Monday, December 29, 2008

Vietnam Overview

I'm not sure it really comes across in the journal, but our trip to Vietnam was absolutely wonderful. I couldn't have expected any of what happened there, even though James had planned much of it out.

It is hard not to start talking about the trip without beginning it with the negative sides of the country though. There is a heavy weight on the people there, and you never stop feeling it. Tourists are treated with a kid glove attempt at people handling that separates you from the reason you came in the first place, to get into the culture and get to know people. As a tourist you are also preyed upon heavily and taken advantage of, more so than other places I've been to. Other countries are taking advantage of Vietnam because it is so desperate in some ways and you can see it along every road, giant factory after factory of loose law and cheap labor. You can see it in the countryside where the wildlife no longer exists because of poaching and habitat destruction. I've never been to an outdoor environment so devoid of wildlife. Cities usually have more wildlife than I saw in the forests. Everything is very very dirty, garbage in every place.

There of course is A LOT of good and people keep clean and are always sweeping away debri. For instance, as a tourist, your dollar goes a long long way in Vietnam. That is a good initial attraction. Many of the tourists we met were there because Vietnam is so affordable. You get to meet lots of people from many parts of the world and everyone was awesome. Also, if you like Obama, be prepared to hear how much everyone else in the world likes Obama. The people who live in Vietnam are awesome. Even though plenty was lost in translation because I don't know any Vietnamese you can tell. They are tough, hard working, and funny. Though there is always an air of caution, and like I said a weight over it all, because life can be very hard there and the govenrment is interesting. I know it is out of necesity, but exploring the towns and looking at how inventive people have been with the limited resources is really cool. I've never seen so many practical and varied uses for bamboo before. Vietnam is incredibly beautiful in stunning ways. The terrain is diverse and has enormous history. I loved Ha Long Bay, even though I had to eat so many french fries. Though the wildlife was starkly absent, there are domestic animals everywhere adding livliness. Plus... The food is really fresh. I ate some of the most delicious dishes I've ever had there for less than a dollar.

If you can afford the plane trip over, you should go to Vietnam. It is fantastic. Don't spend more than two days in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh though, it's cool, but the rest of the country eclipses it.


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Bradley Farless said...

I'm an American living in Singapore at the moment. I won't go into that right now, but I wanted to say that you could have been describing the Philippines in this article.

I've been curious about Vietnam and have thought about visiting it, but I was worried about how well they receive Americans there, even if it's been so long. You know.