Saturday, February 27, 2010

Walter Mason
Allen & Unwin - NZ $29.99

“I fell in love with Vietnam, because I’d fallen in love.”

So begins this heartfelt, hilarious, sometimes sad, always evocative memoir, journal, guide-book, tribute and love letter to an adopted home land.

When Walter Mason first went to Vietnam with his life-partner in 1994, he took one look and promptly locked himself in his hotel room and cried for three days. He had never seen such poverty, heard such clamour, felt a heat, smelt such smells or tasted so many strange flavours. And he had never felt so terrified.

Eventually though, he emerged, and what happened next is a love story that has spanned 16 years and 11 trips, it has seen Walter embrace a culture, learn a language, shake up his spirituality and re-shape his life’s path.
From the crazy heat and colour of Saigon to the quieter splendour of Hanoi, Walter gives us a rare, joyous and at times hilarious insight into twenty-first century Vietnam. Seduced by the beauty and charm of its people, and the sensuousness of its culture, we can almost taste the coconut cakes cooked over a fire in a smoky Can Tho kitchen, or smell the endless supplies of fresh baguettes and croissants just out of city ovens.

Swept along by Walter’s sheer passion and exuberance we squeeze ourselves onto buses, perch perilously on the backs of motorbikes, kneel to pray among monks, and jostle our way through city streets that leap off the page and into our hearts and minds.

We find ourselves arrested, caught up in weddings and funerals, bent over the tables of forbidden fortune tellers and impulsively running off into the mountains. Behind-the-scenes visits to Buddhist monasteries reveal a quieter and more transcendent world beyond the busy day trips of tourists. And in the process we begin to see the country through the eyes of its people.

Walter’s prose is both charming and entertaining and will leave you keen to visit Vietnam.

About the author:
Walter, a former bookselle, has several blogs, and is a popular figure on the speaking circuit. He's a noted raconteur, and has a strong eye for the quirky. He is fluent in Vietnamese and is a practising Buddhist.

1 comment:

thang @ noodlies said...

Hi Graham,

Thanks for the review of Destination Saigon. From Walter's partner, Thang