The Isdell Center for Global Leadership’s annual theme of FOOD took center stage today.
During our time in Vietnam, we’ve consumed more than our fair share of rice, prepared in countless ways — all of them delicious. So, we decided to go behind the scenes to see where that rice is grown and how it’s cultivated. We traveled about an hour and a half outside the city to meet a family of farmers and see how they live.
Our destination happened to be near our tour guide Vinny’s hometown. He asked if we’d like to stop, meet his parents and see their home. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity.
The town is small, and Vinny said tourists never visit. He was the smartest boy in his school and went on to study foreign affairs at the University of Hanoi. Vinny sent money home and saved enough to build a new house for his parents — his father was a farmer, his mother a teacher. The home, finished five years ago, is beautiful, and he was clearly proud to show us around and introduce us to his father. Respect for one’s elders is a key component of Vietnamese culture; there are no nursing homes here, Vinny told us. Children care for their parents to thank them for all they provided. The visit was a sweet surprise and a wonderful opportunity to get an intimate look at everyday life in Vietnam.
Then it was on to the farm. Eighty percent of the Vietnamese population are farmers, and we drove through miles and miles of rice paddies en route to our destination, a little farming town with a temple, a school and its own water puppet theater.
On the farm we learned how to water fields from irrigation canals and how to plant rice — James and Max even tried to plow one of the paddies (the cow was not amused). The farmer and his family hosted us for lunch afterward.
Following some downtime in our hotel, we ventured out into the city for a street-food tour. Our guides from Hidden Hanoi took us down alleyways and busy streets to three popular street-food spots, where we sampled local favorites such as banana flower salad and pork skewers.
We concluded the evening seated at tiny plastic tables on a busy street corner, enjoying bahn cuon and pho chien ron and listening to the sounds of Saturday night in Hanoi.