Celebrating International Women’s Day

Quy Nhon

Despite being thoroughly off the tourist track, while being in fact right on it, and conveniently placed half way on a major tourist run, Quy Nhon never sees any tourists, which makes it a very interesting town to visit. Never in my life have I felt quite so exotic, with passers by openly staring, little children daring each other to run up and shout “hello!”, and people on scooters doing double takes, staring and almost falling off.

Besides the attraction of actually featuring as the whole town’s attraction yourself, the town has a half decent municipal beach, only slightly marred by a large fishing village smack in the middle of it, and a bit more marred by the fishing village not having any sewerage facilities to go with the mass of people living in it.

By far the best beach though is a short bike ride out of town, at a nearby leper colony. Yup, you heard right – there’s a leprosy clinic with a very nice village for the patients and their families, situated in a secluded bay just outside town, with a long deserted, casuarina-fringed beach with golden sand. Usually it’s supposed to be deserted, as the locals don’t really go in for beaches, and possibly because they don’t go in for leprosy that much, but today is International Women’s day and a public holiday in Vietnam so the beach is full of Vietnamese picnickers.

While I’m surreptitiously checking for fingers and noses in the sand, a friendly local approaches with more determination and bravery than usual and explains that he and his school’s people’s commitee are on the beach for a day’s outing celebrating women’s day, and that they would very much like to see a couple of foreigners and talk to them. Not wishing to appear unfriendly, we graciously agree to join them. Let me tell you, I could get used to be being a star attraction – not much talking occurs, as the only person who speaks English is the school’s English teacher and his English is virtually incomprehensible (no wonder nobody speaks understandable English here if that’s the standard of the teachers). We do however get offered heaps of fruit and local snacks and again, politeness overrules the “cook it, peel it or forget it” rule, but the real fun part for the locals is offering the tourists rice wine and making them scarf it down in one. Oh, well, at least it will hopefully kill the germs on the unwashed fruit. It might not kill the germs, but the midday sun combined with the midday alco binge does kill all inclination to move around and explore for the rest of the day.

Man does need sustenance though, and in the evening we decide to treat ourselves to a nice seafood dinner at a posh local restaurant, which comes strongly recommended by Barbara. Once again, not a soul speaks a word of English, which makes it hard to order anything beyond drinks, but a solution is quickly found in that would the tourist come to the fish tanks and point out the fish he wants. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Not quite, as the waiters seem determined to not see the apparently cheapo fish I’m pointing out, and seem set on me pointing out the Iguana next to the fishes. We finally seem to agree on a fish, and I return to the table, dreading how I’ll explain the massive lizard about to be served to us to ever patient L, but thankfully, some sort of fish duly appears, although the cooking process seems to have changed it’s shape dramatically from when I pointed it out swimming in the tank. No worries though, at least it’s a fish, and big enough for two so we’re all set and happy, but before we’re halfway through the fish, it turns out that we seem to have ordered a huge seafood hotpot as well. Dreading how many other things on the menu we’ve unknowingly ordered, I make a quick escape back to the hotel, well, a slow waddle is more like it, to get some more money as the place really is posh and expensive looking, and waddle back before we get enough food to feed Africa, only to find out that an evening’s being waited on hand and foot in the most expensive restaurant in town, with enough food to feed a family of eight and drinks to go with it, costs about 15us$. Compared to prices anywhere else in the world for the same service, it would be cheaper to fly to Quy Nhon just to eat here.

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