2015, Hà Nội. Walking through the city and traveling through the countryside of Vietnam, the architecture speaks of colonial times: a crucial European influence is indisputable. While other nations were building their identity for decades, the people of Vietnam – as other parts of Indochina – suffered from fighting for their pure existence.
After around 70 years of colonial control by the French (1883 – 1954) interrupted by a few years of Japanese occupation during the second world war (1940 – 1945) and being a battleground for another 20 years within the „Resistance War against America“, also known as the „Vietnam War“ (app. 1955 – 1975), the country became what we know today as the „Socialist Republic of Vietnam“.
More violence followed in the years after, such as so-called „reeducation camps“ and the invasion and occupation of Cambodia (1978 – 1989) to get rid of the Khmer Rouge. In 1989, Vietnam finally came to peace. Only two years later, in 1991, it opened its doors to tourism.
Visiting in 2015, I experienced a beautiful mix of chaos, stunning French colonial buildings, loud and hot city life and touristy party nights. A few fun facts to give you an impression:
- Small streets full of people, cars and animals, yes, all of them fit. They have to.
- Here one speaks about the “American War”, not the “Vietnam War”. Makes sense, too, if you think about it. History told from another perspective. Buildings that were destroyed during the American/Vietnam war have mostly been repaired.
- You like beer? Here you drink it for 40 cents on children’s plastic chairs in the streets – until the army comes. Same procedure every night.