Not What Marx and Engels Had In Mind: Welcome To Hanoi!
I just spent two weeks on vacation in Vietnam, and my pre-trip expectations of seeing fleets of left-behind-by-the-French Peugeots, left-behind-by-the-Americans Falcons, and left-behind-by-the-Soviets GAZs turned out to be ridiculously inaccurate. I saw a few old cars (more on that later), but most of the cars in Vietnam are boring late-model rides like Kia Rios and Toyota Innovas. However, I did see quite a few conspicuous-consumption statusmobiles in Saigon and Hanoi; the grumbling old-time revolutionary veterans no doubt refer to the current Hanoi leadership as CINOs. Here’s an example I spotted near St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi’s Old Quarter.
You see a lot of old-timey heroic-workers billboards celebrating stuff like the founding of the Vietnamese Communist Party and the sure-didn’t-look-like-victory-at-the-time Tet Offensive around the country, but Vietnam 2012 has— in the words of Ice-T— a capitalist migraine.
For most Vietnamese, being on wheels means rolling on two wheels; the bike-centric Top Gear Vietnam Special captured the spirit very well. Those of us in the USA have become accustomed to the idea that you need a full-sized SUV or minivan if you have even one child… but Vietnamese city dwellers know better. Motorbikes can squeeze through tiny 14th-century alleys, they get high-double-digit fuel economy, and they can negotiate your typical no-traffic-signal Saigon intersection without stopping.
The problem with bikes, though, is that they’re quite poor at flaunting your newfound wealth. Oh, sure, you can get a BMW or Hayabusa two-wheeler, but what the up-and-coming Vietnamese businessman really needs is a totally impractical, gas-sucking luxury ride. I saw plenty of Benzes and Porsches and even the occasional Bentley, but this is the king!
You want post-Cold-War irony? This H2 (which probably can’t even fit on 80% of Hanoi’s streets and is lucky to average 3 MPH while trying to force its way through a maelstrom of Super Cubs stacked with 50-kilo sacks of soybeans, pushcarts laden with a half-ton of hog innards, and bewildered cops in Toyota Crowns) was parked in front of a store selling vintage Communist propaganda posters.
I’m sure the grizzled NVA vets who see this thing shake their fists and yell “I lost all my buddies to B-52 strikes at Khe Sanh for this?”, but something like 80% of the Vietnamese population is under 30… and they probably ignore Grandpa and think “I’ll have one of those someday!”
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What's your point? That Ho Chi Min would have been a different dictator if we'd agree to help him fight the French? He might have used a different flag but it would have been a variation of the same regime. Think about it.
I bet US/Canadian/Australian Vietnam 'Conflict' vets are looking at this like I am: Whiskey...Tango...Foxtrot?!?!