The Day That Made the Drive Worth It – Part II

Okay, so by the time we landed in Hanoi, it was around 8, and we got out of the airport around 8:30 PM. The ride to our hotel took a whole hour! However, the hotel was pretty nice and was named May de Ville. I had the beginning of the Cruella deVille song stuck in my head for the rest of the night. The next day, I got up semi-early (I usually get up later than the rest of my group — I love my sleep) and went to eat breakfast around 8:50 or so. Our van was supposed to take us to the silk and pottery districts at 9, but there was an issue with the van and we didn’t end up leaving until around 10 or so. That was perfectly fine with me, since the TV in the dining area had The Incredibles playing. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to stay long enough to watch the end.

So many silky-soft fabrics!

The first place we visited was the silk district, but we really only went to one store/factory. The store itself was somewhat small, as is the style in Vietnam, but they had tons of fabrics (lots of soft silky fabrics!) and garments made of silk. We went to the back of the store and out to a house-looking area, where we saw looms in the process of making silk fabrics of various patterns. When we went further back into the “house”, we saw where they took smaller strands of silk and wove them into a thicker strand. This operation was definitely bigger than the area that we saw in Hoi Anh, though we didn’t explore as much there and may have missed the room.  

I don’t know what the inspiration for these were, but they’re really creepy looking!

After we finished touring the silk store, we got back in the van and headed to the ceramics district. I must’ve been pretty tired because I fell asleep on the way to both places. When we got to the ceramics district, we stopped at a store (mainly for a potty break), but I managed to find some interesting baubles. I probably would’ve bought more (everything’s so cheap!), but I didn’t for fear of them breaking while traveling. After we finished at that store, we decided to walk around and look at other stores while we waited for the lunch break to be over (so that we could then go to the ceramics factory). Almost immediately (the place was right across the street from where we were), we were called over to a little pottery workshop place that lets you play with the clay for 10,000 (50 cents), and if you want to keep what you make, it’s only 30,000 total ($1.50). Theresa and I thought it would be pretty fun and sat down right away. I guess pottery isn’t really Evan’s and Quan’s thing because they sat out. So I recruited Quan into taking pictures of me playing around with the clay.

This was taken early on in my session, and I think I must’ve sat there for about 30 minutes to an hour just playing with the clay.

Since I’ve never taken a pottery class, I had absolutely no idea as to what I was doing. The turntables were also turned by hand (my arm and shoulder were sore the next day), and Theresa and I felt that we couldn’t turn ours fast enough. (Later I was told that I was turning mine too fast). Eventually, Theresa’s dad decided to jump in on her turntable and show her how things are done, but that quickly went awry. The lady who was supposed to give us tips kept just making things for  us, rather than telling us how to mold the clay. Eventually, a guy came around and showed us the correct way to place your hand and with the correct pressure. Theresa wanted to know if one could make a wineglass, so her dad asked the guy if he could show us. He ended up making a small goblet within a minute and fifteen seconds, and Theresa liked it so much, she ended up having them set it in the “oven” so she could paint it and take it home later.

This is the guy who actually taught us how to mold the clay. You could tell he liked making pottery.

Eventually, Evan and Quan got hungry, so they went with Theresa’s mom to scout for a place to eat while Theresa went to paint the first thing that had been made for her (a small cup with the rim shaped like a heart) and I kept playing with my clay. I messed up a bunch of times (I kept trying to make something tall, like a vase), but the masters made sure to replace my failure and start me off with a new cup to expand on. I finally started to get the hang of it and shaped mine into a shallow bowl. I would’ve kept trying to make it taller, but the teacher stopped me, and I think he said that the walls would be too thin if I kept doing that. He told me some other things, such as the time frame it takes for someone to progress from making cups and bowls to things like vases, but I’m not 100% sure due to my poor Vietnamese vocabulary. He put that bowl (which he perfected) and a vase that I asked him to make into the kiln/oven, after which I watched Theresa paint while I waited for them to dry.

The beautiful scenes on vases like these are hand painted! It’s amazing since they have such detail in them.

