The Rising Cost of Skinny-Dipping

Day 31: Mui Né to Somewhere

In the morning I find Flo laying in the hammock on the patio. The habitual coffee and eggs are inhaled for breakfast. A staff worker makes a video of us singing One Republic on the guitar and it’s impossible to tell if he will show it off to his friends on the weekend or just laugh at it with his co-workers this afternoon when inevitably there is nothing else to do.
Midday shows up like an overeager date; too soon, and we hurriedly strap our packs to the motorcycles in a pathetic attempt to make up for our lackadaisy morning. Delat, a cozy mountain town, awaits our arrival today.
Venturing through tiny dirt paths that lead only to giant trash piles, we beeline it to the main road and ride along the coast, past giant red sand dunes that herald the desert in contradiction to the rolling sea below. A beautiful expanse of white sand beach, devoid of humans, rests at the foot of the bank to our right. It’s begging for bodies.
Parking the bikes on the shoulder, we grab our ‘important’ bags, leaving our monstrous packs strapped to the rack. A path blazes through the jungled bank to the edge of the beach. Here, we drop our bags and our clothes like they’re infested with bedbugs and sprint buck naked into the salty water, our white asses beacons of bareness. The ocean has bite, unlike the tepid bathwater Cambodia calls rivers and sea. We play in the waves like three year olds at tub time, splashing and letting the waves tumble us like a load of laundry set on white wash. We swing our arms all the way back to the log where we dropped our stuff.
“My bag is gone,” Flo says.
“Noooo.”
That’s ridiculous!
But the protective driftwood where we shed our belongings seems to have failed us. Not only is his bag gone, but mine as well. And our clothes.
Flo stands akimbo in disrobed silence. He squints down at his flip flops in the sand – the only thing left. Our bare butts face the ocean as we stand speechlessly, imagining the looks the people at the embassy will give us when we tell them we left our passports on the beach.
He looks at me.
“At least this is a good story!”
I burst out laughing, which is cut short when I notice something in the bushes twenty feet away.
“Our stuff!”
Running over, ‘our stuff’ is spread over the sand beneath a tree.
All that is missing are our phones and cash. The robbers left our passports, credit cards, bike keys. Even Flo’s camera and Kindle reader are there. And – bonus! – we get to keep our clothes. Thoughtful thieves.
We take a spiteful post-robbery selfie with Flo’s backup camera, middle fingers up for our robbahs. Fuck you very much!

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Crawling back up the bank, we scour the forest for signs of… what? Foul play? The construction workers across the street get a squinty-eyed up and down. A glare is tossed at the cute couple sitting under a nearby tree. Every passing car is followed suspiciously with our eyes.
But it doesn’t matter now. We have our passports. And our bike keys. Let’s blow this filchin’ shore!
Above sea level, the rolling hills are wavering shades of green and some are filled with kilometre-long graveyards that look oddly like miniature multi-coloured housing developments. Then rice paddies take over. Then more emerald waves from which emerges a pristinely white statue, towering above the land like the god of crops himself. He glows above the fields of dragon fruit; dominates even the golden temple to his left. Nobody is around to appreciate this monolith, so we pull in to do our part. The backdrop is all white sand dune. Three golden statues stand in front of the temple, flanked by two rows of white ones. Flo and I jump around the giant alabaster feet and throw our bodies into the dunes, flailing our extremities back and forth as though it will make our sand angels take flight.
An Aussie couple turns up on a scooter and motorbike. They are doing the same trip as us, only from north to south. It’s been about a month since they started, and they laugh at our plan to do it in ten days. They tell us the road to Delat is four hours from here, and it’s already 4pm. We’d have to drive in the dark to make it, and neither of us want to do that. Our costly swim and statue stop have gobbled more time than we realized.
After an hour on the highway, we come to a junction just as the sun sets.

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Our robbery left us cashless, but thankfully not cardless. We pray that the single ATM in town will work; these Vietnamese bank machines can be fickle. It plays nice, and we are grateful not to be looking for a cozy spot in the ditch to spend the night.
The nutty traffic is scary in the dark. It’s all big vehicles and asshole drivers in this junction, and I lose Flo in the dark for a couple minutes. Somehow he spots me across the barricaded highway and yells to me just as my darting eye movements are becoming frantic, and we meet in the parking lot of the Dinh Ihn Hotel. Inside, it feels like it was once a military hospital. In our room, the fluorescent lighting shows off dusty corners and black mold clings to base of the toilet. There are two ‘beds’- basically a spongy sheet slapped over metal slats. But we have a place to sleep and money to pay for it!
We ditch our luggage and ride down the street, pulling over at a restaurant filled with locals. A lady squats on the sidewalk, stirring two massive cauldrons filled with stew. Bowls of raw meat and white noodles are scattered around her. Pho. Phok yeah.
We eat and drink and hop ahead to a place lit up with tacky pink heart decorations and clink our beer mugs to the most expensive swim we’ve both ever had. We lost our inhibitions at the log; maybe they took those along with our money and mobiles. We laugh. How dumb we must have looked staring into the void of sand with the glare of our tanlines screaming “LIVE VULNERABLE TOURISTS!”
The laughs stack up tall against that lost loot and I’d say we cash in even.
Back at the hotel, we sleep terribly on our shitty beds in the room with no windows.


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