Dear Hani, Andrew, Aunt Ten and Ms. Hong –
AliSun and I are deeply blessed. What began as a hazy sketch of a trip to Asia a year ago crystallizes in a beautiful celebration of family under the starry skies of the Vietnamese coast.
The invitation is a delight.
Saw your itinerary, writes Hani. Andrew and I are celebrating our birthdays at our aunt’s resort. Would love if you could make it.
Our initial reaction is yes. We sleep on it. Still yes. I email Hani, We’re in. See you in eight months.
We arrive in Saigon. Another invitation from Hani. Auntie says come to the condo at noon.
Hani is an amateur storyteller, historian and genealogist with an incredible memory for detail. The vivid characters from her tales come to three dimensional life as we meet up with mom, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Aunt Ten’s ample dining room table fills with food. Dumplings, spring rolls, noodles, rice dishes, sauces. And a vegetarian version of everything. Then a Vietnamese coffee, ca phe sua da, tempered with sweet condensed milk.
The van leaves for District 1. We walk the streets, through Ben Thanh Market, then a respite in a nice cafe. Evening falls as we take a van tour. We are fanned by Vietnamese girls as we dine outdoors in downtown Saigon with Hung, Hani, Andrew, Adam, Amanda and the kids and a couple cousins.
The next day, the clock slips past noon as the bus rolls up to the curb and our adventure east to Mui Ne begins.
We arrive at Poshanu, early in the evening but well after dark, greeted by an attentive staff. They bear passionfruit juice and cold wet hand towels for the weary traveler.
The story as I understand it is that Aunt Ten went to Italy and learned to craft gelato. She came back to Vietnam, opened a store with localized flavors like mango, soursop and durian, built it into a successful chain. Went back to Italy, learned to make pizza, returned to Vietnam and did it again. Then she partnered in a resort in nascent Mui Ne, and ultimately opened the elegant Poshanu.
Poshanu is gorgeous, meticulously modeled after an ancient Cham village. Walking along the beach, Poshanu singularly stands out amidst her more modern counterparts.
Thirty people fly in, joining another fifteen family from around Vietnam.
Days flow into nights. Andrew reduces it to verbs.
We have breakfast and sit around the outdoor dining room until lunch.
More friends and relatives arrive every day, right up until cocktail hour on Saturday. A deep red sunset throws crimson across the clouds, and along the peaks of the South China Sea’s gentle swells. It gives way to the night. The soft flickering light of candles and and submerged white beams in the pool take over.
The feast, as I Andrew and I affectionately decide, is an embarrassment of riches, fitting for Hani and Andrew’s collective 90th birthday. Seafood, duck, pork, noodles, salads, crepes, pho, a vegetarian table all vie for attention.
Hung, Ari and Andy all strum a guitar, contribute a few tunes at the mic. Playing kids add their own melody amidst percussive laughter.
Two beautiful ice cream cakes have made the five hour journey from Aunt Ten’s Saigon factory packed in dry ice. Toasts, cheers, the birthday song. A handful of us finish the warm, humid night on the deck, polishing off a couple bottles of wine. The waves settle into a placid nighttime stillness below.
It is here at Poshanu that we simultaneously observe the fascinating Hong reunion from afar and are so graciously welcomed into the family circle with love. The Hongs open their hearts unconditionally and with deep generosity and it is magic.
I am grateful and humbled and have memories that will always travel with me.
With deepest gratitude to Hani, Andrew, Aunt Ten, Ms. Hong and all who came together,