Big Adventure on a Small Boat
An Thoi Travel Blog› entry 37 of 126 › view all entries
I rented a motorbike and headed down the west coast of Phu Quoc. Reaching An Thoi, at the bottom of the island, I continued through the harbor town to the end of the dirt road leading to a fishing village on the west side. As I parked the Suzuki, a European couple pulled up behind me and walked to a thatched-roof eatery at the water's edge. I walked past a group of squatting cone-hatted women cleaning squid to the nearby house of Phuong, a fisherman I had met on my last visit in February. The door was shut but when I pointed to the place and said his name, a young woman waved for me to follow. We shuffled further into the village along a curvy, hilly, well-worn footpath over rock, grass, and dirt.
I found the old friend doing plaster work at his brother's new brick house. Phuong was surprised and thrilled that I remembered both him and his own house and quickly pulled out a couple of orange plastic chairs. We sat on the front porch chatting awhile, sipping ice-water that he dipped from a plastic cooler. He had been working his fishing boat - captain of a crew of six - but came back to port yesterday when high winds had kicked up rough seas. When he asked if I wanted to cruise around the bay on his brother's small boat, I doubted the idea for a few minutes then remembered the European couple that I had seen.
After negotiating a reasonable price of 150,000 VN Ðong for an hour, the Bavarians Hubert and Michaela, from Munich, and I clambered off the rocks and into Nguyen's rickety boat. His school-girl daughter ran off to fetch fuel. Though the thick-planked hull of the flat-bottomed boat was badly worn and weathered, it seemed solid. The two plastic chairs from the front porch were strategically placed on floorboard decking which were loose pieces of wood, sliding and rocking easily by any shifting of our weight. Michaela took the forward chair, I the other. Hubert sat on a gray board behind us that spanned the boat. Once seated it was best not to move.
Nguyen stood at the helm. The sputtering engine balanced between a long belt-driven propeller shaft and an almost as long U-shaped control bar. The bar was wide enough for his arm or leg and he easily pivoted the entire assembly as a rudder. We slowly motored to a large rock near our parked motorbikes and the girl jumped aboard with a two-liter plastic jug half-full of gasoline. Our adventure was underway - and what an adventure it was.