What was your favourite bit? This is a question I have asked all the students? In many ways a ‘stupid’ question. Certainly a question I could not definitively answer.
That said, there are of course highlights – things that have readily emerged from the collage of colour, sights, tastes, sounds, people, the cacophony that is Vietnam. So in no particular order
The food. From paddock to plate – it is a rich tapestry. The freshness. The availability. The flavour of Vietnamese fish sauce. The markets. And Pho.
Street life. Life happens on the streets. It is hard not to be fascinated with the routine of everyday life acted out in public. From haircuts to food preparation, this public display stands in deep contrast to the secretive life of Middle class Australia. In many ways it is refreshing to see life being lived.
Car horns I wish I had taped the sound of the car horns – they sound less aggressive than in Aust, but they are used far more frequently. I realised just how much I missed them at 3am in Hanoi, a city asleep, quiet, in stark contrast to the noise of daytime.
The different personalities of the three cities we visited.
The sense of modernity that characterised HCMC tempered by the past that is Saigon.
The human scale of Hoi An – the amazing streetscape – was it designed with the flaneur in mind.
Hanoi – my favourite (cannot explain) – the old city is fascinating, amazing, hard, more aggressive, in your face, noisy – I could go on…..
(The wedding photo was taken in Hanoi – outside a new (largely deserted) shopping complex leased by western upmarket designer brands, brides and grooms ( there were about 8 couples) with camera crews in tow were very publicly having photos taken in front of the store and this couple dicing with the chaotic traffic. These juxtapositions with the nearby old city sum up the complexity of Hanoi.)
The People I decided not to mention any names here but it is a combination of some amazing individuals and the population as a whole.
Places We visited some truly amazing places. Many famous, many not ( for me the streets were enthralling) – if I had to pick one that stands out, then this wet bar in HCMC.
The reasons for picking this place are complex, a sense of the authentic, the sense of timeout and for somebody with my career background truly amazing sense of hospitality& service. Again I could go on…
It would be easy to add to the list – coffee, traffic, places, can do attitude, resilience, contrasts, personal space…
Vietnam is an amazing country that stands in contrast to many aspects of life in Australia – there is much to learn from this place and its people.
And of course the students.