Discover The Best Of Hanoi With Zen Tango Maestro & Filmmaker Oscar Wright

Welcome to the Vietnam Is Awesome podcast. We’ll help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences.

In this episode my guest, Oscar Wright, has studied various religions in India and Istanbul… practices and teaches hatha yoga and meditation and tai chi… and facilitates Zen Tango workshops that turn tango dance into meditation.

He is a film maker originally from El Paso, Texas, but after spending the last 22 years in Italy he is now making a film series in Hanoi where he has been since September 2022 and believes it is on the cusp of being the legendary Paris of the 1930s.

He was recently recognised as the top posted on the Vietnam Is Awesome page for sharing so many amazing insights into Hanoi.

We talk about:

  • Why he is so enthusiastic about Hanoi
  • Stereotypes of Vietnam and Vietnamese people and if they are true
  • And what his film series is about

And like every guest, he shares:

  • What is a good 24 hour itinerary in Hanoi
  • What life is like for locals?
  • Is it a good place to live? And why?
  • Where should travellers go next in Vietnam after Hanoi?

Niall Mackay: 1:52
Welcome to the Vietnam is Awesome podcast. We’ll help you discover the real Vietnam with awesome experiences. I’m Niall Mackay host and I’ve lived in Vietnam since 2016. I’m the host of a Vietnam podcast, a comedian and brand ambassador for Vietnam is awesome. I came to Vietnam for a two week vacation in 2015 and was immediately taken by the beauty, friendliness, energy, and even the quirks of Vietnam. I came back in 2016 with my wife for six weeks, and more than six years later, we’re still here. I’ll be talking to people from all over Vietnam to share with you experiences that prove Vietnam is. In this episode, my guest has studied various religions in India and Istanbul practices and teaches Hatha yoga and meditation, and tai chi, and facilitates zen tango workshops that turn tango dance into meditation. He is a filmmaker originally from El Paso, Texas, but after spending the last 22 years in Italy, he is now making a film series in Hanoi where he has been since September, 2022 and believes it is on the cusp of being the legendary Paris of the 1930s. He was recently recognized as the top poster on the Vietnam awesome Facebook page for sharing so many amazing insights into Hanoi. My guest today is Oscar Wright. Thank you very much for joining us today, Oscar.

Oscar Wright: 3:28
Well, it is a, it is a pleasure and, and an honor. Thanks, you

Niall Mackay: 3:31
Today we’re gonna be talking about why you are so enthusiastic about Hanoi, which we can see on your Facebook posts. You’re gonna share with us some of the stereotypes of Vietnam and Vietnamese people, and you’re gonna tell us if they’re true or not. And then I’m really excited to find out what your film series is about.

Oscar Wright: 3:48

Niall Mackay: 3:49
so tell me then, you’ve been in Italy for 22 years. Why Vietnam?

Oscar Wright: 3:53
Well, you know, I was, uh, I was in Italy. I was doing in a session, I was in a session of yoga and meditation, and I had this vision that I should, uh, move to China. And so I started ch studying Chinese, uh, language, culture and history, which I love. And since China was closed, I decided to come to Hanoi to wait. But having lived now in Hanoi, For, for five months. I’m, I’m stunned at this place, at the above all the friendliness and generosity of people here.

Niall Mackay: 4:26
How have you settled into Han?

Oscar Wright: 4:28
well, you know, that I think that’s, that’s isn’t, that’s the story and the magic of Hanoi, isn’t it? That, that people come here for, uh, for, for a variety of reasons. And then they are, they are seduced and bewitched by the, by the friendliness and generosity of people, which is really. Really, I think, unique in the world. I mean, I’ve lived in a number of countries and I, I’ve traveled a little bit around, uh, uh, uh, all over the place. Never have I found people so friendly and generous as they are in Hanoi.

