It just keeps getting better! Today eight of us went on a road trip to Hiếu's Hometown - Hồng Phòng, Ninh Giáng, Hải Dương! Hiếu, Hải, Luyền, Long and his girlfriend Vi, Tuyền Xa Doa, Katie and me. Once again, it was a gorgeous ride through the countryside. I love being a pillion passenger...there is so much to see along the way!
We arrived in the delightful village of Hồng Phòng, and wound our way through the lanes to Hieu's family home, tucked away down a narrow lane.
It's a beautiful house. Hiếu showed us around and took us up to the roof, where there is a special room dedicated to worshiping their ancestors. Today he wanted to pay homage to his grandfather, who died recently and is sadly missed.
There's a clear view of the houses around about from up there... everything is so flat, you can look out over the town.
Everyone pitched in and helped with preparing lunch. Hiếu began cleaning the squid, while Hải chopped up the chicken. Much of the food preparation is done outdoors where there's plenty of room and it's easy wash things.
Hiếu's aunt was cooking an eel soup in the cookhouse over an open fire...
Tuyền, Luyền, Katie and Long
The courtyard garden at the back of the house.
There are always green vegetables to prepare.
This gorgeous baby is Hiếu's baby sister, Yến Nhi. Her cousin carried her around and looked after her while her mother was busy in the kitchen. Because his family now lives in Hồ Chí Minh City, Hiếu doesn't see them very often, but he obviously adores beautiful little Yến Nhi... Don't they look alike!
Hải volunteered to be taste tester for the eel stew... and after an hour or so it was delicious...
When lunch was nearly ready, Hiếu and Hải went and bought a case of beer.
The last few dishes were stir-fried and lunch was served!
Once again, we enjoyed a scrumptious feast!
Long, Vi, Tuyền and Đoàn (Hiếu's father). Đoàn is a ship pilot and he enjoyed calling for a 100% toast (bottoms up!)... only Katie kept up to the challenge, much to everyone's surprise and amusement.
Here's an very different food - it's a kind of seed from a root ( I think). We saw piles of it on the side of the road and stopped off to get some so Katie and I could try it. The white flesh is soft and pappy with not a lot of flavour. Interesting... It's called củ ãu.
We had a brief nap after lunch ... well Katie and I did, at least. Turned out the others sat and chatted while we dozed! Hmmm...
Then it was time for a walk around the village. Check out the next door neighbour's fabulous vegie garden!
Quaint lane-ways and buildings...
When we got to the centre of the village we came to a large pond featuring a water puppet theatre!!! They were gearing up for a show, and we got to go backstage and see the puppets!
The musicians were in place, waiting patiently.
Hải, Katie, Luyền, Long, Vi, me and Hiếu (Tuyền is in the other photo)
It would be a while before the show started, so we went to visit the village pagoda / communal house.
The priest was a charming, hospitable old man, who was happy to show us through the building and pose for photos.
By the time we got back to the puppet theatre, the locals were gathering.
A bus-load of tourists arrived from Hà Nội and the music began.
I was too slow to photograph the fireworks (from under the water!), but once I got sorted I took heaps of photos because the show was so good - way better than the Water Puppets in Hà Nội! Here are just a few...
So entertaining!! Even without understanding the dialogue, it was obvious what was going on... great fun!
Some local lads were practicing their dancing and were showing more enthusiasm than skill, so Hiếu taught them some moves so they wouldn't hurt themselves... that was entertaining, too!
Our next stop was to visit his grandfather's home. As is often the case in Việt Nam, Hiếu primarily raised by his grandparents while his parents worked, so it was a very sad loss for him when his grandfather died. His aunt's family now live in the house.
This is Hiếu's beautiful mother, Đảm.
Long and Tuyền
Katie and Luyền
More fascinating old buildings...
This old man was weaving cane for a basket, or a fish trap... He'd only just started so we couldn't tell what it was going to be, but I suspect it is a skill that has been passed on for generations.
All too soon, it was time to head back to Hải Phòng, but we lingered for a while, and took some more photos...
None of us really wanted to leave...
There was a bit of excitement on the ride home - we passed a bushfire! The ridge at An Lão was ablaze.
The hillside there is so steep the firefighters were on all fours trying to make their way up to it. Hundreds of people were gathering along the road standing watching as we rode past.
Finally, we finished off a marvellous day with phở xào at my old regular restaurant on Văn Cao.
We were back at the Hotel in plenty of time to settle in and watch a movie marathon of some of Katie's favourite movies - the Twilight series. A night in after such a memorable day. Life is so good!