Viet Nam


We departed Cambodia on April 7th via Viet Nam airlines and landed in Ho Chi Min City, or Saigon, as it is commonly known.  We toured Saigon and the Cu Chi tunnels, visited the 1000 year old port town of Hoi An, and then made our way north to Hanoi.  We traveled by train to Sapa, a small mountain town located close to the China border.  Some of the pictures of the Hill Tribes we visited are worth taking a close look at.

We found the Vietnamese culture very unique.  We were surprised to find that the people deal only in cash.  They do not have credit cards, can't get bank loans and do not have bank accounts of any kind.  There are only two ATMs in the entire country, yet there are almost 80 million people.  It's astounding.  So what do they do with their money??  The Vietnamese stash it at home, often in coffins that they purchase in advance of dying.  When they want to make major purchases (i.e. house or car), they show up with briefcases full of gold bars or American dollars.

In Viet Nam, being overweight is a sign of prosperity and people strive to be "fat!"  Our guide in Saigon told us he was turned down for a marketing job with a major company because he was "too thin."  The company he was interviewing with explained that clients would not trust him and he would not portray the proper company image because of his slim appearance.  In the end, he was told to, "go home and gain 10 kilos!"  Imagine the lawsuits we would have in America!

The women in Viet Nam are fanatical about covering their entire bodies from head to toe when they venture outdoors.  Apparently, women do not want to be exposed to a single ray of sunlight because being "white" is also a sign of wealth.  It's strange to walk the streets and see women with masks covering their faces and realize that their lives revolve around the sun.

To Chris' disappointment, she found out the truth about dogs and cats in Viet Nam.  They have outdoor markets that sell these animals (as well as mice, snakes and a host of other strange creatures).  According to our first guide, big black dogs are apparently the best (yuck!).  Our second guide confirmed the dog/cat story but told us under his breath, "only the commies do it!" (highly improbable).  The good news is that communists only represent 10% of the population.  The bad news is this translates into about eight million people. 

During our stay in Hanoi, we took a two day side trip on a boat to a world heritage sight called Halong Bay.  We did some sea kayaking visited a floating village.

To see pictures of our adventures in Viet Nam, click on the links below:

Saigon Area
Hoi An
Halong Bay


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           copyright chris & hugh hempel 2004                                                      last modified on Monday, 12. January 2004