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Posts from the ‘Vietnam’ Category

Hoi An: a bridge between cultures

Standing on a pedestrian walkway by the Thu Bon River, Bama and I drink in the view of a sublime architectural gem. It rests on a succession of stone piers, the timber frame bearing traces of maroon paint, faded and stripped away by years of exposure to the elements. Above the rafters, delicate blue-and-white porcelain bowls are set into the edges of the tiled roof, itself crowned by florid, dragon-like finials. It was this famous structure – the Japanese covered bridge – that had brought us to the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An. When I read last August that the 400-year-old landmark would eventually be dismantled for restoration, I knew it was high time to go. Read more

Hungry in Hue and Hoi An

Inside a high-ceilinged, unfussy diner in central Vietnam, I waited hungrily for my lunch at a small table by the window. Nguyen Thi Loc – the 80-year-old “Banh Mi Queen” of Hoi An – was carefully preparing the next batch of made-to-order sandwiches with her daughter at a stand by the entrance. I’d made the pilgrimage to Nguyen’s stall outside the UNESCO-listed old town after reading a host of favorable reviews. Most recently, a childhood friend had paid a visit while on his honeymoon and raved about her banh mi. Read more

Snapshots from Da Nang

“You want to see Lady Buddha? How ‘bout Marble Mountain? The trees here are 100 years old, but there, one thousand years old!”

Outside the Museum of Cham Sculpture, a single-story French colonial building flanked by noble banyans and gnarled frangipani trees, a local tout in a worn-out cap makes his pitch. The man is presumably in his sixties, and he speaks American English with a distinctive nasal twang and a Southern-style drawl.

“There’s not a lot to see here in Da Nang,” the man says. “You’ll spend maybe half an hour at this museum. It’s small.” Read more

Beyond Cholon, the scars of history

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Founded by Cantonese settlers on a tributary of the Saigon River, Cholon is the symbolic heartland of the Hoa, the Sino-Vietnamese community. Ethnic Chinese residents know her as Tai-Ngon, named for the embankments that buttress the town. On my final day in Saigon I had come here in search of a personal connection. “No need for Vietnamese,” I was told. “Maybe you can talk to people in Cantonese or Mandarin.”

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Gallic echoes in old Saigon

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Saigon is a pleasant enough place to idle in for a few days… It is very agreeable to sit under the awning on the terrace of the Hotel Continental, an electric fan just above your head, and with an innocent drink before you to read in the local paper heated controversies upon the affairs of the Colony and the faits divers of the neighbourhood. Read more

Saigon: pulse of the rising dragon

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The Boeing 777-300 makes its final descent through the afternoon haze, over rice paddies and a jigsaw of narrow buildings like slices of layer cake. We are just a stone’s throw from the delta of the mighty Mekong, whose brown waters I had seen eight months earlier in Laos. Read more