In 2012 My ex-boyfriend and I did a motorcycling tour on the Hoh Chi Min trail from Hanoi to Da Nang. We passed through tiny villages of people who hardly ever had Western visitors and who were very, very friendly, greeting us all the time with big smiles. One time, we stopped at a tiny house which offered food for lunch. The woman started speaking Vietnamese, but we couldn’t understand her, yet she didn’t understand that we didn’t understand her. First, she very considerately let us wash our hands in a bucket of water, before providing us with something to drink and making us Phõ. She sat with us and talked to us the whole time. After we finished, she assumed I would probably have to go to the bathroom and she disappeared somewhere just to come back with toilet paper (!) which I hadn’t seen in weeks and which she must have saved for some special occasion (as most Asians don’t use toilet paper but water to clean themselves), so I felt very special ;)
She lead me to a toilet with about 200 spiders but I appreciated her confidence in me not being scared of them (arachnophobia is a Westerner’s “luxury” phenomenon entirely anyway, I guess) . Afterwards I went on to use sun screen and she started helping me put it ok my back while happily continuing to talk . As at that time I was not wearing shoes and only shorts and a tank top due to the heat, she wanted to offer me her shoes and her jacket. She must have assumed I didn’t have enough clothes, as normally the Vietnamese were wearing a jacket with a hood, long pants, socks, gloves, sunglasses and a hygiene mask to protect themselves from the sun, especially while riding a motorbike. After we finished preparing our depart, she even called her husband from the living room who had been watching TV all along and both of them stood at the door step to wave us goodbye until we couldn’t see them anymore.
This was one of the best, most genuine, heartwarming, interesting and memorable human encounters I have ever had. This extraordinarily warm and caring woman made me feel at home on the other side of the world and despite not understanding a single word from one another she treated me like her daughter. She made me feel understood on a basic level beyond language barriers and cultural differences. She created a brief moment of true connection and meaning for me that I will never forget.
Please judge for yourself if Vietnamese people are friendly, but I would certainly say I experienced them as one of the most friendly and hospitable of all the countries I have been to (44). This impression has not changed even 5 years later, as I am traveling through Vietnam right now!
Greetings from Da Lat :)