Final Thoughts on our Short Visit to Vietnam - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 4, 2023

Final Thoughts on our Short Visit to Vietnam

The Mekong River Delta of Vietnam. Saigon is over to the right and a bit inland from the sea and not on one of the Mekong arteries. This is a photo of the huge mural in the central post office in Saigon.
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Final Thoughts on our brief time in Vietnam

When we were in Vietnam seven years ago there were millions fewer motorbikes.  And that makes sense since the population is nearly 10 million more also.  I don't have hard facts about a lot of things in regards to Vietnam.  I report on what I see.  For instance, we have not seen one mosquito!  How is this even  possible?  We have only been on the delta and the delta is full of water!  There is water everywhere and there should be mosquitoes and other insects. We haven't seen any insects at all!  This is unreal.  What it tells me is there has to be heavy pesticide use even though we have not seen it.

Never have I ever been two weeks into a trip in Asia and not had at least a few bites from something or other in the night in our hotels.  One trip, before we started riding bikes, it was such a common refrain from me every morning that something had bitten me that we called that trip the Something Bit Me trip.  I mean it's nice that nothing has bitten me so far but it's a first and it's not because we are staying in higher quality hotels.  It has to point to pesticide use inside the rooms.  We haven't seen hide nor hair of one single bug in our rooms.  I wonder what the little geckos think about that.  We haven't seen a lot of them either.  

We have seen heavy use of chemicals being sprayed on all the crops.  The size and beauty of the fruits and vegetables reflect this.  Some, such as grapes, are so unusually big and beautiful that I wouldn't eat them if you paid me.  I'm assuming that because the population is so huge for such a small country that they are forced to produce as much food as they can and that means using chemicals to assure a good harvest.  

Very impressive tree trimming!
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I always keep a count of squashed snakes on the roads and this too has been unbelievably low.  I have only seen three in our entire time here.  That's unheard of, especially in an area with so much water.  I know that Vietnamese eat more snakes than the peoples of other SE Asian countries but I also wonder if the chemical use has killed off chemical sensitive creatures such as frogs and thus depriving the snakes of their food source.  If there was a delta region as big as this Mekong River delta in Thailand I would have counted well over a hundred dead snakes and for sure we would have encountered lots of mosquitoes.  It's just been kind of weird and the way I see it is that the population of Vietnam is way too high.  They might possibly be their own worst enemy by letting their population get so high. 

Vietnam's population is over 100 million right now but projections are for only 109 million by 2050.  I see this as impossible.  I believe it will be way higher than 109 million.  I know there are a lot of old people who will die in that time frame but more than a quarter of the population right now is under 18.  There are going to be a lot of babies being born by 2050.  

A high population leads to a frenetic society and that's what we have been experiencing, mostly on the roads.  There are just too many people on the roads whether they are on motorbikes, bicycles, cars or trucks, there are too many for us to have a nice ride even if everyone is waving or yelling a hello.  It's sad that it's so frenetic because we love it here.

Oddly, the frenetic pace I just mentioned is not in evidence when we personally interact with people.  In fact it's the opposite of frenetic.  The people are very mellow and I am left wondering why they drive like they are needing to get a pregnant woman to the hospital before she has her baby in the car.  

I do have glimmers of hope however because I believe the Vietnamese will figure things out.  They will see health problems galore and find they are coming from the heavy chemical use on their crops and they will figure out how to do things differently.  The Vietnamese are educated, smart and incredibly motivated.  It's truly amazing what they have done to modernize their country since the war.  They aren't satisfied with the efficiency of one huge bridge but soon get to work on building an identical huge bridge next to it.  Each bridge will carry traffic one way and will make things flow even more efficiently.  I am certain the Vietnamese economy will be one of the best if not the best in SE Asia soon even though Thailand and Malaysia have had years of a head start.

The limiting factor is the high population, in my opinion.  If compared to Thailand the difference is dramatic.  Thailand's population has pretty much peaked at 72 million and will be dropping for the next century.  This does have downsides too but overall the people are going to have a better standard of living if there are fewer of them.  

