Writing about Vietnam

Kicking of a week of posts about my new home

At a wedding this summer, me and a friend idled away a lull in the proceedings picking over a comment I’d made. I’d shared a then very vague plan to move to Hanoi and teach English. I explained that while I wanted to be based in city, I was hoping to get the chance to travel and ‘see the rest of the country’. My friend began turning over what it would mean to have seen a country. For example, how many places would one need to visit to have seen the UK? By the time something better to do came along we’d come up with a list that included London (of course) and the familiar tourist sites (Bath, York, Stonehenge etc), at least one city in each of the north and the midlands, a port town, a seaside town, an idyllic village, a more normal village, a spa town, a cathedral town, the highlands…then we realised you’d probably need to include more places in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland…and that you’d have to see a whole host of places before you could say you’d ‘seen’ them!

Telling you this is, of course, my way of admitting how ill equipped I am to write about Vietnam. I spent a chunk of last year in the country but that was almost all spent in the French Quarter of Hanoi. I’m going back in a weeks time to take up a job as an English teacher and will be travelling via Ho Chi Minh City (née Saigon) and the former Imperial capital of Huế. But that’s still a small proportion of the country to have seen. And perhaps even more importantly, I don’t speak Vietnamese!

Nonetheless, I still want to give it a go. It’s a fascinating country and I now know a lot more than I did a few months ago. I do not believe that I was unusual among Brits in not having thought much about Vietnam. In contrast to America, Australia and France, the UK has pretty weak historical links with it. So despite my limitations as a guide, I still think there are things I can introduce my mostly British regular readers.

Therefore, for the rest of this week I am planning to turn this blog over to posts about Vietnam. As I did when I wrote a similar series about the Balkans, I am planning to mix more serious posts about social and political topics with ones about the reasons I like the place.

So look out for posts about:

  • Reasons to visit Hanoi
  • Why has Vietnam forgiven America?
  • The West needs to realise Vietnam is a country and not a war
  • Why Britain needs more Vietnamese food
  • Capitalism in a social republic
  • What Vietnamese roads taught me about anarchism
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