Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Phu Quoc Christmas Eve Druid Solstice Bonfire

24 December 2014

We woke up this morning bright and early to a sunny idyllic tropical paradise.  A short walk across the long concrete boardwalk, this time seeing the marsh or swamp or whatever it is, and breakfast on the beach.  

The restaurant crew are friendly and do their best to understand the multiple languages of the guests - we've heard Swedish, German, Russian (or possibly Ukranian), Italian, French, and some not-yet-identified languages.  The restaurant seems to be a family business, with several children assisting older brothers and sisters, and the parents doing most of the cooking.

After breakfast, a short walk around the beach - we have golden sand, aqua to blue water that is surprisingly chilly for such a tropical look, and colorful boats in water colors, the better to contrast with the bright red and yellow flags of Vietnam.

The air temperature is about 85 F (27 C), with gentle breezes, of course.  Absolutely perfect kind of temperature.  Which is why we were so surprised by how cool the water is, not quite frigid but definitely bracing.  The sky clouded over as the day progressed, we both fell asleep (me in a hammock, which was lovely), and we mostly just whiled away our first day here in Phu Quoc.  It's just so relaxing to sit under a palm thatch umbrella, listening to the waves, or swinging in a hammock on the little porch, while the breezes waft across and maybe a butterfly comes flittering by.

We have a garden view bungalow with AC - we started in a bungalow facing the beach (and marsh) but it didn't have AC.  And given the mosquitoes - not a lot, but they still find me - we opted for the AC.  Somehow the mosquito nets and fans don't seem to prevent those little guys from finding and biting me.  (And giving me things like dengue.  So we're being a little extravagant and going with the freeze-the-skeeters route.)

I think at this point in time many people have tried Vietnamese food.  The restaurant serves pho, the soup with everything in it - and yes, this is a breakfast option.  There are several noodle soups available for lunch and dinner, as well as egg dishes, rice dishes, other noodle dishes, and a few western items.  We haven't quite figured out the sauteed spaghetti.  But the chicken with lemongrass and chiles is great.  My favorite are the spring rolls - the wrapper is uncooked, and the inside is rice noodle vermicelli with tons of greens and either basil or cilantro (coriander) leaves, and a row of lovely cooked shrimp.  The whole thing is wrapped and rolled, and dipped into a spicy sweet chile fish sauce for eating.  Wonderful light lunch on a hot day!

At dinner tonight, we discovered the Phu Quoc resort tradition of a beach bonfire for Christmas.  We're not sure if this is the way other parts of Vietnam celebrate Christmas, or if this is just something done here for the visitors.  But it looks rather like a large Christmas tree burning up.  The logs are stacked in a tripod formation, with smaller logs and plenty of kindling underneath.  We weren't there for the lighting, but by the time we arrived it was burning merrily, with occasional sparks flying up and around.  The staff periodically tossed another log on the fire, things would flame up, and eventually work back down to burning and glowing logs.  (We could see another two or three bonfires down the beach to the south, so it isn't just this place that does the fire thing.  It seems to be a fairly common way of celebrating the holiday here.)

So we had dinner, then hung out on the beach watching the fire and just chatting.  There are boats that line up out in the water, with bright white lights.  Not sure if they're fishing (squid is a big menu item here), or what.  I don't know if one even can fish with bright white lights.  It actually makes things look as if there's land out there.  But in daylight it's obvious that there's NOTHING, just sea or ocean or gulf or whatever it is.  Water.  So the lights at night are definitely boats.

OH, the crazy tree.  I guess this is a Christmas tree.  Sort of.  A dried out tree, with cotton balls added where the leaves would be.  Twinkle lights wrapped around.  And colorful balloons added.  A little crazy, but colorful and cheerful and somewhat holiday-ish.

So that was our first full day on Phu Quoc.  No plans yet for tomorrow, but we'll try to arrange a dive or two while we're here.  

If we can brave than chilly water!

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