Hanoi has a train track running down a thin alleyway, immediately adjacent to homes, pubs, cafes and, well, all the tourists there to see if Train Street is for real. Alexatron: "Whilst most people would argue that a train passing through their neighborhood is a crazy dangerous thing, the local Vietnamese people have turned it into a must see tourist hot spot. Trust the Vietnamese to turn a curse into a blessing and a profit.
Previously in alarming trains in Vietnam. Read the rest
"I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capitalism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a noble and high motive, viz, to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but like most human systems, it falls victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today capitalism has outlived its usefulness. It has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes."
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Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, is one of Asia's richest women. The self-made billionaire, age 47, is the owner of VietJet, Vietnam's first private airline. Read the rest
Over the summer, a spectacular golden bridge opened to the public near Da Nang. In addition to a great view from Vietnam's Ba Na Hills, the Cầu Vàng bridge appears to be supported by a colossal hand. Read the rest
A new report from the Institute For the Future on "state-sponsored trolling" documents the rise and rise of government-backed troll armies who terrorize journalists and opposition figures with seemingly endless waves of individuals who bombard their targets with vile vitriol, from racial slurs to rape threats.
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Thắng Sói has released Vietnam From Above II. Unlike many similar drone films, this work mixes the mundane and urban with the country's more picturesque vistas. Read the rest
Vietnam's government today said Facebook has promised to work with the communist nation to prevent the publication and distribution of banned online content. Read the rest
"The Hill Fights" is a clip from Jacques Menasche's film on the life and work of Catherine LeRoy, best known for covering the Vietnam War in all its unvarnished horror. Read the rest
A newly discovered collection of notes written by Nixon aide HR Haldeman reveals that during Nixon's 68 presidential campaign, he illegally conspired to convince the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, to scuttle the peace talks run by Nixon's political rival, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Read the rest
Three strange metal spheres fell from the sky in Vietnam's Tuyen Quang province. They range in size and weight, with the smallest at 250 grams and the largest at 45 kilograms. According to the Ministry of Defense, they are likely compressed air tanks from an aircraft or rocket. That said, Nguyen Khoa Son of the National Research Program on Space Science and Technology suggests that they could be debris from a failed satellite launch. Apparently the balls were made in Russia.
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We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War is a new book by veteran Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, about soldiers' musical memories and the impact of James Brown, Eric Burdon, Country Joe McDonald, and other popular artists on the Vietnam experience and our understanding of it.
At KQED's Next Avenue, Bradley shared the "Top 10 Songs of Vietnam" mentioned by the hundreds soldiers they interviewed for the book. Here are the top three with Bradley's comments on them:
1. We Gotta Get Out of This Place by The Animals
No one saw this coming. Not the writers of the song — the dynamic Brill Building duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil; not the group who recorded it — The Animals and their iconic lead singer, Eric Burdon; not the 3 million soldiers who fought in Vietnam who placed extra importance on the lyrics. But the fact is that We Gotta Get Out of This Place is regarded by most Vietnam vets as our We Shall Overcome, says Bobbie Keith, an Armed Forces Radio DJ in Vietnam from 1967-69. Or as Leroy Tecube, an Apache infantryman stationed south of Chu Lai in 1968, recalls: “When the chorus began, singing ability didn’t matter; drunk or sober, everyone joined in as loud as he could.” No wonder it became the title of our book!
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2. I Feel Like I’m Fixin to Die Rag by Country Joe & The Fish
Misunderstood and misinterpreted by most Americans, Country Joe’s iconic song became a flashpoint for disagreements about the war and its politics.
Although we hoped it wouldn't happen, we knew that being pick-pocketed on our Trip Around the World was a very real possibility. We tried to always be careful, especially in crowded places, but we just weren't careful enough in Ho Chi Minh City.
