Tuesday, December 23, 2014

We're going to have to try something different--more ways than one!

Written, in part at least, in Dalat, which is another story, on 22 December 2014.  No, that's not true, nothing got written in Dalat except a day's work and a letter to m'Lady at home.  Now it's the 23rd of December and I'm in Cat Tien, which is yet another story.  It's time to admit there aren't enough hours in the day and I'm not going to get caught up if I don't do something drastic.  I've managed semi-informative letters to m'Lady every night so far, but they don't have photos attached generally, or if they do they're ducks or chickens or something else of that sort which might not interest the rest of you.

So.  I propose to cut and paste from my love letters home (leaving out the romantic parts of course, and stick a few photos with them and call it a blot post or two or three and see if we can get caught up.  There's a lot going on at this end.

So here's the news about Nha Trang (and getting there):
19th December, from Quy Nhon to Nha Trang:

Today was a moderately hard couple hundred kilometers. . .construction a lot of the way and rain for quite a while in the afternoon.  Nha Trang this time of year (Christmas in Russia??) is horrendous.  It's a pretty much a Russian town, many signs in Russian (and some tri-lingual, with English and VNese too. . .and lots and lots of large, pasty white people (with tattoos a lot) all over the streets. I may stay a second night in order to do any looking around at all,  will see how I feel and how I feel about it in the morning.  I'm not feeling driven to stay here and am feeling  the urge to keep moving.  Went to bed with a runny nose last night and have a hoarse voice today. . .was a bit of a sore throat early but seems to have eased up.  Grumble gripe.  I haven't even been chilled lately.  What gives??

I'm feeling clutzy and tottery a lot these days, but last night  I sat down on a tiny stool wrong and it started to tip and I actually managed to stand up with the stool in hand and only took a couple of quick back steps.  Neatly done for a real clutz move.  The locals were properly impressed.  

Okay, that doesn't cover it.  Yes, it was a couple hundred hard kilometers, rain, right, fog yes, and wonderful views.  This stretch of Highway 1 probably has the premier seascapes of the whole road.  Well, if not THE premier seascapes. . .some wonderful views of incredible rocky islands and stunning cliffs and surf battered reefs in the distance, with a gorgeous white sand spit of land thrust out into the sea for miles to the south as you come around the last of the cliffs into Dai Lan, 100 km from Nha Trang.  I wait for those views from the day I leave Hanoi every year, they are enough to lift your heart and make you glad. . .glad you're not drifting onto those rocks for sure.  But reallly, it's a gorgeous stretch of highway.

This year there was fog and misty rain and a gale of wind.  The wind was a tail wind thank goodness, except when it was a cross wind or when it bounced off the cliffs.  You didn't see much of anything.  A gray blob where the fabulous island should have been. Gray blemishes on the ocean where the surf battered rocks probably were.  And lots of trucks.  However, I stopped at a wide spot along the cliffs to take a picture through the fog and lo and behold the place was crawling (probably not the right word. . .strutting?) with gorgeous chickens.  I'm supposed to be getting local chicken photos. . .so it wasn't a lost stop at all. 

Then I stopped at the end of the run down out of the cliffs an dhairpin turns in Dai Lanh for lunch.  One of the best lunches I ever had was in a little place at the south end of the town.  It's changed hands and last year was a big and expensive disappointment.  This year I tried an even tinier little hole in the wall of walls along the highway (that's all there is to Dai Lan, it's a really skinny town, pinned between the mountain and the railroad on the uphill side and the ocean on the down hill side and the highway running about evenly spaced between them. . .not much scope for expansive outlooks except out to sea).  Anyway, it was a lunch.  I can only eat one lunch per trip through here, and some years I miss the lunch hour. . .so. . .it may be a while before I find the next perfect spot.  On the bright side, there are several to choose from!  

Oh, and right across from the new lockable gate to the fishing port (used to be a street end on the beach darn it) there's a new pagoda nearly complete.  A resident nun showed me around in side, a very serious but friendly person.  The place will be gorgeous when it's finished. . .though a lot like many others.  Still, for Dai Lanh it's a big deal.

The rain actually let up on the way into Nha Trang and I took the new coast drive all the way into town even if it is an extra ten kilometers.  The light on the seascape was amazing.  There must have been some open sky way off to the west somewhere and the sea and islands were spectacular.  Trust me, even if the photos are a little flat.  That stuff is hard to get right on film. . .or megapixels really.

