Thursday Doors, Streetside in Hue, Vietnam, 11/5/17.

It’s been a while since I’ve put words into WordPress. Travel and a tragedy removed my focus from the weekly challenges and my fingers haven’t felt like hitting the keyboard.

But it’s time to get back into the swing of things and whilst trying to be more organised with my photo library, I have unearthed some more doors from my trip to Hue in Vietnam last November. Continue reading

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Thursday Doors: 24/11/16

Huế’,Vietnam, November 2016.

Huế’s Imperial city is surrounded by a moat and thick walls. Building started in 1804 in the reign of Emperor Gia Long. Until the demise of the Emperors in the mid-1900’s, more moats and building were added. During the Vietnam war, due to Huế’s religious and cultural status, US troops were ordered not to bomb or shell the city, for fear of destroying the historic structures.  Continue reading

Monday Window: 21/11/16

Vietnam, November 2016-seeing Hue.

When you have a dodgy hip and you don’t want to stop seeing Hue, the answer is to hire a Cyclo driver.

After a morning at the Imperial palace, which is huge, impressive and awesome, my legs told me I couldn’t do much more, but there was so much more of the city to see.

Hobbling out to the road to try to find some form of transport back to the hotel , the cyclo drivers were lined up just waiting for the likes of me.  Continue reading

Vietnam re-visited October 2015: Phu Quoc Island.

A stormy departure from Ho Chi Minh, bumping through the rain clouds, I’m always a bit tense in the small plane and turbulence scenario so it was a relief to head down to Phu Quoc. It’s a short flight, around one hour in the air.

Meet and greet at the airport and off to the resort, a couple of hours late after the cancelled flight earlier from Con Dao. I’d chosen the Daisy resort, small chalets on the hill above the road into Phu Quoc. Very pleasantly surprised by the resort, it was lovely, fairly new, well designed and a lot of care had gone into the planting out of the terraced gardens.

Motorbike hired from the hotel, a quick change and we were off out. Since my visit in 2013, the change was apparent, development of hotels and resorts and the associated small shops and restaurants that come with tourist infrastructure.

Day one- to the Eco-isle...

Day one-to the Eco-isle…

Very late in the day we pushed off to a small ecological island we had read about towards the North east. It’s an hour at least by motorbike and once off the main road the track is pretty difficult, a heavily rutted mud-bath, but a daily journey for the local villagers.

After several wrong turns, we finally found the island, which appeared to be closed. Climbing over the barrier, no-one around, so no-one to stop us, there was a slightly dangerous rickety structure over the tide channel onto a small causeway leading to the island. What had obviously been an idea to make money had turned into an overgrown abandoned idea. Carefully treading along the path we reached the furthest point, deciding to follow a different path back, we ended up fighting our way through jungle to regain the causeway. With grass and shrubbery waist-high, all I could think about were mosquitos carrying dengue fever, lying in wait for my tasty British ankles..I was very relieved to get off it !

The next day taking the coastal track to the North west tip of the island, which in 2013 had been an insight into the life of the small fishing villages, was a complete shock.

Day two -to Ghanh Dau via a track not now recommended....

Day two-to Ghanh Dau via a track not now recommended under any circumstance, take the main road….

The track was appalling, huge trucks carrying for construction had churned the surface into deep ruts and the rain had made it into a mud bath. As a passenger, it was a pretty awful ride. Soon there were “No entry” and “Turn back” signs , but as usual we had to go and see why.

The track ended abruptly, a massive storm had washed the road away, but along the beach there was a strip of sand that looked as if it could just take the bike.

And it did … soon we were back on the dire track, startling locals as we skidded along. What was noticeable was that most of the small communities had gone, vast tracts of land were fenced off with land clearance and massive construction in progress, with guards and no entry signs and then finally a vast development stretched down to the beach, cutting the track off completely. Managing to negotiate the worst bit of track we had seen so far, I did get off and walk at this point, we hit the main road at the side of what appeared to be Vietnam’s answer to Disneyland.

