Who can say no to happy water?

We stopped in a small village near Ha Giang in northern Vietnam for no other reason than to see if there was anyone around who would invite us in so that I could get some insight into village life in these parts.

My guide, Hung, who had a great talent for immediately connecting with people, spotted a lady working in front of her house.

Although we were clearly disturbing her, she greeted us kindly and invited us to stay. She continued with her chores though and called her husband who was on his way out anyway, having heard unknown voices.

He didn’t seem surprised to suddenly have complete strangers at his door, greeted us with a big smile and asked us in. He headed straight towards some big plastic cans at the back of the room and got a bowl out. He filled it from one of these cans and offered it to us: it was his home-made happy water, distilled rice wine. I’m not so fond of strong alcohol, so I was a little hesitant – I certainly didn’t want to offend this kind man by declining a sip, but at the same time I was afraid that I might make some kind of grimace against my will when I got the drink in my mouth.

But I needn’t have feared anything: his happy water wasn’t at all sharp and it had a nice soft taste. I didn’t have to be persuaded to have a second sip (we all drank from the same bowl).

I asked about a photo on the wall, and it was, as I had thought, the couple’s wedding photo.

They looked very happy on the photo (as people usually do, luckily), and they seemed to be just as happy today. Before we left, the man filled an empty soft drink bottle with his happy water and handed it to me as a farewell gift. What hospitality!

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