Life on the other side of the Hanoi river, Viet Nam

With this last minute, surprise exchange, we once again rediscover why we like home exchange – because it takes us to places we wouldn’t otherwise go see and meet people we wouldn’t meet.  Witness the bridge we cross to the other side of the river that borders Hanoi and takes us to the small village where the home exchange is located.

Our hosts are Trinh (Vietnamese), her husband Ray (Australian) and their two fully bi-national daughters Kim and Daniela.  Trinh used to work heading the Hanoi office of BP, Ray was with the Asian Development Bank, among several institutions and continues to do consulting as an economist for a wide range of economic development project.  They are very much foodies and wine connoisseurs  and their beautiful home reflects a penchant for interior design.

We stay at the ancient Vietnamese timber home which they picked up from the Vietnamese country-side, had dismantled and rebuilt to become an integral part of their home in Hanoi.  It is EXQUISITE.  The woodwork is particularly beautiful and the authenticity can be seen in every door panel and every overhead beam. No nails whatsoever were used in this traditional construction method of timber homes.

You can see Ben at the top there, outside the guest house, on the balcony overlooking the pool.
Private balcony off the guest house, overlooking the pool and gardens.

Trinh has been an extraordinarily welcoming and generous “host”. The family are in their home and have offered us the use of their guest house on the property. Every morning, we wake up to a table set for breakfast, and are invited  to share dinner with them on a couple of occasion. Trinh is a good cook and we enjoy her Vietnamese home made meals. She also owns 2 local restaurants and they are both serious foodies. The girls are super engaging: one is in 11th grade, a model cum soccer player whose got the smarts to go to an elite Australian University.  The younger one is like a friendly puppy, cheerful and prompt to voice her opinion on all things.  Very charming.

Ray (Australian) and Trinh (Vietnamese) – our home exchange hosts.

Over dinner we get to hear some family stories and history. The family lineage is vintage “North Vietnam”.  The grandfather, shown in the photo below (proudly displayed in the dining room), hugging Vietnam’s most decorated, North Vietnamese war general, had a life that reads like a Le Carre spy thriller.  First captured by the French during their military campaigns, he was sent to French military prison in Madagascar (next to South Africa).  This was the French equivalent of Alcatraz – from there, no one ever escaped.  But at the end of WWII, the allies, UK/US went looking for potential spies, and selected him, giving him a choice to return to Vietnam instead of staying in Madagscar, if he agreed to spy for them.

He agreed to come back, to a hero’s welcome and joined the Ho Chi Minh government.  Like all good spy versus spy, there is no telling if he was a spy for Vietnam, a double agent for the UK/US or a triple agent, pretending to give intell to the Brits, while really giving them just enough to keep them satiated, and rebuilding his homeland.  He astutely provided just enough intell to keep everyone happy, rebuilding his nation as well as his family in post WWII and the French and American wars.

This photo of Trinh’s grandfather, is proudly displayed in the dining room.

We go for strolls in the village (on the other side of the bridge from Hanoi) and enjoy the relaxed environment of the village, compared with the city of Hanoi. There is a daily market, a bunch of small cafes and restaurants and very friendly locals. They are definitely interested and amused at seeing these two strange foreigners walking through their streets!

Seems like yoga is offered. But that is the only word we can understand from this notice. When, what time, thats a bit more complicated to figure out.
A fruit vendor cutting up jackfruit – tastes like a combination of pineapple, banana and juicy fruit chewing gum.
Ben is eager to get his share of the BBQ duck and pork on sale here. It all sells out in a couple hours!
Cooking and selling kebab sticks on the corner near our home exchange house.
This family make and sell tofu. It is still hot from the press in the small storefront behind, where the woman’s husband pours the cooked soybean broth into troughs to set.
A very chic woman, (her turquoise bike, turquoise jacket) stops by the market to pick up some fresh fish for dinner.
The interesting thing about this market is that it is a drive through, with all customers on motorbikes.
The motorbikes line up in front of the various stalls… a very convenient way to buy dinner on the way home from work.
This is the medicine woman. Not sure what the dried frogs on a stick are supposed to cure, but she did enjoy squeezing my arms very hard and made it known to me that she deems me way too thin and recommends her special concoction of herbs and flowers to fatten me up.
Handsome ethnic woman selling freshly picked tomatoes.

7 thoughts on “Life on the other side of the Hanoi river, Viet Nam

    1. GreenGlobalTrek Post author

      Nope. Not a part of Vietnamese culture. However in some cities and in the Mekong Delta at night, when the sun was down, we did see young girls in shorts. In the daytime, the exposure to sun is something everyone avoids ( except for fishermen.)

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