I’d been tossing around the idea of taking a day trip to the coast just to get away and relax. I’ve been through a bit of a whirlwind lately what with moving yet again (this time to another city), starting a new job and having the worst cough I’ve had in years. I wanted to get away, not think about work and, since the meds are finally starting to kick in, just feel good. I woke up this morning at 5:30 already sweltering. Usually I have a fan directed at me all night long, but I soon realized the electricity was out…..which also meant no hot water for my coffee……..drag. That clinched it – goin’ to the coast!
I wasn’t sure of the name of the town at the coast I’d be taking a bus to so I went downstairs to the school office (which opens surprisingly early) hoping to find someone who could direct me to the right bus. After lots of head scratching, laughing about miscommunication and looking words up in my translation dictionary, one of the office staff kindly offered to motorbike me over to the bus stop and she waited with me there to be sure I got on the right bus. I know I’ve said it before, but the people here are SO kind and accommodating – it just blows your mind. So I got on the very crowded bus and stood because there were no seats available – no problem. I have no problem whatsoever standing on a bus. I was actually hoping no one would offer me a seat, but knew someone probably would…..because they’re so kind…. I mean, I don’t deserve to sit down any more than anybody else does. But of course, a young man offered his seat and I didn’t refuse it.
So, off we went down the highway which, about half way into the trip, turned into a muddy, rutted road. I saw a big truck alongside the road keeled over on its side and apparently abandoned because it had got so stuck in the mud no one could pull it out. While I had the mindset that this would be a day trip and wherever I ended up, I’d just make the best of it and take the same bus back, I was still hoping I’d actually make it to the ocean…..that road wasn’t giving me a lot of confidence in the prospect! But, the bus driver, probably a seasoned pro, got us there in an hour. Upon arrival in the coastal town of Ðông Châu, there were, of course, xe oms waiting to take bus passengers to their destinations.. I’ve learned to ask up front, “How much?,” before getting on a bike. He told me 100,00 VNÐ – $5.00. No. No way. I’m a foreigner and that’s a foreigner’s price and I’m not paying it. I could smell the sea air and looking down the road, I could tell it could not possibly be that far away and I basically told him thanks, but no thanks I’ll take the scenic route and walk.
I began my walk down what looked like Main St., everybody saying “Hello!” I’d smile, say ‘hello’ back and they’d start cracking up…..a typical day in small town Vietnam. I took a few pictures on the way down that road and here they are:
I don’t know what this building was, but I thought it was pretty.
This is the side of another structure that was all mossy and textured and cool looking….
….and this is part of a chicken coop, believe it or not. I figured it was a chicken coop because I heard a lot of chickens inside it…..that’s usually a dead give away….
As I said in a previous post, banana trees are everywhere….
…..but have you ever seen or heard of a banana flower?
I’m dying to know what this would look like in full bloom.
Bananas up close…..
Upon reaching the end of the road I, of course, expected to see the sea…..but there was no water…..just wet sand with lots of structures on stilts as far as the eye could see. Well, I figured the tide’s got to be out…..last time I looked at a map, the Gulf of Tonkin oughta be right here…… Actually, the Vietnamese don’t call it that. I still haven’t quite figured out what they do call it…..though some call it the Red Sea. Anyway, it was definitely time for a ca phé so I parked myself at a café on stilts. A gentleman came over and sat down at my table and we conversed as best as we were able, making frequent use of my dictionary. I asked when the tide comes in and he told me it starts coming in around 2:00pm. My next question was “When does the last bus leave for Thai Binh?” I wanted to have plenty of time to get back to the bus stop. He said 6:30pm. It was still only between 10 and 11 in the morning so I had plenty of time to look around and hopefully see the tide come in. While sitting at the café and talking I also took some pictures of the emptied Gulf of Tonkin and here they are:
The reason the stilts on the huts are so tall is that when the tide comes in, the water is just below the little houses on top.
Looks inviting, doesn’t it?
I love this little turquoise boat.
I took this pic looking directly down from my vantage point at the café.
Speaking of the café, how’s this for bamboo flooring?!
This is a view of the café from the levee that runs….well, I’m not sure how far it runs. But it’s at least in the vicinity of the town.
And this is my conversation partner. A very nice gentleman. Something else I learned from him is that Thai Binh means “Peace.”
