Thursday, September 1, 2011

August 31 - around Phu Quoc island. A string of pearls.

Wednesday. The weather has eased, the sea is calmer, the rain gone and even touches of sunshine. I decided to hire a motorbike and take a tour of the island. Hiring a bike is easy, you walk down the street and people approach you they simply rent you their private bike for the day. The fuel tank is always empty, they must siphon the tanks before leaving home, so as part of the deal you have to fill the tank. Also if you damage the bike you need to get it repaired at your expense. If you are careful and keep the speed down low, which you have to any way due to the poor roads, barring accidents, the risk is low. I struck a deal with a rider basically as I left the hotel for a Yamaha step through, similar to a Vespa, basically a scooter.
Without any clear plan, I headed South following the road that ran parallel to Long Beach where my resort is. This is a strip of typical Tropical sandy beach with the ocean, in this case the Gulf of Thailand, on one side, and palm trees fringing the landward side. It runs for about 20 km. The northern end is built up with resorts, these run south for about 5km, the rest has not been developed yet. I understood why there was no further development, the bitumen road soon ends and turns into a poorly graded dirt road. I was tempted to say track rather than road.
(Continuing some time later. The writing of this posting has been interrupted by the need of a foot massage.)
I passed small fishermen cottages, see photo, and one small bar area, perfect for sunset drinks, a bit of a trek to get there however. I then came upon a sign for a Pearl Farm. Australian managed since 1996, the sign proudly declared. I kept going and then came across a larger establishment proclaiming to be a Pearl Farm. Not interested overly much in Pearls but I decided that since I was there that I should take a look. Wow was this place ever a surprise! Inside the building, which must have been over 100 metres long was a double line of display cases with all manner of glitter. Cases were devoted to pearl necklaces, pearl earrings, pearl rings, combination silver or gold necklaces featuring pearls, pendants and the list goes on. I was adopted by a lady who followed me hawkishly, always ready to tell me the quality and show me the goods up close if I so desired. The prices looked pretty steep some pieces listed as 4,000,000 dong, but when I converted that back to $200 it seemed pretty cheap. I was tempted to purchase for the hell of, it as an investment, but have no particular reason and I don't know the first thing about pearls. So my wallet stayed in my pocket.
Leaving there I soon entered An Thoi. This is primarily a fishing village and i had no idea if there were tourist sites, or if so how to find them, so I contented myself with some pictures of the boats and then moved on.
As i left the town I once again encountered the school girls wearing the traditional Ao Dai. This must be one of the most simple but elegant dresses that I have ever seen. A simple blouse has long panels front and back, these appear to flow in the breeze and as the girls walk or ride their bikes. The Ao Dai is not restricted to school girls it is National Dress for all women. You could spend thousands of dollars for a designer dress and find it hard to look more elegant than wearing one of these knocked up on a home sewing machine with a couple of metres of fabric. Use a search engine for pictures better than I can take.
Leaving An Thoi I was basically heading homeward again. I chose a different road to try and complete a circular path. This led me to Sao Beach. My guide book lists this as a white sandy beach rather undeveloped. No longer, it features at least 2 large resorts which appear to pretty much own the entire beach between them. Being sheltered from the westery winds the sea was calm, the sun was out and it was a tropical paradise. As i arrived I met a group of Buddhist Monks, we talked for a while and after I had wandered around the place I bumped into them again. I stayed and talked with them for a while and they shared some of their food with me. It was simple food mainly fruit, some dry packet crackers and some sesame seed flavoured items that looked like a thicker version of a poppodum. They told me it was all good, I found it rather bland. It was nice of them to do so. I went behind their backs and had a more substantial lunch of fried rice with crab meat after I left them. Plus beer of course.
Despite the obvious attraction I decided not to have a swim and proceeded on. Up ahead I could see storm clouds building up, the weather was closing in again. For safety reasons I had set myself a top speed of 40kmh on the scooter. The temptation was to speed to avoid the rain, but I controlled myself. The temperature dropped and the wind began to pick up. When it looked really dirty I stopped and slipped into a raincoat. Just in time as the rain started soon after. I encountered wind gusts that i estimated up to 40 kmh, they were sufficient to blow me off the bitumen and onto the side of the road on at least 2 occasions. The scooter handles quite different to a motorbike due to the small wheels and centre of gravity, therefore it did not feel safe to do rapid counter actions to prevent running off the road. I chose a gentle braking and controlled exit onto the shoulder in preference. I stayed on the bike and came to no harm on all occasions.
It bucketed down. But I stayed dry in my 25 cent raincoat, despite sheets of water running off me.
The Bludger returned to his accommodation surprisingly dry and being all tuckered out needed a sleep.
Nick Smith
Sent from my Acer Iconia A500 Tab

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