The Unz Review: An Alternative Media Selection
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
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Vietnam

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Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, 2020
Of course, borders are sexual, at least for men, for you’re about to enter a normally forbidden territory. This buildup, anxiety and euphoria is lessened if the border is a mere formality, or if you have a strong (and stiff enough) passport. For women, border crossers can promise adventure, for they may deliver you to... Read More
Dien Bien Phu, 2020
Nothing is equal to anything else. In 1904, Jack London traveled from Korea to China. As soon as he crossed the border, he saw what he thought was a much more energetic, resourceful and resilient civilization, Gushing at length over the Chinese, London concludes, “The Korean is the perfect type of inefficiency—of utter worthlessness. The... Read More
From 10AM to 11PM, Hoi An’s old town is choked with tourists, so just get there just after sunrise if you want to admire its architecture, and it is magnificent. How did this slice of old Vietnam survive? During the Vietnam War, Hoi An was the administrative center for the entire province, so it was... Read More
nha-trang-2019-2
It’s always good to get up at dawn to walk around, for you’ll see a less guarded, composed and worn out version of humanity. They’ll still have the rest of the day to blunder, lapse, commit a crime or jump off a bridge. Passing a Nha Trang park, I spot middle aged broads dancing the... Read More
Nha Trang, 2019
Last month, I frowned on those who are drawn to the vagabond, rootless lifestyle, who think it is ideal to move from hotel room to hotel room. Guess what? I’ve joined them. Life is goofy that way. After my mother-in-law threatened to stab me more than ten times, I left Saigon and stayed in Vung... Read More
Vung Tau, 2019
I’m renting a hotel room in Vung Tau for $130 a month. For just $22 more, I could have had an air conditioner, but I don’t need it. Even the electric fan is often turned off. I have a TV, which I don’t watch. I’ve always preferred silence. I’m two minutes away from Mulberry Beach,... Read More
Vung Tau, 2019
In Saigon, I can easily go a week without seeing any white person, but today, I ran across two white Mormons on bicycles, with one having this paper sign on his backpack, “TIẾNG ANH MIỄN PHÍ” [“FREE ENGLISH LANGUAGE”]. I also passed a young white man pulling a suitcase down the street, his face showing... Read More
ea-kly-2019x-2
There is a dearth of writing about work, its variety, tedium and grind. This is understandable, since most writers have devoted much of their time to writing and reading, and not painting houses, cleaning toilets, washing dishes, planting crops or performing mind numbingly monotonous tasks on an assembly line, etc. This blind spot or ignorance... Read More
San Jose, 2013
Last month in Saigon, I hung out with my friend of 40-years, Giang. We were freshmen together at Andrew Hill High School in San Jose, then I had to move to Virginia to escape my psychotic stepmother. A screaming machine, she’s still daily enraged, I’m sure. A horrible marriage will do that. In the late... Read More
aeon-mall-in-saigon-2019
My last three years in high school, I was in Northern Virginia. I hung out at Springfield Mall and Wakefield Recreation Center. Though I had lame handles and an erratic shot, I still managed to get into pickup games, and each time I hoisted up a brick, my buddy, Kelvin Nash, would holler, “Riceman!” I... Read More
ea-kly-2019-07-18
Most of the towns in Đắk Lắk I have never heard of until I’m in them. A few days ago, I was in Yang Reh, which has just 4,100 people, and founded only in 2002. Coming in, I spotted a tiny, dark woman of unclear ethnicity, pushing a junk bicycle that had assorted bags dangling... Read More
Ea Kly, 2019
After ten weeks away, I’m back in dusty, remote Ea Kly and the plastic recycling plant. Coming up from Saigon in our new truck, we avoided Highway 13, since my brother and sister-in-law are very superstitious. Last year, they got charms from a shaman to stick on our plant, yet our business still floundered. In... Read More
My Grandma\
In December of 2011, I was on an Amtrak rolling through North Carolina. Sitting in the lounge car, I gazed mostly at trees and fields, with their isolated houses or trailers. Every so often, a town would flit by, Smithfield, Kenly, Elm City... Though all these names meant nothing to me, each settlement appeared sweet... Read More
Saigon, 2019
In Saigon, I live with my in laws in Phú Lâm, the same neighborhood I was in at 8 and 9-years-old, when my mother had a pharmacy here. It was named Linh. Then my parents got divorced. Sometimes in life, you end up exactly where you started. Twice a day, I’d take my nephew for... Read More
Ea Kly, 2019
Smaller than California and settled for millennia, how can Vietnam even have a frontier?! But that’s what the Central Highlands were until very recently. Some of the heaviest fighting during the Vietnam War prevented Vietnamese from moving there en masse, but now they’re swarming all over. With nearly a hundred million people on so little... Read More
