As part of my junk boat cruise package they offer an optional Vietnamese home-stay experience. Because my travel taste tends to favor local experience I decide to take advantage of the package. After I am picked up from my cruise I am taken to the Yen Duc village to experience Vietnamese life for a short while.
Many cruise vans stop by the village I am visiting for a water puppet show only. I ride with the group to the village but I am watching the puppet show the next day before I get picked up to return to Hanoi.
Instead I am taken to my room by electric cart. Usually there are more guests but tonight I am the only one. It is awkward because all the attention is on me but also I can cater the experience to exactly what I want.
My host takes me to my huge room. I relax there a bit after some welcome tea.
I am visiting during rainy season so we wait for the showers to end before going out for a bike ride around the village. I don’t bring my phone or camera on the ride for fear of rain so I get no pictures of that experience.
First stop is a local lady who has a 190 year old house. She lives mostly alone due to losing her husband years ago and her kids live out of town. She tells me of the family reunions that happen every ten years. She also explains the alters and offerings and how they worship a dead patriarch of many generations ago. She shows me her amazing family tree that now numbers more than 200 from a single ancestor , even going back when multiple wives were common. We talk about her garden and her house. Some of the plants in her garden I have grown in Florida in the past (my home). She is very nice.
Next I learn how to produce rice. After harvesting rice has 2 layers to remove (brown rice just has one, the hull, removed). White rice is the same grain but has the hull, bran layer, and cereal germ removed.
A circular machine is used remove the outer layer shell, or hull.
Then rice is put into baskets to shake to remove the shell. It is an art. You shake and twirl to separate and use a jerk motion to knock the shell pieces out of the basket.
Then remove the second layer by bashing using a large mallet thing. It is a workout.
Finally I shake again to remove the rest of the bran and germ. It is an art. It is also hard work. I didn’t realize how much went into producing rice (and I didn’t even get to see it harvested). Rice is sold so cheaply all over the world and it takes so much manual labor to produce it.
After learning about rice we take bike ride to go fishing. In the village they do farm fishing in ponds. They grow the fish in ponds and use a basket method to catch the fish when it is time to cook it. I get a demonstration by the local fisherman. He plunges a wicker basket into the water in different areas in order to try to entrap a fish. This motion is done quickly all over the pond. Now it is my turn I walk into the muddy pond with water pants. I try and try and try but I couldn’t catch a fish of my own with the basket. I am assisted with catching one but I do have to stick my hand in and grab it put it in the basket. I hope this is something I would be able to master in time because right now my survival skills are lacking.
After fishing we ride back, there is finally great weather and I have great views of the rice fields.
When we return I get to roll my own dessert. Sugar cube, mung beans, dough and sesame. I can’t wait to try it later. I make a note to research all the cooking of mung beans. I forgot that I used to like them.
I go back to my room and cleanup but notice a huge spider chilling on my shower curtain. I am from Florida and we have a fair share of spiders but I am still scared of it. When I arrive at the dinner table later I tell my host about my fear of the spider. A staff member (who is small and petite) happily goes into my room and removes the huge spider with her hands. I am in awe. It is probably no big deal to her but I am impressed.
Soon I am served dinner like a queen (sorry forgot photos). One of the highlights is the morning glory at that like sautéed spinach.
I mean to go for a bike ride on my own in the morning but decide to relax instead. I always try to take my downtime when I can because things can always feel so fast-paced when traveling.
In no time at all it is lunchtime. Squid is on the menu but I am able to “swallow them down”. Again it is not that I don’t like squid, I actually do, I just don’t want to eat it all the time. I wish I had written down everything else I consumed, because it is all cooked well.
Soon it is time for me to watch the water puppet show. While I wait for the puppet show I take one last walk around the area.
Water Puppet Show
The puppet show starts with some singers. They sing a lovely song while they float around.
Soon the performance begins. The puppeters are behind the screen and are very skilled at acting out scenes with the puppets. A band plays music beside the stage.
After the show ends I head back to Hanoi for a second visit. More on that later.