Phu What? (November 22)

Our hotel had a fantastic breakfast buffet included, so we filled up on Vietnamese coffee, fresh juice, seafood noodle soup, and banana pancakes. Then we headed out for a day of adventure. We rented scooters from a couple of places near our hotel. The first place we stopped wanted 200k vnd, but just a few doors farther, we found some for 130k – each place just had one, though, so E & A rented from one place, and I from another. I’m not sure what type of scooter theirs was, but mine was 125cc (woohoo!) and the lady renting it to me had me actually fill out paperwork AND looked carefully at my drivers license (she seemed satisfied once she saw the motorcycle endorsement). And, we were off! First to the gas station to fill up our tanks, then to the well-reviewed dive operator to book a snorkeling trip for the next day, and finally off to explore the island. It was pretty easy riding through town, and then beautiful newly-paved roads through the hills and national park. With one lane for each direction, separated by a median/divider, and very little traffic, it was really pleasant riding.

When we got to the North shore, we stopped for a break by the water, where A and I sipped fresh coconut juice while E took a dip in the water and checked out the hammock.

Then, back on the road to circle down along the eastern side of the island. Smooth riding for awhile longer, until it wasn’t. The road turned into a muddy dirt track, which went on for many miles. Where did our beautiful pavement go??

It was very bumpy and slow going, so when we finally spotted a hotel advertising food, we stopped for a nice lunch (and hammock time) by the water.

Then, back on the dirt road for another 7km until we finally hit pavement again. The girls’ scooter was low on gas, and although mine had half a tank left, one of its tires was a bit low. We stopped at a scooter mechanic and they were kind enough to air up my tires, but they didn’t have any gas. About that time, I put on my rain jacket – not because it was rainy or cold (quite the opposite, in fact!) but I was worried about getting a sunburn, so took my cue from the locals and covered up. Since we were back on paved roads, the airflow made it bearable.

As we rode on, back toward the main town, E suddenly slowed down and pulled over. “We just passed a gas station” (we did? I didn’t notice it…?) but okay. So we made a U-turn and looped back around to a little roadside stall, where the girls were able to buy a liter of gas from a lady who poured it into their tank from a gallon jug. Not like any gas station I’d ever seen, but it worked!

Back into town, we cooled off at the hotel pool before heading to the downtown area and night market.

We paid a guy to park our scooters along with some others (probably a tourist tax, and not actually required, but it was very low cost), and then headed into the night market on foot.

Life’s short, so we are dessert first – a banana wrapped in sticky rice, toasted on the grill, and served with sweetened condensed milk. Amazing.

Then, on to the seafood restaurants where we picked out a bunch of things to have grilled up for us (pineapple fish, scallops, squid, giant shrimp, barracuda, and eggplant). The pineapple fish was moist, delicate, and seasoned really well.

Bellies full, we retrieved our scooters, and worked through a couple of scary moments to make it through the chaotic night market traffic. It started to sprinkle on our way back, and it started coming down HARD right as we got back to the places to return our scooters. So happy to have gotten there just in time, because the streets completely flooded with the heavy downpour. We waited it out in the shops, waving to one another from across the street, and when it let up a bit, we walked back to our hotel.

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