I hit ‘celebrity’ status in Hoi An, meaning people poke each other when I walk by try to secretly take pictures stare like forever, call me beautiful which is kind of nice. I mean it’s still a compliment but when men hide around corners taking pictures or people try to touch me when they talk to me to check if I am real, it does feel kind of awkward. It started in Ho Chi Minh city where people were like hello, hi, where are you from? A reaction I’m quite accustomed to after having traveled to Asia a few times and I do realize I am taller than the average person and I have a red afro, something that even back home doesn’t go unnoticed.
By the time I reached Hoi An, it became more extreme. I realize people have probably never seen a black girl before in the flesh and definitely not with an afro. They stop, stare, giggle and tell me that they like the colour of my skin. At one point a local woman approached me and said: Here in Vietnam we not like brown. You are brown! Excuse me I said ?! thinking to myself did this woman just tell me straight to my face that she didn’t like brown people and have the nerve to speak for her whole country. With a fake smile I asked her to repeat herself she must have noticed the temperature drop from 35 degrees to minus 35. She quickly explained we not like brown for us, You have brown skin you are beautiful. Ooow hmmm I guess there was a compliment in there. She meant that they are scared to get brown like I noticed in Japan as well . It all comes down to status, the fairer your skin the higher the status. This means you probably work on the land when you have a dark skin. But for me it is ok because I am born this way. With the children here it’s a different story all together. When I pass them they either stare frightened, yes frightened, big eyes, frozen or they try to run up to me thinking I am a fluffy character from sesame street.
To sum it up ; babies from around 6 months: scared, shocked, astonished. Toddlers : Happy, pleasantly surprised want to come up and touch me. Little girls: sweet smiles, little waves and sweet giggles. Teenagers ask politely in their best English if they can take a picture for some school project or just to show their friends. Adults, varies from secretly taking pictures to trying to touch or just make an excited screaming sound and on the market in Danang it got serious. I went from fame to feeling like a freak, people pointing in my face laughing or sneaking up on me from the back for a quick touch.
The ancient city of Hoi An is beautiful and China beach is relaxing with very few tourists. The Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa where I stayed sits on the coast of Danang with beautiful views of the East Sea and Marble Mountains. The staff is super friendly , they have a perfect sense for hospitality. As a matter of fact I hope more people would visit Vietnam so we can make the world a little smaller. I definitely paved the way for the afro’s and the curly heads here. For the less daring please keep your hair straight in a bun, wrapped and dark brown for the adventurous type go colourful and with the biggest afro ever I can promise you will be in for a surprise!!!