Niall Mackay: 5:01
It makes me so happy to hear that. And it’s interesting that you say that because it was only yesterday. I actually reminded myself, I think I just got a smile from one of the security guards or somebody said something. Just somebody give me a nice look. And I reminded myself and I was like, people here are so friendly and I think it’s a dangerous cliche that people make. I always feel this about Southeast Asia especially, and I heard this a lot about, you know, Thailand markets itself as the, I think it’s the country of a thousand smiles, and, and you, I feel it’s almost like a bit patronizing when you hear people be like, oh, you know, I went to anywhere in Southeast Asia, Thailand, Vietnam. Oh people are so friendly, they’re so nice, and I feel it does have this kind of patronizing tone to it. But then when you come to Vietnam, you. The people genuinely, and I just forget because I’ve been here for so long. That’s the point I’m trying to make. I forget about how nice the people are and how friendly they are because I’ve been here for so long and it was just something small yesterday, they just reminded me, the people here are really friendly and really nice. So to try and break down that cliche, why, why do you specifically think then that the Vietnamese people in particular, you have someone that’s lived all over the world? Why do you think they are so friendly and so, um, generous as you mention.

Oscar Wright: 6:15
I think it has a lot to do if I think having studied, uh, Chinese history and culture, I, I think you, you realize that to understand these countries and, and, and it works as a model for understanding, uh, Vietnam is the Confucianism. Code of values and that, that I think of all the possible concepts and models and ways of trying to understand, um, perhaps that is the best. The Confucianism code of values is, is where you start to explain this, this phenomenon you see.

Niall Mackay: 6:51
Well, I’m really interested to hear more about that. So can you explain then exactly what you mean by that?

Oscar Wright: 6:56
Well, let’s see. I, um, there is a, there is an in Confusionism there is an, a hierarchy of positions in the world. There is a, a great sense of. Of respect and honor for each, for each hierarchy, there is a sense of duty and responsibility, and there is a sense that that your ancestors are still alive. and that they’re watching out for you and taking care of you. And that is one of the things, one of the duties you have is to always try to take care of your ancestors. You see who, who, who are deceased and, and long gone. But, but, but it’s all part of a continuum, isn’t it? A continuum of being aware and present of, um, of not only on this life but the other lives. A sense of responsible in the sense that, that everything counts, that, um, That, that, that your, your, your relatives, which are no longer here, your ancestors count. And, and there’s a sense that I guess, you know, I, I, sometimes I think about it, the nuance of, of words, and I think, uh, more than, perhaps more than the word responsibility is the sense of duty also there. That’s also part of Confusionism. Um, um, and I, I think that that explains it to a large degree.

Niall Mackay: 8:18
It’s amazing to think that as a western viewpoint, obviously, which I have and, and we were both brought up with, we, we have such a narrow point of view, I guess because I, I, when you say that, it makes my mind grow larger. When you think about the past and the future and you’re, you’re thinking of this continuum as you mentioned, whereas my, my kind of perspective is like now and, and me so that it, it really does explain a lot. I think for me, the, my immediate thought is the traffic. And I’ve been told this before, cuz to me it just amazes me every time I’m out driving around Saigon where I am, that people aren’t yelling at each other. You know, you hear in the US especially, but the UK all over the world, people get road rage for the smallest things and, and, and we’ll pull a gun on somebody or, you know, get out and try and attack them. Whereas here it’s absolutely chaos, and yet nobody bothers. And somebody once told me, he said, that’s that’s the Buddhist thinking because it’s why get angry about it. It doesn’t matter.

Oscar Wright: 9:16
Yeah, well, you know, that, that you, you, you touched upon other things. The other two things to explain, to explain, uh, Vietnam and the people in Hanoi is of course Buddhism and Daoism as well. And of course by contrast, that whole sense of. Of the present that exists in Buddhism and then, and then that those, that, that ancient wisdom that Daoism provides. So I think it is a combination of those three and probably also the, the, the, the native countryside religions and, and spiritual practices that exist.

Niall Mackay: 9:53
So what were your expectations then, before you came to Vietnam? You obviously thought you were gonna be here. You, you sound like nearly every single expat that I know here, myself included, they came to Vietnam for a short time. You came before you went to China. I came for six weeks and suddenly before you know it, you’re 10 years later and you, you’ve made a life here. So what were your expect expectations though, before you got.

