I wonder if it is being on holidays that makes new places seem really good. Obviously, visiting is very different to living somewhere, but the places we have been this holiday have been excellent. Even though we have only had a snapshot of Laos and Vietnam, they both seem to be on the up, although one more rapidly than the other. The thing that impressed me about both countries was a willingness to preserve their heritages,
Tourism in both places was relatively hassle and sleaze-free. Traders were courteous, and not overly persistent. Hoi An is much more laid back than Hanoi, and tailors and shoe makers were exceptionally friendly. We bought far too many things, simply because the quality and price were too good to refuse – I already have more clothes and shoes than I am capable of wearing, but being able to get a “Mulder-style” coat for well under $100 and a wool/cashmere suit for the same price was too good to let go.
The old town of Hoi An is really well set up also, although being there in the rainy season detracted a little. Still, it didn’t stop us getting around.
Laos was wonderful to visit. Vientiane was much, much nicer than expected, and Vang Vieng was a lot of fun, with breath-taking scenery. Luang Phabang was neat although the Phabang (like the stolen-from-Laos Emerald Buddha) it is much smaller than I expected. Both countries have excellent, cheap restaurants, and it is possible to get a cheap, drinkable glass of wine.
Seeing both countries makes me extremely angry about what the U.S.A., and Australia, did to them, based on a purely ideological “threat”. Far from being the evil little savages that the media made them out to be, when I was young, the Vietnamese are, generally speaking, lovely people, who were basically defending themselves against invaders. Yes, I know a lot of South Vietnamese were killed, or fled the country, but the division was artificially created by the Western world in the first place. Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq were/are wars which directed money and power to U.S. politicians and their cronies, but did nothing for any country involved, including the aggressors – just imagine the good that could have been done in the U.S.A. and around the world with the billions of dollars wasted in Iraq.