As I have previously emphasized – I am a tourist, not a “traveler.” Tourists sit in air-conditioned buses eating caramel corn. “Travelers” hike through bug-infested river trails before sitting down for a hearty meal of barbequed goat gallbladders. As I write this, I am preparing to depart Vietnam where I came to attend a wedding. The wheels came off my “tourist” bus the moment the tires touched down at Cam Ranh International Airport. I was thrust into the unfamiliar role of being a traveler.
Here is what I discovered –
Comparing the size of my body to the average Vietnamese, is like comparing the size of a school bus to the average Mini Cooper.
On our first day, everybody got fitted for an ao dai. This is the traditional Vietnamese wedding attire. Disturbingly, after the thirteen of us arrived at the ao dai store, the ao dai people took one look at me and my friend (who, for the purposes of this column, I will refer to as “Tim,” because his name is Tim Larson) and gasped. They knew immediately that they didn’t have anything that was going to circumnavigate our impressive bellies. We were summarily ordered to climb onto the back of scooters behind a couple of strangers and transported straightaway to a Vietnamese “Big and Fat” ao dai store. At the second store, the employees’ brows shot up. They were obviously wondering if they had ANYTHING, including any camping tents in the back, with enough square footage to meet this challenge. In the end, they found two ao dais that, if I do say so myself, tastefully accented my man boobs.
The next day, two surprises awaited me at the prewedding party (a feast held the day before the actual wedding). First, while I had fair warning about the fearless Vietnamese mosquitos, no one told me about the fire ants. Here is one that went out of his way to menace me –
There isn’t anything in the picture to give it scale, so trust me when I tell you it was 18 inches long. Okay, I’m exaggerating! It was 12 inches long. I handled the situation like I bravely handle all physical threats – I ran.
Also, no one warned me that when they cut up the chickens to grill, the head was part of the menu –
I did not eat this chicken head for a very good reason. It scared me.
Chicken heads aside, the wedding was incredible. It culminated in a spectacular outdoor ceremony complete with traditional dancers, karaoke and endless toasting to the occasion. Here is a glimpse –
Congratulations, Kian and Tina! We love you!
To cap the week, on our final night here, another one of our nephews proposed to his girlfriend! We all witnessed the special event. We actually watched Zach get down on one knee and propose to Violet! It was VERY exciting. I immediately suggested a destination wedding to, of course, Vietnam!
I leave here with only a few regrets –
First, I never ate a sidewalk lobster. In Vietnam, apparently, if you can access a tin bowl, charcoal, an oven rack, and of course, a few lobsters, you are now a small business owner. Here is one such operation –
Second, I arrived too late to save this crocodile’s life. He was skewered and rotating on an open grill by the time I became aware of his plight. I’m sorry, Mr. Crocodile! –
And finally, I never had the chance to have a cup of coffee at the Phuc Long coffee shop. I am not a formally trained linguist. However, in my experience, an “h” immediately following a “p” is usually pronounce as an “f” sound. Here it is –
I’ll let you try to sound it out. Have you figured it out yet? The “C” is silent, so the correct prounciation is, “Starbucks.”
Alas, I must now depart.
I’m going to buy some caramel corn for the plane.
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