more thoughts from vietnam

while i’m in taiwan now, my trip to vietnam is still top of mind for me. mainly because i’d still like to be there, instead of neck deep in work like i am now.

one of the interesting things i noticed, which is a large contrast to the way things were when i first started travelling extensively around south-east asia was the presence of other asians travelling around.

for example, when i took the tour to the cu chi tunnels – of the 25 or so people on the bus, a good 8-12 were from other parts of asia. thailand, malaysia, singapore, taiwan . . . and me. one of the interesting things is how english is used as a lingua franca amongst quite a few people who don’t speak english. so behind me the girl from malaysia was conversing with one of the thai women – both using english. which got me thinking how lucky it was that i was born and grew up in a country that has english as its first language. i think all those predictions and (fears?) about how chinese is going to take over the world as the dominant language is forgetting 1. how difficult it is to learn and 2. of everybody who is multi-lingual already, english as one of their languages, or at least it anecdotally.

this importance was underscored that night at dinner when i was seated next to a chinese couple from guangzhou. as they struggled with the english/vietnamese/french menu, i leaned over and helped them out with a few translations. they remarked about how difficult it was to travel without knowing more than a few words of english – and they marvelled at my ability to switch english/cantonese/mandarin – even though my everyday work conversation is a horrible melange and mish-mash of all three.

to distract you, here’s a photo of a huey helicoptor on the roof of the reunification palace.


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