Vietnamese Hospitality

Well it’s been an interesting week. I left Hanoi riding through hordes of scooters, pedestrians and cyclists. For about half an hour it was complete chaos but somehow I felt relatively safe. The pace was slow and everyone seems to look out for everyone else. It has a certain sublime choreography to it.

This next photo is interesting. The story is that  a couple hundred years ago the government collected property taxes based on the width of your house’s facade, rather than value or total square footage. So people built narrow high and deep houses, called tube houses. Later it became cheaper to buy a narrow house and build up. Since many families live together it’s convenient to have several floors so mom and dad, the kids and grandma can all have their own floor, which may just contain a single room. Here is a tube house I saw in the countryside.

I met Nico, a German cyclist at a hotel one day. He cycled around Scandanavia for a bit before flying to Hanoi. He was headed south too on his way to Cambodia, Thailand and Singapore. We ended up riding together for several days. Here I am with Nico.

We got on some back roads one day and ended up at a riverbank with no bridge across. Fortunately there were a few rowboat ferries to give us a ride across for a dollar or so.

Here’s Nico on the small ferry with his bike.

The food has been excellent as usual. We ate a lot of pho, which is noodle soup. You can have it with chicken, beef, pork or duck. Then there are variations of noodles too. I also tried eel noodle soup a couple times which was very tasty. At one restaurant the chef was eager to show off her food. Here she is showing me the eel.

Some colorful fishing boats on a river.

Typical sight of a woman cycling through the countryside. Boy if looks could kill…she seems annoyed that I photographed her.

All the kids yell at us, “HELLO!” In this case I stopped and took a pic of the kids. They shrieked with delight at seeing themselves in the photo.

A guy transporting something on a river. We managed to get off the highway a lot on some quiet back roads which was great, although rocky and muddy at times.

Woman working in rice field.

Man’s Best Friend?

This is my first time in Southeast Asia. For years I’ve heard the rumor that the Vietnamese eat dog and cat. In fact, I used to joke about it:

Q: How to you know your house was robbed by a Vietnamese person?

A: The dog and cat are gone and the kid’s homework is done.

HAHA. But I never knew for sure if the rumor was true. Well, I found out the other day it is true.

Thit chó is a restaurant that serves dog meat. There are photos on the internet of cooked dogs ready to eat. If you are curious feel free to look it up. I did not see any at the market but I did pass this sign one day.

Then we stopped for snacks one day at a small shop and the family inside invited us in to have a drink and to eat a bit. They offered us shots of some home made liquor which tasted awful. Then they gave us a small bowl of meat which we accepted out of politeness. Nico jokingly asked the guy if it was “chó“, dog meat. He nodded, pointed at the bowl and said “woof woof.” I thought, “Oh no, he’s got to be kidding.” But he wasn’t. We had no choice but to eat the poor dog. It was actually not that bad. A little gamey and chewy but edible. Here we are scarfing some canine with our host.

One of the kids running around the house.

One night we went out to a restaurant near our hotel which was full of people partying. We think it was a company dinner or something because everyone seemed to know each other. The people quickly came over to talk to us and gave us a bottle of rice wine and proceeded to initiate several toasts with us. It was crazy but fun. Here we are toasting again with one of the guys.

The family at the table next to us invited us over too and we had more toasts with them. I’ll say one thing about the Vietnamese: they are some of the most friendly people I have ever met. Very outgoing. Here’s the daughter of one of the guys at the table. Cute kid.

We met a guy in a restaurant but it was another dog restaurant and we did not want to eat there. He is a chef so he led us to a nearby place and bought us lunch which was delicious. Did I mention the Vietnamese are friendly? The other two guys are his friends. He ordered eel in lemongrass and beef noodle soup. Nam is his name, he is on the left. He worked as a chef in Singapore and spoke pretty good English. He also runs a chef school in Vietnam.

Vietnam’s official name is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. So you see a lot of red flags with the socialist star and the old Soviet hammer and sickle. I’ll get more into Vietnam’s politics and economics, as well as history, in future posts.

Well that’s enough for one post. I’ll ride with Nico for one more day then he has to take off while I will slow down and enjoy the beaches in Central Vietnam. Here’s my current position. Woof woof!