Monday, 4 April 2011


It's very cheap, and easy, to get a sign made in Vietnam. As a result, they're everywhere, promoting everything. Basically, in Vietnam, if you have a sign, then you're in business.

But as with most things in life, the best signs are the humble homemade ones, advertising family-run food stalls, xe om (motorbike taxi) drivers, air for your motorbike or bicycle tyres, and community notices. They're in chalk, they're on polystyrene lids, they're nailed to trees, and they are, for me, one of the most defining characteristics of the Hanoi street-scape. 

If you wanted to build a set that looked like a Hanoi street, you'd start by writing "xe om" on a bit of cardboard box and nailing it to a pole. Then you'd put a dead rat on the road.

Even if I can't always understand the words, they still stand for something so important to me, and so often lacking in many more sterile, faceless cities: they're signs of life, of a real, live person who has taken up a pen to make their own mark in their town. 

I'm loving your work, Hanoi. You may not be flash, but you're keeping it real.


  1. I think the safest thing is to assume that they're all selling vagina meat.

    I wonder how many more times the term "vagina meat" has to appear on this blog for it to be the number one Google search result for said term.

  2. Vagina meat, vagina meat, vagina meat (all in the name of testing Google search of course!)

  3. Let's see you do your bit for the Hanoi streetscape, Tabitha - make a sign or have one made, go on.

  4. You are such a waste of space. Had I come across this blog earlier I would have had you deported. Vietnam does not need someone like you. If you want a high living standard the bugger off to Australia. While your country filled with unwanted criminals from England, Vietnam houses heroes. Try to imagine a country coming out of years of devastating wars and how it is recovering. You do not deserve Vietnam and you are a shame to development workers


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