I took the bus from Hoi An and my arrival to Hue a few hours after was all a surprise. I contacted Phuc, as I had been asked since he would arrive to Hue in the morning. I wasn’t sure what the arrangement was and after a while, I started walking to find the hostel I had seen in the internet. Just when I was having a look at the food on the way, I heard my name and saw a couple of motorbikes coming towards me. I could be sure it was Phuc because there are not many people with my name and people takes a lot to actually process it here.
They just took me and my backpack in one of the motorbikes and drove until a boat, where we got in for my surprise. Inside the boat there was a table and a few chairs. A few minutes after, we were having beers and some food with them. It was Phuc’s friends and brother and they were all super nice and had a great time. We even went towards other boat in the river to listen some Vietnamese classical music and after we actually jumped in from one boat to the other to pick up the singers. The funny thing is that it was full of Vietnamese people and the minute a lady saw me getting in the second boat, she took me and danced with me in frot of everybody. I couldn’t believe it.
We got back to our boat and then made our way to the house, but first we got to stop for some food in the middle of the way. By the time we arrived to the house, they showed me my room, introduced me to everybody and offered me a shower…Everything and more. And then we actually got more beers and dinner again. The house was all decorated because one of Phuc’s brohers was to get married in 4 days and the atmosphere was very festive. Even though we were going to do some tourism the next day, they suggested me to go fishing and I found the plan very appealing and couldn’t refuse.
Next morning I would be awoken at 7am to go for breakfast (tasty noodles, as usual) and coffee. Then, I would be introduced to a few more members of the family and after we would go in the bikes to a village nearby where Phuc’s friend was and were we would go for fishing. Funny enough, I was advised a bit later that it was not fishing, but catching fish. I was having some difficulties with the precise terms and meanings of what they were saying. Their English was very reduced and basic for communication, but my Vietnamese is awful and I only know how to say thank you, happy New Year and how to cheer when drinking, adding 1, 2, 3 to the list.
When we got there, we changed clothes. They put on the male swimsuit and I chose a pair of shorts for the occasion. Then, we made our way to the place and everybody was barefoot but me and the only other girl with us. On the way, I saw a dead snake and my only thought was to ask myself if it would be a water snake or ground snake. I came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter, there was no better answer. The guys put on the typical Vietnamese hat that I would be so grateful for, as the sun was intense and then, we arrived to some small rivers surrounded by rice fields where we took a canoe in turns. I thought I would have to end up swimming as the canoe was instable, small and getting full of water continuously. But we crossed one of the main rivers and kept walking between small rivers, in the mud. By that time I had realised it was better to go barefoot and so I did. Then, the guys started getting into the water and… that it was, they were catching clams!!! So that was what the fishing was going to consist on!
It took me a few minutes to process it and made a decision. I was jumping in the water, of course! I didn’t want to stay dry watching! As everybody was keeping t-shirts on and everything, I didn’t feel like taking anything off and wear only the bikini. And that’s how I ended all wet and caught lots and lots of clams! I was afraid of the existence of snakes and I definitely got bitten by a crab. I have to say that it was a bit disgusting to look for clams in the mud at the bottom of the river, not being able to see what you were really touching, but we had so much fun!
When we completed the huge bucket we were carrying (it took less than a couple of hours between 6 of us), we decided to go back. It was lunch time and although there was some fish stew and noodles, the clams would be eaten as well!!!
I like the laid back eating style of the Vietnamese, making long foods and time to finish chat, nibble a bit more…Very much like the Spanish style. I enjoy those moments. So we took our time to eat and drink beer and then we got back to the house, taking it easy because everything in my body was aching after paddling, catching clams, swimming a bit, walking and riding the motorbike. Dinner would be served a while after and lots of people came in (some took me by Vietnamese!), as the date for the wedding was getting closer and closer. It was unclear to me if I had been invited or not (language barriers, again) and after dinner Phuc offered to go for a ride and see some of the city at night. So, I agreed and later, sitting down in a cafe having a juice, we would talk about stuff and it was clear to me that, yes indeed, I was more than welcome to the wedding. Completely stressed about the gift situation, clothes available and etiquette… Nothing could really bother him and made me feel a little bit more relaxed. I like this guy! I wish Mai was here because they are such a great couple to hang out with!
Next day I was wrecked but the fact that I decided (well, not really decided, but went into a coma and couldn’t hear the call for breakfast) to stay in bed in the morning didn’t go unnoticed. Didn’t really do anything for the rest of the morning, as everybody went for breakfast quite early and, after lunch, Phuc was my private tour guide and took me to do a bit of sightseeing to the Imperial city. It was fantastic to be there him as he could highlight some small details or points that would escape to me because I am not familiar with the type of architecture but I love to know and discover. I felt we could really discuss about stuff even though we were having difficulties to speak fluidly. We were to buy a bus ticket for me to travel towards Hanoi after the wedding and on the same day he was leaving to Sai Gon, but first we made a stop for coffee and Phuc’s old friends and then it got a bit late and we just went home.
That night there was karaoke going on and lots of people showed up to participate and enjy dinner. Oh, and part of that dinner were the clams we were catching the other day! So proud to see them there and tell (with gestures) that I was catching those that they were eating. It seemed the fun fact of the day, as my picture had been showed quite a lot! I didn’t care, I found it hilarious and I was the first one to laugh at me.
