history  transport  housing  ethnic tribes  farming  education  halong bay  our tour  
October 2006
The Country

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 of transport.

North Vietnam is extremely rural, traditional and tribal with some of the rural areas in deep poverty.
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. 
The Future

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 Organisation.

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.

The Future


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 in Vietnam. 

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.


Text and Photos Copyright Nova Fisher 2006