In 2018 I visited again Vietnam. I was there for only two weeks this time, primarily to enjoy the beach and the excellent food. You will find new photos in the following sections: Hoi An/Beach, People and Food. A new section is a trip to a village where I made a photoshooting to improve my photographer's knowledge.
I visited Vietnam in 2016 for the second time. During my first visit in 2000, I visited Hanoi, Na Trang, Saigon, the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels which are situated at the end of the Ho Chi Minh trail. My impressions from that trip are at the bottom of this article. Looking back I find it interesting to see what life was like at that time without cell phones, notebooks and only occasional Internet Cafés, with very slow connections. In 2016 I again visited Hanoi at the time of the Tet Fest (Vietnamese New Year), then onto Hue, Danang, My Son and Hoi An.
The progress from 2000 to 2016 is remarkable.The country is much more developed, traveling is much easier, the food is better and you would think the motorbikes outnumber the people. Automobiles, which were few in numbers years ago are now over taking the roads along side the motorbikes. In the meantime the Vietnamese have built some excellent long-distance roads. Wifi is free in every hotel, restaurant and café.
There exists a very visible middle class which openly demonstrates its wealth. Unlike the Indonesians, the Vietnamese people focus on their businesses, trying to always improve their services. From my personal experience, the police don't bother the tourists. Of course they do go after the criminals (drugs, abuse etc) which can be read in the local press.
In the year 2000:
This is not a travel guide, it is not an academic abstract about Vietnam or its people. It is about personal impressions and reflections which of course are subjective. But I want to share some of my feelings to encourage the dear surfer to learn more about this beautiful country and its wonderful people.
I started my journey in April 2000 with just an airlineticket and a hotel reservation for the first night in Hano in my hand. I bought all other tickets, transport, accomodation within Vietnam on the way.
This is not difficult at all. The primary adress to do so is mostly a cafe, offering tickets and tours. More and more there are also some travel bureaus available. (This was in 2000).
I did not have any problems with the local administration, police does not bother tourists, there are cybercafes everywhere and all kinds of services to allow easy travelling. Most houses also in the countryside in Northern Vietnam have a TV-antenna. In hotels I found international TV channels, shopping is easy. Shops are usually family business but there are also supermarkets. Baguette is offered frequently (more in the north of the country)! There is Toyota, Goldstar, Bosch, Marlboro and, yes, Coca Cola.
Accomodation: All levels of Hotels and Guesthouses are available. We always had big rooms, sometimes a suite with a big refrigerator for less than 34 $. Do you like the army? Also the Vietnamese army has to earn money, so they rent rooms in barracks, rather simple with common shower. I read about it with no personal experience.
Sometimes the country is less developed, but that is also part of the special charme of such a journey. If you like, you quickly can contact the locals. Many of them are very open and are willing to tell their story
Finally, it is interesting, the people, also the older ones look slim and physically fit, sometimes 50 year old men still work as a Cyclo driver (bycicle rikshaw) and they definitely don't look stressed. But there are also everywhere handicapped people visible, mostly from the American war. Sometimes hard to look at. But they have to make their life and the administration at that time did not have enough resources to take care of them.
Already in the year 2000 I had a digicam. That's why my photos of Vietnam look poor today. I can't change it.
Thanks to John Natalie for proofreading