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.

Final Market Day Before Tết, Hoi An

The Bà Lê market is close to my home; I do much of my shopping along this market street. Tomorrow is the lunar new year’s eve, and today was the final day to shop before the big holiday. By late morning when this shot was taken, the crowd had already begun to thin out, and by mid-afternoon most of the vendors would be closed up. Tomorrow, there will be a few stands selling their wares at much higher prices than usual, but most of the shops and stands will be closed, in this market, in Hoi An, and for that matter, throughout Vietnam. Tết is definitely holiday number one in Vietnam.

Today, the street was lined with people selling flowers, both various kinds of cut flowers, and some flowering plants in pots. These flowers are beautiful, but not purchased as decoration. They are part of the worship that will take place on the first day of the new year (this Saturday) and at other times during the holiday. My partner, Minh, uses the English word “worship” to describe the activities of Vietnamese families on the first day of Tết. In fact, this day is one of the occasions when families pay respects to their ancestors. In Vietnamese, the expression is cúng tổ tiên. The word “cúng” can certainly be translated “worship,” but the English word comes loaded down with considerable Judeo-Christian baggage that has little to do with Vietnamese practices. I personally prefer “pay respects to” or “honor” ancestors to describe what Vietnamese do on Tết and at other times of the year, though I have no doubt there are people who will disagree with this interpretation.

In any case, many of the market’s transactions consisted of the sales of flowers.

Not everything was flowers. This man is loading his cart with coconuts for delivery to a seller who will make coconut milk drinks for shoppers.

Finally, I am guessing this woman is done with her shopping and thinking, “Let me out of here.” That is certainly what I was thinking by the time I took this shot.

Man and His Dog, Maribor, Slovenia

It’s 7:40 in the morning. This man and his beautiful best friend are taking a break on their morning walk.

A population of around 100,000 makes Maribor the second largest city in Slovenia. Located in hill country in the east of the country, Maribor is a quiet, charming small city. Among other things, a local restaurant served up the best pizza I ate during my 24 days in Europe. Reason enough to consider a return visit.

Hoi An Old Town After Hours

I don’t know about you, but I am not going to miss 2023, though to be honest, on a personal level, I had a good year. However, I certainly cannot say the same for the world around me. There is not a great deal to feel excited or upbeat about as we stumble into 2024, at least that is how things look from my corner of the world. I guess it is up to all of us to make the new year as happy and decent as we can. Let’s get to it!