We had a good night's sleep and woke up early excited to hit the road again. After all the action on the first day we couldn't imagine how it could get any better. We started off by visiting a "minority" village near Lak Lake. The usage is a bit unconventional, but it's how all Vietnamese refer to the people from the highlands.
This particular neighborhood was not in the highlands, but directly in the middle of a larger Vietnamese town. So although they used traditional houses, many aspects of their life had been modernized. Ut promised us we'd see the real minority way of life on the third day.
We started heading out of town. After a while we came to our first stop: women harvesting coffee. It took us a while to find them in the middle of a field, but Ut knew they were there. As we walked up, they started squealing and smiling and waving their hands frantically. They clearly weren't scared, but I couldn't imagine what kind of commotion we were causing.
Ut grinned and turned to us and he said they love getting their photo taken and we should photograph them working. As I pulled my phone out they were all grins, clearly loving the attention. It was really cute!
We watched them harvest coffee beans for a moment and decided we wanted to try. They were just switching to a new tree so we said we'll help do a whole tree. With four people it was quick work and about 3 minutes later we were done. The lady in charge laughed and told Ut we could stay all day if we wanted.
After leaving the harvest we found a group of people who were drying the beans. This seemed like tough work, because bags of beans had to be brought to the shredder. We tried lifting the bags and they were about 50kg apiece. No small feat!
Once they were put through the shredder there was a relatively easy task of spreading them to dry in the sun. Once again I helped by spreading a new tarp with two young men and then taking the hoe and spreading beans as they got spit out of the shredder.
Another stop was a waterfall in a national park. It was a short, easy hike down to the falls, so Ut and Bom stayed behind to just sit back and take a break. Karin and I walked around a little bit, watched a couple take some wedding photos with the waterfall as a backdrop, and otherwise enjoyed the scenery. Some guy took great interest in me and I ended up posing for about 5 photos.
After the waterfall we zipped through some back roads and passed through villages, and it seemed like every kid would run to the road to wave their hands wildly and say "HELLO, HELLO!" — even if it was a whole group of kids in a schoolyard. We would always wave back and I started feeling like a celebrity.
Finally the sun started getting low and, again, Ut and Bom picked up the pace to get us to our destination. They said they don't like riding at night especially with tourists, just for safety's sake.
We'd been given two options for lodging/dinner that evening: either stay in town where there are more choices of restaurants, or stay out of town in a "waterfall bungalow" as they called it. We chose bungalows.
We finally got into town and went to the market to collect supplies for dinner. Karin and I bought some fruit, then Ut went off somewhere while Bom took us to hunt down some chicken... It turned out that "some chicken" actually means "a live chicken that we will kill for dinner" 🔪
Karin couldn't bear to see it, so after we checked into the bungalows Ut disappeared with the chicken and a flimsy 2cm pocket knife that we'd bought at 7-Eleven in Thailand. His job was to turn the chicken into a cookable meal.
Bom took us back into the woods and we found some rocks that were clearly a fire pit. We split a piece of pine wood up, laid charcoals down, and got a fire going. Eventually Ut came back, grinning and holding a skinned chicken by the feet. We carved a spit out of a branch with the pocket knife and got the chicken roasting over our fire.
Somewhere in the middle of all this I realized that hey, it's Thanksgiving in the US! I told them I was so excited to have such a special Thanksgiving dinner. When I told them they just grinned and said it's another day in Vietnam.
We ate the whole chicken, had a couple Saigon greens, and ate the fruit for desert. Following Thanksgiving tradition, Karin asked them what they're thankful for and they said they're glad we're not French 😆
We talked and shared travel stories until everyone got tired. On a US holiday normally dedicated to family time we felt lucky to be with Ut and Bom, who really started to feel like family after so much time spent together on the road.