Sunday, 8 March 2009

Ninh Binh and Wedding

We had a really busy day yesterday, doing a mixture of touristy activities and maintaining, what has become, a very active social calendar.
We were up at 5.30am ready to catch the bus to Ninh Binh where we visited the Tom Coc Bich Dong natural limestone caves by row boat, before visiting Phat Diem Catholic Church which was built to resemble a pagoda. The Vietnamese people are predominantly Budist with pockets of Catholicism scattered across the country due to the French influence. Our visit coincided with the filming of a local documentary and Gosia was nominated to take part in an interview. Well, we couldn’t let Arjan have all the limelight! ;-)
Tom Coc Bich Dong is what I consider to be picture postcard Vietnam, set amongst paddy fields and limestone outcrops, with locals working the land in straw, triangular hats. Our elderly local guide, rowed us along the river using her feet (I have no idea how she managed this) while simultaneously trying to sell us embroidered table cloths and to negotiate her tip! After returning to the hotel in the evening, we had about 30mins to beautify ourselves for the wedding. Armed with a present for the newly weds and only one interpreter, we arrived at the venue, where the 1000+ guests were seated on round tables spread across two floors. A live TV feed between the floors, meant that guests could track the bride, groom and their families as they mingled with guests and received toasts from each of the tables. It’s customary in Vietnam for you to stand during each toast and to toast every new acquaintance you make, with a glass of dessert or rice wine. Bearing in mind that we knew very few people at this event and hence were getting a lot of introductions, we were in and out of our seats like yo-yos, with dozens of cameras capturing the moment. Appropriately this leads me on to my word of the day, cheers, which sounds like took sook koy.

In the few minutes when we were seated, we tucked into the food and watched the entertainment, which was a cross between Strictly Come Dancing and Vietnam has Talent. Maybe this is something Pete and I should have at our wedding?! Then as suddenly as the meal had started, the guests started to disperse and it was over. This is fairly common at a Vietnamese wedding and we were leaving the venue within an hour of getting there, but not before Mr Dung (my client) and Monica’s started a competition of who-could-be-the-host(ess)-with-the-most(est). Mr Dung won and we were whisked off to the cinema to watch Inkheart, with Vietnamese subtitles.

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