A massive them park has been built and constructed since our last visit and was open for business . It was quite unbelievable to stumble across it. Huge hotels, a massive ferris wheel and rides, Safari park, golf courses all under construction. It will be vast when complete. Lining the sides of the roads were scooters, in every direction, the workers transport.

Pushing on past, through the vast area under development, we finally reached the small village at the tip of the island. Here, life took a step backward, poor and undeveloped, the village had grown but it was still a ramshackle existence.

The beautiful beach at the point was now on the tourist path, the restaurant had expanded and a villa resort was now occupying part of the coastline. The food hadn’t changed, wonderful Vietnamese prawns, cooked with tamarind, scallops with garlic , a lovely rest looking over the Gulf towards Cambodia’s islands only a few miles away.

An elderly Viet shouting and pointing as we moto’d off after lunch,the drama was identified a puncture, kind gesticulating found us at one of the little repair shops on the side of the road and finally the puncture was repaired so it was a trip back on the main road.

Passing acres of pepper farms, prevalent on Phu Quoc with a roadside stop for home-grown peppercorns to bring home, then onwards through a swamp area, I noticed people and shacks in a forested part. Slowing down to see why there were people in this inhospitable flooded area, there was a small settlement, families living on rickety platforms with plastic and shreds of tarpaulins protecting them from the rain. Behind this was a massive rubbish dump and realizing we were seeing people living in an existence we could not imagine, we drove on, quietly saddened to see such extreme poverty.

Heading back through town to dinner at the Night market and noticing a shop selling live fish and molluscs, a quick stop to check out the wares.

Duong Dong town is large, the fishing port is the centre and there is a busy night market, now expanded to include gift stalls as well as the fish restaurants lining the sides of the road.

All the stalls have their wares displayed to choose from and it was a hive of activity. Choosing prawns,squid and a mollusc named Volute, the food was perfect. The Volute was an experiment, and the beautiful shells were chosen to come home with us. Stir-fried with greens and spices, it was delicious .

The Harbour area is bustling, locals and tourists, working or passing the time of day. The port is constantly busy, roadside vendors selling fish, food, trinkets and prayer items for the small shrine on the rock by the sea.

Day three ... southern round trip..

Day three … southern round trip..

On the last morning, the skies were heavy with rain, so it was decided to head to the other end of the island, escaping from the storm clouds. A trip straight across to Rach Ham to walk out on the jetty into the bay. It’s about one km long, the bay is too shallow for the larger fishing boats and on the last visit it was a hive of activity. Not so this day, but it was a breezy walk away from the humidity onshore.

Around the jetty there are small stalls selling all sorts of fish, dried fish, fungi,wood, roots. I was dying to know what they were used for, but no-one around spoke enough English to tell me. Coming across several stalls selling live sea-horses, I finally found someone who told me they are deep-fried as a snack…. hmm, well, everything is eaten in Vietnam, but seeing them floating around, waiting to be sold and fried made me decide it was time to move on before I started to save the seahorses.

Calling into the ferry port of Bai Vong for a quick drive around the jetty to check out the ferries, all wonderfully named “Superdong”, plenty in port waiting for their sailing times to the mainland ports of Rach Gia (2 hr 30 mins journey time and Ha Tien (1hr 30mins journey time) on the mainland. then another developed road, where two years ago it had been a mud track leading down to the busy port below An Thoi.

Phu Quoc is famous for it’s pearl farms and pearl jewellery, some fabulously expensive items for sale in various exclusive shops, but I wanted to add something to the golden pearl earrings and pendant I had bought previously. Phu Quoc pearl farm was revisited, where I had met an Aussie expat, managing the fishery part. Two years on he was still there, thinking of moving on, the same thoughts as in 2013. The Pearl collection was added to, my visa card took a beating so we wandered outside for a free drink (customers who bought, benefit). It’s all slightly scruffy but with magnificent views down Long Beach back up to Duong Dong town where we could see massive clouds gathering and rain spreading down the coast towards us.

