A few months ago, a buddy invited me to take a ride outside of Da Lat in the hills about 300 kilometers north of Ho Chi Minh City. He mentioned that a friend owns a restaurant and had recently started a craft brewery so we went to check it out. We were greeted in Langbiang (about 14 kilometers north of Da Lat) by James Reelick, originally from Connecticut in the USA. Fed up with the madness and fast pace of life back home, James stuck a pin in the map seven years ago and headed for Ho Chi Minh City. James filled us in on his first trip: “I came originally for three months in 2011, starting out in Ho Chi Minh City, but soon set sail for Da Lat and it’s cooler weather. During those first three months I studied and documented the economic status and outlook of Vietnam and was impressed with progress and projections.” James returned to his contracting work in the USA later that year but came back to Vietnam several times over the next two years, then married and … [Read more...] about Craft beer and BBQ in the mountains in Vietnam
A number of men, including some married to Vietnamese women, shared their thoughts on women and their role in the family with Tuoi Tre News on the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8. Women are to be cherished and loved My Vietnamese wife and I have been married for 3 years. In my opinion, the wife plays an equally important role in the family as her husband. She provides a soft loving touch while the husband generally handles the more physically demanding work and major issues such as property and finance. My eleven-month-old baby cries for my wife when he's hungry or not feeling well. He comes to me when he wants to play. This shows me that babies also know the roles of their parents. I believe that women should be treated equally to men. They should be free to pursue their interest and goals. Why should a very capable woman be confined to her house? With better education, job opportunities, and greater financial freedom, the role of Asian women is beginning to … [Read more...] about Women are the foundation for a strong family
I’ve never been beaten up in a restaurant with a selfie stick but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Vietnamese’s reactions to situations they object to can be fascinating; particularly when it turns violent in a ridiculous manner. Recently reported incidents of a customer beaten up in a restaurant for writing an imagined but unproven negative review of the place while still in the eatery and a handful of locals attacking the police over a daytime karaoke party noise complaint might give you the impression that life is slightly bonkers here. Indeed, the Vietnamese may go down in history as the first nationality to use selfie sticks as weapons in a commercial food outlet. My introduction to this almost comical silent movie form of fracas occurred less than an hour after getting off the plane on my first visit to Vietnam in 2006. Two gaudily dressed nouveau rich middle-aged Vietnamese women were fighting over who got the taxi, screaming at the taxi driver to … [Read more...] about Vietnamese-style objection
Some people make a choice to live in the present – “carpe diem” (seize the day) as they called it in the Latin language during Roman times – because that’s how they want to live. No big future plans or aspirations, no sky-high objectives. One day at a time – no tomorrows. Nguyen Van Phuoc is such a person and he’s made a fantastic career as a professional photographer in Da Lat without ever putting together long-term strategies or career plans. Nicknamed “MPK” (Michel Phuoc Khung – Happy Crazy Man) during his wild younger days, he’s now a well-known photographer around the country, settled with a wife and young child. Michel is 61 years old but looks a lot younger, he explains to me that for him the beauty of life is in its spontaneity and natural state, not in design or planning. “Things have always come naturally to me at the right time in life,” he states over a coffee. “When I was in my mid-20s … [Read more...] about Renowned photographer lives for the day in Da Lat
Editor’s note: Nhiep Phuong is a freelance photographer in Ho Chi Minh City. He has a keen interest in street photography. A double standard at work: brutal human fights are encouraged while cruelty-free animal fights are condemned. Isn’t it hypocritical, however, that Vietnam’s cockfights are under such scrutiny by many of the same people who enjoy boxing or WWE Smackdown? Humans over animals? Biologically, anything that moves without an external energy source is an animal. So how did humans gain the upper hand in all this babble? Their own assumed position. Those who object to cockfights must be blind to reality. To many, these ‘poor animals’ should be kept out of the fighting ring and instead patiently await their moment of transformation from carefree creatures to fine dining. A double standard has taken hold in people’s mindsets: we turn a blind eye to the mass slaughter of animals raised on industrial farms only to recoil at the sight of … [Read more...] about Hypocrisy at best: Is cockfighting a blood sport in Vietnam?
