Where it all started – The Orphanage in Duc Pho

It is amazing what a couple hundred kilometers can do to your surroundings! Where Hoi An has tourists and plenty of English speaking vendors along with restaurants in plenty, Duc Pho has none. Nonetheless, Duc Pho was our desired stopping point for the day. In fact, during the Vietnam War Ron’s grandpa was stationed over here and started an orphanage. The original building is still standing (with several renovations having been made since) and we were intent on seeing it firsthand.  Seeing the building was one of Ron’s main reasons for wanting to come to Vietnam in the first place.    The first project upon arriving in Duc Pho however was to find a place to stay for the night.
Seeing as the initial nha nghi (translation: guesthouse) we stopped at after following several signs on the outskirts of town did not exactly work out after a long back-and-forth sign language conversation with a woman who very much wanted to be helpful but couldn’t due to our poor to nonexistent understanding of the Vietnamese language ended with us leaving more confused than we started, we decided to try and find some wifi and hopefully look something up. (Assuming there would be any websites for these places…doubtful.) Thanks to 20/20 eyesight, we spotted a sign for wifi. We think maybe it was a cafe of sorts, but all that was in the display case was a couple of boiled quail eggs and when we asked for a Coke they had to go out and buy it and resell it back to us…so we are still not totally sure. Regardless, we started talking to the woman who owned the wifi joint and turns out she spoke English! (Hallelujah!) She gave us some advice on where to look for a nha nghi and offered that we could come back and she would do what she could to help us find the orphanage.
Eventually we found a place to stay for the night just a couple of kilometers outside of town…for $4! Now, I’m not sure if any of you out there have ever stayed at a $4/night accommodation before, but if not you should. It was hilarious! The walls were tiled with what appeared to be kitchen back splash tiles complete with little pictures of fruit. Where there should have been a water heater for the shower there were only wires. There was a live cricket in the sink and a mood light of a weird green color. Best of all though was probably the wall decor. Hanging on the wall was not your typical hotel picture…even by Vietnam standards. Rather, there was a vinyl poster for what was maybe a denim ad from the 90’s…except the models weren’t wearing much more than their jeans. Again, not your standard, but what here is? No matter which was you slice it though, this place was original 🙂
And back to the cafe we go! A friend of Ron’s parents, Thao, who is the daughter of one of the original orphans, offered to give directions over the phone to a local so that they might help us find the building. We got Thao on the line and handed the phone to the woman at the cafe. After a little confusion, the woman from the cafe grabbed her mother and put her on the phone. Somehow or another, everyone seemed to get on the same page and no sooner had we hung up with Thao than we were on our way to see the building! The walk was only about two minutes from the cafe too! Turns out that the originals building is now an official building for the Communist Party so when we tried to snap a photo we were promptly shut down. (No worries though. We just came back in the morning and took one anyways.) Picture or no picture though, standing there looking at the original building and knowing that Ron’s grandpa had stood there as well and made such a difference in so many people’s lives was really special. That alone was well worth the stop.
To thank the women who had walked us over to the orphanage building, we bought another soda as well as a few rolls from the cafe woman’s mother who ran a bakery next door. As we munched on our pre-dinner snacks we chatted with the cafe woman a little more. She was fantastic and super friendly! Before we knew what was happening, her uncle who ran the local salon was sitting next to us and she was translating back and forth so that we were able to talk with him. It was clear that Duc Pho does not get too many visitors so this was a big deal for her uncle. We were just about to get up and head out to find some food when the woman’s mother insisted that we eat dinner with her and her family! When life presents those kinds of opportunities, what choice do you have but to say YES?!
Staying for dinner was the best choice we could have possibly made! The food was scrumptious and the conversation was really fun! So much laughter! It reminded us why we are taking the time to motorcycle across the country. It is for moments like this when you are lucky enough to have a real experience and start to understand the heart of the people. These are all of the little moments that make up an adventure!
As has become a nightly ritual these days, following dinner we went on a hunt for ice cream before heading in for the night. Down a side street we found exactly what we were looking for. As we savored our dessert for the evening, a whole posse of people started appearing. Again, lots of laughter ensued as we tried to communicate with one another. Were we successful? Maybe not so much. But did we all get a kick out of it? Absolutely! (I think we really managed to embarrass the teenage boy when I told him how handsome he was.) In the end, it was just another example of the fact that by and large people are good people all over the world.
As terrific as Duc Pho was, all good things must come to an end. We packed up our bags and continued South to visit Thao, the woman who had helped us find the orphanage the day before. She met up with us after work and guided us to her house where she, along with her two dogs, put us up for the night. Thao was definitely the hostess with the mostess in every sense of the phrase! We were not two steps through the door before she was asking us for our dirty laundry and starting to prepare a yummy dinner, complete with fresh squeezed orange juice. We had awesome conversation over dinner at the little plastic table and stools in her kitchen. (Yet again, we struggle at matching the grace of the Vietnamese as they eat…and we blame the small tables.) Later on we walked around town and…you guessed it…grabbed some ice cream! It was such a relaxing night and we were sad to see it come to a close, but she promised us that if she comes to Colorado she will call us up so that we can return the favor!
The theme for this post if you have not already picked up on it is that the Vietnamese are amazing people!
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2 thoughts on “Where it all started – The Orphanage in Duc Pho

  1. Wow, yes….amazing people. Amazing stories and memories you’re making. Thank you for allowing me to sit here in my kitchen and read all about them. Love it!

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