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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Hot Air Rises

So the land heats up faster than the sea and so does the air above it which rises and the air over the sea rushes in to fill the void giving an on shore breeze in the tropics which cools everyone down.

Here in Mui Ne something more seems to happen as the wind just gets stronger and stronger as the day wears on reaching 35-45 kph on most occasions before dying back down at about 4.30 p.m. My knowledge of weather never covered this phenomenon so I can’t help you with an explanation . However it does mean it is vey windy indeed most afternoons and the sea gets quite rough. So what to do when it does this ?

Well never doubt the wit of Man to come up with some crazy idea to fit the circumstances and  someone who I’m sure wishes to remain anonymous thought. I know what if we take a snow board

Kite Board

 

and when the wind gets up to about 25 kph I go and stand in the sea with my feet in the loops, then I fly a large kite that I hang onto like grim death . I wonder if it will pull me along fast enough to plane along the waves and do jumpy type moves. And sure enough kite boarding was born.

It fits the same pattern as whoever thought of putting a sail on a surf board to start wind surfing and putting wheels on a sailing dingy and calling it sand yachting.

It all started I reckon when a few brits got feed up with hurtling down an icy slope on a toboggan and came up with the brilliant idea of strapping wooden planks to their feet and racing down a snowy slope while the Swiss looked on amused but uninterested and went back to making cuckoo clocks. What was it Orson Wells said about the Swiss in that great film The Third Man

“Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

Anyway mii Ne is one of the centres for this fast growing sport and of course things have got a load more technical since it’s inception.

There are some 27 kite schools on the beach. No I’m not sad enough to have gone along counting them the guy in one of them told me. They are foreign owned and all say they only employed people with at least 5 years of teaching experience .It looks an exciting sport to be fair

Kite Boarder 1

 

but I have to say it seems to be a young persons sport especially if you want to be any good at it. The school alongside the Villa Aria has a couple of 4 year olds learning it and the really good guys seem to be in their late teens or early twenties.

Each school has a tout on the beach that looks for potential newbies to entice in and  clearly with some success given the numbers busy learning.

I had assumed that at least for this i would be ignored by the guys and girls looking for customers for lots of reasons that seem to make you a natural to join the Kite club. i don’t wear my hair with a ponytail, i haven’t got at least one shoulder and arm covered in a tattoo , I have never called anyone dude in my life and i don’t high five and then high handshake everyone in the kite school every morning. oh and I’m too old to do it.

So imagine my delight when I was stopped and asked if I wanted to try. No I said but walked on with a certain spring in my gait and a rather cool feeling . I even tried high fiving Geraldine when I got back from the walk but she decided that I was impersonating a North American Indian and raised her hand and said how in response so I clearly need to practice  !

A French dude ( see i’m getting there ) staying here was telling me that this is not a great place to learn as the waves are shallow and choppy making getting up to start with really difficult and that certainly looks true. in France he said it takes about 3 lessons to be standing up and here they reckon between 6 and 10 to get there. At US$ 50 a lesson here standing up isn’t so cheap an offer is it.

An English guy ( the only other one in Mui Ne we think) said that he found it really hard as the jacket / harness that you wear is attached to the kite and therefore the kite and the wind do all the work. you just need to steer the kite with the handle you are holding which requires a very delicate  feel. however in the surf as the wind grabs the kite and you feel yourself being dragged along he said human instinct is to pull on the handle not be touchy feely at all and back into the surf you go. It is hard to let the harness and kite pull you upright..It does look an exciting sport though

Kite Boarder 2

 

just not for me now dude.