If you've ever visited Vietnam or even seen videos on YouTube, you know the streets are filled with an endless flow of motorbike traffic. There are plenty of cars on the road, too, but, as it was explained to us, Vietnam has an import tax of 200% on automobiles while motorbikes are bought and sold from flyers on the walls of cafes and restaurants for $200. And that means there are a lot more motorbikes than cars traversing the streets of Vietnam.
We'd been in Vietnam for more than a week, so we'd gotten used to the intensity of Vietnamese street traffic. We even got really good at crossing the street with (almost) no fear. Despite this familiarity, we were still a little surprised when we left The Secret Garden (a well-regarded, somewhat hidden rooftop restaurant located up four flights of stairs in an alley off Pasteur Street) to walk to Fanny's, an ice cream parlor where we had a reservation to enjoy a fancy 14-scoop ice cream fondue platter.
It was New Year's Eve, and a massive number of people and motorbikes were clogging the city's streets like nothing we'd seen before. HCMC has a population of almost eight million people, and it felt like every one of them was either driving through the heart of District 1 on a motorbike or walking toward Công viên 23 Tháng 9 (Park September 23) to get a good view of the upcoming New Year's concert and fireworks show. Read the rest
When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing.
(via Kottke) Read the rest
The Telegraph's obit for Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld recounts the florid and exciting life of the aristocrat turned French resistance fighter turned UK special forces killer turned escape artist turned colonial enforcer in Indochina. In particular, La Rochefoucauld was a skilled escapologist, and ballsy as all hell about it:
Dropped into the Morvan with two British agents, including one radio operator, La Rochefoucauld teamed up with a Maquis group near Avallon led by a man who called himself The Pope. After destroying the electrical substation at Avallon, and blowing up railway tracks, La Rochefoucauld was awaiting exfiltration by the RAF when he was denounced and arrested. After a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death.
En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.
Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld
(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a larger image on The Telegraph) Read the rest
An anonymous AP story tells the life story of Kim Phuc, the "napalm girl" seen running naked down a village road in Nick Ut's 40-year-old Pulitzer-winning photo. Phuc went on to medical school, but her education was interrupted when the Vietnamese politburo demanded that she return home to serve as a propaganda mouthpiece, trapped in a grueling round of closely supervised interviews with western journalists. Later, Phuc went to Cuba, and from there made her way to Canada, where she lives today:
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The media eventually found Phuc living near Toronto, and she decided she needed to take control of her story. A book was written in 1999 and a documentary came out, at last the way she wanted it told. She was asked to become a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to help victims of war. She and Ut have since reunited many times to tell their story, even traveling to London to meet the Queen.
"Today, I'm so happy I helped Kim," said Ut, who still works for AP and recently returned to Trang Bang village. "I call her my daughter."
After four decades, Phuc, now a mother of two sons, can finally look at the picture of herself running naked and understand why it remains so powerful. It had saved her, tested her and ultimately freed her.
"Most of the people, they know my picture but there's very few that know about my life," she said. "I'm so thankful that ... I can accept the picture as a powerful gift. Then it is my choice.
A recent article in China Daily pointed to charges that Hong Kong Airlines "has been accused of profiting from animal cruelty by striking a HK$850,000 deal to fly live dolphins from Japan to Vietnam."
Why were they headed to Vietnam? Because, Dolphin: it's what's for dinner.
The dolphins in question are captured at Taiji, a dolphin-hunt site in Japan made famous by Sea Shepherd's actions, and the film The Cove.
Sandy McElhaney at Examiner.com (an open publishing platform, not a newspaper as the name may suggest) wrote this interesting post about the China Daily article, and a Change.org petition followed. There are a few scattered press reports, but they don't include much direct sourcing beyond the China Daily piece so far. Hong Kong airlines has issued a weak statement that denies responsibility for any wrongdoing, profiteering or animal abuse.
For what it's worth, China Daily is not exactly a free and independent press outlet, but known for more Western-style journalism than other state-owned papers in China.
(image via Hong Kong Airlines.) Read the rest