The first and last time I ate oysters was when I was 12, in a family trip to Rome. I wanted to eat as many strange stuff as possible so I can tell that later to my friends at school and make them gag, so on the first night I ordered pasta with oysters and later on I vomited everything. Since that day I thought that maybe I was allergic to oysters, every kind besides mussels which I used to eat many times before, and avoided eating them. In the few times since when I ran into them I remembered the nausea and thought it wasn’t worth it.
Dinner on the Scorpion was barbecued shrimps, octopuses and oysters, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to check this allergy thing again. It was worth it – I guessed you cannot be allergic to only one kind of seafood. After dinner we went upstairs to the roof and looked at shooting stars, and went to bed.
The next morning we split from the rest of the group after breakfast, since we were the only ones who did the three days trip. The “Tender”, the small motor boat, picked us up and we moved to a smaller ship together with a chubby guide in a green shirt, who asked us to call him Daka, and a Canadian family. The mother was a cheerful and adventurous woman who talked a lot and the father was silent and kind of strange, and the children -the older Laiza and younger John – were cute and confident. After we all got to know each other we went upstairs to have coffee on the roof. The mother told us that she always dreamt of traveling the world, so they took a break from their lives for six months to have a big trip in South Asia.
We casted anchor in one of the bigger islands, and Daka told us the he was born and raised in a small village on this island. He told us that there was a big flood a few mounts ago and this is the first time he goes there since, and he’s not sure how things are going there. There was a shed by the shore with some bicycles, and after Daka adjusted the sit for each one, we followed him at a big road the surrounded the island. Daka himself drove slowly on a motorcycle, carrying Laiza with him. The path went straight in the beginning and then led into the island, with steep uphills and downhills. He was waiting for us at a junction and said that the shorter way is still flooded, so we went through a road that wiggled up the mountain. We made a short stop by a tree where a goat ant it’s cub were having a rest, and Daka showed us signs on the trees and the ground that the flood left. He said that eight people died, since it happened at night and they did not expect that.
We kept going with the road until we reached the village, where we were greeted by a big dog with some puppies, and got off the bicycles. Daka showed us a small hut made out of mud and straw where they cook wine, and the walls were soaked with humidity and alcohol. Afterwards he showed us a local’s home, a small simple house with one big room where everybody lives, and then we went outside to the yard and ate small bananas we got from an old lady. There was a small puppy that tried to play with an indifferent cat and with some chickens, and then gave up and fell asleep under the table. Daka came with some jars filled with wine and conserved snakes, and said it was good for the “man’s strength”. “One person drink, makes two people happy” – was a sentence we’ve heard for a few times during the trip.
We took the bicycles from there and rode for a few minutes to the new village’s school. It was a small and nice building in bright colors and some trees in the yard, and Daka told us that this place exists for two years and that aside of the 25 children from the village who go there, children from the other islands arrive there too. I thought about the kids living on the floating houses on the sea, and imagined them getting there with little boats and doing the way there every day. He told us about his daughter going every morning at 7 AM with her heavy bag, coming back for lunch at 12 and goes back to school until 4.
We made all the way back on our bicycles, turned them back at the shed and went to the boat again. We passed through an open part of the sea that was very wavy because there were no rocks to block the currents. We finished lunch as the boat got into a calm quiet area, surrounded by black rocks and islands with white beaches, and Daka said we can jump into the water or take one of the kayaks that were tied to the boat. The water was deep and cold, endless. I swam to the nearest island, with rough sand made out of millions of tiny seashells, filled with holes that crabs dug and black rocks bursting out of the ground. Roni joined me there and we explored it, traveling between plants and black dank caves. We swam back and took a kayak to row among the other islands, and swam some more. You could jump into the water from the boat’s roof but I was too scared, and now I am a bit sorry for not doing that.
We stayed in the water until Daka called us to get back. It was hot and we were very sleepy, so we took a nap together with the Canadians and some of the boat staff on the sofas that were scattered around. From there we came back to The Scorpion, and meanwhile a new group got there who were at the end of the kayak trip we did yesterday. We took a shower and went up to the roof to look at them as they are returning the kayaks and coming back, and tried to guess their nationalities. The instructor from the day before, the one Roni and I called “Calimero”, went upstairs too and sat with us. Somehow the conversation was about sex – we talked about the wine with the snakes and he told us that some men drink snake’s blood or wine with goat’s testicles when they turn 35, to stay “manly” as he called it. “One person drink, makes two people happy”. He said that he has a girlfriend but she wants to stay a virgin until the wedding, and I told him that some religious people in our country avoid even the slightest touch with the other gender. Even though the conversation was a bit awkward and he gave too much information about what he was doing with his girlfriend, It was interesting because I was curious to know what was the approach to sex in Vietnam and had nobody to ask.
When it was time for dinner we went downstairs and joined the rest. It was a bit strange at first because everybody changed, but the new group was friendlier and more approachable than the last and we got to know everyone pretty quick. We particularly liked a couple from Ecuador, Nadya and Xavier, and beside from them there were also people from Germany and Holland. As in the day before, we had barbecued seafood. I sat with Nadya who stacked oysters on her plate and ate them with lemon and salt, and she told me that Xavier was studying for a few months in Australia, and they met for the first time since in this trip.
After dinner we went upstairs to the roof again with beers, under the shooting stars and between the sea and the rocks. It was nice to talk, a quiet dozy conversation, with people from other countries. Some of the Scorpion’s staff sat with us part of the time, and I thought that their job must be hard and fun, to meet new people all the time and then say goodbye again. When I laid back and looked at the skies it seemed that the stars were the only thing that exists.
The next morning a loud voice from outside woke me up, and I saw a woman cruising by our window in a small kanu and trying to sell us random stuff. This is Vietnam. After we dressed up and had our morning coffee we went again to the Tender that took us to one of the islands, with a cave with many dripstones. The thing with this cave is that you are supposed to see some shapes in the dripstones, but in fact most of them looked more like… Erect poles. At some point one of the Germans tried to mention it gently to Calimero, who pointed at a dripstone and insisted that it was the king’s pointing finger.
From there we returned to a Spring-Roll rolling class st the Scorpion, that was mostly funny, and after lunch we said goodbye with a heavy heart to the sea and the rocks and began to return back to Hanoi.