Leaving the farm, resigned to getting wet, we headed into the black thunderclouds and narrowly escaped a soaking. It was time to pack, dine and head back to the airport to catch the flight to Ho Chi Minh for the Dubai connection.

A Business Class upgrade on Emirates was a perfect end to the trip and I will be returning to explore more of this fascinating country. Central and North Vietnam are waiting for me !

Phu Quoc’s transit from sleepy island to Vietnam’s jewel in the Gulf of Thailand reminds me of the development of Cyprus into a tourist island.Cyprus has been my home since 1987, when I arrived the development was fast and frantic, concrete structures rising along every inch of the Kato Paphos coast line. The whole town turned into a tourist industry and Phu Quoc in the Duong Dong area will eventually be similar. It’s happening now but it’s at the start, it is a place to visit now, a few years hence it will be somewhere quite different.

 

Information:

Flight Dubai-Ho Chi Minh-Dubai: 

Emirates fly daily from Dubai at 09.40 arriving 19.40 Tan Son Nhat international airport (SGN)

Return departure 23.55(SGN) arriving 04.50(DXB).

Alternative Emirates route with a connection in Singapore is also available.

Airlines flying to Phu Quoc from Ho Chi Minh:

Hahn Air Systems, Vietjet, Jetstar, Vietnam Airlines.

I chose Vietnam airlines for timings to suit my journey.

Hotel:

http://daisyresort.com

booked on booking.com

Motorbike: available from hotel for a cost.

Ferry timetable link for Phu Quoc to mainland:

http://www.phuquocislandguide.com/phu-quoc-island-ferry-schedules-fares/#fastferry

Pearl farm:

http://www.ngochienpearl.com

 

Vietnam re-visited October 2015: Con Dao Archipelago.

Having visited Vietnam in 2013, I was keen to go back and an Eid holiday early October 2015 seemed the perfect time.

Originally the idea was to base travel around the Hoi An area and discover the coastline and sights, but reading weather reports, it didn’t seem like a wonderful time to be travelling around on a motor-bike as it’s the rainy season during October and its pretty dismal being wet on a bike, so a re-think was required.

Con Dao archipelago and a re-visit to Phu Quoc island was the new itinary and duly booked. An overnight stop at a hotel in Ho Chi Minh for flight connections was conveniently close to be within walking distance from the airport.

Con Son Island, the only inhabited island in the Con Dao archipelago,  is a 45 minute flight from Ho Chi Minh. Not a huge choice of hotels on the island, ranging from the uber-stylish Six Senses, to various small hotels.

Con Dao camping was my choice (I wasn’t feeling uber enough financially for the luxury SixS’s). A short taxi ride on the island road to town was an introduction to the idyllic scenery of the archipelago. The road has been carved around the steep mountains for access to Con Son, the town and the fishing port at the far end of the island.

Con Son view...

Con Son view…

The island has only 30km of tarmac road and few tracks, the mountain terrain is completely inhospitable and the army have the only access to the other side of the island.

Con Son was home to the infamous penal system for Vietnamese nationalists imprisoned under the French colonial era and subsequently the Americans kept the prisons running during the Vietnam War.

Many Vietnamese make the visit to the island to pray and leave offerings at the shrine, we were told the majority of these visitors are from Hanoi area.

My plane was full of families with huge flower arrangements, at first I thought it may be a public holiday, but after arriving, I understood it was the normal tribute for respect of those who were lost in this lonely place, where families come to pray for those who were lost over a period of many years .. It is hard to understand the attrition of war, earlier and later, conditions here must have been dire, when it was only a penal colony under French rule and then the Americans took it over. I hate to think of the abuses, it was, at that time, a war we had little understanding of .

I didn’t want to examine the prison and the infamous “Tiger Cages”, how the West could have continued the atrocities, it’s beyond my scope of thinking, there must have been reasons, but to me,the suffering in Vietnam during the war years is beyond belief, the West shouldn’t have been there ..but they were and those who experienced Vietnam, must have memories they wouldn’t wish to share …

Appropriate sculpture for a penal island...

