The Odes: A Collection

The Odes | A Collection

First published November 2022 | Words and photos by Vietnam Coracle

Tom, Vietnam Coracle

Tom Divers is the founder and creator of Vietnam Coracle. He’s lived, travelled and worked in Vietnam since 2005. Born in London, he travelled from an early age, visiting over 40 countries (he first visited Vietnam in 1999). Now, whenever he has the opportunity to make a trip, he rarely looks beyond Vietnam’s borders and his trusty motorbike, Stavros. Read more about Tom on the About Page, Vietnam Times and ASE Podcast.


Over the years, I’ve written several articles in praise of certain aspects of Vietnam that appeal to me – from natural phenomena to types of food to specific places and personalities. In these ‘odes’ I’ve tried to capture the essence of what makes these things special to me. Through words and photos, I’ve attempted to understand and convey my subject to readers so that they might share my enjoyment of them. At times, I find consolation in reading through these articles: it’s comforting to remind myself of some of the fundamental elements that draw me to Vietnam. I’ve gathered together these ‘odes’ into a collection on this page.

The Odes: A Collection

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THE ODES | A COLLECTION


The ‘odes’ are listed in the contents below. Click a title to read an extract and then follow the links to the full article. Each ‘ode’ is illustrated with a cover image. (For more of my writing see Related Posts or browse my Articles & Writing archive.)

CONTENTS:

1. The Monsoon

2. The Banyan Tree

3. The Ocean

4. The Dawn

5. Instant Noodles

6. Anthony Bourdain

7. Saigon

8. My Motorbike

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Tom


1. The Monsoon

More than a mere meteorological phenomenon, the first rains of the monsoon have symbolic associations and practical implications. Historically, the rains represented change and transition. But there’s also a cathartic element to the first rains: breaking the heat of the dry season and the build-up of dust in the air and on the streets. Monsoon downpours and tropical storms are, for a long-term foreign resident like me, the quintessential expression of the tropics, representing the exotic and the mysterious. A sublime spectacle of nature, for me the monsoon embodies the excitement and romance of living far from home…..continue reading 

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Ode to the Monsoon

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2. The Banyan Tree

Temples of the forest, banyan trees are great, natural edifices rich in cultural, spiritual and folkloric symbolism as well as practical usages. A bridge between the human, natural and spirit worlds, banyan trees are living altars and a link between the past, present and future. Growing to enormous sizes and living for many centuries, banyans connect generations and are a symbol of life, longevity, stability, growth and vitality. The mesmerizing scale and complexity of their organic architecture has made banyans the tree of poets and wanderers; a refuge for travellers and rebels; a place of worship and deities…..continue reading

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Ode to a Banyan Tree

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3. The Ocean

Throughout human history, the sea has been both dangerous and generous: a cause of destruction and death, but also a source of food and wealth. From fishing to exploring, humans have always considered the threat of the ocean a risk worth taking for the potential rewards. My own relationship with the sea is almost entirely positive, defined by pleasure, beauty and leisure. I associate the sea with travel, family holidays, watersports, warm weather, adventure and natural beauty. For me, the sea represents excitement, freedom and fun. But, I know there’s another side to the sea…..continue reading

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Ode to the Ocean

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4. The Dawn

Dawn is the best time of day in Vietnam. Yet most travellers and expats never experience it. Wake up before sunrise and you’ll witness exquisite skies and the ‘roots’ of daily life. Rising early should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Vietnam. Dawn in the tropics is fresh, cool, crisp and clear…..continue reading 

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Don't Miss the Dawn

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5. Instant Noodles

A national comfort food, a convenience, an indulgence and in some cases a necessity, instant noodles are a staple of the Vietnamese diet. During the pandemic lock-downs in Vietnam, I formed a new relationship with instant noodles……continue reading 

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Instant Noodles

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6. Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain ‘got’ Vietnam in a way that no other high-profile TV personality, commentator, or documentary maker outside the country ever did. He instinctively understood the charm and aesthetic of street-side al fresco dining, the complex and explosive flavour profile of Vietnam’s numerous noodles soups, the tension between the generations and between past and present. Bourdain appeared to feel at home in Vietnam – referring to it variously as “one of my favourite places on Earth”, “my place of dreams, my spirit house”, “my first love”…..continue reading 

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Anthony Bourdain in Vietnam

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7. Saigon

Saigon isn’t a city that’s defined by the typical ‘sights’ and ‘attractions’. Rather, it’s about the minutiae and the moments, the ambiance and the mood, the life and the food, the pulse and the personality, the unseen and the underrated. Over the course of a week, I sat and wrote for half an hour on five separate occasions at five random locations in Saigon, and described the scenes as they appeared to me, in the hope of capturing something of the spirit of the city…..continue reading

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Sketches of Saigon

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8. My Motorbike, Stavros

For over 15 years, my motorbike – affectionately known to me as ‘Stavros’ – and I have been everywhere together, covering more than 200,000km across all of Vietnam’s 63 provinces and municipalities. All of the 300+ travel guides, motorbike routes, food and accommodation reviews on this website have been produced on the back of Stavros’ efforts to get me there and back again…..continue reading

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My Motorbike, Stavros

*Disclosure: I never receive payment for anything I write: my content is always free and independent. I’ve written this collection because I want to: I like these subjects and I want my readers to know about them. For more details, see my Disclosure & Disclaimer statements and my About Page

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