Trip Start Nov 23, 2007
35Trip End Dec 11, 2007
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This morning, we arose before light to get ready for the 7am wedding. (Yes, VN does everything early in the day)
As we all left our rooms, the power went out. The timing on our part could not have been better. When we arrived at the church, power was still out and remained unavailable until 10 minutes before Mass. The ceremony was very plain. The priest made some terrible joke about the innocence of a child that hears from her mother that her father is running around with "con cho" (a dog....a 'bitch' as it were). Grandpa/grandma had the distinction of being the witnessing couple for the bride/groom. The sequence of traditional nuptial ceremonies was not adhered to, as the wedding ceremony took place first temporally, but the final video edit of the day's events would show events in proper order as described earlier.
For instance, the groom's family usually presents gifts to the bride's family to ask for her hand in marriage first. This ceremony took place after the actual wedding liturgy on this day. The groom's family assembled short of the bride's home and processes with representatives/dignitaries up front, then gift bearers, then groom/father and groom's family
The ceremony started with a statement of intention, presentation of gifts, official acceptance of gifts and sharing of a drink between family spokespeople. The drink is usually a stiff vodka served in wooden cups while the mothers chew some fruit that turns red for good luck. Then the bride came out in traditional red wedding garb and the groom offered her flowers. Then the couple served a drink to their parents. That was followed by the bride's family offering gifts, mostly gold--symbolic and prized because gold will not lose its value. Each family member presented her with a gold ring. Those that could afford more offered heavier gold bands. By the time that was over, the bride had 2 hands full of golden rings (cue 12 Days of Christmas music haha). Her mother gave her diamond earrings and the groom's parents gave her a gold necklace and gold bracelet. Finally, the groom's family was invited to dine on salty foods. The word was that the bride had helped with food preparation that morning (Good God
While we ate, the bride's family waited on us. Food was very good: Goi (salad), Bo kho (beef jerky), duck, etc. The couple went from table to table and shared a toast with each half of the table so everyone could be photographed (and practically speaking, so the couple could check who was present later). We knew they were both famished by the time they arrived at our table, so we basically fed them beween drinks. At my table sitting next to me was this young lady who had been batting eyelashes at me all morning. She made several attempts at idle conversation. Not one to be rude, I was cordial. This prompted my aunts to ask her and her older aunt about their family. Ugh! Oh well, whatever. She was a 21yo nurse, petite, with glasses that weren't so complimentary. She just wasn't my type. She remained aggressive about starting up conversation til I left to help grandpa out of the tent. It was time to leave--10:35. Plenty of time before 11.
Back at the banquet hall, the groom's family, not being from town, had rented a large side room to be the groom's "home". We welcomed the bride's family in, had a prayer ceremony and then presented the bride with monetary gifts. Afterwards, everyone was invited to enjoy sweet foods, and the groom's family waited on the bride's family
We went to XQ so that grandpa/ma could enjoy themselves while Mom had her final fitting done. Our friendly salesperson was there again. I found out she was finished with work at 5pm so I asked her to be my date to the reception. She replied that she would love to but would like to receive an invitation from Mom. So I told Mom and she came over to invite her. I was continuing my trend of making a hangout friend in every town. (No, I'm not looking for a wife here, despite what you're thinking). Meanwhile, I had no idea Grandpa/Uncle Fa were having tea and trying to set me up with this 30yo who worked in the tea garden. Umm....no. Lol! She was a bit too aged looking anyway
We left with Mom's new ao dai and dropped grandpa/mo off for their afternoon nap. The aunts, Uncle, Mom & I went north to Thap Ba (Po Nagar Cham Towers) - these temples belonged to the Cham people who had been discriminated against over the years, their lands taken over, and largely integrated into Viet society. They are still outcasts with tens of thousands of them spread throughout this region. Beautiful views of the surrounding areas are afforded by the high vantage point of the towers
We headed further north to Hon Chong Promontory ("Husband Stone") an outcropping with large stone formations. There is a smaller formation that is nearby Hon Vo ("Wife Stone"). There is a legend about a handprint left on one of the rocks by a giant male fairy who fell in love with a female fairy bathing at the nearby Suoi Tien ("Fairy Fountain"). The gods intervened and sent him away. The female fairy, saddened by his departure, laid down on the hillside and turned into Nui Co Tien ("Fairy Mountain"). You can actually see the outlines of trees and mountain forming the outlines of a woman lying down. Kinda neat.
