Merry Christmas To All

It seems that only yesterday Christmas was still somewhere in the future, to be dealt with at another time. Yet, I woke early this morning and here it was, the usual bleak Christmas sky that seems to accompany any public holiday.

Stumbling from my bed I forewent my usual coffee and hit the road north to treat myself to the best that the coast has to offer. You guessed it…. I am sat in my car with the rain pouring down, by the Noosa River. In front of me is Jetty 17 and of course Old Salt Coffee.

 

I arrived before the crowd and enjoyed a large Flat White while chatting with Rhian as she busied herself getting ready for the rush. At around seven a friend of Rhian’s, Rhianna, arrived to help out with taking orders and dealing with the cash drawer. Just in time as the punters started to roll in shortly after.

 

Today is the first birthday of Old Salt here on the river, Rhian having opened for trade Christmas Day last year, so it is Happy Birthday and Congratulations on a year well spent satisfying the cravings of an addicted following of loyal subjects. I heard a rumour that Old Salty is getting a name today, but more on that later if the rumour is true.

Despite the morning showers, there were plenty of folk out walking either themselves or their dogs with a goodly number stopping off for a morning cuppa. A few arrived by car voicing their gratitude that they had found a coffee shop open on this holiday of holidays. I watched a salubrious Ford Mustang cruise by only to return a short while later having found what he was after……. coffee!!

 

Right now, it seems that the weather has closed in and rain is falling steadily. This appears to have had little effect on those seeking to appease their addiction, sheltering as they wait under the scant eves and sail cloth that is not totally water proof

 

Behind Old Salt Coffee, Jetty 17 has opened for business and already several vessels have been hired by folk wishing a day on the river. Of all the holiday destinations in the world, Noosa has plenty to offer, from the surf beaches, national park walks and of course this beautiful river.

Ode To Old Salt Coffee

(To the rythme of Camp Grenada)

 

Christmas morning, outta coffee
take a ride in my jalopy
Heading north to Noosa River
Where I’ll find a way to cleanse my dirty liver

When I get there…., coffees brewing
It is fresh and…. there is no stewing
No better way to…. ease the liver
Than a cup of Old Salt Coffee by the river

Now the sun’s not…. hit the river
The light showers….. make me shiver
Folks out walking… in the morning
The best part of day is shortly after dawning

The crowds want to….ease their addiction
They are coming….. from all directions
Help is needed… Queue gets longer
Even tho the rain is falling even stronger.

Wait a minute…., it’s stopped raining,
Guys are swimming…., guys are sailing
If you’r doing…. nothing better
Come on down and get your coffee by the river

The things we do……..

A family take time out to relax and maybe catch a fish or two at Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast
A family take time out to relax and maybe catch a fish or two at Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast

Because of affliction, or maybe addiction

This week I was in such a bind

My grinder was bare, no beans I found there

And no beans in the bag could I find

Pulling the boat out at a ramp on the Noosa River at Noosavile
Pulling the boat out at a ramp on the Noosa River at Noosavile

 

A bag from the mall, tasted no good at all

Now my nerves were becoming a jangle

For t’was coming quite clear, to control my worst fear

This problem I’d need to untangle

Noosa River
Noosa River

I could only trek North, Noosa River of course

Where I’d find what would help my mind rest

Having tried out the others, I had quickly discovered

The Old Salty bean is the best.

Fishing off one of the jettys along the Noosa River
Fishing off one of the jettys along the Noosa River

 

So t’was with this in mind I pushed on up the line

The car parks  all full to the brim,

But fate on this day saw a car move away

And into this space I slipped in.

Yatchs lying at achor on the Noosa River
Yatchs lying at achor on the Noosa River

 

On crossing the street I needs be swift and fleet

Cars putting my nerves to the test

But I bravely pushed thru Old Salt was in view

And at last, saw the end of my quest

 

Coffee at The Old SaltNow with cup in hand, and small talk by the stand

My nerves quickly coming to rest

I sampled each bean, that produces caffeine

And have come to conclude that  Old Salt reigns supreme

 

 

 

 

 

Beginning The Day With Great Coffee

I have to admit that I do like my coffee.  I am one of those that can drink it right before bed and still get a great nights sleep.  Because of this, I have come to be just a little bit discerning about how my coffee is made.  Although at a pinch, I can handle an instant, I do prefer a good roast ground to perfection and served with flare.