Appropriate sculpture for a penal island…

There are 16 islands in the archipelago and are now part of the Con Dao National park. Turtles species and dugong are amongst the endangered species protected within the park.

The scenery is spectacular, Con Son has a huge sweep of bay protected by outer islands, and there are some popular swimming spots off the promenade.

Con Dao Camping was the choice of resort and I wasn’t disappointed. Basic A-frame rooms opening onto the beach with a glorious view,it was all that was needed.

Con Dao Camping ... on the beach

Con Dao Camping … on the beach

Off out early on the first morning, a walk down the long beach was a must and I wasn’t disappointed.

Sand dollars, hundreds of them...

Sand dollars, hundreds of them…

Hundreds of tiny sand dollars lay exposed on the sand, as it was low tide and I found some lovely specimens of Malleus alba. Bi-valves were prevalent, with a few damaged gastropods . Time to get on the road and explore, looking for more varieties…

The trusty steed...

The trusty steed…

The best way was to travel was on a small motorbike, so we headed off to the fishing port at the end of the road, opposite hon Ba Island. The fishing port was languorous in the heat of the day, activity seemed to be at a slow pace, but as always, there were portside shops and drying fish spread out alongside the dock.

Further down the road was a huge area of dredged sand, so it was time to check out the shoreline. The area was full of Vexillum of different varieties and also the dreaded sand fly.

On arrival at the camping resort we were warned about sandflies all over the island,and duly stocked up with the Deet on sale, slathered it on, but my hunting had taken me into the sea, so my ankles were now Deet-less …and I paid for it! Looking down and wondering why my ankles seemed to be flecked with black dots, I realized and started to beat them off .. too late,the damage was done and continued, unbeknown to me … I’ve always been fairly immune to bites, so wasn’t too worried about it and casually we headed back to town with a good collection of beach finds.

A small rest on the pier gave us a glimpse of the life …

In Vietnam, the food is a huge draw, there aren’t too many places to eat in Con Son, but a row of restaurants behind the camping resort led us to choose Ot seafood restaurant.

OT dining.

OT dining.

Choosing from the large tanks of fish and shellfish, everything ordered was delicious and fresh! Basic décor, friendly staff, little English spoken, but adept at understanding my hand-signals,it made it the place to eat for the stay.

Crab for dinner...

Crab for dinner…

Mosquito coils lit, sprayed with every repellent I had brought, it was time to sleep…which didn’t happen, the sandfly bites, innocuous at first, suddenly turned into an itch, which got worse and worse. Once scratched, it’s a vicious cycle and finally I slept for a short while, with ankles wrapped in wet flannels.

As dawn broke I was back out on the beach (covered in Deet) to be greeted by local ladies taking their exercise before the heat and humidity of the day started.A loudspeaker was broadcasting over the town, a female voice, strident and clipped…was it an impending disaster being announced by civil defence ? Had I been spotted hoarding sand dollars? Was a tsunami approaching? .. very disconcerting,what was going on? but watching the local ladies continue undisturbed, striding down the beach, I could only assume all was well .

Early morning view at Con Dao camping, after a sleepless night...

Early morning view at Con Dao camping, after a sleepless night…

Unable to resist the lure of even more sand dollars , I did my morning workout by bending and collecting and watching the tranquil sunrise appear over the South China Sea , a glorious spectacle. Within 5 minutes dark clouds appeared over the mountains behind me, thunder and lightening and the heavens opened. Time to retreat…Finding refuge in the beach restaurant of the resort and requesting a coffee from the only person around, later discovered to be the resort maintenance man, I was served an interesting Vietnamese coffee .. thick grounds filtered down into an inch of ice cold water .. okay, well, when in Vietnam … it certainly woke me up ! Querying the exhorting broadcast later with the resort manager, she sheepishly explained that the daily early morning broadcast was the news. TV, Radio and Internet access is not common over the island, so each day a 6am government broadcast gave the locals a morning update on the news.

