Tuesday, November 21, 2006


An Open letter to Brent Richter from Vietnam

Dear Mr. Richter, It was a joy to receive your letter. Most of the constructive criticism we get is simply shouted into the night sky by backpackers who have snapped and run amok in the streets pepper-spraying begger children. While much of what you have written is true, it is our suspicion that you are perhaps exaggerating. Remember, We are masters of terminological inexactitude (lying our fucking asses off) and we can usually tell when someone else is lying.
Rather than defend ourselves from your potentially accurate assessments, I think it would be more constructive for you to recall some of the more pleasant things in Vietnam
For example: Many people heard you describing Ha Long bay as "one of the most beautiful things [you've] seen in Asia". You got so drunk on free rice wine and some snake whisky (bottle of rice whisky with a dead cobra preserved inside the bottle) provided by the French tourists, you woke up deaf in your right ear in the morning and with curious bruises on your hands and arms. You met two of the coolest people you've met on this trip and now a month later you are still traveling with them.
Despite your complaining and hacking and wheezing your trek through the hills in the far north through the hill tribe villages was an experience you would not have traded for anything. Seeing the smart-ass little girls that have never had a day of schooling in their life yet have managed to learn English just by seeing tourists daily provided you with some of your best pictures of the trip (they charmed you into buying a bracelet too you hypocrite!)
Even the worst experiences you had, you now look back on fondly. Recall the hard sleeper train you took to Sapa. You made such great jokes about how similar your sleeper car was to a prison cell, complete with bars to rattle a cup on and peer down the hallways with a mirror, ply-wood mattresses and a porter that would be fired from any prison for cruel treatment of prisoners/passengers (waking up passengers to yell at them in Vietnamese in the middle of the night, trying to extort money etc)
The city of Nha Trang was where you first saw a real beach on your journey and remember how you laughed when you watched Mikkel and Anders getting tossed around like rag-dolls in the crushing surf. Even getting your wallet picked as you stumbled home from the bar with Anders was fun to talk about after you got over being pissed off.
Not to mention Pho Quoc. Here we have a beach Island where you had your own bungalow only meters from the beach, where you rode scooters and drank rum with your friends. An island where few backpackers make the effort of visiting. Eating meals in a thatch roofed restaurant on the beach with your toes in the sand and a couple tall beers in your gullet was the most relaxed you've been since you got off the plane in Tokyo over 2 months ago.

So yeah, The country is full of pimps, thieves, drug dealers, beggers and whores (and those were the good people)and no, maybe you never got a moment's peace in public from every third person demanding that you ride on the back of their scooter, buy books (and if you don't want books, then buy drugs,) or just plain drop money into their wretched grabbing hands, but you did have a good time. You do still believe your money was well spent and so what if you don't want to come back. Do you know what percentage of the worlds population will visit Vietnam? Neither do we but it can't be a lot so just be proud you made it.


P.S. (you wan marijuana?)

The "Dear Vietnam" letters are my favourite entries. Clever!
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