Vietnam is formally the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, with a population of nearly 90.6 million people. Per capita income is only $3440 annually. Life expectancy for women is 76 years, and men, only 70 years. Cancer is the leading cause of death (25%), with stroke the second most common.
Vietnam, surprisingly, is the 13th most populous country in the world. It was part of China for over a millennium. Its most charismatic leader was Ho Chi Minh, who is embalmed and displayed in a mausoleum Da Binh Square in Hanoi. It was part of our very first visit to Vietnam. We were forced to stand two by two, with no smiling or talking. It was not one of my more pleasant memories of Hanoi and Vietnam.
As I may have pointed out to you before, the Vietnam War is called the “American War” here in Vietnam. Yet, they harbor no resentment for having us bomb the heck out of their beautiful country. The country was unified after the 1975 defeat of the United States. The country was unified under a communist government (Marxist-Leninist single party state) since that time. Since 2000, their economic growth has been among the highest in the world.
Vietnamese is the primary language, though some French remains from colonial days. Curiously, their religion is Vietnamese folk religion, not Buddhism or any other formal religion.
Perhaps with the large number of Vietnamese in our country, we tend to generalize about their country and culture. I see they value family above all else, in the context of making a good living, with a willingness to work hard.
Pho is the country’s main dish or staple, served and eaten any time of day or night. Word on the street here says it is better for curing hangovers than menudo. Right, Barry the V?
As in many parts of SE Asia, the coffee culture is burgeoning. With cooler weather here, I can see why. I even found Kopi Luwak, the world’s most expensive coffee, for sale just down the street. The best coffee stand is just across the street as well. They like their coffee with sweet, condensed milk.
I feel so fortunate I was not drafted and sent here to fight. Likewise, for my many friends who got sent here, I am glad you came back alive. This is a beautiful country with friendly people, certainly not the image we were given back in the Sixties.
I still have a beautiful silk necktie that I bought on my first trip here
Can you believe the MLB playoff are on TV here? Unbelievable! Of course, it is broadcast anywhere from 3am or 7am here in my time zone. I am rooting for the Cubbies.
We landed here in Hanoi about 3pm on Saturday. One day late, since I had some evisa issues. Qatar Airways ground staff, mainly one young Thai lady, was most helpful. I had to pay $68 for an expedited online visa from Ho Chi Minh City, after failing to get an emergency visa at the Thai Embassy in Bangkok. Once here, the actual visa cost another $45.
Hanoi has a spanking new airport, a far cry from the sterile little band box we experienced on our previous trip here. It is about one year old, with the old terminal used for domestic flights. This country has spent considerably to build a tourist infrastructure. The six lane boulevard from the airport, then across the river to downtown was impressive.
Traffic in Old Town Hanoi is bonkers, even worse. Our driver loved to not only use his obnoxious horn, he likes to straddle over two lanes, giving him two options to pass slower vehicles or motorbikes. I don’t think it did any good, and made us quite nervous.
To say Old Town is frenetic is a understatement. It throbs like a teenager in heat!!! Each little area seems to have a specialty, like the old days of artisans. But mostly, anything can be found most anywhere, with the usual souvenir shops, foot massage, travel agents, food stalls, and backpacker hostels. Add to that a million motorbikes that seem to buzz down any sized street or alley. It is chaos, but nobody seems to care or get hurt.
Yet, I can’t wait to see and do much more. This seems to be our kind of place.