Oscar Wright: 10:14
You know, I, I, I have to confess with some, with a bit of embarrassment that I guess I, I expected being an American, you’re really, I think, conditioned by the Vietnam War in those images. And so I thought of a, I thought of a kind of a relatively poor backward country and, and. It is none of these things. Uh, yes, there are, there are people who struggle to live a lot, but there’s immense sophistication and very extremely bright people and, and, and people who are very wealthy, obviously. I mean, living here in Hanoi, I’m, I’m, I’ve seen, I’ve seen, uh, uh, uh, Ferrari and I’ve seen, uh, very luxury cards of swords and, and, and, and so on. It is, um, it is a, it is a much. A much more complete and, and, uh, multidimensional world than I had had imagined. Yeah.

Niall Mackay: 11:11
and I think that is the. Conception, and I’ve heard this over and over again from people who’ve either lived here or visited. Uh, and it’s not just Americans, but everyone who’s never been here before, and myself included, when you hear the world Vietnam, or you hear the country, Vietnam, your first thought goes to the Vietnam War. Uh, and, and how horrific that was. And obviously that’s a, a massive part of history and we all know about it. But that is your first. and then you come here and you realize, wow. I mean, so Saigon is very similar to what you say. We see Ferrari and Maseratis and Bentleys and buildings are going up every day. And, uh, and it’s just people are, there’s so such amazing things happening here. And then you start to realize, you know, the wharf finished in 1975. So anyone who’s older than, let me try and do the maths. Anyone who’s older than 40. Was wasn’t even alive when the war finished. And Vietnam has such a young population and I and I teach in in schools, and I have friends who are young as well. If you think for them, if they’re in the teens or in the twenties. That war was something so, so long ago that. It’s almost to me like the second World War. I have no concept of that. I know some my grandparents were involved in it, but to me that’s there’s, I have no relation to the second World War, and I think that’s where the Vietnamese people are at. And when you, the young population especially, they, they’ve no concept of that. And then so when you come here and you see this thriving bustling country, it’s uh, it definitely shocks a lot of.

Oscar Wright: 12:52
Hmm. Hmm. Yes. Yes. Yeah. Uh, will I think that, um, uh, uh, what can, what can we say about this? Uh, I guess I, I also. A commensurate with, with this theme is, um, you know, one of the things that, in fact, one of the things that sometimes bothers me is, uh, when people speak about Vietnam and in, in, in, in different, um, in different, uh, uh, social platforms like Quora, for example, uh, sometimes people talk about Vietnam being poor or something. Even the Vietnamese themselves sometimes talk. Poverty, that, that Vietnam is poor and that, that sort of pisses me off a little bit because to mean, you know, the fact that you have less access to material things, uh, and that you struggle to live is not poverty. Poverty to me. It’s what I, I, I saw in, in Rome in the last few years, Rome, when the richest cities in the world, the, the, the, the, the, the drunken people, the drug addicts, violent, the, the things you see in, in, in, in the, in the neighborhoods. In, in, in the rich neighborhoods where I, where I lived. What, what? What my relatives tell me they see in Los Angeles. What I’ve seen in, in Chicago, what I’ve seen, what, uh, what I have seen in, in other European cities. I mean, that, that is poverty to me. When people are friendly and generous in giving the, this, this is a richness. A great, this is a great richness. This is a, a, a great thing. This is not poverty, it seems to me. They who are impoverished. Do you see my point?

Niall Mackay: 14:30
Yeah, no, 100%. I, I just got back. LA and, you know, the homeless population, the homeless problem there is just absolutely heartbreaking. Obviously, places like Skid Row where people just live in, like tent cities, and then you have the crime and, and and whatnot in the, in, not just America, but in the West, and not much like positivity. Positivity over there. So it fills me with joy when you think about, and it makes me think about. This country is amazing and it is why a lot of people like myself find themselves living here for so long because they come here and they’re like, this is a really wonderful place to live. And I always like to give, make the point as well, when I have these kind of conversations, of course there is pockets of poverty. There are people on the street, there are people who are very poor, who are homeless, like any society. And the problem globally right now is, um, the, the gap is widening between the inequality. Gap is widening, right? So we see people here in the Maseratis, in the Bentleys, but then there’s still somebody surviving on a dollar a day. So I just want, uh, you know, I always think, like you say, these people on Quora or on Facebook, they might listen to this and they’re like, no, there’s poor people here. There’s poverty. I mean, yes, of course there is. But it’s a, it’s a completely different kind of poverty.