Storm coming in....

Storm coming in….

Later on the weather cleared and as always, a visit to the local fruit , vegetable and fish market was on the agenda. After experiencing Asia, one of my trip highlights is to seek out the local markets. The display of fruit and veg, the variety of different foods on sale, catches of the day and the colour of local life is a magnet for my camera.Pictures speak the words…

Con Son beaches are few, but visiting them all was a priority, so off we hurtled on the trusty bike. By the airport is a muddy track to one large beach, getting there was an achievement in staying on the bike. Plenty of potholes and remembering the dire warning I read somewhere, that in case injuries cannot be treated on Con Son, with its limited facilities, an airlift by helicopter is needed, which comes with a $5,000 advance payment, I will say here that much care was taken.

A beautiful beach, with food shacks and hammocks awaited us and as always, a long walk ahead beachcombing. Quite limited on the shell collecting side, I trawled through the tideline and came up with some wonderful Sea beans and tree fruit cast up on the shore … this part of my collection started in Borneo and Vietnam yielded a wonderful selection for the Bean jar.

It was hot and humid, so a plunge into the sea for a float, just taking in the beauty of it all was a welcome rest…. Time for a beer, maybe some food too, if we could understand what was on offer to make a choice.

Heading up to the closest food shack, there were tanks of live seafood, some interesting choices but it was too hot to eat, so a fresh coconut quenched the thirst and it was then onwards to the next stop.

Vietnam is the land of the hammock, everywhere you go, there are hammocks, there are stands in some areas for “take your own hammock” use, it isn’t unusual to see a motorbike stop by two trees, hammock unrolled and attached and instant sleep by the occupant, understandable in this humid climate.

Hammocks are useful....

Hammocks are useful….

On the opposite side of the peninsula there was no defined road to the beach so another scary bike-slither down a muddy road onto the most beautiful white sand beach. The Airport runway edges out into the sea, but the resourceful locals bike it at low tide to the opposite end. Several bikes came past with bags of shells and fish, heading to the market for sale, no-one else around on this white sand paradise.

Time to leave this little island and head across to re-visit Phu Quoc.

An early morning flight, taxi organized for the short airport journey, off we headed.

First sign of change was our Vietnamese taxi driver stopping talking on his mobile, and trying to explain something. Language barrier matched the airport barrier, hmm, obviously airport was closed, assuming a flight delay, we asked him to take us to the fabulous Six Senses resort , the closest stop, surely they would welcome us for breakfast, we didn’t look too scruffy……..

Offloaded at the entrance, the welcome was superb, escorted to the beachside dining room, a personalised tour of the breakfast fare on offer, wonderful. Homemade smoothies, Turkish poached eggs and a selection from the cold room, this was turning the day from bad to luxurious. Free wifi meant a check up on the flights and new connections with the advantage of guest watching, some falling into the “ very interesting” category, the spectacular sweep of the Six Senses bay, highlighted by the rising sun, all in all, the best decision made.

Our taxi driver returned, perfectly on time and off to Ho Chi Minh we went.

Seamlessly moved onto the next flight, tight for time at Ho Chi Minh, but playing on my metal hip limp and using the Government and crew immigration check to bypass the queues…always smile nicely, its such a polite society, it meant we had time for a coffee before the next flight for Phu Quoc, see my next post …

Information:

Flight Dubai-Ho Chi Minh-Dubai: 

Emirates fly daily from Dubai at 09.40 arriving 19.40 Tan Son Nhat international airport (SGN)

Return departure 23.55(SGN) arriving 04.50(DXB).

Alternative Emirates route with a connection in Singapore is also available.

Airlines that fly from Ho Chi Minh to Con Dao Islands:

Hahn Airlines

Vietnam airlines (operated by Vietjet) my choice.

Be aware that flights can be cancelled with little warning.

Hotel:

Con Dao Camping Hotel

I used booking.com.

