Besides eating, shopping and riding bikes, what else is there to do in Mai Chau?
Well . . . one can read,
play cards with the bus driver,
engage the kids in peek-a-boo,
or perhaps contribute to the delinquency of a minor . . .
But once darkness falls it’s hard to do much of anything, so JP arranged for a native dance troupe to perform for us. Some of the dances were about love, some about springtime and butterflies and sunshine, some about the harvest. The performers, a number of whom we recognized from the village shops, danced with scarves, fans and other props.
The finale was a dance with bamboo poles, similar to tinikling. The audience was invited to participate, and afterward, to partake from the jug of sweet rice wine featured in the harvest dance.
A group of French Jews who were staying in another part of our guest house asked to attend the dance performance with us. Later, they graciously allowed us to observe as they celebrated the final day of Hanukkah. (Apologies for the blurry shot; my camera battery was nearly dead.) Then they invited us to toast the holiday season with vodka.
The girls had met a group of college students in the village earlier in the day and had been invited to a bonfire. Hanna wished to remain at the guest house, but Sarah offered to accompany Laura. The bonfire was held in a field outside the village and was attended by about 20 students from another university. Most of the students ranged in age from 18-22 and studied engineering or English. All of them were eager to practice their English speaking skills with Sarah and Laura.
They played a game in which everyone joined hands and circled the bonfire. Periodically someone would abruptly change direction. If that caused a break in the circle, the two people who had dropped hands would have to sing a song. Even though Sarah and Laura never lost hold of hands, the students made them sing anyway because they were Americans. They chose “Jingle Bells.”
Some of the group told stories. A boy and girl sang a love song duet. One of the students baked a sweet potato in the bonfire for Sarah and Laura to enjoy. There was no profanity, no drinking and no fights. Laura enjoyed herself immensely, and would have liked to stay longer, but Sarah brought her back to the guest house after a couple of hours.
And finally, it was time for bed. Since the kids had gone to sleep earlier, this involved shuffling between the curtained areas to find our own sleeping space. JP had recommended sleeping in our clothes, since it was just a single overnight. We changed into fresh dry woolly socks to keep our feet warm. I kept my hat, gloves and jacket on as well and piled on a few extra quilts. It was, more or less, cabin camping in Vietnam.
Mai Chau was a great little getaway from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi. It was also a fantastic bargain. Our share of the cost of the trip, including transportation, lodging, food and the dance entertainment, totaled 3,000,000 dong, the equivalent of $30 per person. Beverages, shopping and biking were the only extra expenses.