Quy Nohn, Vietnam, January 2020.
We went to Quy Nohn only because we were trying to get to Kum Tum. We knew nothing about it. And sometimes that’s the best place to start from. No expectations. No musts. Just endless possibilities.
We drank iced coffees and sugar cane juice at a beachside cafe, sitting under fluttering blue umbrellas, watching food vendors touting their wares to tourists. Slices of papaya. Crisps. Popcorn. Prawn crackers. I bought a bag from one lady, the next day one from the other. On the third day, the first lady came running towards me and plonked the crackers down on the plastic table almost before I’d sat down. I didn’t really fancy prawn crackers, but just went with the flow. It’s not often I have the joy of being a ‘regular’. Photographers scrambled to take tourist portraits. Groups laughing and smiling, crowding together. A mum with a child on her hip, standing stock still on the sand, sea in the background. She unfastened her hair, but quickly refastened it, as it blew around her head and obscured her face from the lens.
We walked for kilometres along the promenade, amongst palm trees and shaded green gardens, and next to the wide, sandy, clean beach. Deserted in the daytime. A handful of Asian tourists and their would-be documenters, wearing life vests and running excitedly into the waves. The odd westerner, working on their tan. And us. Mad dogs and Englishmen. As the daylight dimmed and the sun faded, people appeared. Power walkers busting steps, couples strolling hand in hand, grand-dads playing football with toddlers, dog walkers, pensioners limbering up, swinging arms and kicking legs, rolling and twisting before dashing into the surf, and the local youth and muscle-bound men punching volley balls over nets.
When we’d had enough of the beach we turned inwards, plodding pavements. We were stunned by a huge bronze statue of Ho Chi Minh and his dad and a monumental communist statue surrounded by Vietnamese flags. The 17-metre-high Buddha at Long Khanh Pagoda was also quite an eyeful. Extraordinarily kitsch, but bonsai trees, potted flowering plants, and colonnaded walkways added serenity and beauty.
When we got tired we sat in cafes. That’s how we found BidiBook Cafe, a bibliophiles dream – but of course I couldn’t read anything. I could sip on a strawberry milk-shake though. And at another cafe we met nine-year-old Nick, who came to talk to us to practice his already excellent English. ‘Art is not my happy place’, he told me when I asked what he liked to do at school.
Quy Nohn has an abundance of cafes, and is a big seafood hub. We don’t like seafood. We tried street food, but after a strange flat rice pancake supposedly stuffed with veggies (we could find no filling) we were a bit discouraged. Until we found Sisters. It seemed sacrilegious somehow to eat Italian in Vietnam, but we went for it. And it was so good. A modern place run by an Australian guy, with bad B-rated cowboy movies playing on a loop and Jimmy the French bulldog, who occasionally sauntered around the place sniffing for discarded bits of pizza, or strutted to the outside step to eyeball the neighbourhood canines. The staff would run after him if he went too far and shout – ‘Jimmy – in the kitchen Jimmy’ and he would disappear and reappear a minute later. We had the feeling Jimmy did whatever he wanted. ‘Yes, but he’s so cute’, said the Australian guy’.
And so we passed a very pleasant few days. In a town with no sights, but quite a lot to offer.
Sisters Tavern & Pizzeria
81 Hai Ba Trung.
69 Hai Ba Trung.
Very relaxing and peaceful. Staff welcoming and friendly. Just drinks. And lots of books!
Bun Ca Phuong Teo
211 Duong Nguyen Hue.
Cheap noodle place.