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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

There's something very Vietnamese going on in Pondicherry

I went to  Pondicherry to scope out a bit of French influence and found it along with a surprising Vietnamese flavour.  I was working on two way influences, in the way that India brought Britain "shampoo" and "pajamas" while Britain left potatoes* and Gothic buildings.

Really I shouldn't have been surprised, after all the French Colonies stretched all the way to Vietnam but I hadn't banked on the cross pollination within the Colonies. I spent four years in Vietnam before moving to India and here I present my little slice of VietnoFrancoIndo Pondicherry:

Pondicherry French style street signs
 Typical street signs, very French and seen all over the old IndoChine empire.  The one on the left made me laugh a lot as it's a very rude phrase in Vietnamese.  This specific shade of yellow matched with white is also common in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia but did it come from France or was it adopted by the French?

Show this picture to anyone in Vietnam and ask them to guess what country it was from and I guarantee they would say "Vietnam".  Reclaiming the streets with ranks of plants is almost the law and not something that I have seen much outside of Vietnam.

The Lotte Choco Pie is so popular in Vietnam that I know some people who believe it IS Vietnamese (it's Korean),  it seemed right to see them on sale in Pondicherry.  British readers, think "wagon wheels".  Of course the Indian version has the green vegetarian dot on the packaging.

You get pretty used to the usual range of things for sale in tourist shops so it comes as a bit of a surprise to see the usual kind of thing offered in Vietnam on sale in India.

This is a Vietnamese house.  It could have been picked up in Saigon complete with the paint finish and dropped in Pondicherry.  It's four stories tall, narrow in front and deep.  It takes up the entire plot with only a tiny yard at the front, there are balconies on each floor a roof terrace on top and, to make it undoubtedly Vietnamese, parking for motorbikes on the ground floor.  I would put money someone who lives in this house being named Nguyen.

Now this could all be because I've spent a lot longer in Vietnam than I have in France but it's got me wondering about the Vietnamese influence on Pondicherry and cross influences in general.  I feel a google search coming on.

EDIT ; an interesting little article appeared in The Hindu newspaper looking at connections with Vietnam and Pondicherry.  Read it here

*I'm taking a guess at the potato but it does seem likely... or was it the Portuguese?


Anonymous said...

Nice Clicks Annie didnt know about the influence of Vietnam over India

amasc aka Anne said...

Well that's the puzzle, who influenced who?

Indrani said...

Wow! Wonderful sights from Pondicherry. I have been there twice, i like the place very much. Didn't know of the Vietnamese angle though.

magiceye said...

This is what Google has to say

Loved the bright and beautiful images. Have yet to visit though.

amasc aka Anne said...

Thanks for the link, interesting reading. I'd highly recommend Pondy especially to anyone who enjoys photography. It has a very unique flavour.

amasc aka Anne said...

Hi Indrani, I suppose the Vietnamese angle is all in the eye of the beholder. Had I not lived in Vietnam I wouldn't have noticed it either.

R Niranjan Das said...

Interesting insights and observations about the Vietnamese connection in French Pondicherry.

Micky Fernandez said...

Or maybe the Indian influence in Vietnam. I believe that Singh is a somewhat common surname in Vietnam.

amasc aka Anne said...

Hi Micky,
I haven't personally met any Vietnamese Singhs, only expat ones. Although there is an old established Tamil community in Saigon. However, apart from the Choco Pies, I haven't seen anything similar anywhere else in India so I'm leaning towards the Vietnamese influence.

Chuzai Living said...

I loved traveling in Saigon, too. It was a very colorful city. I recognize the patter on the lunch box. I have a bag made out of the same material as well. Shopping there was a lot of fun!