Get your visa and go… to Ninh Thuan, Vietnam

Part 6: Vinh Hy Bay

Continuing North for another 10 kilometers, we entered the area of Vinh Hy bay. It is a tiny bay, also a newly added name on the tourism map. The reason this bay becomes such a highly promoted destination recently is probably a marketing strategy. As the neighboring provinces have developed to their maximum capacity in terms of tourism, Ninh Thuan is the only one left. While Ninh Chu beach alone is not enough to satisfy high-end tourists and Hang Rai requires a little too much physical strength to explore, Vinh Hy bay is utilized, providing a happy medium – not too boring, not too adventurous. As a result, Vinh Hy bay – tiny, unimpressive – is marketed as Ha Long bay of Central Vietnam, the picturesque must-see for romantic souls as well as average travelers.

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The road leading to Vinh Hy bay is a two-lane one winding through utmost rural areas.

“This road has just been widened. A few years ago, it was just one-lane, and there was absolutely no room for vehicles going in opposite directions to yield. So, in the morning, all cars went in one direction from Phan Rang city to Vinh Hy, and in the afternoon, all cars went back to the city. No exceptions allowed, otherwise, the whole traffic scene would be a mess.”

I laughed, imagining hundreds of cars all going in the same direction on a tiny road. Living in a third world country sometimes gives you unrealistically funny tales like that.

The two-lane road was not the only give-away of how undeveloped this area was. To get to the ticket office and the pier where we board the boat to explore the bay, we would need to cross a single-lane ancient bridge that could sustain only pedestrians and 7-seaters. Large buses would have to stop at the nearby parking lot, and the passengers would have to walk a few hundred meters to the pier, or rent a golf cart to carry them over that distance. “Experience the mini electric car” was the tour company’s words to explain this inconvenience. If misleading advertisement was a crime, then…

When we got to the pier, the rain was still drizzling down. The condition was less than ideal for sightseeing the bay or watching the diverse coral range.

“It’s ok. The rain looks like it’s going to stop soon. Let’s wait until the sky clears up. The coral looks more beautiful under the sunlight.” – Huy said as he pulled three plastic chairs around a plastic table for us to sit down.

A bit past 11, the rain stopped, and feeble rays of sunlight finally penetrated the clouds to reach the soaked soil. Only about 10 people boarded the boat, all couples except us, looking like students. The boat had 2 glass panes on the bottom so that we could see into the ocean and admire the supposedly colorful and various types of coral.

Which was in reality pretty and colorful indeed. Even with the clouds covering the sky and the ocean gloomy, the coral, as seen through the glass bottom boat, boasted different shades of white, grey, red, and even yellow. Unfamiliar species of fish resided in those coral ranges, swimming leisurely underneath our eyes. It all made a very special scene that I never witnessed anywhere in Vietnam.

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Like any other bays in Vietnam, Vinh Hy bay is not reserved only for tourism. Scattered in the bay were fishermen’s boats, which served as their floating houses as well where they live and raise various types of fish. Due to the relatively small size of the bay, and the rather high density of those floating houses, you could smell the fishy winds almost anywhere.

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Vinh Hy bay could be a paradise though, if you have enough money to stay in Amanoi – the 5-star luxurious resort on the cliff overlooking the turquoise bay. One night there without breakfast costs at least 500 dollars, and even more if you’re not Vietnamese. In return, you’ll enjoy Maldives-like villas with heavenly view of the bay and exclusive use of the best, if not only, beach in the bay. Looked from far down in the bay, those villas resemble monasteries – dark-colored Japanese-styled structures up the cliff, partly hidden in the bushes. But I’ve seen photos of them looked from inside. They are a perfect combination of modern convenience and zen atmosphere. Every material in Amanoi was imported – like the bamboos used to weave the window blinds are from India. And the resort’s private beach – Ba Dien (literally meaning Crazy Woman) – was filled with white sand brought from elsewhere to provide artificial beauty and cleanliness to the beach.

“This beach got its name from a widow who lost her husband in a typhoon.” – Huy told us. – “After her husband’s death, she suffered from depression to the extent that everyone in her village called her Ba Dien. She tried to commit suicide by swimming from the location which is now the pier where we just got on this boat. She thought she would just swim until she was exhausted and drowned. But she just swam and swam until she got to this then-unknown beach. She didn’t try to kill herself again though, and after that incident, the locals knew about this beach, which was later bought by Amanoi and turned into a private beach.”

“They thought with the opening of this resort, the locals would have more opportunities to do business, since more people would come here, more shops could be opened, and the fishermen could sell seafood more to the resort. But the resort didn’t need any of those crap. They shooed away all the floating houses to ensure clear and clean water for their beach. They bought only from trusted brands. The guests also didn’t want to step into dirty family-owned restaurants while they could enjoy high-quality meals cooked by best chefs right within the resort. No families or individuals could make a living from this Amanoi. On the contrary, they were robbed of their regular living way.”

It all sounded like the vineyards and their downfall following urbanization and foreign competition again. In the constantly changing world, everyone needed to stay proactive and sharp to not be left behind, mourning the past. The capitalist definition of fairness is brutally fair.

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