Why Vietnam? I am asked from time to time. I don't like heat, crowds or loud noises. Vietnam is roaring hot, crowded, and operates at high volume. (There is no "indoor voice".) The place is also relentlessly social, and I tend not to be so.
the fashion of David Letterman, here are my top 10 reasons:
The smell of the tropics, from the moment I step off the plane at Tan Son Nhat
The bang for the tourist buck. The hotel I am staying in as I write this is
costing maybe $40 a night, and that includes a breakfast buffet. Last week, in
a slightly remote area, the hotel was $15 a night, and that included AC, hot
water AND a fan.
Good place to sit and watch life on the street. (More bang for the buck.) The
eye never rests, and I say that having seen a lot here in the past. But the
place is changing. This place is movement.
Change is in the air. I have been visiting for a number of years, and it is
true as far as I am concerned that the country has changed more in the last 10
years than in the previous 100. There are now cell phone towers everywhere, and
thus far, on this visit, I have experienced only one 15-second blackout.
The food. Healthy, tasty. GREAT baguettes that never sog despite the humidity.
Soup, soup, and more soup. Dragonfruit, pomelo, rambutan, watermelon, fresh
(and I mean FRESH) sliced pineapple. Rice. The Vietnamese have quite the sweet
tooth and so do I.
The consistent resourcefulness and practicality, and often self-effacing (but
proud, in a way) modesty of the people I know. They can make anything.
Tiger Beer and cafe sua da
(expresso over ice with sweetened condensed milk), not necessarily in that
The necessity of being Zen. The place teaches patience; you can't impose
yourself on it. You have no choice but to be zen if you want to come here. Try
to impose your idea of order on what you see and you will meet with
frustration. You ain't in Kansas anymore. Get over your Western, American self
The traffic. Even with some traffic lights and one-way streets, there is still
nothing like it. It is the ultimate self-organizing system. It is amazing
every time I look at it -- every time I have to learn to cross the street again
and again. (Google "Global Nomads" and "Ho Chi Minh City"
to see what "crossing the street" means here ...)
The people I encounter: the gracious, hustling people whose hospitality puts
that of other countries to shame. And their great smiles.