Phu Quoc Island 2013

A short plane ride from Ho Chi Minh, Phu Quoc island is on the cusp of development investment, but for the present, retains its authenticity as one of Vietnam’s traditional fishing locations. Baffling road works around the airport show the amount of investment that is slowly starting to create the infrastructure for the development of tourism.

In years to come it will be a jewel in the Gulf of Thailand , but for now it’s a sleepy island, abject poverty in some areas and incredibly beautiful in others.


A tranquil sea,Cambodia in the distance ...

A tranquil sea,Cambodia in the distance …

Hiring a motor-bike seemed the way to explore and when presented with motorbike helmets in camouflage design and a wry grin on the face of the renter , the feeling of being a Great White Westerner was compounded. Seriously though, the Vietnamese people are tiny in stature and size, and even more so away from Ho Chi Minh city and fast food outlets , the islanders are fit, lithe and the obesity of our western world seems positively self indulgent.


The trusty steed ... check out the GI style helmet...

The trusty steed … check out the GI style helmet…

Duong Dong is the main town on Phu Quoc and hotels lie between the airport and town as the road hits the coast. As yet, the star ratio may not be equivalent to other countries, but being welcomed with hot towels, lemongrass drinks and lovely smiling faces puts inadequacies to rest.


typical Viet water feature, calming and tranquil...

Typical Viet water feature, calming and tranquil…

Off to the night market, my first experience of the famous Asian markets which seem to be a whole different set of social and daily necessities rolled into one.Phu Quoc’s night market is mainly restaurant-oriented with stalls and tables presenting the most amazing displays of fish wares to be cooked in the local style.

Spoilt for fish choice...

Spoilt for fish choice…

Did I dare to eat these ? ....not this time, check out Borneo 2 years on ..

Did I dare to eat these? ….not this time, check out Borneo 2 years on ..

More shellfish ...wonderful colours, and they taste good too....

More shellfish …wonderful colours, and they taste good too….

The seafood is unbeatable here ...

The seafood is unbeatable here …

Famous for its fish sauce (so pungent that airlines ban it, in case the bottles should break …and yes I did get caught on departure and asked to hand over the one I had purchased ) the only way to eat is local style. The cooking is superb, order scallops and not 3 or 4 are presented as in the West, but a whole heaped bowl of scallops tossed in greens and spiced only the way Vietnamese know how. Utterly delicious and the lobster splurge “lets go for it” feast was to die for.

Strong fish sauce....

Strong fish sauce….


Over the week travel around the whole island was accomplished, bumping down dusty unpaved roads and finding beaches, white sand and azure water with no-one in sight .Small villages and family homesteads, just shacks on legs with rattan sides which were homes to families, a line run along the outside replacing wardrobes, hung with the family clothes, the ubiquitous hammocks strung across the free space, no electricity, no water … another world ..But, one thing that struck me was that there was no emotion towards our presence, neither excitement or aggression, it was as if we didn’t exist. We were just passing through their lives, but in other Asian countries I have never experienced such indifference to our presence. As yet the opportunities that tourism present don’t exist for these remoter settlements, their lives are based on fishing and provision . No child or person came begging or asking …

Idyllic shores....

Idyllic shores….

Caught a fish...

Caught a fish.


Fishing is the main staple of the economy on Phu Quoc, every village has its own boats, and the main fleet are based in Duong Dong… feeding the local market with fresh produce from the Gulf of Thailand.

I would wonder quite how seaworthy this little craft is ....

I would wonder quite how seaworthy this little craft is ….

The fleet in Duong Dong harbour...

The fleet in Duong Dong harbour…

Sunset over the harbour...

Sunset over the harbour…

Drying fish for food and fish sauce is part of daily life and all around the island wooden trays were laid out to dry, with pungent fish drying in the sun. You knew you were heading towards one of these areas from quite a way away.

Working at drying fish...

Overpowering aroma of drying fish became a part of travel ....

Overpowering aroma of drying fish became a part of travel ….


