I’m on a flight to Hue and sitting next to two Hue locals, Quynh and her grandfather. Although only a short flight, through broken English, Quynh and I have enough time to cover the basics– names, jobs, home towns, and families. And before parting ways, we make a tentative plan to meet up the next day and she gives me her contact info. A couple dollar SIM card later, I give her a call and we set up a time for her to come pick me up on her motorbike from the very simple and nice Hong Thien Hotel (the first A/C room I’ve enjoyed in two weeks). Still not convinced that she is actually coming, I wait outside and soon after she pulls up with an extra helmet in hand.
We go to a couple of the more famous pagados and tombs in Hue before visiting her mother and sisters at the local market, where they tend to two different shops. Trying to keep up with Quynh in the market is a challenge as she weaves in and out of the many obstacles of the already narrow passageways. At one point, she and her sister run off and I am left sitting alone at the booth. I am tempted to attract customers in the many ways that I have experienced. As someone passes by, protocol is to tell them hello and ask where they are from or what they are looking for. I did not say anything; I restrained myself.
Although her English is fragmented, Quynh gives me Vietnamese language lessons throughout the day so that I can at least communicate hello, goodbye, and thank you. She shows me her favorite sites in the city with pride and excitement for each location. Quynh is an excellent tour guide, and to complete the day, she invites me back to her family’s home for dinner, which results in a very authentic Hue experience.