Culture

Vietnam’s Ghosts Are Hungry for iPhones

It’s 8pm in Hanoi’s labyrinthine Old Quarter and shop-owner Tran Thu Hien places her last $100 bill on the crackling street-side fire. I’ve watched her burn through thousands of dollars, but it’s still not enough. Hien, crouched over the blaze and dripping with sweat, has exhausted the cash. So she unpacks a box of personal items, pre-prepared for incineration: a gold Rolex, a pair of designer sunglasses, a pack of Cuban cigars and an iPhone X. Finally, Hien turns to a black Toyota Camry. The ca

Vietnam’s New Biophilic Architecture Is Going Wild

Picture architecture in Vietnam and you might imagine ancient temples buried down countryside lanes or faded colonial buildings lining the city streets. But spurred by unprecedented economic growth, this Southeast Asian country of almost 100 million is revamping its traditional image – and architecture is part of the overhaul. After decades spent trying to keep Vietnam’s unrelenting jungles out of the cities, visionary architects now harness th

Do Foreigners Have the Right to Complain about Countryside Karaoke?

If you haven’t experienced it, you probably don’t get out enough. You arrive for a short break at one of Việt Nam’s quintessential countryside destinations. The views from your rustic lodge are sublime. Streams meander through lofty rice terraces. Pockets of cloud cling to jungle-topped karst mountains. The rice paddies emanate a green so fanciful that it’s bordering on nuclear. But somebody, somewhere, is howling into a microphone, plunging the celestial landscape into an aural inferno with t

All The Rage: What the Vietnamese Are Burning

Some Vietnamese people believe that life after death isn’t that different from life before it. Like the rest of us, the dead need cash, shelter and creature comforts. Families have long burned paper replicas of money and other necessities, partly to wish their ancestors good fortune in the afterlife. But houses and bicycles are now passé: these days the dead want modern tech. A replica iPhone will set devout relatives back about 20,000 Vietnamese dong, or $1. A paper-thin iPad is double that. Who would have guessed that pricey gadgets were so much more affordable on the other side?
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