Small Ethnographies: The Entrepreneurs

I don’t know the entrepreneurial motive of the wag who named the Why Not Hotel, but it was sufficient to answer the question. There it is in downtown Hue, surrounded by massive and glittering international hotels, apparently undaunted by the competition from Hyatt, Sheraton, and Hilton.

Then there’s the young man I saw hovering over customers. His sidewalk business was, once, simply a corner coffee shop, but now there is a small sign suspended from the Coffee Shop medallion that reads: Pizza. At some still later date, he seems to have noticed that his corner is equipped with a sidewalk broad enough for parking, so he’s gone into the motorbike rental business. Finally, he must have discerned how dusty his scooter customers become, so he’s posted yet another sign to accommodate them: Laundry.

He was still hovering when I turned away to notice the insouciant sign for the Why Not Hotel. Probably his, or it will be before the year is out.

I wish I could tell if this kind of economic elan is Recovery from Communism, Neo-nationalism, Ancient Vietnamese Gusto, Inevitable Capitalism, Straight Forward Survival, or Desperate ‘Do Something.’ I can only show you pictures of the outcomes—probably better called Where We Are Just Now. You can interpret the results as you see fit.

This woman serves the fishing boat village in Halong Bay. She motors slowly through the 1,969 islands, stocks her galley in town, and makes her way, some hours later, back to the floating village. The villagers themselves, go to sea in the morning, return from sea in the evening, and never go ashore. The symbiotic relation between purveyor and fisher is timelessly essential.

Meals on Water Wheels

Meals on Water Wheels

Home Delivery

Home Delivery

A Sideline Business: Snickers for Tourists

A Sideline Business: Snickers for Tourists

Laundry Day

Laundry Day

Out to Open Water

Out to Open Water

The Fisher Family

The Fisher Family

Back on land, there are still some rice fields that need tending. Most of the harvest has gone to market; the small farmers divide their time between a ‘day job’ and work on the plots that came via land reform.

Two Acres Can Feel Enormous

Two Acres Can Feel Enormous

Just Two Acres to Harvest

Just Two Acres to Harvest

Two Hundreds Pounds of Rice

Two Hundreds Pounds of Rice

The Hired Hand

The Hired Hand

He Chatted Anyway

He Chatted Anyway

Along the road, we stopped at an enormous craft fair, a place where disabled people are trained in embroidery, lacquer painting, sculpture, weaving.

Workshop for Disabled Citizens

Workshop for Disabled Citizens

And then there are the hundreds who ply trades independently.

The Flawed Mannequin

The Flawed Mannequin

And Here's the Bicycle

And Here’s the Bicycle

All This Piled on a Bicycle

All This Piled on a Bicycle

Packed and on the Road

Packed and on the Road

Delivery Service

Delivery Service

Rice Paper Crackers with Sesame Seeds and Peanuts

Rice Paper Crackers with Sesame Seeds and Peanuts

Making Rice Paper in the Front Garden

Making Rice Paper in the Front Garden

And finally, there are the hard-bargaining, congenial, indefatigable, riotous, smirking, blood-soaked, women of the daily markets.

For the Ghost Ancestors to Ride

For the Ghost Ancestors to Ride

She Knows Prices

She Knows Prices

Fish Lady with Camo-boots

Fish Lady with Camo-boots

Testing the Free Range Chicken Thighs

Testing the Free Range Chicken Thighs

Mother/Daughter Slaughter House

Mother/Daughter Slaughter House

4 thoughts on “Small Ethnographies: The Entrepreneurs

    • In Hong Kong the No-Tell-Hotel is a variety of hotel–like a bed and breakfast or a conference center. They’re probably everywhere even if Long Island is the only place that names it for what it is.

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