Parts Unknown: President Obama in Vietnam

Local Market in Hanoi

In yet another historic move by President Obama, but one that’s become commonplace in his presidency, the head of state ate like a local in Hanoi, Vietnam, this week with celebrity food writer and TV host Anthony Bourdain. The two captured a bevy of media attention while they partook in a simple pho dinner and a beer. Bourdain quipped about the $6 meal “Total cost of bun cha dinner with the President: $6.00 . I picked up the check . #Hanoi,” and gladly picked up the tab, noting his delight at Obama’s skill with chopsticks.

According to the New York Post, “A spokeswoman for the CNN show said the pair chowed down on a bowl of pho, the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup served with sauces on the side, along with a plate of greens, two appetizers and a Hanoi brew for each of them. The episode of the show won’t air until September, but Bourdain gave a taste to his Facebook fans.”

Warming Relations

This is not Obama’s first stop in Vietnam during his presidency and his visit marks a continual effort on his part to heal relations with regions of the world that have been strained in the past. His visit earlier this year to Cuba was another landmark show of unity with a former off-limits neighbor, a trip which saw the reinstatement of U.S. to Cuba mail service and the gradual lifting of bans on American travelers. While in Hanoi, President Obama lifted the decades long arms ban with Vietnam.

“Over the past century, our two nations have known cooperation and then conflict, painful separation, and a long reconciliation. Now, more than two decades of normalized ties between our governments allows us to reach a new moment. It’s clear from this visit that both our peoples are eager for an even closer relationship, a deeper relationship. And I was moved to see so many people lining the streets as we were driving into town today. I bring greetings and friendship of the American people, including some outstanding members of Congress who are joining me on this visit, and so many Vietnamese Americans whose families bind us together and remind us of the values that we share.” – President Obama in Vietnam May 23rd, 2016.

After visiting Vietnam this week, Obama will head to Japan and end his trip in Hiroshima as the first sitting president to visit the site since the bombings by U.S. forces in 1945.