Chinese poet Brier Yang felt in love with Vietnam during her first visit 10 years ago. Since then, she has felt the urge to return and explore.
Yang (L) during a trip to Vietnam's Mekong delta region. (Photo courtesy of Brier Yang)
Yang was born and raised in Yunnan province, which borders Vietnam's northern region. That's why the name "Vietnam" has been familiar to Yang since she was a child. Yang eventually settled in Beijing but has travelled to 10 countries, of which Vietnam is her favorite.
"Vietnam really impressed me", Yang said, adding that, "It was my first destination in Southeast Asia. I traversed Vietnam from north to south, but only made brief trips to other countries."
Yang recorded memories of her trip to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city in poems called "36 Old Quarters", "Saigon", and "Saigon, again", which were published in a volume of poetry in 2021. Yang said she was charmed by the fact that the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter were named after the products they sold.
"Before my trip to Hanoi, I had never imagined such interesting streets", Yang said. She continued, "Hanoi’s Old Quarter is like the maze depicted in the novel “Invisible Cities” by Italian writer Italo Calvino. Street names that reflect the goods once sold there are part of a modern Hanoi that is preserving its traditions."
Yang is intrigued by the ability of Hanoi's Old Quarter to preserve its ancient character.
She said, "I think Hanoi has done a great job of preserving most of its Old Quarter intact. Some stores still sell the same products and have signboards of the same design. Locals have been doing business and shopping in Hanoi's Old Quarter for centuries, which is a great thing."
Yang said that she'd love to see these streets featured in movies and TV shows which might present a more multidimensional view.
While Yang knew about Hanoi through her father's friends, she learned about Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon) through literary and cinematic works such as the novel "The Lover" by French writer Marguerite Duras, the film "The Scent of Green Papaya" by director Tran Anh Hung, and the Vietnamese martial arts film "Furie" directed by Ngo Thanh Van.
Yang said she's eager to learn about what is happening in Vietnam through cinema, literature, poetry, and music. Vietnam featured in works of art will not fade with time, but will remain in the hearts of the audience, she added.
Poet Yang's dream of returning to Vietnam was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. With China's border now open, she intends to travel to Vietnam again, and visit Nha Trang, Hue, Mui Ne, Phu Quoc, and Da Lat, which all left strong impressions on her.