This project is a response to the type of “checklist travel” that sees people coming into a place for a few days, going to the places on their list, and feeling like they’ve gotten all the value out of the place that it has to give. This is the kind of consumerist approach that ultimately devalues a place, turning it into an amusement park with crazy motorcycle rides and great food. Driving around and pho are definitely two of the things to love about Vietnam, but they are not the whole story.
This is the international approach to place – with too many places to see in one lifetime, the international media tells you what to do in 48 hours in Hanoi, while a city like London gets whole books written about leafy walks to take and the history you can encounter on the way. People come to New York in negative-degree weather just to skate on the famous ice rink at Rockefeller Center, whereas they are warned off of visiting Saigon in rainy season.
What’s more, this checklist approach gives people a sense of entitlement and takes away that wonder that is one of the best things about seeing a new place. If I tell you to skip one food and eat another, that will take away the space you need to have your own experience. Also, there is enough of that shit on the internet.
I want this project to talk more in feeling, to have the tone I use in conversation when talking about a memory, something I’ve discovered, a moment I’ve had.
These moments are difficult to advise someone to have, perhaps even something that would negatively affect their future enjoyment. So in this project I’m going to attempt to share my perspective mostly untethered to place, on the way to illustrating the values I’ve discovered in my Vietnam life.
Thanks for reading,
Ed Weinberg lived in Vietnam for seven years. In his time there, he’s been a magazine editor/writer/photographer, started a pirate bar, founded a network of art libraries made up of donated books from abroad called Youth Culture Library, and learned to ride a motorbike. After all this time, he’s still intrigued by the place. His email is ed.weinberg [at] icloud.com — fan mail only, please.