Vietnamese don’t celebrate Thanksgiving of course, so we had to find a unique way to celebrate. Warning: chickens were harmed in the making of this tale.
We decided to spend our last day in Phong-Nha exploring the back roads by bicycle. People are so excited to see foreigners here because it has only been a few years since a paved road has provided access to the outside world.
Cycling through the rice paddies is fun, as everyone who sees you shouts hello. Children run up to you and the braver ones will ask you the three questions they know in English. They all want to give you high fives.
We headed to the “Pub with Cold Beer” recommended by the Farmstay. An enterprising farmer realized she could make some money if she kept beer in the fridge and sold it to passersby. Now the farm is informally named after its stores.
The farm barbeques up chicken if you ask for it. They also invite you to pick out your chicken and slaughter it, if you so choose.
We thought barbeque chicken sounded like the perfect Thanksgiving meal. We opted out of the slaughtering part, preferring to watch the senior matriarch of the family do the dirty deed. A brave guy from Texas decided to try his hand at slaughtering, but they didn’t give him any instructions. His girlfriend had to help him finish the bird off, because it’s a little harder than you might anticipate.
Oh and that saying about running around like a chicken with its head cut off? Totally true. Now my girls understand what that means…
Apart from the farm-to-table direct method of getting our simulated turkey dinner, the rest of the afternoon felt like Thanksgiving. We were joined by several people we had met at the Farmstay, and had chicken dinner with people from France, the US, and a Vietnamese-Canadian from Toronto.
The girls played pool with the farm children, who also enthusiastically tried out all of the visitors’ bikes. They were so excited to find Claire’s child-sized bicycle!
Claire and Sophie found out that the farm children had a four-day old baby brother. They asked what his name was but were told he hadn’t yet been named. Rural Vietnamese typically don’t name their children until they are a month old. After that age, they have a much better chance of survival, so they feel safe giving their children names at that point. Can you imagine?
We later learned that 50 percent of the people in Phong Nha died in 1990 due to starvation as well as malaria. That doesn’t include the people who were being blown up by unexploded bombs.
Children in North America grow up so differently. While the farm children provided entertainment for our girls, the older sister had an important role in serving visitors. The 10-year-old was responsible for not only taking our orders, but brought us our beer, and then collected our money.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!