As it had been advised to me the day before, on the next day I was waken up early. When I say early I mean before 7am. I was taken with the ladies for a makeup session. The bride, Phuc’s young sister and also his sister in law were going to do their makeup and hair and they kindly invited me to go with them. One by one, starting with the bride, we all got ready and pretty. They applied the same whitish base in our faces and pretty much the same technique, which means I ended up paler than what I am and had been in a long while and looking pretty much Asian. It called my attention that a sticky strip was placed in each eyelid, including mines. My guess was that it was for the folds in the eyelid, trying to copy the Occidental beauty. I never had seen anything similar. I also was having on eye lashes and in general, a lot of makeup. It was looking even more exaggerated to me because it had been ages that I had not been wearing any proper makeup. All I can say is that when I looked at myself in the mirror I barely could recognise the pretty girl looking back at me.
I couldn’t be more thankful to them for bringing me there with them and making me feel the way they did. We played around with hair accessories, took selfies and they even chose and showed me with google my hair style. They made me feel part of every single bit.
I also have to say that it was quite a relief to see that not everybody was dressing as fancy as the typical wedding would be. Me, with what I call my “fancy clothes while backpacking” and my pretty Asiatic face just done, I felt that I was fitting just perfectly and never felt out of place. Despite the language isolation that you could expect, everybody made me feel part of every single bit, from eating and taking care of me, putting food on my bowl and showing me how to eat the food and what should be eaten with what; to all the times they wanted me to drink with them or to sing or to dance with them even though nobody was dancing!
And about the singing part, yes, there was a karaoke and yes, they made me take the microphone and sing. It was a disaster, as I expected, because all they had were Vietnamese songs and the music couldn’t really follow up any new melody, but they insisted so much and everybody was doing it, so it was my time to get them back a bit of it, although I was feeling sooo embarrassed.
The day was fun and the amount of beer drank was high. But overall, I had a great time and felt so welcomed, so part of it, so comfortable in between the discomforts of not knowing anybody, or not understanding people or not getting what was going on… Nothing of that mattered. What seemed to be a matter of interest was my marital status, I got to be asked a lot and people was quite surprised.
Anyways, these kinds of experiences just make me be sure that the language barrier can be easily overcome and the connexion between people’s heart do exist. When people go beyond that, there is nothing that can be an obstacle.
After the wedding, which was at noon time plus the karaoke at beers that went beyond that, I was invited to hang out at night at some bar/restaurant by the owner, who was really interested me in going. But everybody was so tired that none of that happened. So, next morning, we woke up early (normal early, although early) to go get my ticket to Hanoi. Supposedly, because when we were having breakfast and coffee, they told me that although Phuc was leaving that day, his family was going next day to some cool place they showed me pictures of and that I was invited to stay and go with them, they would arrange the rest to end up in Hanoi from there as it was on the way.
I don’t know how to say no. Especially to good plans. So, no tickets. Instead of that, Phuc and me went to do a bit more of sightseeing that a member of his family suggested in the wedding and we went to see some of the Emperor’s tombs around Hue. The first one I was taking to, it was marvellous. The details, the architecture. I just loved to be there with him to talk about the details and point out things and take pictures. On the way to the second one, we got lost. And by the time we got there, it started raining. We had some coffee and seeing that it wasn’t stopping, we took an umbrella from the coffee stall and checked it out. It was so funny that, in the first tomb, his cousin was there working and we could just entry for free. He made me take a picture of them together. And then, we got to the second one, we showed the picture to the man at the door and because of that, we got in as well. Ha ha! So that was the pic for!
On the way back, we got completely soaked. It was funny to be behind Phuc, trying to wrap around myself with the leftovers of his raincover. But my legs where soaked anyways. We stopped somewhere for lunch and we had several dishes including one that was like lasagne but oriental/Vietnamese style (rice pasta involved). Then, we got home and the farewell time came. Not without realising that my pants had stained all my legs in a lovely blue colour! Nothing that a shower could not fix, but it was so sad to say goodbye to Phuc…
I was meant to be taken by his older brother to a market to get something nice for the family, as I was feeling overwhelmed with their generosity, but it didn’t happen. And then, just after having dinner in family, communication problems started, as I had to wake up reeeeally early for the tour next day. When we managed to understand each other, with the hekp of Mr. Google, I just had the computer on my hands and had the idea of showing them stuff. So, I show them where my country was. Where they were in relation with my country. Where I had been. And then, started opening pictures of my adventures, the Indian wedding, the Burmese wedding, some other amazing stuff to see… We had a great time seeing the pictures of that time where I tried the betel nut in Myanmar!
I woke up at 5am next morning, as indicated, to head to a marvellous cave to explore with this lovely family. It was funny that, at the time of seating down people at the table for lunch, the guide wanted me to seat with the foreigners. ‘No, no, I am with them’ I replied. And his face of astonishment said it all. Then, questions like can you speak Vietnamese, how long you know them for and similar stuff, came up. Nothing mattered. I sticked to them and took lots of pictures, did lots of posses and had so much fun! They are so lovely, always looking after me and trying to make me feel comfortable and happy. I could have not been any happier. These people are the bomb. Every single of them had made my experience in Vietnam unforgettable and when I had to say goodbye to stay in the town next to the cave while they were staying on the bus made me truly sad.
After hugs and byes (even the tour guide made me hug him seeing so many hugs around) I was left in Dong Nha town, where my bus would come in about… 5 hours! So I left my backpack somewhere and went to explore, but to be honest, there was not much to explore and this was only a long road with houses at both sides. I walked a bit to get myself something to do and then waited for the bus towards my next destination, finally Hanoi.
Not that I was very excited to arrive to Hanoi, to be honest, as saying goodbye to so many people during these days had not been pleasant at all and I knew I would have a few days with a sour taste in my mouth and my soul. But Halong Bay and Sapa were quite promising, or that was my thinking.