Extending 1,650 km north to south, Vietnam
is only 50 km across at its narrowest point.
It has a population of 86M.
Vietnamese is unlike just about all other
Asian languages Vietnamese written language
uses the Western alphabet,and is not
Sanskrit or Chinese based (although
it originally was). It was initially translated
and written by a Portuguese person in 16th
century. Lots of accents are used to make
the different sounds. (English is increasingly favoured
as a second language. Some French, Chinese,
and Khmer in the mountain areas.)
We travelled 1200 km into the heart of rural
North West of Vietnam and consequently, we
saw a lot more of the countryside and ethnic
tribes and we also experienced various modes
North Vietnam is extremely rural, traditional
and tribal with some of the rural areas in
Our impression of Vietnam is a nation
of motorcycling, shopkeepers who live in
the (fixed size) shops. We found the people
to be extremely friendly and content with
their lives, despite the poverty. They were
only too willing to please us.
Vietnam opened up to outsiders in 1994 for
the first time. Initially it was very controlled
and all tourists had to be accompanied by
police. But this has been relaxed and we
were able to travel freely.
Vietnam has undergone many changes in the
past 25 years since the end of the war and
it is facing many challenges in the future.
Like China – it’s a communist
state that is opening up to Western ways
and capitalism. It is opening up to international
trade and it recently joined the World Trade
Vietnam is likely to change beyond all recognition
in the next 10 to 20 years. I think it’s
doubtful whether the ethnic groups and tribes
will survive the changes except in a capacity
as a tourist attraction.
There is a lot of investment going into the
country mainly from Japan and America. Investment
is going into roads and schools as well as
a new $3bn hydro station to be the largest
This will flood a vast area so that they
have to move many villages and also the district
capital which will move to this new border
town of Pa So which is 20 kilometres from
the Chinese border. It is a new economic
zone being developed for trade with China.
It's like a wild west boom town with
construction going on everywhere. It's
hard to think that this is going to be a
major town as it’s just a single small
street at the moment.