Vietnam:Mr. Phong

My best day in Vietnam so far started out at 9am in the morning in rainy, windy weather and me riding bitch on the back of a motorbike driven by Mr. Phong.

Mr. Phong is a 60 something year old man, that gives talks at his village about the history of Vietnam, his family, his experience in the war and the consequences after, and Vietnam today. While he does this as a tourist attraction for money, it was as interesting and authentic as a paid tour guide can be. Mr. Phong gets his clientele by word of mouth (a Dutch couple I met in north Vietnam recommended him to me), or by sitting outside a restaurant in Hoi An every night from 6-8pm. He acts as a greeter for the restaurant but his real purpose is to drum up business for his talks.

I was the only one that contacted him for my day which meant rather than sharing a taxi with others, Mr. Phong picked me up at my guesthouse. We arrived about 45 minutes later at his village where I met his wife, daughter-in-law, nephew, and grandsons. We then sat down and he explained some history of his family, Vietnam and Ho Chi Min.

He talked about fighting for the south during the civil war (what they call their war with us) and the consequences (a year for him in a re-education camp for starters). About his Uncle who fought for the North and how that was common for family members to fight on opposite sides. He talked about the years after our war (they had an additional war – Vietnam/USSR v. China/Cambodia), their economic shift, and why they actually now love the USA (see us as a protector from China after the Soviet Union collapsed). He also explained religions in Vietnam and politics – or lack there of as only 3 mill out of 90 mill people in Vietnam belong to the communist party, and their love for capitalist South Korea and hatred for communist North Korea.

After the discussion we took a stroll around his village where I was invited into multiple homes, saw the village distillery where his neighbor makes rice wine (we had to taste it of course), small tobacco farmers drying their crop, the lunch market and structures that still remain with impacts of the civil war battles.

I met the Uncle that fought for the North (saw his certificate and medal picture) and several other random people (it was clear based on reactions that some of these people do not see westerners frequently). I met some fisherman just returning with their catch and the car battery they used to shock the water to make them easier to catch.

After the village tour we sat down for a lunch that his wife prepared at his house. This supposedly was typical of what they eat on a daily basis and certainly much different than what I have seen being eaten (and been eating) in the cities. This was more like a meal we would eat at a Chinese restaurant in the States with soup (wintermelon), a meat and green bean dish, some stir-fried morning glory and of course, rice. No fortune cookies at the end but some great fried rice paper.

After lunch Mr. Phong brought me back to Hoi An where I caught a bus that evening to begin my Russian experience and once again become a beer pong ambassador.