Monthly Archives: October 2013

Vietnamese music anyone?

One thing, strangely, is missing from the cacophony of cars and bikes honking, TVs blaring, Chinese soap operas translated in Vietnamese (with ONE voice off translating) and it is music!

The Vietnamese seem to be a rather non-musical people.  Restaurants turn on the Muzac as soon as you come in and you have a helluva time making them understand that it’s not necessary.  So far. it’s been a hodgepodge of electronic, lab-churned sounds that shouldn’t dare call themselves music, American successes of the 70’s and, yes, Even Engelbert Humperdinck !!!

There is also the lady who walks around with a blood pressure taking, height and weight gauging apparatus that plays Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday and Auld Lang Syne over and over again.

Unfortunately, no music!

Unfortunately, no music!

At dawn, in the train between Hanoi and Hue, they finally blasted some loud Vietnamese music.  It went so well with the scenery that I hurried in the corridor to enjoy the combination of both but as soon as I parked myself in front of the window, it stopped as abruptly as it had started.

Once in a while, you hear a few tinny notes, a lute perhaps, coming from God knows where, just enough to catch a bit of melody.

I asked the guide in Hue, Li, to sing something for me, which she did after much initial hesitation and ensuing grace: a lilting, melancholy song in the Hue tradition I’m told.

She suggested that we go to the karaoke bar but never got around to doing it.  Then, last night, In Saigon, after supper, I went to a jazz bar recommended by a young Swiss couple I met on Halong Bay.  Found it easily.  Sax n’Art in Le Loy Street.  A bit like the Griffintown Cafe on Friday night, with a more clubby atmosphere.  Classical jazz, blues, rock with remarkably skilled pianists, singers and a stupendous old Swedish clarinetist who sat in the audience and was invited to show what he could do with his instrument.  Quite a lot actually.  He also sang and whistled and had everybody swaying  and tapping their feet.

It was not Vietnamese but it satisfied my hunger for music.


Leave a comment

Filed under Vietnam-Cambodia- English

Bay of Halong – Hué


 A junk on the Bay of Halong,  Surprisingly peaceful after the hustle-bustle of the last week.  The sky, exceptionally cloudless, lush, vertical chimney hills set on the silky, shimmering waters of the China Sea.  Pretty luxurious boat too with crab, shrimp and Venetian white wine for lunch.  That’s a welcome change from tepid beer in dusty streets.






Another night train.  Slept like a baby but they woke us at 7:30 with Pho (soups).  No thanks.  Didn’t get into Hue station until 8:40 and, boy, did they want us out of there.  Couldn’t get my bag out fast enough to satisfy that vociferating monster of a train attendant who wanted my sorry ass out of there and presto!

Nicely ensconced in a lovely garden hotel some kilometers out of Hue,  Took the morning off.  Needed it.

Few motorcycles here.  Hue is a small town and from what I’ve seen lovely and peaceful. 

Still, watching people on their bikes and motorcycles is a never-ending source of fascination.  They travel 2-3, sometimes 4 to one bike. 


They carry anything and everything from sheet glass to a school of goldfish, each swimming in its own individual plastic bag; steel beams and 3 well tied up live pigs, one aft and 2 sideways, bonsai and a washer and dryer.



And old woman in a pink silk “ao day” read my hand this morning: she was reclining on the ledge of an ancient covered bridge, crossing over the River of Perfumes.  A bunch of lies she told me.  She was really besides the track but there was something magic in the moment.  A little boy besides her was stroking my arm as if to try and find out if it was really skin…


Hue’s Forbidden City is far more beautiful than Beijing’s.  It’s still very large but built on a more human scale.

Within the sunlit dome of a temple, one of the last kings left, engraved on a bronze stele, the confession of his many sins.  Above, a cupola is soaring, resting on four massive pillars washed in various nuances of ocher and peach and interlaced with the pale blue garland of a swirling dragon.  There was something at the same time outwordly and very modern in those sober pillars reflecting amber light.  I couldn’t quite be captured with a photograph, perhaps even less so with words.

Detail of a column

Detail of a column

Would I have had more success with the quiet balance and harmony of that other temple, its breathtaking red, such a perfect red set off with burnished tiles, with its space stretching into porticoes and terraces, its polychrome ceramic cornices?

Hue temple ruge







In a far more modest pagoda, in the temple of the Celestial Lady,  young monks in  brown tunics are seriously at work. The library where they work is peaceful, with books in French.  Mostly poetry and philosophy, from Baudelaire to Nietzche and even Sartre, Far away, a gong is hit three times.  The air, drowning in smells of incense, vibrates. I could easily have stayed in front of the Buddha’s altar and meditated even though I don’t really meditate.

1 Comment

Filed under Vietnam-Cambodia- English

Missionariat et marketing

Compte tenu de la réaction de la personne concernée (que j’ai pourtant pris soin de ne pas nommer) et pour ne pas causer davantage d’ennuis à l’organisation qui chapeautait la mission, j’ai éliminé ce billet d’humeur.

Étonnant toutefois que quiconque se veut présent dans l’espace public soit incapable d’accepter la critique ou d’effectuer la moindre auto-critique.

Leave a comment

Filed under Antigua-Guatemala -2008 to 2013 - Français