Lets Go Everywhere

Things I like about Vietnam
November 23, 2007, 7:11 am
Filed under: expat, Hanoi, vietnam

It’s been a stressful and difficult six months and I’ve become a little bit too negative about life in Hanoi. I’ve been focusing on that negativity way too much so I decided to do a bit of counter-work by listing some of the things I really like about this place.

  • Old men wearing berets
  • Fried tofu with tomato
  • Palm trees and lotus ponds
  • Pagodas, temples and spirit houses
  • The total lack of sarcasm
  • Men who cry on television
  • Love-themed graffiti
  • Glass noodles with tender duck meat and young bamboo shoots (!!!)
  • The health farm breakfast at Tamarind
  • Girls in ao dai riding bikes
  • Countryside people
  • My dog and cat
  • Cheap transportation, and I guess cheap everything
  • Dogs on motorbikes
  • Brown-robed monks and nuns

I’m sure I’ll add more as I think of it, but that’s all I got right now.


Dissidents arrested yet again in Vietnam



Vietnam arrests foreign activists


Vietnamese police have arrested six political activists, including four foreign citizens, in Ho Chi Minh City.


The activists – two Vietnamese, two American, one French and one Thai – were reportedly arrested after attending pro-democracy discussions.

Three of the six are members of a US-based anti-communist group.

The Vietnamese government exerts strong control over media and political activity. It has not yet commented on the arrests.

The US-based organisation Viet Tan (Vietnam Reform) said the activists were arrested on Saturday after they “participated in discussions with other democracy activists on promoting peaceful democratic change”.

It said their members were using examples of non-violent struggles around the world to “help empower the Vietnamese people.”

Vietnam says Viet Tan, which was established by a former south Vietnamese general in 1982, is a terrorist organisation and has staged a media campaign against it in recent months.

Seeking information

Among those arrested was Frenchwoman Nguyen Thi Thanh Van, a well-known campaigner and contributor to overseas Vietnamese-language media.

A press officer from the US embassy in Hanoi told the BBC the US was seeking information from the Vietnamese government regarding two US nationals.

There is no word on the charges they face.

The Paris-based campaign group Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrests.

“We call for their immediate release since they were only engaged in peacefully promoting freedom of expression,” it said.

Vietnam has recently increased its efforts to silence political dissent and has jailed many activists who oppose the one party state system.

Watch yourself expats! The wrong word around your official minder and you’re outta here. I don’t think there’s a bribe big enough to get you out of ‘terrorism’ charges.

The government must be pretty scared if they are willing to go as far as arresting foreigners (Viet kieu, I hear) for attending a meeting, even if it was about democracy. Or maybe the country’s leaders are just used to dealing with black eyes and will do just about anything to preserve the one-party system so popular among the ruling class.

Still no word on the situation in the local English-language media… Though no big surprise there.

I tried to access the Viet Tan website but obviously it’s blocked within Vietnam. If anyone wants to send me a mirror or saved version I’d appreciate it!

Vacay time
September 18, 2007, 7:11 am
Filed under: expat, Hanoi, opium, Sapa, vietnam

So it’s September and I’ve been on vacation since the 7th. My friend Andy is in town visiting from Canada and we’ve been doing the Hanoi touristy stuff, and just got back from a trip to Sa Pa, about 10 hours north on the border with China. The trip was amazing and the six-hour hike through the hills to the remote ethnic minority village of Ban Ho was pretty spectacular. Also extremely painful on the quads.

One thing we all noticed was the prevalence of opium sellers in Sa Pa Town itself. Old ladies would brush by and whisper “Marijuana, hashish, opium?”  Needless to say, we didn’t buy. Vietnam is nice but I don’t need a 15-year prison term.

Next, we’re off to Da Nang and Hoi An for three days, then Hong Kong the week after. More pics to come!

Terraced rice fields

Black H’Mong

Sa Pa, Viet Nam

Opium pipe

Mid-afternoon lunar eclipse
August 28, 2007, 9:42 am
Filed under: eclipse, Hanoi, media, Uncategorized, vietnam

There will be a lunar eclipse tonight (Tuesday August 28) but unfortunately most in Vietnam won’t get a chance to see it. According to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper:

Hanoi Education University astronomy instructor Nguyen Anh Vinh said the eclipse would begin at 2.53.39pm.

The eclipse will begin in full around 4.52pm.

The eclipse’s maximum point will occur at 5.37.22pm and the phenomenon will end at 6.22.24pm, according to Vinh.

Portions of mainland Vietnam will not be able to see the eclipse at all while some areas will be able to view the last half of the eclipse after the 5.37pm pinnacle.