We climbed the hillside to a historic building that had been rebuilt here. What is unique is that this building has no nails keeping the structure together. Pieces are fit together so that it remains intact but otherwise there are no supplementary structural components
Back to the hotel to wake grandpa/ma, and for aunts/mom/uncle to powernap. I went for a fast run and stopped in stores to negotiate for batteries along the way. I showered and left to pick up my date at 5 from XQ. I saw the people going off shift leave but didn't see her. Her name is Kim-Khanh, ironically. (My name is Khanh.) I went to the Fashion room, where people said she had left earlier. Hmmm.... Had this girl stood me up? I nervously paced about outside for a few minutes. And then thought well why not wait for a few minutes? Maybe something happened? Around 5:15, she showed up from out of nowhere. Apparently she left early because her dad needed the family's moto to pick up the other daughter from school. Kim-Khanh was not wearing an ao dai any more, to my surprise: she had on trendy jeans, a nice floral top, and white sweater
The sun dipped fast and then it was time to head for the banquet. I had asked everyone to reserve a seat for me as far away from the nurse chick as possible, which thankfully they did. I introduced my newfound buddy to the aunts and Mom (just a formality) and we sat down for dinner. There is no pre-arranged seating here at Vietnamese wedding receptions. Families are to give as accurate counts as possible (to make sure that it's alright the numbers that they bring, which are often high) so that the restaurant/hotel has the right number of tables, but there are always extra tables at the ready. Another unique thing is the solution for the law forbidding firecrackers in the banquet hall. A column of balloons is drawn up to the ceiling so they pop when they hit the spikes that are on the ceiling. When drawn up fast enough, the popping balloons sound just like firecrackers. Then there's the number of courses. 6 with dessert. In the US, it's 8-12 courses followed by dancing all night. Here, it's lots of karaoke (a terrible idea) and when dessert is served (fresh fruits), it's over
Food was mediocre, but it was really cool to hear Kim-Khanh explain how a lot of the dishes were made. For instance, the rice paper eaten around here is slightly different from the rice paper we use for goi cuon (summer rolls) in the United States. Ours starts as a dried superthin wafer that breaks really easily but becomes a nice soft wrap when soaked in water for a few moments. Here they do something to keep the rice paper drier so that it has a bit of a crunch to it (and it stays together rather well for being so thin and dry). One of the big hits with people here are my Listerine breath strips. Everyone loves them. After dinner, I offered them to the Aunts, Mom and Kim-Khanh.
Kim-Khanh and I left (party was over) to walk off dinner
I walked back to the hotel to find Mom and aunts sitting out front waiting for me. They were worried I'd get kidnapped and sold off as a prostitute, me being without a cell phone (which actually hasn't been a problem for me at all--I missed it the 1st day or so but that was it!) and not knowing any phone numbers by heart. I got changed and we went to get ice cream at the posh Four Seasons on the beach. On our way, out of nowhere, popped the nurse chick again. She made idle convo as she walked with us. When asked where she was headed, she said "milk for my littlest brother" (sua cho em ut)... hmm, a likely story. Originally, I thought she had said she was going to get sea snails, so I asked "Sea snails?! You're going to get snails now?" She said "No. But if you want some, my sister sells them. When we get back to Saigon, you should come over and we can go get some." "That could be cool" We broke off and went a different direction. When we were out of earshot, Mom said that that girl "than kong Khanh" (Is on the attack trying to get Khanh). We had poor service at the cafe (a very common occurrence here in VN) and went back to the hotel. We ran into one of Mom's old friends. They sat and talked while I retired to pack. We had to go to Mass at 5am and head to Phan Thiet for Huy's girlfriend's sister's wedding reception.