How come the people that have the least are the most generous and hospitable? This phenomenon has been accompanying me during my entire trip and once again in Vietnam. We had set off for a three day motorbike excursion into the far Northeast of Vietnam. A remote and mystical region named Ha Giang, a region characterized by sheer limestone walls, granite outcrops, hanging valleys and often referred to as Vietnam’s final frontier. It was on the way from Ha Giang town to Dong Van when we took a hidden side road which led us across a rusty bridge into a traditional village. After exploring for a bit and playing with the village kids we noticed a house at the end of the little main road. Smoke was rising out of the chimney and loud laughter filled the inside of the house. Driven by my usual curiosity I wanted to see what was going inside and had a peek through the door. As soon as the family inside spotted me all hell broke lose. Everyone was talking to me and dragging me inside instantly. It was a big family with kids, their parents, grandparents and what seemed like aunts and uncles, all gathered in one big room. To officially welcome us, we were offered some homemade rice wine. Strong stuff, especially at midday. We didn’t want to be impolite and had one, then two and then a few more. The grandmother was pretty assertive about it so refusing was no option here. Already a bit tipsy, we tried to have a basic conversation which wasn’t even too bad thanks to my phrasebook and a loose tongue due to the rice wine. Meanwhile the mother of the kids was cooking food for the whole family on an open fireplace. The house was filled with smoke but it smelt nice. After a bit we thought it would be best to leave since we didn’t want to impose ourselves on the family as they were about to eat. But no way, everybody was shouting, pointing at the floor and insisting that we would stay, sit down and join them for lunch. It was incredible. These people were living in a simple wooden house, cooking their food on open fire and did not even have running water. But they still invited two foreigners inside their house to share their meal with them. It was a really humbling experience and I couldn’t help myself but asking if something like this would ever happen in our developed societies back home….
Pic of the Week 23