Vietnamese Coffee
Ca phe Sua Da

My recent trip to Vietnam had me raving about the coffee that is served there.  Brewed at the table in a little stainless filter dripping slowly over a layer of condensed milk is about as good as it gets.  I am still trying to replicate the flavor now that I am back home but feel I still have something missing.  I will persevere…..

One of the downsides to gaining a better appreciation of a good coffee is that once you find a standout brew, the rest never really seem to hit the mark.  If that barista is a distance away then getting a regular fix becomes a mission.

Friendly ServiceThis is my current situation… While I would enjoy a brew while sitting with a paper on a Sunday morning as the sun reaches higher into the sky, it now involves a 30-kilometre drive to Noosa where Old Salt Coffee dispenses a top brew from Pier 17 on Gympie Terrace.  Now lately Rhian, who brews this treat, has been extolling the temptations of an Iced Latte and so I thought it might be worth asking if she might perhaps deliver…

No luck I’m afraid, although Rhian did suggest that I had the best of both worlds because I buy my Old Salt beans from her and have them available whenever I fancy a cup. It left me to thinking about how I do appreciate a good brew and that Old Salt Coffee is just that…. It’s a great blend…. Then, as often is the case when I get to thinking, the mind rhythms got going and the words started flowing. I felt her comment about having beans at home deserved a response.  This is how the conversation went…

Keith Watts Do you deliver???

 Old Salt Coffee I wish I could 😜  You’re already doing the better option to me delivering an iced coffee… you’ve got a bag of it at home 😀

Keith Watts

Old Salt Roast
Rhian Sells her roast in convenient sized, take home bags

What you say may have merit, a home bag is best

I asked to deliver … but only in jest

There is, as I see it, …a much better way

To take in a brew at beginning of day

 

 

Old Salt Coffee Shop
Old Salt Coffee Shop at Pier 17

One needs to rise early,  ..fore the dark turns to light

And the sun’s early rays speak the end of the night

For down by the river, …     at the old orange shed

Another has stirred, ….     she has long left her bed

Coffee at The Old Salt

 

 

 

She lays out the cups,…       fires up the machine

Puts the beans in the grinder, this is her daily scene

It is here that I speak …..     of that much better way

Rhian’s Old Salt Coffee for beginning your day

Weekend In Vung Tau

After a pleasant nights’ sleep at the Hong Han Hotel, I woke fresh and hungry.  One floor down I could smell the delicious flavours of freshly cooked food along with the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee.  I may have mentioned, that in a short few days, the particular kind of coffee made in Vietnam had become a firm favourite.

Breakfast In Vietnam
Tastes Yummy

After packing my meagre belongings I wandered down one flight of stairs to the first floor where breakfast was being served on the small balcony overlooking the street.  It was the usual fare, to which I had quickly become accustomed, with tasty bread rolls and a selection of fruit and various cooked offerings.  My favourite was a kind of a cross between an omelette and scrambled egg, all washed down with a coffee.

 

I chatted with some of the guests who were visiting from all corners of the world, and spent a lazy half hour just soaking up the atmosphere.  Seeking out mine host, Kim, I sought some advice as to where I needed to meet the bus that would take me south to Vung Tau that afternoon.  We agreed that, although it was a short walk, it was probably best if I take a cab, given my proven ability to get lost. As usual, Kim sorted out the arrangements and I rebooked my room for when I returned after the weekend.

kim-og-hong-han
I need to put in a plug for Kim and the Hong Han Hotel.  Kim is easily the best hostess I have come across in my travels.  She takes time to do that little bit extra to make sure that her guests are wanting for nothing.  This photo with two German guests is an indication of the friendships she has forged.  I can recommend the Hong Han for anyone wanting to stay in District One in Ho Chi Minh City. You can find her on Facebook just look for www.facebook.com/Kimmyinsaigon  

The cab duly arrived and, saying farewell to Kim, I took the short ride to the bus station.  In the event, I could possibly have walked faster as the cab had to negotiate traffic and took a somewhat circuitous route, however, I arrived in good time and settled down to wait for the thirteen seater bus.

