Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday August 29: Phu Quoc, vietnam

I had to change hotels today. I had originally booked a couple of nights at the Sea Star Resort. I had a seaview cabin. It was well appointed with a fridge, minibar, aircon, comfortable king size bed and TV. I also had a nice comfy lounge chair with a balcony overlooking the garden and ocean. All in all i was quite happy there although the service in the restaurant was poor. There was a note in the hotel information asking guests to be patient with restaurant staff as they were being trained. The note looked old and I suspect it will still be there in the future. There was no evidence that the staff were being trained or had learnt from any training.
My new hotel is the Mai Spa Resort. It is only 100metres further along the beach than my old one, but by road it is a 10 minute walk. I have seen no other guests, although cabins are being cleaned so maybe someone else is around. The cabin is also well appointed, but has no TV not that I am missing that. Most of the resort is under construction with a new pool planned, several cabins under construction and new paths being laid. At the moment I am using a series of stepping stones to reach my cabin and the restaurant.
I am happy with the accommodation, paying $40 per night, in high season this room would command over $100.
The weather stayed wet again all day, although it did ease up late morning. This gave me an opportunity for a small walk along the main street towards town and find a place to eat for lunch. I could now see that my location is not far from the outskirts and it would be an easy walk weather permitting.
For lunch there were several options despite many restaurants being closed and boarded up. Closed for the low season or just until the evening? I am not sure. I investigated a tapas place, but found nothing on the menu that appealed to me, so I moved on. I settled on a place, called Red River, that despite having only one couple inside looked clean, prosperous and had a good variety of menu choices. The couple turned out to be Canadians living in Houston and were very friendly. We soon got chatting and shared lunch, beers and a few stories for a couple of hours.
I returned to my room and wiled away the rest of the afternoon.
For dinner I decided to venture out to the night market. I chose a gap in the rain and hired a ride on a motorbike into the market. The market follows a street maybe 200metres long. A lot of stalls seemed to be shut. One end of the market is almost entirely devoted to bling, it consists of jewellers selling bright shiny things and decorated shells plus bracelets etc. Also to be found are traditional Vietnames hats, tshirts and the like. The opposite end of the market is primarily food. I settled on a place that advertised itself as a BBQ and had a variety of fish and shellfish on display. I selected a large skewer of chicken chunks interspersed with vegetables. This came with a bowl of rice for 50,000 dong, about $2.50. The place was called "Cat Food".
I had just sat down when the Canadian couple walked past. John and Pam joined me for dinner and we shared a few more beers and stories. The weather had closed in again and it rained quite heavily, fortunately we were seated well under cover so remained dry.
The lady who appeared to be the head waitress, or possibly the tout to attract customers, adopted me (us?) during the course of the meal. I had actually noticed her earlier, hard to avoid noticing someone in a fluorescent yellow top. She was limping and during the evening as we "chatted" I had a closer look. From the swelling it looked like she may have broken her big toe or at least suffered a crush injury in the region where it joins the main foot. I ended up holding a block of ice on her injury for some time.
Phuc was her name and she spent most of the evening sitting next to me, returning after serving customers. I am not exactly sure what was going on. I know the protocols and expectations when a waitress adopts me in a seedy bar. But I am not sure what happens in a reputable restaurant. The other factor was that she barely spoke English, and I don't know any Vietnamese, so the "chatting" was mainly pigeon English and sign language. If she had less than honourable intentions, she was unable to get the message across to me or I am too stupid to read the messages - a distinct possibility.
As I write this on the Tuesday the weather has improved, there is still a strong breeze, but the waves are slightly smaller than yesterday, the sky is lighter, although still overcast and the sun managed to break through for a few minutes.
It is time for The Bludger to go exploring.
Nick Smith
Sent from my Acer Iconia A500 Tab

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