Never pass up a chance to talk to a basket boat weaver.  These are not complete yet, no ribs inside and he's waiting for the weather to improve so he can seal them.  Buffalo Poo and ? varnish I think, though it's supposed to be tree resin.
Just pretty scenery a ways south of Xuan Hai.

Fabulous island views, rocky cliffs, roaring surf, a gale of wind, fog, rain, trucks. . .h'mm.  Just north of Dai Lanh

Chickens and a water hose.  Good looking chickens.  This is a truck rinse on the side of the road.  They tap into the little streams up hill and bring high pressure water down to the road.  Ingenious.  I love the way they let it spray way up in the air out over the road.  A free shower if the rain isn't adequate.

Really green pretty hillsides running down to the sea.

Pretty high water, the dike tops are overtopped, but the young rice probably won't mind unless it gets deeper.  It's been wet!

Classic southern (not delta, south coast) farm homes with their fields coming right to the walls of the houses.  Lovely

How's that for a good looking chicken!  Bet he can sing in ther morning.

Straight out of the 1960's a Honda 50 or maybe a 90, married to a really big shopping cart. . .they can carry an enormous load (on level grouund)  They don't do well up or down hill.  Especially down hill.  

The new Pagoda in Dai Lanh.  It will be gorgeous when finsihed.

The painters at work on the ceiling.  it's all done free hand, no stencils.  

Misty mountains, rich new rice for transplanting.  Wealth of a real sort.

Dramatic seascape on the new coast drive into Nha Trang from the north (the new clifftop road southbound is spectacular too. . .look for the signs for "San Bay Cam Ranh" (Cam Ranh Air Port)  It's worth a ride just to see it, though we skipped that this year.
And here's the letter from Nha Trang on the 20th of December:  Well, a lot of it anyway:

Standing today in yet another boatyard building yet another small fleet of standard 19m class fishing boats, just like the last five yards I've been in. . .I suddenly realized there's not much more I want to charge ahead on in that regard.  Enough already.  There is no doubt another boat sort that I haven't seen yet, or at least another variant on an old theme, but I no longer feel driven to go find it.  I was thinking about the harbors south of here and realized I just don't care that much about seeing if they're building the same stuff this year they were last year.  (Ed Note:  HOLY COW.  THIS IS BIG NEWS.  I've been perfectly happy marching up and down the coast poking in and out of the same harbors and most of the same beaches and boatyards for 8 and a half seasons and all of a sudden. . .oh my gosh. Well hang on, there's more to come)

So I think I'll go up into the mountains for a few days and cogitate.  It's the right latitude from here (Nha Trang) to ride to Dalat in probably less than a day.  It's cool but not raining there.  And not that cool really. . . 60's at night, 70's in the day time.  What the heck.  

Today was mostly boatyards and the fishing boat harbor here in Nha Trang.  Lovely colorful stuff, some great photo ops of ladies (and a few men) sewing or mending net (both).  Some good observations and photos of loading ice on a boat. . .they were all but filling her solid full. . shaved ice between big blocks. .  .a bunch of ice!  
Rode out to look at the tramway at night. . .never bothered before.  The pylons that carry it across the bay are built like not-so-little Eiffel towers and are nicely lit at night. . .all white lights, including the gondolas, so they look like bright beads moving in opposite directions from tower to tower. . .way up in the air.  The price is up to $27.50 to ride.  It was too much for my blood at $20 a few years back, and it's not getting closer at that rate.  Oh well.  I understand besides the views there's just a theme park out on the island and a luxury hotel.  I'm okay without!  Besides, the grapes are probably sour too.

Just a small, very small really, part of the new fishing boat harbor in Nha Trang.  A few years back most of these were moored in the river mouth in the middle of town.  Now it's a lovely waterfront drive and there are only a small part of the old fleet mooring there now. . .for looks I suppose.  Drat tourists anyway.

Setting up to bend a pair of planks over (or rather next to) flame.  It's quite an operation, not just because each plank weighs. . .er, maybe 200 pounds?  Let's see, 40 or 45 pounds per cf, those are 2" planks more or less, 40 feet long and at least a foot wide. . .so a cubic foot every 6 feet.  Call it six and two thirds cf so yup, 253 pounds if it's an ounce.  H'mm.

Horsing a plank into place.  Interestingly, they've hung this plank and are bolting it off (with steel bolts, not wooden nails) at the forward end. . .while at the other end there are two more men fitting it to the plank below and it's still 2" out of whack at that end.  There will be some serious edge setting shortly.

