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Posts from the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Vietnam, Part 4: Emergence in Hanoi

This is a the Duong Dong day market. Notice how many motorbikes are in this picture. That is INSIDE the market, like next to all the food. Northern Californian hippies wouldn't be too thrilled...

This is the Duong Dong day market. Notice how many motorbikes are in this picture. That is INSIDE the market, like next to all the food. Northern Californian hippies wouldn’t be too thrilled…

Crossing the street in Vietnam is a feat of derring-do. I’m sure there are areas of China or Indonesia with an even greater degree of clusterfuckery, but Vietnam’s driving conditions are certainly deserving of mention. In most cities, the problem is congestion—how quickly you can move through the urban system—because too many cars, SUVs, and busses will collapse a roadway like a blood clot in an artery. However, when the dominant mode of transportation is the moped, a full-scale collapse is virtually impossible because mopeds are both maneuverable enough and compact enough to fit through impossible gaps in even the worst traffic. In these situations, the problem isn’t congestion; it’s chaos. If you’ve been to Rome, you’ve got an idea of what I’m talking about, but Vietnam is an order of magnitude more chaotic than Italy, Europe’s most moped addicted country. Read more

Vietnam, Part 3: Phu Quoc

After the hustle bustle of Ho Chi Minh and the cognitive dissonance of the Cu Chi tunnels, HCB and I shifted gears, boarding a plane to Phu Quoc, a tropical island off the southernmost coast of Vietnam know for its relaxed atmosphere and fine vintages of fish sauce. The island is just a series of white-sand beaches, bathwater-warm oceans, lush forests, and froufrou fruit drinks with silly umbrellas. For me, the island lacked the epic vistas that have drawn me to eco-tourism in the past, so in some ways, Phu Quoc with its human-sized natural attractions fell the tiniest bit short of my wildest dreams. HCB, on the other hand, was in paradise. Just seeing the joy on his face as he bobbed in the waves… it could break a guy’s heart, it was so sweet. He’s usually consumed by a long list of worries, but when he’s out there with his fish, he’s just about as contented as I ever see him. Seriously, you guys, if his university offered underwater classes, I think he’d hold office hours all day long. Read more

Vietnam, Part 2: Cu Chi and a small dark hole in the ground

When articles or documentaries on the Vietnam War want to gesture at the advantages of guerrilla tactics, they usually say something like, “The Viet Cong used their knowledge of the terrain to outmaneuver American G.I.s who were more comfortable in the cornfields of Iowa than in the tropical jungles of Southeast Asia.” Until actually visiting one of these jungles, I never really understood what that meant. After all, what’s the learning curve on hiding in the underbrush? How hard is it to find the higher ground? Are there poisonous jungle plants that take a trained eye to avoid? I knew traps were involved in there somewhere, but again, I couldn’t see how that would furnish such an asymmetrical advantage. What is a land mine, after all, if not a trap? Read more

Water Buffalo Portraiture

Can you guess what my new favorite animal is?

Water buffalos are the awesomest, you guys. They’re basically just giant labrador retrievers with 18″ horns and four chambered stomachs. Plus, they don’t smell nearly as bad as you’d expect! These handsome ladies were just chillin’ by the side of the road, sunning themselves and being generally adorable. Will you think I’m weird if I admit I’ve done research about where in the US you can buy an Asian water buffalo? Because I have done that research. Read more

Vietnam, Part 1: Om Nom Nom

I’ve been back from Vietnam for a week and a half now, but with the exception of a dribble of status updates and a changed profile picture (WATER BUFFALO!), my post-trip internet presence has been pretty anemic. It’s just that responsibilities backlog and strides are hard to hit, especially when you board a plane in Vietnam and disembark into a landscape that is LITERALLY lashed by the winds of Siberia. As HCB would say, it’s Seoul cold right now.

The problem is that, with so many stories from Vietnam, it’s kind of hard to decide where to start. For the first week, we kept things easy, only hitting two southern destinations, Ho Chi Minh and Phu Quoc, but for the second week, HCB was left to find his way home to Seoul, while I traveled north to visit Hanoi, Halong Bay and Sapa. Not having a better organizing principle, I suppose chronology will do. Read more