Analysis & Opinions - The Huffington Post

All That Glitters: An American in Vietnam

| March 7, 2011

Nothing had adequately prepared me for a recent visit to Vietnam. I knew about the burgeoning economy, the booming tourist industry (500,000 visitors in January), the industriousness of the people, and even more about the corruption and repressive government. But as the bus turned into the main square of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, I gasped like a child who for the first time was seeing the curtain rise on the magical beauty of The Nutcracker. It was the end of Tet, the Lunar New Year.

Tet in VietnamThe streets were ablaze with thousands of delicate lights, entire palm trees were festooned like elaborate Christmas packages and as far as the eye could see, delicate light bulbs wove dancing webs of color across streets. Underneath, thousands of mopeds carried dangerously-overweight loads; some with a grandparent on the back and a child standing sturdily on the front frame were being driven by a stolid looking parent. The mopeds wove in and out of death-defying traffic, often at acute angles across each other's paths and the ever-increasing number of cars, mostly SUVs. The traffic lights provided at best only guidelines. Most striking were the handsome young moped drivers, dressed to the nines in the latest fashions but carefully helmeted as the law decrees.

This did not look like the place that would answer the question over which I had been obsessing since I entered the country: "How could they have forgiven us?"...

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Photo of lanterns and mopeds in Ho Chi Minh City courtesy of Dorothy Zinberg.

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For Academic Citation: Zinberg, Dorothy.“All That Glitters: An American in Vietnam.” The Huffington Post, March 7, 2011.