On my last night in Ho Chi Minh City, Long, my couchsurfing host, and I decided to see a movie. We got the ticket and had two hours to eat dinner before the movie started.
He told me there was a nice café nearby where we could eat and that Vietnam’s most famous author, Nguyen Nhat Anh, had a book shop across from it that was worth visiting.
I was game!
We ate a very nice dinner, which you can see below. You take an edible wrapper that feels like plastic (top left) called rice apper, put vegetables in it (bottom left) as well as meat and a fish cracker (top center). You then fold the wrapper, like a Vietnamese taco, dip it in the sauce, and enjoy. Below the process and finished result.
The Book Store
As promised, after dinner we went to the bookshop across the street. Thanh showed me the most famous book written by Nguyen Nhat Anh and his other books. But the shop was full of other Vietnamese books
Not only were there books written by Vietnamese authors, but also there books translated to Vietnamese from other languages. For example, Manolito is a book from Spain translated to Vietnamese, the book in the middle was written by German author Erich Kastner, and The Boy In The Striped Pajamas was written by an Irish author.
There was even this book about the Kon Tiki Expedition! It’s the story of a Norwegian scientist who sought to prove that it was possible for South Americans to sail to the Pacific Islands in pre-Columbian times. He replicated the hypothetical voyage using locally available and era-appropriate materials and sailed from Peru to The Tuamotus Islands.
Why Nguyen Nhat Anh Is Special
First, he achieved success like no other Vietnamese author has via his engaging books and storytelling abilities.
But second, he didn’t listen to conventional wisdom. He writes primarily for children and young adults. As you saw in the pictures above, most books available in Vietnamese are translated from abroad. The conventional wisdom was that you can’t make it as a Vietnamese author, so don’t bother.
He proved them wrong.
The rest is history..
Why He Inspired Me
In some ways, I think everything happens for a reason.
Back in 2006 or 2007 I came up with the idea of writing children’s books. I could use my traveling and interactions with others to bring the world to children via interesting stories one page at a time.
I never followed through though.
Meeting Nguyen Nhat Anh made me think of this dream from half a decade ago for the first time in a long time. Now I have had even more international experiences, with deeper interaction with the local people, and I could probably tell their story even better.
So, it’s probably time I revisit this idea. There probably aren’t too many backpacker children’s book writers. I could give it a try… I should give it a try…