Apart from the obvious concerns like food poisoning, aggressive market vendors and crossing the roads in Vietnam, our primary concern has always been Casper. If you don’t know our son, I shall attempt to describe him in twenty five words or fewer… Casper Jude Thoreau is almost two but is often presumed to be Eva’s twin brother. He is tall – not just in height but in spirit. When he is “on” he is on – full pelt. When he is off, either fetch him some food with haste (preferably a fresh banana and mango smoothie along with a croissant from a Vietnamese street stall) OR, put him to bed. He’s a runner. He’s a fighter but he is also a charmer.
So far on our trip, Casper has won more smiles, pulled cheeks and “hellos” than the other three people in our family put together. The Vietnamese people love him and he laps it up. Before travelling here, I read the scant amount of blogs that make comment on travelling with children in Vietnam. Almost all bloggers say that the Vietnamese people love foreign (their word, not mine) children. Up until today, I had an issue with this statement because although the people showed warmth (sometimes a little too much, on the face 😳) my kids didn’t overly respond with warmth in return. That was until tonight when we met a man named Man or maybe Màn or possibly, Mân!
To paint the picture, the kids were exhausted. Casper had fallen asleep prematurely (before his usual midday nap in air-conditioned hotel comfort) while we were waiting in line to purchase Bán Mì for lunch. It was a short nap and thus, this afternoon he was very grumpy – until we hit the streets of Hoi An’s Ancient Town. Whenever we go out, Casper springs to life and engages with every sight, sound and of course smell(!) on the streets of Vietnam. This evening was no exception but we were aware of his potential “off” switch so we high-tailed it to the nearest Western-style restaurant for some less adventurous cuisine. Yes, Matt has reluctantly learnt to acquiesce to this travelling shame for the sake of our kids, and along the way, we have found an excellent place that serves pizza better than what we’d find in Oz. The waiter at Hai Cafe immediately engaged Casper’s attention and even got a small smile from Eva (which is nothing to scoff at). Casper turned on the charm, showing off his cow and dinosaur figurines along with excellent sound effects. The waiter had a cursory conversation in his and Casper’s burgeoning English and the pinnacle of the exchange was when the waiter helped Casper fix the little cocktail umbrella that he’d discovered in my “Hoi An Hurricane”. Casper was quickly saying, “Thank you man” (as I’ve taught him to say, or lady) but then, via a conversation I’d engaged in, we realised his name was actually Man. Casper still didn’t quite get this but continued to charm Man all the same. This was my greatest dinner experience in Vietnam thus far as, more than I want to eat my way through this amazing country, I have a great desire to understand the Vietnamese culture by engaging with its people.
Through our conversation, I discovered that Man’s home town is hours away from Hoi An and he came here to work, as there are far more job prospects because of the tourism trade. He has five siblings and sends money home to his family who he only gets to see three times per year when he is given holidays. Although I didn’t ask, I’d assume he’d be not much older than about eighteen.
The joy that I saw on this young man’s face tonight and the “Good time! Good time!” that Casper giggled as he chased Man around the cafe courtyard and continued to chant on the taxi ride home made all of our not so enjoyable dining experiences thus far worth it. As we put Casper to bed tonight, he still had that joyous grin on his face as he reflected on his day. It made me proud as a mother, to know that my son can bring joy to a stranger’s night. The featured picture really does say it all…
It’s late and I’m struggling to think of an amazing ending so I’ll just say this: Cocktail umbrellas – bringing people together one cocktail at a time.
Check out Hai Scout Cafe on TripAdvisor
Just a few more beautiful snaps from tonight…
Sending lantern wishes into the river. Eva wished for fairies. Casper wished to be a famous writer.
The old Japanese Bridge and more lanterns and lights on the river