Tuesday 16th – Thursday 18th February
We planned to spend two days here, and according to the weather forecast, so did the rain clouds. On day one we went for a walk along an empty, overcast Quy Nhon beach, and after not very long the rain began.
We stubbornly walked the shore, sandals in one hand, umbrellas in the other, all in the spirit of “We’re going to have fun whether we like it or not”. In the end we retreated to our hotel room, deciding to add another day onto our stay.
Luckily for us, the rest of the predicted bad weather didn’t happen, which meant we could sit on a beach, gazing at the sea, which is marginally more respectable than sitting in a hotel room gazing at a screen.
On day two we cycled the hilly coastal path to the beach by the Quy Hòa Leper Colony.
After this we walked inland to see the nearby leper colony. I didn’t think these places still existed, but a little bit of online research told me that there’s still about 850 in the world, mainly in India and other parts of Asia.
There is a lot of stigma surrounding leprosy, and many people in leper colonies don’t have a good quality of life. However, Quy Hòa Leper Colony is one of the good ones. It is in fact like a regular Vietnamese village (except much quieter). The people with leprosy live here with their families, have jobs if they’re young enough, and have access to modern healthcare.
One of the village streets.
Visitors are welcome, and I imagine that this helps the people who live there to not feel cut off, as well as increasing awareness and lessening the stigma surrounding the disease.
We were both concerned that this visit would seem voyeuristic, but it didn’t feel like it. We walked down the street exchanging hellos with everyone, just like any village in Vietnam. While being very careful not to stare, we could see the signs of leprosy on some people’s hands and feet. The atmosphere was relaxed. We could hear some kids playing and a few people talking, that was all.
Surrounding the village are many busts of people who have contributed in some way towards the treatment of people with leprosy. There are some familiar faces, such as Marie Curie and Hippocrates, though most are Vietnamese doctors and scientists who we didn’t know.
It was an interesting and worthwhile place to visit.
Anyway… this bout of conscientious tourism was balanced up by a bit more lying on a beach and eating KFC.
(For anyone who was wondering, this is what KFC in Vietnam looks like – though you can get a regular chicken burger with fries too.)