We were on the overnight train to Hanoi in a sleeper car with four bunks. We had the bottom two beds and drifted off to sleep before anyone joined us. In the middle of the night, the door opened and a couple walked in. I was out of it; I barely opened my eyes and saw a blurry vision of a young woman staring down at me. Only her eyes were visible; She wore a hat and a colorful face mask over her mouth and nose; A bizarre sight in the middle of the night. Almost all Vietnamese women wear these masks for the pollution and to keep the sun off their faces. Opposite to western views of beauty, in Vietnamese culture it is desirable for women to have pale, white skin.
She was freaking me out, at one point she sat down on the foot of my bed, still staring down at me; was I dreaming? Luckily, her husband returned with the conductor, they had the wrong room and they hurried off. Moments later, another young couple with a baby entered. She quickly tossed the baby on the bunk above me and scrambled up after with ease. The husband jumped on the bed above Helen, and despite a few loud cries from the baby, I quickly fell back asleep.
When Helen said, “I booked us in for a royal dinner at the hotel in Hue, not really sure what it is, but it looks a little crazy”, I was a little worried. When checking in to the hotel and they said, “For the royal dinner, come down fifteen minutes early to get dressed.” I knew it was going to be a little strange.
Procession, not the best choice of shoes
We walked into the dressing room and they had robes and huge hats ready for us, “you’re going to be king and queen.” We looked at each other, eyebrows raised, and smiled. We put on our royal outfits and were led through the lobby and dining room behind two flag bearers and drummers banging away. We entered a large room all decked out and were seated at the head table in front of a group of musicians. We ordered drinks as fast as possible, and the seven course dinner began as the band played traditional songs.
We ate, trying not laugh, as course after course arrived. It was excellent Vietnamese cuisine, but way too much. The band wrapped up as we tried to finish dessert. My goofy hat kept sliding over my eyes, I couldn’t wait to take it off.
King and Queen
I knew I was in for something odd, but it was actually great fun and great food. King for a night was all I needed.