Perfect Strangers: 3 Stories of Kindness from Vietnam

Monday, April 25, 2011

Perfect Strangers
The Sole Sister creed
Traveling requires a lot of resourcefulness and creativity. It gets even better when you don't have much money. Then you're forced to embrace the culture, eat local street food and rely on the kindness of strangers. We've met many such strangers in Vietnam who have shown us generosity and openness that we couldn't help but want to share that with you:

Coocked by My Mom Series [2]
Photo Credit: miwaza
The Vietnamese Who Was Really Filipino 

Hoi An. We had gone out with other backpackers and ended up at the only place that was still open past midnight- a bar with a pool table. We played for a few hours and then invited a guy sitting alone to play with us. He was a pool hustler, actually. He beat nearly all the guys at nine ball. When he sat with us, he introduced himself as Nesty and we took him for a local guy. When we told him we were from the Philippines, he was a bit shocked and told us he was also Filipino and he was working at a hotel in Hoi An. Small world!

The next day, he invited us for dinner. He picked us up from our guesthouse on motorbike and showed us his place. Incidentally, he was also a photography enthusiast who was knowledgeable about equipment and technique and we had plenty to talk about. Nesty was a good cook and he made us some grilled seafood with lots of white rice. It's nice to meet fellow Pinoys on the road. Nesty was proof of how hospitable we really are.

Perfect Strangers
Don't talk to strangers?
Taking Sweets From Strangers

Hanoi. I was reading Glass Palace by the lake when a teenage girl sat beside me. She smiled at me and seemed very friendly. After a few minutes, she handed me a brown paper bag filled sweets and pastries. I declined politely but she was insistent. So I grabbed one. It was a round pastry covered in fresh coconut and tasted very good. We tried to converse with great difficulty. She spoke very little English but our hand gestures and smiles bridged the gap. I learned she was Flo from Laos, a neighboring country. She was working in Vietnam. I told her I was a traveler from the Philippines. Our 'conversation' went on for almost 2 hours. And then she said she had to leave. She left the remaining bag of sweets with me. Flo's generosity touched me deeply because it was so unexpected. She gave me something without asking for anything in return. And it wasn't just the sweets.

Laptop HDR
Photo Credit: uncle_rich0101

Laptop Hospital

Hanoi. I realized I couldn't go online. The problem was, I had downloaded some programs to get on Facebook since it's blocked in Vietnam. That caused some problems with Internet Explorer. There I was, a travel blogger who couldn't go online. I felt like Sole Sister Chichi without her hair dryer! The logical thing to do was to look for a repair shop at the city center. But I was worried it would make a dent on the dwindling escape fund. I took it to the 'Laptop Hospital' anyway. The tech just tinkered on my laptop and got it working within minutes! When I asked him how much it costs, he just smiled politely and said the nicest thing I heard in Hanoi:

It's free!

Seriously? I even offered him some money but he declined it. Even the offer of coffee or beer was also refused because he was still working. He could have charged me an exorbitant amount, but he chose to be generous.

These 3 people may not think much about what they have done. It may be simple acts of kindness. But as a traveler who has very little, these simple gestures are magnified. 

Have you experienced kindness from strangers? Do you share what you have even when traveling?

Paying it forward,
Sole Sister Lois

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9 sole trails

  1. heartwarming post ♥

    my share. i arrived in LCCT just 1.5 hours before my flight ( i know i should be earlier!). i was shocked to see a gazillion people in line, waiting to check in. omg, i cant make it! then there's a German lady (solo traveler too), she offered her slot to me. she said her flight is still 3 hours ahead so I must take her slot so I wont miss mine.

    cant thank her enough!

  2. wow.. every time my roommate chanced upon somebody who would extend an act of kindness to her even tho she didnt know them, she calls them "beautiful strangers."

    with your stories, it's good to know that people are still inherently good, somehow. :D

    you have an amazing journey! :D i'm still green with envy! lol.

  3. I love stories like these. I think most people are naturally good and want to help out. For some reason, I see a lot of little acts of kindness like this when I'm traveling too.

  4. Wow! That's a great story Chyng. I love it random acts of kindness especially when we need it most during travel. That was really kind of that German lady. Hope to also pay it forward..

  5. Beautiful Strangers indeed ella! And I guess that comes hand in hand with what you're doing for KIDS Foundation and travolunteering. Don't be envious, get busy with your own travel plans ;-)

  6. I agree Steve, traveling makes you appreciate the little things. It's also great to share what you have when traveling. Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Random acts of kindness!

    I was in Bangkok for an international Brazilian Jiujitsu tournament. When I lost in my first match, I decided to just go back to my hotel. I took a cab, and when the driver missed a turn to our hotel, I became suspicious. It turned out he doesn't speak English, and he started shouting at me in Thai. I asked for help from people who were walking but no one wanted to be bothered so I paid for the ride and just left the cab. I walked to the nearest MRT station, and when I was about to purchase a ticket, I just cried out of frustration. An old American couple talked to me and asked me which station I am headed, and to my surprise, they got me a ticket! I couldn't thank them enough. Just when I thought I was helpless, a couple of kind strangers saved me!

    By the way, I have been reading and following your adventures. I just started my own travel blog, and I am hoping to do what you guys are doing right now -- LIVE TO TRAVEL! In time :) You are truly an inspiration to people who don't want to live an ordinary life :)

  8. That's a great story Ms. Bratpack! Nothing like a kind stranger to save the day! I checked out your blog and liked the fun theme and great header. Can't wait to read more of your posts. Keep on traveling and living an unordinary life!

  9. Thanks Lois for visiting my blog! I'm still working on the links of my previous trips, and the header will still be improved actually. But I'm hoping to go to more places so I can write more travel stories like you guys :)


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