Oscar Wright: 15:42
Well, you know, I wanted to, to, to reflect a little bit on the word poverty. The, the, the, the problem with the word poverty is the way it is used in the West. It is not just poverty. It, it, it, it, it implies a kind of a, a kind of lack of human dignity, a lack of value. It’s a very complex and horrible poverty. Yes, there are people here who, who, who, who struggle to live in, in, and live on the street of very, very, very few. By the way, compared to what I saw in Rome, uh, other European cities, there’s no comparison but. But, but these are people who have their confusion culture, their Buddhism, who, who, who have, who, who have a deep culture, who continue to worship their ancestors, who, who, who live in a, in a rich cultural milieu. Uh, that. That is a different kind of thing than the poverty that you see with the homeless people in, in Rome or Los Angeles. That that is a completely different thing. I, I, I’ve never had, I’ve never had the, the few impoverished that homeless people that I’ve seen accost me or abuse me or even asking for money. Most of the time they don’t even ask. You just, you I wave ’em and they say hello. I, when I come back from my, my, my different things that I do, I pass them and I always say hello. They al they know me already and they always say hello. Never have they come up and, and, and, and intruded it on my being to, I mean, that’s, it’s a different thing. You see my point?

Niall Mackay: 17:18
So tell me more about Hanoi. So obviously the people we’ve, we’ve covered that, but what else is it about Hanoi that you enjoy?

Oscar Wright: 17:25
Well, you know, above all, above all, and it this needs to be underlined, is the generosity and friendliness of people and that you. As, as we have said, that you find. I mean, you know, I have found friendly people everywhere and sometimes I, I, I kid with my beloved German friends. It’s a German is a culture that I deeply love and respect and is misunderstood. But I sometimes, even kid, I said, you know, even in places like German, if you’re walking down the street and you say to say hello, people will open up and be friendly to you. So you find friendly people everywhere. But the kind of friendliness and generosity that you find here is astounding. It’s, it’s beyond believing, I think. I think that has that one quality above all. That that, that, that gives it, that special, that special, uh, uh, uh, quality of life here. I, I, I, I think that, I think that people, it is, it is more difficult to feel alone here. Even for people who are not outgoing. I think that if you’re, if you, if, if you’re the shyest, loneliest person in the world and you’re hearing, you just walk down and if you, if you inadvertently look and, and stare into somebody’s face, they’re going to say hello to you and they’re going to smile at you. And if you are a little bit more courageous and you might stop, hell, they’ll invite you for tea and even lunch. Right? And so I think that is, that is a, that is, that is. The number one quality. But you know, I, I had an insight as it were, um, uh, uh, uh, uh, being a student of history and one of the, the most interesting periods of, of, of history was the, the, the. The legendary period of Paris, of the 1930s with, with its creative culture, with its philosophers in Hemingway and, and, and, and the writers. And it was a, it was a vibrant, dynamic, uh, uh, period of, uh, of, uh, of human history. And so, walking around, being an observer of things and, and, and, and people, I noticed it occurred to me, what if, what if. Hanoi is on the cusp of. The legendary Paris of the 1930s. And I think there is a case to be made that that is in fact the case. Uh, I mean, I, for one thing, it’s, it’s very, very dynamic coffee bar culture, uh, where many, many young people go in, I talk to many of them. These, these young people are, are immensely well educated. They speak English well. They, they’re dynamic and energetic. But you often find, I. Many artists here. I have found, I have had philosophical conver conversations with people on, on deep philosophical conversations in coffee bars. I have, uh, I have noticed there’s a very active, uh, uh, music scene, uh, here with groups and, and, and, and so that gives me in, in that combination of a society on the and, and culture that is on the cusp of, of, of, of, Economic developed with the combination of these, these artisan philosophers. With with, with the combination of this unique confusion culture, it occurred to me what if we are on the cusp of, um, developing a legendary Paris of the 1930s? There is a case to be made.

