Apr

10

Vietnam Rising, from Riz Din

April 10, 2008 |

VietnamA few observations on Vietnam, from my recent trip to the Far East (Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Macau):

1/ Despite a communist government, the people of Vietnam have embraced the free market with optimism and gusto. The high streets are bustling with independent operators and entry costs to setting up a business are low. All you seem to need to set up a cafe is a few small plastic chairs, a kettle and some hot water.

2/ Prices are absurdly low. Lunch can be had for $1. Dinner for $3-4. The first hotel we stayed in worked out at $5 each for the night; this included A/C, TV, free Internet access and a toast and coffee breakfast. Organised day trips cost between $10-$20, with food and all travel included. Inflation is running very high, at around 16% y/y, but prices have a long way to rise before they reach reasonable levels.

3/ Wages are low and the people are very thin, but the saving ratio may be high: one of our guides also worked as a fisherman and made a wage of around $50 a month. Of that, he saved $30.

4/ Copyright law is nonexistent. Pirate DVDs, photocopied books and fake clothing are normal.

5/ Eating dog is okay (eating dog meat on certain days of the month helps one get over hurdles in their life), but eating cats is illegal (they are needed to reduce the population of mice and rats).

6/ The people are friendly, modest, and extremely hard working, perhaps fuelled by the local coffee — it packs one heck of a punch. Social capital in Vietnam is a lot higher than in the UK: there is a strong sense of the wider community and people seem to have a greater respect for street furniture and for each other. I noticed only a small degree of opportunistic dishonesty with tourists, but this can be easily avoided.

7/ The stock market has been hard hit recently. However, good business prospects, rising prices and a fixed exchange rate make Vietnam an excellent investment opportunity, in my opinion.

I have a  selection of photos from the trip and I have written a few more notes on my blog.


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