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Back from the Nam

Posted January 21 by John Birmingham

We spent a couple of weeks in Vietnam, flying out on New Year's Eve (when the price of airfares falls away for some reason) and returning about a week ago. Mostly we hung out in Hanoi, which is a crazy, crowded, joyous mess of a city that I'd happily return to next week.

Staying in the Old Quarter, about fifteen minutes walk from the lake in the centre of town, I was a fair way removed from the spendy tourist enclave of the Metropole Hotel where I fetched up last time, but only five minutes walk from the 18 cent beers of Beer Street. (There's plenty of pricier, imported beer options too, but who can go past an 18 cent mug).

I spent a lot of time walking the insanely busy back alleys, taking photos and notes which informed the copy edit of THE CRUEL STARS, mostly by filling in colour and detail for the space habitat scenes on Eassar. Turns out nothing brings a space hab to life like open air butchery and pour-your-own beer stands.

It's a weird place, Vietnam. Still a one-party state of course, but bizarrely libertarian in its economics. Everybody is running wild and free to make a dollar. I didn't see much evidence of any laws being enforced, alhough armed enforcers of the state are everywhere. In some ways it seemed people had much greater freedom. If you wanted to start a chicken strangling business, you just started strangling chickens on the footpath. Whether your venture lived or died depended entirely on the market demand for chicken murder. (But you better believe that if you did make a few bucks, the whole street would be overrun with competitors and feathery corpses within days).

I'll post a few pics and stories over the next few days. I never do live updates because I don't like telling the world I'm away from home and the golden hovercraft is undguarded.

11 Responses to ‘Back from the Nam’

Murphy_of_Missouri has opinions thus...

Posted January 22
In some ways, sounds like South Korea in 1993.

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Bangar would have you know...

Posted January 22
Sounds like a good trip. I'm sure H could be trusted with the hovercraft. The hovercraft that is not the keys.

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 23
The last time I did that he installed a stripper pole and YouTubed himself breaking it in.

Bangar ducks in to say...

Posted January 23
I figured he couldn't do anymore damage ... though that video does stay with you

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jason reckons...

Posted January 23
Been to Vietnam three times traveled from top to bottom. Love everything about it. Hanoi is great fro crazy but try Hoi An for slightly quieter and food and coffee heaven.

John Birmingham would have you know...

Posted January 23
We did about four days in Hoi An. Loved it! Jane and the kids were all getting clothes made up at the BeBe Tailor Deathstar. I hunted out some off Broadway feeds and taught Thomas how to bargain. He turned into a much more ferocious haggler than I could ever hope to be.

jason ducks in to say...

Posted January 23
I had a secret weapon. Red haired pale skinned cute eight year old daughter. The stall owners were falling over themselves to sell her something.

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Dave W mumbles...

Posted January 23
The crazy micro/hyper commercialism of Vietnam just about freaked me out, even Hoi An.

And the heat. The goddamn heat. My pasty white skin can't handle that kind of sun.

I much preferred Cambodia, with just the right amount of hustling and hassling and a bit of a slower pace about things.

Is the street life colour a bit like the street scenes in Altered Carbon?

John Birmingham is gonna tell you...

Posted January 23
Yes!

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she_jedi has opinions thus...

Posted January 23
This is wonderful, Vietnam is definitely on my bucket list. My uncle served there in the war, so my childhood perspective of Vietnam was filtered through his experiences there (he was awarded a citation or commendation thingy when all the officers in his group were killed and left him the highest ranking person, and he had to coordinate a battle for 15 hours until reinforcements arrived). For a long time Vietnam as a tourist destination was a weird concept for me because of this, but it would be amazing to see it now.

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FormerlyKnownAsSimon is gonna tell you...

Posted January 29
Kerching! Get back from a week off looking after kids and doing those projects around the house that need doing and my lunchtime break suddenly becomes less boring. Question is how do i not binge on these entries all at once?

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