On Sunday I went to a place called Ninh Binh, also dubed the Ha Long Bay of the interior. (you can see images of Ha long Bay here: http://zimphotography.com/fineartphotography/south_asia/vietnam/vietnam_clr.html – row 5). I had been wanting to go here for a year now. When I arrived at my hotel , I expressed this interest with the Hotel’s front desk staff when one of th doormen interjected and said “That’s where my family is from!” So with that I invited him (Cuong) to join me along with a couple of the other board members from the Vietnamese Nom Preservation Foundation (Sally & Steve) and one of the front desk guys (Bon). Everyone was pretty enthused to go until I anounced that I wanted to be on the road at FOUR a.m!! But they all relented and came a long anyway.

When we arrived at our destination at 6 a.m. It was still dark and there seemed to be only one shop keeper around. Cuong was concerned that we were too early and so asked if we wanted to continue somewhere else to wait for the sun came up. Instead I suggested that we get out of the car and stretch our legs; and sure enough the vendors came out of the woodwork. We had 2 offers to cook us breakfast and several to provide us with the boat tour we were looking for! There is just never a shortage of people trying to sell you things in this country – not even at 6 am while it’s still dark out.

As we finished breakfast the sun came up and it became light enough to go out on the boat. Soon it became clear that I would not get the sunrise shot I had been seeking. And so it remained cloudy for the rest of the day and not once did the sun show it’s face. Arggg. As there was nothing I could do to change the situation, I decided just to relax and enjoy the ride. It was wonderful. The scenery was incredible! And the company? They were pretty fun as well! That was great.

After our boat ride we were invited to Cuong’s parent’s house for lunch. They were farmers with 4 children all of whom had moved into the city to find work; they were totally totally amazingly hosts. I have come to learn that one should never turn down an invitation to enter a private home anywhere in the world. Much more than any scenic tourist trap, the only way to understand a people and a place is to share a meal with them. Cuong’s parents fed us until we were completely full and offered us locally made rice wine (which I declined but as you can see from the clip below Steve enjoyed it immensly).

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