My first photo essay: Last year in Vietnam

December 10, 2007

I never made a photo essay before
here is my first attempt:

Last year I went to Vietnam. Once with my parents for the TET new year and again with my grandparents for fun. I always wanted to go to Vietnam with my grandparents and I wasn’t going to let this chance go by. The first think you notice in Vietnam are the skinny alleys. The alleys of Vietnam are REALLY narrow. I have no idea how 2 scooters go through there without crashing. Add people walking and kids playing and you’ll know what I mean.

Everything that I wasn’t supposed to do in Vietnam I did anyways. I always had that even as a kid, when someone told me not to do something I did it anyways. I don’t know why. Maybe its an authority thing or something but when I did I never regretted it. I had tons more fun. I figure if I establish that I’m good on my own in Vietnam, then my family wouldn’t have to worry and I was right. The first few times I stayed out late or took taxis and motobikes on my own they didn’t like it I guess, but after awhile its like, don’t worry about Donny, he’ll be fine. I knew friends of friends in Vietnam so it was all good. I always thought those that use their family as an excuse of why they can’t have fun didn’t make sense to me. Just do what you want to do and then sooner or later they go, okay, they can take care of themselves. Girls do have it harder though, so that sucks. Thats all your family wants to know though, is if you’re gonna be alright. And me traveling and doing all the crazy stuff I’ve done, I now don’t have to worry about anyone ‘worrying’ about me. I got my a cellphone so I was in contact at anytime. Thats the best way to do it.

Most of the time there I was shooting my documentary on the Ao Dai. Only once did I get to go out and it was with my mother’s sisters relatives or something. They made lots of money off fertilizer and very friendly people. I guess the way it works is that they take Americans out to clubs where there are girls that get drunk with you. I just heard a documentary about a film in Japan where the GUYS are the hosts and pretty girls pay guys to drink with THEM. I guess each culture is different. I don’t drink much but it was interesting to see how people interact. They played dice games and if you lose you keep drinking.

The girl that was my ‘host’ (not pictured) was this girl that looked like Nhu Quynh the singer actually, however her stories seemed depressing. To be honest it was a turnoff because I think she thought I had a lot of money being American and all, so her sad stories would get her to tip her well. It was basically like a Hooters but at a club, and instead of the waitress stopping only once and while, they stay there longer and get drunk with you and you leave them a tip. Vietnamese people have this obsession of ‘om’ which means hug. There is Cafe Om’s which means “hug cafe” and clubs where you “hug”. The drinking games they play are pretty silly. Here is one where they played ‘rock paper scissors’. No lie.

The “om” thing fascinates me. Maybe Vietnamese people are longing for “hugs” or affection. I don’t know. Censorship is pretty big in Vietnam, just showing legs in a film is considered risque. So I get it. I guess. They didn’t allow cameras in the “om” club. But like I cared.

The “hosts” get pretty drunk. I have no idea how they do it. I know in the Japanese documentary where the guys are the “hosts” they say that they get drunk, throw up and then do it all over again the next day. They make pretty good money too and sometimes date the customers, however they try not to, because then they lose their customer. Makes sense I guess.

Vietnamese love Hennessey and Cognac. It’s a French thing I think.

I like to take pics that make me go ‘hmmm’ if you haven’t noticed. Regular pics bore me. I found this funny though. In some houses, they have windows, but there is a WALL like 1 feet away. So there IS NO VIEW, maybe to get some circulation. But I found this very funny for some reason.

Furniture and little items are Vietnam are funny. I always like seeing what people collect, and guess what? It’s the same dinky things people in America collect. I always found these little figures funny. The “violent monks” collection is what I call it. I love how peaceful monks can also “kick ass”.


I like to think of Vietnamese people as being pretty creative. My grandpa is the most creative person I know and I think he rubs off on everyone. I think it really does start with the grandparents. I stopped by an amusement park and there was this HUGE vietnamese conical hat, and also a HUGE swing. Hilarious.

I also love how there is no copywrite in Vietnam, or maybe noboday cares. But on one rollercoaster ride (which are scarier then those in America cause you probably have more chances to crash on these things) there were pictures from Pokemon to Disney to Daffy Duck whatever cartoon company he is with.

Oh yea, so back to my grandparents. My grandparents were very very respectful so that passed down to my aunts, uncles and my mom. My grandpa also is the most perverted and funny old guy I know, so his humor passed down to me to. I remember as a kid watching Benny Hill and this wrestling show called “The Globe” which I couldn’t stand but it was all female wrestlers. My grandpa could watch that all day. Female wrestlers in tights fighting each other. My grandpa ate it up. My grandma is pretty funny too. No doubt my humor and my manners come from them.  When in Vietnam with my parents, I got to see where she lived growing up. She hasn’t been there and wasn’t going to either but I begged to stop by so I can see it. It was like 8 kids sleeping in one room or something. It was insane but the stories everyone told me seemed like it was kinda like camp, and they made the best of it. Here was the front door:

While in Vietnam I bought lots of little wierd shirts that amused me like the ones that said “Same Same” on the front and on the back it said “But different”. I have no idea what it means but it amused me. When I went back to America and wore it, people that saw it asked me either what it meant, or if I got it in Vietnam or Thailand. Here is a picture during TET, where everyone has like a week off. There are fun little stuff to do on the strip, lots of flowers and plants and rocks. They block off a major street and people all cram in there to see whats up. Here I am pretending to bench press. I pretended it was really heavy and made some kids laugh and was on my way. I’m a ham I know.

During my Ao Dai project I went to almost every big name Ao Dai designer to interview them. I have about 12 tapes that I have to finish editing but whatever. Most of it is in Vietnamese which I need a translator along with a hundred other problems with it. I need a better computer to edit it and yada yada yada. I hate it when you don’t have the resources you need. Eh, whatever. Anyhoo, there are tons of fashion stuff going on in Vietnam and I was invited to alot of them. The thing about traveling around the world, is that you realize people ARE very friendly. And in Vietnam, I never have been treated any nicer in my life.

Here is a photo of my dad with some fruits. There are some crazy fruits in Vietnam but this one just cracked me up. How can you not think of a black dong when you look at this. I wonder if my dad got the joke when I told him to hold it up so I can take the pic.

The Vietnamese hat is an interesting symbol. It’s used all the time. Check out how they use it for lights.

Well that was my first photo essay. Hope you enjoyed it.

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2 Responses to “My first photo essay: Last year in Vietnam”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    This is AWESOME. I loved it. I can’t wait to go back too. Thanks for explaining the Cognac thing to me.

  2. maryamor Says:

    I liked this page a lot.
    Thanks for sharing your life!


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