Category Archives for Vietnam


The Friday Photo: Rice Terraces


This time next week we’ll be in the Middle East, landscapes of deserts, river, rock and mountain. But rice terraces form some of the loveliest human-made landscapes on earth: this one’s from Sapa, Vietnam.


A Rainy Season Odyssey


The start of the monsoon season in Vietnam’s northern highlands is a beautiful thing. The rivers turn turbid and golden, rapids smearing the surface like toffee coming to the boil; young rice seedlings and their older siblings stipple paddy terraces in varying greens; waterfalls appear everywhere you look. Old women from the hill tribes carry […]


Babysitting, Hmong Style


It’s not easy being a woman in the Hmong tribal minority of northern Vietnam. Or a girl, for that matter. This little girl is six, and had been carrying her eighteen-month old little brother in a sling on her back for most of the day. The forlorn look?


Global Time = Quality Time

Z holding wildflowers. Sapa, Vietnam.

My son and I set out to travel the world together in January. I’d imagined many wonderful things about the journey. What I hadn’t imagined is the sheer quality and quantity of time together.


Putting the Graphic into Ethnographic


As you can probably tell from the picture the Vietnamese Museum of Ethnography in Hanoi offers infinitely more fun than the rather cumbersome title would suggest. (It’s slightly shorter in Vietnamese. But not much.) This depicts, believe it or not, a traditional tribal tomb. Can you imagine what the funeral was like?! I mean, seriously. […]


Making Incense, Vietnam

Joss sticks (incense sticks) ageing in a factory, North Vietnam.

Incense is part of daily life in Vietnam. Joss sticks are offered at the altars which grace every business and almost every home, sold by the kilo in little stores and even (in some parts) burnt against mosquitos. Now, there are not many places on this planet where a passing nine-year-old boy would be welcomed […]


Shopping Mission — Hanoi


It was S’s (the nine-year-old’s father’s) last day with us today. And we spent it in Hanoi. The bulk of it, in fact… drum roll… shopping for a… cymbal clash… pencil sharpener. Now, when it comes to travel, I’m a great believer in the power of mooching. Sort of ambling around. Not doing very much. […]


Cornucopia (Dinner Friday)


This is the fruit stall in the alleyway next to our guesthouse, in Hanoi, Vietnam, on Friday evening. It’s just an ordinary store. Nothing fancy. No posher than the laundry, the menders, the barbers, the old lady who wheels her cart of lurid plastic sandals here every morning and home every night, or the five […]


Madam, Your Husband…

motorbike cylinder with frangipani flower.

“Madam,” said the chap on the scooter, eyeing the motorbike erratically parked some distance from the wrong hire shop (and, indeed, the pavement) with a sort of bemused, yet ineffably polite contempt, “Your husband has asked me to come and find you…” Now, I guess this sort of “women drivers, pshaw!” shtick happens all the […]


Round Halong Bay by Junk

Junk moored on beach of Monkey Island, near Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, North Vietnam, is one of the most dramatic seascapes the planet has to offer. Five hundred million years in the making, twenty million in the shaping, and still evolving before your eyes, it’s a rare chance to see geology in action. Pillars of limestone, once the supports of vast underground caves, spike surreally […]