bisdak in vietnam
“covers everything but hides nothing!” is how my canadian lady friend in hanoi puts it when referring to the ao dai, the traditional dress worn by vietnamese women. “and these women? they’re so tiny they’re not human at all!” bully for her. with her… er, ample girth and big bones and a fair amount of unwanted avoirdupois, she can only dream about slipping into those slinky, form-fitting wisps of cloth that easily transform the vietnamese into ravishing beauties.
hanoi, like its people, is also a beautiful city. suspended in time, you feel like you are in a 1950s period movie, with yellow brick buildings and narrow tree-lined streets. art galleries are all over the place, displaying excellent paintings that are currently the rage in international art circles. charming little shops selling anything and everything occupy practically all the space fronting the streets. and who can ignore the motorcycles? king of the road… they come in swarms! crossing the street is a lesson in survival, an art: not too fast, not too slow, but steady. don’t stop; you’ll be run over by an avalanche of wheels.
but what really bugged me was the sight of hordes of giggly teenage girls and boys (with a few old timers) at night – around 7pm – parked in front of a shop licking away at ice cream cones like there was no tomorrow. hello? ok lang kayo? pinipilahan ang ice cream? intrigued, i also got in line and bought one cone for myself for 3,000 vietnam dong. ha! cheap! don’t know what’s the fuss, though. it was ice cream like any other, except perhaps that it tasted more like milk.
Postscript on the Vietnamese Ao Dai
On my last day in the old imperial city of Hue, colleagues at the Hue University treated me to lunch before my flight back to Hanoi. Expectedly, they ordered a feast. Yum yum! And as is customary in Vietnamese cuisine, puro ulam halos, walang rice. Kaya pala ang papayat nila.
Except for a pretty lady lecturer, all the others in the group were guys. Young single lecturers at the university and who possessed tolerable English skills. Anyway, the lady hardly ate – – just picking on her food. I told her: “You know what, you should eat more; you’re so small and thin!”
One of the guys had an immediate reaction: “You think she’s small? You think she’s SMALL?!” he blurted out, wide-eyed. “She’s not small! She’s medium!”
By their standards, yeah I guess she’s a bit big. But compared to Manila girls, she is definitely on the small and thin category.
So I asked them again: “If a girl were fat, could she still wear the ao dai?”
“Yes, of course!” they chorused. “But she stay home. No go out.”