Vietnam Adventure

With the world held hostage to the deadly virus, getting to travel anywhere now would be a mere dream. But I was lucky enough to visit Vietnam just before the world shut its doors. For much of my childhood, the Vietnam War was a daily news item – the same, I’m sure, for many people. Each broadcast came with images of helicopters and bombs, but it was the place names that I remember best: Saigon, Hanoi, Mekong Delta, My Lai. Actually getting to see some of these places was an unforgettable adventure.


Saigon set the tone: noisy, dirty, colourful, full of life – I immediately loved it. Although this city wasn’t for the faint-hearted, enjoying a bowl of beef pho at the side of a busy street will be an abiding memory. In fact, motorcycles in their hundreds filled both street and footpath in every town I visited!


Other highlights included: the Mekong Delta with its floating market in the early morning; Hội An, a UNESCO site and home to so many Chinese lanterns; the Citadel of Huế; Cát Bà Island floating amongst karst formations in Ha Long Bay; and, finally, Hanoi, a bold, beautiful mixture of ancient and modern.

the sympathizer cover

Every minute was squeezed from each day, so getting to write my travel journal or read books was difficult amidst so much distraction. I managed only two in the end: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, a stunning novel set against Vietnam’s struggle for independence, detailing the greed of the colonists, the force of the communist north and one man’s staunch sympathy for both sides; and The Quiet American by Graham Greene, a symbolic and atmospheric novel set in 1952, about a love triangle between an American CIA official, an English hack and a Vietnamese girl. Both books were splendid reads and very evocative of a troubled but beautiful land.

With more than thirty years’ experience in the book trade, books continue to absorb and fascinate me. Recommending books to Dubray customers is the highlight of my day; that thrill you feel when someone asks your opinion is very powerful. Aside from being a book nerd, I’m scribbler, a walker and a huge music fan.

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