Sigh. That’s my primary reflection on Vietnam. It’s very strange, the people were friendly, the food was generally excellent, there was loads to see, but… it just didn’t end up going our way. The weather was fairly poor for our first week (and then horrific in the middle). Some mild scooter-based incompetence in Mui Ne caused me to graze my arm and leg and meant I couldn’t take advantage of opportunities to sail there. Our hotel there was nice, but it was just a bit far away from everything. Saigon was vibrant and interesting, but we were exhausted from travel and an awful hotel in the backpacker district.
Hoi An seems like a really cool little town, but we could only stay one night and were drenched when there. Hué it rained so much as to actually be funny. Hanoi was actually quite nice, but there are limited things to do there.
The country itself seems pretty well off (at least, the more populated areas that we passed through do). The roads were well paved and in good condition (much more so than Nepal or India). The cities are modern and the armies of scooters that roam the streets are generally helmeted. The food is of generally excellent quality, the transport links (bus, rail and plane) are efficient and promptish. Everything’s pretty cheap really, we were rarely paying even £10 for a full meal and drinks for the two of us. It’s astonishing to think that there are 90 million people living there, but there you go.
The signs of Communism are still pretty strong. Hammers and sickles abound, as do ‘inspirational’ posters exhorting the masses. The face of ‘Uncle Ho’ is as everpresent as (and strikingly reminiscent of) Colonel Sanders in the US. The museums still abound with propaganda about the ways in which the Viet Cong waged war. America is still widely, bitterly, but understandably resented.
One thing I really loved was the huge amounts of art galleries everywhere. While mostly selling reproductions of classic or western paintings, there was much modern and contemporary art. All the cities had loads of mini-galleries to entice and inspire you. If we hadn’t been travelling I’m sure I would have picked up a few canvases.