David's World Tour


March 2004 - Saigon

Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is an interesting mega-city, notable for its dense motorcycle traffic. The Vietnamese people do not smile as much as in Cambodia or Thailand, but I'm glad to be here anyway. I do however, miss all those friendly smiles.

I went to the Cu Chi tunnels, used by the Viet Cong during the war. There are over 200 kilometers of tunnels, where some 16,000 guerrilas lived for years. I heard that only 4000 survived the American bombing and chemical attacks. Local people are still suffering the effects of agent orange. I saw a propaganda film, translated into English, where the top American killers were shown as heros. That idiot George W Bush must have gotten a C- in his history class.

March 2004 - Nha Trang, Hoi An, and My Son

Nha Trang is an unremarkable beach town. Hoi An is a lovely old city on a river, but the beauty is hidden behind shop vendors endlessly calling tourists to look inside their stores (this gets old fast). So far, the highlight has been the ruins at My Son, not for the unremarkable ruins, but for the motorcycle ride into the countryside where I met lovely people who unfortunately speak as much English as I speak Vietnamese. The country folk were all smiles.

March 2004 - Hanoi

I enjoy exploring Hanoi, eating great vegetarian food, and playing Jianzi with locals. But interesting as it is, I would rather spend my time in Laos which (by unanimous reports from other backpackers) is a much more friendly place. Vietnam has more than 90 million people, but few speak English who do not work in the tourism industry (or international business), and almost everybody in the tourism industry tried to rip me off in some way. And it's not just me; every tourist I met has complained about the exact same thing. The tourism industry in Vietnam is not set up for hospitality, but for exploitation. It's an industry. The most common scam is to give the wrong change (on almost every transaction). Next is to give the wrong bill (always in their favor). Next is to trap tourists in situations where there is nothing to do but shop (for example, a two-hour layover on a three-hour bus trip). My friends Sheilah and Bert come here often as volunteers and love it, but they avoid the tourist sites. Yes, there are good people here. Of course! Great people! . . . So in other words, do visit Vietnam; it has much to explore, but always check the math on every bill, and always count your change.

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