The threat of hunger didn’t diminish their hospitality. As stars replaced the sun in a cloudless sky, the farmers invited us into a stilt house and served us spicy jeow, pickled bamboo shoots, fresh chicken soup and steaming hunks of khao niaw. I handled my sticky rice carefully, conscious of how much elbow grease had gone into each grain. We ate and chatted, and ate some more, until about 8 p.m.. Afterward we were so full that we went directly to bed.
Lying under a mosquito net in the head villager’s drafty stilt house, I listened for sounds of evening activity. Silence. The farmers were sleeping, and for good reason: There was more sticky rice to harvest, starting at daybreak.
Mike Ives is a freelance writer based in Hanoi, Vietnam.