Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series of dispatches by CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo, who is spending the next month in his homeland of Vietnam. He'll be looking at the country through his now nerdy and Americanized eyes, in particular exploring how people there do the sorts of things he does every day in the States: play video games, use a cell phone, and try to stay safe online.
HANOI, Vietnam--There's a standing joke that goes like this: "What do you call an Asian who gets lost? Disoriented." Not really funny, but if you want to meet one Asian who gets lost in his own neighborhood, that would be me.
Originally from Hanoi but now living in San Francisco, I visit friends and family in Vietnam as often as I am financially able, which is not as often as I would like.
The country has been changing so fast, every time I go back to the place I still consider home, I experience a little reverse culture shock. This time is no exception.
It took 20-plus hours of travel time to get here from San Francisco. The first morning in Hanoi, jetlag woke me at 4:30 a.m. and I decided to get up for a jog. In the States this would be super early; over here, nobody is remotely impressed.
The moment I left the house, it felt somewhat like a national holiday, noisy and bustling. Restaurants and makeshift breakfast places selling sticky rice, pho (noodle soup), and other delicious morning edibles were just being opened. Some were already serving their first patrons.
On the sidewalks were already people everywhere--running, walking, playing badminton, doing Tai chi, or just simply sitting and looking. There were scores of scooters and bicycles, and once in a while, small trucks weaving back and forth, carrying vegetables, chickens, or other food-related items in bulk, honking all the while.
(There are many things you will need to get used to when in Vietnam, and one would be the honking. Nothing personal, it's just that people want to make sure their existence on the street is well-noticed. And considering the crazy nature of the traffic here, this totally makes sense.)
It was, indeed, just another day.… Read more