A quick post to say happy holidays from warm and sunny Vietnam. Last year’s Christmas and New Years was spent in England with my brother, and this year is a big change in weather and in food: I’m heading to Mui Ne tomorrow for a week of beach, waterfalls and sand dunes.
Saigon is full of Christmas decorations, with thousands of its residents rushing to take photos in front of the lights once darkness falls. In the bigger parks they’ve set up small-scale Christmas decorations for people to bring the younger kids. Professional photographers stand at the ready, waiting to capture that holiday smile. It reminds me of the pumpkin patches they set up in parts of the USA, perfect for photo ops. Except here the kids are dressed up in Santa outfits, complete with reindeer headband.
While there are many Christmas lights and trees scattered around town, I wanted to post a different tree, one that is right near my apartment and that rises straight up from the main street, watchful and proud. I don’t know why I am compelled to stare up at its branches every time I walk by, but I do. A cyanotype filter on a clear afternoon:
And of course, the food is different than the usual Christmas fare. My newest fun discovery was a roadside fish and seafood soup topped with a cube of beef’s blood and crab and egg ‘meatloaf’. Colourful, delicious and unexpected. The plastic table and chairs were the smallest I’ve seen yet in town, with a woman ladling the soup out from a metal pot at the side of the road. This bowl was free, too, because the lovely Vietnamese woman next to me was so incredulous that I was eating the beef blood in the soup, as well as the accompanying pig ear spring rolls, that she gleefully refused to let me pay. And then she invited me over so she could teach me how to make it myself.
It’s moments like these that stay with us as we travel.
As we move into 2013, I wanted to put up a short post to say thank you for reading, for commenting and for supporting my book as it’s come to market. I’ll be posting a roundup of press and other book-related updates in January. For now, however, I wanted to wish everyone the happiest of holidays, full of loved ones and delicious eats, and all the best for the coming year.
For those who want to spend part of their holidays catching up on interesting reading, I thought I’d also cobble together a short list of some of the better roundups thus far.
- Maria Popova rounds up her best of 2012 in one place, from history to science and more.
- Best Longreads of 2012 from Longreads.com.
- The Guardian chooses its best longreads from 2012.
- Inside Higher Ed on the best nonfiction books of 2012.
- The Atlantic’s favourite longreads of the past year.
- Nieman Storyboard picks its best in narrative from audio, magazines, newspapers and online pieces. (Love this.)
- Longform.org’s best of list with different categories (music, entertainment, science, etc.)
- Tyler Cowen’s picks for best non-fiction books of 2012.
- NextDraft’s Dave Pell picks his best reads from the last 12 months.
- And Pocket (formerly “Read it Later”) highlights its most-saved articles and video of 2012 (240 million saves).
Have a great one!