A 15-minute drive and 20-minute boat ride from Dalat, you can climb into a makeshift seat atop an elephant and begin a bumpy and pleasant ride into the jungle, guided by a tiny, barefooted man who straddles the elephant’s head with ease.
Tea and English
Sometimes I remember the story beginning as we stepped out of the airport, greeted by a wave of oppressive humidity and hundreds of Vietnamese holding signs for someone named “Nguyen.”
Getting into a Vietnamese taxi that wove its way through a sea of cars and bikes and motorbikes that would’ve terrified us had we not been too tired to care after the 17-hour flight.
But in reality, we spent our first two hours in Vietnam trying to leave the airport. Trying to convince the customs officers that, although we did attend a Baptist university, we weren’t there to convert the defenseless masses. Our first encounter with a communist nation.
Most visitors to Vietnam have come to experience what they imagine is a culture about as foreign to their own as any still in existence. But what most Vietnamese are anxious to show visitors is how well they can speak English.
As we walked into an English class at a university in Ho Chi Minh City, the topic for the day was the impending threat of helmet laws for motorbike riders. Riders who maneuver traffic everyday that makes New York or even Rome look like the Disney’s Autotopia.
Most Vietnamese couldn’t afford a helmet if they wanted to buy one, let alone pay the fines imposed if this law passed and they didn’t. Still, the conversation took a strange turn. “Helmets look funny,” one boy complained. “Yes,” another girl chimed in, “When you get to your date, your hair not look pretty.” Consensus was that the law shouldn’t pass.