“Madame! Madame!”Their pleading cries (sounding like “Ma-DOM”) greet me like clockwork every morning, within minutes – but more often seconds – after I set foot outside my bungalow door. And more often than not, I smile and shake my still bleary-eyed head, “No, thank you.”
First, it’s the fruit vendors. They arrive in Vietnamese style, wearing the traditional conical straw hat so often associated with visions of rice paddies. Over their shoulders are long poles with baskets on each end, carrying a cornucopia of colorful fruits for sale. Sorry for them (and for my health), I all but never have the desire to chomp on fruit. Which means every morning without fail I reject their profferings, yet still, they refuse to relent from asking. I get the sense these women won’t stop until I’ve upped my daily vitamin intake. Hm. Maybe that’s a good thing.
But while I remain steadfast in my fruit denials, the mother-daughter team offering up beach massages wore me down in a matter of days. How could I resist a $5 beach chair oil up and rub down from their sad pleading faces? The day I finally said “yes, tomorrow,” Mama clapped. She literally clapped her hands and jumped a bit. I’ve never had anyone so excited to work out my knots.
I was slightly dubious about their skills. After watching them at work for a few days, it seemed their style involved a lot of punching of the butt. But hell, in for 100,000 dong, in for $5. Turns out, they’re great. Better than a lot of $100 massages from spas.
Sure, they punch my head a little bit and karate chop my calves a lot, and it sort of hurts, but it also sort of hurts so good. As for the kink in my shoulder? Gone. And my glutes? Let’s just say there ain’t a knot in ’em.
Speaking of glutes, let’s talk about the phenomenon of the hot Russian here in Mui Ne. For whatever reason, the town is a super-popular destination for Russians – signs are often in Russian before English, and there’s a lot of “Nyet-ing” going on around me. Of course the phenomenon isn’t just their presence – it’s how unspeakably hot the younger women are. Legs that reach above my waist, all skinny as rails, and donning impossibly small bikinis. Frankly, it’s distracting.
My bungalow neighbor is summed up in the above description, and happens to be really nice. She could be a model. I know this because one day after surreptiously puzzling over how one woman’s legs could be so toned and long and mine so short and, well, not toned, she asked if I could take her picture.
Next thing I know, she’s climbing a tree, peeping out between branches. Lying on a lounge chair backwards with a come-hither look in her eye, and kneeling at the surf, while whipping her head around in the wind. And there I stood, trying to get all of her legs in the photo frame, clicking away. I’d like to call it a bonding moment.
Now, in a nod to the genetics of the former USSR, I think I’m going to go find the fruit vendors. Or get a fruity cocktail from the bar next door. That’s more like it! Because that still counts as fruit … right?