Thursday, October 21, 2010

Someone once asked me, "Why don't you move there?"

Interesting question.

Well, there are a few good reasons. The Thanh Nien News listed about 20 reasons to move there.  The LA Times says that Vietnam is the perfect place to ride out the Great Recession.  Vietnam has its attractions.  The NY Times had a number of fun things to do in 36 hours.   CNN has a page about exploring Hanoi.  The very fact that the celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern love the country doesn't help much.

Earlier in my postings, I discussed the notion of "going bamboo,' which is a term more associated with Bali and Indonesia than with Vietnam.  Essentially, it means giving up life in the West and moving to a South East Asian country.  Most people move to Thailand, as it was the most developed, until the political troubles started to hurt the country.  (Ironically, life goes on in Bangkok.  You have to remind people that there is security situation there.)

Let's be clear.  Vietnam is a Communist country.  There are limits, and potentially moving to Vietnam is not as easy as you might think.  It does have its attractions.

1.  It's different.
2.  It's different.
3.  It's different.

Unlike Los Angeles, Vietnam is naturally green.  Like Thailand, it's not just green, but shades of green.  From the shimmering sea of Ha Long Bay to the mountains near Hue, you see translucent hues of color.  Interspersed in between the ever present rice paddies fields, old houses and shop houses with signs that beckon you to enter for a little Vietnamese coffee, women in the classic Vietnamese hats are selling bread, sweets and snacks. Scooter dodging becomes a skill that is now almost instinctual.

When you are in a city like Hanoi, you realize how young the good ole US of A really is.  Hanoi just celebrated their 1000 year anniversary.  In Hanoi, you can still live in a place that is a couple hundred years old, and you can basically get lost in the fabric of the city.  When I was there, I made it a point to wander the Old Quarter, in which the streets were organized into commercial zones.  One street sold food.  Another street sold fabrics.  Commerce is occurring, but there are no food police, no regulations, and random acts of capitalism.

For everything you gain, perhaps a sort of freedom in Vietnam that is not possible in Los Angeles, some things may be lost like trading down for a spotty power grid.  Things are not exactly convenient in the sense of just driving to a grocery store.  Although the traffic on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles can be maddening, driving through Hanoi is like being a tuna parting the quick moving school of mackerel and bonito swimming to Baja Mexico.

You could go, but for everything gained, there is always something lost.  Maybe being in traffic on the 405.