The Heart of Vietnam . . . It's People
Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
22Trip End Nov 12, 2011
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Where I stayed
By the second day everyone we encountered on our walks through town, on our boat ride and walk to the work site had warmed up and we received shy smiles. By the third day we felt like part of the community being greeted by waves and yells of "ello". We had the most interaction with the children and they were enchanting.
The neighbors near the work site were very curious about us, about our enormous size, blue eyes, red hair and even gray hair, pointing and laughing or touching to see if somehow colored hair felt different or if was even real.
A few of us were invited into neighbors homes where we sat and “talked” and smiled not really understanding each other's words but still getting acquainted with one another just by time spent together. For me this was a very touching and personal experience and one I will treasure.
Even in Rach Gia after a few days we could be walking down the street (sidewalks are for motorbike parking) and would hear “ello” and see someone waving as they sped by on their motorbike.
One evening at dinner a member of our group was invited to join a group of men sitting at a table nearby. They bought him a beer and were curious who we were and what we were doing in Rach Gia. This happened on a number occasions, Rach Gia is not really a tourist destination so there were not many Caucasians and we were an oddity.
Even the lady at the internet café that Jean and I frequented who never really spoke and barely looked up from her desk finally, after a few days, smiled when we came in and even let us turn on the fan after a few days; that was a big deal because it was like a sweat shop in there, no air movement whatsoever, the fan was a big improvement! We never did learn what the rates were but each time we visited she held up 5 fingers no matter if we were there, 10 minutes or 45 minutes, it was always 5,000 VND, about 25 cents, no extra charge for the fan.
The city was another story, like big cities everywhere; the people were in a hurry and not quite as open or friendly as in the rural areas. Our hotel staff, restaurant workers and shopkeepers were unfailingly helpful and I will say they have a keen understanding of customer service. However, on the streets and in the marketplace everyone was scrambling to carve out their niche and make a living so we stood out like giants with $$ signs tattooed on our foreheads in a land where poverty and petite are the norm. I don’t want to give the wrong impression here, I was never uncomfortable walking around the streets or the markets other than for the frightful traffic but life is hard here and they do what they can to make a sale, it did not bother me a bit.
The exception in the midst of urban chaos was my day in the park spent talking to the young Vietnamese lawyer practicing her English; she was so open and honest with this stranger, me. I found her quite charming and can only hope she will someday have the job of her dreams and a good life.
I could go on and on about how wonderful the people are but would rather hope that sometime in your life you too are able to share in a similar exchange in a far off land.