After my conversation and ca phé, I wanted to walk again and take more pictures. I went down the ‘levee road’ and saw this beautiful sight…..While I was walking down this road, a man rode by on a motorbike, wearing one of those cone shaped hats (called a nón lá in Vietnam) and sort of tipped it at me. Not in the way one does when saying hello or being polite (though he was very polite to do this), but in the way that says, “You’d better think about getting yourself one of these hats, lady. That sun is hot and you look like you’re getting scorched.” Funny how just a tip of a hat can say all that, isn’t it? But I understood that’s exactly what he meant. So, I headed back into town because I remembered seeing them for sale there. I strolled around the market I’d seen the hats at and was a spectacle, as usual. All eyes on this great, giant foreigner. I hadn’t thought about getting one of these hats before, but it turns out they are very practical. The sun really does beat down on you and they’re so protective and incredibly light weight. You hardly feel there’s anything on your head at all. I’m thankful he gave me that little tip of the hat. Here’s a picture of the hat seller. I think she’s beautiful.
After having walked from town to the coast, up and down the coast, back into town and then walking back out to the coast again, I was hungry……and had to pee! So, I stopped at the entrance to the restaurant I’d decided to have lunch at and firstly, asked the lady if I could use the restroom…..and as befitted my inept pronunciation of the Vietnamese language, I drew nothing but a blank stare. So I went looking through my dictionary, trying to find the phrase, “Where is the bathroom?” and just could not find it in there. By this time, I’m drawing a crowd so, finally I figure, okay, forget the phrase – just look up bathroom and show her the word since I can’t pronounce it to save my life…..or my bladder. She looks at the word, looks back at me with a bewildered look on her face and starts rubbing her arms as if to say, “You want to take a shower?” I laughed, shook my head and, desperate, crossed my legs in the universal language that says, “No! I gotta pee!” Everybody laughed. ….then she holds her hand up in the number 4…..she wanted to charge me $2.00 to use the restroom, but one of the other women shook her head, said something to her and gave her a look that said, “Don’t charge her. Let the woman pee, for God’s sake!” So, after taking care of that business as quickly as possible, I went into the restaurant and ordered some lunch.
Now, I don’t know how this is going to look to anybody else, but it looks absolutely delicious to me…..….and it was. I love shrimp. Actually, there were two more on this plate, but I just dug in before I remembered to take a picture……seems I do that a lot! After I ate, I got up to pay for my meal and was invited…or at least encouraged….by the lady (the same one who wanted to charge me 2 bucks to pee!) to hang around and relax ….maybe lay in the hammock and take a nap….. take a load off! Hey, sure, I’ve got nothing pressing to do! There was a lounge-y kind of chair that looked really inviting so I leaned back, put my feet up on the railing and enjoyed the delectable sea breeze. I was beginning to notice a difference on the horizon. A sort of blue strip out in the distance….
After a little while….and after the tide had got closer….I decided I’d like to go for another walk in the other direction along ‘levee road.’ There were some nice sights in that direction, too….imagine that! Here are some pics:
These pools run all along the levee. I don’t know what they’re used for, but they’re pretty.
A path to ……somewhere….
I watched the tide coming in while I strolled.
At one point, I wanted to climb over the levee barrier and walk down to the beach. Anytime I see an ocean, I gotta stick my feet in it! I usually ask before going somewhere I’m not sure about – who knows, maybe this section of the beach is private property – I don’t know! I asked someone (by miming) if I could do this. About three people said, basically, “Yes, go ahead.” So, I climbed over, started walking down there and, just as I’m almost at the water, I hear a man’s voice shouting at me from the levee wall. I turned around and, from that distance, he looked like he might be a policeman or guard or something …..great. Okay – I don’t want any trouble – I’m coming back. By the time I climbed back over the wall, he was sitting with his buddies – he wasn’t a guard of any sort. He was actually one of the people who’d been sitting there when I asked if I could climb the wall. I reminded him that I’d asked, but he just sat there yelling and laughing at me. He was a bit of a jerk, actually, so I just turned around and walked away……I guess jerkdom is universal…..
I went back to the restaurant where I’d had lunch, ordered a ca phé and asked if I could climb down the ladder and walk out to the water. I was given permission, did so and here’s evidence of that venture:
I was sinking in fast! It was very gooey and soft…..and very warm.
Here’s my shadow with the nón lá on my head.
It was around 4:00pm and the tide still had a long way to go before it reached the height of those fishing huts. I could see it would be many hours before that happened and I’d need to leave well before then. I was pretty fried….literally….and decided to go back into town and wait for the bus. As I approached town I could see the bus already waiting there. I picked up my speed and caught it. I enjoyed the ride back – the driver and ticket seller were talking with me. They’d asked where I was from and every time someone new would board the bus, I’d hear them tell the person, “Ca-Lee-Fo-Nee-Ah!” All in all a very nice day ….for about $15.00 total. Amazing.