Whenever I reach a new destination I seek out a favourite coffee shop as my headquarters or “HQ.” No idea how I picked up the habit – there is no logical reason for it. After all these years of roaming around I’ve just picked up a few odd habits I guess, and this is one of them. I need an HQ or I won’t feel settled in. Somewhere where people can find me in the daytime (but since I know nobody, there’s nobody to find me - yet). The criteria are rigid: First, the café must be frequented entirely by locals. Bluntly put, if I wanted to hang out with foreigners I’d have stayed in Western countries instead of coming to Southeast Asia. The gaggles of selfie-snapping tourists from the big cities aren’t my thing either. Secondly, I want a traditional local place, not some corporate, mass-produced experience, where customers queue up at a counter to be served with someone sporting a name tag who wishes them a nice day who definitely … [Read more...] about Make yourself at home in Vietnam
An article published just before Tet by a local contributor about eating dog meat stirred up quite a few feelings among the expats and foreigners who responded to the story on both Facebook and the Tuoi Tre news website. More than a few of my Vietnamese friends were upset and outraged by some of the reactions expressed by foreign readers. There were demands for the story to be withdrawn and lots of derogatory, plain nasty generalizations about the Vietnamese thrown as well. But do the Vietnamese also have the right to express their point of view without getting shouted at by the foreigners in text? And are they really such barbarians in the traffic, super polluters and insensitive noisy, smelly neighbors? Now, there are no surprises that the issue of eating dog meat arouses such passions between locals who see it as part of their way of life and Westerners who see it as a horrible thing to do. Frequent culture shock when two groups rub up against each other’s lifestyles and … [Read more...] about Vietnam: Get used to it!
A number of tourists and expats in Vietnam have shared their thoughts on traffic safety in the country following a request made by Tuoi Tre News in the wake of hundreds of driving-related causalities recorded during the Lunar New Year holiday. Anything can happen when driving in Vietnam It appears that the Vietnamese attitude towards driving is completely different than my impression on the Vietnamese attitude towards beauty, friendliness and strong family ties. In traffic it seems as if the prevailing attitude is, “me, me, me” or “ I'll do whatever I want, and you should be responsible for not hitting me, no matter what stupid, dangerous and selfish thing I do.” I feel that it is much more dangerous to drive in Vietnam than the USA and other countries in the developed world. The reason for this is that Vietnamese drivers often ignore traffic regulations and do whatever they want. This includes driving against traffic, not stopping at red lights and not … [Read more...] about How safe is it to drive in Vietnam?
Another day, another airplane emergency door opened. Life in Vietnam must be getting back to normal. The traffic is getting deadlier, soon the loudspeakers will stop playing patriotic songs, local news will return to normal (‘Mrs Vien had a baby boy and there’ll be a power cut on Tuesday’) and the price of banh mi for tourists will return to something less than Western prices. I can’t wait. The placidly quiet Hoi An sidewalks are filling up with motorbikes forcing unwitting international tourists into roadside mud puddles and experiencing unnecessary confrontations with stray dogs, unattended children and plastic chairs. The air is warming up, banana shirts are selling well again and there’s still some sand left on Cua Dai Beach. Yep, life is good. By all accounts, we’ll really be open again for business around March 2 as the holidaymakers jam every road into the northern and southern metropolises. Better watch out for those coconut … [Read more...] about Life after Tet in Vietnam
I’ve spent the past 5 years living a nomadic lifestyle, wandering from one destination to another in my 6 favourite countries in Southeast Asia. For this past Western holiday month of December, I visited my beloved Borneo, a part of Malaysia which is a rich tapestry of many indigenous groups and religions who bond together to celebrate each group’s big holidays including Christmas. One of the most interesting aspects of my lifestyle is that I never get in a rut or bored in any one place, getting a fresh new perspective with each trip. Usually I’ll spend a month or two in one spot, although my trips to Vietnam have become longer as I fall in love with it more each passing year. Moving from one destination to another presents no culture shock feeling because I’ve been doing it so long, so each time I arrive at one of my destinations it’s more like a homecoming. But this past time, after only 5 short weeks, I was blown away by many things when I came back to … [Read more...] about Even a short absence is revealing in Vietnam