I have been away from my keyboard for a long time that my last entry on this blog was two months ago. My absence can be attributed to so many things; election in the Philippines, lacking of materials to write, work, social life, and probably, laziness. So, to make up for the lost time, I am writing one now. Oh, how I’ve missed this. 🙂
Blogging is not the only thing I’ve missed. Traveling has been on hold for a year and when we (my wife and I) finally found time to go, we were the happiest “kids” alive. Vietnam has been a part of our bucket list for a long time and we were elated to finally crossed it off our list. I wasn’t really well-versed on Vietnam’s history and culture, my knowledge was limited to American movies depicting Vietnam wars and to some Vietnamese people who are also working in Macau. What we really wanted was to experience Vietnam, in all its authentic glory: food, hospitality, everyday life, culture, attractions, norms, and of course, Halong Bay.
Unlike our previous travel where we were focused on the number of tourist attractions we can visit, this time, we wanted it to be different, we wanted to experience first-hand the quintessential Vietnam through the eyes of a Vietnamese family. I was lucky to have a wife who has Vietnamese friends whom we can visit and spend an afternoon with.
Before we left Macau, we got a hold of my wife’s friend and invited her and her family for a lunch or dinner, whichever they preferred. She was so happy to get together with my wife that she offered her vacant room for us to stay while in Hanoi, but, because we had hotel reservations already, we graciously declined. She just asked us to go to their place instead of dining out so we could meet the family. We were staying in Old Quarter, Hanoi and her place was 30 minutes away by taxi. The taxi was hailed by the hotel to prevent us from falling to taxi scams, which was apparently prevalent in the city.
They are living in a residential area in Hanoi, and they are on a high-rise condominium which was obviously newly built. The place was actually a rising subdivision based on the number of buildings that were currently under construction. Not the Vietnam I was picturing, but it made me think how alike Vietnam is to my own country, the Philippines. The family comprises of; my wife’s friend (who was presently pregnant), her husband, her 2 year-old son, and her mother-in-law, who takes care of the baby – not so different to a Filipino family set-up. We were greeted with a pleasant smell of grilled pork and a distinct smell of soup and fragrance of Vietnam. It’s funny how each country has this distinct smell that distinguishes them from everybody. While the husband was busy preparing the food and the two long-lost friends tried to catch-up to each other’s lives, I was busy admiring the view from the top. The flat has an incredible view of the city from which you can marvel the magnificent beauty of identical houses and roofs that are all coloured red. Also from the top, you can get a decent view of a cemetery that was surprisingly situated near the residential houses. They live a normal life, the father works in a private company, the mother works in a hotel and the mother-in-law stays at home, albeit missing her hometown, looks after the house and the baby while the parents work.
The food was set-up and its smell was engaging that there was no second call needed for us to take a seat and started eating. It was a combination of grilled pork, prawns, some green leaves I don’t know the name, steamed fish, and their very own soup. I was informed that rice is not a staple on the table, though they welcome it. Spoon and fork are not the preferred utensils but chopsticks which was not a problem. Wine was served. Soup came after the meals. We all had full stomach afterwards. It was a sumptuous lunch that I felt sleepy afterwards.
After some conversations I’ve learned that:
1. They are not really different from Filipinos, they value family more than anything else.
2. English is important that is why they don’t stop learning the language.
3. Real estate and house and lot are not ridiculously high as China.
4. Most of the people in Hanoi are not originally from Hanoi but from other provinces of Vietnam.
5. Their main recreations are Tai Chi, indoor sports, and watching entertainment shows.
6. They have such great love with leafy vegetables.
7. Dipping sauce is never absent in a meal.
8. Scooters are part of their everyday life.
9. They are very simple.
10. They are hospitable.
They were heading town in the afternoon to watch a “Circus” and they invited us to join them. The circus is not a “cirque-du-soliel” type of circus but a traditional circus, the one that goes to different towns to perform. I don’t remember the last time I watched one, so I was sure it was exciting. We arrived at the arena 20 minutes before the show started and I was surprised to see that the arena was fully packed with people. I was told that this kind of show is very popular in Hanoi and something you should see.
As expected to any circus, the presence of elephants, dogs, horses, ostrich, and some other loveable animals were present. Acrobatics stunts were wonderfully choreographed and exhibitions were perfectly executed. Watching the circus was kind of nostalgic, it brought me memories of my childhood when everything was easy and you didn’t give a damn about anything. The circus lasted for an hour and as soon as the curtains wrapped, the kids in the arena happily ran to the stage and tried to emulate acts from the show they just watched. It was fun to see.
It was raining when we left the arena, and like any other cities in the world, traffic and haggling of taxis ensued. In spite of the rain, we had a great time. No tourist spots were visited but more experience was gained for having an afternoon interaction with a family that was so gracious and welcoming. It was a wonderful experience to get to know people of other nationalities and knowing that we are all the same.