Ralph Isenberg's Trip to Vietnam 3/97

Hi David,

I returned from Vietnam last Thur.  I spent 7 weeks in Vietnam and
1 week in Cambodia.  It was a trip full of great experiences and
adventure.  Language problems alone make independent travel an
adventure in Vietnam.  English is not widely spoken outside of the
typical tourist paths.  They say and act like they understand but
when action follows words the two don't relate.

Vietnam is very crowded, especially along the main highway and in the
cities.  Lots of truck traffic on the main highway and motorscooters
in the cities.  As a result the air is very polluted, the country is
generally very dirty and smells bad.  They use their horns instead of
the brakes on the vehicles and so it is very noisey also.  However,
the people are very warm, friendly, honest and concerned that we, as
Americans, come away with a good feeling towards them and their coutry.

The rule of the road is the biggest vehicle has the right of way but,
to their credit, it is not good sport to hit somebody from the rear.
As a result they do not hesitate to move into the oncoming lane and
challenge anybody coming at them.  They like to play "chicken" even
if there is no other traffic in the area.  It is all in good fun as
they have a big smile on their face as they swerve away at the last
second.  This was one of many things that made the bicycling trip
interesting.  Kids throwing little stones at you was another.  None
of these actions was anti-American.  We were just different with our
funny clothes and helmets and fancy multi-speed bicycles.

There is a great deal of development in progress in the cities.  Old
buldings are being torn down and large business and hotel complexes
are being built.  The insides of the "Hanoi Hilton" has been torn
down and a big hotel is being built.  They have kept the wall surround-
ing it and some of the structures just inside of the wall intact and
this will become a museum.  The tourism industry puts a lot of focus
on the war.

The week in Cambodia was great.  Spent 2 days in Phnom Phen and 3 days
at the Angkor ruins.  Could have used 2 more days at the ruins.  Now 
is the time to go as tourists are just starting to go there.  If the
peace holds it should become a very popular, thus very crowded, tourist
destination.  The ruins are spectacular.  At this time it did not
seem to have the infrastructue problems of Vietnam but the population
density appeared to be much less than Vietnam.

That is a bit of a macro look at that part of the world.  I'm off next
month for a swing thru the east and then down to New Orleans to start
a bicyle trip up the Mississippi river; hopefully to the headwaters
by the end of July.  Hope you have a great summer.

Ralph Isenberg