This weekend Vietnam celebrated the ancient kings birthdays, so It was a public holiday and we had no classes, which was a God-send because I had the joy and privilege of going to a traditional Vietnamese wedding. Khánh and Xuân invited me to go with them to their mate's wedding. It was in his home town, Vĩnh Bảo, which is a bit over an hour from here by motorbike. So Khánh picked me up on Saturday morning and off we went.
Once we left the outskirts of Hải Phòng we were riding through lush green rice paddies. It started to rain about 15 minutes before we got there, and I didn't have any rain gear. Still, I tucked in behind Khánh's rain cape and only my face and feet got wet.... fortunately though that was the only time it rained.
Trung's family home had been transformed to accommodate the wedding festivities.
Shortly after we arrived, they served lunch. That's the groom, Trung, next to Xuân.
This is Quỳnh and Net (from the Nam Phat church class) that bowl in front of Quỳnh is cold blood soup ... congealed blood with bits of meat and vegies and crushed peanuts for a garnish. Yes, I did have some. It's interesting - not unpleasant, but a little goes a long way. There was a tray of food like this for every five or six people - a variety of meats and vegies and soups.
This is the offal - pork tripe, liver and a Vietnamese version of black pudding. And of course there was boiled rice, too. ... yes I tried it all and it was good!
Net helped to wash the dishes (the dogs only cleaned up the left-overs). Everything is scrubbed clean with lots of soap, then rinsed thoroughly.
As you can see, the washing up was done on the side of the road where there is easy access to plenty of water. Then we had free time, so I started taking photos. This is Khánh and the groom - Trung. You can see how bright and colourful the canopy is. The trailer behind them brought the sound system... big enough for a huge auditorium. Sometimes I wonder if Vietnamese people are a bit deaf, they always have the music up so loud!!
Proudly on display were these trays of goodies which were to be presented to the bride's family as engagement presents. The stacks included tea, biscuits, tobacco, beer, coke, cakes... Nine of the groom's mates were to carry them.
This is Trung's family
This chicken on a bed of sticky rice is also part of the gift ceremony.
One by one, the groomsmen paraded out with the trays.
Xuân picked the lightest tray.. it had biscuits... Khánh had the heaviest - beer!
They all loaded into this van for the 7km drive to the bride's home.
Family and friends were on hand to watch the groom's party head off with the gifts, and a convoy of about twenty motorbikes fell in behind the van.
When we got to the bride's home there was a large blue tent out the front with loud music and all the bride's family and friends gathered for this engagement ceremony. The groomsmen lined up with their trays of gifts and processed into the bride's house and were welcomed by bridesmaids.
I was following along with my young friends, when I was ushered ahead of the others... and I found myself sitting with the older relatives of the bride and groom, so I had the honour of being at the official table as the patriarchs of the two families made speeches and the groom's family presented the gifts and the bride's family extended a welcome. These beautiful ladies are from the bride's family.
It is the custom in Vietnam for wedding photos to be taken weeks before the event so they can be displayed at the wedding. They are gorgeous. This is Nga, the beautiful bride...
Check out this quaint little truck
and this mobile butcher shop!
After we got back, the boys changed and we went for a ride to look at a couple of Vĩnh Bảo's pagodas. This one has a very decorative gate...
I have seen this poster in other pagodas. In comic book style it depicts the consequences of our actions - whether good or bad, stating that these consequences may be visited up to the third generation.
As you can see, Xuân isn't exactly camera shy...
Here he is in the bell tower...
The rural landscape is so peaceful and refreshing. The fresh air is wonderful.
Ducks and cows and chickens all seem to roam free, but they don't stray far from their food source, I guess
The second pagoda we visited is dedicated to Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm (1491 – 1585). He was a Vietnamese administrator, educator, poet, sage and is a saint of the Cao Dai religion. Here, it is not the buildings that impress, it's the amazing life-size sculptures of the teacher and his followers.
This lovely lass from Trung's family came with us ... as Xuân said: "A pretty girl!" She was very quiet and hardly said a word, but seemed to be around wherever we went. She was wearing her school uniform, so I quess that she's about 16, but unfortunately we don't know her name because Xuân didn't ask!!
When we got back to the house, there was an army of people everywhere preparing food for the feast tomorrow. About 20 chickens lined up for boiling, and all kinds of meat being chopped up for cooking. When I took the photo I assumed that the carcasses laid out on the table in front were piglets. But it turns out that they it is cat meat.. all ready for being finely sliced and cooked up for tomorrow's banquet.
It's a shame the camera focussed on the rope right in front of me... but you get the idea. The mound of red next to the boiled chickens is sticky rice (the red colour is believed to bring luck). The red soup in the green bowl is the fresh congealed blood dish we had at lunch. At times there were about 50 people busily involved in cooking, chopping, mixing and washing, all chatting happily. I was surprised to see how involved the men were... it looked like they were responsible for the meat, while the women concentrated on the vegetables and rice. They were at it for hours... all afternoon and into the evening.
By dinner time many more people had gathered, and the tables began filling up. These guys are also friends from Hải Phòng.
These beautiful grandmothers are in their eighties ... except the one in green - she's only 74. They were keen for me to sit and sip green tea and have a chat (no English...) I showed them a photo of my gorgeous family, but they still wouldn't believe that I am 60. I would love to have been able to really talk with them, to hear their stories. They are all about 4' tall!
We hung about for a while after dinner, while the PA guy cranked it up to full volume. It was too loud inside to talk, so we sat outside along the creek (on the roadside) as more and more people gathered for the party and entertainment.
My dear crew - Net, Khánh, Quỳnh and Xuân
The little kids are just gorgeous, and proud parents were very keen for me to take their photos all weekend.
The entertainment was a young man with a great voice and a bright personality, who sang a few songs. Then several of the guests sang as a way of blessing Trung. There would have been a similar party happening at the bride's house. Everybody enjoyed it - sitting sipping tea or beer and crunching sunflower seeds.
Then after a while the families all started leaving and a convoy of us (i.e. all the young'ns and me) jumped on the bikes to go and crash the bride's party. When we arrived, they too were all sitting, listening to very loud music, with disco lights flashing. Xuân was busting to dance, so the five of us all agreed that we would all get up together and dance and get the ball rolling. So on the count of three, the boys and I stood up, but Quỳnh and Net just sat there!! It was too late to back down then, so Khánh and Xuân and I went down the front to the dance floor, where two other young men joined us and we started dancing.... and nobody else joined in! Talk about embarassing! After just one song we all sat down laughing and a couple of minutes later the group from the groom's party all went home again... we had been there all of ten minutes!!
By the time we got back, the kitchen was all neatly sorted, with piles of food ready for the morning. Since there are no flies here, most of it was left uncovered. Most of the ladies had disappeared, but there were many groups of men all over the place, playing poker and drinking rice wine... and they continued to do so all night!
The girls and I slept on a mattress under a mosquito tent on the mezanine level of the house. Only a balcony rail separated us from the card games downstairs, so it was pretty noisy... at least the music had been shut down for the night!!
But we were comfortable enough and managed to get some sleep. I do wonder though, why roosters always want to have a neighbourhood crowing competition at 2am??