Rice Wine, Bonfires & Karaoke


We arrived at Mai Chau magically, and also did not have a reservation anywhere. I had been told weeks before by another random traveller that it would be easy enough to find a bungalow over the rice fields. We found better: a homestay overlooking the rice fields. We were ushered along through the tiny town by an old woman with rotten teeth and ended up at this gorgeous Vietnamese house. Open windows, big open spaces, teak wood. We stayed on a mattress on the floor of the second level. It was perfect: cute, quaint, open, clean, comfortable, and with my Danny! And the view was gorgeous, right over the rice fields with the hills in the background. And next to us, lived the chicken whisperer! Okay, well maybe just an old woman that had a ton of chickens and made chicken noises to make them come to her. The woman who owned the house offered us dinner the first night and it was DELICIOUS. We were starving, and it took absolutely forever, but it was well worth the wait. There were fried spring rolls, omelets, traditional Vietnamese salad, vegetables, peanuts, beer, and some chicken for Dan. So clearly homemade, and so absolutely delightful.

After dinner we went to wander about the streets. It was Saturday night and for a place so calm and tiny, things were busy! We found ourselves stopping at a local restaurant that we had been passing by to watch some traditional dancing that was going on. Next thing we knew, we were being handed shots of rice whiskey and being invited in! A local woman came up to me, grabbed my arm and said “I AM SO DRUNK” and then insisted that I’ll have to dance when I’m drunk too. That’s all I saw of her all night! The men absolutely loved Dan and kept feeding him shots, but I found myself friends with a little girl. She warmed right up to me and even brought her mom over to me. Her mom was thrilled too and encouraged her to sing for me! She sang me Head and Shoulders, and the ABC’s and it was absolutely adorable. I tried to get her to sing for Dan, but she wouldn’t! Only for me. I shared some songs with her too, like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and If You’re Happy & You Know it, and she loved it. There were a lot of highlights that night, but that one is definitely one of my favorites.


We did indeed get in on the dancing, and this game that they play by moving bamboo sticks to a rhythm on the ground while people try to hop through. We did that many, MANY times, and also saw old men so drunk and hilarious that they completely wiped out. There were these big pots with reeds coming out of them that we kept being invited to drink, which I think was rice wine. The whole thing was hilarious.


The friends we met there invited us to join them to their stop: a bonfire! We didn’t really understand where they were taking us, but we quickly learned that “bonfire” was an understatement: there were about a dozen fires in a huge field! Each fire had an entirely different party going on: one with traditional dances, one with people just standing around chatting, one a huge rave. There were some completely abandoned! At the other end of the field there were sparklers being spun around into the sky, sending firey light in all directions. We spend time at all, and with few tourists in this area, the locals were thrilled. So many photos were taken and facebooks exchanged.

Then, the new friends that we had met there invited us to a café. Next thing we know we are at Karaoke with them! All Vietnamese Karaoke. And these friends didn’t speak much English either! They got us to try to sing, but we quickly realized that the way Vietnamese is written, is entirely different from how it sounds.


It was a hilariously, unexpected, eventful night that I think the both of us will cherish for a long time.

The next day we spent our time wandering through rice fields. Such a truly beautiful area. Surreal, even. All the greens, the people working in the fields, the sun shining over and down in the valley, the hills in the distance. Absolutely gorgeous.


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