Two months has passed, and Khánh has finished his internship working on the massive new powerplant being built at Mông Dương, in Quảng Ninh Province, about an hour east of Hạ Long City. It's a mountainous, coal mining region and the town is quite small, but nearby there's a gorgeous beach at Vân Ðồn so I arranged with Khánh to come up and visit him when his contract finished, then I could check out where he's been working and we could go to see the beach together. Tinh is also working there on the same site and he's such a darling, he came down to Hải Phòng on the weekend to escort me and make sure I got there OK.... and I'm very grateful that he did!!
So I met with Tinh on Sunday in between classes and we had lunch at the vegetarian place near the overpass.
He picked me up at VAIE after my 3-5pm class and we came home to pick up my backpack, then headed out to the outskirts of Hải Phòng to meet up with the friend who had lent him a motorbike. We had dinner by the roadside, then went to the main road to wait for a bus headed for Móng Cái on the Chinese border. By then it was quite dark, and there were no street lights where we were waiting. A van trundled by and Tinh hailed it, so it pulled up several metres away and we hurried toward it... only I stubbed my toe on a steel pipe embedded in the pavement (and protruding by 1 cm)... took the top off my toe, then did a slow- motion stumble to end up flat on my face in the mud by the side of the road. Mega embarassing! The van shot through and the Tinh and his mate helped me to my feet to survey the damage. A lot of dirt, a lot of blood from my toe and a badly bruised ego, but nothing serious. They put me on the bike and rode me to a nearby pharmacy where the girl carefully cleaned my wounds and bandaged me up. So it was about an hour later that we finally caught a bus and continued our journey.
When we finally got there it was 11pm and I was very glad that Tinh was there to guide me, for we were dropped off at his Camp in the middle of nowhere, and there was a black-out to boot! We made our way down to the buildings using Tinh's phone for a torch. He shares a room with Quảng, another young engineer.
But of course it didn't look like this when I arrived... all was in darkness apart from phone lights. It had been 5 hours since we left home, so first up Tinh showed me the way to the amenities block... I used his phone to light the way and used the toilet, but as I was coming out there was a man coming in using his lighter as a torch. He was so surprised to see me, I'm afraid he burned his fingers. The next morning, I was sitting in the room waiting for Khánh to pick me up when the housekeepers opened the door. They, too got a shock to see me. Apparently they phoned Tinh straight away to check what I was doing there. LOL
Here it is. Tinh's room is in the front building, and that's the amenities building at the back on the right.
Khánh came on a borrowed motorbike and took me past the huge construction site into Mông Dương township where he has been living at this hotel...
Their dormitory is on the top floor.
Tiên has also just finished his internship. Both of them have been offered an employment contract.
We dropped off my backpack and went down into town for phở bò for breakfast, then stopped off in a cafe for coffee, then came back to their room. Khánh and I spent some time designing his new house (to be built on the site of the old one in HP). At mid-day his room-mates began to drift in on their break. They were all very friendly. There was a black-out, so it was pretty hot. Several of them took a pillow and lay down on the tiled floor for a nap where it was coolest.
We had been waiting to connect up with some others before going to Vân Ðồn Beach, but that didn't happen, so we had lunch at a restaurant near the hotel. This was the place Khánh and his mates usually ate and it was like a big family... everyone wandering freely into the kitchen and helping themselves. The lady in charge was obviously good friends with most of the regulars, so there was plenty of banter. (Should have taken a photo). She organised a car/taxi to take Khánh, Kiên and me to Vân Ðồn and off we went!
It was a half-hour drive winding through the mountains down to the coast, and once there we could see the karsts of Hạ Long bay rising spectacularly in the distance as we drove along.
When we eventually arrived at the little township near Vân Ðồn Beach it was quite a surprise... quite undeveloped and the road to the beach itself was like a goat track. Even better, it was all but deserted! This big fishing lagoon was set back from the beach...
And then we were there! Standing in awe, looking at white sand, blue water and rocky outcrops hazy in the distance. Vân Ðồn Beach....
We sat for a couple of minutes and had a cold drink.
...just a little bit excited...
Then we hit the beach for a swim!
The water was perfect and Khánh and I swam until we were all wrinkly.
(I know .... )
Kiên isn't much of a swimmer, so he was in and out and found plenty to do mucking around on the beach.
How idyllic is this... ?
We went for a walk to the jetty you can see here in the distance. And took lots of photos...
This little fishing village was tucked into the next bay.
Like I said, lots of photos ... these are just a few.
And check out the markings on these pippies we found. No two alike... amazing God.
We sat on the beach as the sun went down and it was just beautiful. We were in no hurry because we needed to time returning to Tinh's camp with his getting back from work (after 6). Tinh was there when we arrived and he made us welcome. I was having a shower in the amenities block when there was another black-out... so there I was in pitch darkness in my cubicle (no-one had seen me come in) with men talking to one another all around me (in Vietnamese, of course, so I couldn't understand a word). I wondered what would happen if I said anything... but decided remaining anonymous would probably be the best course of action... I got dressed and quietly made my way back to Tinh's room as the power came back on.
For dinner we went down the road to a local restaurant and met with some of Khánh and Kiên's workmates.
Tinh, Kiên, a foreman, an engineer (Khánh's boss), me, Khánh and a Vietnamese - Korean interpreter (in front).
Once again, I spent the night very comfortably at Tinh's, and in the morning I caught the bus to the construction site with Tinh at 7.15am, where I waited by the side of the road for Khánh and Kiên for a short while, chatting to a friendly man who spoke quite good English. We walked over the crest of the hill to a place where the buses running from Móng Cái, on the Chinese border, stopped for passengers to Hải Phòng. We didn't have to wait long before a very crowded old bus stopped and we were bundled on board and wedged into some spare seats.... for the 3+ hour ride. The driver was a real cowboy, so it wasn't boring! Nevertheless, we made it home safely by lunch-time. What a memorable trip!