The Best of Vietnam Now

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The Best of Vietnam Now

Bài gửi by MrJohn on Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:03 am

http://businessmirror.com.ph/home/perspective/15539-the-best-of-vietnam-now.html
Some things about Vietnam under the eyes of a foreign reporter
Written by Imelda V. Abaño

Thursday, 03 September 2009 21:17

HANOI—More
than 35 years have passed since this once-troubled land started the
long road to peace after a devastating war that left it triumphant over
a world power, yet left its land scarred by bombs and so many of its
people wounded or orphaned. For many years after the war, Vietnam as a
destination was relatively unknown. But a new generation of
entrepreneurs, artists, store owners and local businessmen is eager to
make the country a serious player in the modern world.


The country is
changing fast. Apart from China, it has the fastest annual growth rate
in Asia. Vietnam is now the world’s second-largest exporter of both
rice and coffee. The country is still nominally communist, and its
leaders remain socially conservative, but young Vietnamese are rising,
absorbing and remixing global culture.
Hanoi
and Ho Chi Minh City, its two most famous tourist places, are packed
with young adults on any given day, and now boast of numerous
developments compared to a decade ago. Food stalls are everywhere,
vegetables and meat abundant and fresh. There are also many karaoke
bars and shopping venues.
These
two cities are noisy, chaotic, crowded and lively, especially during
rush hour, when motor bikes and cyclos account for much of the traffic,
and the honking of horns is unimaginable. Crossing busy Vietnam streets
with a degree of calm takes years for one to practice.
Data
from the Ministry of Transport in Hanoi show that in the first six
months of 2009, there were 5,827 road deaths and nearly 4,000 injuries.
Of
course, in both cities—and throughout Vietnam—the most devoted crowds
may be found in sidewalk cafés where locals and tourists alike are
seated at plastic tables half a meter off the ground, drinking bia hoi
or draft beer and eating pho, a Vietnamese national dish made of rice
noodles topped with beef or chicken and spiked with ginger, cinnamon
stick, onion sleek and fish sauce.
Exploring Hanoi
Hanoi,
the capital of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, is an elegant city
located on the banks of the Red River with tranquil Hoan Kiem Lake at
its heart. The majestic lake is comparable to Baguio City’s Burnham
Lake, except for the weather which is hot, humid and often rainy.
Hanoi’s
population of more than 4 million is constantly growing, a reflection
of the fact that the city is both the economic heart of northern
Vietnam and also the country’s political center.
The
streets are always alive and bustling. Economic activity starts at 6
a.m. with restaurants opening for breakfast, shopkeepers getting ready
for the day, and street vendors arranging their wares.
The
local tourist industry does cater to “war tourism,” but the
overwhelming sensation you come away with is that this is a country
more preoccupied with the present and the future than the past.
The
bustling streets of the famous Old Quarter are among the most
attractive tourist sites in the city for both domestic and foreign
visitors. Young and old local businessmen sell their wares, from bags,
clothing, shoes, paintings and souvenir items.
The rising Ho Chi Minh City
Ho
Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is the most important city in
Vietnam after Hanoi. There are many rising luxurious hotels, karaoke
bars, fast-food restaurants and shopping venues.
The
Filipino fast-food icon Jollibee can also be easily spotted in the
heart of Ho Chi Minh. Although it is run by a Filipino businessman, not
a single worker is Filipino. There are nine branches of Jollibee in Ho
Chi Minh.
Like
any part of Vietnam, there are many traces of war in this city. The War
Remnants Museum has some truly chilling exhibits of pictures during the
war. But the most notable building is the Reunification Palace, which
was constructed to be the home of President Ngo Dinh.
The
building is a symbolic part of the fall of Saigon, when Viet Cong tanks
crashed straight through its gates. Though it was a presidential palace
in the past, today it functions as a museum. The palace was one of the
predominant symbols of the South Vietnamese regime, but today it still
serves as a symbol for the reunified country. Visitors can tour the
private quarters, dining rooms, entertainment lounges, conference
halls, communications equipment and old maps, casinos as well as the
president’s office.
Not
far from the Reunification Palace is the Ben Thanh market, a crowded,
lively indoor market in downtown Saigon catering to local and foreign
tourists. Here one can find cheap shoes, bags, T-shirts, pants, silk
scarves, caps, fruits and other souvenir items.
The floating life
A
visit to Vietnam is not complete without seeing the floating market in
Can Tho City in the South—a bustling confusion of boats, goods, vendors
and tourists. The biggest floating markets in the delta are Hang Be
Market in Tien Giang Province, the Phung Hiep Market in Can Tho and the
market in Cai Rang.
Each
morning, hundreds of junks and small boats congregate, with all trades
taking place on the water. Vendors typically hang samples of their
wares from a bar set above the boat’s roof to attract customers, while
their stock is stored below deck. They carry mostly fruits but also
coconuts, vegetables and fishes. Durian, rambutan, pineapple, jackfruit
and other kinds of fruits as well as vegetables are tied over the
junk’s roof. Many Vietnamese live on their boats, traveling throughout
the delta. At the back of the boats, life on the water is mirrored by
the sight of people cooking or washing their clothes.
Like many people in a country undergoing so much change, Von Thuy Bihn, 28, is worried about his country’s future.
“We
wanted foreign tourists to come and see the beauty of Vietnam,” he
said. “But if the cultural atmosphere in our city is destroyed because
of too much modernization, I don’t know what to say.”
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