Niall Mackay: 20:51
I think that’s a great sentiment and I definitely think it, it’s very, very possible and I see so many. Similarities here in Saigon as well. It’s more business here in Saigon as well. I think it applies almost to all of Vietnam. And I’ve had this discussion before with some like, uh, first generation Vietnamese in America, and I think. Just to quickly go back to the war, but just to move on from that, because Vietnam was obviously set back by the Vietnam War, right? So that’s not in doubt. Uh, and it put it back so far then Bill Clinton normalized relations in the nineties. And since then, you know, this economy’s booming. More people are speaking English. Uh, people migrated across the world for either, um, as Vietnamese boat people for economic reasons for education, and. Now that I think what we are seeing is not just here in Vietnam, but around the world. You’re starting to see this boom of the Vietnamese diaspora, where whether it’s in, um, design, whether it’s in movies, music, art, you’re starting to see this across the whole world and it, and, and people then coming back to Vietnam as well, which is really, uh, exciting. So I, I think that’s completely plausible. Uh, we’re about to see, and I’ve had this discussion before, whether it’s here in Saigon Hanoi, or around the world, we’re about to see, I think, I think we’re already seeing it, an explosion in Vietnamese influence in a really positive way around the whole world. And I wanna just pick up on one thing you said as well, which just made me so happy as well, when you talked about not being able to be alone here. It’s something that I love about Saigon and Vietnam is life is on the street. You know, when we went to Taiwan, You’re on the street, there’s no, you don’t see anybody in most countries, right? Everybody’s inside because it’s maybe cold is probably one of the, the, the valid reasons. Whereas here, it’s warm. Maybe Hanoi gets cold in the winter. Obviously Saigon is warm all year round and I never thought about that. But yeah, even if you’re by yourself, it’s quite hard to be alone. Cuz wherever you go there are people and just being, even if you don’t talk to them, even if it’s just sharing a smile, walking down the street, that, that. That can definitely take away that loneliness. So something I love about Vietnam is that everything’s on the street, everything’s outside the energy, and I never thought about it in that sense. And that’s just a really beautiful way to put it.

Oscar Wright: 23:06
Well, there are people who have, uh, with much ferocity objected to my idea that we are on the cusp of a legendary Paris of the 1930s. And, and, and, and I, I, I remind them that the, the, the legendary as it were of, of Paris in the 1930s was only. Decades later because, because when, when Paris in the 1930s was, was, was chaotic and dirty and dirty and rubbish in traffic and, and all of these things, uh, that, that people sometimes subject about. And it was only later that people recognize in retrospect, uh, gosh, we were going through a really special, creative and beautiful period and we didn’t know it. So that is, that is a, a, a thing to, to, to, to throw into the mixture.

Niall Mackay: 23:54
that’s a great point because even in, in my short-ish lifetime, you don’t realize what you’re living through until afterwards. You know, and that, and that goes through so many time periods. So yeah, 100%. It won’t be until the future when we look back and go, oh, the 2020s or the 2000 tens were an amazing time to be in Hanoi. And you start to put all these things together now. A hundred percent. So tell me about your film then. What’s your film series gonna be about?

Oscar Wright: 24:22
Well, my film series is about, uh, is about Hanoi, and I do, uh, many. Small films that, uh, on, on many, many things that I see. And, but my perspective, my perspective is to look for the little things that nobody else notices. I, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m an observer of things and I look at everything in my life. I even look at the, the, the, the design of things. If something is curved or if the, if the, if, uh, if a raindrop, uh, uh, uh, Rolls down the side of a building. I said, oh, that’s interesting. Why is it rolling down that line? What are the colors and shades that it’s great in? So, in that, in that, in that vein, I look for the i, I look for the, the little things that other people don’t notice, uh, about, about Hanoi. Well, I also, I also do the big things as well, but the little things, for example, um, for example here, I noticed that. That, that it is the custom for people to break, to wear open toed sandals. And so when they sit in bars, they, they, they to drink a coffee and converse, which of course is a big thing here. They let the sandal fall off the foot, and then they begin to flex their foot in a very interesting way, almost as if they, as if they are guiding, guiding the, the, the conversation, the, the foot becomes the, the baton of an orchestra maestro. Do you see? So those kinds of things. I look for the little things, the unusual things, the as well as the, the, the amazing generosity of people of course. And as well as, uh, I look sometime, I, I will be doing. Uh, a series on some of the, some of the historical things as well, like the Hanoi Hotel and other things in, in, in, in Ho Chi Minh who is one of my heroes. And, um, but I like to look at the, at the little things that, uh, that people do. And sometimes, and often the, the, the, the Hanoians themselves tell me, I, you know, we had never noticed that, but that is true. So,

