Monday, November 9, 2009

Thai Binh - English version

Recently Celine and I visited Thai Binh, a village of one of Celine’s students. Zuyen wanted to take us to her village and introduce us to her family. Always wanting to find authentic experiences we were only to happy to oblige. Thai Binh is about 2 and half hours south east of Hanoi. We took the bus and Zuyen insisted that she pay.

It turned out that Thai Binh was not what you would visualise as a village, instead quite a large city. The province has 1.8 million people. Zuyen’s family owns a coffee shop and they -as well as some family friends- were waiting outside of the cafe on our arrival. They were excited to see us and extremely welcoming. None of the family spoke any English so we had to rely on Zuyen as the translator. After a coffee we were taken to our hotel. The family had booked and paid for a room in what would have to be the finest hotel in town. This far exceeded our expectations and we were both a little embarrassed. Our cries to help with the cost fell on deaf ears. Our repeated efforts seemed to upset Zuyen so we refrained. It was amazing to see the overwhelming generosity from a family of modest means towards two foreigners they had just met. Needless to say we were extremely grateful.

The family cooked us an amazing lunch, which we enjoyed over a bottle of Zuyen’s fathers homemade wine. The wholes process to make the rice wine takes four years and is flavoured with honey and apple. It was delicious.

In the afternoon we drove with two motorbikes 15 kilometres to the beautiful pagoda of the region. The ride took us out of the city amongst the green rice field’s and calm lakes. Workers would tend their crops while kids play and ride on their bikes nearby. There was constant construction on buildings in the smaller village settlements outside of town but it was the immaculate and overpowering Catholic church which seemed out of place and foreign.

The pagoda was busy with people and we walked around admiring the 400 year old architecture. We made our offerings (small amounts of money) and lit incense. Thai Binh and especially the area around the pagoda are not used to seeing foreigners so we were a welcome attraction. Kids would follow us around and thought it wonderful and exciting when we said hello. Women wanted photo’s with me can you believe? This is not a frequent occurrence for me so I took pleasure in the moment. The constant requests did get a bit heavy after a while but I still told Celine I planned to move here.

Our wonderful lunch was only matched by the dinner we were given. The family truly went to great efforts to show us a fabulous time. The walls of their café were filled with art painted by Zuyen and Zuyen’s father. It had a homely feel and we felt extremely relaxed there. We spent the rest of the evening exploring some of the city before settling down in our hotel.

The next morning we left for Hanoi with a bag full of leftovers and an invitation to return for Tet, the Vietnamese New Year celebrations. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the family and thought this a unique experience. There are many tourist places to visit in Vietnam which have there own rewards but getting off the beaten track to the less known areas and spending it with locals is truly rewarding and teaches you a lot about the Vietnamese people.

For pictures of our visit see attached link (Celine’s post)

No comments:

Post a Comment