for us kids. Coke was hugely expensive but he also sold a fizzy orangeade called Pellegrino which was made in Italy and very cheap. Today of course in Rome they are both hugely expensive.

Anyway sitting on the beach today a guy came along doing the same thing. I don’t know if he bought this second hand off an Italian but it is just the same

Ice Cream Seller Mui Ne Beach

Think the umbrella is a the original as well. Mind you  a little later a fruit and beer sales girl came down the beach and let me say I never saw this on Fregene beach

Friut and Ice cream sellers Mui Ne Beach

However like his Italian counterpart all those years ago this guy also has an eye for a pretty girl  as you can see !

Frank Sinatra was one time on Fregene beach but unfortunately Humphrey Bogart never was.Nor were the Blues brothers but this song was being played in the bar last night almost non stop, a strange choice given the number of Germans here

I guess the Vietnamese bar owner doesn’t understand the words.

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