I wanted to get away to a place with primitive beaches and hard-working, friendly fishermen who wouldn’t mind if I stuck a camera in their face. Yes, I was admittedly in pursuit of a photographic opportunity.
I got my chance during a recent trip organised by a group of reporters to Phuoc Hai fishing village in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province’s Dat Do District, about 16km north of Vung Tau.
One of the oldest fishing villages in the province, it is famous for its fish sauce, dried fish and seafood.
The tourism potential of the area, near Minh Dam Mountain, has yet to be exploited as most people focus on their main job — fishing. However, a road along the coastline has been built and a series of resorts are beginning to take shape.
Although you can get to Vung Tau by hydrofoil in an hour and a half, we chose to take a bus from HCM City.
Travelling on the relatively new expressway, we were there in about two hours.
The fresh air, the salty smell of the sea and the breeze from the pine forest along the coastline helped to dispel any tension from the work week.
Instead of a luxury resort, we chose the intimacy of a coconut-leaf lean-to open to the fresh sea air. Nearby there was a restroom and dining space.
We were only a few steps from the sea. Standing from the spot, it was not difficult to see fishermen’s coracles and small boats in the distance.
While everyone else was sunbathing, playing football or fishing, I decided to walk along the beach to look for fishermen who were mending their nets, repairing their coracles or collecting fish.
The fishermen I met were as friendly as I had expected them to be.
Some of them suggested that I come back the next morning to watch the fishing boats when they return to shore from their overnight trip on the sea.
One of them recommended that I go to Long Son for beautiful views, as large fishing boats were no longer allowed to berth at the tourism area where we were staying. But it was too far, about 10km away.
So the next day I awoke early to catch the sunrise and take photos of working fishermen near our site.
Later, I rejoined my colleagues for team-building activities and swimming.
At nightfall, we prepared a large barbecue with locally caught seafood and sang karaoke until midnight.
When the party ended, I listened to the sounds of the fishing boats on the sea. I could not sleep as I was so anxious to wake up early and see the sunrise.
After I got up at 5am, a friend decided to join me, and then we walked to a place where several fishermen were working.
Under the sunlight of the new day, the men smiled and waved as we raised our cameras to record images of the peaceful scene.
We returned to our beach site and played games until we were ready to leave for HCM City.
Phuoc Hai Village, fishing village, Vung Tau City, Nghinh Ong Festival
Networking: Some local residents in Phuoc Hai make a living mending fishing nets.
On the way back, we all agreed to return to see other sites in the area, including Hon Mot Pagoda, a historic site on Minh Dam Mountain, and the whale cemetery, the largest cemetery of its kind in Viet Nam, which covers approximately 3,000sq.m. Hundreds of whales are buried there.
One of my colleagues suggested returning during the Nghinh Ong Festival, which is organised to worship the whale on the 15th day of the first lunar month.
Like other fishing villages in Viet Nam, Phuoc Hai residents venerate the whale and worship it with as much fervor as they would a deceased relative.