It took about four hours on the bumpy roads to get to Rạch Giá, in a bus filled to the brim with people.
A van took us from the central station towards the hotel by the shore, passing bridges and rivers with houses built right on the water. After a bit of a walk, we got to the relatively empty and strange hotel. The room was nice, with a big window viewing the sea.
I was still feeling nauseous from the ride, but pretty soon it was gone and we were looking for lunch. A middle-aged woman served food at what seemed like her living room. We had the comfort-food as her tiny barky dog sat beneath our legs, and then went to the port to book a ferry to Phú Quốc. All the offices at the port seemed to be empty, so we asked the receptionist at the hotel and she told us where the offices were.
Only women worked at the office, and only one of them spoke English. She sold us the tickets as the others giggled behind her.
The sun was high and it was getting hot, so we stopped for cold coffee at a small cafe. All the other customers looked at us, some of them laughed. It was typical of small towns, where they don’t see many western people. An old woman was begging for alms and stopped by to curiously touch my hair, which made the bystander laugh even more.
Rạch Giá is very suburbian and quiet, so finding somewhere to have dinner at wasn’t easy. Especially at the isolated port area, where we stayed. We had a long walk to the center until we found a stall with good food. It seemed like we were the only tourists in the whole town since we attracted a lot of attention.
It was still early but the streets weren’t particularly interesting, so we went back to the hotel and sat on the porch with beers, viewing the dark sea.
The next morning, we walked to the port and had coffee until the ferry arrived, a big boat with the epic name – The Super Dong VIII.
The Super Dong was broad, with many rows of red cushioned chairs and screens that showed music videos, featuring a guy looking like the Vietnamese Justin Bieber. I didn’t know how long it would take to arrive at the island so I napped, mostly dreaming about food – again with the craving for Mediterranean, fresh vegetables in olive oil and lemon, accompanied by light cheeses.
After about three hours we docked at a lovely port, where we took a cab. It took twenty minutes of driving amongst bright-green jungles until we stopped on a main road, parallel to the shore.
Only one row of buildings separated the hotel from the beach. The room was nice and clean, and relatively big, and we had a porch viewing the beautiful open sea. After we settled down, we took a walk to explore the area – just a straight street, pretty quiet, the ocean peeking from in between the buildings. Small businesses, restaurants that were owned by a single person and served delicious home-cooked food, cafes that also offered a manicure.
And then, after we had lunch and coffee, we finally went to the beach.
Sometimes I still close my eyes and see myself back there again.
A classic beach, as if it came from a movie, with coconut trees, white sand, blue ocean. Some shades sprinkled here and there. Yes, it is cheesy and touristic, but it’s so indulging.
The water is so lucid you can see the ground, and the animals lurking inside – crabs minding their own business, fish, huge conches and seashells with hermit crabs hiding inside.
We’ve spent several hours at the beach, and in the evening went to the night market. It had many stalls with jewelry, mostly integrated with pearls and seashells, some stalls with clothing, and many restaurants with fresh grilled seafood.
We walked through the whole market until we arrived at the docks.
We stopped there to look at the dark sea, and the big crabs running on the sand. I breathed in the ocean air – the vast, endless water smell so much less salty than the Mediterranean.
There were some restaurants on the beach, so we had dinner at one of them. The food was great – we had shrimps, fish, okra, some rice crackers and beers. At a table near us sat a big local family with many children, and I watched them eating a huge pile of clams, pulling the meat out of the shell using safety pins.
We bought ice-cream and walked back through the night market, and since it was early we went to a second, more central one. It was nice, but had mostly restaurants.
We got back to the room, had some beers and watched movies in bed. There was a Back to the Future special on one of the movie channels. We binged the movies until we fell into a deep sleep.