The sluggish river, heavy with sediment, trickled like treacle across a valley floor that had been cut up in a latticed network of paddy fields. The ripe rice, heavy on the stalks, rippled in the cool afternoon breeze offering a little respite to the half dozen farmers who toiled under the beating tropical sun. I was oblivious to the heat as our car sped along the valley floor, a cocooned air conditioned bubble, following the grey tarmac road that cut through the emerald green fields on the banks of one of the tributaries of the Mekong River. The driver pointed ahead of us to a small roadside hut and my Dad exchanged rapid words in Vietnamese. It was time for lunch and although it didn’t look like it, the small bamboo house was the best restaurant for miles around.
We arrived in front of the restaurant in a small cloud of dust and quickly got out of the car. The place looked empty, but our driver ushered us in to the dimly lit interior of the building. The inside was as plain and simple as the exterior. Wooden beams and bamboo slats were crudely fixed together with nails to make the single long low sitting table that took up most of the front room. The floor was packed dirt topped with bamboo. Yet everything was spotlessly clean.
There was no menu on the table, but this didn’t seem to matter. The driver walked through the front of the restaurant and poked his head round the corner of the door to the kitchen. A brief conversation followed as the driver ordered food from the unwritten menu. We made ourselves comfortable and took a seat by the low slung table. When the driver returned, he had a jug of water in his hands and a collection of cups.
We sat and relaxed, stretching our limbs after the long morning drive which we had spent getting thrown around on the pot holed road in our big four wheeled drive. As we waited, the room filled up with the rich aroma of Vietnamese cooking. The fragrance of lemongrass, soy sauce and a dozen spices I would be hard pressed to name surrounded me and it was not long before all of our stomachs were grumbling.
The food once it arrived was more like a feast than a simple meal. Steamed lobsters jostled for space with bowels of noodle soup, spring rolls, dumplings and lotus stem salad. Everything was fresh and mouth-wateringly tasty. We piled our plates high with food, sampling every dish. One hour later we left the restaurant with our stomach full to bursting after devouring a feast fit for a king that had cost less than ten dollars.
It’s been fifteen years since the last time I visited Vietnam and nostalgia has probably played a part in my memories of this one day so many years ago. Yet despite the time that has past, my memories of Vietnam are still vivid. It is a country that anyone travelling through South East Asia just has to explore. The people are friendly, the food is delicious and the scenery is picturesque.
All images used here are courtesy of travelindochina.co.uk, who’ve kindly provided the pictures to bring new life to old memories. Later this year, when I finally revisit Vietnam, I’ll happily show you a few of my own photos of this fantastic country. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about Vietnam, Travel Indochina has plenty of interesting itineraries to check out.