This past weekend I went to Quan Lan, a nearby island to the east of Vietnam. It was a three day, two night trip. Originally, I was going to book a tour with some my friends, but it got too expensive, so we decided to show up at the bus station on Saturday morning and just “wing it”.
So smart, right?
Well, I think that anywhere I go in Vietnam, I’m just feeling my way around. I still don’t know what street I get off of on the bus. I just pay ultra-close attention to the streets after about 30 minutes on the bus, and look for familiar buildings and stores. Then, when I see this particular building, I think it’s a schoolhouse, I get ready to get off the bus.
Anyway, I went to Quan Lan this weekend. Getting there and coming back was not too bad; my Vietnamese was able to buy my friends and me bus tickets and eventually boat tickets. It was a little stressful because there always a lot of people crowding around us trying to help us, but really trying to get our money, and sometimes, I didn’t really know how to answer them.
We had to stay an extra night on the mainland because I think we took the wrong bus. But, in the end, we got there just fine.
The picture below is near Van Don Port. The water and beach is heavily polluted, probably because people just throw anything in the water, but it still looks beautiful.
Anyway, when we got to the island, we had breakfast at a restaurant that we walked to and went to look for a hotel. One of my friends was feeling sick, so we wanted to make sure that she had a place to stay. So, as she stayed at the hotel, the rest of us went to rent bikes and biked to the beach.
This is when I started noticing things.
First, I found it very hard to buy water bottles. We went to two places before we found a place that had water, and there was only one bottle. In Vietnam, I have been told over and over not to drink water from the tap. Water sanitation has gotten much better over the years, but you still have to be careful. So, if there are not many water bottles, what do the local people drink? Do they boil water every day? Is there a spring? Do people need to fetch water? Why is bottled water so hard to find?
Then, the roads were extremely muddy. Since it rained, it made the bike ride much harder (and messier) . Most people travel by tuktuk or motorbike. I remember people staring at us and laughing at us, finding it so amusing that we were going to bike 12 kilometers to the nearest village. They probably thought that way because 1, it is far and 2, the roads are not that good. I got stuck in mud a few times and even the paved roads are very bumpy.
Third, there is a lot of construction going on, all throughout the island. I wish I would have taken pictures of all that was going on. Quan Lan is not a very touristy, meaning there aren’t many foreigners, but it seems like a good amount of Vietnamese people like to travel there. But, with all the construction going on, I think they are trying to get it ready for more tourism. The beaches are really nice and there are so many hotels to stay at, so it has a lot of potential to be a good tourist spot, but again, I have the same questions about tourism.
[See previous post about Sa Pa.]
The whole time, I kept thinking, “How do people live here?” Bottled water is hard to find. There isn’t much fresh food–it was very hard finding bread. The seafood was really good though.
The power had gone out in the middle of the night, for no particular reason. Luckily, the hotel I was staying in had a back-up generator, but I am pretty sure that the rest of the village doesn’t.
But, I just question: What do people eat? How do they get their food? I didn’t see a supermarket. People sold fruits on the street, but it doesn’t seem abundant as Ha Noi. What do people do in their free time? What kind of education do the kids get?
Mind, I wasn’t there long enough to really understand. I mean, these are probably not concerns at all for the local people because they know each other and they are surviving there. There was a school in the main village. Additionally, I passed a lot of agricultural fields as I was biking to and from the villages, so is the island sustainable in and of itself? Or, does a lot of food get imported from the mainland?
These are questions I still have; I wish I could have stayed longer to find out. I find it frustrating to be in a developing country with a growing economy like Vietnam, but not be able to stay here long enough to discover how everything works. There are certainly connections to be made about everyday life here that I wish I could learn from policy to education to food to tourism. I really wish I could stay here longer.
Over and out.
PS. I realized that this post is a little discombobulated, but I just wanted to get my thoughts out. I would never post anything if I wanted every post to be perfect.