July in Vietnam: The Fishing Village of Mui Ne

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I moved on from Quy Nhon to Mui Ne, bypassing Nha Trang because I wasn’t up to much partying after Hue (I chose not to post about celebrating Canada Day because of that awful, awful hangover) and I heard the diving there wasn’t very much different from Hoi An (with which I wasn’t impressed, that’s a story for another day). Mui Ne didn’t disappoint. I arrived as dusk fell and the idyllic coconut-trees-swaying-in-the-wind setting immediately started working its charm.

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Daytime augmented the coconut-tree charm and I soon found myself on the back of a motorcycle off to a nearby fishing village.

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Early in the morning, fishing boats return from the night’s work and the flotilla waits in the shallows for the coracles to come out to unload the cargo.

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The coracles are unique circular little fellas that are nimble enough to float on mere inches of water to bring in the catch.

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By the time this tourist arrived, most of the activity was tapering off and people were starting to relax after sorting and selling their wares.

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Many of them were still milling around the main bartering areas, leaving their little boats on the beach out of reach of the waves.

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The highlight of this visit really was getting up close to these boats. I’d not seen them anywhere else in the world and was very intrigued by how they managed to get anywhere. I imagine myself just going round and round in circles if I had to captain one of these! These boats were really just waterproofed baskets, no wonder they were simply left unguarded all over the beach. If one goes missing, just weave a replacement, easy!

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Coracles aside, there were other interesting things going on at the beach. There were bullock carts hauling fresh catch or selling breakfast treats.

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There were baskets upon baskets of fish on sale, mainly small to medium ones.

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And there were plenty of locals in the characteristic conical hats negotiating good prices for crates of silvery fish.

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Some areas of the beach were strewn with open shells. Here, plenty of sorting had taken place earlier in the morning where I’m guessing workers went through thousands of scallops, extracting the meat to be dried for export.

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Near the beach, fish were being salted and laid out to dry in the already fierce morning sun.

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And off I went to my next adventure, admiring how the sun glinted off the sea in waves of silver as my motorbike whizzed past.

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It was also a wonder how we got anywhere, considering that the bike’s speedometer needle didn’t move past zero! More to come next post.

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July in Vietnam: Quy Where?

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Quy Nhon (pronounced “wee nyon”) is a slightly industrial and not particularly pretty fishing town midway between Hoi An and my next stop, Mui Ne. It had charmless concrete buildings lining the street and not a great deal in its favour. Yet I was willing to stumble into town at 2am, taking the only available bus in. After a botched attempt at going to a place I’d booked ahead at (the people were fast asleep and no amount of doorbell ringing, door banging nor phone calling would wake them up to let me in), I managed to find a place at a hostel and not get ripped off or abandoned to die on the streets. It’s true, people did seem to get more hospitable as I went further south.

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The only interesting thing along the way to my destination was the way they sold goldfish and fighting fish in tightly shut plastic bags that sparkled in the sun. Pretty, but poor fish!

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Now the reason for going to Quy Nhon was to see the Cham ruins and how the city just built itself round them. It was so oddly out of sync how the concrete and electric wires stopped just shy of the ruins, still much inhabited by colonising plants and creepers.

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Inside one of these Cham towers was a lingam, still looking so little weathered that I wasn’t sure if it was a reconstruction or an original ruin. It was still used in active worship by the locals.

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While the main towers are further in the outskirts of the town, there was a Cham museum in the area, with rather interesting exhibits on show.

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Although the main building was closed, there were enough artifacts scattered in the courtyard to be worth a happy picture-taking session, just like this dog guarding the entrance. I really liked its toothy grimace and its pretty two-tiered decorative collar.

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Then there were these naga-like carvings that looked like they used to be part of a wall. It looked almost like a modern interpretation of Hindu art.

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And the same for this lion-like creature. I enjoyed the little details like the little whorls of hair on its head.

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The town has a nice beach with a great view of the curving bay.

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Too bad it wasn’t in any condition to swim in, the strong fishy smell put me off any notion of getting into my swim gear.

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You see, this town had part of its livelihood in fishing and there were plenty of pretty nets further out that somehow helped to net the fish. These nets were of course responsible for the stench.

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The fishermen went to and from the nets using cute little circular boats. It was a wonder they managed to get anywhere.

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It was lovely to be in this town with few tourists and no touts at all. I blended in fairly well with the locals (as long as I didn’t open my mouth) and enjoyed being on my own for a few days.

August in China: Cormorant Fishing

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In Yangshuo, there’s nothing much to do after dark except to go cormorant fishing. We started off at the boat landing and got into a rickety wooden boat. Thankfully there was shelter as it soon started to rain. It was far too dark to take decent photos. (At that point my point and shoot camera was one of the crappier models.)

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Our cormorant fisherman came up on his bamboo raft, feathery helpers in tow. The poor fellow had to put on waterproofs because of the drizzle. He unhooked each of his five cormorants from its perch on the raft and tossed them into the water. They went racing underwater and all bets were off for which side of the boat a bird would next pop up from.

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Upon surfacing, a bird would often have a fish or two in its mouth. It would attempt to swallow them whole but a ring around its neck prevented the fish from sliding down. This was when the fishermen would skilfully hook the bird by the foot, grab it and turn it upside down to empty the cormorant of fish. After that, the bird was tossed back into the water to continue its quest. It was a rather odd sight!

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When the show was over, the fisherman caught each bird and put them back in place on the raft. They were so well-trained that they just stood there and made no attempt to go back in the water. All this one did was to show off by flapping its wings open. I suppose they need to dry out somehow!

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Here’s the rather meagre catch of the evening. I suppose they’ll go to the cormorants for their supper! Nobody fishes for the fish here, it’s all for the tourist dollar. Just as well, so the cormorants won’t go too hungry. I asked the fisherman whether it took a lot of skill to fish this way. It was quite funny the way he pooh-poohed the idea, saying that anyone could learn very easily. I’d probably fall off the raft trying to hook a cormorant!

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At the end, we posed for pictures with the nicest cormorant. The fisherman said that this was his best bird and that it was very guai (literally: well-behaved) and that it didn’t bite or steal things. Still, it was a bit intimidating to have a big bird flap its wings open on my shoulder!

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