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Phu Quoc on One Evening

Mike said I was lucky, because it wasn't raining that evening.

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Phu Quoc, August 30th 2011

From the airport, I got on a taxi to take me to Moon Resort which I had booked in advance but turned out to be meaningless. In Moon Resort I was severed with a disappointment after another. Well, I'll write about the details later on my other blog which is all about Vietnam. I spent my first morning in Phu Quoc struggling to get the front desk staffs get me the tour I had booked for through email. And then there was a room problem, and then a key problem. The next couple of hours I spent watching TV while lying down on bed. The good thing here was that I had all my favorite channels running perfectly: National Geographic, Nat Geo Adventure, Nat Geo Wild, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Biography, History... etc, etc. For the TV only, I called it home. Meanwhile it was raining hard outside. I could hear the hard waves of the beach competing with my TV. Then, I fell asleep.

It was 2:00 PM when I woke. The sky was brighter. I got up and went out to look for lunch. I searched for Red River Restaurant, which the tour guide that arranged for my tour tomorrow said would be. His name was Mike. I was happy to find bicycles in front of the restaurant. However, unfortunately, all of them were tandem bikes. I tried one... uuugh, so heavy.

Red River Restaurant was operated under the same management of Moon Resort. Mike was there, and so was Cham, the lady who said would accompany me for the tour the next day. Here in this restaurant, Cham served as my waitress.

I ordered for tomato spaghetti. It should be 60,000 dong, but on my bill was written 70,000 dong. When I asked why, I was told that what was served to me was spaghetti bolognaise which is 70,000 dong. I got the 10,000 dong back eventually but with Mike's comment,

"You are lucky. You have tasted the meat already."

I was just too tired to make another argument with these people. I did not say anything to that comment. I was actually not truly satisfied because I had expected more tomato sauce which as far as I knew, in Vietnam, it's often made of pure tomato and I like that very much. But, I didn't taste anything like that. The thing is not about which is more expensive, it is not what I had wanted. If you order for plain water and get Coca Cola, do you think it won't be funny if the waiter says, "Sir or Madam, you are lucky. You asked for plain water but I give you Coca Cola." ?

While having my lunch, Mike offered me an evening tour on a motorbike. We finally agreed on a price of 300,000 VND.

My main target was actually Phu Quoc National Park to capture the waterfall, as agreed upon bargaining. But when we were already on the motorbike, Mike said there is a beautiful lake, Duong Dong Lake. When we were there he told me that he wanted to take pictures of the lake to put it on his website. We ended up with him taking more pictures than I did. It seemed so.

It was here where I slipped over a wall and sprained my index finger. My middle finger and my left leg bled because of the rough twigs of bushes I had fallen on. Luckily I always keep some band aids handy.

Later that night my index finger increased its size. It hurt when I used it to wash my face and when I rubbed my hair. The next morning I used my middle finger to click on the buttons of my camera.

It was here also when an unpleasant conversation with Mike stirred up. It started with him asking how old I was. I didn't tell him. He asked again. I still didn't tell. He said,

"Don't people use to ask someone's age in your country?"

At this moment I was starting to feel agitated. Why should he press on? Can't he understand that when one doesn't answer, and still doesn't want to answer, then that person really doesn't want to talk about it? At first I just didn't want to tell. Basically, I don't share personal information with people I barely know. But when he kept on pushing, the more I felt the urge no to tell. It made me suspicious, instead.

I answered him, "In my country, it's rude for a man to ask a woman's age." which wasn't exactly true, though.

Mike's respond was: "Oh! Why? In Vietnam it's common."

"Why do you have to know how old I am?"

"I just want to know?"

"Why do you have to know?"

"So when people ask me about my guest, I can tell them."

"Why do you have to tell others my age?"

"Because they asked."

"Then just tell them that you didn't get an answer."

Mike didn't stop. He said, "If you don't tell me, I can ask my boss to show me your passport. Your passport is kept at the front desk."

Agitated, furious, mad, all blended into one, I snarled, "Then just go to your boss and get my passport!!"

Mike kept silent for awhile and continued taking pictures. When I just thought that it was over, he came to my side again, and... "Why don't you want to tell me how old you are?"

Aaargghhh... this whole agent from Moon Resort is really, really driving me mad. I've been joining many local tours from Vietnam and other countries. I've been to Vietnam five times before. But never, never, have I met a tour guide as rude as Mike. I really don't see the point why my age is so important to him.

"Can we make another conversation?" I replied.

"Can we what?"

"Can, we, make, another, conversation?!" I was half yelling already.

"Oh okay. Yes, yes."

Well, the lake itself wasn't bad at all. It was a very vast lake. I saw it already from the plane this morning. But there's nothing to be done here. You can only just see. Well, there might be another path, I don't know. It was really a vast lake surrounded by small mountains. So who knows there is a path from a different side. Anyway, I only saw one local fisherman and the rest of the lake was totally still.

