Trucks and buses zipping by with defining honks, over-loaded 'xe may's', ox-driven carts, and, this month of November, our Lycra-clad buttocks are what some local towns people will see on the road. As they sit and drink their tra da or sip the cafe sua da before they start off their day of work, they may or may not see a pack of bikers, blazing down the hwy; upon this, they'll more than likely shout the words written in the title: Nguoi Tay!!! Which means 'westerner/foreigner' in Vietnamese.
I've heard this phrase probably anywhere between 5 to 10,000 times already; however, it pails in comparison to the uncountable hello's I've heard from the children we pass everyday. The funny thing is, they always giggle when we reply - it must be our pronunciation.
Nguoi Tay isn't, to my understanding, a negative phrase or a phrase meant to disrespect. It's simply what we are: strangers in a strange land.
As I hear this phrase and see grandmothers or parents yell for their children to come see the parade of westerners on their big bikes, I'm reminded of Vietnam's -and I'm referring to rural Vietnam here - curious fascination with things foreign. And their eagerness to say hello if only to get a simple reply, or ask us if they can ride one of our fancy bikes, or to stand next to you to compare heights. (It should be known that I'm an unnerving height to most Vietnamese except for the children who either want to gang up on me to bring me down, or figure out a way to make me a vehicle of transportation.)
From Hoa Binh to Huong Khe, local people are curious and want to know what we're about.
Thanks for reading