Niall Mackay: 26:28
I’m excited to see. So when, where will it be published and when Is it gonna be small, small video clips, or will it be put together as a, a final movie?

Oscar Wright: 26:37
Well, uh, it would, it’ll, it’ll eventually be put together as a, as a final movie. But in the, in the interim, there are small clips often from, uh, from, from 90 seconds to, to three minutes. But, uh, on some of these, some of these, some of these clips are spontaneous. I just do ’em. Others are things that I notice. And I spent a lot of time researching, and then I wrote the script and practice and, and, and, and do a serious, a serious, uh, uh, uh, uh, production of it. So, um, so I have ’em, uh, on my, on my, um, I have a, a Facebook group called, um, I love Ha I, I love Hanoi, Vietnam, which is doing very well. I put ’em in a number of other groups in Facebook. I put, I have a YouTube channel, I have it. I put ’em in, uh, Twitter and um, and Instagram and some others. Um, yeah. And

Niall Mackay: 27:28
Well, anyone who wants to find that information will put the links in the show notes of this episode, so make sure you go check out the show notes from wherever you’re listening from. And, um, you’ll be able to get those, those links. Well, Oscar, this has been so interesting. It’s been amazing talking to you. Um, if you’re in Hanoi the next time I’m up there, I’ll definitely come meet you for a coffee and we can philosophize, is that a word? Philosophies? I don’t think so, but it sound

Oscar Wright: 27:53
Language is always a creative, developing, evolving thing, so it’s okay. By the way, I might, I wanted to also add that. My, my videos are having a quite a success all over the world. I’m surprised at it. And by the way, I get, so, I get messages from people all over, like an Australian, I was recently with a great, wonderful Australian guy who said, you know, I saw your videos and I wanted, I absolutely have to meet you and have coffee. And I’ve had that from Americans. So I, I met with a Japanese man the other day. I, I, I, and, and Vietnamese themselves. Who, who, who say, oh, I didn’t, or, or, come to this neighborhood. I did. You know, that in my neighborhood we have this. And so I’m getting quite a response in, in invitations from interesting people from all over the world and, uh, and Vietnamese themselves, Hanoi themselves. And, uh, uh, it, it’s, it’s very exciting.

Niall Mackay: 28:41
What’s a good saying that you’re producing something of value and that people are enjoying. So well done. That’s really encouraging.

Oscar Wright: 28:49
It’s my pleasure to to have this conversation with my friend.

Niall Mackay: 28:53
Well, we’re gonna finish up with the final questions that I ask everyone at the end of every episode. questions. Oscar, what is a good 24 hour itinerary in Hanoi?

Oscar Wright: 29:05
Well as, uh, for me, you know, what I recommend is to walk around spontaneously, take one street, and then the next things that appeal to you. And there are many streets which are very appealing, which, which have, uh, all the shops and the people in the, the, the, the buzz and the activity all over the place. And then, but above all, number one. Look into people’s faces and say hello, and you will be surprised at the friendliest and the generosity. And that is for me, the, the, the what I do, what I recommend, and what what I, I think what is, is more rewarding and enriching.

Niall Mackay: 29:44
And you know, we can’t talk about Vietnam without talking about food and we haven’t really touched on food. So just quickly tell me what would be your go-to food, lunch. Uh, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Go.

