We are on a bus headed to a small city called Quy Nhon about 120 kilometers north of NhaTrang. I decided to take a little bit of a break from all of the decisions and busy life I have had up until now, and just go for a few days off. Quy Nhon is almost the same as NhaTrang with long and beautiful beaches. There is one major difference though. Tourism has yet to find it. I am hoping it will be like NhaTrang 10 years ago. Quiet beeches, with not to many aggressive panhandlers. I remember the first time I was here. Mai and I were on the beach and a bit thirsty. We hired a young boy to climb a palm tree and fetch us a couple of young coconuts. He retrieved them and expertly chopped of the tops, and punched a hole. Instant refreshment. We then called an older woman over who carried 2 pots suspended by ropes, and balanced on a long branch. In one pot was a little clay pot with charcoal, the other full of mantis shrimp. She boiled us up a plate of shrimp on the beach. All of this for mere cents. Apparently, there was a lot of fighting there in the war. Like most of Vietnam, I would imagine that almost all traces of conflict will be gone, but we will see. This trip has me reminiscing…… The first time I came here, it was chaos. It was almost a 3rd world country, and very primitive by our standards. Almost no refrigeration, very few restaurants with regular sized tables and chairs, Mostly a person had to sit on child sized seats, crouched over whatever you were consuming. Toilets as we know them where another rarity. Of course the hotels have them, but I have never until recently traveled here as a tourist. The first time I did was 2009. Until then you used the side of the road, or squat toilets. Some of the rooms I was sent into, I still do not know how to use until this day. I was jumpy at everything. People were not used to tourists, so I was eyed suspiciously. I mistakenly took a lot of those looks for plain hostility. Sure, there was some dislike of their perceived rich westerner in their country being able to afford things they could only dream of. Everywhere I went, I felt I was being watched, and it turned out to be true…. Not by the pickpockets and burglars I thought they were, but many times by police in plain clothes to make sure both I and the local population did not end up in conflict. I did get spit at and had some things thrown at me. I also had women everywhere trying to cast their version of witchcraft on me to try to attract me and my money. At the time it was also illegal for a foreigner to stay in a Vietnamese house. I was like a virtual prisoner in the home. I did not understand anything about this country. The culture shock was devastating, and I was cowed by it. I can almost imagine the confusion that the American soldier had to deal with here. I myself felt overwhelmed. If there was anything I wished to do, I had to be led by the hand and have it done for me. I feel I was quite a burden on my family then. If I went with them shopping, the prices would rise, If we went somewhere the beggars would swamp us. There was no English TV or radio. I decided to try to purchase some books to read…. No books. I ended up spending much of my 6 weeks confined to the house watching the antics of many different insects. I did from time to time go out with escorts to walk the dirt and clay roads that were most of the area I stayed. Back then it seemed the country was populated by angry adults with hoards of misbehaving children. Now those children are grown up and have become part of what is special about this place. I do have good memories of wild areas with blowing palm trees, with rattan huts and small wood buildings draped with banana leafs. I am hoping that Quy Nhon will be a little piece of the past so I can see it all again through more experienced and educated eyes. Things that used to scare me and confuse me are gone. I no longer see the gazes as hostile, and the maddening chaotic pace of life here is almost normal now. The constant noise still gets to me sometimes, but I am sure that will pass also. Next Blog from Quy Nhon I hope.
Oh….. and a few random photo’sas usual