With the exception of a sudden and brief shower that forced me to stop at a coffee-shop by the side of the road for the while, it was a fairly dry ride I had that day. Especially towards its end, when the road approached the vast Pacific Ocean and started to meander up and down the nude hills that formed the coast, that ride offered my eyes sceneries of glorious beauty. It was some time about late afternoon when I finally reached that place, whereat, mainly as a result of intuition, I was intending to sojourn for the next couple of days to come.
I was at Dai Lanh, a small coastal village located right at the point where the elongated Doi Cape starts penetrating into the sea, leading, after a few kilometers, to the easternmost point of Vietnam and Indochina. After I drove up and down the village’s main road – pretty much the only road – I found there were two hotels in the village. I walked into the first and asked for the room price… I walked into the second and also asked for the price, letting them know what the other people’s offer was… Returned to the first so to get them aware of the better price offered by their competitors, thus getting a new, better one… And, finally, ended up getting an even lower one at the second, which was the one I was intent for from the beginning, as it was closer to the sea.
The view I had to enjoy from my room’s little balcony was absolutely marvelous: The fine sandy beach stretching far, occupying the entire length of that placid bay between the country’s two easternmost capes. And the countless fishing vessels ripping the bay’s waters back and forth throughout the whole day and night, during the latter making the bay resemble a Christmas-decorated town with their bright, colorful lamps.
Except a few Vietnamese or Chinese tourist buses occasionally stopping by for lunch, there was no tourism. There was no agriculture, nor was there any other significant economic activity on land. Dai Lanh was a nearly exclusively fishing village. The sea was basically everything for it. It was what was putting its economy and its very existence in motion. And that was very well demonstrated by its people’s agglomeration. Whereas at the main road you would see hardly any people at all outside and a few half-open shops (when the door is open but you need to spend some time looking and calling around for the owner), crossing by the last row of houses to the beach you witness a teeming community of beach people.
Those people were literally living at the beach. Their homes, their jobs, their recreation, all their life was based on that beach. Day and night there would be men engaging themselves in the survival’s toil, exploiting various sorts of fishing techniques. I truly do not think there could be any kind of marine creature living in those waters which wasn’t eligible for those people’s dining table. Both the distant, rocky verges of the beach were constantly scanned by a multitude of snorkelers, who, for hours and hours to come, were, under the harsh sun, venturing into the sea’s depths and up again, carrying out with them oysters, urchins and a great variety of other immotile living things. Others had their steadfast positions all along the lengthy shore peering patiently at their luring jiggings, while yet others, in groups of two, were hauling nets along the shallow waters some few meters asea. The greatest bulk of their nutrition, however, was picked out by the village’s mighty fishing fleet, comprised of vessels of various size and kind, the most peculiar of which was those spherical-cap-shaped, baskets: They hardly were 1.5 meters in diameter, bearing, of course, one man at a time, who in a remarkably deft manner would balance himself amidst it and row to the open sea – I would personally never think of utilizing such a craft for fishing purposes, I can though imagine lots of fun surfing up and down the waves of some unsettled sea aboard one of them.
While all those were busy pulling the village’s food supplies out of the waters, all the rest would be scattered all around the beach, doing whatever they had to or felt like doing. Companies of men would be seated under some terminalia or casuarina smoking and jabbering to each other, only keeping quiet for the while to examine that weird white man strolling up and down the beach (me). Gangs of little children were continuously running up and down, laughing and indulging in any kind of game their imagination could concoct. Entire, extended families were assembled in front of some designated for socializing purposes houses. They had some large area covered by tarpaulin, and an extension cord drawn out from the house and powering a three-to-four-decades-old television. You could see groups of people as large as thirty individuals stuck in front of it watching quietly and absorbedly Vietnamese soap operas, while some older women would at the same time scale and gut fish.
Partly because there were no tourists at all, and most importantly because of that village’s quiet character and the merry mood of its inhabitants, that place happened to be probably my most beloved within that country. So, slightly sad I was that morning, while I was preparing to pull myself out in search of new images and adventures.