By the time my objects finally dried, Theresa was pretty much done painting both of her things. Quan, Evan, and Theresa’s mom came back while I was still painting my bowl (which had finished drying first), and since I was painting abstract art on my stuff, we knew that painting the vase would take a while. So I opted to stay and paint while the rest of them went to the ceramics factory to take a self-guided tour. Aside from the heat and the small stool, I really enjoyed being able to just sit and paint by myself. Being an introvert, I appreciate my alone time, and it’s hard to find alone time when you’re vacationing with your family. I eventually finished painting my pottery, but the spray glaze took time to dry also, so I walked around the area while I waited for that and for my family to return. About 50 feet away or so was a ceramics market kind of place, so I browsed around there. There were a lot of interesting things, but as I said before, I didn’t want to get too many breakables, so I left empty-handed. By the time I had finished browsing, my stuff had apparently finished drying, so one of the people wrapped and bagged my stuff, leaving me with nothing to do but wait for the van to come back with my family. It’s a good thing I figured out how to unlock my phone, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to text my aunt and let her know that our stuff was done, and who knows how long I would’ve had to wait. I think they were probably already done, anyway, but regardless, it’s nice to be able to have a means of communicating with your party when you are separated from them. After that, we went back to the hotel and relaxed a little before going to eat dinner. We ate at a place called Quan Ngon, which means “Tasty Restaurant” when roughly translated. Compared to the Quan Ngon we had eaten at in Saigon, this one was kinda disappointing. The soup didn’t seem as tasty, and they had less dessert options.The service was nice, though, and we had at least one waiter standing by our table the whole night. (Apparently the owner had told him to stay at our table).

My .3 liter of Pragold’s blond beer. Not many Viet people drink beer in restaurants — they tend to take shots, such as the table that we sat next to. They got pretty rowdy.

After the filling meal, Theresa, Evan, Quan, and I went to this place called Pragold to relax and drink beer before we went back to the hotel to sleep. The beer tasted pretty good, though it wasn’t a light beer, and was a little stronger than what I’m used to. One thing I’ve noticed is that I can only drink beer on its own; I can’t drink beer as a beverage when eating a meal — I just don’t like mixing the tastes that way. Quan was kinda reluctant to drink, having thrown up after imbibing too much during our fresh seafood dinner in Nha Trang. However, once he saw that I was going to drink, he decided that he had to drink too. We both got .3 liters, while Theresa and Evan both ordered 1 liters for themselves. Quan accidentally ordered a second .3 liter, but decided that it was too much after one sip, so I ended up drinking half of it. By the time I drank half, he managed to feel well enough to drink the other, though it was definitely more than he had wanted.

The ridiculously hot and sticky outfits we had to wear. I’ve never even seen those hats before. Apparently, this was a first for Theresa too.

The next morning we left at around 7 or 7:30 to go to Nghe An in order to visit the family shrines on Theresa’s mom’s side of the family. We stopped in a small town on the way in order to visit the small shrine in the country so we could get it out of the way and only have to visit one shrine the next day. I don’t know why, but it seems soooo much hotter in the north than in the south. Just standing outside was enough to make me sweat rather profusely, and since we had stopped at the shrine in the afternoon, we had to stand around after the earth had absorbed heat for most of the day. We also had to wear some traditional dress, and having to wear extra layers was definitely not fun. (One interesting thing is that the old Vietnamese language was written in a similar way to Chinese — with symbols, rather than roman letters. We saw this style of writing at the shrines.) After paying our respects to Theresa’s ancestors, we went to someone’s house. Apparently, this person had driven them around Nghe An or something the last time Theresa’s family had visited. His house was huge — 3 stories — and had leather furniture and a big flat screen (though probably an older model). I don’t remember exactly what he does, but apparently he has houses in other countries because he travels a lot for his business. After visiting him, we were finally allowed to go to our hotel and rest up for an hour or so before going to dinner with some of Theresa’s relatives. I don’t remember what the place was called, but the food was decent, and the room was kept fairly cool, so all in all, it was enjoyable.

Evan was persuaded into taking a shot of some rice liquor but was afraid of going blind from the possibility of it being home-made (incorrectly).

The next day was for visiting the big shrine. At first, I was reluctant to go. After all the driving and non-stop doing things all the time, I was ready for a break. Besides, it wasn’t my ancestors that we would be visiting. My uncle made it clear that the day was voluntary, but he pointed out that it would be better to go and experience the culture, rather than sitting in the hotel all day. Even so, I was reluctant, but after a night’s sleep, decided that I would go ahead and go. Luckily, the drive was much shorter in comparison to the ride to Nghe An (only about an hour and a half), and once we were done paying respects to the ancestors, it was time for lunch. We soon found out that it was also time to party. About 50 of the family members had gathered to pay respects at the shrine and then spend time together afterwards. We were warned not to eat anything at the lunch, since this was in a rural area, so we only ate 2 plates of quail eggs. Soon, some of the adults were carrying around bottles of liquor and roped Evan into drinking shots. Being a big man and not unfamiliar to alcohol, his alcohol tolerance is pretty high. In no time, he was taken around to each table so that he could take shots with everyone. Little did he know, he would have to take shots with almost each person, rather than having one shot per table.

