An Bang Seaside Village:
Before coming here, we took the public boat to the undeveloped Cham Islands. We heard the crossing might be rough, but it was not a problem getting there and back.
Not our boat, but it was similar to this
The island we went to was beautiful, with snow white beaches, and the scruffy town also had a certain appeal.
The children were curious as they often are.
However, the people at our homestay were not particularly friendly. And they were intrusive, coming into our room, without knocking, to turn off the fan while they thought we were asleep. A bit weird, as almost everyone else has been so nice.
We are now staying in a bungalow just off the beach outside of Hoi An. The people are lovely. It is expensive compared to what we have been paying, but seems to be run in part to benefit the locals here An Bang "fishing village." Apparently the government gave the owner some money to start this project, after a similar ecotourism project in the nearby "vegetable village" was successful in attracting tourists for a woofing type experience. A local woman cooked dinner for us, which was quite good, and she gave me a mini-cooking lesson to boot. The manager, Phuong, told us she lost her husband and son two years ago, after a fishing accident. It is apparently quite common here. They fish in round boats that are essentially big baskets. It is easy to flip them, and get carried out to sea in the often rough waters.
Every morning at 5 AM a loudspeaker comes on to make government announcements. At times it is a weather forecast, and other times it is lecture about something the government wants to promote. For example they want to encourage people to have fewer babies as the population is exploding, and so one day there was talk about the importance of birth control. Phuong also said that sometimes they broadcast government meetings and trials that go on all day long. A bit like big brother. We have not heard this anywhere else except the Cham Islands. It is interesting, as everyone says the former head of the province was the best official in Vietnam. He has now gone to central government in Hanoi.
Encouraged by Phuong, Nanette gave a group of village kids a singing English lesson yesterday for about an hour. Twinkle Twinkle and other songs. The Hokey Pokey was a particular hit. They were an enthusiastic group , all different ages, though most seemed small for their age. Perhaps their diet is not adequate.
Some of them already spoke a bit of English, perhaps taught by other travelers like us. One self confident and obviously bright 11 year old girl said she wanted to be a tour guide. She and many of village children are quite engaging and seem eager to interact with us. Phuong thinks that learning English and getting involved with tourism may be their best hope to escape the hard life of fishing. Based on what we saw, some of the kids seem to have already figured this out.
The beach here is still largely undeveloped, unlike Cui Dai and the areas closer to Danang, which are full of big resorts. Right now there are just a cluster of low key seafood places that put out loungers during the day to attract customers. For a buck and a half their steamers in broth are hard to beat. We ate them everyday for lunch, and then enjoyed lying on their lounge chairs sipping 50 cent beers before going in for a dip. As with other beaches in Vietnam, the locals only show up at the beginning and end of the day.
Sitting on the beach yesterday, I was thinking about the people who died here less than 50 years ago. Now I am enjoying an idilic vacation in a place where GI's would come for R and R in between battles. This thirty mile stretch of sand between here and Danang was known as China beach during the war. It is hard to make sense of all this, looking out at the stunning South China Sea.
How do we account for these accidents of time and place?
How do we explain the atrocities that so many have perpetrated?
Perhaps the sea knows the answer.
The unforgiving sea, that also took the son and husband of our cook .