Photographer's Note


Monkey Bridge

In English, “monkey bride” is the highest navigational bridge on a ship; a small (often open) deck above the pilot house where a ship is steered and the captain stands.
In Vietnam, it is about crossing a river precariously balanced on two bamboo poles. Recently, local government has decided to get rid of these dangerous bridges and have them replaced with a concrete approach instead. And soon, all about Vietnamese monkey bridge is only a picture from the past…


Actually, monkey bridge takes it title from the fragile structures that span the rivers of Vietnam. With a single bamboo pole for the traveler’s feet, another providing a hand railing, and vines and mangrove roots holding the two together, it became topic for an American author to write a famous book under same title: born and raised in Vietnam until she came to America at the age of thirteen, Lan Cao has distinguished herself in remarkably diverse ways. A politics major at MHC, she went on to earn a law degree from Yale. She secured a prestigious clerkship with a U.S. district judge, then worked at a large New York law firm before becoming an international law professor at Brooklyn Law School. As if these accomplishments weren't enough, Cao recently published her novel, Monkey Bridge, which the New York Times hailed for its "authoritative and subtly nuanced delineation of character and place." In her memory, the bridge seems an irresistible metaphor for a young immigrant girl traversing worlds. The image, however, did not drive the book. “When I wrote the novel, I didn’t think of the term monkey bridge,” Cao explains. “That came to me when I was in Vietnam in 1996. I took a car to visit my uncle in the Mekong Delta, and the streets in Vietnam are terrible, filled with potholes, and what should take an hour took about five, so I got to see a lot of the countryside. I noticed these monkey bridges all along the route. They look like they were not built by humans, almost as if they were artistically conceived. So, I thought that was a great metaphor for the book: a traditional bridge that is hard to cross but also a bridge from war to peace, from any kind of pain to a process of reconciliation and healing.”

FYI, further info about Vietnamese monkey bridge can be found here:


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Additional Photos by Nhiem Hoang (hoangthenhiem) Silver Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 13 W: 0 N: 488] (2531)
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