We have been appalled by all the people selling lottery tickets, a dramatic increase from seven years ago.  Most of the ticket sellers are the poor and/or disabled.  I'm totally against any lottery anywhere and it's painful to witness the poor putting all their faith and money into a dream like the lottery.  I mean, when we sit down in a coffee place the time it takes us to relax and drink our coffee we will see no less than 20 lottery ticket sellers come in to try to sell to the customers if it's a good sized city.  Out in the middle of nowhere we still see at least a half a dozen lottery ticket sellers come into the cafe.  It's crazy and depressing.  Why is a communist government allowing a lottery?  Seems to me to be a failure of their system.  I feel like this is the government's way of dealing with would-be beggars.  Give the poorest, oldest or disabled something to do to make a few pennies.  The lottery ticket sellers are everywhere and they aren't just the poor selling the tickets.  It feels like a national obsession because we see people poring over the numbers on the tickets and buying lots of them.  This isn't a good sign to me.  

One of millions of lottery ticket sellers.
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Again, I report on what I observe.  One thing new that I've seen is that the rice stalks are now being bundled up into long round bales after rice harvest.  Saving the rice straw serves several purposes: It isn't burned, it can be added to cattle feed, it's great mulch around green onions and garlic plants to hold moisture and reduce the growth of weeds and I'm sure it is used for other things as well.   To burn it has always seemed insane to me even though farmers would say that it sterilizes the rice paddies.  It seems the Vietnamese are figuring out that burning the rice stubble is a bad thing in regards to air pollution and thus health.  In other SE Asian countries we only see the burning of the rice stubble and the smoke in this region has gotten progressively worse to the point where every spring Chiang Mai has the worst air quality in the world for days or even weeks.  The burning has to stop but governments need to get together and make it a priority and I think we are years from that happening.  But it's nice to finally see some action taken by baling the straw and I'm not surprised the Vietnamese might be leading the charge on this.  

See those, they are rice straw bales. A great idea so as to not burn the rice stubble.
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Take a deep breath and then get on your bike and ride with millions of motorbikes some of them coming the wrong way on the side of the road straight at you.
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When we passed one school we saw the students had painted murals on their stucco fence depicting ways to live and ways that are bad to live.  It was encouraging to see because it tells us what is being taught.  If they follow what they painted things will certainly improve in Vietnam.  

Too many people smoke in Vietnam but it looks like the kids are being taught in school the affects of smoking.
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Maybe the size they made the bee represents how important bees are.
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If you don't smoke or drive crazy fast on the roads you can partake in this idyllic life here in Vietnam.
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If you remember, Biden made a trip recently to Hanoi and raised Vietnam to the highest level of government to government interactions.  This was a long time in coming.  There was also a business delegation accompanying Biden and a number of deals were sealed regarding cooperation with partners or investment in Vietnam.  Many of the deals pertained to key strategic sectors such as AI, cloud computing, semiconductors, chips and new energy.  This is all great news for development of both countries.  It shows that even though the one party system of government in Vietnam, which sucks, progress can still be made on many levels and maybe in time this is the way governmental systems are diluted and change comes along.   

If any state in this region is going to figure out how to solve the big problems I believe the Vietnamese might be the ones to take the lead. They have the education, incentive and drive, way more than most of the other countries as far as I've seen.  Having a population that is too high might even be an incentive for them to act faster.  I believe in the Vietnamese and I think they have a great future.  Keep watching them.

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Jen RahnBleep
Calm.
End
Elastic!

Because, you know, elastic is menacing.
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2 months ago
There are a lot of churches in the south of Vietnam. Nearly all of them have been totally spiffed up.
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The old Communist billboards are fading quickly.
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They wrap styrofoam coolers in tape to make them more stable and simply to last longer. They are mostly used for transport of seafood.
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Who knows what ultimately becomes of those seafood styrofoam coolers but here a lot of old ones are being dumped and stockpiled.
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In the south of Vietnam you often see lots of hammocks alongside the road and at cafes.
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This may appear to not look so awful but add the high humidity and you get the "Feels Like" temperature which has been 100 or worse every single day.
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Jen RahnThat one in the middle is saying, "Booooof!"
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2 months ago
These are those marble balls that spin when water pressure from below spouts upwards. But who cares about that, I want this truck.
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Mark LellmanI want the frog!
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1 month ago
My bewildered look inside Cafe Bonsai and Koi's toilet. Bewildered because the servers at this cafe all seemed to be servers of another kind in their off hours. A bunch of military guys were there yukking it up which supports my belief.
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Be & Become for the Sake of the World but, Drink More Beer too.
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Jen RahnThey're so expressive!

I'm imagining them singing here ...
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2 months ago
Buying enormous and cheap papayas from local people alongside roads also means transporting them.
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lovebruce

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