After a slow start through traffic, we finally found a freeway that took us pretty well all the way to Vung Tau, about two hours to the south.  We stopped for a break around the halfway point, but other than that we made good time.  Once we arrived in Vung Tau, the driver crisscrossed back and forth across the city, delivering each passenger to their door.  I was the last to get off and easily found the address where my friend Alex lived.

Alex was a colleague of mine who had made the move to Vietnam to retire, and this was a great chance to catch up with him and his lovely wife Chi again.  Their home was spacious and cool and I was quickly made to feel at home.  Along with Alex and Chi, the family composed Chi’s mother and daughter, Nho.

Friday night and it was Alex’s habit to relax a little at a local sports bar called Lucy’s. This proved to be the watering hole of a fair number of Xpats from Australia, and along with the usual banter, the big screen televisions ensured that conversation was loud.

Fresh Fruit
Fruit On Displat At The Local Market

The following day, Alex took me to see some of the highlights of Vung Tau.  This involved going two up on his motor scooter and dashing around the streets between all of the other scooters, each setting their own wild course. Always an exhilerating way to travel.

 

We visited the markets where, as in most markets I visited in Vietnam, there was row apon row of produce of every kind. All kinds of meats and veges were displayed. By now, I was well accustommed to the lack of refrigeration and had come to accept that, while it is the custom of where I have lived, this is everyday life in Vietnam.  It speaks to the precious way that Western Society has come to live and in doing so has lost much of its resilience to bugs and disease.

Meat Market
Meat of almost every kind is available here

 

Vung Tau is set on a peninsula and has two fairly distinct areas.  On the East is the main beach where folk from Saigon come to spend a lazy weekend.  The western side is on a sheltered harbour and appeared to be more the realm of the locals.

The Jesus Statue
Keeping vigul over the fishermen as they passed by the peninsular is this huge statue of Jesus

 

 

 

 

Between these two areas,lies a steep hill, up which the little scooter laboured under our combined weight.    Through the trees we caught glimpes of the sea and further over on a ridge, stood a large statue of Jesus, arms raise as if blessing those who passed by in the sea below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the top we came to a lighthouse where it seemed many folk came to simply pass the time away.

 

Lighthouse
The lighthouse on the lookout dwarves this young woman taking a moment to rest

A group of men sat playing a board game while groups of young folk gathered here and there playing instuments or taking selfies

 

Heading back along the coast road, we stopped in at the local supermarket.  Alex drove down a narrow ramp and we came to an undrground carpark much like those back home in Australia.  This one however, only parked motor cycles…. Not a car to be seen and in fact, the entrance was so narrow a car could not fit in.

Shopping Centre Parking
This whole parking place was reserved for motorcycles only

Back at Alex’s, Chi had prepared a lovely Vietnamese meal, after which we went off to take a siesta.  I was soon awakened by Alex rushing urgently past my door and I emerged to find the top floor awash with water.  The rain was falling in a volume I had not witnessed before and it was all hands on deck to keep the water from entering the bedrooms.  In that we only partially succeeded but almost as suddenly as it began, the rain stopped and we were able to quickly swish away the mess.

All Pitch In
Everyone pitches in to get the water draining away

 

Outside the town had faired little better with water rising almost waist deep across the street.  I was bemused that most folk bearly gave it a second though and went about their business in the usual way.  It was only those affected by the inundation that took time out to clean up, along with a few neighbours who pitched in to lend a hand.

Water Scooter
Kicking up a mini bow wave on a scooter

 

 

On A Bike
Unperturbed this lady peddals her cycle through the flooded street on her way home from the shops
Business As Usual
These folk appeared to be carrying on as if there was little unusual about the water in the street

 

 

 

Clearing The Drain
Alex lends a hand to clear the drains as the street where he lives becomes a river
Toan Thang
The bus that brought me south sweeps through the street creating a bow wave that washes into the shops along the road edge

Apart from a few inconsiderate cab drivers who swished past at such a speed their bow wave sent a cascade of water back into the shops, it was smiles all around with neighbour helping neighbour (and me just taking photos to record the moment)

Bow Wave
Paying no mind to the water he is pushing into the shops this taxi driver shows the same respect that taxi drivers seem to do the world over
Mopping Up
Cleaning up as the water recedes

 

That evening Alex and I spent a couple of hours at Lucy’s watching the rugby before adjourning across the road to the wharf where there was a huge resturant set up.  Food was great, as was the company and soon we were racing home on the scooters for a good nights rest.

