From ground level we get one main perspective on what’s around us — that which is straight ahead, to the side or behind, all on the same plane. Yet ascend a few flights of stairs or take a lift up to the 50th floor, and our perspectives change. Below us stretches out a landscape that on the street we can only imagine. People become the size of pins, cars form into beetles and motorbikes start behaving like ants in a colony, zooming from one point to another, with little in-between.

Despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Derek Boocock is cycling the world. Nick Ross catches up with him in Hanoi

I remember in my early days, seeing a T-shirt that read “I made it to Vietnam before McDonald’s did!” I recall loving that concept at the time; I felt original, like I accomplished something groundbreaking. With my nine-year anniversary of living in Vietnam having passed in June, along with the news recently breaking of McDonald’s finally coming to the country, I started thinking of all of the other things this city didn’t have when I first arrived. Here’s my list of eight things that made it to Vietnam before McDonald’s (but not before me).

The Red River Runners

If you haven’t heard of it then you’re either new to Hanoi or living the life of a hermit. Now in its seventh year, from a mere handful of runners in its salad days, the Song Hong Half Marathon has transformed itself into the biggest annual running event in the capital.

William Haseltine

In the late 1960s a young Harvard graduate made a startling discovery.

 

William Haseltine had a colleague with access to a secret paper that showed that Agent Orange had the ability to create birth defects in animals. At this time the US were spraying massive amounts of the dioxin across Vietnam.

54 Colors Exhibition

Often living on the edge of society, the montagnards — or mountain dwellers — are little understood. When they do come to the attention of the masses, it’s usually from the perspective of tourism. In Sapa, the various Hmong tribes emerge from their mountain dwellings to haggle and jibe, often speaking English or even French better than Vietnamese.

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