Oscar Wright: 29:57
Well, I, the, the, the, the thing about the food here is that, uh, it has such an immense, immense variety and the most important thing to remember is that is. Is that the street food is, is inexpensive and very, very safe. And, and you can, you can, you can, you can, you can, you can start with a, uh, at noon with a, with a bowl of soup, with all, with all the stuff that goes in the pork and the chicken, sometimes seafood. And, and, and that’s liable to cost you like as much as little as a dollar 60, including tea in many places, up to $2. And then, and then, and then. Evening, you can go to other little eateries that, uh, that, uh, that have other varieties. Things like sticky rice when one place that I go has the sticky rice with the, the park or the chicken in that too. There is a dollar 60. Um, uh, and, and by the way, one should also add for who whomever likes it, there are world class restaurants here, uh, uh, like French restaurants and, and, and Italian restaurants. So if you wanna go to the other end, you can also do that. Um,

Niall Mackay: 31:04
it’s something that is just booming in Saigon and, and it’s interesting to know, is it the same in Hanoi in the, the, the restaurants, not just cuisines like Italian and, and all of these just like modern. Either takes on Vietnamese food or just, just really the restaurant scene here in Saigon is going absolutely crazy with some absolutely unbelievable food. Is it similar in Hanoi as well?

Oscar Wright: 31:28
Yes. Yes, absolutely, absolutely. Great variety of food from all over.

Niall Mackay: 31:34
It’s like a foodie haven here now. So it’s interesting cuz again, talking earlier about stereotypes of Vietnam, the stereotype is the soup and the delicious food in that. And that’s without doubt. The food is incredible. But it’s something I see in Saigon that it’s, it’s now a foodie. Heaven here. So, but not in the traditional sense of you’re gonna go and get a, a bowl of fur on the street for, for a dollar. You’re gonna go to like a really nice restaurant and still spend an inexpensive meal compared to what you would spend in the West, but it’s going to be really, really good. So, yeah, that, that’s a really good point. And my next question is, now, I already know the answer to this, but maybe tell us exactly why is Hanoi a good place to live and.

Oscar Wright: 32:15
Well, I, I think that the, the, the, the ultimate reason for for, for, for, for the Good Life in Hanoi is a complexity. Of, of, of, of psychological dynamics when we feel happy or joy. Uh, uh, it, it is, it is, it is, it is the, the, the genesis of a number of psychological dynamics inside of us. It is that whole combination of things. We, we, we, we above all, above all the generosity and friendliest friendliness of people. That’s number one. But it’s also, it’s also the great variety and the, the access in Hanoi. Um, there’s a great bus. I I, you go into the buses and, and, and they go all over the place. And, and there’s always not only the driver, but an assistant who sells you the ticket and gives you change. The, the, the, the, the assistants are very friendly and very helpful. I’ve had, uh, experiences, I’ve had the, the passengers, passengers themselves will help you a lot. And so, um, and so it’s, uh, the great variety of things to see and, and to do. There’s a lot of, uh, there are there. Art museums that are free. There is life music. There is, there is a, as I said, I, we are on the cusp of becoming the legendary Paris of the 1930s.

Niall Mackay: 33:35
Let’s see. I think in 10, 20 years we’ll find out, right? Like we said. And last question, uh, I know you, I know you love Hanoi so much, but can you give any advice to anyone visiting Hanoi? Where should they go next in Vietnam?

Oscar Wright: 33:49
Yeah. Well, you know, I, I, I, that. That I cannot help with because I’ve never really been outside of Hanoi. Uh, I, I have heard that Danang is, I have heard over and over that Danang has a great quality of life. Um, I’m not a consumer of tourism, uh, uh, per se. I, I’m not the kind of person who goes all over a lot of. Places and sees a lot of things. I prefer to go to one place and know things really, really well. Uh, at one, one place, I, when I lived in Italy, it, I first got there, it was my dream to, to live in Florence and I, and I was living in Florence, Italy, and people would say to me, well, why don’t you take the train? It’s only to go to Venice. It’s only an hour and a half away, or go to Rome. And I said, no. Now my goal is to. Florence and a I never leave Florence. That, that, that, that, that’s, that’s okay with me. Now, eventually I, I ended up going to, in fact, I, I, I went all over Italy and did documentaries even in southern Italy, which is fascinating. So, so, but, but, um, but, but there are, is I, it, it. I’m part, I am particularly attracted to the small villages outside of Hanoi. There are many with great, great, uh, traditions in, in, in histories and customs, and I, I, I would go to those myself.

