The last few months have been busy for me, but it has been a good kind of busy (except for the tax returns, of course). I was invited to speak about my book at various venues and gladly accepted all those invitations, thus spending a lot of time on the road rather than at the computer. My meager speaking skills notwithstanding, I have always enjoyed interacting with a live audience, no matter what the platform—Rotary and Lions clubs, travel groups, book clubs, writers groups, libraries, museum, veterans and retired military officers groups, and even a local chapter of the MIT Alumni Club. Because, as a kindred spirit once noted, “Marketing is hard. Selling is scary. But talking to people about what we love to do is something we do every chance we get.”
And so last month I had the pleasure of giving a talk about Once upon a Mulberry Field at the La Jolla Chapter of the Circumnavigators Club. This is an international organization devoted to bringing together those men and women who have gone around the world, which is why I was also asked to present a short slideshow of some scenery of Vietnam. Scrounging around, I was able to pull together a few pictures of my ancestral homeland, and I’m very happy to share those sweet images with you now, in geographical order starting from the north of the country and heading south.
The picture at the beginning of the post is of Halong (Descending Dragon) Bay, a group of beautiful limestone islands in the Gulf of Tonkin, northeast of Hanoi, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Below are two pictures of Van Mieu (Temple of Literature), in the heart of Hanoi. The thousand-year-old temple used to host the Imperial Academy, Vietnam’s first national university.
Next are two famous sights of Hanoi: On the left is the Turtle Tower in the middle of Sword Lake, dating back to the 15th Century; on the right is the thousand-year-old iconic One-Pillar Pagoda, rising from a pond like a pristine lotus flower.
Traveling south, we now arrive at Hue, the last imperial city of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) and the site of a bloody battle during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The pictures below are of the ancient citadel leading into the Forbidden City (left), and an imperial mausoleum on the outskirts of town (right). The Complex of Hue Monuments has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A hundred miles south of Hue is Hoi-An, an exceptionally well-preserved ancient trading post dating from the 15th to the 19th Centuries, also named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The latest film version of The Quiet American (2002) was shot in part here. The left picture shows a covered bridge and some old houses. The right picture captures a street scene in today’s Hoi-An.
Finally we arrive in Saigon, my former hometown. I will have many opportunities to share more pictures of this capital of the south, so for now I’m just including a couple of postcards: on the left, you can see the City Hall in the French Colonial architecture; and on the right is the view of Saigon skyline by night, with the main Cathedral in the foreground.
I wish I could share more and bigger pictures, but the blog format makes it impractical to do a whole lot in a single post. But I hope to do more of it in future updates. Lastly, for those of you who missed my recent Facebook post, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction was recently awarded to Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee-immigrant whose family came to America in 1975. His debut novel about Vietnam titled “The Sympathizer” was a 2015 national bestseller. What an honor and incredible achievement. I am so proud and happy for him.