Finding Russia in Vietnam

Many in Asia follow Western or Japanese or Korean popular culture but some of us cold warriors, we miss Russia - remember all those inexpensive and colorful science books, Tarkovsky movies and upbeat Tsoi music videos. Fortunately for us, these days Russia can be found easily in South East Asia - all you have to do is to go to certain beach areas. 

Notes and translation for the photos below

  1. Russian travel agent welcoming newly arrived tourists
  2. And if you miss the Vietnamese fare, there are always small alleys you can walk into.
  3. This place is popular with the Chinese too, with several direct flights from smaller cities in China.
  4. Most street signs in the couple of streets along the beach are in Russian and Chinese - here is a pharmacy, next doors is a Russian restaurant. This city also has food from Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet republics.
  5. Heavies - perhaps former inter-agency colleagues
  6. Celebrating Russia-Vietnam friendship. And of course, wi-fi everywhere.
  7. “Russian spoken here” at a travel agents
  8. This shop can copy any bikini design in one day.

A Central Asian cafe in Nha Trang

I found a Central Asian cafe in a small lane in Nha Trang. I got Okroshka - a cold soup with kefir (a fermented milk drink) or kvas (a beer like, but non-alcoholic drink prepared by fermenting rye bread), cucumber, spring onion and bits of meat. There was a man from Tajikistan, we could exchange a few words in Farsi - Tajik and Urdu have several common words. This lane has backpacker places, and the guests seemed to be independent travellers from China. The flavours and sounds - a mix of China, Russia and Central Asia reminds me of the silk route.

When I grow up

As an educator, I find traveling in Vietnam inspirational. I often meet young people who are interested in sharing their knowledge and learning from each other. When I was in Nha Trang, local students invited me to join their learning meet. I was impressed by the organisation ability of Tra and her friends, and also the interesting topics they discussed. When I grow up, I wish I could be as smart as them.

Some factors that help people to get together

Facebook - It is easy to crate an event on Facebook, get you friends to join and let the broader know about the event.

Load and loads of cafes - there are huge number of inexpensive cafes dotting the city, and these cafes don’t care how long you stay as long as you buy some drinks. 

Playing with a stegosaur

As I sit in this cafe, I feel a little stegosaurus loiter behind me. No, I am not drunk, I have not even ordered a drink yet. Turns out to be a poodle donning a dinosaur themed sweater. His owner, sitting at the far end, was busy on the phone. So, he came back to play with me. He is so tiny, almost like a cat. Guys please send more WeChat messages to the owner and keep her busy. I wanna take this dino-poodle with me.

Nostalgic food from all over

Random food and beverages from my several homes. Growing up in parts of India, you often come across the Jamun tree. The fruit has a purple bitter sweet flesh. This drink from India tries to capture the flavour for urban people who miss jamun picking. Next is a popular rice cake from Hanoi, North Vietnam (thanks to childhood friend Trang for getting it for me). This cake is made by a family business in the Hang Than Street - that had many similar rice cake shops. Nguyen means origin, and Ninh is derived from the name of the hometown (Yen Ninh) of the original owner of the cake shop. Last is a well being/health drink from Indonesia, contains honey and several herbs. You can buy these sachets from convenience stores or small shops across Indonesia.