Wednesday, November 6, 2013

On into Hue. . .dry. . .for a while!

Written from Hue, 6 November 2013.  Weather-intermittent rain squalls, strong gusty onshore wind.
Actually, it's been gusty wind and squalls quite a lot lately, but the typhoon (Krosa) I was told I should worry about when I left Dong Hoi in such haste a few days back. . .has finally made landfall well south of here and we're just getting the generalized bad weather from its skirt tails.

If you're planning a trip through this part of the country you should make a note that in Dong Hoi there are lot of hotels, including right along the highway through the middle of town.  They may be perfectly nice (the one I picked at random was a little tacky but not bad, and it had excellent wifi) HOWEVER, if you ride on through to the south end of town and turn left right at the bridge over the river, go slowly through the market area (you'll want to come back after you check in, it's a fun market) then continue along the river and check out the hotels there.  They will be MUCH QUIETER than the ones on the highway!!  I always take a balcony room if it's offered, but a balcony opening out onto the equal of Interstate 5 is not going to include a quiet night's sleep.  Sigh.  I think I deliberately pushed on past Dong Hoi for years, but really, it's a pretty sweet little city with an interesting river port and a long ride available along the coast to the North. . .don't be so quick to rush on by.  Oh, and there's a dandy little bakery. . .but I can't tell you everything.  Actually, maybe a little.  They have their baguettes coming out of the oven fresh at 0600 and a bright and cheerful crowd of 20-somethings tending the counter with all the makings for an egg baguette all lined up in a long display case (Subway could take lessons).  Usually I buy my egg baguettes from ladies with pushcarts on the street (the ones with both bread and eggs visible in the glass case are a good bet, some of the pate otherwise is a little dubious).  Such ladies always fry the egg quickly while they slice the bread and sliver the cucumber and so forth. . .these kids had that display case set up for instant delivery, including nicely rubberized eggs ready to go in a bowl.  From order to walking away with a 2-egg baguette (tomatoes, yes, cucumber yes, red pepper sauce, no, nuoc mam yes. . .cilantro yes. . .was that mayo or what?  Oh, never mind, boy that was quick, and all for 50 cents, and 50 cents more for a can of milky sweet coffee from Japan??  Oh well, this is 2013 after all.  But wait, I was only halfway down the block when I heard the flap-flap of running sandals and a sweet young voice shouting "Oh Uncle, Oh Uncle!!" (Di Bac Oi!!).  Oops.  somebody at the end of the assembly line only charged me for a one-egg baguette and I definitely had two. . .Would I please pay another 25 cents??  I would, and even had the right change. . .Big Smile. . .Oh thank you, See You Again. . .Big Smile (just to be sure).  That was the prettiest girl that's chased me breathlessly down the street in. . .er. . .well, a long time.  But I left town anyway and had a really easy run south into Hue.  The road was good, there was another cup of coffee when I wanted it, the scenery was passable (actually pretty nice in the sand hills before Dong Ha), the gusty wind, enough to shake the little horse around a bit, wasn't enough to cause real problems.  And it didn't rain.  Not bad.

I rode up to the hotel (the same hotel all these years, they know me too well) just in time for lunch with the owners, and thus began another of my very busy stays in Hue.  Let's see, that was the fourth and this is the sixth and I'm sure I've gotten four or five days into it.  I've been out to the island twice. There's not a single new boat building in any one of the three yards, darn. . .and all the surf boats are hauled WAY up on the crest of the beach in honor of the quite rough sea outside.  There's nothing moving offshore from horizon to horizon, but there's the forward section of a large freighter up in the shallow surf a few km south of Thuan An itself.  Somebody had a really really bad day. . .and you have to wonder where the engine room and bridge ended up.  I think that's fairly common though, the aft section breaking loose and leaving the bow to go on alone.  

Life on the island goes on otherwise though. . .the lady who sold me the umbrella years ago (and whose kid's portrait I've done every year since) is pregnant again, there'll be another daughter to photograph soon, and I finally met her husband the tailor and her ten year old son (how did I miss him before?).  The young man (in the coffee shop on top of the sand dune) with the bristly mustache and the pretty young sister has a bad new scar on his eyebrow and another on his calf. . .motorbike wreck. . .the fellow with the handsome young son in red soccer shorts last year wanted his own portrait made this year.  The old mother of the mother-daughter 80-40 year old portrait in 2010. . .is 82 now and will not see 83 I think.  But she waved to me from her bed, and you never know. . .but she was frail at 80 after all.  The little blind girl isn't so little any more, she's eleven now, and maybe doing a little better.  Complete blindness and autism is a pretty desperate combination though.  Her mom thinks she'll never speak or learn a great deal. . .but it seems to me there's a young child inside there that can't get out--breaks my heart. . . anyway, her kid sister is five and in school for goodness sake, so I didn't get to see her, and they have a brand new motorbike now (the old one was a rolling wreck but ran fine. . .Honda).  They fed me another delightful lunch. . .my timing was impeccable, they'd just brought the food out onto the mat to eat, and somehow, there's always enough for a guest it seems.  And so forth and so on.  I rode down to the south end of the island, 55 km or so from home. . .and finally cracked the code to get into the street network in the little village there.  There's only one actual lane opening from the road outside. . .but once off the road and into the village the maze begins. . .it's amazing. . .but I now, finally, have found my way to the little mountain (big rock?) there.  I've seen photos of the beach at the base of the rock and really have believed it existed. . .and now I've been there.  It's through the village on the biggest street, 8 or 9 feet wide and concrete. . .ignore the smaller lanes and just follow along the S turns.  Through the Buddhist and Catholic cemeteries and turn right at the T.  It's maybe another kilometer wandering along with the hill on your left before you come to the beach.  Drink a Red Bull (or a Huda beer!). . .and then it'll be time to head home. I guess we'll find the inner harbor moorage another time.  Nearly drownded in the dark on the way into town.  Goodness it can rain here. . .and hasn't let up much the last day or two.
The fishing harbors are stuffed full, the sea is empty of boats.  The typhoon went south of us but it's still really rough outside.  This is an inner channel in Ron.

Sunday morning in the boat yard at Cua Lo. . .lots of kids in the way.  The yellow shirt says "lovely" on the front, and she is. . .but my what a livewire. . .sneak up behind you, poke you in the ribs and run away shrieking.  Great Fun.  His hat says "Boy". . .'nuff said.

I almost missed this one. . .a sand dredge somewhere along the way. . .didn't see a name for the stream.

Now that's a seriously long and skinny boat with a tall stern. . .Dong Hoi

A splendid big MFV (Modern Motor Fishing Vessel) about 80% complete, and a pretty little rowing basket, Dong Hoi

They wanted their picture taken.  Dong Hoi

A good looking old lady with a brand new paint job, getting some serious putty work on a couple of dings where she bit something harder than she should have.

Give us a day or two then check out for a full explication.  Sailing canoe in Hue

Quiet front yard out on the island, Tu Hien (near the bridge)

Traffic jam on the island near Thuan An

Pretty good temple ornaments. . .a dragon and a . . .h'mm, what is that one.?  There was a phoenix at the other end.

Just a nice garden and a pleasant little house, about midway up the island from Thuan An


  1. Ken -- Great pics and narrative -- really fun to look at. Thanks for your reports from Planet VN.

    Where is the wood for the boats harvested, and what kind of trees?

  2. The wood comes from up in the mountains to the west, nothing like that grows down on the coastal plain any more (if ever). I don't know the species of any of it, most of it will float, but only barely, is very dense and hard. Some is more yellow colored, some nice brown, other quite gray colored, even when freshly sawn.