This journey to Phu Quoc was expected to involve 7 means of transport although one was deleted when the taxi came to the door of the Homestay in Lao Chai hamlet this removing the need for a motor bike transfer to the taxi. I took a mini bus to Lao Cai (not the same as Lao Chai!) and then the overnight train back to Hanoi. The mini bus trip to Loa Cai was a bit stressful as there were a lot of traffic jams and accidents along the road out of the mountains. But we arrived in good enough time. Then a taxi to the airport and after the flight a taxi to my first Homestay at Ong Lang beach. The accommodation was part of someone’s house and a number of separate / small en suite rooms. My sandals were neatly left at the door of the room and all was good until the morning. How was I going to get about with only one sandal! There was now only one sandal sitting there. Slight concern and puzzlement ensued but who was going to steal a sandal! Logic then was called into play - owners dog - quite young dog - running around and a bit silly - sandal found in the driveway.
This area I discovered was mainly hotels and resorts along the beach and the best spots used up by them. I did manage to get on to these and did a few beach paintings. Another was at Bamboo Restaurant loacted beside a resort well protected by security.
The room I had at my Homestay had only one small high level window. It must have been only 2 square feet. “One foot in the Algarve” came to mind. Victor and Margaret Meldrew think they are in a prison cell with only a small window and no food or water. Are you old enough to remember the episode?
Well my accommodation was much better than that but just one tiny high up window.
When there I ate between two restaurants / cafes. One was the sort of place where you get a table cloth and the other just aluminium tables and plastic chairs. More locals than tourists eating there. Eating in these local kitchen like paces in Vietnam is interesting. As a solo traveller they are a source of amusement and people watching. The “waitresses” tend to stomp around barking orders at their colleagues and there it a general sense of mayhem. Orders are taken and you rearely get a bill as such. Instead the amount owing is written on a scrap of paper or in a notebook just below another addition. You are then shown it. Cash tills are not really evident. Instead the money is stored in a plastic bag, pocket, or purse. You get the hint when it’s time to fork out so to speak.
In less professional restaurants often you are shown to the table, given the menu and more often that not the person waiting waits just there and hovers over you making inane suggestions. Often I would say something like “just give me 5 minutes”. I suppose that’s better than saying somthing else! They generally get the message and go away. There are then the what I would call ‘hustlers’ whose job is to whip perople up off the street. This is when you stop to read the menu on display on the street. Often at this point I walk on instead of reading more as sometimes they hustle too much. This seems to be the culture but is putting western people off.
Cash in Vietnam is king. Rarely did I see credit cards being used. There are quite a lot of ATM’s about in Vietnam. Often a row of a few in a glass enclosed building. In some places there are signs along the main drags advertising ATM. I soon discovered these were ATM’s but not with the ‘A’ for automatic. These were shops where you can get cash and pay 3% or so to draw cash. Fees are generally charged by the real ATM’s. If a card payment is taken they add a fee to the amount.
At Eco Beach resort at Ong lang beach I painted a 10”x 14”. Then I decided it wasn’t working and took the scissors to it. It was cut down and gave me a 10 x 8 and a 7 x 5 after some minor tweaking the next day. So what makes it work and not work? In this case there was too much going on and too much to focus your eye on to a state where you don’t know what to look at and you are confused. Anyway it works a bit better as two paintings rather than one.
Something about dogs. They are everywhere. I mentioned before the dogs prowling about the floating fish farms on Cat Ba island to protect the stock. The dogs in Asia are not qiite like western ones. Generally not the sort you would see at Crufts but an assortment of mongrels. The best comparisons I can use is the dogs in Ancient Greek days and paintings in the tombs of the Pharaohs.
My next area was nearer to Sao Beach. I was keen to capture more of the typical tree and beach scenes. I stayed in a small resort of little huts and houses. Some of these were like Hobbit houses and seemed quite new.
Alas my time on Phu Quoc had to come to an end. I would love to have had time to explore it a bit more but must move on to the area of the Meekon River delta.