Today we had decided upon a boat trip and snorkelling around the
southern islands. The day was wet and windy and I thought that the trip
had been abandoned. However it was still on and we were picked up by Yin
in a minibus with driver. We were driven south along Long beach. The
road follows closely to the beach with one or two incursions inland to
avoid swamps and cross a river. The bitumen ends some 5km south of Duong
Dong. The Paris resort is about the last one on the bitumen but is
surrounded by construction. This time next year there will be at least 3
more resorts in this section of beach.
The road at this
point swings inland and crosses a temporary bridge. The remains of the
old one are visible as twisted bits of metal. I believe that it was
washed away in a flood about a year ago. The road then curves back to
the coast. Driving south we passed small fishing communities, an oyster
hatchery and two oyster farms with comprehensive shops attached which
sell pearl based jewellery. These are full of glitter and eager young
ladies willing to fleece you of all your money. Sorry I meant to say
sell you high quality pieces of pearl Jewellery. I escaped unscathed.
made it into An Thoi, and stopped at a market to buy provisions for the
boat. I wasn't sure why we needed provisions as lunch was meant to be
provided and I had requested an esky full of cold beer.
The first stop
on the way to the market was a Jewellery store. Amid much merriment and
laughter on behalf of Phuc and Yin with some guarded looks in my
direction a big chunk of the contents of my wallet went over the counter
and a ring that looked suspiciously like an engagement ring came back
across. The ring ended up on Phuc's ring finger. I wondered if I was
engaged and didn't know it. I was glad that I hadn't overloaded the
wallet that morning and thought that the beer on the boat better be cold
and plentiful after two wily females had gone some way to abusing a
We did eventually get to the market and loaded up with
fruit. Getting to the boat however proved difficult as there was a lot
of construction going on at the wharf. A gate prevented us driving and
we had to walk. However then a security guard became quite difficult and
would not let me pass. It was a fairly unsubtle power play against a
foreigner, justified on the grounds of the danger to me. No concerns
with the dozens of locals who went through unimpeded. Having learnt many
years ago not to argue with security guards, I stepped back behind the
gate to let the situation defuse. The guard eventually relented when one
of the boat crew arrived to escort me to the boat.
|Nick at the helm|
We had the
boat to ourselves, that is Phuc, Yin, 3 crew and myself. I immediately
checked the esky contents which met with my approval on quantity, brand
and coldness. The boat undocked with much shouting by the skipper and
crew. To my ears all of the boat operations seemed to be conducted with
too much harsh shouting but as I observed I realised that this was not a
rude harsh captain, but just a necessity to be heard over the loud
engine. In fact he and the crew turned out to be father and sons and
were a pretty nice family. They even gave me the thumbs up approval of
Phuc later in the day. Which was nice to have some confirmation from
Our first stop was a floating fish farm where we
purchased sea urchin and crabs for lunch. So much for the sumptuous
squid BBQ lunch that was promised, it seemed to need supplementing with
fruit from the market and extra seafood. I didn't really mind as the
girls were obviously happy, but also obviously trying to please me. If
everyone's happy then everyone's happy as I always say. (What a strange
expression, I have never said anything of the sort).
The boat made
its, morbidly slow, passage across to the first island where
snorkelling was to begin. I talked to the crewman in the wheel house,
who, unbidden, immediately moved aside and let me slip in behind the
wheel. I asked him where I was to take the boat but could not
understand, so I chose a spot that looked about right based on the
current heading and my knowledge of where you might go snorkelling and
kept the bows pointed in that direction. My guess proved remarkably
accurate and the crewman only took over the wheel when we had a couple
of hundred metres to go. In fact he disappeared for a large part of the
journey, I think that it was crew meal time.
The weather had
definately improved and the bay was quite sheltered. The snorkelling was
poor however as the corals were not thriving due to the silt in the
water, and the locals preferred transport method was to walk across the
shallows. I kept my mouth shut when i saw the coral damage caused by the
crew and my companions. Phuc didn't want to snorkel with me, but was
persuaded into the water by Yin. She then appeared quite comfortable,
although not a strong swimmer, and very adept at finding shellfish for
food. While there I inspected a nearby fish farm and could then see how
the nets were constructed. One of the crew chased me down and told me
not to go there, I was not sure if this was a safety thing, as there was
a small current, or an agreement with the fish farmers to prevent their
fish being disturbed.
Going back to the boat we were given
morning tea, which was sea urchin cooked in the shell and a sea food
rice soup. Both of which were very tasty.
We then motored to a
second location and did more snorkelling or shellfish gathering. Once
again poor coral and sea life, but the weather had improved more and it
was a very pleasant place to be. We had lunch after that which consisted
of BBQ squid, possibly the tastiest that i have ever had, and rice and
noodles and crab with accompaniments. It was a feast and I was very
full. I was amazed at the girls ability to stuff food in without
appearing to bloat like I did.
|Yin (facing) and Phuc serving the meal.|
The boat then returned to port. We cruised past islands and fishing boats and with the sun out it was a lovely laid back experience.
No problems getting through the construction site on the way back and I gave the security guard a cheery wave. My private thoughts were less charitable and definitely unprintable. The van picked us up and we then headed to Sao Beach for a quick look around. It was perfect swimming weather, but with rain clouds rolling in it was decided not to delay there too long.
As it happened it started to pour shortly after leaving the beach resort. It continued heavily all the way back to Duong Dong.
Despite not working, we had dinner at the Cat Food restaurant where Phuc works and were joined by her sister Thu and her husband Coong. We then had drinks and headed out to the "Super Market". This is a travelling market that comes periodically. It has many vendors selling clothes, cookware, shoes, trinkets and many others. Apparently the prices are considerably cheaper than the local shops and the range much greater. Combined with that is an entertainment program. I was treated to Vietnamese "stars" singing Vietnamese songs and doing stage acts. As far as learning a little bit about Vietnamese culture it was great, as far as being entertained it was hard work. I was content to sit back and watch and learn.
And then the Bludger went back to his hotel with partner in tow.