It is a real treat to be invited to attend a large Vietnamese family function. In this case, we also were able to experience a pure Vietnamese resort, which is quite a bit different from the resorts westerners expect.
I have learned from other Vietnamese families that it is common to hire a 45-person bus for weekend trips to a Vietnamese seaside resort. They fill them with their large extended family and friends. Our family bus loaded at 2:00 a.m. Saturday morning and then drove through the night to Phan Thiết and Mũi Né, where there are many western-style resorts. Many westerners from HCMC like to go there on weekends. We stopped to enjoy the red sand dunes, famous features in Mũi Né.
We also stopped for a seafood lunch together.
This family gathering was matriarchal in organization, rather than the patriarchal structure usually common to Vietnamese families. Although we are meeting many young Vietnamese couples who live alone, the more common practice (due to meager finances as well as cultural tradition) is for the wife to live with the husband's family. In this case, there are six sisters who all live in the same area of Saigon, and they organize many family events together. As in all Vietnamese families, the focus is on the elders. Here, the mother and father of the family (right and left in the picture below) enjoy the company of their large family with many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
We moved north up the coastal national highway to Phan Rang, from which we headed east to the coastal resort of Co Thich. This is nowhere close to a five-star or any-star rating as resorts go, but Vietnamese love it because of its relatively low cost and set-up for large families.
The village is a collection of several individually-operated guest houses featuring very large rooms, along with some smaller rooms. Our family fitted themselves into a room with about 10 double beds, while Hien and I occupied a one-bed room. The showers and slot-toilets were down the hall. This is the rather rustic hand or dish-washing area behind the showers.
A large center area accommodated large family self-made meals.
The sisters had prepared meal fixings in advance and brought it all with them on the bus. In many respects, this was more like a camping experience. Everyone pitched in to prepare vegetables (yes, I know it doesn't look like the men are doing much).
There are two primary attractions for this resort area -- the beach, of course,
and the complex of Buddhist shrines and temples on the hills above the beach.
There seemed to be about five or six hundred Vietnamese at this resort for the weekend we were there (I was the only westerner there), and most of them made the short trek up the hills on Sunday morning to pay their respects at the various prayer sites.
We managed to get in some relaxation time, though, at one of the many beachside coffee houses (bars). Most of them had racks of hammocks available, and here is the nice relaxing view from a hammock, accompanied by an iced beer.