In true Vietnamese style the whole village comes out to wave us good bye
BAC HA, VIETNAM: It`s early, dark and not a sole is around – except the driver, the guide and two of our lucky clients wanting to experience the real Vietnam. The market town of Bac Ha high up in the north western region of Vietnam was at peace. No tourists, no cars and no people. Only a few tourists visit the town, usually those wanting to see the real Vietnam. Bac Ha to me is a little bit touristic to be the real Vietnam so jumping into the air conditioned mini bus we head off to see what we can find.
Soon, just as day light starts to break, we come to a stop. There’s nothing here, literally nothing, except a small path down the side of a valley. “Follow me” says our expert guide, Mr Dinh Thanh, the joint founder of Avocet Asia, a bespoken travel management company. Off we go along a dirt path, over a bridge made of two logs strapped together and up the side of the valley. In the distance the villages are slowly wakening. Smoke rises from their open fires in preparation for the day, a lone dog barks and there is a grunt from a disgruntled pig being disturbed by our passage and after 15 minutes or so we arrive at the small village, to my knowledge a place without a name on the map.
Some Vietnamese is spoken and before you know it eyes start to appear to take a look at what is happening. A point of the finger, a hand wave and there you have it – in the house of one of the villagers sitting on a low wooden stool. A blackened kettle is wafting steam around the room and a pot of I don’t know what is bubbling away on the open fire, but it smells fantastic.
Breakfast. The hosts are very concerned for the wellbeing of their visitors but have a real problem – they really do not have knives, forks or spoons. Through the translation they are so apologetic that breakfast will have to be eaten with chops sticks or fingers! Yes, they are apologetic not us who have just barged into their home, sat in their kitchen and are preparing to eat their food.
Village life. After the most fantastic breakfast of pork meat, freshest vegetables – literally just picked from the fields and Tea from the close by plantations. Then it’s out into the village. The children are very sceptical at first but soon realise we just want to see how village life is and once they realise this, just like their parents show us what to do.
We met an elderly lady sitting in front of the logs, with a great big smile she recites the tale of her black teeth. In her culture by dying your teeth black it protects them.
Good-bye. We end up in pig pens, herd cattle and as it’s almost rice harvest prepare the baskets for the rice collection. Then we chop some wood, bring it to the village and store it, not forgetting to have a kick around with a ball that appears from nowhere, and before too long it’s time to leave these wonderful people. In true Vietnamese style the whole village comes out to wave us good bye.
So how much would you pay for an experience like this? £50.00, £100.00, £200.00? Well this is Vietnam. We try to give them money – they just won’t take it but through our in-depth knowledge of the area a few second hand clothes go a long way and ensure that next time we come to the region we will be greeted by the same warm hospitality.
It always amazes me. These people have little or no money and yet will throw their homes wide open to people they have never met, they will feed them and ensure they are safe and you will always be met with a huge smile. Vietnam is a place like no other.
Our tours are built around our individual guests. We like to get to know you, what you want to see, what you like to do and any special requests. We then build a tour around your requirements adding in our “sprinkle of fairy dust” so you can really experience Vietnam the Vietnamese way!
We say “seeing is believing” so take a peek at these photographs. We have deliberately not used a proper photographer, these pictures are truly both Dinh’s and mine. We want to show what it’s really like on an Avocet Asia Tour to Vietnam.
A story told by Neil Mewes