If there’s a country in Southeast Asia that everybody has heard about, that’s definitely Vietnam. The war in Vietnam captured the attention of the West but centuries before that, almost everybody passed by here, the Chinese for a thousand years, the Khmers, the Mongols and later came the French. If the military leaders in Washington had paid a little more attention to the history of this proud nation, the trauma and the tragedy of the long war might have been avoided.
But this is the new Vietnam, a country that is following the Chinese road to develop a financial liberation without political freedom. It’s an experiment that will prove itself in the future. But enough said about the history and politics of Vietnam. We entered this nature blessed country from the south. Our first stop was the only island still on debate between Cambodia and Vietnam, Phu Quoc. A beautiful, big tropical island under construction from the Vietnamese that nevertheless has very small impact on the island. We will have to wait and see. After that we headed for the Mekong Delta and the city of Kantho. A fascinating floating market was the highlight of our stay and the ride through the canals, although the weather wasn’t ideal. We were in a rush since we were heading to Saigon, a huge city and the financial capital of Vietnam, with a million motorbikes roaming its small streets. After a great New Year’s and plenty of fumes from the motorbikes, we started heading to the north. As you move further to the north, the people get friendlier only if you give them a few euros. Mui Ne with its beautiful sand dunes and the hilly Dalat are some of the places worth mentioning. Further north was Hoi An, a city at the mouth of a river that was known to traders and merchants for more than 2000 years ago. For me perhaps one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited. As the weather got colder, we headed to the capital Hanoi after we got robbed by some people in the streets of Hue (thank God they took only 50 euros). In Hanoi we arranged our trip to one of the eight natural wonders of the world, the Halong Bay. Lime stone peaks tower above the shimmering sea. Majestic and mysterious, and impressive, words alone cannot describe the beauty of Halong Bay. Except for the fact that my friend Dimitris got robbed for the second time (100 euros this time) our stay was worth all the fighting and the trouble we had with the Vietnamese to get there. Our last stop in the country was Sapa, the hill tribe capital of the north that we saw in bitter cold and heavy fog. After one month our trip to Vietnam was over.
The Vietnamese have an aggressive attitude towards the foreigners and they’re only interested in your money. The country is in top gear to catch up with the rest of the world, after the political embargo from modern goods that were kept away from them. So get there before it reinvents itself as another Malaysia, Singapore or even worse, Thailand.