After our trip to Cambodia we returned to Ho Chi Minh city and gathered the rest of the group attending the wedding. Mike Tozzo and Ailis Vann arrived from Petersburg (via Seattle) on the same flight as Seth’s mom (Susan) and sister (Devin). Brian Winchell came in on a later flight. Karsen and Kellie also arrived. The next day, Karna arrived. We all spent time going to the market, sprucing up at a spa, and a few of us went to the War Remnants Museum. We loaded up into two vans for the drive back to the Mekong River community of My Tho (pronounced “mee toe”). Our van stopped and picked up the traditional clothing that we would be wearing during the wedding ceremony. We made the hour and a half drive to our hotel which was right on the river. They had a nice pier out over the river (but far enough down the river to have tidal changes) where we had dinner a few times. Our second day in My Tho we took a boat and then were paddled up a small tributary to Coconut’s grandfather’s property. We had a meal, made some toasts, and then walked around and saw his farm and their roosters and pigs. Saturday the first of December was the wedding. The women gathered early to go over to Coconut’s mother’s house and the men got changed and ready at the hotel for a 9 AM boat ride.
Here’s the “wedding party” with Seth in the center in white.
We each carried an offering for the ancestors or other gift onto the boat and then from the boat to the wedding site. A roasted pig, platter of fruit, cake, and jewelry were among the items we carried over.
We lined up and handed the red-draped items to the women who were also lined up and they brought them to the head of the table where the ceremony took place. Then they sat at a table and we were directed to sit at another table.
The sun was hammering down on us in our silk outfits though and there was much to watch that was out of sight so we didn’t sit for long. We watched the ceremony take place and took pictures until the parts that we were familiar with finally crept up – the exchanging of rings and the official kiss.
Then we were seated in a more shady spot and started eating and drinking. There was lots of seafood. (Coconut loves it and Seth has worked it for a long time so that should be expected.)
Toasts of rice wine were made. I discovered that if you go to a wedding in Vietnam do not have a beard. Many of them seemed to want to point out my beard then raise a glass of beer or a shot of rice wine and say “0ne hundred percent” indicating that we would drink all of our drink.
I sweat a lot. So much that my forehead turned blue from the silk hat. After returning to the hotel i took a cold shower and scrubbed my forehead with a pumice stone to ready for the reception that night. I regretted doing that for about a week – when the skin finally healed from my overzealous cleaning frenzy.
The reception was in My Tho (not on one of the islands we had been on the past few days). It started off with much pageantry – ceremonial dances performed by choreographed dancers, filling of champagne glasses stacked in a tower, lighting candles in a heart shaped configuration and finally karaoke. In fact, people sang through the entire meal. And when the meal was done they all left. Abruptly. So i hooked my laptop up to their sound system and some of us danced for a little while in an attempt to make the reception feel more like a more American event.
The next day we got up fairly early (for a vacation) and loaded into a disappointingly cramped bus for the long drive to Na Trang. We were on the bus just after 8 and rolled into Na Trang at about 7. I rode in the front seat much of the way and slept off and on despite the swerving and honking that seems to be the norm for traffic here. Then our five nights in Na Trang began.