Despite visiting South-East Asia most of my life, Vietnam is a country I have never visited or know very much about. Going to Thailand to visit my grandmother and other family friends, we would often talk about travelling the border towards Cambodia or Myanmar for a day. While we never actually travelled across due to visa complications as well as ongoing conflict on the Myanmar border, discussion of Vietnam never really came up. It felt somewhat forgotten. However, when I speak to my parents now about going back to Thailand, they always tell me that Vietnam is a place I ought to consider visiting as a tourist. My parents consider Vietnam as what Thailand was like 20 years ago. Bangkok is considered as too Western to some, with giant glass skyscrapers and luxury shopping centres all over the place. Vietnam, while an emerging economic player, is keeping to its traditional architecture while modernising through various means.
Every time I research into a different city or country, I cannot help but explore the experimental art scene, especially music. For many years now, I have listened to an online radio station called NTS Radio which plays music from all corners of the world and it struck me that one of my favourite hosts plays cutting edge Vietnamese music! A duo called ‘Phambinho’ plays music from all around Vietnam and reminds me of เพลงลูกทุ่ง, luk thung, music from the central region of Thailand. The instruments are very similar across the region, yet with its own traditional craftsmanship. I have attached a link to NTS Radio with the hosts landing page with shows dating back to 2019. My favourite show from the collection is ‘THE BÙI VIỆN EXPERIENCE W/ ONY’ which takes traditional Vietnamese folk and pop songs and turns it into the ‘Chopped N Screwed’ genre. Still beautiful in its own right.
Researching different Vietnamese avant-garde styles led me to find a collection of tracks created by underground experimental artists. The album is called ‘Emergence’ and after listening through the album, it is something which I can see myself ordering the vinyl edition. Chilling drone sounds running over the soft confident chords on the piano – and that is just the first track! Finding experimental music from across the world can be incredibly difficult but knowing the talent that awaits makes finding such work so rewarding. There is so much to uncover, and I look forward to virtually visiting art exhibitions and maybe one day stopping off at an experimental music show in Hanoi.
My perceptions of Vietnam are minimal, but by attending the virtual field trip, I hope to expand my knowledge and hopefully love Vietnamese culture and society. While the basis of this field trip will be on the political and economic institutions within Vietnam, uncovering cultural and social aspects of Vietnamese life excite me. As mentioned with my research into Vietnamese arts, traditional crafts or exotic food also fascinate me. While this will be virtual, I would love to discover traditional dishes or even traditional fashion. Along with great food, coffee is vital, and Vietnam is renowned for its quality and depth of flavours. This may lead me to purchasing a bag of imported coffee beans ready to grind and brew for when I attend the virtual field trip! So, there is lots for me to learn from now until the virtual field trip is over, and I look forward to the experiences which lay ahead!
Jamie Greenfield, Year 2, BA (Hons) Politics