Say Hello, Wave Goodbye
English synthpop duo Soft Cell's hit record "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye" seemed rather apt for today's blog. We waved goodbye to our Sampan Stars and said hello to the Island of Phu Quoc, home for the next four nights.
Our guide hadn’t believed us when we requested they turn off the power in the boat overnight, (we don’t need lights or air-con), so, unfortunately, the drone of the engine continued, however after so much activity during the day, it didn’t keep us from our slumbers in our Mango Cruise Sampan!
A sampan is a flat-bottomed Chinese and Malay wooden boat. Some sampans include a small shelter on board and may be used as a permanent habitation on inland waters. Sampans are generally used for transportation in coastal areas or rivers and are often used as traditional fishing boats.
It was our last morning; after an early breakfast and a fond farewell to our lovely crew, we transferred to a small motorboat with our guide Nhung (Rose).
We sped down the river towards the floating market. I’ve seen photos of this spectacle, but it was still fascinating to be immersed in the fun and chaotic floating market place.
Originating in times and places where water transport played an important role in daily life, most floating markets operating today are tourist attractions.
Nhung explained that each boat has a pole on which is attached whatever they sell from their vessel, so you easily identify what you want to buy and from whom.
Tim nobly ordered a cuppa in Vietnamese from the floating cafe lady who had pulled up between us and a boat selling squashes. Then we spotted a Dorking Cockerel on their boat, and before we knew it, Rose was asking if we could join them on their craft (which was also their home).
We climbed aboard, bobbed down, scrabbled over the squashes, coming up to the cabin where the owner sat with the cockerel. Lindsey watched other locals join the boat - all totally mystified why these strange Europeans were so fascinated by this bird!
We sped back to disembark at Can Tho. Rose insisted on sorting out a taxi for us to the airport and so after hugs all round we said our goodbyes and whizzed off for the one hour flight to the island of Phu Quoc.
Mooching about the airport, we were bemused to come across two red-nosed pandas. We discovered that behind the masks were a delightful couple Brian & Debbie Walters on holiday from Henley in the UK.
I was thrilled to discover a connection, (I love making them, much to the forbearance of Simon and my family!)
It transpired that Debbie’s Mum is good friends with the mother of my friend Rick Ball, who I studied with in Oxford on our HND Hotel & Catering Management course, together with his wife and my good friend Cathy. They now own and run the award-winning Calcot Manor & Spa. Debbie, also in the catering industry, has followed the success of the Calcot Group, often recommending their Hotels despite never staying there herself! It’s a small world.
We hope they enjoyed their last week in Vietnam relaxing on Phu Quoc.
‘Crew prepare for landing’ seemed to be called no sooner than we had flown for 10 mins! And we found ourselves in a small clean airport in the south of the island.
A 40 minutes taxi transfer took us up to Ong Lang Bay and our home for the next four nights, the lovely Hosana Hostel. We settled into our rooms, Lindsey & Tim in August and me in the aptly named September (my birthday is the 17th)!
We had a quick lunch at Sakura, where we befriend the lovely owner/ waitress Kiem and then chilled for the afternoon before a tasty BBQ fish supper at Thu Phuong 2.
A great day ...... ‘Say hello, wave goodbye.’ (Soft Cell 1981)