Mandy Rowe is an Australian artist and psychologist. She is founder and author of Broads Abroad Travel Network, the world's only travel network for independent women travellers.
Rowe was in Ha Noi last week to promote her book, Broads Abroad – Worldly Wise, which will be published internationally in July.
She spoke to Culture Vulture about the book, which includes a story set in Ha Noi.
Could you tell us about your book, Broads Abroad – Wordly Wise?
The book came about after I met up with my old English teacher Peter Derrett. We had not seen each other for 35 years. An award winning photographer with four books to his name, he suggested we collaborate on a book together.
Derrett's other books include For the Love of Elephants, Old Dogs, and Dogs in Venice sell around the world. The photos For the Love of Elephants were shot at Elephant Stay, an elephant refuge two hours north of Bangkok.
I am going to Elephant Stay on Thursday with Derrett. We are taking photos for our book called Broads Abroad – Bangkok.
During our first meeting in 35 years, Derrett suggested we collaborate on a travel book. He would photograph 30 senior women in different world locations and I would write a short quirky story about each of them.
Some of the stories are very moving. The story I wrote about Ha Noi is one of them.
You said the book includes a thought-provoking story set in Ha Noi. What is it?
I gave a lot of thought about how I would approach the stories. I didn't want to write about touristy things. I wanted to write about something poignant that most people didn't know about, a story that may inspire a woman to travel to a destination and explore from a different perspective. I researched the Viet Nam Womens Museum because I thought it may appeal to my female readership.
One story in particular piqued my interest. It was the story of Dang Thuy Tram. Her bravery and living conditions (in the jungle) captivated me.
She represented the human face of the American war that dominated my teenage years in Australia.
Now a wife and mother, I identify with the destruction and pain of sending a loved one off to war.
I believe the story will encourage women to go to the museum to learn more about the women of Viet Nam. I believe most of my readers are women who want a deeper tourist experience and the story of Dang Thuy Tram gives this.
The story is about Dang Thuy Tram's diaries. After she died, the diaries ended up with Frederick Whitehurst. He vowed to return these to Tram's family. After 35 years he bought the diaries back to Tram's mother.
A poignant and moving story about love. This is the human face of war.
Is it your first time in Viet Nam? What's your mot vivid impression of it?
This is my first time in Viet Nam. I organised a tour with Ha Noi Kids [a volunteer English club] which enabled me to speak with two local young women. I found out so much about everyday life for Vietnamese women.
This connection with the locals has been a highlight of my time in Ha Noi. I believe women like to learn more about the lives of other women.
Food too has been a big part of my time in Ha Noi. I did a food tour with a local woman and I got to see and taste a broad selection of foods and beverages.
Your food has history, which I found very interesting. I'm hoping women reading this article (expats living in Ha Noi) will tell their friends about Ha Noi. There truly is something for everyone here.
Why did you set up network Broads Abroad Travel Network?
Broads Abroad Travel Network is the only females-only hospitality exchange network in the world. I set it up more than 18 months ago. Women (mostly 50+ years) all around the world are joining this exciting network.
The network is about women exchanging free accommodation with each other.
We had a Scottish lady (expat) living in Ha Noi as a member. She wanted women from around the world to come and stay in her home. The book Broads Abroad – Worldly Wise compliments the network. — VNS