Vietnam, 40 years after the end of what they refer to as ‘The American War’ is now designing it’s own destiny. A country of happy easy going people, this is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations of South East Asia. A profusion of colour and smells, Vietnam triggers the extremes of all the senses with it’s multitude of aromatic smells, colourful traditional costume, and decorative pagodas and temples.
A now unified country since the war, the government seem keen to open it’s doors to the world. Anything but a secretive communist state, the Vietnamese government wants the world to see it’s achievements. Of course a communist state isn’t all perfect but what fully capitalist state is? They do have the same issues affecting their public health system that many countries including the US suffer, and rely heavily on private medical schemes. Those that can’t afford it certainly won’t benefit from the high quality private medicine and ultra modern hospital facilities found in the bigger cities. Some roads which are state managed are in urgent need of an injection of funds to bring them up to the standards of a fast developing economy but most highways are pretty good. What they do well, they do very well. Citizens are unrestricted on where they travel and are encouraged to run their own enterprises. This is leading to a healthy, fast growing economy with a population that on the whole are content with life. Security in the country is excellent with a very low crime rate. A high standard of technological manufactoring with input from countries such as Japan and Israel are helping to develop one of the fastest growing economies in the region. International companies such as Canon and Nike invest millions into state of the art production plants.
Apart from the manufactoring capabilities, the government have cashed in on the importance of a strong tourism industry. Working our way from Hanoi in the north, to Hue, Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the South cost we came across evidence of a wish to become more international. University students are encouraged to converse with tourists in English as part of the national curriculum. The travel infrastucture can be variable. We took two internal flights on Vietnam Airways. Their schedules are frequent and the aircraft are comfortable. Away from the main tourism hot spots, I found it easy to mix with the locals and farmers in the countryside, obtaining the sort of pictures that could provide the images for a book entitled ‘The Beautiful People of Vietnam’
Food is generally not as spicy and hot as that in neighboring Thailand. A primarily healthy diet consists of fish, shelfish, rice cooked in every which way, pork and beef and a lot of aromatic herbs, often folded into pancake rolls eaten either fresh or fried. For those worried about the strong spices of the East, you need not worry here.
I highly recommend this Pearl of the East. If you’re limited to a standard two week break, a good way to see a glimpse of Vietnam is to book a private tour of the country. Voyage Prive along with their partners Aurora Travel specialise in such tours and are worth contacting. They may even taylor something specific. The hotels they use are guaranteed to be of a pretty high standard.
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