strange things are afoot!
we made it to phu quoc island. that jewel of turquoise beauty i'd longed for since living in south manchester! it lies south west of vietnam, close to cambodia, and we entailed the most horrific bus and ferry ride ever to get there. a taxi picked us up from district 1 in saigon, took us to casa del crack on the shady, shady suburbs of town (imagine being dumped in the remote parts of ancoats) with men shaking their hands - in the "jazz hands" fashion - at you when you ask questions or simply don't want to know, while i point at buses bearing the same name as the company we're booked through, my bus ticket, with a desperate look of despair, whilst they merely shrug, or shake their hands back at me. we're then shoved into a transit van to which we, the unlucky three, are shooed to the back, with no leg rom, no recline and our fucking backpacks underneath us. it was pretty sombre, whilst we witness the remaining 11 members of our transit fully reclined and kipping like kings! we then arrive into a shady port called rach gia at 5am, after the bumpiest ride of our life. confronted with six vietnamese guys trying to get us, plus our hefty backpacks on the back of their motorbike, we find comfort in three spaniards and one austrian bloke who were in a similar position, trying to end off these piranahs and find refuge in a boat, or a floor to sleep on!
somehow we manage to make it to the port, where we have to wait three hours for the ferry to phu quoc. i put on my playlist of 77 ambient tunes, which was constructed on a 14hr valium ride somewhere between hue and nha trang, and next thing i know i'm fast asleep on a marble floor indulging in the best three hours sleep in over 24 hours!
we're staying in bungalows on long beach, resident dogs on my deck chair and all is god in the world. the three of us, plus an aged french traveller (totally righteous dude whose been to so many places and used to travel back in the sixties) get on motorbikes and hunt out this mysterious and elusive beach the few who are in the know rave about: bai sao. will it be as good as people make out??! fuck yes. white sands, calm waters, solitude, lush mountains, "squeaky" sand (yes, there i said it) and we lay content knowing that we'd made it to arguably one of the best beaches in the world. only contender for me so far (thailand's to come) is the remote one we dug out in cuba.
so we arrive back and there's a meat cleaver on my veranda... cogs start turning. back when we were in nha trang, which is one of the worst places i've ever been to, akin to benidorm or the costa del sol -high rises, dirty beach, prostitutes and expensive beer- i got confronted with what would seem your average vietnamese person who tries to sell you anything. this lady had her two baskets over her shoulders and was offering pineapples. i'm with the irish crew i met on the bus and staying with, we smile and laugh appropriately, say "no thanks" in vietnamese and then she turns to me, with her ketamine sized meat cleaver, and wails "HAPPY HOUR BUY PINEAPPLE BEFORE HOME OR KILL YOU!". i didn't know whether to laugh, cry, throw all my dong at her or run. thankfully i did the first. she then points at a sleeping simon, cleaver still raised high i the air, and shouts "BUY LADY PINEAPPLE, HAPPY HOUR BEFORE I GO HOME!". holy shit, this shit was intense!
other queer moments include standing in saigon on the cross roads, deliberating which pub to go to and a guy with a sheet of MDF smothered with sunglasses hanging off, comes bowling over and tries to sell me some fake ray bans. at this point am actually wearing my authentic tortoise shell ones, which are prescription glasses. i laugh in jest, point, show him that they're real and i don't need another pair. he then gets irate and reciprocates by insisting i need two more pairs. no, i don't, although he seemed to think otherwise. moments later i have some guy trying to shoo me into a bar with "tantalising" music and insisting that my hair was a perm. i retort by saying it's real. obviously i must have a face that looks riddled with lies and deceit as he then starts pulling at my hair shouting perm!
driving round the red dirt tracks of phu quoc i have to give it to the vietnamese people. some of the roads were nigh on impossible to get through as it's been raining through the night, it's been even more difficult to cruise through some parts. we did well not to hit the deck, if i say so myself, and i saw some woman breeze past with what i can nly describe as a giant wicker pannier rack filled with shit loads of coconuts. i've seen people carry fridges, families of four fly by and guys on bikes selling ice cream. the best has to be the people who walk around with portable weighing machines. who the hell wants to have themselves weighed on the street and for it to be read out loud? i saw one guy with said machine pushing one through mui ne and blasting out an instrumental version of "santa clause is coming to town". searing heat, beach resort, vietnam, july and christmas tunes is just gibroni central dot com.
ice cream on the back of a push bike:
i'm starting to think all these things are harboured by the damn malaria tablets i've unwillingly taken. at least my skin's cleared up and i won't get malaria, despite my sporadic and erratic intake of these capsules. my dreams have never been so vivid (and i dream in technicolour at the best of times). last night there was a storm at 4am. the dogs were going mental, i was convinced they were gonna maul each other to death (this actually happened, well, not the mauling, but the dogs going mental), but then i felt like i was tripping. i absolutely panicked and have never been so scared in my life as i thought i saw three shadows come in my bungalow. that sound of a comb being plucked at began and i could hear voices, clear as get out. i lay there doing the whole "play dead" technique for an hour, unsure whether i was dreaming, awake or plain tripping out (i've been narcotic free for a long time). strange things are almost definitely afoot. damn those doxycyclines!
well this computer's decided to be an utter gibroni also so photos will have to follow another day.