Hanoi, the City of Lakes; postcard view of the West Lake
Yesterday was Vietnam's 62nd Independence Day; they deserve a heartier celebration than most other countries. For centuries they had to battle with the Chinese; by the time the US got entangled in that country, the Vietnamese had all the experience and character to see off the much bigger and technologically superior superpower.
But the war extracted a heavy toll; seeing off the murderous Pol Pot regime got them little credit: the country was boycotted until they unilaterally got out of Cambodia. In the 80's whilst China liberalized, they were still mired in Communist bureaucracy. But since the mid 90s, Vietnam has changed.
Earlier this year I visited Hanoi. They don't gloat about beating the US: what they want are friends, trade and especially investment, to help them catch up with the rest of East Asia. And they are doing things fast. Being latecomers to the game of rapid economic development, there is much that they have learned from China and the rest of East Asia.
These are picture postcard images of modern and colonial French buildings (from urban planet forum).
The National Conference Centre in Hanoi
The Melia Building
The Opera House
But the most fascinating images are from the busy streets and sidewalks, lively with people and activity. Hanoi is overcrowded; per capita living space before the 'Doi Moi' liberalization, was among the lowest in the world, so now every square meter is utilized. When the Vietnamese eat on the pavement, they take up very little space, using toy size table and chairs, or sometimes non at all!
Toy size tables and seats
Green open spaces too are in short supply, so the parks that are available are full of people.
The government discourages the use of cars; even big motorcycles are discouraged. The teeming motorcycles give Vietnam another unique character. In Vietnam if someone honks you, don't get upset! It's just someone saying: “Hi! I'm here...”. People drive slowly and carefully; there's method in the apparent madness of the streets. Just see how traffic can shuffle through at junctions!