Our trip to Hanoi centered around disposing of our dong as quickly as possible. Irresponsible consumerism, retail therapy, or informed shopping... call it what you will. Our booty from the trip included five massive lime-green varnished nesting bamboo bowls, a colorful money pouch to replace the one I unwillingly donated to Saigon thieves, a buffalo-horn pipe, hot-pink bamboo placemats, a new musical instrument (tơ-rưng), used books, and a new weather-proof tote bag for the monsoons looming on the horizon.
In fine dramatic form, we saved the largest indulgence for the final night of the trip. Months ago, Gavin and I came across a book of wartime Vietnamese propaganda posters. We became enthralled with the beautifully crafted silk-screened prints and the striking scenes they depicted: women toting sub-machine guns, foot soldiers with rifles aimed upwards at passing B-52's, avuncular Ho teaching children to read. Most of them adorned with strange slogans imploring people to take up arms, embrace austerity in the name of the collective good, and ramp up food production.
We vowed to buy a few original prints during our time in Hanoi. The Old Quarter has a couple of shops specializing in both original and reproduced posters. After downing a few murky glasses of bia hơi, we wandered into the Old Propaganda Poster Shop, located at 122 Hang Bac, and proceeded to spend the next hour and a half pawing through hundreds of plastic-wrapped dusty originals. It was an arduous, but eventually fruitful exercise in indecision and patience.
A couple of our favorites highlighting the need for increased food production:
|"Five tons of rice and two pigs for every hectare!"|
Many have a very macabre theme: celebrating US casualties.
After much debate, we opted for a vivid portrait of Ho Chi Minh surrounded by blooming lotus flowers and a modernist print celebrating the indefatigable fishermen of this proud country.
|"Catch More Fish"|
|"Ho Chi Minh is a beautiful name"|