Saturday, December 27, 2014

Photo and Fishing Adventures on Phu Quoc

27 December 2014

Dad's hat needed to go on a photo adventure.  We - Richard, the hat, and I - walked down the beach to the rocky headland.  Which may or may not be a tombolo (which is an island attached to the mainland by a sand bar or spit).  I'm not sure because the pile of rocks that might be called an island is barely an island, and the bar or spit is, well, not very long.  But this isn't really a rocky headland, either, since the rocks aren't attached to the main part of the island.  If you've ever been to The Baths of Virgin Gorda, this is similar but in miniature - a pile of huge boulders that are half in the sea and half on land (or sand), and rising way up and jumbled and piled on each other, sort of like a pile of pebbles for a giant.

Anyway, whatever it is, a mini batholith or a short tombolo, it's an interesting geological feature on a beach, and that's what our dad studied and taught.  So he'd like this little spot, whatever it might be called in coastal geomorphology terminology.  

We did the normal hat on a rock looking out to sea kinds of shots.  Hat on another rock.  Hat between rocky pillars.  Had fun finding new and creative spots for the hat.

Then I saw a young woman trying to take a photo of where we were - Richard noticed someone had climbed to the top of the rocks, and she was getting his photo.  Well of course we had to get that photo too (though neither of us were willing to climb to the top of this huge boulder) - so I ran over and tried talking with the young man on top of the rock.  I asked if he'd wear the hat so we could take his photo.  He said haltingly that he didn't speak English.  So I waved the hat around, pointed to it, said "Mein Papa," put it on my head, took it off, pointed at him, waved the hat in his direction and motioned putting it on his head, and waved my camera.  He copied most of the motions and I nodded vigorously.  He shrugged.  So I handed him the hat, he put it on, his lady friend cheered and she and I took a few photos with this guy wearing dad's hat.  I ran over and he handed the hat to me.  I asked, "Russia?"  He said, "Da."  So I said "Spacibo."  Which of course got a big grin.  (This is why I like knowing how to say thank you in every language we encounter.)  And we left them to the rest of their photo shoot.

Soooooooo, there were some wonderful short sea stacks, little pillars of rock in the water, maybe 5 or 6 feet high (just under 2 meters).  Neither of us were happy about getting out there, but the sea stacks were the perfect spots for the hat.  So, well, what could I do, I didn't have a swimsuit on.  I did have a long top, and dark undies.  Off went the shorts, in I waded, and at least I didn't fall down.  Slowly slowly in cold water with waves surging in and quickly ebbing out, trying to pull me off the rocky bottom and suck me out to sea - I managed to get some great photos, and the hat was thrilled.

And then we did some Phebe cheesecake photos.  Since I was already in my frisky and risqué act.

All that was yesterday.  Yes, more stuff happened, nothing exciting.  We did go into the town of Duong Dong, had a nice dinner, walked around, chatted with a few people who live there.  (I should add that Vietnamese has some variations on the Roman alphabet.  The word Duong uses the usual D, but Dong uses a D with a little dash across the upright.  And the vowels have various accent marks that indicate intonation.  I'm not sure exactly what the dash does to the D, I think it makes it a softer "d" sound, almost more like a "dt" like in Schmidt.  I'm not sure, I'm practicing reading the menu in Vietnamese and the wait staff at our resort all help me.  Anyway, the two Ds of Duong Dong aren't exactly the same.)

Okay, so, today's adventure.  After breakfast, I went for my usual walk on the beach.  There were some boats sort of clustered together that I thought would make a nice photo, so I headed that way (opposite the rocky photo shoot spot).  I also noticed a few people further down the beach doing what looked, from a distance, like sit ups and crunches.  Okay, exercise on the beach, whatever.

I walk along, taking photos, looking around, walking walking.  And as I approach the sit up people, I realize that they have some wooden device, sort of a homemade mechanism, somewhere between a ship's steering wheel and a spinning wheel.  There are two men sitting on the close one, and one guy turns the wheel toward himself and leans back, puts a foot on the bottom spoke to push it farther out, sits up, uses the opposite hand (and then foot) to repeat.  Person next to him is coiling rope in a basket.  I look out at the water, and realize they're hauling in a fishing net, by hand!  Pull, lean, push, sit up, repeat.  Maybe 6 or 8 or 10 yards or meters down the beach is another one of these devices, with another man doing the wheel thing, and a woman coiling the rope.

I watch.  I take photos.  I sit on a wood table to see what happens next.  

At some point, the spot on the net where the rope is tied finally reaches shore.  The wheel guy takes off his hat and shirt, nods at me to say hello, and heads to the water.  Unties the rope, walks into the water, swims about halfway out along the edge of the large net, and ties the rope there.  Guy on the opposite side does the same thing on his side.  The two swim back, and go back to the wheel sit up thing.  

They continue pulling in the net.  But the part that has already arrived at the shore is bunching up.  A man starts hauling it in at the far end, but there's no one at our end to haul in the net.  So I put down my stuff, camera in pocket, and motion to the wheel guy to ask if I should go pull in the net.  He smiles and nods, gives me a bicep flex to indicate you need to be strong to do this, and I go and start hauling in the net, hand over hand, trying to get a little accordian fold pile of net going.  Of course, the net doesn't cooperate, and it turns out I'm supposed to be leaving it in the water and not on the beach.  Pretty soon a nice Italian guy comes over and starts hauling in the net with me.  But since we're both not doing it the right way (not having a clue), the wheel guy comes back and shows us how it should be done.  We fall back, laughing, and let the fishermen do what they do and stop pretending we know how to pull in a net.  

So I chat with Mr and Mrs Italy - sorry: Signor i Signora Italia - who are very nice people, about Richard and my age, they're travelling around SE Asia and heading to Laos and Cambodia, they'd like to settle on an island.  (I recommended the Caribbean....)  We had a nice chat as we took photos of the fishing net being pulled into a loop, then a circle, then sort of rolled up around the edges to make one concentrated pile of sea creatures.  Buckets were brought down and the people in the water scooped up the fish, then brought them to shore and dumped them into huge plastic baskets on the ever-present wooden yoke.  

I'm not sure what all of the fish were, but many were teeny tiny little fish, hardly big enough to eat.  There were a few small yellowtail snappers, several squid, a small flatfish (maybe a flounder), and a baby octopus.  As my Italian friends said, the small fish should be thrown back in the sea so they could grow large and make better eating.  It makes sense to us.  But Phu Quoc is home of Vietnamese fish sauce, that spicy and pungent fermented fish sauce that smells horrible but tastes so good, and is quintessentially Vietnamese.  I suspect the tiny fish will be either sold to the fish sauce factory, or used for homemade fish sauce.

Anyway, it was an exciting morning adventure, I learned somewhat how fishing is done on Phu Quoc, and we now have a place to stay when we get to northern Italy, to Lago Maggiore.  

Not bad for a morning walk!

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