The photo above is of the beautiful terrace of my mom’s family home in Hanoi. You can get a bird’s eye view of the streets and people, and it’s the first place I like to go before breakfast.
We hopped into my uncle’s car and headed to my mom’s family home. It was a nice scenic drive, and as the kilometres started to climb, the landscape started to reveal more and more of the unique characteristics that made it Vietnam. It was then that I could finally stop pinching myself and realize that I had made the long journey back. I had a huge smile across my face the entire drive as I stared out the window taking in all the surroundings and caught up with my uncle.
Here’s a taste of our drive towards the Hanoi city centre (talk about #views!):
Rectangular concrete buildings, daring motorcyclists, houses with storefronts, street vendors and tropical trees lined our drive. Every so often, horns would be honked by motorists to communicate yielding and passing one another. Vietnamese driving is really something else – motorists squeeze into narrow streets in all directions and in all vehicle types, and they would cross traffic with hardly any eye contact, expecting other motorists to yield for them. As a passenger, I would be on edge and my foot would instinctively reflex in a motion to hit the brakes. But everyone seemed to know what they were doing on the road here, haha.
After some skilled maneuvering through the streets, we reached the home; each of my mom’s three brothers own a house on a joint plot of land, which are semi-attached and share the same balcony, so the families freely visit each other’s houses at literally any time – whenever you feel bored, you can hop over to another house to randomly chat over refreshments, which is so awesome and rarely an occurrence in North America.
I caught up with the whole family – my maternal grandparents, 3 uncles and aunts, and 8 cousins – we had a lot of laughs and shared memories from years back when we last visited. My grandma said, “Cún con của Bà đã về rồi!”, meaning “Grandma’s puppy has finally come home” (since I was born in the Year of the Dog, of the Lunar Zodiac, the nickname my family gave me was “puppy”). As we talked, one thing that stuck out to me was that Viet people have no filter and, especially the Northerners, are witty and sarcastic, which is flippin’ hilarious! It’s really interesting to sit and listen in on conversations. They really tell like it is – my brother got a good roasting on his posture and poor Vietnamese. And, an example of their quick witty remarks: when my little cousin asked his mom when we were leaving, she replied, “when they finish all of our food” 😂
Speaking of food, within just 3 hours of arriving at the home, my relatives offered me a variety of snacks and meals – lychee, passionfruit juice, beef vermicelli soup, jackfruit, banana, and steamed rice with grilled fish and shrimp. Food is a large part of Vietnamese culture – it is a way to express compassion and is also part of socializing with friends and family. Not to mention that there is an amazing and unique variety of sweets and savoury food in Viet cuisine! Street food is really something else as well. Another post to come about Vietnamese food!
After lots of long afternoon naps, I’ve finally adjusted to the time difference between Vietnam and Canada. Next up, heading to Thailand for 5 days for a side trip! ✈️