Hmm… Why do you need to share this with the world at large? Your posts tend to center so much on yourself and yet I am sure you could do more news analysis – reflecting on and interpretting the significance of events in Hanoi and other current events. Isn’t that what your “our man in Hanoi” domain would imply?
So, okay this is now not a Hanoi blog. At best it’s Hanoi flavoured. It’s my life and thoughts and anything that makes me think or amuses me – with a Hanoi flavour because that’s where I live, work and, now, where half my extended family are based.
I’ve been here six years and frankly I’m bored of most Hanoi blog content. I feel I’ve read all I ever want to read of the usual range of Hanoi blog posts from streetfood to traffic problems. But they’re personal content too – if that’s what people are dealing with for the first time or it’s a particular passion of their’s.
I was just writing about migrants for my next Word column and, in the end, if anything makes you an outsider it’s relating everything to where you live. If you intend to stay here a long time then you have to reach a point where not everything is about your location. Hanoi can’t take credit for all the good things that happens to me and so shouldn’t be blamed for the bad either. Location can be incidental.
As for news analysis, it’s not such a smart move in Vietnam and I don’t feel compelled to push that – any more than I would compell others to. In a country where reliable information is at a premium, having a blog doesn’t make me any more knowing, wise or well-informed than the next man. Especially when the next man too often relies on guesswork or info from those who have their own agendas (and do their own guessing).
The blog is what it is and, inevitably, the longer I stay here the Hanoi flavour will increase as the Hanoi content decreases. Inevitably Hanoi will shape me but I won’t change it.
As for blog content, in the end I only know about my life and what I encounter first hand. It’s a life I feel incredibly lucky to live but it’s just my life and no different, in that respect, to any other expat.
That was without the assistance of one or two Vietnam-based bloggers who write exclusively on the subject. One of the articles came from The Word and highlighted its recent Hanoi poll.
When it asked what we like best about Vietnam, the survey said:
…a huge 98.8% of the votes, no doubt motivated by an absent lunch and a rumbling stomach, went to Hanoi’s street food…
It followed a similar poll in Ho Chi Minh City where the results were remarkably similar with streetfood getting 94% of the vote.
I do recall a tweet sometime ago (from @thecomicalhat perhaps) referring to expats who “say they love street food but really really only eat bun cha a couple of times a year” – or something similar.
Certainly, it’s easy to be a cynical when your average pho store isn’t exactly knee deep in foreigners.
So what’s the truth, is eating street food as popular as blogging about it and taking instagram pics? Just how trendy is VN food right now? Is it still on an upswing or have the hardcore foodies moved on?
Update: It occurs to me that the reason eating, photographing and blogging Vietnamese streetfood is so popular is that it’s a fad, within a fad, within a fad – and you can add another layer to that if you consider Vietnam to be a newly trendy place to visit.
- I enjoy street food whenever I have it and yet probably only do eat it half a dozen times a year.
- I voted “people”.
Back then, back when blogging was the only social media, well give or take Friends Reunited, the social bit was the links and the comments.
To a certain extent that’s all moved to platforms like Twitter, Facebook and the rest. Most of the interaction now takes place away from the blogs themselves. Does that alter their whole point? A post was written with the comment box beneath it in mind. If the comment box is obsolete does that change the content of the blog?
But links, links are still good. Links are what makes it all go round. Links continue to power Google so we can find all this stuff.
So alongside the extensive blogroll on the right and alongside Vietnam Blogs. Here’s my three most-readable from Vietnam. Two from Hanoi and one from Ho Chi Minh City:
First off Debbie J Clare, sporadic but worth waiting for. Written beautifully.
Secondly, Antidote to Burnout, this is a long standing favourite who I hope we can persuade to blog more. The niche, architecture, specifically modern architecture, works particularly well because as expats we tend to be more impressed by tradition and history. I recall kids at KOTO telling me off for only taking pictures of things they considered old fashioned – ie bicycles, conical hats etc. That said, check out this for a little bit of Old Saigon.
