Villas with no name
Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street
Mui Ne, Vietnam
I am feeling rejuvenated here in this hammock at a beachside villa in Southern Vietnam. A cooling wind flows down from the sand dunes about six kilometers away and the sound of sleepy bees fills a tree above my head. Having escaped the slummy confines of Ho Chi Minh City, I needed to rest my feet and my back after a miserable six hour bus ride to the beach at Mui Ne.
This little nameless family-owned motel by a long stretch of tarmac called Nguyen Dinh Chiu Street contains several boxy style rooms with linoleum floors and simple bathrooms; water is piped in for the toilet, the sink and the shower through three tiny PVC pipes, which for some reason seem to merge as they exit the bathroom. I think they go to the sea.
Then there are the two villas, which is perhaps too kind a word but for US$8, they are very nice. They have four windows, which open to the breeze and the sound of waves crashing against the concrete wall outside. It is a fine place, one that inspires laying down and staring up at shade trees. I drink lime soda or rich black Vietnamese coffee while young Vietnamese women practice their English and pinch my arm hair. Occasionally I sleep.
But Vietnam is also a haunting place filled with the uncommon – at least for visitors from the developed world: beggary from a sallow-cheeked and leprous-looking motorcyclist, for one. Or the arrival of death on the shore.
On the evening I showed up, two Swedish women invited me to join them for beer. One of them alternately smoked and sucked at a plug of Swedish snuff between her lips and teeth. Before I could say much of anything the other one blurted out that "Americans usually have a misperception of Swedish girls. I think it comes from watching too much porn."
There was no porn involved, but we had a great time, playing poker until late in the evening after having roused the motel owner from slumber. We drank ludicrous amounts of Saigon Beer.
During our fifteenth game of Texas Hold'em, which my new Swedish pals played quite well, we were teetering near blindness. One of the Swedes, who looked like a slightly ugly version of Rachel Hunter, expressed her sadness that Vietnam was such a beautiful place but it lacked sophistication. What do you mean? I asked.
“Well,” she said, “there's a dead dog on the beach down the steps.”
So we took our tall and frosty beers in hand and, sure enough, at the end of our flashlights there lay a dead dog.
"She's probably pregnant, poor thing," said the uglier-but-not-by-much version of Rachel Hunter. She pouted, a fine sugar-like glistening of salt and sand coating her cheeks.
"I doubt that. When things die, they swell," I said. "It's natural."
We gazed a bit longer at the dead dog, staring at its miserable carcass as the somewhat dirty water spilled around its open death grin. The dog looked like it was in the act of spelling human words when the death knell sounded. We turned, and so too, eventually, did the three sleepy Vietnamese children crouched on the wall nearby. Roused from sleep by our yells, catcalls and heckling during poker, we were their entertainment.
Eventually, the night blended into a blue bath of morning air and the dead dog was eventually moved by shovel back into the ocean, where it would float for a while and arrive back to our shores, as the dead often do. In a few hours, I was back on a bus headed south to Ho Chi Minh City.
On the long ride, a monsoon storm broke all over the central southern plains, sending floodwaters through villages and spilling over the tires of busses.
Dead dogs and renegade limbs from trees festooned the highway.