We were walking from one small village to another – I think outside DaNang – and as we were on the edge of town, about to cross the rice paddies, this guy (with only one hand) pulls up on a motorcycle in front of a small house with an empty basket on the back. Mai (Classic Journeys’ guide) comments, “That’s a pig basket. That guy is probably going in and trying to buy a pig at that house. Let me go check it out.” She’s back in 30 seconds saying the people in the house and the pig buyer are willing to let us into their house to watch the pig buyer catch one of the pigs. We go into the house, which is basically a bedroom, a living room (with a china cabinet, a few plates, tea cups and a stack of plastic chairs for a kindergarten class; but actually their living room furniture), and a small kitchen. Then out the back door into the pig sty (attached to the house) which has a massive sow and a couple of small pigs. This guy hops in the pen, does the one-handed pig scoop with the basket, and we all parade through the house with the pig, take it outside, and strap it to the motorcycle. The family is curious with this crew of foreigners. Through Mai, they start asking questions and we discussed the weather, snow, hard work, life in the States and some other topics.
It is this type of willingness to engage during the tour that makes someone like Mai – and this particular trip – so great. It would have been far easier to have just watched the pig come out from a distance and had an explanation of what was going on. But instead, we became part of the process, got to meet this family and pig merchant, and had a real experience.
15 minutes later we were in the middle of the next town’s morning market – and same thing – the market stopped for 10 minutes while 50 women gathered to find out just who WE were. Shy at first, they started asking Mai questions about us, wanting to know if we were talking about them. We responded that we wondered the same thing about them, which brought peals of laughter. What could have been a “here is a typical morning market in rural Vietnam, now let’s continue walking” turned into yet another impromptu and engaging cultural experience way beyond your typical tour. I would add that Corey and I are also jaded adventure travelers. We have traveled extensively. We are not easily impressed by guides. So our praise is most genuine. This was a great trip, but made exceptional by Mai in Vietnam and Pum in Cambodia.
Editor’s note: A special thanks to John and Corey Fowler, Classic Journeys guests who just returned from our Vietnam & Angkor Wat trip. It turns out that Corey is an avid photographer and took over 2800 photos. John authored this blog. As you enjoy the photo, know that as they say in Hollywood, “no pigs were injured in the writing of this blog.”
If you’d like to share your experiences on any of our cultural walking adventures, culinary tours or family journeys, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.