We stayed in Phú Quốc for a week, which was way more than we planned on.
Maybe it was an end-of-journey tiredness, that made us immerse into any kind of routine, and feel at home in places that were never our home. We had our favorite restaurants and cafes, the regular people we’ve seen on the beach. Like an alternative universe that exists for a week only.
I also knew, that once we’ve left the island, it’s nearly over. We’ll go back to Hồ Chí Minh, and then to Bangkok, and then home.
And that would be it. That would be the time to put away the bathing suit and begin adult life.
As if this was Neverland and the ocean water would keep me young forever.
In most of the mornings, we had breakfast at a family restaurant that served some sort of a breakfast-Bánh mì, with fried eggs and vegetables, and delicious coffee.
We spent most of the days on the beach, reading our books and swimming. I loved seeing the subtle changes. Where the coconuts fell from the treetops, where a crab dug a new hole in the sand, the ebbs and flows. In one of the mornings there’s a big branch floating in the water, the next day it was carried away by the currents.
If we stayed for a bit longer, I’d grow algae on my feet.
There was a cafe we liked, that belonged to a family. The mother served the coffee, the father was usually working on his bike. All types of people sat there, from European tourists to truck drivers. A woman who was getting a manicure the day before got a facial today.
In the evenings, we took long walks around the town. Phú Quốc is famous for its pearls so they are sold everywhere, especially as jewelry. I loved looking at the shop fronts, some of them looking fancy, decorated with huge conches, or shattered glass that looks like sparkling waves.
On one of these days, we decided to go see the Nước mắm factory – where they make fish-sauce. We weren’t sure where it was so we took a cab, and told the driver to come back in half an hour.
Inside was a small shop with bottles of different sizes, with sauces in different levels of saltiness. They also sold dried and salted fish and shrimps, huge seashells, pearls.
Past the shop was a yard, with shirtless men working. It was by a dock, and the men carried big bags of stocks from a ship into the factory. We asked one of them if we can get inside and have a look, and he showed us where to go.
This must be the smelliest place on earth.
It was a big hall with huge barrels, tubes going in and out of them, with the Nước mắm cooking inside. A leader was leaning on one of them so we climbed to see what’s inside – a brown, thick liquid with strange objects floating inside, perhaps fish parts. The fishy smell was so strong and salty, it made my eyes water. How can such a delicious thing smell so bad?
Back at the store again, the salesclerk let us try different kinds of the Nước mắm, and we bought some home.
On the last day, we decided to get married.
We spent almost the entire day at the beach until it got way too hot. I said goodbye to the ocean, knowing this was probably the last time in the next years I swim in it.
In the evening we came back to the night market for dinner, and chose one of the seafood restaurants. Those places have a display of today’s catch, some of it still alive. I saw the squids on ice, just lying there, staring and changing their colors.
We had succulent crabs and different kinds of big shrimps, together with steamed rice and ice-cold beer.
Back at the room, we sat on the porch and decided to get married. We drank beers, looking at the dark sea and the lights from fisher boats, and the stars from above, and talked about the future.
The funny thing was, that we always said we would never get married, and never officially did. It was more about the idea of thinking about our future together, than about a wedding. We’ve never really needed one.
We toasted with the beer cans, and called our parent. I called my mom first, and when I called dad afterward she was quick enough to tell my sister before I had the chance.
After telling everyone, we cheered again.
And since that night, we’ve always been traveling together.