Finally, aimed at the tourist, rather than the expat I do like the Travelfish Hanoi Blog. Again, like the two above it’s written with little comment, neither cooing glee nor tired cynicism. But if you’re thinking of visiting or coming to stay then it’s just about the best introduction I can imagine. Mercifully it avoids CNN GO’s increasingly irritating list format.
I particularly like Travelfish’s Hanoi People section and in particular the interview of Ian Paynton, (he of Oi Gioi Oi fame), particularly his description of last time he left the country when he “thought about Hanoi every day for two years.”
That was me once. Ian is currently working back in the UK and you’d bet on him coming back, not least because he’s become a little bit famous during his absence. No doubt he’s missing Hanoi all over again.
Before he went I had a brief online chat with him while he was chasing me for my Word column. I reminded him that leaving doesn’t mean you can’t come back. Something I am now reminding myself of as I start to cast the net wider as I look for new employment.
And the flyover, the flyover is just a flyover. Snapped on my way to my inlaws on Saturday night. In the West of the city the growth remains incredible. My current employers (I’m working my notice) just opened an English class there aiming to enrol 50 students, now they’re approaching three times that number. I read (a little too gleefully, or is just me?) reports of slowdowns yet the pace of it all seems as frantic as ever (“ These days, Hanoians do not have much to celebrate…”)
To me though, this is how it always was, only more so.
A talk on all things “Our Man in Hanoi” and blogging from my point of view
Time/Date: June 29th 7.30pm
Where: Bookworm, 44 Chau Long
Profits to Blue Dragon.
Cost: 50,000 VND. Bookings, apparently, adviseable.
Click the banner for the rest of the “Festival of Words” programme. I hope to see you there.
Afterwards I was surrounded by a small group wanting to swap business cards and chat. If I’d still been freelancing it might have been a decent money spinner.
Minutes before I had received a text message from a friend to say “column in local magazine, public speaking – you’re everywhere”.
All of which I was quite happy about until I received an email on Thursday night from a good friend alerting me to the fact that I was being publicly badmouthed online and being blamed for a recently set up New Hanoian hate site.
The fact that I was alerted to it suggests that chances are other people saw it too. It absolutely wrongly said I was responsible for the site, it called me “a violent douchebag” and bad mouthed my wife’s business in pretty ugly terms. It was posted anonymously though I have a fair idea who it is.
Hours later the moderator deleted it.
I hate violence and have never been violent in my life. Not once, not ever.
It’s not the first time it’s happened. One local blogger (now left) who I, very mildly disagreed with, took to following me around the web and posting personal abuse directed at me – where I had commented. Though, again, they did this anonymously I was aware of who it was.
You are never completely anonymous online despite what people might think.
Increasingly social media allows us to find people belonging to similar niches as ourselves. The people we “follow” or “friend” tend to have similar outlooks, political leanings, even lifestyles. It negates debate. However I have continued to use platforms to highlight what I think is wrong, or I disagree with or challenge those who I think are out of line. This is no moral crusade it’s just in me – I come from a family where we’d debate at the dinner table. It’s rarely personal and its never anonymous.
But this is the exception rather than the rule – for the most part I use social media for the same reasons as others – sharing links, information, networking, news etc. If the attack had called me pompous, self-righteous, a big mouth or something similar then it might be considered, by some, as fair comment. But it didn’t, it called me violent and it involved my wife and her business.
Anyway, after this deluded personal attack, I’ve decided to take it down a notch and give social media a complete break for a while.
I’m doing a talk in June to raise money for Blue Dragon and I’ll wind all this back up before then to promote the event. In the meantime I’m keeping off all “open” social media – ie this blog and Twitter.
So, between now and then I’ll be living, my otherwise very happy life, offline for a while. Apologies for disabling the comment box this isn’t a cry for help or support it’s just a statement.
* See this recently posted to CNN for more info on Blue Dragon.