Hong Kong, 2017
I just got off Skype with Kevin Barrett. Interviewed, I sat in the dusty office of our dustier plastic recycling plant. Truck horns and roosters crowing provided background noises. Though we covered many topics, I want to expand on just one, that of America as a religion. Unless you’re a reactionary, assbackward asshole, you believe... Read More
Can Tho, 2019
I hadn’t been to Chau Doc in nearly two decades, so was definitely looking forward to this trip. Though my wife doesn’t travel well, she came along because she wanted to visit Mistress’ Temple. All over Vietnam, there are Mistress’ Temples, with most dedicated to Guanyin, but the Chau Doc one was built for a... Read More
Shaman in Vinh Chau, 2019
After three weeks in Saigon for Tet, I’m back in Ea Kly. It’s 5:33AM as I begin this, and I’ll type until 6:45, to begin my work day at the plastic recycling plant. As usual, I sit at Mrs. Ha’s cafe. I’m her first customer. Unlike Saigon, it’s chilly here. Appearing suddenly from the shadow... Read More
Saigon, 2019
It’s Tet here. Public employees get nine days off, counting an unpaid weekend. Millions abandon cities for their home villages, leaving most of Hanoi and Saigon suddenly unclogged, so crossing the street is no longer a harrowing adventure. Prices are jacked up, including for long distance buses, hotel rooms, meals and even haircuts. The week... Read More
ea-kly-2019-3
During my two months in Ea Kly, I have not seen anyone read a book or even a newspaper. TV watching is not compulsive, and canned music is not a pervasive, nearly nonstop pollution, as it is in much of the world. No one here is rigged to a mind scrambling headphone. Though FaceBook has... Read More
ea-kly-2019-2
I live in a square, spartan room with a bed, no chairs, and a bathroom without door, since the builder/plumber hired by brother in law was so half assed. My front wall is only half painted because the man couldn’t move his arm any more or further, I suppose. In person, the useless fellow is... Read More
saigon-2018-4
Visiting Vietnam in 1953, Norman Lewis quoted a despairing French soldier, Captain Doustin, “It is the feeling I get at this moment that we are at grips with something ant-like rather than human. These unemotional people driven on by some blind instinct. I feel that my intelligence and my endurance are not enough. Take, for... Read More
ea-kly-2-2019
I painted houses for a decade, and on our crews, we always knew of each other’s relative competence, willingness to work, sense of responsibility, substance addictions, if any, and, ultimately, character. My roommate, Jay, for example, really didn’t give a fuck, for he was often late, but somehow always rehired, for our boss, Joe LeBlanc,... Read More
Ea Kly, 2019
During a late night layover in Minneapolis a decade ago, I found myself in a McDonald’s. Manning the cash register was a chubby black woman, and the ordering customer was a black flight attendant who was young, thin and pretty, how all American air stewardesses used to look, before the ageism lawsuits. In Asia, they’re... Read More
da-lat-2018
Since my time is tight and often interrupted, I will file these hit-and-run, guerrilla pieces. I’m the only one in this roadside, wall-less and dirt-floored cafe. Walking here, I paused to pet my neighbor’s cow, who’s taken an extreme liking to me. Lovingly, she licked my hand and arm with her sandpaper tongue and even... Read More
Ea Kly, 2018
In Bangkok for Miss Universe 2018, Miss Cambodia and Miss Vietnam made international news when they were idiotically mocked by Miss USA for not knowing English. The Vietnamese beauty, H’Hen Nie, is a Rade from Dak Lak, a province well-known to many American Vietnam War vets, but otherwise not often seen by foreigners. Its waterfalls... Read More
Philadelphia, 2017
Beating Malaysia, Vietnam has just been crowned the soccer champion of Southeast Asia. With its short men boasting negligible muscles, this corner of the world is not known for its athletic prowess, so the world took no notice of this prize, understandably. Champion Vietnam is only ranked 100 by FIFA, but it took considerable effort... Read More
Binh Chanh, 2018
Two years ago, I was having dinner in NYC with a group of Japanese writers. Next to me was Mieko Kawakami, who’s also known as a pop singer. Since her English was very limited, we conversed mostly through another person. Seeing that my beer glass was empty, Mieko filled it. Earlier this year, I found... Read More
Saigon Trade Convention, 2018
All floridly unequivocal praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Universes, and to his faithful Servant and Prophet, Mohammed, and may Israel, that abomination, smudge and curse upon mankind, be neatly erased with no trace left behind, so the rest of us can peacefully go on with our tedious and humbling labor, all while... Read More
saigon-2018-2-2
