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:: Friday, October 24, 2003 ::

QuickBlog: Hoi An, Vietnam center of reverse engineering

found a moment during our trip to do a quick blog post. The trip has been fantastic. Hanoi was surprisingly open and accessible, with great restaurants, shopping, and cultural sites. We also took a three-day kayaking trip on Halong Bay, which was spectacular and then rode the night train (an experience not far from drinking the wine) up to Sapa, in the mountains near the Chinese Border.

We then ventured down to Hue, the old imperial capital; swung over to Danang/China Beach for a few days and are currently in Hoi An, a somewhat sleepy little town along the coast and roughly in the middle of the country.

There are many wonderful things about Hoi An, which I plan to write about later, but one of the most striking is their ability to reverse engineer. You see, one of the most common commercial activities in Hoi An is tailoring. Only 99% of the tailoring is essentially copying styles and clothes out of Western catalogues. You literally walk into a shop and look through a stack of them (J Crew, Nordstrom, DKNY, etc, etc) and pick out something you like. The seamstress then shows you numerous rolls of available fabric -- anything from Thai silk to cotton to synthetic blends. Then they take your measurements and 24 hours later, you have the product for half to a third the price you would pay in the West.

Of course, none of this is new to anyone who has travelled in the East (I have not, so it was a bit of an introduction to me). But what was perhaps the most striking part to me was the techniques used. Study, analysis, measurement, development, application, and testing. All of the same skills that one needs to construct compatible computer programs or otherwise unearth and replicate fundamental components of human knowledge and technology. Of course, none of the clothesmaking here in Hoi An is digital, so they don't have to worry about things like the DMCA Anti-circumvention rules, but they probably would have some tricky copyright issues to deal with, if Vietnam seemed to care about such things.

Anyway, we're off to see some Cham Dynasty ruins tomorrow at My Son and then down to Saigon for a few days. After that, we're hoping to do some riverboating in the Meiking Delta and then perhaps even a small detour into Cambodia to check out the Ankhor Wat ruins. The trip has gone by rather fast but it's been a wonderful step away from work and life-as-usual. If we get more time in Saigon, I'll try to post more details about our days and probably a few more random musings.

:: Jason 8:08:00 AM [+] ::

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