Midday, the beach in Da Nang is empty. As I was walking around at 2 pm, the only people on the beach were fishermen tending to their nets. There were small fishing boats out just off the shore and ropes running up the beach.
In front of me, a group of four people were pulling a rope. I walked up close enough, wondering what they were doing, for one of the workers to look at me and smile and point to the rope. I grabbed on and started pulling. I kept pulling, walking backwards, until I got to the end of the beach and had done a full cycle. My hands were kind of red, but the workers were using their bare hands, too. They did have harnesses to which they strapped the rope, giving them extra pulling power from their waists. It felt good to do some real flesh and bones labor that required muscle—in such a nice place, too.
I still wondered what they were pulling out, but I went back to the front and did another cycle. After about four cycles, they moved the rope further down the beach, nearby another group pulling another rope.
It wasn’t long before they pulled out some netting woven together and I could see it was a net. But they had to pull that out for a bit before they got to the real green net where the fish ended up when they got caught. Most of the fish were small, as long as a finger, but some were bigger. The fishermen immediately began sorting the fish and separating the trash that had inevitably gotten caught in the net. A crowd had surrounded them on the beach by the time they were done, some of them tourists like myself, but at least one was a local who bought a fresh fish from them on the spot.
After our work was done, I headed up the beach and eventually found a streetside fish restaurant at just after 4 pm. Seeing all those fresh fish I helped pull in made me hungry for fish, and so I asked the waiter for fish (cá) in Vietnamese. They fried some fish together with lemongrass that eventually cost 90,000 VND (US$4).
At 5 pm – 6 pm, as I was walking back, the beach became crowded with locals relaxing, swimming and playing soccer. I took my shirt off and ran in to the ocean.
Da Nang is located in the middle of Vietnam, north of Hoi An and south of Hue. Flights from Hanoi or Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) can cost as little as US$50-70.