Happy Women's Day! March 8th is a special holiday in Vietnam which honors wives and mothers. We saw evidence of this last night when viewing the large amount of flowers for sale in streetside booths on our drive from the airport. This is the one day of the year when Vietnamese men do the housework and mind the children (at least that's what our concierge told us).
Everyone seems to be in good spirits today following our first full night of sleep after spending nearly 48 hours in airports and on airplanes. Although we stayed in downtown Hanoi, a city of 7.5 million roosters could be heard crowing as we got ready for the day. We boarded the bus and began the day with a trip to a farm that grows peach trees...but not for peaches. The trees are groomed for flower production and are used by Vietnamese families during the new year celebration. This is probably similar to the American tradition of Christmas trees although the peach trees are put in pots and rented out for $500-$700 per month. Farmers can make approximately 20-30 times as much money per hectare growing peach trees versus the traditional crop of rice.
After we left that farm we traveled to a vegetable farm and were able to see a wide variety of vegetables being grown as well as talk with the local farmer who lived there. He grew several different things many of us had heard of including cabbage, tomatoes, onions, and kohlrabi but then we were able to see new things such as 'beetlegoot' which is like a large zucchini. Our tour guide, Thai, then brought us to his home village of Ben Trong where we saw some of the farming operation owned by his family. We were able to get a taste of the daily life of a Vietnamese farmer by trying our hand at plowing behind a water buffalo or transplanting rice into a flooded patty. Dr Thaler tried plowing but instead ended up chasing a spooked water buffalo barefoot through a rice patty.
Muddy but excited, Thai took us to his parents home where they had a large meal waiting for us which consisted of so many dishes it was hard to keep track of what we were eating. It consisted of different types of salad, vegetables, chicken, pork, beef, and spring rolls.
After lunch, Thai brought us to his uncle's duck and hog farming operation. It was interesting to see how animal production techniques differ from those used in our country. Thai's uncle also owns a miniature combine on tracks that he uses to custom harvest rice for neighboring farmers.
On the walk back through the village, we saw several shops that manufacture paper deities, animals, and other trinkets which the Vietnamese people buy and burn, believing that these goods will be transferred to their deceased ancestors in the afterlife.
As we continued walking through the village we stumbled upon a women's day celebration in the village community center building. They were happy to see us and the mayor thanked us for coming as we celebrated and danced to celebrate the national holiday. Soon after that we boarded the bus and traveled to Halong Bay.
It was a crazy and incredible, but long day and we are excited to see what tomorrow brings.
In the words of the mayor: "Good luck,good health, and happy family!" from the Mithrin Hotel, Halong Bay, Vietnam!