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Brian Letwin

in Travel

The Quiet Calm of Hiding From the Heat Under Phan Rang's Grapevines

The punishing mid-day sun dictates the pace of life in the corridor between Phan Rang and Cam Ranh, where locals escape to their living rooms or hammocks, and tourists seek the cooling breeze of the b...

Paul Christiansen

in Travel

The Curious Case of Quy Hoà Leprosy Colony's Park of Busts

A delightfully bizarre place, Quy Nhơn’s Quy Hoà leprosy colony deserves exploration in full, but clustered in a grove of trees on its outskirts in Nhân Ái Park stands a particularly peculiar assembla...

in Food Culture

From Won to Đồng, Bánh Đồng Xu Offers a Slice of Nostalgia in the Digital Age

There was a time when I substituted meals with bánh đồng xu.

in Film & TV

Monotonous Viet-Dubbed K-Dramas Were the Soundtrack of My Childhood

When I was growing up, my family owned a broken TV whose screen would unexpectedly go black while the audio continued to play. Turning it off and on again a couple of times would fix the problem, but ...

in Film & TV

On Returning to K-Drama, the Glue Bringing My Mom and Me Close Together

Before Squid Game became an international phenomenon and put K-dramas on the world map, audiences in Asian countries including Vietnam were enthralled by Boys Over Flowers, The Medical Brothers, ...

Paul Christiansen

in Culture

An Ode to Photo Booths, the Korean Trend Preserving Our Memories in Time

How can photo booths be a new trend if they’ve been around forever?

Paul Christiansen

in Music & Arts

At Bùi Chát's Painting Exhibition, a Freedom to Feel Without Preconceptions

Contemporary art can intimidate viewers. People often think they need familiarity with certain histories, theories, philosophies and biographies to appreciate a painting. I have friends who do not hav...

Brian Letwin

in Saigon

Every Morning, I'm Grateful for My Carless Ride to Work on Hoàng Sa Street

In the decade-plus of Saigoneer’s existence, we’ve had six offices strewn across different parts of Districts 1 and 3. Over that period, my homes have been located in Bình Thạnh and Thảo Điền, requiri...

in Health

Sweating out My Sadness on the Canal's Exercise Machines

We're all unlucky in love sometimes. When I am, I go jogging. The body loses water when you jog, so you have none left for tears.

Paul Christiansen

in Environment

Charting the Flow of the Nhiêu Lộc Canal From Start to Historical Start

When I fall in love with an album, I seek out the artist's first mixtapes and demos. When I come to admire a poet, I hunt down their early poems and chapbooks. I even linger over the old highlight ree...

Paul Christiansen

in Literature

How Nam Cao Almost Ruined My Favorite Canal Cafe

Spoilers for an 80-year-old story that every student in the nation is required to read: the dog dies, the old man dies, his son's misfortunes show no sign of abetting. Simply, misery abounds at the en...

Paul Christiansen

in Saigon

The Nhiêu Lộc-Thị Nghè Canal's Comeback Story

Water has no hometown.

Paul Christiansen

in Saigon

Our Toxic Relationship With Saigon Traffic: A Diagnosis

There is no way to describe Saigon traffic literally and have it understood by someone who has not experienced it.

Paul Christiansen

in Environment

An Homage to the Mekong Delta and Its Bag-Wearing Fruits

Rats, mice, mosquitos, snakes, centipedes, caterpillars, snails, beetles and slugs: the more fertile a region is, the more pests inhabit it.

Khôi Phạm

in Culture

On Delving Into Vietnam's Eras of Tết Firecrackers via My Family History

Is it a valid reverie or just mere misguided nostalgia to feel a sense of yearning for lives you’ve never lived?

in Culture

Xông Đất and the Art of Not Letting Randos Into Your Home on Mùng Một

Tết permeates all areas of life this time of the year, from TV programs to online memes and highly detailed charts, tables, and infographics that guide people to participate in a popular new year acti...

in Culture

In the Year of the Dragon, Confessions of a Supposedly 'Auspicious' Dragon Baby

During high school, I learned that babies born in years of the dragon were thought to be “fortunate” and thus, highly sought-after.

Khôi Phạm

in Food Culture

This Tết, I'm Finally Learning Our Family Recipe for Candied Coconut 'Flowers'

Tết is the perfect occasion of the year to go ham on the sugar.

Paul Christiansen

in Music & Arts

On Warmly Welcoming the Whimsy of Wonky Tết Zodiac Statues

Every Tết arrives accompanied by netizens sharing collections of poorly constructed statues of the year’s zodiac animal. Viewing the online collections with colleagues is one of my favorite holid...

in Culture

When Lịch Bloc Is Gone, What Will Vietnam Use to Keep Discarded Fish Bones?

I have never bought a lịch bloc, or tear-off calendar, for personal use, because every new year, I'm bound to be gifted a brand-new one. In Vietnam, a calendar is often something one purchases as a pr...

Paul Christiansen

in Culture

It's Tết: The Liberating Magic of Using Tết as an Excuse for Everything

I hate excuses.

in Culture

How Choosing My Own Áo Dài Tết Healed My Trauma Over Áo Dài Uniform

High school can be a frustrating time in virtually every culture, as seen from the myriad of coming-of-age movies depicting the range of clichés, stereotypes and expressions of teenage angst we all go...

Paul Christiansen

in Saigon

Did You Know That There's a Mummy on Nguyễn Bỉnh Khiêm Boulevard?

Why is there a mummy on display in Saigon?

Paul Christiansen

in Environment

Vignette: Local Ox Rampages Airport, Stops Flights, Gets Put in Museum in Huế

Name a famous buffalo.

Paul Christiansen

in Environment

Vignette: Behold Vietnam's Oldest Rock, a Memento Mori of Human Insignificance

While lamenting how long it had been since I’d last sent a postcard, a coworker at Saigoneer revealed that she is too young to have ever seen a stamp in person, let alone affixed one to a letter. The ...

Paul Christiansen

in Travel

Vignette: On the North-South Train, a Pastiche of the Human Condition

“Heavy with the thick smell of misery and before even leaving the station, the odor of urine would be palpable throughout the car,” writes author Dạ Ngân of the North-South Train in 1989. Back then, a...

Paul Christiansen

in Culture

Vignette: How Bình Định's Nón Ngựa Gave Me Hope for the Tourism Industry

In 1964, when Đỗ Văn Lan was only 14 years old, a group of American soldiers spent six months at his family’s Bình Định home learning how to make nón ngựa. Once he learned that I am American, he told ...

Paul Christiansen

in Saigon

The Simple Pleasures of Kite-Flying in Thủ Thiêm

One of the most elegant means to observe the textured heft and untethered strength of otherwise-invisible wind — there is plenty one could say about the poetry of flying kites. 

Paul Christiansen

in Travel

Vignette: Letters to Hàn Mặc Tử

Quy Nhơn residents mentioned Hàn Mặc Tử with great pride and reverence whenever I mentioned enjoying reading and writing poems. 

Paul Christiansen

in Saigon

Vignette: For Cafe 81 and the '404 Not Found' Places of Our Lives

We all have them.