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.