Memories of Phu Quoc are arriving in a small fishing port on the landward side, finding an incredibly long pier built right out into the sea as the lagoon was so shallow, the boats couldn’t dock, walking out along the endless pier, being “friended” by some visiting mainland Vietnamese and somehow being centre-stage in their holiday snap shots without uttering a word, but lots of smiles. I was their new western friend for a shutter moment, seeing nets in the back of boats which were threaded with huge Volute shells to hold the net down in the water.

The long narrow pier...

The long narrow pier…

Volute weights on nets ...for catching octopus...

Volute weights on nets …for catching octopus…


Further up the dirt track which rings the island and the route to the main port on the landward side, stopping at a small sign offering coffee and being shown to a bench looking out over a turquoise sea framed by coconut palms, watching the fishermen in their small rattan huts perched on stilts above the sea. One of the best locations ever for coffee!

Made me want to be a fisherman ...

Made me want to be a fisherman …

View from the coffeeshop, beats Starbucks any day ....

View from the coffee-shop, beats Starbucks any day ….


Coming across an alligator farm and shop on the side of the road, going to look, the owner was too indifferent to our presence in the heat of the day to exit his hammock and try to make a sale, We left empty-handed as the languor was catching, it was too hot to buy.

Hammock in the heat ...

Relaxing in the hammock in the heat …

Bottled snake.....

Bottled snake…..


Flowers on the roadside, Orchids hanging in gardens, spectacular colours…

A new one for me...so far nameless...

A new one for me…so far nameless…

Orchids...

Orchids…


Meeting fellow travellers on a remote beach,the only Europeans we had seen and having an intense conversation about Asia and travels with complete strangers, knee deep in water,arranging to meet our new best friends for dinner in the night market – would we , wouldn’t we, a chance meeting and a loose arrangement ..normal amongst travellers in different lands.

dinner.....

dinner…..


Eating on the beach, not so many beachside eateries to come across, luckily finding one and ordering tamarind prawns, Vietnamese style, I can still recall the taste to this day, superb cooking which in my world would be the subject of a TV show. Prawns,scallops, fish all on offer, freshly cooked and utterly delicious.

Grilled prawns, vietnamese style ...

Grilled prawns, vietnamese style …


Watching girls grind chilli for local island paste, being offered a huge Helmet shell for sale …carrying my $10 huge shell on the back of the bike, bumping along 30 km of forest track, there was a long cause for regret at my instant purchase.

Grinding chilli's ...

Grinding chilli’s …


Dropping into a road-side bar/restaurant, finding in situ the very British owner, with his local wife and 2 children scratching a living before tourism hits, meeting an expat Australian over a whisky or two and leaving with an invitation to visit the pearl fishery he was managing.Visiting and learning some new facts about how the whole industry starts in these farms, fascinating manipulation of the natural ecological cycle of the oyster, I still have the beautiful shell he gave me.

Iridescent oyster shell in a grubby bowl …..


Passing through a village where the track was churned into knee-deep mud after a recent momentary downpour, fisherfolk selling wares in the mud, shacks so basic and tumbledown that it was a shock to realise these were home. Filth everywhere and plastic waste, the scourge of under-developed worlds, scattered as far as you could see. Feeling over-privileged and vulnerable, the bike was moved up a gear or two to power us out of that place . It was an uncomfortable feeling, the only time on the island that the poverty was over-whelming and unwelcoming.

Fisherfolk's homes.....

Fisherfolk’s homes…..


The sunsets were my first experience of the South east Asian sunset, intense pink hues flooding the horizon as the setting sun moved west. Phu Quoc was a remarkable place to visit,though I suspect that I won’t return, there is too much more of Asia to see and do and in a few years it will be a very different place.

Asian sunset ....

Asian sunset ….

Vietnam June 2013-24 hours in Ho Chi Minh City

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh city as a westerner is the most incredible assault on one’s senses. Movement everywhere, motor-bikes and scooters tearing out of every road, outnumbering cars, buildings old and new packed closely together.


Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 18.32.37

Scooters everywhere, crossing the road is at your peril…

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