If there is one thing that will lift any holiday from good to outstanding, it’s making friends with a local. Or in our case, a whole family.
Tin was our bartender on our first night in Hoi An. Michael and Matt formed an immediate connection with him and we all had many laughs. Tin’s wife, Vy, ran a stall at the markets, which was two blocks away from the hotel, so we went to sit down there a few times. Vy sells t-shirts, postcards and things like that while Tin’s mother has a stall selling drinks. I had some fresh sugarcane juice from her and it was delicious.
A couple of days into the trip Tin invited us all to his house for lunch. His house was right behind the markets, which was very convenient. Lots of people who work in Hoi An live in villages and have to ride scooters quite a way to get to work, so Tin and Vy (and their little daughter, Bo) were lucky to live so close to their work.
Tin’s house was pretty typical of Hoi An houses. They seem to all be tall and narrow, with tiled floors. The dining room is in the front and kitchen and bedrooms and bathrooms are out the back. It floods most years and Tin showed us the water marks on the walls.
We had a few drinks and sat around chatting until it was time to go. Getting to know Tin and Vy was lovely, but it was also great to be able to ask questions about Vietnamese culture and learn much more than Luke and I learned on our last trip.
Another friend I made in Hoi An was on a solo shopping excursion one morning. I was wandering down some back alleys looking for lanterns when I met a lady named Van who owned her own little shop and made all her lanterns herself. I bought six and then stayed to chat to her for quite a while and heard about her life and her family. People in Vietnam work so hard for so little. At home I feel fairly average in terms of income and lifestyle, but it’s hard not to feel a sense of guilt at the general unfairness of life when you encounter people who left school at an early age to work. Van told me that some days she will make as little as 50,000 dong, which is equivalent to three dollars Australian. Her husband is a chef and they have to look after his elderly parents as well as their son. Van works from 7am every day until late and gets up at 5 or 6 to get her son off to school and do laundry by hand.
Van invited me to come back the next day for some traditional street food, so I brought Luke back at 9 the next morning and we had bun cha (noodle soup with sausage and herbs) at a street stall around the corner. Van insisted on paying, which was extremely kind and not at all necessary. The stall owner came over to watch us eat and Van sat with us for a bit between keeping an eye on her stall. The food was delicious and spicy, there were fresh bread rolls on the table. It was a wonderful experience to have. I got Van’s card so I think I might send her something nice from Australia when I get home, to thank her for the breakfast.
I’ve been surprised how much more difficult it has been this trip to find the time to keep up with the blog writing. Having a big group of friends to travel with means there’s always something to do, which means less time for writing. And when we aren’t doing things we’re sitting around eating and drinking or recovering from eating and drinking. Tough life, I know;-).