The Vietnamese are complicated people
Well tomorrow morning we leave Vietnam for Russia (this blog post was first posted on our now defunct Unreal Adventure website on the 5th of July 2011). Will we ever return to this amazing country? I would like to think so.
These are incredibly resilient people. 30 years ago they lived through a civil war that destroyed their country. Today they live in shocking poverty and under a Government that wont let them (or us unfortunately) use facebook.
Yet people here flourish regardless. They get on with life. Nobody comes by each Monday morning to pick up the rubbish but the roads are kept clean regardless. Old women relentlessly sweep the streets. People do whatever they have to do to make a living and they do it cheerfully.
There are contradictory elments to the way that Vietnamese seem to view foreigners. On one hand, 6ft white guys like us 3 are probably characters in the stories told by the older generation and we are not the good guys. Or maybe those stories are untold. Maybe some younger Vietnamese bear a grudge against westerns not because we violently intervened in their domestic politics 35 years ago, about which they probably know little, but simply because of the unfair relationhip between tourist and tourism industry worker.
We commented to ourselves that it was hard to shake the feeling that with enough money you can do ANYTHING in Vietnam. The difference in spending power between us and them seems to place a barrier in the way of greater understanding. They see a cash cow to be exploited and we see servants where stands only ordinary civillians.
Of course when I say 'we' I mean western tourists in Vietnam generally. I dare say Unreal Adventure sees things differently. Not one of us is here to laze about on the beach drinking cocktails while a Vietnamese girl files our nails. Our mission is to learn about people and places. We have places to be and people to see.
Come to that not all Vietnamese see us as cash cows with fat wallets that need milking. We met many lovely people more interested in our plans for the next 3 months than they were in the dong in our pockets.
I am, not sure of my final opinion of Vietnam. No doubt the weeks and months that follow will allow the memories to settle into a more certain point of view. What I am certain of is that I want to come back to this country and learn more about these complex people and their beautiful country.