Southeast Asia has been reinventing itself in the reflection of tourists’ expectations for a long time now. Similarly, tourists project a reality onto Southeast Asia – and Vietnam specifically – that has never really existed. This is where they come to lose themselves, get their hair braided, buy long baggy clothes, discuss the natural simplicity of the people and lay the groundwork for the hundred anecdotes they’ll tell over a hundred dinner parties. Continue reading
I was on a beach in Quang Tri province, again, in the centre of Vietnam. It was incredibly hot. The kind of heat that causes the sand on the beach we were stood on to burn your skin. Anyway, there I was, staring at a rusted piece of American Ordinance, while the bomb expert was explaining its blast capability, (one hundred and fifty metres) and how, due to its age, how incredibly unstable it was. I took pictures. Continue reading
It’s 5.30pm on Wednesday and the Children’s Cancer Ward at Cancer Hospital is busy. Families make temporary camps down the hallways, taking turns to rest on the mats they have brought with them. Rooms designed for four, strain to accommodate numbers of up to forty, as everyone makes themselves as comfortable as they can to best get through another day in the ward. Continue reading
The point I’m trying to make is about experience. If yours won’t stand up to scrutiny, then it’s probably time you changed it. For that reason , and no other, I’ve started work as a stringer for one of the English language dailies here. I’m going to talk about expectations in a bit, but to avoid creating any false expectation of my work as a writer here, let me state; I have no intention of holding Bill Hayton’s ideas up to too rigorous an examination, neither do I want to expose or lift the lid on anything. Similarly, I have no ambition to be a journalist. Continue reading
What happened here was essentially rape on a national scale. American impotence became American rage and, ultimately, American viciousness. You’d think the bitterness scars such as that would leave would all but define a national consciousness; would leave it as warped and embittered as its history effortlessly justifies, but you’d be wrong. Continue reading
I knew I was going to do this as soon as I heard about it, but still, holding the beating heart of a recently living animal is quite another thing. However, like so much in life, there comes a time to silence the voices, close your mind and take a step forward.
In this case, a swallow forward. Continue reading
Within what must have been ten minutes of entering the city, it soon became apparent that he was using my bike more as battering ram than paying cargo. Roundabouts, chaotic at the best of times, were approached with a speed and confidence I’ve never experienced as a xe om passenger. The Bonus and I would be pushed mercilessly into the midst of the whirling traffic, while his grinning face would take refuge against the deafening roar of the approaching motorbikes in my lee. Continue reading