Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Volunteering in Vietnam Week Two

During the second week of our time in Vietnam we experienced things that normally one never gets to see and do while just visiting a country! We got ourselves invited to a Vietnamese Wedding, we stayed in a traditional village mountain house (as we mentioned above), sang Karaoke with some government officials and unfortunately experienced the taste of rice wine!!

The Vietnamese Wedding was being held by Mr Son’s neighbors and it was their daughter who had just got married to a male villager whose name escapes me... Well actually I was told it but I can’t even say it, let alone spell it!! Even though we were uninvited (and basically just gatecrashed in time for the food) everyone wanted to talk to us (with Mr Son as translator) and to tell us how happy they were that we were there! Apparently we were the new couples ‘good luck charm’ as many of the guests had never seen a foreigner before and though it fate that we should turn up in time for the wedding. Well... who are we to disappoint a crowd? One thing that wasn't so great was that everyone and i mean EVERYONE wanted to toast to our arrival and this meant shots of rice wine, which isn't wine, its more like a spirit which makes you gag every time you drink it!!

After about six shots in about three minutes I decided that enough was enough, if i wanted to stay sober and stay in their good books by continuing to be the strange tall female giant then I had better not throw up on the bride!! This did upset a few at first as it is their custom for the guest to drink with everyone, however when i said i would still drink with everyone but just exchange the rice wine for traditional tea most were satisfied that i was just a weak westerner and wasn’t actually wishing them any ill health.

The party ended around 9pm and as we were heading to bed Mr Son declared the night not over yet! His friend, he told us, was a government official and wanted to invite us to an all paid for karaoke party just down the road! It was a very fun night filled with songs such as; Dancing Queen, Titanic- my heart will go on, 500 miles and Jessie’s Girl, not to mention all the Bia Hanoi Alec wanted and as much Pomegranate juice as i could drink, all for free!!

The next day the wedding party started up again at 5am, yes thats right 5am, and we had to sneak out the back door to avoid being dragged in for more hugs and rice wine shots. Mr Son headed off down the road with us following behind, again not really sure where we were going, with our backpacks packed with enough clothes for a few days. We hopped on and off buses all day until we reached a picturesque little port. It was here that we would be catching a four hour boat to Mr Son’s cousins house and staying there for the night.

Upon walking towards sed boat we stopped to take in our surroundings and take a few photos. At which point Alec and I heard a horrendous creaking and screaching sound. We quickly located the sound to be coming from one of the long boats that was moored up along the pier and within a split second the rear end of the boat sank straight down into the murky water. The front end lifted straight upwards and dramatically followed the first half of the boat! Within 10 seconds the whole boat was submerged and there was nothing left but bubbles.

Our mouths just fell open, we couldn’t take our eyes away from the scene that we had just witnessed, then as things started floating up to the surface we realised what had just happened. We started running towards where the boat had gone under while shouting to the ‘local’ who seemed to be in charge of the boats, what if someone had been on that boat? Everyone stared at us like we were aliens, yes everyone else had seen it too but no, no-one else was bothered. Mr Son explained that apparently it happens quite regularly as the bad storms fill up the small tin boats with water and after awhile they just can’t take the weight. “They will just pull it back up again and empty it, the boat will be fine in a few days, ready to be used again!” “Not by us” I muttered to Alec as we prepared to climb into an exact replica of the boat we had just watched sink. As you can imagine we sat right at the front of that boat and where a little on edge the whole journey.

When we reached our journeys end we had arrived in the heart of the mountains and after a short but steep walk we reached the traditional mountain house that can be seen in our pictures! It was definitely an experience, sleeping in a wooden house while a thunder and lightning storm raged outside! The whole house shook and swayed and at one point the lightning was so strong that it lit up the little cubby hole where we were sleeping. We slept on whicker mats, as is traditional in these houses. Throughout the whole house they only had one electrical light and that was used to eat dinner. The shower we used was outside, in its own little hut, and was a bucket filled with cold water which was used to pour over your self. The toilet too, was outside, had its own hut and was right down at the end of the garden. Its safe to say that after we had used it once, we didn’t use it again.

The time we spent with the local mountain family, consisting of the parents, their three sons and their spouses, was such a cultural experience. Watching the women cook on an open flame and making lovely meals of vegetables and rice while the men prepared their catch of the day, caught from the river we arrived on. One dish, we did try, but that didn’t make our top ten was the fresh pig’s intestine that had been boiled whole and looked like a horror movie on a plate.

Overall I’d say that our Vietnamese Liberation Holiday was quite eventful and that we took full advantage of the opportunities that were put in front of us. Hopefully the photos will do our experiences justice.

Ps On our way back through the pier where the boat sank we saw the locals dredging the boat from the river bed surface, we couldn't believe it! In fact we were so amazed at what they were doing we stopped and watched for 30 mins until the whole boat was once again above the water! We have included photos for those who don't believe us! 

"You are the Dancing Queeeeeeen, Young and sweet, only seventeeeeeen"

Dredging the sunken boat...

This was our bed while staying in the mountains!

Traditional Cooking!