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I live near the southeast coast of the U.S., which means every August-September, it’s hurricane season. Destructive storms aren’t super common, but when they do show up they usually wreak a lot of havoc. Like Hurricane Isabell that washed away part of Hatteras Island and cut a new inlet in 2003, or Hurricane Floyd in 1999 that killed 57 people. So when I read an advisory two days before my departure that Typhoon Soulik was supposed to make landfall in Korea 12 hours before my flight to Incheon was due to land, I had a sinking feeling my trip would not be happening. I would be flying through Seoul on my way to Hanoi, Vietnam. Believe me when I say that making every single connection without delay on the way to Hanoi (despite the Typhoon) was to be the first of many surprises on this trip.

I spent my first 24 hours in Vietnam in the Hanoi Sheraton, trying to get some rest after the long flight there, going over my presentation, and taking in the environs. Getting around the city of Hanoi is quite a special thing. As an outsider, one is tempted to use the word ‘chaos’ to describe traffic in the capitol, but that doesn’t quite seem fair. Perhaps it is better described as a very intricate dance, and you just don’t know any of the moves yet. The second 24 hours were dominated by the reason for my trip: OpenInfra Days Vietnam 2018.

I’ve been to southeast Asia a few times before for OpenStack Summits, but in those circumstances the locale was a ‘host’ – hosting all of us from around the world. This was the first time I had been out of the country for a home-grown community. One put on for the people, by the people. And I have often heard open source communities touted and praised, but of course by the people already in them. I have to admit, I was surprised to see how vibrant a native open source community really could be, and how completely unimportant cultural differences, national boundaries, and even political ideologies are when it comes to such a community.


The conference itself was top notch. I think I was expecting something like a well-attended meetup, but this was like a mini-summit. Having worked in Tech Theatre for many, many years as a younger man, I can’t help but notice all the little things that are involved when putting on an event. I wasn’t surprised everything was so well done — what got me was the interpreters! The main room and each of the break-out rooms had a small soundproof booth for interpreters. Anything in Vietnamese or English was translated into the other and broadcast over headphones that were readily available everywhere. I had never experienced this before, and had only seen it on televised meetings of UN agencies. Crazy!

I presented a talk on Istio entitled “Istio and OpenStack: You’ve got a mesh on your hands…”. I reviewed the major features of Istio and talked about mesh expansion on OpenStack to include virtual and bare metal machines in an Istio deployment. After the conference, it was time to head to dinner with the event organizers and their guests.

"một, hai, ba, vô!"

I could not have asked for a more authentic experience. There was much to celebrate!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Of course, some sight seeing was involved! Day 3 I traveled to Ha Long Bay to get on a junk boat, upon which Night 3 was spent. Kayaking between islands was quite a treat, meals on the modest boat were suburb, and the views were simply amazing.


Luckily my internal clock had still not had a chance to adjust to the current time zone, so I was wide awake at 5am to enjoy the sunrise on Day 4. I checked out a floating fishing farm and took a quick dip in the bay. Sadly after that, it was time to pack it up and start the trek back to Hanoi, and then to the airport. I sat with a decent-sized crowd outside the security checkpoint to watch Vietnam play Syria in the football quarterfinals of the Asian Games.

It was quite a whirlwind trip! If you are headed to Vietnam, I would recommend spending a lot more than 96 hours there, a restraint imposed on me by circumstances that are of my own devising. My final surprise? How much I would love to go back….

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