In Hanoi, the haberdashers sell rolls of designer label tape. Hugo Boss Hugo Boss Hugo Boss. Just snip and stitch for instant style. Better yet are the trays of metal tags to be attached to shoes and bags—Prada or Polo, it’s up to you.
At every corner, teenage boys flog parcels of books to travelers. They are carefully targeted to the Vietnam circuit: Lonely Planets, The Quiet American, Air America. The cover art is anemic, because these books have been photocopied whole and then carefully bound. Legitimate bookstores offer to swap one of their ‘real’ books for three ‘photo’ books. In your photocopied Lonely Planet, you can read how Le Vie branded mineral water has been plagued by instant competitors called Le Vive, Le Vile, and even Le Viol (The Rape).
Brochures for popular hotels warn fiercely that local fleapits have taken to using their good name. Elsewhere, whole stores are devoted to knockoff music, movies, and software, and tailors urge you to bring in fashion magazines to copy.
In a café, Carmen Kass, looking as burnished as the Goldfinger girl, smiles down from a famous ad for Christian Dior scent. Except the bottle of J’Adore has been replaced by a bottle of 777 beer, and it is incongruous in the hands of this lager-colored angel.
Will the real Vietnam please stand up?