As far as I can find, they aren't building these pretty little things anymore, so it's a good thing they're keeping them up well.  They're such sweet little inshore fishing boats, move well through the water and live in an ugly chop with grace and poise.  Oh, they throw you around of course, but still. . .lovely

Here's a couple of the Nha Trang version of a compromise. . .old timey front end, modern aft.  Good, really good little motor boats.  I've watched them from the clifftops plugging into a gale.  Very good.

Just one of the little guys running in to the harbor. . .smooth water, no drama.

Many old black sewing machines and acres of fine webbing.  Seine nets in the making.  Can you imagine dragging those meshes through the water by hand. . .omigosh, what a load.

These ladies are mending a pretty good looking net. . .much larger meshes, but still plenty fine.  There were men there, but they were just filling needles for the ladies.  Guess who has the nimbler fingers.  Blazing fast.  I tried to figure out the knot they're making.  No luck, too fast for the eye!

Here's a real Nha Trang unique thing. . .though really, you can see them farther away every year.  Wooden topsides (more like a 1957 Chevy every year) and a sheet steel lower hull.  There never was a bamboo boat like this, they've just taken the bamboo version (a narrow double ender) reproduced it in sheet metal, then expanded on the theme.  This will have a pretty good sized 4 cylinder diesel. . .heavy duty.  They go together really fast.  This is day 3 and there are 4 more days to splash time.  

Yet another 19meter class modern fishing vessel.  This one not only caulked tight, but coated with 3/8" of fiberglass all over too.  Alan Vaitses wrote a book on that subject, and it looks like they have paid close attention.  In tropical waters. . .I don't know.  Not my problem I guess, but when they have to deal with a leak. . .won't it be fun I wonder.

Blogger is giving me fits again. . .can't see much of this photo. . .it's a 19 meter class boat under construction, but why I thought you might want to see it.. .escapes me right now.  Darn Blogger!

She's a pretty chicken that doesn't trust photographers (in a boatyard of course, my favorite sort of chicken)

He, on the other hand, would rather fight than talk about it.

Heavy stock being manhandled up into the hull.  Deck beams I'd guess, but I didn't climb up to see.  Those ladders were pretty scary and the scaffolding is. . .scary too.

One of Uncle Sam's leave behinds. . .a 5 ton all wheel drive truck I think (might be a deuce and a half), highly prized still as a logging truck or a timber hauler to and in the boat yards.

The answer to the question "which lasts longer the mat or the rim?"  The Rim was still solid when the basket crumbled away from it.  He's girt the old basket around with a bit of line and cinched that tight. Now he's fitting a new rim, just tapping the inner plies in now and he'll wrap the outer plies around one at a time.  Neatly fitted!  She just won't be quite as tall as she used to be.

A corner of the muchly reduced passenger harbor.  In the past three years they've filled most of it to be a smallish container facility.  I've seen a good sized ship here, but I don't think they have water depth for a full load on a big vessel.  These pretty little coastal carriers are just right though.  They were loadinig some sort of bulk cargo, maybe wood chips, in a big skip box with that little land crane.  Probably chips, from the size of the box that little guy couldn't lift a box of rocks!
And no, I didn't take any pictures of the totally gross crowds of people thronging the downtown buying everything you could imagine and wandering around in skimpy (but pretty) sun dresses.  A little too cold for that I would have thought, but if you've just come from Moscow in December, Nha Trang probably feels pretty good.  I should have tried the gondolas on their tall white towers. . .set the camera on a tripod and figure the exposure to make the gondolas all blurred out as streaks of white light.  Oh darn. Should have tried that some how.  Whoever goes to Nha Trang next, be sure to do it!

Okay, it's way late again, but you're caught up a little bit.  Dalat was pretty minimal as tourist-ing goes, mostly I actually worked for a living for most of a day. The ride up there was interesting.  I'll try to give you that tomorrow night from wherever I get to.  The next three days will be a hard push to cover a lot of distance into Cambodia, not what was on the schedule. . .but as noted, I'm set for a change.


  1. and realized I just don't care that much about seeing if they're building the same stuff this year they were last year. (Ed Note: HOLY COW. THIS IS BIG NEWS. I've been perfectly happy marching up and down the coast poking in and out of the same harbors and most of the same beaches and boatyards for 8 and a half seasons and all of a sudden. . .oh my gosh. Well hang on, there's more to come)

    Methinks Ken, time to head for the hills for a well earned break from the coastal. Enjoy the mountain air and the grand valley river views, and relax. Or as relaxed as one can be on SE Asian roads. Take care my friend, and enjoy the ride.

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