Saigon Ink #3: typewriters and old vinyl

The third and final post on Hanoi Ink’s recent trip south to Ho Chi Minh City for the September 2nd long weekend. Read the previous posts here and here.

No more bookshops or even books here, but a couple of literature-related finds that might fit better on the Hanoi Ink tumblr, if there was such a thing.

Hermes Baby typewriter

Hermes Baby portable typewriter from the early 1960s

First up is my new (old) typewriter that I acquired in a little shop in Phu Nhuan District: a beautiful pale mint green Hermes Baby. Hermes typewriters were made in Switzerland, and the successive version of the Baby from the 1930s onwards were their compact, ultra-light portable models popular with students and traveling writers. This model dates from the 1960s and has the French AZERTY keyboard layout. The ribbon was broken when I bought it but with an improvised repair I was soon pecking out words.

Logo on the Typewriter

It’s a Hermes Baby, baby!

It turns out that Lin Yutang, whose 1935 book on China I picked up on Trần Nhân Tôn street in District 5, was also the inventor of one of the first viable Chinese-character typewriters. No mean feat when you consider the number of characters in regular use in written Chinese.

The Mingkwai typewriter invented by Lin Yutang

Lin Yutang’s typewriter for Chinese characters

My second find was an LP with a 1969 recording of the musical theatre production Chuyện Tình Hàn Mạc Tử (Love Story of Han Mac Tu). I have written previously about Hàn Mạc Tử’s life and poetry—including a translation of his poem Mùa Xuân Chín—as well as his death from leprosy in Quy Nhon at the age of 28.

Han Mac Tu album cover

Album cover art for Love Story of Han Mac Tu

The composers of this musical are Viễn Châu and Thể Hà Vân. Viễn Châu from Trà Vinh is famous as the king of the cải lương (reformed) opera style that remains massively popular in southern Vietnam. The cast includes Út Hiền, Bạch Tuyết, Kim Ngọc, Bích Thủy, Trang Bích Liễu, Văn Chung, and Hùng Cường. Lê Văn Thiện’s band provides the music.

Here is a rough recording taken from the LP:

Sample of Hàn Mạc Tử: the Musical

Han Mac Tu LP

And as a final postscript, my translation of Mùa Xuân Chín (Ripe Spring) by Hàn Mạc Tử, typed on my Hermes Baby:

Ripe Spring (Mùa xuân chín) by Hàn Mặc Tử


~ by hanoi ink on September 25, 2011.

9 Responses to “Saigon Ink #3: typewriters and old vinyl”

  1. Are you going to translate other Vietnamese works into English? Your love for Vietnamese literature really humbles me.

    • Hi Trang – thanks for your comment! I have some translation projects and plans but somewhat on the backburner at the moment as a lot of other things going on. Hopefully more time for this fairly soon..

  2. My girlfriend (whom you on Twitter) would love a real typewriter at home. We live in Saigon but aren’t sure where to look. Can you point us in the right direction, please? Phu Nhuan seems a little far away, but we’ll travel if there’s nothing closer.



    • Hi – thanks for the comment. I think you can find some typewriters for sale on Le Cong Kieu street in D1. They will probably be a little more expensive than out in Phu Nhuan, but on the other hand they will probably be better quality. I think I saw a couple of typewriters a few weeks back in a shop on Pho Duc Chinh, just as you leave Le Cong Kieu and turn right towards Ben Thanh market.

  3. Hi there,

    Thanks for this interesting blog. I was also interested in picking up an old typewriter for my girlfriend, but I live in Hanoi. Do you know of any places up north that might sell them?

    Many thanks in advance,

    • Hey Adrian,

      Cheers for your comment. I think it is not easy to find typewriters (or old things in general) in Hanoi compared to Saigon. There are antique shops along Nghi Tam street, however I’m not sure if you would have much success there. I think I recently saw a typewriter on display upstairs at Tadioto bar at 12 Truong Han Sieu. It may be for sale, you could enquire at the bar.

      Good Luck!

      • Great. Thanks so much for the quick reply. Really appreciate it. I will check out Nghi Tam and Tatdioto just in case.

        Really appreciate it, and good luck with your blog! You have been super helpful.


  4. As someone who loves typewriters and has yearned for one for many years, I am so happy to have stumbled across your blog on this.

    I’m in HCMC currently and I’m going to try to purchase one. I’m going to set out on my quest soon! Also, could you give me the address as well, I’m not too familiar with the area. If there are a lot of shops in Phu Nhuan, I’ll venture out there to have a look.

    Could you tell me how much you paid for this one?

    Thanks in advance!

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