Hanoi-based social enterprise, Betterday, sells anything from organic green tea to coffee, natural beauty products and organic spices. Owner Nguyen Tuyet Minh explains how her business is able to focus on fair trade and organic produce, a rarity in Vietnam. Photo by David Harris
When we think about artists, we typically imagine quirky individuals who fearlessly march to their own beats, immune to the stresses of the nine-to-five grind. They are introduced to us on magazine covers and at gallery openings.
The idea when I opened the first restaurant… was a passion for cooking, and a wish for a Vietnamese food chain with a basis in original Vietnamese food — that, when coupled with a modern concept, would be able to franchise like big brands all over the world.
If last year’s market entry of Starbucks can be viewed as a prototype, then by the time you read this piece there will have been extraordinary queues outside McDonald’s. Using the Drive-Thru model to enter the Vietnamese market, images of motorbike logjams trailing back down Saigon’s Dien Bien Phu come to mind.
Hanoi is relentless with its artists. Without them knowing or wishing it, the city burrows under their skin and reveals itself in a variety of ways, in a variety of mediums. Artists can claim that Hanoi isn’t any different from anywhere else but their work says otherwise. These artists have a loving but complicated relationship with their hometown and their art is dramatic evidence of it.
“What are you doing?” asked elder sister.
“I’m looking for hell,” answered Be Chinh, the little girl digging up earth with a knife. In My Tho, her hometown in the Mekong Delta, her family called the youngest sibling ‘Baby Nine’. Hoang — the name she was born with, and would later go by in Saigon — found hell much later, but she is climbing out of it admirably well.
Alain Carpentier is France's best known heart surgeon. He also has a special relationship with Vietnam. Word speaks to the man whose work in this country has helped saved the lives of thousands of children from impoverished families.