For many visitors to 21st-century Vietnam, the sight of hauntingly beautiful
landscapes collides with nightmare memories. How ironic that heavily burdened
Americans often come for reconciliation of one kind or another, and the
friendly, industrious Vietnamese people seem to have moved on with their lives
and the country's development.
We detected not a shred of animosity toward Americans and were impressed by
the friendliness and activity. The bucolic countryside buzzed with road
building. New factories hummed on the outskirts of Hanoi. The Saigon River
teemed with traffic. Everyone was working hard and in a hurry to get somewhere.
Vietnam is a country with a mission—to gain a place among the world's
It is also emerging as an intriguing destination. Roughly the size of Italy,
Vietnam offers diversity in geography, sights, and shopping. There are busy
cities like Hanoi and Saigon (officially, Ho Chi Minh City), mystical temples,
miiles of sandy beaches, beautiful rural landscapes, quaint villages, and
magnificent marks of nature.
The multiplicity of cultural influences is evident in the architecture,
cuisine, and even the language. The Chinese, the Cham Empire—a Hindu
culture that has largely disappeared—the French, and the Americans have
all left their marks on Vietnam, which for us was the most interesting
destination in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is still a relative bargain, but it is evolving as you read this. Go