Grandfather’s native place becomes a home far away from home

March 16, 2017 - 17:37

In February, I finally realised the dream that I had nurtured for several years: travel in Việt Nam and discover the country of my maternal grandfather.

Togetherness: A couple fishing in Ninh Bình.— Photo by Lucie Martin
Viet Nam News

By Lucie Martin

In February, I finally realised the dream that I had nurtured for several years: travel in Việt Nam and discover the country of my maternal grandfather.

My grandfather left HCM City for France in 1944 and married my French grandmother after he arrived there. He died when I was just one, and I was not able to learn much about Việt Nam through stories he would’ve wanted to tell me. However he had made a lot of paintings on Việt Nam during his time in France. And the beauty of these paintings evoked a strong desire in me to see Việt Nam.

Even after his death, my family kept the tradition of cooking several Vietnamese traditional dishes. And the Vietnamese dish that we cook the most often, is nem (fried spring rolls).  I also learned how to cook nem from my mother.

In good cheer: Street vendors in Huế City.— Photo by Lucie Martin

I arrived in Việt Nam, the country that has always intrigued me, armed with a passion for photography and travelling on my own.

It was with great joy that I discovered this beautiful country with a welcoming people, a cuisine full of flavour and wonderful landscapes. 

I’ve been to all the different regions of Việt Nam, from the North to the Centre and the South. Each region is different with its own culinary specialties, landscapes and culture. You never get tired of going from city to city and contemplating all that.

Việt Nam has welcomed me warmly. Since my first day here, I have never felt lonely. 

Making a move: Hanoians learn how to dance on the street.— Photo by Lucie Martin

I remember, when I first landed on Vietnamese territory, Hà Nội, I took a taxi from the airport to get to the city centre. The very friendly driver offered me some sweetened pastries. He didn’t speak English very well, and I don’t either. However, we started trying to communicate with a few words. And he taught me some vocabulary with good intonation in Vietnamese. It was a very funny moment! I understood then that my trip would go well, with such kind and generous people. 

My trip has been enriched by other beautiful meetings with local people. They were always smiling and ready to engage with me. 

Welcoming: Lucie Martin (first right) with Ninh Bình residents.

From Hà Nội to Huế city, I took a 14-hour train in a coach where I was the only foreign tourist.  But I didn’t feel insecure.  Local people that I met on the train put me at ease, offered me things to eat and drink, and chatted with me. 

One day, when I visited a judo centre in Đà Lạt, I told the instructor that I’d also practiced judo in France. He nicely invited me a coffee after his lesson. 

Such encounters are many, and I cherish very much the moments I’ve spent with local people here. 

Being in Việt Nam, I get the feeling that I am at home. It has become my home far away from my house in France. — VNS