Untangling the Nets, Phan Thiết

Along a street near the big Phan Thiết fish market, a group of mostly men were at work untangling the nets used to catch the fish. These days, no natural fibers in sight – the nets are made of a thread-fine synthetic of some kind. After watching for about 10 seconds, I realized I had no clue how these people went about sorting out and making sense of the huge piles of netting they were working with. Better them than me. I would go off the rails completely in a matter of minutes trying to untangle all those tiny threads.

The Fish Market at Phan Thiết

Phan Thiết, a city of more than 200,000 people, lies on the coast of the East Sea about 165km east of Saigon. For ten or twelve km on either side of its urban center, large areas administered by Phan Thiết stretch along the coast. To the east is Mũi Né, a well-known tourist destination drawing both Vietnamese and international visitors to its beaches, sand dunes and recreational activities.

Phan Thiết has a large fishing fleet and a wholesale fish market that sells the fleet’s daily catch early in the morning pretty much every day. It seemed worthwhile to visit the market with cameras, so my Ke Ga host, Mark, and I got ourselves up and on the road to Phan Thiết by 6am. The market was still active when we arrived around 7am, though there were already signs of people getting ready to pack up and go home.

No shortage of hairy eyeballs targeting the guy with the camera.

This guy gave life to the expression “built like a brick shithouse.” He did not have a warm, friendly look on his face, so I decided a profile shot was the better part of valor.

The market was definitely the place to go in Phan Thiết for fashion statements.

It’s a long, early morning at the market.

Fishing Boats in Early Sun, Kê Gà

There is a fish market that gets going in the pre-dawn every morning in Kê Gà village. I presume the boats in this photo are back from a night of fishing in waters near the coast. As far as I know, Vietnam does not have any of the huge factory-type fishing boats that put to sea from Japan and a number of other countries, but there are some larger Vietnamese boats that operate in deep water for days at a time. Smaller boats like these and the ones I see in Hoi An stay closer to home.

Fishing Boats on the Beach, Kê Gà

I went recently to visit my friends Mark and Phoung who live in the seaside village of Kê Gà about 150 km east of Saigon. The trip by mini-bus from Saigon took around three and a half hours, a good part of which was spent crawling through the traffic generated by Saigon’s vast urban sprawl to get to a new expressway that took me most of the rest of the way. Kê Gà, itself, is a quiet place with residents depending mostly on fishing in the East Sea and the raising of dragon fruit for their livelihoods. The center of town consists of a restaurant or two, a small sample of Vietnam’s ubiquitous noodle shops, and several coffee shops. A number of homestays and a few proper hotels – though none of the big resort variety – are located along the beach or on the highway that runs through town hugging the coast. Visitors it seems are mostly Vietnamese escaping Saigon for a few days of relaxation. Non-Vietnamese faces were few and far between, at least during my stay. Local beaches are pleasant enough, but definitely not of the tropical paradise variety.

To determine how far off the beaten track for foreigners a place is, like many of our kind, I consider the availability of imported Western foods in the area. Mark uses olive oil as representative of all imported foods when making his calculations, and that makes perfect sense to me. After all, you have to draw the line somewhere and being able to buy olive oil seems as reasonable a place as any. In any case, the nearest olive oil to Kê Gà is in a Korean big-box chain store called Lotte located in the small city of Phan Thiết about 45 minutes down the road from Kê Gà. So when you just cannot take another day of steamed rice or bun, you have to plan a drive to get the makings of that eggplant parmesan with penne you are craving.

On the plus side, if you think being out of the house at 8:30 pm constitutes a late night – and I do – then you are almost sure to like Kê Gà.

Kê Gà’s fishing fleet is anchored off shore along various stretches of beach. I presume the covered boats here are also fishing boats or serve the larger, anchored fishing boats in some way, but I do not know their function. That is Kê Gà light house in the background.

Camera in Motion

I moved the camera at the same time I pushed the button that opens the shutter allowing the sensor to capture the image. On the one hand, I think looking at the picture makes it rather obvious that I moved the camera, whether intentionally or otherwise. On the other hand, to the viewer, I don’t think it matters all that much what I did with the camera. Either you like what you see, or you don’t, or you look and give the pic a mental shoulder shrug. Whatever, in this age of way too much information whether you want or need it or not, moving the camera has its own name – intentional camera movement. Who knew? And what would a name be without an acronym – ICM – compelling curious non-photographers (and some photographers like me) to fire up a search engine to sate their curiosity, and in the process, collect yet another virtually useless piece of information. There is a Wikipedia entry for ICM as well. Just to dot the final i.