I am just back to Hanoi from a few very memorable days on a farm in the village Bao Thap, Bac Ninh province.
As I mentioned before someone who has a friend that has a friend organised this for me. He also had found me a young lad to travel with me to be my interpreter and assistant – or so I thought.
Here is my first impression of the village. The rice harvest is in full swing and the smell of drying rice straw fills the air.Passage was sometimes difficult as people were drying their rice on the streets, using every spare area.
When we found “our” farm the welcoming committee was already waiting 🙂
As it turned out none of these ladies had ever spoken to a foreigner. And neither had my “interpreter” as he was not able to pronounce his limited vocabulary in any understandable way. This made the flow of communication a very cumbersome and frustrating task – a challenging exercise in patience and tolerance which brought me so much closer to my Zen goals 🙂
This is part of the yard with freshly harvested rice spread out for drying.
…and here the “storage” for part of our lunch/dinner ingredients…The family was extremely friendly and despite that they were all watching me curiously I had the impression they accepted me as an exotic part of their house and behaved their normal way. That was, of course, exactly what I had wanted.
There was a big bed in every room but not a strict “sleeping order”. Especially the kids slept in one bed today and the next evening in another bed with the granny. They asked me to choose any bed I liked and (being afraid that my snoring might ruin their nights) I chose the only room in the house with a door! Everything else was open and you could hear the faintest sounds from the whole house. Here is my suite:
The other part of my bedroom:
Breakfast was somewhat flexible as the women went out to the fields at 5 am and had their breakfast at 4.30 am. And the boss came back later especially to cook me breakfast. So, I decided that we would have breakfast at one of the food stalls (as they have them even in villages) and she not to bother.
Lunch and dinner had their fixed times (12 am and 6 pm) and the whole family got together. Every member had his specific tasks in preparing the meals and setting the “table”, like chopping the many greens always present.The “table” – a mat on the floor where we all sat around the central plate, so everyone could reach everything with his chopsticks.
I could start a very lengthy descriptions of the huge variety of different things that we had for lunch and dinner but I am a little pressed for time and, as you know, I always get carried away when I talk about food. There was always a minimum of 4 or 5 dishes, some home-grown veggie varieties (fried, steamed, pickled etc) and various meats.
OK, I was not sure if I should post this for you tender souls but, wtf, you might be curious, so here is our dog dish:
The meat is sliced and fried. You roll a piece in a green leaf, dip the wrap in the “muddy” sauce in the bowl and munch it while nibbling on a piece of lemon grass (that’s the local way – elsewhere they use different methods). What you see to the front of the plate is a kind of black pudding (karvavitsa) with chopped dog meat, blood, soy beans and spices. Quite good, once you get the hang of it. The dog meat itself was not impressive (also because they had used the “cheaper cuts”) and would not order it in any restaurant. Just for you to know that I am a decent person after all 🙂
In the small glasses you see some rice liquor, in which a gecko had been sitting for a rather extended period of time. It’s only for men (women don’t drink in Vietnam) and is supposed to give them “special strength”. Futile for me as I had no opportunity to test this 🙂
Now I should come to the fun part – the exploring of the village and the amazing interactions with the people. But I have to leave now to get some things organised. I wonder when I will be able to write the remainder as tomorrow morning I will be picked up at 7.30 am by my personal driver and my guide with whom I will venture out on a 10 day trip to explore the mountains of Northern Vietnam. And I have no clue now when I will have internet again. Please, bear with me…