What struck me at first sight at a Tuy Hoa (Pronounced Twee Hwa), the friendly little coastal town we went to for a weekend, was the hundreds of locals who walked barefoot. They were on their way to or back from the wide beach where, on the coarse golden sands, hundreds played football while an equal number swam in the shallow shelf that extended, maybe half a kilometer into the placid sea.
Tuy Hoa has no pretensions the capital of a province should have. It is a non-descript little town between Qui Nhon (Pronounced ‘Key gnon’ – ‘gn’ as in cognac) and Dai Lanh beside a huge river.
The major – perhaps the only – place of tourist interest is the impressive
Presenting a study in contrast to the earthy temple is the neighbouring modern monstrosity called the
We stayed at the brand new KaYa International. As it had just been opened for business, everything was squeaky-clean. The bell-boy, barely out of is teens, who showed us our room either must have taken us to be country bumpkins or was meticulous to do what he was told to. He demonstrated the operation of the electronic key to the room a couple of times and smiled shyly when Bhawani indicated that we had already been exposed to such technology.
That night, we dined at a humble restaurant on the beach. As the Viet Namese have their dinner before half past seven, there were no other customers when we walked in. This was where I have seen the least time being taken for conversion of raw material into ready-to-eat cooked food. The bearer-cum-owner showed us the live crabs and in less than five minutes, the crustaceans were before us doused in ketchup, being cooked in beer right in front of us.
A small group of men who obviously had more drinks than what was good for them came in and sat at a nearby table. It was when they had a round of beer that we came into their radar. They said something among themselves. The youngest among them walked over to with his beer mug, sat with us and tried to converse. He said he worked in the University Library. ‘Cheers!’ he raised his beer mug and insisted on clinking against the ones held by each one of us, irrespective of what – or whether – we were drinking.
He had heard of
Hari’s knowledge of Vietnamese would have helped, but our man would not speak anything other than English. He would struggle for words; Bhawani would supply many in succession. He would frown in exasperation when the right word was not forthcoming. And when she supplied the word he was looking for, he’d be relieved and his beer mug would go up again with demands for more clinks.
We had nearly finished and this comical cheers-and-clink routine was tending to get a little boring. So we got up and bade him goodbye. He ambled back, chin up, to his friends who were visibly impressed by his prowess over the language!
As expected, none of the hotel staff spoke or understood English. In the restaurant, it was buffet breakfast. The fare daunted the staunchest carnivore and I settled for salad, fruits, toast and marmalade. I thought I cold have a scrambled egg – just one egg in view of the cholesterol which had to be kept in check. Bhawani said she too would have one. I went to the eggs-to-order counter. The middle-aged chef smiled sweetly and, as if to confirm my requirement, she picked up one egg and showed it to me. I nodded agreement. Three minutes later, I get two fried eggs, sunny side up, on one plate!
As you drive away south towards Buon Me Thuot, you cannot miss the massive Seated Buddha on your left. You can see it from kilometers away. It is not a statue, but a grey rock on the incline of a lush green mountain. Nature created it and worked on it for decades, nay centuries or even millennia to give it the present shape.
Breathtaking views of the sea and the fishing harbours await you further south, as the car cruises along the smooth road that runs through the hilly terrain with the verdant hills on the right and even more verdant valleys to the left.