Last week I had a chance to shortly visit Vietnam (shortly means one night – two days). Although I travelled a lot around South East Asia it was my first time in this country. My expectations were high.
Flight was very long and complex. With two connections (route: Madrid – Rome – Bangkok – Ho Chi Minh) everything supposed to be on time in order to maintain arrival schedule. Thankfully I was flying Business so the trip was comfortable enough and I had a chance to review some cases for IESE.
Ho Chi Minh airport has a free wi-fi service for all the passengers so I immediately connected my LG G4 to the internet. Google now understood where I am and gave me basic information about what to expect after I cross arrival area. Basically 34 ºC temperature (in Madrid was 4 ºC) and quite picturesque exchange rate. With little effort I’ll be millionaire here!
Anyway, such a strange exchange rate makes it difficult at the beginning to understand the real cost of things. When you pay 25000 at McDonalds for a Coke you may feel a little worried if all zeroes are correct.
The first thing that you notice when you drive from the airport to the city center (barely 7 km, around 20 mins drive) are soviet era red banners with stars (yes I know how Vietnamese flag looks like) and Hammer and sickle. It contrasts with completely free and somehow westernized Vietnamese society.
I was wandering why they place so many communist ideological propaganda in the streets if these streets don’t appear at all communist. And I only understood this after visiting War Remnants Museum.
The Vietnam War and reunification had forged a strong patriotic feeling in Vietnamese people. They fought hard to defend sovereignty of their country and they paid a very high price for being free from direct foreign influence. These stars and banners are basically their national symbols and for Vietnamese people represent their fight for freedom. These flags are far from being a political propaganda of communism as an economical model. Understanding this, there’s no conflict on placing Burger King promotion on the same stand where you place a Hammer and sickle flag.
As overall impression Vietnam exceeded my expectations. It’s interesting country with rich history. Their people fought hard to govern their future, but they were able to forgive and reestablish relations with United States. I loved Ho Chi Minh for its charm and openness, kind people and tasty and cheap gastronomy. To mention some negative thing, maybe it’s road traffic. Completely unorganized and extremely dangerous. A mess of motorbikes, cars and buses. Crazy.
I’ll definitely come back to Vietnam as a leisure destination and would be happy to visit other areas of this beautiful and friendly country.