Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts

Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Tiger Mothers" in Vietnam?

Last month, I posted a warning that the "Tiger Mother" methods discussed by Amy Chua were possibly being applied in Yulin, China.

I've now captured evidence from a park in Hanoi, Vietnam that may prove to be of similar importance.  I'll post the photos and let you decide for yourself:

Innocent kids playing?  Or ruthless training by Tiger Mothers?  Sometimes it is so hard to decide...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bia hoi lesson - How not to be tricked

As I mentioned previously, Vietnam makes a special beer, bia hoi, that's enjoyed very fresh every day by many.  I realize that identifying a bia hoi location may not be always obvious to many visitors so I'd like to provide a quick guide.

The trick is to look for people drinking beer from glasses such as this:

However, you may still mistakenly identify some tea sippers as bia hoi aficionados since their respective liquids can look similar.  Another key thing to look for is nearby beer kegs (although my understanding is that bia hoi is sometimes served from a big plastic jug).  This, for example, is most certainly a place for bia hoi:

However,  if so many kegs turns you off, Hanoi has an answer - the single-keg bia hoi establishment:

As you can see, this photo was taken when the night was ending and the bia hoi was beginning to run dry.

Now that your eyes are readily spotting kegs so that you don't miss a critical bia hoi opportunity, you may find that you start making too many "false-positive" identifications.  For example, as much as one could hope, this is not a bia hoi keg:

That is just too big.  So, once you've trained yourself to filter out overly large objects as potential bia hoi kegs you may fall for the next trap:

The size is closer but again that is not a bia hoi keg.  It's a big pot of "pho" -- a delicious beef soup very popular in Vietnam.  How can you know this is pho?  Well, if you lack pho pot identification skills or a sense of smell you can look at the prominent sign.  Which leads to the next tip.  Typically bia hoi places also have signs saying... you guessed it, "bia hoi".  Here is one example in a tourist area meant to capture the attention of even those who haven't yet learned the key Vietnamese word "bia hoi":

"OK" you say, "We're ready for setting out, right?"  Well, one more word of caution...  Sometimes you can be tricked by signs, especially if you don't pay attention to the marks above and below the letters in Vietnamese.  Here is a sign that initially raised my hopes I would soon be enjoying a bowl of pho:

I suppose this sign may be brilliant for capturing my attention...  Anyways, it isn't for anything you can eat or drink.

So, look for the glasses, the kegs, and the signs.  Don't let any of them trick you, even though bia hoi is great with a bowl of pho.  And with that, I think you're more than prepared for your own adventure.

Hanoi's Street Food

I've had some queries about an important aspect of my visit to Hanoi - food.

It's been fantastic.  While several restaurants had their charm, what most impressed me was the "street food" -- incredibly fresh, full of flavor, and cheap.  Plus, it provides you the opportunity to hang out with the locals.  Here are some photos of where and what I ate to see an important slice of Hanoi's culture:

Didn't know what they had, but it sure smelled good.

I sat down, looked at someone else's meal, and pointed.  Still not sure what it was, but it was good.

Fish cake

Again, couldn't resist the smell.

Full of all sorts of stuff and a wonderful broth.

I wasn't so hungry at the time but yet again the smell drew me in.  I didn't try the brains though.

Another success.  The dumplings were yummy.  And less than $1.
If you ever have a chance to visit Hanoi, I highly recommend following your nose and taking a plunge into the street food.  No Vietnamese needed.  I can attest to that.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Impact of How and What We Share - Some Impressions From Visting Vietnamese & Chinese Museums

A couple of days ago I visited the Fine Arts Museum in Hanoi, Vietnam and was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed the collection.  What particularly struck me was how I felt I could connect with it more than similar museums in China.

I am not trying to make a blanket statement comparing art in Vietnam and China (which certainly has much in common).  I am only trying to puzzle through my reaction to the museum in Hanoi and whether it reflects any deeper issues.  I do enjoy much Chinese art and I believe it has made some important contributions.  It wasn't that any individual piece in the Hanoi museum couldn't necessarily have been matched in brilliance by one in China - I just had never previously reacted so positively to any comparable collection of art at a museum in China as I did to the one in Hanoi.

At one point I wondered if it could be due to a possible influence of French art since Vietnam was colonized by France for a period of time.   However, that explanation seemed less likely as I was already aware of the feeling prior to viewing any art from the colonial period or afterward.  As I spent further time in the museum I began to wonder whether my more positive feelings for the collection were not reflective of Vietnamese art in general, but instead of the choices of Vietnamese museum curators.  Museums curators are typically faced with many decisions about which pieces of art to display and each decision could lead to very different experiences for the visitor.  Maybe my "tastes" were more consistent with what the Vietnamese curators thought was best to display.

The suspicion this was true was heightened when I later noticed that I was able to enjoy some of the history museums in Hanoi more than many I've visited in China.  I, similar to many other non-Chinese, have found that history museums in China, particularly those covering events of the past century, can leave an over-the-top "revolutionary fervor" feeling -- sometimes to the point of being a distraction to the actual history being described.  The Hanoi historical museums I visited did not overly impress me but I felt less of the "revolutionary fervor" and found it easier to immerse myself in the presented material.

I wondered if my impressions of the art and history museums in Vietnam and China were examples of the impact what is chosen to be shared and how it is shared can have on one's impressions of a culture and how much those decisions themselves are yet another piece of the culture.

I recognize my exploration of Vietnamese museums - both art and historical - is very limited and it is difficult to really appreciate any selection criteria of the Vietnamese and Chinese museums without seeing what didn't "make the cut".  Also, my impressions may change as I visit more museums in Vietnam.  And...  maybe they were just the effects of the strong Vietnamese coffee.

For now, I'll wrap up the post with a handful of photos of pieces in Hanoi's Fine Arts Museum.  They aren't all of my "favorites" as some pieces weren't under suitable lighting for sharing though a photograph.  I also wouldn't say they are representative of the entire collection, but I did try to pick a variety of styles and time periods.  You can see what impressions you have of this small sample of the collection which so fascinated me.

[Added note: see follow up comments here]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Bia hoi

I've happily learned that in the past the Czechs shared an important piece of their culture with Vietnam - their beer.  Vietnam's Bia hoi (beer) is brewed without preservatives and must be enjoyed immediately.  I was happy to help the cause last night.  Here is some of the bia hoi I enjoyed -- less than 20 cents (US) a glass!  For the price it's surprisingly good.

Here is a group of Vietnamese enjoying a bit of Czech culture in their own way.  There were many more people earlier and the other street corners of this intersection were being put to similar use.

Na zdravíMột hai ba, yo!

In Vietnam

I recently arrived in Vietnam for a bit so some related posts are on the way.

I came here on a bus from Nanning which drove by some stunning scenery along the way.  When I arrived in Hanoi I had no idea where I was in the city, no Vietnamese money, no hotel, no guidebook handy, ...  So what did I do?

1.  Walked around and found an ATM

2.  Got a bowl of pho