Vietnam is… (draft #1)
Vietnam is a building site on a beauty spot in a village in a teeming city by a rubbish dump in a million-motorbike traffic jam on a white beach by a blue sea, swimming in plastic bags by a sewage outlet in a capitalist boomtown under communist control. Vietnam is a ride on the back of an Uber bike racing a Grab bike in a cauldron of steaming Phở with a side dish of French fries drowned in a tower of beer washed down with ultra-sweet coffee sprinkled with chilli nibbled by cat sized rats and mouse sized cockroaches where everything somehow works and then doesn’t and then does. Vietnam is underpaid waiters giving five-star service, mostly, or sometimes, where things break and are miraculously fixed within the hour even on Sunday afternoon for next to nothing, where pavements are motorbike highways and every row of shops has a coffee shop, a spa, a street food stall , where destruction is creative and creativity is improvised, where coffee and beer cost thousands and there are twenty thousand to a dollar, where smiles outnumber snarls 10 to 1, where the roads are filled with raging traffic but no road rage, where nothing is what it seems and everything is an open book, but written in an incomprehensible script where a word can land in one ear and exit the other with no meaning or a multitude of meanings depending on the angle of approach. Vietnam is an iPhone plucked from your hand by a thief on wheels and a taxi driver saying that what you’ve got is enough when you haven’t got enough. Vietnam is all go, on the go, round the clock, bad karaoke and face masks and tropical storms flooding the streets and stalling your motorbike. Vietnam is rain capes and motorbikes stacked with chickens and pigs, washing machines and planks, four-up families, balloons and gutter pipes, plate-glass windows and funeral wreaths. Vietnam is Bánh mì and green tea, fairly lights and misting pipes, piles of bricks and daily rubbish tips and wi-fi in every café and cable tv in every apartment. Vietnam is old women cycling slowly through hair-raising roundabouts of chaos where an intricate interweave of vehicles negotiate unscathed (mostly), where every pavement slopes to the road so that every motorbike can drive on the pavement, and every motorcyclist has a phone in one hand and each day is dramatically better or dramatically worse than the previous day and every hour holds a challenge or a thrill or a delight but rarely boredom. Vietnam is where nobody is to be trusted and everybody looks after you, where there are no public displays of affection, no discussion of sex or politics or religion, but men piss openly in the street and married couples seek solace in one-hour hotels. Vietnam is dumpling sellers on motorbikes blasting out pre-recorded slogans up and down, up and down all hours, expats living the dream living the nightmare living in one hell of a paradise (until they get kicked out for not having a work permit).
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018
Image : Mike Hopkins
(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)