“Vietnam – land of contrasts.” While first uttered as an attempt at guide-book cliche among or group, the phrase proved apt as we travelled along the Southern Coast from Loc An to Mui Ne.
Leaving Ho Chi Min City we followed the familiar path of highway lined with stalls, hammocks, small businesses and litter, a sight that seemed not change much irrespective of location. Near the coast the complexion changed and took on the character of a fishing community, An authentic fishy smell filled the air, and was backed up by brightly painted fishing boats and small fish sauce factories. The boats seemed much too picturesue to be authentic, but were not so, clearly showing the patina of regular and heavy use, The streets retained the flavour we were used to but added to that occasional bars and small hotels.
Moving further north we began to see larger pieces of land given over to resorts in various stages of completion. Cycling in the cooler sea air increasing numbers of signs were written in Russian and golf courses appeared where none should be.
Our hotel – or resort, set a new standard with its excess. The incongruity started when our band of sweaty cyclists entered the lobby and was presented with frangipani leis and ice tea, and only increased from there.
The style of the Sea Links resort could perhaps best be describe as Russian Gargantuan; corridors large enough for a soviet tank to pass with ease, a ball room that would swallow the battleship Potemkin, and a gaggle of swimming pools. All of these were executed in terrible taste, as if dreamed up by a sunburned Russian grandmother in the second week of a vodka binge.
The resort was almost empty, and apparently stayed thus even in the high season.
At night we wandered the empty corridors marvelling at their size and lack of proportion.