“Tổ Quốc Trên Hết” [“Nation Above All”] was a slogan of the defunct and much maligned Republic of South Vietnam, while the Socialist North rallied their populace with “Chống Mỹ Cứu Nước” [“Fight the Americans, Save the Nation”]. During the war, both Vietnamese sides stressed their nationalist credentials while discrediting their opponent as a foreign... Read More
Saigon, 2018
First, the good news. To those who can’t stand my scribbling, it’s clear this pitiful, barely gurgling font is drying up quickly, for lately, all I feel like doing is vegetate at a sidewalk café, or wander mindlessly for miles, so that I can be just another anchovy in this demanding, forgetful stream. Though my... Read More
Ỵ, a domestic servant in Saigon, 2018
My first book, Fake House (2000), was dedicated to “the unchosen,” and by that, I meant all those who are not particularly blessed at birth or during life, just ordinary people, in short, with their daily exertion and endurance. Further, I’ve always considered losing to be our common bond and bedrock, for no matter how... Read More
saigon-2018-2
Trinh Cong Son, the great song writer, poet and soul of Saigon, said that he got his heart and mind revving each morning by watching frantic life unfurling all around him, while sitting in a sidewalk cafe. Lesser Vietnamese do exactly the same, however, for to be among one’s own kind is practically an hourly... Read More
Quy Hop, Nghe An, 2018
In Marseilles, I met an illegal immigrant from Nghe An. He said his boss and housemates in Paris were all from the same province. Long known for its poverty, Nghe An leads Vietnam in the ratio of people working overseas, with most never returning. In fact, so many have become illegal in South Korea, Vietnam... Read More
saigon-alley-2018
Even more than eating for fun, the main pleasure of Vietnam is mingling, but that's only if you enjoy being around people, which Vietnamese obviously do, and here, community life is most intense and intimate in alleys. The French gave Hanoi and Saigon a facelift, so there are straight streets, grand boulevards and many traffic... Read More
Vinh Chau Chinese at the Seven Wonders Restaurant, Saigon, 2018
In the 17th century, the Manchus conquered China, causing thousands of defeated Chinese soldiers and their families to flee to Vietnam, then divided between north and south. The Nguyen Clan, rulers of the south, granted these Chinese land in nominal Cambodian territory, paving the way for Vietnam’s annexation of a third of Cambodia. This obscure... Read More
Chicago, 2012
Millions of Americans still have ties to their ancestral country. Two years ago, I met an 54-year-old man who would periodically visit his family home in Abruzzo. Its grape vines and olive trees had been sold a long time ago, and the house itself was little more than a husk, thanks to thieves, “Locals, not... Read More
ea-kar-2017
It was a 200-mile journey from Saigon to Dak Lak, a highlands province that saw much fighting during the Vietnam War. Just north of Saigon, I passed quite a few grand villas, with two dog statues on gate columns, though some owners outdid their neighbors by having lions instead. The further north I went, the... Read More
Vung Tau cafe, 2017
And so we’re in Vung Tau, a sleepy, seaside city at the mouth of the Saigon River. I’m staying in a hotel owned by an Army unit. My room is quiet, cheap and has an ample balcony with an ocean view. I’ve only stumbled onto two other guests, each sitting on a massage chair. The... Read More
Hanoi, 2017
With only a week and a half in Hanoi, I’ve been out and about almost nonstop. This article, then, is being jotted down at 5:11AM, as I’m lying in bed on my stomach at the Letters Home guesthouse. Stuck in a grim alley in an unfashionable neighborhood, it’s not exactly popular, so about the only... Read More
Home cooking in Hanoi, 2017
I’m back in Hanoi. Noi Bai Airport was sparkling after its recent upgrade, and I rode into town on a wide, well-landscaped freeway named after general Vo Nguyen Giap. On both sides were shops and restaurants. “I don’t recognize any of this, brother,” I said to the taxi driver, a man in his mid 40’s.... Read More
Poets Phan Nhien Hao and To Thuy Yen (far left) in New Haven
I’ve only been to New Haven four times, and last week, it was only to participate in the commemoration of the Fall of Saigon, as organized by the Vietnamese Studies Program at Yale. I was one of three poets invited. The other two were Phan Nhien Hao (b. 1967) and To Thuy Yen (b. 1938).... Read More
Gay Pride Parade in Vietnam.  Credit: VietPride
I last saw Vietnam in 2001. Back then, Saigon had no American fast food joints save a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Long-term foreign residents were few, and mostly confined to the Phạm Ngũ Lão area. There were no foreign stars in the just-established professional soccer league. Now in Saigon, there are 20 KFCs, eight Burger Kings... Read More
Spectral-Design / Shutterstock.com
During the current refugee crisis in Europe, it is said that there are many imposters among genuine refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen, all countries, incidentally, that America and its allies have destroyed. Too many of them are men, it is pointed out, and they’re generally not dressed badly enough. Many have smart... Read More