I spent most of January in Vietnam. It was my first time there. I will probably never go back although I’ve said that about India and I’m planning my next journey there. Or at least thinking about planning my journey there.
I did have a good enough time in Vietnam however. But I won’t write about the tourist stuff – the food is good blah blah and there are some beautiful bits to it but you can say that about any country.
The most impressive thing about Vietnam is also the reason why I won’t go back: Vietnam is going to be one of the great powers of South East Asia. The mix of competition, innovation, sheer desperation and an unbelievable appetite for work, combined with its young and growing population and proximity to China is going to see this country become richer and more powerful than Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore combined. Only Indonesia, if it ever gets its act together, will rival it.
This makes for a fantastic economic story but a rather terrible place for a holiday. The pace is frenetic, the cities are crowded and polluted and it feels like every single part of the country is being exploited or developed for some thing. Traditionally, people have planted every piece of arable land however small – this approach has now spread to every conceivable business idea and tourist opportunity.
For the time being, I’m going to stay away. Melbourne has good enough Vietnamese food and I can get its excellent coffee from the shops in Richmond. That’ll do for quite some time.