Episode 28.5 – Censored

 

You often hear about censorship and propaganda when discussing Communist countries like Vietnam, but you never really see it in action.  But last Sunday night in Hanoi, I watched it take place before my eyes.

Not all censorship is as forward as the incident I describe in this add-on to episode 28 of the podcast.  There are other ways that conversation is curtailed and a world view is shaped on a regular basis – like the tape delay of cable news channels like CNN and BBC World, or laws which prohibit saying certain things about certain historical figures.

My biggest takeaway is that we fail to understand the gravity of the words “censorship” and “propaganda” when we throw them around trivially.  To truly appreciate these words, you have to look to places where they form public policy.

It’s important to not let this one part of my Vietnam visit take away from the incredible experiences I had with so many people in the country.  But, I’d be failing in providing context to my trip if I didn’t talk about this.

Bacon Cheeseburger in Paradise

It’s a cool night on the patio at Tam’s Pub and Surf Shop in Da Nang, Vietnam. Tam (the restaurant’s namesake) is seated at my table. I’m her only guest right now, and as I eat the monster of a bacon cheeseburger she has skillfully crafted for me (complete with freshly-cut home fries), she provides the dinner conversation.

Tam’s life story deserves to be on the New York Times bestseller list.  From the countless occasions where she eluded death during the war, to getting to know and befriend US soldiers (she has a special place in her heart for them), to what life was like working to not only raise her own son but a number of babies whose parents died in the conflict, Tam’s tales leaves you hanging on every word.  She has mastered the art of storytelling.  So much so, this is my second visit to her pub during my stay in Da Nang (and I’d go one more time before leaving for Hanoi).

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Hell on Two Wheels

Since landing in Vietnam, I haven’t been able to get Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s recent ode to mopeds – Downtown – out of my head.

My seat is leather, alright, I’m lying, it’s pleather
But girl, we could still ride together
You don’t need an Uber, you don’t need a cab
F*** a bus pass, you got a moped man…

No matter where I’ve been in this country – from the chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh City to the mountain town of Dalat to the chilled out beachside of Nha Trang, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds are everywhere.  Sure, there’s the occasional private car and a fair number of taxi cabs, but to bastardize an Animal Farm quote (fittingly), “two wheels good, four wheels bad.”

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Episode 25 – Gone to Vietnam

After being in backpacker purgatory – not sure of where I wanted to travel next – I set about making a trip to Vietnam a reality. And, as you listen to this podcast, I’ll be well on my way there!

On this episode, I talk about the decision making process and why I chose to go to Vietnam instead of Bali right now, and the steps I needed to take to make sure I could get in to the country.

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Onward North

Leaving Langkawi was tough.  I really wanted to spend a few more days there.  But, reality was that the hostel that had grown to feel like home was quickly booking up for the Chinese New Year weekend, and I would need to move onward.  Penang was in my sights, and George Town was the destination.

In the spirit of going with the flow, I changed my plans for Penang on the fly when I realized that fellow Langkawi roommate Sean – who has a fantastic vlog site called Twenties – would be on the same flight as I was.  We bonded over our shared destination and chatted over a few duty free beers while in Langkawi before landing in Penang.

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