Since my last trip around Vietnam in 2005, it took me another 14 years to come back to Quang Ngai (Central Vietnam), where my mother was born, with mixed emotional feelings. My mom passed away last year in early May. I still try my best to live better every single day. Quang Ngai is a pretty big town, with beautiful beaches, rice fields, mountain sceneries, very good food…the town seemingly has everything but has been left out from the tourist map, because there are two other siblings, nearby, so popular, more favorable with the crowds – Đà Nẵng and Hội An.
Quang Ngai didn’t have the commercial airport till recently when Chu Lai, used to be a military air base during the war, turned into a commercial airport to connect Quang Ngai with the other big cities. I took a morning flight, one-hour flight from Saigon to Chu Lai, then took the airport bus right outside the terminal, I reached Quang Ngai just in 15 minutes, the last bus stop right in front of my hotel. I’m already in my mother’s hometown – Quang Ngai.
I’ve been to Quang Ngai several times in my entire life with a long break between each visit, but those images, feelings…since my first time with parents or later, still remained deeply in my heart : the family’s big old house with many rooms, with coconut trees in a huge backyard, the fence with flowers, a big well next to very old rustic smoky kitchen, with a hammock next to a dinning table, a mysterious altar room, always full of smell of the incense sticks, horrified me, a little boy, every time I passed by. I still remember the smell, hard-to-describe, from that dark but lovely kitchen and that scary altar room. All gone.
There is an island named Lý Sơn, around one hour boat ride from Quãng Ngãi, famous for its “lonely garlic”, lonely because it’s a solo or single clove garlic. Quite expensive. I’ve never been to Lý Sơn, even this time, as I was told I could go on the cargo boat but maybe not come back on the same day because the weather forecast for the evening and the next coming days was not good – the turbulent sea.
Quang Ngai changed a lot. New infrastructure. New houses. New rhythm. New breath. I hardly recognize a town that I used to know in my childhood, when my parents took me here for summer holidays. Despite all the changes, the town is still peaceful with a typical quiet provincial lifestyle.
I was too young to explore the town at that time, only in small neighborhood, I did enjoy those outdoor activities like climbing on the trees, having a shower next to the well in the summer heat, wandering along the flowering fences at the end of our big backyard…
My grandpa died long before I was born and I hardly remember my grandma. The big old house also gone, nothing left, absolutely nothing. I suddenly feel a nostalgia for the beautiful images, the beautiful times in the old days. My next part will be more about the traditional dishes and the “eating style” in Quảng Ngãi. It’s amazing!