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American Invasion of Vietnam: Part II, Tourism

Sa Pa, Vietnam


After five-thousand feet of steep, rigorous and back-breaking journey and Mr Cho (our guide) Cait, Taylor, Emmy and I (
) finally reached the top of Mt. Fan Xi Pan, the tallest mountain in SE Asia at about 11 thousand feet. Nothing compared to our American mountains, but hey, its a different place. Yet Setting, working, and reaching a tall goal in one day left us all with the great sense of exhaustive relief and accomplishment that made it all pay off. We hung around the top for a bit, then ventured downward to basecamp where we ate, drank some rice wine, and then watched the bright Milky Way and shooting stars until sleep. This was our trips last real intensive trek, and of the three options we were given, this was the hardest route.

A vacation town in the mountains of North Vietnam, Sa Pa exudes a very peaceful attitude, and very curious dress customs. The local H'mong peoples who live here (partially pictured right) dress in all black garb with funny hats ornamented with red and metallic things. Many of them try to sell you tribal gifts and thinga-ma-jigs such as bracelets, earings, hats, sunblock, playing cards and fruits, and many of them just hang around the market and the lake chillin'. Tourism has been a particularly good boon for this Vietnamese economy, as their communal farming of the 70s-80s was a failed experiment, and their reliance on opium and timber created a devastating economic void after the government outlawed both practices in the early 90s. The Vietnamese people adapt very well to the market economy, chiefly due to the large influence of the Chinese on the Vietnamese.

Vietnam is very different from the other mainland countries of SE Asia because their society is not as fully influenced by strict Buddhism as are Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Much of their influence comes from the Chinese, including their set notion of private property, their nobel dress/palaces/architecture, and their city structure.

I feel these much more Chinese attitudes have made their transition to a market economy much easier than it has been for the other countries in the entire region. The picture to the left shows an interesting cultural influence...Catholicism (see left-the Christmas tree and I, and above-the cave Jesus was born in). Many missionaries from the West worked in Vietnam during the colonial period and today they have 8 million Catholics in a country of 85 million. Even so, almost everybody celebrates Christmas, and there are many statues in Buddhist households to the Virgin Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist and even Santa Claus. The mainstream Buddhism of Vietnam and China are of a totally different breed than that of the other mainland SE Asian countries (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos).

After Sapa, our group traveled to very tourist-populat Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a 300 square mile World Heritage region where massive limestone cliffs, caves and arches rise from the misty sea all around as far as the eye can see. The 14 Pacific Discovery group members and I had a boat (
) chartered for us while we sailed along for three days, kayaked, swam, and explored limestone caves I spent my free time mostly reading, enjoying the nice scenery atop the boat, and swimming. School can't get much better than this.

Some more pictures for everybody... Click on the photos to make them larger

Taylor, Emmy, Cait and I at the pinnacle of Mt Fan Xi Pan (Mt Fancypants)

Me achieving enlightenment at the top of the mountain of course.

A cool photo of the bamboo forests we tread through. An interesting side-note, wild marijuana plants actually grew around here!

Another mountainside photo, reminded me a bit of Yosemite in NorCal.

Vietnamese love Jesus!

Colin and I inside a cave in a limestone cliff of Halong Bay

More Halong Bay



Great Photo
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permalink written by  JohnJack_Crestani on February 23, 2009 from Sa Pa, Vietnam
from the travel blog: I Meet the SouthEast
tagged Vietnam, HalongBay, Trek, Sapa, Hmong and FanXiPan

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congrats on making it up the mountain in one day that's amazing. Have you seen much history of the Vietnam war era? In Vietnam do they like americans? I'm curious of how is the major cities of the north and south different? I assume the north is closer to china and the south is more commercial..
Sounds like you are learning a lot about world life..


permalink written by  bc on February 24, 2009

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