Friday, March 23, 2007

phu quoc

The sand was just like peanut butter cookie dough. Really...I even made Will some sand peanut butter cookies but I don't think he found them very impressive.

This spot is where we spent most of our time in Phu Quoc.

Our hotel consisted of a handful of little bungalows and rooms (4 bungalows, 6 rooms, to be exact) arranged in a loose semicircle around the open air restaurant, all right in the beach. Our bungalow is the slightly smaller one on the right and directly behind Will. They were simple and pretty, with the same red stone floors as the pathways and restaurant and low, smooth wood furnishings. At the entrance of each was a little pot of sun-warmed water and a coconut dipper to wash our feet and keep sand out of everything.

Views to the left and right of my beach chair.

As you can see, we had things pretty much to ourselves. Although we didn't really know it when we reserved our bungalow, happily we were pretty far from the main drag of hotels, resorts, and guesthouses on Phu Quoc. We basically only saw other people staying at our place--Will's friends unfortunately couldn't get plane tickets to the island and weren't among them--mostly interchangeable-looking European men and their Asian girlfriends, but also a funny older French couple and a group of 3 Australian guys living in China.

We ate seafood right out of the ocean and drank coconuts knocked off the trees clustered around our area. The little restaurant made both Western and Vietnamese dishes--we usually had Western food for breakfast and non-Western food for everything else. Tofu and eggs were a hot commodity, as the restaurant only bought a certain amount from town each day and sometimes ran out. Will determinedly stuck to a 4-or-5 meal per day regimen, a fact that helped make us a favorite with Keing (the waiter/odd-job guy).

Vietnam far and away possesses the the happiest dogs (both wild and domestic) of any Asian country I've visited. In Korea, most dogs are kept outside in small cages or on short chains. Their fur is raggedy and filthy, and they get taunted and tormented by passerby--especially kids. The strays are skinnier and even dirtier (the other day I happened across a stray blind-in-one-eye, 3-legged teacup chihuahua), and the few (lucky?) lapdogs are usually dyed strange colors (pink and green are the most popular) and forced into clothes. In China and Cambodia they have it a little better (I've seen some happy looking ones), but most still suffer in tiny cages and filth. In Vietnam (especially Phu Quoc but Saigon too), both pet and wild dogs have glossy fur and dog smiles on their faces. Phu Quoc has a ton of mostly wild dogs that roam the island freely and mainly ignore people. The little guy in the pictures adopted Will and me as beach lounging companions, hanging out under the shade of our beach chairs and coming to lie under our table when we went up to the restaurant to eat. He liked being patted and did not once beg for food.

We could walk waaaay down the beach without seeing a soul (apart from the occasional dog). On our first day, we found a place where a stream entering the ocean had carved the beach into a steep dropoff and watched a cat-sized black octopus come out of the depths to eat hermit crabs.

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