hanoi: teaming up with hung
after having quite the experience in tam coc, vietnam, it was time to head back north to touch base in hanoi. with time continuing to dwindle, i had another quick turn around, merely spending a few hours in hanoi as the bus to sa pa departed only hours later.
taking the time to enjoy the culture and locals during my homestay in tam coc was continuing to be a very rewarding decision. as my homestay family was helping me determine the best route to sa pa, they offered up the idea of meeting with their son in hanoi, a tour guide currently giving boat tours out of halong bay. feeling like i'd be burdening their son upon agreeing, i quickly and graciously declined the offer. but after insisting for the 10th time and really not taking no for an answer like they did not even understand what "no thank you" meant, I found myself a buddy for my lay over in hanoi.
the roughly 3 hour bus ride flew by as i rested and had tunes in my ears. landing in hanoi around supper time, i was told i would be greeted by my homestay's son hung, who'd be riding a motorcycle with a spare helmet in hand. ahhhh, my knight in shining armor has finally come to my rescue. sure enough, hung was patiently waiting for me with a huge smile on his face. shaking hands and exchanging names, happier than ever to greet each other, i hopped on the back of his motorcycle to be taken around hanoi....to wherever sir hung wanted to go.
only having a couple hours together until my next departure, hung wanted to get me culturefied, and quickly. we first went to a bar by st. joseph's cathedral where we drank tea and ate sunflower seeds out of the shell as the northern vietnamese do. he showed me how to break the shell with your hands in order to get to the prized possession, the seed we would soon devour. breing the goof i am, i jokingly tossed one directly in my mouth pretending to consume the seed, shell, and all. hung threw his hands at me as he said "no, no, no" with a smile on his face when i then proceeded to hmm and haw. "ptooey," spat the shell on the floor with the rest of them, with seed left behind in my mouth. hung was surprised at my amazing sunflower seed eating skills, and we laughed as i described my years of eating sunflower seeds out of the shell while swatting flies in right field during the wonder years of grade school baseball.
being the friendly being hung is, he attempted and was successful at paying for our seeds and tea. we then proceeded to our next spot, pho 10, his highest recommendation for vietnamese pho soup in this northern vietnamese city.
in addition to it being open late for its patrons, this place was jam packed. we got the standard northern vietnamese pho (which i just recently learned has its differences with southern vietnamese pho), and hung instructed me how to properly eat.
step 1: taste the broth as is to see what you're working with (dammmm this has some lovely brothy flavors built into here).
step 2: add some chili sauce based on your personal preferences (medium heat for me please, otherwise this whopper of a nose will be a running faucet all night)
step 3: squeeze the juice from your lime wedges into your chinese soup spoon. don't worry if the lime seeds fall into the spoon, there's a technique to be learned. as you pour the juice into your pho, place the ends of your chopsticks into the soup spoon in a way to hold the seeds from falling into the pho. nice trick hung!
step 4: eat the noodles, sprouts, greens, onions, beef with chop sticks. slurp, slurp, slurp the broth right out of the bowl and make all the noise you want. enjoy the company at your table whether your are old time friends, or just starting out to build a life long relationship.
step 5: remember how to get back to pho 10 for next time!
sorry hung, this time i'm paying the bill. in addition to the amazing, savory pho, pho 10 was a smaller restaurant, tight squeezed, almost always shoulder to shoulder with people you have never met. pho broth and toppings were being brewed in the corner with heavy steam blowing your way. was definitely not the most comfortable spot to eat, but for me this added to the charm and enjoyment of the experience. back at home i am surrounded by things being so comfortable, overly catered to our temperature needs, claustrophobic needs, taste bud needs, etc. this place, this lifestyle, says come on in, have a seat, enjoy some of the best soup you'll ever have, and then move along to do you thing.
with the clock ticking, as it always is, we had to get me back to the tour group's pickup station. hopping on the back of hung's motorcycle, time for one last cruise around hanoi. hung parked the motorcycle, and took me into the tour group's shop to ensure everything was set up perfectly for my trip to sa pa. as he got me situated, we added each other on social media, had a few more good laughs and smiles, and embraced before he went to his apartment for the night.
not sure if i will ever see hung or anyone from the family at my homestay in tam coc again, but i will definitely never forget about the time we all spent together and how they literally helped me begin rewiring the idea of feeling like a burden on others. a deep rooted narrative of mine is that my needs, my wants, are a burden on others, even if they ask to assist or be apart of my life in any which way. i always tried to take care of my emotional and physical needs on my own, whether it was obvious or not, which also unfortunately just mean pushing them down and hiding them. the older i get, the more i realize this actually creates a deeper distance between myself and others by not allowing others in. by not speaking and sharing my truth, no matter how tender it may be for me to do so.
whether one is able to recognize it or not, we will never accomplish anything solely on our own. others are always a part of our successes, whether it be physically, emotionally, or spiritually. lean on each other, especially when its offered or needed, that's how we truly become successful in life.