Our tour of Ha Long Bay was officially over around noon on day 2. While all of the other tourists were promptly put on a bus back to Hanoi, Bugi and I were booked to go to a local village for the rest of the afternoon (I am not sure why but visiting a local village sounded very appealing to me but not to all of the other people visiting Ha Long bay – at this stage I started worrying whether they knew something that I did not…). We were sent to a separate bus where we met our guide who would take us around the village.
Being the only two people on an organised tour has its perks but it can quickly get a bit awkward as well:
Well hello there…having 6 elderly people serenade you is a bit too much for us! Thankfully three american girls joined us for the first part of our Yen Duc village tour so we were not the only centre of attention. After a mini concert our tour began with a visit to the local shrine dedicated to the locals who died in the American war (in Vietnam the Vietnam war is obviously called the American war).
[The whole country bares the scars of this conflict and while the heroism of the Vietnamese and malice of the Americans is a common propaganda theme, there is also a lot of truth mixed in with all the propaganda. Horrible things were happening in Vietnam and the US government managed to hide a lot of its crimes for a long time. While the violence of the war and the suffering of the Vietnamese people is intertwined with the very fabric of the Vietnamese national identity today, we did not feel that the Vietnamese hold feelings of resentment towards the US today. They seem a lot more practical – understanding and accepting the history but somehow keeping it separate from today’s reality. I find this remarkable given the limited time that has passed since the Vietnam/American war.
Our next stop on the tour was a local house. We were invited for green tea and snacks (corn and sweet potatoes):
We were then lead to one of the rooms where the owners of the house proudly displayed his family tree on the wall:
Oh yes, we were a bit more impressed by the fortified wine complete with several snakes and god knows what else in the bottle. I love eating eel but this is just a bit too real for me!
Despite our fascination with the wine, our host insisted on telling us all about his family routes. Now, the family tree seems very very busy but it actually went only 2 generations back. Nope, they did not have 50 children in each generation – they just had 4 wives and each of the wives had 10 children. Sadly, the host noted, polygamy is no longer legal in Vietnam.
Having completed this part of our tour we were quickly ushered to the local temple. It was completely empty and in the quiet of this hot afternoon, it was slightly surreal.
The shrine was as big as the other ones we had visited in Hanoi but we had this one solely to ourselves – it was clean and completely devoid of the crowds in the city.
Much much better if you ask me.
Bugi as you can see was thrilled to be there. I think by this stage he was getting a bit worried that we had 3 more hours in the village booked and we had already met everyone who lived there and seen everything at least once…
We got even more worried when the three American girls left because they had only booked a 2 hour visit to Yen Duc. I had apparently gone for the 5 hour full tour…
Oh yes, the American girls left and so we were left all alone in Yen Duc with still 3 hours to go. We asked our guide what the plans were and he said that we were now going to catch our own dinner. I laughed, Bugi laughed.
And then they brought out some awesome boots for us to wear and we finally understood that they were not joking. We were actually supposed to catch our own dinner.
Being the coward that I am I opted to document the whole experience. Bugi on the other hand is the kind of person who would try anything because you know, when else would he have the chance to go fishing or gardening in the Vietnamese country side. Shame on Natalcho but thank God I married Bugi so I do get to observe some cool stuff that he decides to do. Look at him rocking those boots!
I suppose that if we grew up in a more traditional Western society we would have not necessarily had the chance to water plants before…or go fishing, or plant anything for that matter. We are however from Bulgaria – my parents produce the world’s tastiest tomatoes in that garden they have. I am practically a farm kid (you know, at least compared to some of my Western born and bred friends) as in “I have seen plants grow”. This part of the tour was clearly targeted at people who have never seen a salad outside of a supermarket isle. So we found it amusing and our host found us even more amusing.
The first thing they wanted Bugi to do was to plant something in the garden.
Bugi was doing better than our guide might I say! I on the other hand was cracking up on the side thinking of my father who would have certainly found the fact that we went to the other side of the world to garden VERY amusing. Yes dad, we still refuse to do this in Varna – but we are allowed to call it “an exotic activity” when in Vietnam!
I think after 10 minutes or so this lady who actually owns the garden got a bit worried and decided to just finish the job herself. Bugi and our guide probably planted 2 plants in total while she finished the rest of the patch! So yes, gardening wasn’t really our thing. Since Bugi was already in uniform though he decided to go explore the rice fields – now this is one thing we have never ever seen first hand. Our guide on the other hand was very intrigued that we wanted to see the rice fields – I guess they thought that gardening would be interesting while the rice field was considered boring:)
I was keeping my distance – sandals are not appropriate footwear around a rice field.
They explained the whole process to Bugi and even invited him to jump in the rice field. He refused because let’s face it – this rice field was probably not made for grown up Eastern Europeans – sink or swim?
Once all of our rice questions were answered we were invited to go fishing. The outfits kept getting better and better!
Everyone got super excited as they jumped into the pond (what is the correct English word for this? puddle?) armed with wooden baskets. The water is very shallow so you walk around while trying to trap one of the fish under your basket.
This picture is the very definition of good travel stories!
A couple of minutes later Bugi managed to trap a fish which was super exciting and yet a bit confusing – how do I get hold of the freaking fish?
One of the girls brought him gloves and so the long and tortuous process of “trying to catch a fish with your own hands” began.
Success! I think that this was probably the most exciting part of the entire trip!
We would have loved to eat with everyone but our guide explained that we were going to have a “romantic dinner” and so everyone deserted us which was once again a bit awkward.
The fish was exquisite though!
Overall, I would 100% recommend visiting Yen Duc – just make sure you book the full tour which includes the fishing as well. I still feel a bit sad about those poor girls who left after 2 hours thinking that they had seen everything.
(Source: Tomatoes Rock)