Home Comforts in Hanoi
The family’s house was located in the suburbs of Hanoi where narrow lanes lead off the crowded streets. As land is at such a high price, the houses extend upwards for many stories along these streets. Mr Van is a 76-year-old war veteran with such a pleasant character that we felt instantly at home. He met his wife whilst they were both serving in the army and they have now been married for 50 years! They saved for 42 years to purchase the land that their house sits on and the surrounding land, which they gave to their five daughters, each of whom has also built her own house.
Taking off our shoes, we were led upstairs to the main living room where hot green tea was served – a tradition in Vietnam. Following introductions, dinner was served downstairs – a great spread prepared by Mrs Van. Another tradition is to welcome guest and start a meal by having a sip of homemade rice wine. The wine is fermented in a number of different ways and it was clear from the variety of glass jars around the house that Mr Van was a bit of a pro!
As with most Vietnamese meals the first dish was a noodle soup. This was swiftly followed by a variety of plates, including beef kebab, chicken soup, fried fish and picked vegetables. Each dish has a unique flavour and accompaniment – be it noodles or morning glory (the most popular green vegetable in Vietnam).
Once suitably full we reconvened upstairs, where Mr Van showed us the traditional one-stringed musical instrument he had made. He played this beautifully, his laughter making everyone in his company feel at ease.
The evening we spent with the Van family was the perfect way to gain a deeper understanding of Vietnamese culture, cuisine and family values. Talking to Mr Van and his family gave us a great appreciation for what the country and its people have experienced, and a new respect for their appreciation of life. We left feeling very humbled, and I would recommend anybody lucky enough to get the chance to spend some time at a Vietnamese home to take it. It’ll be an experience you’ll never forget!