I was recently in Hanoi, Vietnam to attend a marriage of one my very very close friends named Alexander Rau aka Sam who married his girlfriend Anh. I was pretty excited about attending this marriage because of many reasons. The prominent reasons were because it was a marriage of my very very close friends and secondly, that was a nice opportunity to experience the fusion of Vietnamese tradition and the Western (to be precise) European culture.
Day 1: Vietnamese Cobra Blood Wine & Dinner at Bride’s House
I arrived in Hanoi and was picked up by the taxi driver which Sam had sent for me. It was early in the morning. Our day began with cheers on beers. Of course, if have German friends, the beer becomes another important part and parcel of your life.
The same evening we had to leave for the Anh’s village. Being an Indian guy, having used to the big fat Indian wedding, I was expecting something big there too. Anyways, we boarded the minibus and reached the nearest town closer to the Anh’s village. We were booked a room in a very nice hotel. The view from the hotel was really breathtaking. That evening, we checked in to the hotel and soon dressed up to join for the invitation sent by the Anh’s family for the dinner.
The famous Snake Blood Vietnamese Wine
Anh’s village was almost half an hour from the main city. In the evening, we headed for the village. After reaching the village, we were welcomed warmly by Anh’s family. Though hardly anyone could speak English in her family except her, still we were able to manage nicely through greetings and gestures.
Christian, a common friend of us, had requested Anh’s father for the famous snake blood wine. We were already talking about that on the way to the village. An excitement had already built up for the snake blood wine. We were even guessing what kind of snake that would be.
Anyways, they went behind out gathering area to make the snake blood wine. I was pretty excited about that too. The snake was I guess a Cobra. The cobra was held from his neck and a shard incision was made around its belly. The snake tossed in agony and pain. A glass full of home-made wine was kept just underneath the snake and the blood was dripped in the glass.
Later, we were told that the snake would be used in making snake soup. The glass full of snake blood and wine was brought on the table. Everyone present there shared the snake blood wine. There were small tea bowls in which the snake wine was served. Vietnamese also love to say, zug suk wei, if I caught that right as cheers in their own language. Then after the cheers, everyone shakes hand with everyone else on the table.
The communist song connection between Russian & Vietnam
I did not realize that but that was sure fun to watch two communist people singing the same song on the same scale and tone but in two different languages. The biological father of Sam is a Russian guy. From the Anh’s family side, there was also an old guy in his mid-50s, who was also head of the village. When they shared the common song on the same tune, I was astonished to see the communist enthusiasm.
It did not occur to me that night but when I watched the glimpses of the trip, I was really surprised and later, it hit my brain. Also, I think the guy in mid-50s and Sam’s father must be very young during the cold war and Vietnam war. So, the possibilities of them knowing the common tune across thousands of miles was still there.
Later, we were served dinner. The dinner came in as a whole. Everyone was given chopsticks and a bowl. Vietnamese prefer to eat directly from the lot by taking into their bowl. Along with the food, there was also a lot of rice wine. We had small shots of wine almost twenty times. Everyone who came met us, and greeted us wanted to have a shot of wine with us so, we had to take a lot of wine shots.
Most of the items served were meat. Though I am a non-vegetarian now, I am still a learner. It was harder for me to eat raw meat or almost boiled meat. Anyways, I was happy to eat raw Papaya and rice. After having dinner and spending some more time with the family, we decided to go back to the hotel.
Everyone had the last wine shot and we shook our hands before leaving. I also shook my hand with the head of the village from Anh’s family side. He tickled my hand as if he was trying to say something. But that was surely not a nice gesture. I have seen those gestures while shaking hands being made in sexual contexts. Anyways, I ignored that and we left for our hotel.