On my last day in Ho Chi Minh City I had the opportunity to do something wonderful – have a family lunch with a friend’s family!
My friend, Dung, and I met in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2004 while in training for the oil company we were both to start working for, Schlumberger. We stayed in touch a bit in the beginning but lost touch.
About a week before coming to Vietnam I found her email address in my contacts and sent her a message not expecting to be able to make contact.
Much to my surprise, she replied and was excited to see me again after so many years! The feeling was mutual.
Lunch With Dung
On one of my first days in Ho Chi Minh City we met for lunch at a café near her office. We caught up on all the basic stuff. She’s now married, has a young son, works for a different company, etc. She’s doing great, I’m doing great, and it was a wonderful reunion.
She didn’t have much time so she invited me to have lunch with her family on Sunday. Of course I agreed! When mom or grandma is making food in any country, you never pass up the opportunity!
Lunch With The Family
Long, my couchsurfing host, and I arrived at Dung’s house a bit late. But no problem.
We walked in and everyone had big smiles on their faces and were happy to see us. Maybe they were all just hungry, though, and were happy they could start eating
There were four generations of Dung’s Vietnamese family present (Grandma, parents, and her child). It is quite common on Sundays for entire families to get together, have lunch, and enjoy each other’s company.
I felt very happy to be invited to such a family gathering!
The food was amazing. There was rice, chicken, egg yolks, vegetables, fish patties that’d be fried in the hotpot, and chicken gizzards. I’m not a big fan of gizzards, but the rest was amazing!
It is customary to eat on the floor in Vietnam. You put everything on the floor and everyone shares. Come to think of it, every Vietnamese home I visited had these big, deep, wooden chairs. They had no cushions. Not sure how such a skinny people can be comfortable on all these hard surfaces, but I guess it works for them!
As the guest, I was served first. But generally the order of serving yourself is based on your age. The eldest serve themselves first and children eat last. In fact, the first family I stayed with in Ho Chi Minh City had two small daughters. The oldest daughter could eat with us as she was seven years old. But the three-year-old would watch TV while we ate, and then she was fed afterward.
It was a surprise for me as kids in places I’ve lived before are either fed first, or at the same time as everyone else.
At this lunch, Dung fed her baby while we ate. Everyone ate and ate until we were completely stuffed.
Dung prepared the food and did an amazing job. Her parents were so nice and her dad and I talked via Thanh. Her dad thought I’d be taller since I’m American. I experienced the same in Latin America. It seems like I’m a stereotype-buster wherever I go.
For desert we had some tropical fruit. There was jackfruit, lychees, and another fruit I forgot the name of but is similar to lyches.
Off To Cambodia
It was the perfect way to end my time in a city I didn’t love at first, but quickly grew on me.