So last weekend, my Vietnamese friend (Hanh) who is studying at Victoria in Wellington also invited me out to her hometown. The little of town of La Gi, a small beachside town four hours North of Ho Chi Minh City near the resort town of Mui Ne. Anyways it really was a delightful place, a true Vietnamese Village. I felt like I was in a Vietnamese version of Opunake, where the people are all locals and very friendly, and travellers simply pass through or stop for the day rather than actually staying for a few days.
This sign literally says, Welcome to La Gi town - (because I speak Vietnamese)
I met Hanh's family although not English speakers and they adored me. I did feel very big next to these tiny women. Notice the size difference.
I could not stay with my friend and her family, but her cousins who happened to be English teachers invited me to stay with them at their place. This family, even though most of them could not speak English, are among the loveliest people I have met here. They went out of their way to make me feel welcomed and were continuosly worrying that their hospitality was inadequate. It certainly was not.
When I first went to their place, Lan Anh and Dung (the sisters) were in the middle of an English lesson but the opportunity to talk to a foriegner for these students was far more exciting than what they were learning. It also means I know all my basic likes. My favourite colour, sport, food, hobby, book, movie etc. all of the basic English questions.
However as fascinated as they were, it was to hear me speak not for them to talk. They indeed are very shy and scared to say anything.
This weekend was also all about food, starting with the Friday night. My and Vy (2 students) joined Hanh and I for beef hotpot. Well not hot for me since I avoided adding the chilli.
Saturday, bright and early, was time to explore this little town. Down to the beach first where the locals were getting their swim in before school and work and the sun getting too hot.
I have now worked out why the Vietnamese among other Asian cultures dress so conservatively and covered up. It is to protect their skin from the sun, the lighter the skin the better. The opposite to the western culture. So you will never see anyone sunbathing here and during the middle of the day the beach will be empty and the people will be sitting under the shade.
Nearby the local port was humming with fisherman to supply to the markets and town. It was of a different standard to what you see in New Zealand with both hygiene and boating techniques.
Si I am not sure what that boat was doing, they were in the breaking waves trying to get their fishing nets in, by hand, and two fisherman had jumped in to try and pull it up. And I have never met a Vietnamese who knows how to swim so it could have turned bad.
While driving on the bikes you see some interesting sights, especially how commonly these are still being used.
And I now finally understand where the rice all comes from...
We came across them drying and processing it on the side of the road.
Off the local markets for breakfast, we had the usual pho, noodle soup, today with fresh fish. I cannot even count how many times I have had this meal, to the Vietnamese it really is a once a day meal.
And when I look at my photos I didn't even get a photo, probably thought it was nothing new.
Coffee or cafés are huge in this country. Big coffee drinkers. And there is a specially nice one we visited to try the local speciality tea.
Half Lipton tea/half sour orange juice and sugar. But it makes for a rich flavoured drink
At Hanh's place, her mother has a big garden growing many fruits. The very strange jackfruit grows so big but is very delicious.
So there really was so much food over the weekend. The lunch feast where I was staying was so good.
Fish and rice soup, boiled sea snails and tropical fruits. How good does it look?
The rest of the day I spent with Lan Anhs English students. They wanted a chance to see if they really could speak with a foreigner and it made for interesting conversations. It was remarkable what a little confidence could do to some abilities.
That night my hosts really wanted me to experience the real La Gi town. They explained that since La Gi people have been very poor in the past they have now got a few dishes that are very unique or here which are cheap to make.
Among what we tried was fried spring rolls wrapped in rice paper with lettuce melon and cucumber also inserted. The next street stall we had squid teeth, BBQ'd on a stick. They were strange, they couldn't explain what it was until I got on the internet, so I was eating something blind. Don't ask which part of the squid it is because I just don't know. We moved to a fried rice paper stall which had egg, spices and sauces added and rolled up, they called it a fried pancake but I'm not sure if that is the correct translation. Whilst here they served us the quail eggs. I have heard about these before as a friend came across eating them. They are much smaller than regular sized eggs, and although they are boiled, they do not contain the typical yolk. instead they have been fertilised and inside is a embryo of a duckling. I gave it a go and had one, making me feel quite sick, there was no way I was going to have the second egg. The thought of it is quite overwhelming.
Luckily we washed it down with one of their many fruit desserts
The other beach we visited I think is a locals secret. If you love seafood, you will love this place. Out to see you can see the fishermen on their boats. Once they have a decent amount they board a little round boat with a tiny little engine in the back and ride the waves in to shore. From here they sort out what they have brought it and the locals literally walk along the beach buying what they want to have and they can take it to the local (street food) styled restaurants for them to cook it for you. It is the most fresh seafood there possibly is.
I'm not too much of a fan but it was amazing. Check out the photos. A foodies treat.
The empty beach was also just as beautiful.
Although no one was enjoying the sun.
Being such a locals spot I did stick out and had to deal with the steers or the Vietnamese pickup lines which I did not understand. Just like that last photo of a swimmer who badly wanted to have a photo with me?
Welcome to La Gi