Ironically bloggers like Joe's Blog and Vietnamese God put the lie to the idea of a single blogosphere, a unified world of blogs that spans the globe. Yes, blogs have become a global phenomenon, but studies show increasingly that there are multiple blogospheres defined by culture, language and different technologies. Far too often these worlds are distinct solitudes operating in parallel.
Such is certainly the case with the Vietnamese blogospheres – there are least two: the expatriate and the Vietnamese. These two worlds would probably be completely unaware of each other's existence even if they were being written from the same internet cafes. A typical Vietnam blogroll makes this more than clear.
Then there are Vietnamese-language blogs. Unfortunately I could not give a competent blogroll for predictable linguistic reasons. The non-Vietnamese speaker has little access to this world. Occasionally it is possible to catch glimpses of it. For instance, last November a story appeared in English-language news sources about how the old Saigon-Hanoi rivalry erupted into a blog war when a Saigonese blogger slagged the capital in her blog. Clearly Vietnamese bloggers are alive and well.
The obvious reason the Vietnamese-language blogosphere is off the radar for most expats is language. Technology probably also plays a role. Vietnamese bloggers tend to use Yahoo 360 rather than platforms like Blogger or Typepad. And Vietnamese Yahoo 360 blogs do not generally get crawled by directories like Technorati.
Vietnamese God is one of the more prominent Vietnamese bloggers writing in English for an expat and foreign audience. Tu Van Cong is originally from Nha Trang but relocated to Ha Noi. He writes a good deal about food (he's in the hospitality business after all) but he also covers a mixed bag of other topics, everything from urban developments to nightlife to local customs. (On occasion he has written for Global Voices too.)
If it's rare to find Vietnamese blogging in English, it's even rarer to find expats writing in Vietnamese. Joe Ruelle's blog is very likely the only blog of its kind, and the novelty of it has made him something of a celebrity in Vietnam. In fact he has been called one of the “best known bloggers in Vietnam”, and most of his entries receive several hundred comments each. One entry even hit the high water mark of 8000+ comments. Apparently it is partly his use of local slang and other colloquialisms that have made him a big hit. And what does he write about? In a recent interview in the Canadian Embassy's newsletter he describes his blog as “a potpourri of whimsical observations”. “I do put a lot of effort into choosing topics that only a person in my position could write about, and I think that appeals to people’s curiosity.”
Duong Lam Anh is another blogger who breaks the mold since his blog alternates between English and Vietnamese entries. Lam Anh is a bridge blogger in the true sense. His hometown is Hue, Vietnam but he has also lived and studied in the United States and seeks to interpret his Vietnam for a Western audience, while interpreting American culture for his Vietnamese readers.
Bloggers like these help break down the barriers between the linguistic and culture divides that separate the various blogospheres in Vietnam. If the immense popularity of Ruelle's blog is any indication, it would seem there is an appetite for the perspective of those who can bridge the gaps between expatriats and local Vietnamese.