Saturday, May 05, 2007

Soviet Tanks and Japanese Toyotas

With Australians having been intimately involved in the Vietnam War there was a certain hesitancy, a cringe even, on arriving in a place that had once been a battlefield and many of the folk around us considered enemies. Vietnamese have no such cringe. They are out there running just as hard and as fast as they can to turn their country around. That, coupled with having the youngest population under 25 of any nation on the globe, means this is a place that has very little concern about, or even awareness of, the immediate past. The rickshaw drivers, former officers of the South Vietnam administration/government, and unable to gain any other living and cut off from any pension support, are the only real visible evidence of the hurt from that period.

Nonetheless any visitor can hunt around without too much effort and find plenty or relics from the war period. And it is always good to go and see the museums that tell the story from the other side. We weren't angels either.

Down near the zoo there is a lovely juxtaposition of imagery which sums up the current situation rather well. The T-55 tank here is backdropped by the new Toyota dealership in the background - recent political and military history backdropped by more recent commercial history. In turn both are backdropped by the museum building in the background that contains stories and evidence of Vietnam's prehistory and precolonial history. Of the three it is what the Toyota dealership represents that has the attention of most Vietnamese today. Wring your hands all you like about the war Mr Aussie visitor, but don't get in the way of us building our businesses. Fair enough. That is probably more healthy than our introspection - which I am happy to say evaporated within days of arriving here.

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