The Kindness of Strangers

Take a bow world.  People, pat yourselves on the back.  Goodness and decency flourish.  Kindness, laughter and generosity of spirit rule.

Like Blanche Dubois we are constantly amazed, warmed, delighted and thankful for the generosity and warmth we’ve encountered from total strangers on our travels. Here are some of the stars of our show, people who’s kindnesses we will remember when we can’t remember our own names.

Our breakfast-chef, Diep, she of the infectious giggle and incandescent smile at the Hanoi Church Legend. Diep would cook us anything we wanted, always had an impressive and imaginatively decorated selection of breakfast treats, from Pho to freshly-prepared egg dishes, noodles, meats, cheeses. When I slept in she loaded Bill with yoghurt and fruit because she was worried I was sick.

Kim – our tuk tuk driver in Phnom Penh who lugged our heavy cases up those seemingly endless tenement stairs and ladders and dark corridors without being asked (yes…THOSE stairs) with a smile on his face.  Kim laughed easily and went out of his way to look after us.

The lovely Ahn and her family who insisted on sharing her custard apples and beer on the train with us from Hanoi to Saigon

These kids adopted Bill and didn’t want to let him go.

Our gorgeous tailor in Hoi-An,  Phuong – who miraculously whipped up tremendous clothes in a day and made us look like stars in her beautiful garments.

Move over Susie Wong.

The handsome and talented Hanoi potter Son and his wife Chem who welcomed us into their studio.

Mum and her son who travelled with us from Hoi An to Hué and despite very little English google-translated the whole trip to ensure we didn’t miss any of the sights. “5 minutes View 1…” “2 tunnels. Dark. Then View 2…”  “Vietnam is number 1” !  we said to them to which he replied by slapping his cheeks, bulging his eyes, throwing himself onto the seat giggling and saying “Oh Wow” !  Oh Wow indeed.  But we weren’t the wowers, we were the wowees.

The lovely railway Police of Hat Yai who insisted on giving up their seats whilst we waited for our train.

We also remember fondly the pizza cook at KL who was at our Indian breakfast joint and paid for our breakfast without us finding out til after he’d left.

& let’s not forget the lovely nothing-is-too-much-trouble Mr Croatia from the Russian-run Treetops restaurant on beautiful Koh Rong island in Cambodia, who insisted we take a universal adapter he had spare to save us the bother of our multiplicity of plugs and cables for phone and iPad recharging and who was so brave and philosophical when the French beat his countrymen in the World Cup.

Or this fellow, a total stranger met in a shop in Vientiane who took 15 minutes out of his day to stop and help two elderly and incompetent tourists by loading credit onto their phone for them.

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Sure, the tailor, the cook and the tuk-tuk driver were being paid for their services with our filthy lucre and Yankee dollars but even the mercantile basis of our relationships couldn’t obscure their charm and good manners, their openness and friendliness, their kindness and genuine warmth.

Maybe thirty years of work left the two of us perhaps just a little misanthropic around the edges, a shade wary, a tad less trusting than when we were kids,…but the downright kindness and generous open heartedness of the people of Asia are buffing the rust off our hearts and polishing our world views.  Thanks Asia, we owe you.

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