Niall Mackay: 35:06
I think that’s a great piece of advice, and I think that’s something that we wanna encourage here on Vietnam is awesome, is to go off the beaten track or find something that’s maybe not. An obvious tourist destination. And so if you can get on a bus and go out of Hanoi and, and like we’ve mentioned it so many times, you could get off anywhere. Uh, obviously not even speak the language and you’ll be met with friendly people. They’ll invite you into the tea shop or the coffee shop, and you’ll have an absolutely wonderful time. So I think that’s actually really, really valuable. Get on a bus, get outta Hanoi. Go find a local village, um, and just go and have a cup of coffee somewhere and, and you’ll, you’ll have some wonderful experiences.

Oscar Wright: 35:45
I like the way you, you described it, uh, that, that should be, uh, that should be a slogan. You know, get on the bus, go to a village, have a cup of coffee.

Niall Mackay: 35:53
There you go. Done Well, Oscar, thank you so much. I’ve really, really enjoyed this and I’m sure our listeners have as well. It’s been wonderful to talk to you. As I mentioned, if anyone wants to watch your videos, go and check out the show notes. We’ll put all the links in there. Make sure you go to the Vietnam is awesome. Facebook group. That’s where Oscar posts posts a lot of these videos. And you see there he, as I mentioned right in the beginning, he won the contributor of the month and got a, got a T-shirt from Vietnam is awesome. So if you contribute, you can win a t-shirt as well. We’re really trying to build a community there. People come on asking for advice anywhere from where can I exchange money to where should I go in Hanoi? What village should I go visit in Hanoi? Or they just share their videos or photographs of Vietnam. And because we all know that Vietnam is awesome, so go make sure you check out those pages. Um, if you are enjoying this podcast and you know what to do, it’s such a cliche, but go hit the subscribe, the follower, whatever it is you need to do from whatever app you’re listening to so you can get notifications for future episodes and keep listening. Every episode we’re gonna be interviewing someone from somewhere different in Vietnam and talking about life there. So, um, we hope you’re enjoying it as much as us. And then if you wanna book a tour to go out and explore Vietnam, then make sure you go to the Vietnam is Awesome website, which is just VietnamIsAwesome.Com. You’ll find a whole bunch of tours and trips there that you can book, and so you can go out and explore and also including my comedy show. So I am also a comedian if you didn’t know that. I did say that in the beginning. Very briefly. I’m a comedian and we do a comedy show here in Saigon. Every Thursday called the Tourist Trap Comedy Show. Uh, and we are, we wanna get tourists who are in Saigon just for the night or for a few days and come out. We did it last night. We’d an amazing crowd in with people from all over the world, which is always fun. And we talk about what it’s like to live in Vietnam and life in Vietnam and try and see the funny side of it. So if you are Saigon on a Thursday night, go on the Vietnam is awesome website and you can book your tickets for that show. So Oscar, thank you very much again. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to.

Oscar Wright: 37:55
May I add one other thing? Uh, I, I am a, I really am a a people person. I love meeting with people and I, people from all over the world are contacting me now to have coffee and lunch cuz they wanna, they wanna know about Hanoi and so and so. If anybody needs help, I, that is my priority. I love to meet people and if you need help, call me, write me, invite me for a cup of coffee and I’ll see what I can do.

Niall Mackay: 38:20
Amazing. I love it. That’s what it’s all about. Community. Get in touch with Oscar and Oscar next time I’m in Hanoi. If you’re still there, I will definitely give you a show. So thanks very much. Cheers.

Oscar Wright: 38:30
Thanks. Thank you.

Niall Mackay: 38:31
A massive thank you to the Vietnam is awesome team for putting this podcast together and to Lewis Wright who composed and performed the music for this podcast.