Evan taking shots with a group of men. My uncle is the guy on the far right with the glasses.

Eventually, my aunt and uncle stepped in and convinced them to stop talking Evan into drinking shots. They were all disappointed and said “Just one more!”, but “Just one more” is never just one more. The drinking finally died down and Evan was given a plate of citrus fruits to snack on in order to help facilitate the digestion of all the alcohol he just took. One of the more drunk guys (the guy in the center facing the camera) came over to Evan and gave him a big hug. Evan, being jolly and kinda drunk, decided to pick the man up in a bear hug. This was a bad idea because it encouraged the man (who is half Evan’s size) to attempt the same thing, which then led to them both falling over. The other guy seemed fine, but I think it was more the alcohol preventing him from really feeling anything. Point of the story is, I’m glad I went with them, and after seeing everyone have so much fun (they started drinking at like, 11:30!), the drive seemed worth the trouble. Evan kept saying he never wanted to leave the place because he was having so much fun with the people there. My aunt commented that she thinks the Vietnamese are the most fun people out of Asians. Once we got back to Nghe An (the reunion was in Vinh), we went to have some much needed lunch at a street vendor place across from our hotel. We were so starved that everyone had two bowls of soup (most of us had mien ngan, which is mung bean noodles with goose, I think). Afterwards, Theresa and I took a look at the shoe store next to our hotel, while the rest of them went straight back and took a nap. I found a pair of small high heel, close toed, close heeled shoes to wear with my new ao dai. (I made my pants a little long to wear with high heels, but didn’t bring any high heels with me on the trip, and we’re supposed to wear our ao dais later this week.) When I got back to the hotel, instead of napping, I read on my Kindle.

The hotel had a pretty fountain in front of it, though the water kinda sprayed all over the place.

After everyone had rested enough, we went to Theresa’s parents’ room to pray. Due to the morning’s activities, we had missed the Sunday mass, so we prayed a rosary and read the day’s readings. Once we finished praying, we decided to go eat at the same place we had eaten dinner the night before. When we got back to the hotel, we found a lobby full of Vietnamese, teeny-bopper, high school students on some kind of school vacation. They were pretty loud and were crowding in front of the elevators, so Quan and I decided to take the stairs. Evan and Theresa opted for the elevators. I dunno about Quan, but I was pretty winded by the time we got to the 6th floor. The next morning, we left around 8:30 to go back to Hanoi. However, we stopped by Theresa’s oldest relative in the city before leaving (it’s a tradition kind of thing). By the time we were done with our visit, it was probably around 9:30 or 10.

One of the pictures I took of the mountain scenery on the way back to Hanoi from Nghe An.

Although the van we had this time was pretty uncomfortable, I somehow conked out soon enough and didn’t wake up unless we stopped for gas or lunch. We took a different route, since the way we drove when heading to Nghe An had tons of construction along it. This time, we went through the mountains, and though it was a little longer, it probably ended up taking less time. We got to our hotel around 5:30 — another May de Ville, the sister hotel of the one we had stayed at the last time we were in Hanoi — and had a period of rest before we went to eat dinner with some more family around 7. We went to a fancy buffet restaurant and ended up sitting with one of Theresa’s relatives around our age. He spoke English and has studied in the US, but was really full of it and dominated the conversation the whole night. He also drove us back to our hotel in his new, beat-up Lexus and invited us to go clubbing with him the tomorrow night, but seeing as he’s really egotistical, we’re probably going to find some excuse to not go with him.

Apparently this is how they transport liquor in Vietnam. A nearby table was taking shots when we stopped for lunch on the way to Hanoi.

AND NOW I’M FINALLY CAUGHT UP. Geez, blogging is so much work. I can’t believe some people do this every day. I’d do some vlogging here, but I’m uncomfortable with vlogging in front of my cousins and don’t get much time to myself. I’ll try to post every day now, since we do stuff pretty much every day, and if you haven’t been mousing over my pictures, you should. I usually have some alt text in addition to the shown description.    
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