 

Integration
These monkeys have learned that humans provide a never ending supply of food

The next morning Alex took me on another tour, up another steep road, to where there was a military base. As we neared the top of the road we came apon a small settlement.  Here tourists had stopped to interact with the monkeys that abounded here.  As usual, it was necessary to take care as they were quite bold and likely to snatch away anything that may have taken their fancy.

Monkey On The Roof
Hanging out on the roof waiting for a meal
Juicing Sugar Cane
This machine produces a fresh sweet juice that was popular amoung the tourist and locals here

Onwards and upwards, we came to the end of the road where, in a makeshift building, families were having a meal or simply hanging out enjoying each others company. Children were rushing about, as they do, entertaining themselves with simple games.

Simple Pleasure
Fun with A Raquet.  A slight of hand ensures that the raquet doesn’t fall and spoil the show

 

We sampled a local drink that was made onsite.  It was the sweet juice from crushing sugar cane and while very sweet was quite nice and refreshing.

 

Alex told me that he walked that road daily for execise when he first arrived in Vung Tau which was quite impressive in the steamy heat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doanh Trại Quân Đội Nhân Dân Việt Nam.
The Military Base at the top of the road.

 

Quân Đội Dân Việt Nam translates to Vietnam Peoples Army

Heading back down we met up with Chi and went to an upmarket restaurant along the coast for breakfast.  Again food here was great and the views provided a panorama of activity that kept me thoroghly entertained.  I was taken by a fisheman who was tending his lines, all the while rowing his boat with his feet.

Power Of Feet
This fisherman checks his lines while rowing with his feet to keep on station

The water way was busy and there were craft of all kinds plying back and forth with those in tiny vessels taking their chance between the much larger hulls.  Barges, full to the gunnels slipped passed, almost as if praying no wave would come along for fear of being swamped.

Plimsol Line
Low in the water, this barge makes its way into the Saigon River
Sea Walk
Beautiful gardens line the rocky shore where we ate breakfast the second morning of my stay

The restaurant was on some acreage with the paths and gardens beautifully kept.  It was pleasant to end the meal with a stroll along the paths before heading back into town.

Relaxing Moments
Chi and Alex stroll through the restaurant gardens after a sumptuous breakfast

The rest of the day was spent in pleasant company and all too soon I had to prepare for my return to Saigon.  This time I was taking the River Cat, which is a fast ferry service connecting Vung Tau with Saigon and taking a little over two hours.

River Transport
This high speed feery was my ticket back to Saigon from Vung Tau

The trip across the bay was a little rough but that soon settled as we entered the river. I watched the passing scene with interest as we cruised along.  The river banks were largely covered in dense jungle and often there were large floating islands of vegetation to navigate past.

Where the Jungle Meets The Water
Low in the water this boat slides past the jungle covered banks of the Saigon River

 

A Watery Sunset
The sun makes a brief appearance before hiding away behind the clouds as we come into Saigon on the River Cat

As the sun set we came into sight of Saigon with its towering bridges and the buildings beginning to dress up in their evening refinery as lights came on across the city

Under the Bridge
Phu My Bridge, Saigon River, Vietnam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bridge On Saigon
At the end of my journey I came across this bridge. Quite dramatic in the evening light
Saigon River
A tug boat hauls a barge of freight along the lazy waters of the Saigon River

With my pack on my shoulders I wandered once again through the darkening streets of Saigon.  I was headed for my room at the Hong Han.  Walking up the Nguyen Hue, I marvelled at the light show that the buildings put on and the peacefulness of this city filled, as it is, with so many souls.  I had just one more day to spend in this city and I reflected on the people I had met and how, in such a short time they had touched my life in such a rich way.

Pretty In Blue
The lights playing over this building change in an animated choriogragh bringing life to the drabness of the buildings.