Monday, November 14, 2011

Entry for the Contest "Indochina in your eyes"!

Viet Nam in My Eyes

“Let’s spend our vacation in ("XXX"). !” I said to my friends. That was more than 2 years ago.

“It’s better to go to Viet Nam,” said one of my friends.

“Viet Nam?” I replied. “That sounds great.”

I’m one who often reacts based on merely instincts. Beside of one two movies with the settings of Viet Nam, I barely knew about Viet Nam. Yet, I replied ‘That sounds great.’ and I meant it. So I went to Periplus and bought Insight Guides Vietnam. I read the articles, look at the photographs. Right away I knew I had to go to Vietnam.

The funny thing is that before my friends who suggested Viet Nam did go to Viet Nam, I had already traveled twice to Viet Nam. I traveled another four times after that.

Let’s see. Ho Chi Minh City, checked. A tight budget traveler I am, so far it’s Air Asia I have to rely on. Flying with Air Asia from Jakarta to Viet Nam means I have to set foot on Ho Chi Minh City, whether I would like it or not. September 23rd 2009 was the first time I did so. Being brought up in a more Western oriented culture, I embraced the French atmosphere in Ho Chi Minh City immediately. Drinking coffee on a terrace under open air, is for me a time to call life beautiful. Standing in front of old (but well preserved) European-looking buildings without needing to go as far as Europe, is for me a time to call budget luxury. Savoring on steaks and pizzas that taste more European than the ones in my country but with two-thirds the price, is for me a time to call a trip mine. I hate to spend too much money on food, you know.

Since I was a kid, Dad had unconsciously brought me up to celebrate life’s best moments by walking. In the evening he would wake me up and take me for a walk, out of our lane, to the river, up to the railway, and then back home. When I already entered school, on holidays we would take longer paths and walk home, just the two of us. When I was in Junior High School, after every end of semester, we would celebrate by walking to our favorite restaurant. Uhm, it wasn’t really a restaurant, actually.

In Ho Chi Minh City, I could continue to celebrate life’s best moments my way. The sidewalks were broad and clean. Furthermore, very unlike in the capitol city of my country, I less had to worry of stumbling. Not even a bit do I regret Air Asia for making this route: Jakarta – Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a. Sai Gon.

Next, Ha Noi, checked. Ho Chi Minh City and Ha Noi to me looked like 2 different countries. The first time I came to Ha Noi, I lodged in Old Street area. I nearly forgot that I was on vacation. Motorcycles roamed in and out the alleyways. It’s just like where I came from. To make matters worse, almost if not all, of them were Hondas. That’s the brand of the company I’m currently working for. How can I call Ha Noi a vacation?
During my third visit to Viet Nam, I found a rather different side of Ha Noi, which did not remind me of work as much as Old Street area did. There weren’t as many motorcycles. The place was West Lake. Once again, I re-celebrated my best moments of life. I walked along West Lake. I tried the alleyways. I took pictures, and Mom commented,

“What a peaceful country.”

Ha Long Bay, the must-to-go for many tourists, checked, also. Yes, the lime stones where fascinating. Back home, a friend commented on my photos,

“That looks like China.”

Yes, it does. It’s South China Sea, anyway.

It’s actually not just Ha Long Bay’s landscape that looks Chinese. The people of Viet Nam themselves look Chinese. I do not mean their face in particular, but the way they act.

Being a Chinese born Indonesian, I dare to say so. Acting like Chinese in the positive way is how Vietnamese develop their country. They are smart in seeking opportunities and work with zeal to turn anything into something. It’s sometimes hard for me to believe that 30 years after my home country declared independence, Vietnam had just reunited between North and South. 10 years after that, according to an autobiography of a war victim, Viet Nam was still a sorry country. I think it was not until the 1990s when Viet Nam started to pull herself together. Wikipedia ( wrote:

“Its economic growth has been among the highest in the world since 2000.”

The other side of the Vietnamese acting like Chinese in my eyes is the way they deal with people regarding business. Very smart. But occasionally, smart in quotation marks. The more I travel to Viet Nam, the more I deal with the people, the more I get convinced.
The one thing Vietnamese don’t copy the Chinese on mainland is the toilets. You know what I mean.

When I visited Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Ha Noi, I was most thrilled when I realized that several traditions in my home country actually originated from Viet Nam. I haven’t done any library research on this, but I have searched the internet for literatures. Suddenly, it looked as if I met my own folks: the Indonesians and Chinese, in Viet Nam.

In the next trips, I discovered that the beauty of Viet Nam’s landscape doesn’t lie on ( Ha Long Bay alone. Sand dunes of Mui Ne (, checked. Gushing water of Dray Sap Waterfall ( in the central highlands, checked. A blend of mountains and sea in Nha Trang (, checked. The smile of the Hmong minority (, checked. Checked, checked. I have a long list that has been checked and still has to be checked. Viet Nam for me is not heaven where everything goes perfect and everyone does what is right. Viet Nam for me is just like home.

By Shuni Vashti


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