On our last night in Vietnam we went for a curry, that sounds messed up doesn’t it. We’ve been here three months and pretty much eaten local food the whole time. i’d say 90% of the time. Sometimes any other food was unavailable so we had to eat local, they were the best times for embracing culture, when you have to.
We went to book a table late morning and the owner came out to greet us saying sorry but he wasn’t open yet, we asked if we could book a table and with the biggest, Indian, smile and a waggle of the head he said sure. There is nothing like that to make you feel buoyant. We left feeling excited for the evening meal.
and what about the meal? The best outside of India and even as good as the best Indian food we had in India. That’s saying something. Why was it so good? The food was perfectly cooked to the point where everything we tasted was how we expected it to taste, it took us both back to India. The dhosa that we ate for breakfast every morning in Tamil Nadu, the sauces that reminded us of the Idly, the mutton paneer that oh so beautifully melted in your mouth, we spent three months in south India and tonight we ordered the best of south Indian cuisine; all swept up with a beautifully soft south Indian paratha. It took us back, it gave us confidence that we’d experienced India, that we knew parts of it and that we rejoiced in the experiences that we had had. Every mouthful was a step back to the start of our journey, a step that was taken whilst we are still on the journey. What a perfect way to end our three month experience in Vietnam, a place that I really feel that we’ve made the most of; experienced.
When we ordered, I asked the owner where he was from, 5km away from a place in Kerala that we went to called Kollam. During the meal I observed him paying respects to the customers, so intuitively, shaking a man’s hand, waving to another man, bowing in respect to a woman.
The best thing was saved until last. They missed off a masala chai and a paratha off of our bill so I went up to the counter to pay the extra. They thanked me and I said no problem and gave him the most Indian of head waggles, I love the head waggle, it’s beauty in body language. It says all you need to say, whatever you want to say, it’s so contextual. On this occasion it said a thousand words of my gratitude for him; for transporting me back to a real experience that I had, that I loved, that made me into another person, a more reasonable, loving person.
When I turned to leave the owner of the restaurant thanked me by putting one of his hands up to his chest in the sign of prayer and thanks. It’s the most Indian of respects, again a gesture to say a thousand respects. I was so ecstatic that he chose to perceptively offer me Indian thanks. That’s why I came away, to understand culture, to know what it is to be enthusiastic and compliment someone by the smallest of gestures.