Danang & Goodnight, Vietnam!

March 6th 2018
Published: March 8th 2018
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With last minute planning, we find ourselves a little longer in some places than we might have planned. So it is with Danang - a one day stopover turned into two, and with an upgrade in Le Huong Beach Hotel, we had a 15th floor view to the shoreline roadway and the beach beyond. A largely uninhabited beach, compared with An Bang in Hoi An.

First night, John spied an unusual grouping of people milling about the shore. After watching through squinty eyes for a good while, things shape up to reveal two lines of people on the shore, each pulling slowly at the end of two ropes affixed to two ends of the same great net.

Watching this routine several times from above, and later at beach level, we are taken with the cooperation of the fishermen (for they are all men) and the two plus hours it takes from start to finish.

What wasn’t evident at first, was that one or two guys go out with a round, reed boat and one paddle and set the nets in a long line parallel with the shore - likely 100m out. We never figured out how long they leave them, but best guess would be about 12 hours. Then the boat heads out again with ropes - the ends already held by two guys on shore. The boatman ties the rope to one end of the net, then paddles the length of the net to repeat again.

To start, the two teams of shoremen are maybe 250m apart - we didn’t know they were working in tandem. Two or three guys have a bamboo belt around their waists (likely curved to fit a good-sized western thigh) and clip onto the rope 6’ apart - they all lean back at a 45 degree angle and inch their feet backwards. When they’ve moved back enough, the guy at the back unclips, moves up to the water’s edge and reclips. All the while moving closer to the other string of fellas working the other end of the net.

More than two hours later, the haul is at the shore - a few guys reach in to pull out this round’s catch of five enormous jelly fish and a modest basket of small fish.

Our ability to communicate stymied our interest to know more. We have no idea who owns the nets or how the dozen or so guys come together to set the nets and pull them in. Or how the catch is divided. It was the highlight of our stay to watch this unfold in segments.

The weekly dragon bridge fire and water show was a happy event too. One of the 11 bridges crossing the river in Danang was designed with a dragon weaving under and over the length of the bridge deck - the dragon head large and raised, mouth open. On Saturdays and Sunday at 9 sharp, the dragon alternately propels fireballs skyward and big sprays of water over the bridge deck. The bridge is packed, as is the riverfront below, largely with locals. A young woman links her arm with me and yells at her partner to take our picture. The kids, motorbikes, chatter and good cheer were as much fun as the dragon’s eruptions. Afterward, a group of young people spontaneously started singing beautifully, and it served to draw more and more to the chorus. Fantastic.

A few notes about Vietnam general. We’ve been asked if it‘s safe here. Our experience has been that is it exceptionally so, but as you might expect, it is hard to describe beyond a lack of any dicey incidents. Perhaps its the way people lean away when brushing against your shoulder would be expected in a crowd, or the lack of people eyeballing your bag or phone. Maybe its the cheerful eye contact most of the time. One fella mentioned that Vietnam is harsh on any crimes against tourists and maybe that has something to do with it. Regardless, we had nothing to report to change our feeling of comfort here.

Another charming attribute is that no restaurant bill is presented until you ask for it. They don’t wish to rush you and so you sit, relax and digest until you are ready to signal for the check.

Language has had its moments of limitation this trip. Our sign language is enthusiastic but awkward, and our translation app seems too literal to help. We see Asians wearing shirts with English phrases printed on them - some profane and many non sensical. Not limited to clothing, we see a huge billboard for a high-end resort with the tagline “The Most in Intelligent Choice.“ Translators wanted by all.

We originally thought we might revisit Vietnam for 4-5 weeks this trip, but we have shifted gears. We are missing the exploration of new corners and a little faster pace. A concerted effort to check out the maps and research some options resulted in a new route and some unexpected destinations. Who knew? More excitements ahead...

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