I’m sure you feel it too, that sense of anticipation before visiting a new country. In the case of Vietnam, I had scoured the internet for images and with my well-thumbed Lonely Planet guide considered that I would be well prepared for our impending 11 day flash visit. A 2 day stop over in Hong Kong meant that we would not be jet-lagged. Meeting our cheerful guide Nghia at Ho Chi Minh airport at midday followed later that night by our accompanying tourists on the trip was an interesting experience. Who are all these people that we are going to be walking, touring, flying and eating with over the next week or so? As it turned out, the major proportion were Aussies and only a few of us were “poms”.
Our tour took in elements of the South, Central and North of Vietnam. One of the first things that hits you (hopeful not!) is the sheer number of scooters and motorbikes. The municipality of Ho Chi Minh City has a population of around 7 million people but I’m guessing that there must be around 4 million scooters and motorbikes. Seriously, I thought that Beijing was bad enough but HCMC leaves it for dust. A constant swarm all day, every day. This becomes particularly apparent when you want to cross a road – the only way is to close your eyes and walk confidently at a constant pace until you hit the opposite kerb. If even only a small proportion of the Vietnamese ever earn enough to buy a car will be the day that the planet experiences the worst traffic jams known to man. As Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson said, “it’s a seething cauldron of barely organised chaos”.
The second thing that hits you, and stays with you throughout, is the warmth, kindness and humility of the Vietnamese people. It’s a real lesson for us “westerners”. Too have so little and to be so happy and content is a real gift. Children playing in the street, women working in the fields, men, well it seemed as if the women did everything so they were happy too! Not one sign of aggression on the roads despite the intensity of traffic. I never heard a baby or a child cry while we were in Vietnam but as soon as we hit the international airport on our return everything changed. It’s worth thinking about.
Forgiveness, what forgiveness these people possess. The Vietnam War, or the American War as the Vietnamese refer to it, finished just over 35 years ago yet there is not a sniff of anomosity towards them, and just to prove it they are happy to take US dollars almost everywhere. Even the War Remnants Museum is careful not to push anti-American propaganda too far.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos I’ve posted above. It’s the usual collection of street photography, culture and abstracts that I seem to focus on and as you know I’m always keen to hear about your own experiences or for feedback on my image memories.