Soldiers on the Truong Sa and Hoang Sa Islands will be able to see most of the eclipse’s strongest parts around and after 4.52pm. Residents on Con Dao and select groups of lucky coastal viewers may be able to catch glimpses of this part of the eclipse as well.

But visibility will be very limited due to the early occurrence of the eclipse as the bright afternoon sky will most likely drown out the phenomenon in most areas.

I just looked at my clock and it’s 4:37pm on Tuesday afternoon. Outside, it’s gray and cloudy, terrible viewing conditions. 😦

Enjoy the eclipse!

Lunar eclipse

Gun Scare at Central Vietnam computer shop
August 27, 2007, 5:21 am
Filed under: consumerism, expat, media, Uncategorized, vietnam

Two men in central Vietnam Saturday pulled a gun on a computer technician in an incident that was likely related to a dispute over a USB flash drive.

At 1.20 pm, two men walked into the second floor of a computer repair shop in Danang city and one of them pointed a gun at Do Phu Thinh, 26.

The assailant shouted “Motherfu—thought I couldn’t do anything to you!”

Thinh’s girlfriend and sister were present and screamed just before shop owner and retired police officer Tran Van Tu sneak-attacked the gunman from behind. Tu pushed Thinh and himself into a nearby room and locked it from inside.

The other man wielded a sharp knife and banged on the door.

They only left after Thinh called the police from inside the room.

“I heard the gun cocking and knew it was an authentic one”, Thinh said after the quarrel.

He also said that some days earlier, a woman had asked him to repair a 1GB Sony USB but Thinh discovered it was only 128 MB and told the customer.

On Friday the woman’s husband, son and daughter came to claim that Thinh had swapped their USB, he said.

According to Thinh, the next day, two other men came and threateningly told Thinh to return the “true” USB, several hours before the gun incident occurred that afternoon.

Reported by Vu Phuong Thao – Thanh Nien – Translated by A.N.O.N

 By the way, the Vietnamese for “motherfucker” is dich me [deek-may]. Just in case anyone was wondering.

It’s funny, I’ve been in and out of this country for close to three years and this was the first gun story I ever read. Then again, there was that story about the samurai sword wielding policeman who stabbed a parking attendant. Oddly enough, that also took place in Da Nang.

Pedesterians of Hanoi beware
August 22, 2007, 10:15 am
Filed under: expat, Hanoi, Honda, motorbike, vietnam

A warning for the residents of Hanoi: I’ve rented a motorbike and I’m driving erratically on your roads!

The first time I drove a motorbike (an 100cc Honda Wave to be exact), I spun off in some sand and crashed into nothing. In the accident I basically ripped off my right kneecap and part of my right elbow, while banging up Scott pretty good too. That was on Phuc Quoc Island about two years ago.

The second time I drove I stayed in 1st gear and did laps at around 10km around the small island of Truc Bach. Though I didn’t crash, I drove at midnight so I wouldn’t have to pass any other bikes or embarass myself in front of the neighbours.

Today, however, I rented my own motorbike to get around in the city. A really close friend from university is coming to visit and I’m hoping to practice enough that I’m competent by the time he gets here. Start praying now Andy!!

The bike is a Honda RS Wave. What that means, I don’t know. All I know is that it’s shiny and red and is lots of fun on empty streets! Today I drove around the neighbourhood, and even ventured out around the larger lake of Truc Bach. No crashes yet. *fingers crossed* Of course, the fastest I accelerated to was a cool 20-22km, and I still haven’t managed to cross over into 3rd gear. All in good time!

Here are some pics, though my bike is red, not yellow. Too bad.

Honda RS Wave

Honda RS Wave 2

Ps. To the thieves that stole Scott and I’s last Honda scooter: Go fuck yourself. This new one has three locks, one of which I’m told actually works.

I’m Back
August 21, 2007, 7:39 am
Filed under: expat, free press, freelancing, Hanoi, News and politics, vietnam

It’s been an interesting, uh, eight months. I left Bangkok for a production editor job back in Hanoi. I quit the new job after a month (*WORST MAGAZINE EVER) and am now freelancing for North American publications and editing at Hanoi’s local investment review weekly. I’ll be updating this space with news of all kinds from Vietnam and Southeast Asia, particularly if it’s funny or bizarre. I’m also about to apply for the Canadian foreign service, so prepare for rants and ravings on that topic as well.

I am currently finishing up a profile of Joe Ruelle, a Canadian blogger in Vietnam, for the Globe & Mail. I’ll link the article when it prints, but for info on Joe check out his blog at Yahoo 360. Hope your Vietnamese-language reading skills are up to par.

West Lake fisherman, Hanoi


Me & Oprah