Mr Sweet and the Starfish
Days 823 – 824
From cows at breakfast, a bee tutorial, meeting Mr Sweet and Starfish on the beach, we really do have such interesting days.
Day 823 was relaxing, wandering around Ong Lang town, finding nice places to eat, walking along the beach, which are now mostly taken over by resorts. We visited Pho Quoc Gallery of Contemporary Art and enjoyed looking at the photos from a Swiss artist as well as local artwork.
Strolling back to Hosana Hostel, we went to sleep to the sound of crickets, geckos and frogs and woken to cockerels, cows and birds. Day 824 - Sakura became our go-to breakfast choice. But what’s going on next door? Kiem was frantically trying to alert her neighbours that the local cows with their calves were busy enjoying the plants in her front garden. No time to waste, I jumped down into the yard and shooed the cows out and back on to the road. My action was to the amusement of Tim and Lindsey and another lad having breakfast.
Edijs, a young Latvian, had bought his porridge for Kiem to prepare, which despite having no idea what it was, she managed to make into a tasty dish with fresh fruit for him. We invited him to join us, and he ended up coming out with us for the day.
First stop was the Bee Farm, a great eco-farm dedicated to the breeding and protection of bees and moreover to educate its visitors about the importance of doing so. An interesting and beautiful place with many plants for the bees to collect their pollen and nectar from, but we needed to get on - next stop Secret Farm! We were warmly welcomed by the farmer, 25-year-old Danh Ngot who calls himself Mr Sweet. We discovered that he only opened the farm to the public one month previously and he already has 25 x 5* rating on google maps! He served us and another couple from Estonia with green tea while explaining how he persuaded his in-laws to keep growing pepper and allow him to start growing other crops and open their farm to the public.
Mr Sweet has such a contagious warm spirit and personality you can’t help wanting to listen and learn from him and wish him well with his enterprise. He is concerned about a lot of issues, including the rubbish on their beaches and we encouraged him to get others to help him. He is a man of action as Lindsey has kept in touch with him and seen photos with seven others surrounded with large bags full of rubbish at a nearby beach. As he writes “Let’s use real action to replace your words”. What a guy! He is going to start a tree-planting project, so we gave him some cash to buy one for us, and we will follow its growth on Facebook! The idea is that if you return, you can pick some of the fruit from your tree. Hiring our helpful driver Sinh for our mystery tour was good because we were also able to see a lot of the countryside in the north of the island. There seemed to be many military training centres. Sinh informed us that the conscription was “two years for all able-bodied men.” Our new friend Edijs said that in Latvia, conscription was abolished in 2007. He was able to avoid it as from the age of 14 to 19 he was training and studying in Norway because of his football skills. He played for the Latvian U9 team. I wonder how many countries still have compulsory national service.
By the time we reached Starfish beach, it was after 3.30, and we were ravenous. Our driver pointed us in the direction of one of the piers. We walked out over the sea to a relaxed welcome by locals who catch and cook for you. Minor panic erupted as we cobbled together our Vietnam Dong and then negotiated with the owner what we could afford between us for our lunch. As you can see we ate well, our last Dong stretched to a tasty fish dish and vegetables. At last, our chance to chill on the beach and enjoy the warm waters of the Gulf of Thailand. We could see the Cambodian coastline just in front of us. The sea was so shallow that it was difficult to swim without grazing your knees!
However, it was lovely to see Tim and Edijs sit out in the sea and chat for a good while, while I did a good Mr Bean impersonation trying to get my bikini on and Lindsey relaxed.
Starfish beach is what-it-says-on-the-can and we saw many starfish, though sadly some had either been selfishly (or was it shellfishly) taken out of the water. Some can survive several hours out of the water, but other species have very little time before they will die. I’ve read that Marine scientists are trying to replace the starfish name as it’s not a fish. I quite like their alternative – Sea Star, but will astrophysicist complain that it’s not a star!
After a dip, I couldn’t stop myself from picking up bits of litter from just the patch of beach where we sat. Litter is a big problem, and it’s horrible to see it anywhere let alone along this stunning coastline. The sunset was sublime.
That evening we took Edijs’s advice and went with him for a great fish and veg supper at his favourite restaurant. He is a great guy, and we enjoyed his company. It was a bit like having one of our sons with us. Onto a coffee/bakery for something sweet where Lindsey started playing with a little Russian boy with a toy gun - not to be recommended! (Edijs speaks Russian and felt quite uncomfortable about the way the parents either ignored the child or shouted at their son). We walked back chatting in the dark, careful to avoid holes and dirt and the occasional calf wandering about looking for something to eat and somewhere to sleep. It was getting late, we certainly didn't want to turn into a pumpkin, let alone a toad. Time for bed.