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Andy’s Travel Diary

Monday, 05 Feb 2007

Location: Vietnam

MapVIETNAM (IS MORE THAN A) WAR
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Destination number six on my journey.

Vietnam is a country mistaken for a war. Googling 'Vietnam' returns eight results (out of the first 20) directly related to the conflict. That is a significant number reflecting the dominance of the war in people's imaginations.

This complex and interesting Southeast-Asian state has been reduced to a geographical location of atrocities, synonymous with mud and rain, ambushes and offensives, choppers and GI's. Hollywood has played a large part in this.

Stranger still (and deeply ironic), when Vietnam is mentioned in the West people think of America; the sixties, political protests and marches, hippies, social polarisation, Elvis, Jane Fonda, John Lennon And The Plastic Ono Band. America's social, cultural and military experiences, its memories of this traumatic period in its history have colonised the meaning behind the name of the country it once fought.

Thankfully this is changing. Many of the restrictions placed on tourism have been lifted and Vietnam is fast becoming a popular tourist destination for backpackers and adventurous holidaymakers.

So, with many preconceptions about the country, (learnt in my Cold War masters class, and later on when writing about the war in a section of my dissertation), we arrived in Vietnam.

It boasts a rich history stretching back many centuries before western involvement in the country, stunning landscapes and scenery from the gulf of Thailand in the south to the border of China, a diverse mix of ethnic groups and cultures, bustling cities, traditional and quaint towns, and most imortant of all, a wonderful and varied cuisine.

There was much to explore and (un)learn