Day 7: Return to Ho Chi Minh City, and broken resolutions

I’ll be honest: I looked at the options for going back to HCM, where I’d booked the train for the trip north, happened by chance on the Vietnam airlines website, and in a couple of clicks had invested $20 in a return flight. This despite a longstanding resolution only to travel by land transport wherever I happened to be, as you can’t see much from an aeroplane. That it would give me the morning in Phu Quoc, and the afternoon in HCM, where I would overnight and leave next morning, was icing on the cake.

Not having the moto, and dismissing the massing clouds, I set off to wander down the coast. It was one of those days with not a lot of sunshine, some wind, and a sea which, if not angry , was at least mildly disturbed. There weren’t too may on the beach, either, put off no doubt partly by the hour and partly by the unappetising conditions. The resorts I passed seemed barely full, and the men repairing roofs, cleaning, or performing other sundry resort business outnumbered their guests by a clear majority.

Further down the beach, and only a handful of meters offshore, was a fishing boat. Nobody appeared to be on board, but, on shore, two youths were busy hauling in the net. I wondered what their intended catch was, given the proximity of a handful of  bathers, but did not wait to find out. The further I progressed down the coast, the more ominous the sky became.

Some people hate being photographed, and neither, it appears, do some cows. This one looked at me with deep dislike, mingle with suspicion. I tried to explain that it was safe from being served up on my dinner plate as I didn’t eat meat, but the animal was not convinced.

It belonged to a small cluster of habitations in a narrow strip of farmland between the main road and the sea. Phu Quoc might be rapidly turning into a fantasy land of resorts and backpacker hotels, but, for some of the locals, life remained as it was.

I don’t know whether these wer permanent homes or temporary shelters, nor whether the people were impoverished fisherman or comfortably off, but the chair on the veranda got me musing on their lifestyle. It struck me evenings sitting in the chair, contemplating life as it passed by, undisturbed by the frenetic pace at which us westerners live, would have its attractive side. No internet, no emails, just nature, the lowing of cattle, the happy fatigue of a day well spent, the gentle conversation with loved and dear ones …

It struck me the chair faced the road, not the coast, so the idyll would be regularly punctured by the noise of motorbikes, buses and lorries. In the end, it was just a chair on a veranda.

I arrived back in HCM in the late afternoon, when peak hour was beginning to warm up. The bus driver dropped me off about 400 metres from my hotel, and took pains to ensure I knew the way. I smiled and nodded, then, under his watchful eye, headed off in the certain knowledge I was going to consult google maps the moment the bus was out of sight. I was to find out shortly that google maps were less than perfect, but, for the instant, they guided me across a maze of teeming small streets and motorcycle choked alleys to my hotel. The contrast with Phu Quoc couldn’t be more marked, yet I was happy to be back in HCM, just as I had been happy to be in Ph:u Quoc.

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