The best memories I have from my solo travels are my interactions with the locals. When I travel I try to learn and experience the local culture as much as possible. Sometimes good things come out of nowhere.
This is one of those stories when you go out for dinner on a normal day and you come back a bit drunk and you don’t know exactly how that happened.
As I was travelling Vietnam from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi for one month, one of my stops was Ninh Binh. It is one of those places that you don’t know about it from the internet or guides, but you meet someone and tells you it is an amazing place. Since the people I was travelling with were going there, I decided to join them for two days.
In Ninh Binh we stayed at a small Eco Hostel, somewhere outside the city. It was located in a beautiful area, surrounded by rice fields, farms and impressive rock formations. Being considered an “eco” hostel, the price was a bit expensive. The hostel also had a restaurant with a menu not very appealing.
So around 5-6pm I was getting hungry. I didn’t want to eat at the hostel’s restaurant and I decided to go alone and find another place. I checked google maps and I’ve found a restaurant, not far away from the hostel. The torrential rain has just stopped, the sun was out and it was the perfect opportunity to explore a bit the surroundings.
After a few minutes walk, I arrived at that restaurant. From outside it didn’t seem like it was opened. It was all empty, except for one big table where a bunch of locals were very noisy. Since I didn’t have many options now, I decide to go inside. As I enter the restaurant, a woman comes from the big table and welcomes me. I sat down at a small table, not far from the group of locals. I check the menu and I order lemongrass chicken with rice.
The happy group were really enjoying their time. Their table was full of Vietnamese food, a lot of glasses of alcohol and you could hear Vietnamese music on the background. They were talking loudly, laughing and singing while eating their food. It was probably someone’s birthday.
So I get my food, I eat it and I ask for the bill. While I was waiting for change, a man from the party table comes to me with a shot glass of alcohol. He was not speaking any English, but his intentions were clear. He wanted me to join them.
As I join their table I quickly became the centre of attention. He then fills my glass with rice wine from a big bowl. Everybody now raises their glass and we cheer: Mot, hi, ba, yo! If you never had rice wine, you should know that the percentage of alcohol can be quite high, sometimes over 40%.
Now they want me to eat and try their food. There were 4-5 different dishes on the table, some looking familiar, some not. As I try the first dish, they were all staring at me to check my face expression. I don’t know what I had, but it was good. I show them thumb up and they all cheered and my shot glass was full again. It was not even two minutes after my first shot, but I couldn’t refuse it. Everybody drinks their shot and I want to try another dish.
This went on for a few minutes. I was sitting at this table, with a bunch of locals, eating their food and drinking shots of rice wine. I was telling them my name and that I am from Romania, probably the only words that they could understand.
After some time I left the restaurant and went back to the hostel. I love when local people are very welcoming and open. Even though they were not speaking any English we were able to communicate somehow, eat and drink together. Unfortunately I lost all the photos I took with my camera that day and the day before, but that’s another story.