Chuck Morgan's Reviews > Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam

Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham
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Jan 22, 11

Read in September, 2005

Andrew Pham, who was born in Vietnam but immigrated to the US as a child, documents his voyage on bicycle to re-discover the homeland that he never really knew.

He travels from the Pacific rim to Vietnam, biking 2,357 miles to arrive in to his final destination, the motherland, where he visits notable places such as Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, and Hanoi, to name a few.
Pham camps out most of the time in a pup tent, in ditches, and eventually meets up with friends in Vietnam that provide many andecdotal events involving food, rats, traffic, and places dear to his family's plight to freedom in the US.

Pham's writing style of first person means you often feel as if he is narrating a movie, as in Forrest Gump, where Tom Hanks narrates his own history for the audience.

Having done a brief trip to Vietnam myself, I can see the attraction to such a country shrouded in mystery, regardless of what your opinions are of the Vietnam War. I found myself longing to be in Pham's shoes ( or bicycle pedals ), soaking in all the richness of what was once called Indochine by the French colonists.

This is not exactly Jack Kerouac style literature but it is very heart warming and worth the read.

Don't assume that everything in this book is about the bicycling, it is really about the people along the way that he meets, as is everything in life. I too have found out that it is the people, friendships, and commonalities that bond together as human beings, not the amount money we make nor the possessions we have. God bless Andrew Pham and Vietnam.
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