Our friends Lee and Snow invited us to have an authentic Vietnamese experience and come stay on the family coffee and flower farm in the mountain village of Da Lat (technically in the village of Cau Dut, outside of Da Lat proper). From the moment it started, this proved to be quite the adventure. Snow told us to ask the bus driver to drop us off at a particular road before getting into Da Lat. After boarding the bus, Ray politely asked the attendant to drop us off early to which he unequivocally said “no.” Ray then asked the driver and was met with crossed arms and another emphatic “no.” No worries, I just sent a quick message to Snow (while I still had wifi) letting her know that the driver was unwilling to drop us off early. Four hours and a mountain pass later, as we were just entering the town, the bus pulled over and the attendant pointed at us and then motioned for us to get off the bus. And there we were, four Americans at a bend in the road, only a few buildings in sight, no one waiting to pick us up, and no wifi. Did I mention that my SIM card had just expired so I couldn’t make any calls?
We grabbed our backpacks, walked a mile down the road, found a little cafe with wifi and set about trying to get a hold of our hosts. Meanwhile, Lee and Snow were waiting for us in town and were surprised when we didn’t get off the bus. They set about asking all the passengers what happened to the Americans and finally learned that the driver had in fact dropped us at the requested spot. About half an hour later as we were just finishing our coffee at the cafe, Lee and Snow along with her brother, sister-in-law, and the driver pulled up to pick us up. After returning to town for lunch, we made our way to the farm.
After the kids and I toured the farm surrounding area with Lee (Ray decided to nap), the kids were invited to help catch a chicken for dinner, which they agreed to. They opted out of helping kill the chicken, however. The chicken was then soaked in boiling water to help with feather removal, which the kids also opted out of helping with, but Ray agreed to. Because when will he ever get the opportunity to pluck feathers from his own dinner again?
In many Vietnamese homes, cooking is done outside over charcoal in clay cooking stoves. Tyler and I were able to help prepare some Vietnamese pancakes over the stoves. The pancakes are made by heating a small amount of oil in a pan, frying up some mushrooms, squid, and shrimp for a few minutes, then adding a rice flour and egg mixture and topping with some green veggies (coyote squash, I think) and covering until cooked. We then spread two mats on the living room floor and dinner was served for 15 people. It was all quite delicious. The only issue was trying to walk again after sitting on the little stools to cook and then sitting on the floor for dinner. Definitely not something we are used to.
The other major difference in a Vietnamese home is having to remove your shoes indoors. Ok, maybe that’s not so different, but in this home, you have to go outside the house to use the toilet or take a shower. You can’t wear your outside shoes inside and you can’t wear your inside shoes to go out to the toilet. You also can’t wear your outside shoes in the toilet room or shower. So, you take off your shoes at the front door and exchange for inside shoes or bare feet. When you go to use the toilet, you leave your inside shoes at the door and change into outside sandals to walk to the toilet. You then step out of your outside shoes and into bathroom shoes, use the bathroom and then reverse the process to get back in the house. Phew!
We did make our way into the town of Da Lat and surrounding areas, but I am going to save that for the next post. Until then, here’s a few more pictures of the farm and family…
Red Anthurium flowers. Thy, Snow’s brother, has many fields of this type of flower and sends them to market in HCMC during holidays.
My new friend Strawberry (Snow’s neice).
Lee and Snow’s two brothers doing most of the plucking before Ray stepped in for his photo-op.
Phuong, Snow’s sister-in-law, who is a fabulous cook and insisted on preparing just about every meal for us during our stay.