Vietnam, i don’t like you

November 2, 2008 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday i took a bus to Hoi An, Vietnam. It occured to me why i am spending so much. I keep taking the train despite the bus being almost 3/4 cheaper. However, the sleepers on the train are more comfortable and i will continue (trying to) travel by train. I’m attempting to be more thrifty with money though, because i calculated my spending on my 10th day here and it was nearly equivalent to my expenses after a month in Laos. Not cool to spend so much in a country i’m not enjoying…

Nearly everything in Vietnam is more expensive. There are no guest houses with dormatories or rooms meant for backpackers. Vietnamese hotels want families, couples, and other similar travelers, who they assume want privacy and televisions. Here in Hoi An, i found a room for $7. It is stuffy and hot, with a tiny window, a toilet with a hot shower, a tv, a fan and a big bed. I only really need the window and the bed (1/2 size would suffice). But i arrived after sundown yesterday and wanted to avoid the Vietnmese assholes* who gathered around the bus soliciting for customers to their hotels…

*One of the difficulties i have is coming to terms with my attitude towards the peddlers who try to sell you their taxi and other services on the streets. I find them invasive and rude. I find myself looking at them as leeches, vermin, something that must be gotten rid off…  I forget that they too have feelings and needs and families. It is their way of approaching me as an object (a wallet to be juiced) has made me treat them like this… so when they call out to me in that insincere tone encouraging me to go into their shop or use their transport, i ignore them during my better moods, and openly insult them during my poor ones.

I realize that they too need to work. But then i think, why choose this work? Or this dehuminizing approach? Fuck you, i think to myself and try not to feel sorry for them or guilty about detesting them so much. Fuck you for treating me as a thing to be exploited or fucked.** Even children have adopted this tactic when they want to sell you something. “Where are you from?” they ask, just before they ask for your native money for their “coin collection” and try to sell you whatever… but i can maintain “face” with the children and women…. it’s only with men that i let myself be rude.

**Imagine walking down the street as young men stand there gawking at you. First, they will offer you their taxi services and when you ignore them they will start yapping about fucking you…

No i don’t like Vietnam.

I would summarize the country like this: Beautiful mountainous region inhabitited by mean people.


On another note, i visited the DMZ (demilitarized zone) the other day. I went with a tour group. I would have preferred to go on my own, but it was quite far and by this time in Hue i hadn’t met anyone to go with. The tour guide’s summary of the war was superficial and the tour was limited. There were 30+ people in the group and one guide…

Other comical aspect of the ordeal was that they advertise an included breakfast ..which turned out to be a menu with options like “bread and cheese” “bread and butter” “omlette and bread” … (and it was stressed “only one per person”, coffee was extra, and everyone was hungry within an hour) So stupid and cheap! I hate dealing with people who do the minimum. Furthermore, the bus was hot and the ac system could only work when the engine didn’t (like when we were riding down a slope).

My favorite exhibitions were in the museums, but even here i couldn’t spend as much time as i wanted because the group took off into another direction and i had to follow. These two images are from one of the museums, they were taken by journalists who were present during the war.

northern vietnamese gorilla women..

wounded american soldier

And this is a caption from the Khe Sanh site, where the Americans were defeted by the Vietcong, showing to the world explicitly how futile their efforts were in the war at controling communist forces.

Even though i didn’t take part in the war, and know only one person who did, i feel a kind of sad nostalgia towards towards it… when i look at the pictures of the young american soldiers i feel a deep empathy. Maybe it’s because i imagine how cruel the Vietnamese gorillas could have been to them (now that i’ve witnessed the Vietnamese attitude towards foriegners)… or because of the knowledge that this war had such a profound affect on the American generation before me. It’s seeing these pictures that makes me feel American, somehow. I’ve even picked up O’Brian’s The Things They Carried, which i highly recommend.

Ironically, in Hoi An, they play American songs from the 70s about the war… In Hue, i heard “Paint it Black” (from Full Metal Jacket, movie about the war) in a bar… never did i imagine when i saw this movie and heard this song (for the first time) last year that i’d be in Vietnam listening to it again..

Anyway, there are many other thoughts i have but i’ll post them later. Sorry for being such a pessimist!


Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , .

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