Sunday, December 29, 2002

The Vietnamese Village Mis-Adventure

I've finally gotten some of my travel stories sorted out and can begin sharing them -- retroactively -- in here. Better than than... you know the cliche.

This one dates back to December of 2002. I was in Puerto Princessa, Palawan doing a piece for an in-flight magazine on the arts and artisans of the area. And while that in itself was an self-broadening experience, I managed to find some non-work adventures as well. The below was one of them:

December 29, 2002.

It was my third day in Puerto Princessa, trying to wrap up the final details of my freelance assignment. After having spoken to various artists-in-residence and checked out the local joints, I thought it would be fun to check out the Vietnamese Village outside the city proper.

See, years ago, the Vietnamese people fled from their motherland during a dire time in their country's history. Some of them found Puerto Princessa. After many years of red tape and paperwork, several families settled into the town -- enriching the culture with their own at the same time as assimiliating themselves into the fabric of their new home.

So off I went in a multi-cab on a 20 minute ride to the Viet Ville. The ride cost P15! (When was the last time you could ride something for P15?!) I got there... walked around the village a little, kind of disappointed that the houses looked like normal Pinoy houses and that the Vietnamese were dressed in shorts and shirts. An ignorant part of my brain was expecting them to be in traditional Vietnamese garb I guess.

The Vietnamese Village Restaurant is the main point of the visit -- serving quite possibly the most authentic Vietnamese food in the country. So inside I went, to check out the food... maybe learn a little more about their culture.

The restaurant was crowded. I stood out sitting there by myself with no friends to hang out with. (sad face). But I put up a brave front and ordered myself a drink. Two minutes go by. A fly wove a druken pattern in the air above me. I couldnt stand the deafening silence at my table... I do not travel well when I cant speak. Apparently. Hahahaha.

I paid my bill and walked to the road to catch a ride back to town. Five minutes passed. Nothing. And I mean nothing. Not a single trike or multicab. Panic started to build up in my head. There I was, STRANDED, on the side of the road with no idea of how I was going to get back to the city proper.

"Dont freak. Start walking toward the pier. There's bound to be a trike or something there. And who knows maybe a multicab will pass by while you're walking." I told myself. So there I was ten minutes later still walking with nothing but rice paddies on either side. That and patches on land that was so overgrown I swear I saw a few monkeys in the trees. And maybe even snakes. A van full of Mormon brothers zoomed by. Did they stop? Of course not. A truck with construction workers passed by. Did they stop? Not a chance. But I did get a few "hey miss beauty" catcalls from them.

Finally, after what felt like at least a thousand miles but was probably more like a kilometer, a motorcycle passed by... I flagged him down to ask where I could wait for a ride. Just my luck that the guy (who looked about 50 and smelled like beer from 3 feet away) was Vietnamese and not Pinoy!!! I could barely understand his version of Tagalog. He could barely understand my mime and charade show. But we finally managed to come to the agreement that the stupid tourist from Manila was stuck without a ride back to Puerto Princessa. And, God bless the kindness of strangers because he gave me a lift back to town!

After dropping me off near a trike stand, he refused to let me pay him. Bless.

Moral of the story: never go to far flung areas of Puerto Princessa without one of two things -- a ride back to town or a Vietnamese-English dictionary.


Blogger jb virata said...

There was a Vietnamese refugee camp at the end of the runway at Puerto Princesa in the 1980s. I went there to drop off Vietnamese language school books. At the camp there was a bakery where french rolls were made, and croissants. Delish with farm fresh eggs and coffee.

12:50 PM  

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