Mike told me that in the pass some people went swimming but lost their life. So the government closed the lake. Mike couldn't explain to me what caused those people's death. It seemed that his English was inadequate to explain that far. I asked why that fisherman could enter the lake if the government had close all entrance to the lake. I didn't get his explanation. Yeah, his English is specifically adequate for pressing on someone's age. Grrrr.

Oh ya, we weren't standing by the lake, but viewing it from above.

This is on is the opposite side of the lake.

Unfortunately, because of heavy rain almost everyday in Phu Quoc, the river level raised high that we couldn't pass through the path that led to the waterfall. Being concerned about my sprained right ankle and my sandals that when I was in Lombok proofed unable to withstand being soaked in water, I rejected the idea of wading through the water. I'm still half of my journey. If I cannot use my sandals anymore, I might not be able to find another pair that fits me this well, let alone spending more money.

Next, we went to a fish sauce factory. Fish sauce is Phu Quoc's specialty. These are the fishing boats.

You see the bulbs on the boat? That's used to signal other boats that fishes are coming. Then other boats afar will throw their net into the water. That's as far as I could understand from Mike's explanation.

These are the fish sauce tanks. Don't ask me when and how these tanks are filled. Mike only said, "They are for fish sauce."

Yeah, I know. We are in a fish sauce factory. What else could it be for? I should have asked how old the fishes are.

It was at this point when I appreciated my tour guide, Tin, in Da Lat, more. Although the tour itself was rather expensive, Tin explained everything in detail and clearly. In this tour in Phu Quoc, Mike seemed more like a motorbike driver, in my town's words: "supir ojek", than a guide.

From those giant tanks, the sauce goes into the smaller blue tanks through a hose.

And then into these white plastic containers. Ah... I really wished I had a real guide to explain me all about this.

The fish sauce store.

Inside the store.

This, the view of the river near the fish sauce factory was nice. So I took some pictures. Mike says it's Duong Dong River. Everything here is named "DuongDong". The river, the lake, the city -- capital city of Phu Quoc.

While I took pictures, Mike sat on the bridge cleaning his jeans from thistles which he got when we went to the lake. To me his act seemed rather weird. It kind of seemed that he was worried about the thistles. Every time he saw one, he would quickly pick it off. I had more on my pants as I had fallen on the bushes, but I didn't mind that much.

Next what Phu Quoc is popular for is pepper. This is my second time visiting a pepper plantation, and both were in Vietnam. You know what Mike did? He just sat. He said nothing. He left me to explore and take pictures on my own. So... I asked him,

"How do you make pepper?"

"In Vietnam, we have 2 kinds of pepper. We have black pepper and white pepper."

I replied, not to him but to myself, "Nggak cuma di Vietnam kaleee." in my country's slang language which means 'I don't think it's only in Vietnam.'

Then Mike explained to me how black pepper is made.

"How about white pepper?" I asked again.

Guess what, I had to tell him how white pepper is made! Thanks a bunch to Tin, my guide in Da Lat!

There were many kinds of pepper-product sold at the pepper plantation. It's a pity that no one tried to explain to me about the varieties and benefits of the products. Who knows I might be interested to buy some.

When we were at Duong Dong Lake, Mike told me that he studied in Hanoi University majoring in Technology. But he found it didn't match his interest. So he moved to Phu Quoc and is planning to start his own travel agency. He is interested in business instead of technology, he said. I thought about that and watched the way he guided my tour, I wondered, "Can Mike really make a good businessman?"

I was outraged by his way of pressing on me. But I also felt concerned for him. A little bit. I know what it is like to be in a place that doesn't match my interest. I know what it is like to have a dream. So I told him about how Tin led my tour in Da Lat and explained to me about the whole pepper plantation. "Your tour would sound more interesting. It won't be only about the place you've brought your guest to. Your guest would have a story to tell. Who knows those who hear your guest's story would be interested to join your tour when they come to Phu Quoc," I said. "This is just my suggestion, because just now you told me that you want to start your own travel agency."

Mike replied, "Yeah, I know. I was about to tell you just now, but I couldn't tell in English."

Hmmm... Mike didn't even try to give me the simplest information about the pepper plantation. He literally just sat on a bench while I wandered around. His English might not be good enough to give such an explanation, but it seemed more likely that it simply didn't occur to him to give me some information. On the other hand, doesn't he anticipate that lots of his future-travel-agency's guests would be speaking English?

When I returned to Moon Resort, although the sky was cloudy, the sun was in its full pinkish roundest shape. I went to the toilet and returned, but the sun had already vanished behind the clouds again. Ah... I missed it! Mike said I was lucky, because it wasn't raining that evening. Luckily he didn't say it again that I was lucky because I had tasted meat.

Posted by automidori 11:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged park vietnam phu_quoc moon_resort phu_quoc_national

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