At a tea stall on Lê Văn Hưu street, well south of Hanoi’s Hoàn Kiếm Lake.
Interviewing a Bún chả trader tucked away in a corner on Hàng Trống street in the capital.
On a pew at a Hủ tiếu shack in Saigon’s District 10.
Or over at a stalwart soup kitchen on my old local market in Saigon.
This little notebook has done some travelling and witnessed a fair amount of eating.
I’ll admit I was, once upon a time, an evangelist for “local notebooks”. The flimsy donkey riders I used to buy in Kigali being the most obvious and well used example. So light, so cheap, so flimsy… They’d last a day or two if I was lucky.
Having done the notebook miles; reported from the DR Congo border as refugees fled brutal fighting, trekked down steep valleys to visit a gold mining outfit, walked with coffee farmers through fields on the border of Burundi, traversed over-populated refugee camps in Rwanda, followed a cross-country Presidential election campaign, interviewed hundreds of street sellers in Vietnam and attended innumerable tedious press conferences…
Having used various notebooks during these events, and plenty others, I have long come to the conclusion that by “going local” on the stationary front I was only asking for trouble.
My beloved Donkey Riders, that I used to buy by the ten-pack, all fell apart, unable to take the physical strain. In addition, the Donkey Rider survival rate after a spin cycle in the washing machine was, I learned on several hair tearing out moments, low.
Hence, my conversion to the Moleskine. The world’s most expensive, most pretentious notebook. The kind of notebook that if I see anyone else with, a trigger in my head says “arsehole”. Yet, it’s this solid, durable notebook I now buy, not by the ten-pack, but in fives. Expensive fives.
I’m a complete and unashamed convert. I prefer to buy the red, ruled hard back version. It can take the strain I give it; constant hammering, opening, closing, dropping and getting bashed about. And the pages don’t fall out, the cover doesn’t peel off. The thing just holds together.
Oh, and there above are three more tables that, while I didn’t exactly write my book on these tables, I did take shedloads of notes in these locations and many others like them.