26 Sep Welcome to my new website and blog
The blogs will aim to capture some of the off-beat, interesting, provocative and sometimes downright crazy aspects of life in Asia, especially South East Asia: at least as seen through the eyes of a Westerner, academic, author, man of a certain age – e.g. me.
In my work as a management consultant for international schools in South East Asia I get to travel throughout the region. This week I am in Hanoi, at the weekend I am in Okinawa, next week I arrive on Jeju Island (South Korea) for seven days after which I return to my home in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for well-earned rest!
So Hanoi. What about it?
I have a love-hate relationship with this place. It is competing hard with its erstwhile twin, Saigon, in the south, to be the premium Vietnamese city, but mostly losing out. Saigon has the entrepreneurial buzz that Hanoi still lacks. Though don’t underestimate the Hanoians. They are a tough people. Their recent history shows just how tough (last month Vietnam celebrated 70 years of Independence but for most of that 70 years the northerners fought a bitter war first against the French and then the Americans – memories of that conflict either not there at all for anyone under 40 or fast fading for the rest of the people, though certainly not all).
But what I do like about Hanoi and its people is the relative innocence. That is where the Hanoians score over their enterpreneurial siblings in Saigon. Saigon is unapologetically capitalist – it is all about making money. In Hanoi one gets the impression that while money is very important it doesn’t rule their lives (yet) – socialism still a potent force here.
I will write more on Hanoi, and Vietnam, in the future, but if you ever come to this city in the north then be prepared for the chaos on the roads. Sure, Hanoi doesn’t have the appalling traffic problems of Jakarta, and generally the millions of scooters and tens of thousands of cars move more quickly than they would in Bangkok, but no one follows any road rules! Truly. Last week there was heavy rain in Hanoi and the resulting chaos would have given even a meditative Buddha a flaming headache.
See photo above.