Sunday, April 14, 2013

Vietnam, ukuleles and cows blown up for fun

Am not quite sure how you are supposed to write a blog. Do you write it 'live', online, and click send? Or do you write it elsewhere, copy and paste and do a considered post?

I'm doing the first option, at 4:30am whilst Jane and Ruby (my daughter) sleep in our small hotel room.

'Guitar Street'. Nah. Let's call it 'Ukulele Street'
We are in Ho Chi Minh City, where we have discovered 'Guitar' street, renowned throughout the world as a place where you can purchase inexpensive hand made guitars. And of course ukuleles.

Yesterday we spent a harrowing afternoon carrying around 7 million dong across / around / through  HCM City's biggest roundabout. We made it, and paid Binh said money for 1 mandolin (Mark's new toy), 1 baritone uke (for Jane, with newly installed Fishman pickup) and 1 concert ukulele (to see how they handle Australia's climate and to suss out whether we might try to import and sell a few).

International trade is a funny thing. Having such enormous wealth differences across the globe creates great opportunities for both sides of the equation. Huge profits can be made by American / Australian companies that use cheap Asian labour, whilst working for western companies can bring enormous lifestyle / standard of living changes for those Asians.

Some uke businesses in Australia purchase inexpensive ukuleles in Vietnam / China and label them as their own to resell in Australia. We are thinking of the same. But we wonder what are the ethics of this, what is a reasonable cut for us to take and how we can help the ukulele makers themselves more fairly access the more lucrative markets in the West.

Binh is a lovely man who speaks some English, and seems to make a fine instrument. Look him up at

Colonising Vietnam with the Ukulele
It seems we have stumbled across an un-ukuleled part of the globe. We have scheduled a workshop at  the Hanoi Social Club for Tuesday. There seems to be a lot of interest; even from television stations!

Hi Mark,

Really nice to hear from you :).
Actually we also hope that you guys can bring the Ukulele to the Vietnamese people this time . And I will be more than happy to meet you and that would be great if we can hold an interview with you about Ukulele, as well as the way to tell to Vietnamese audience more about this special instrument :). 
We are one of the Vietnamese Television Stations in Hanoi, which aims to feature the foreigners' activities in Vietnam, and I would love to co-operate with you in this program. So I think that we will come to Hanoi Social Club to film your meeting and teaching on Tuesday in Hanoi, and after that, we could have an interview about this.:). Let get back to me your idea about this, so that I can send you in advance the list of questions for the interview soon.:)

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Best regards, 

We'll have to see how it all goes!

Cows and other non-uke stories
There are a lot of Aussies here, including some uke and non-uke friends. We caught up yesterday with old Bendigo muso friend, a young fella by the name of Jack. He described going to the VietCong tunnels and firing an AK47 for fun. Not my cuppa tea, but his shooting buddy described how he was able to fire a bazooka in Cambodia. For fun. 'I blew up a cow'. My how different things are over here.

Travelling is great for stories, but a bit of a challenge for vegetarians (like myself) sometimes. We ate at a pho cafe on the footpath yesterday. Cost us $2.50 ish. 'Vegetarian! I know vegetarian!' says the man. Two minute noodle ok? (yes, I say reluctantly). Then Ruby sees his wife scoot 2 metres across the other side of the lane to the 'supermarket street stall', and come back with a packet of Maggi 2 minute noodles. My lunch, what joy.

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