Tuesday, July 12, 2005

communism in action

Today's activities included going to see a dead dude preserved behind some glass. Before we got to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum though, we had to contend with some serious communist bureaucracy - we could only approach the mausoleum from a certain side, and a very anxious soldier whistled and waved at us until we had walked three sides of a square, and were deemed to be approaching from the correct side. Once there, it was a long but speedy queue - the body is only viewable between 8.30am and 10.30am, so the soldiers kept us moving swiftly on. Actually, the body itself was rather weird, but then again, I'm not much one for preservation like that. Much more for cremations, if you ask me. Formaldehyde just isn't a good look.

After being hustled through the serious one way system that comprises of the Mausoleum and its grounds, we wandered through the Ho Chi Minh Museum. Now this was hilarious. There seemed to be no rhyme nor reason to any of the exhibits - artists names such as Picasso and Chagall, with no examples of their work, and then random plastic sculptures alongside examples of Uncle Ho's speeches. An extremely Vietnamese experience.

I'm not sure if this is an example of communism in action, but there doesn't seem to be much of an idea of commerical competition here. By this I mean that if there is one paint shop on a street, there are ten. I know that if I was going to open a paint shop, then I wouldn't pick the place where there already were a whole bunch of them - I'd look somewhere else to fill the hole in the market. This hasn't yet occured to the Vietnamese, but like I said, it might be something to do with all that communism.


Anonymous Katie said...

OOOH, no, I can tell you why. It's the same in paris with the streets that cater to one specific industry. So, there's one street where all the guitar shops are, and another with all the antique stamp shops, and another with the porcelain and silver.

At first, I thought it was something to do with a lack of competitive spirit, and then I realised it was all about the bonnes addresses: in order to get the best product possible, you travel to the area which specialises in the thing you want. You shop around, you compare, you have infinite choice, you figure out which shop suits you best, rather than just going for the most convenient.

This taking of time over quality is a bit alien to us anglo-saxons, who like concenience, but think about it, at a farmer's market, there might be seven or eight people selling chickens or plums, but we wander around, selecting the best. It doesn't stop the same seven or eight chicken or plum sellers from coming the next week. it just incentivises them to come with better chickens and plums. It's a different kind of competition, not on price, not on convenience, but on quality.


9:47 AM  
Blogger Traveler's Advocate said...

Gotta love Vietnam. How did you end up there? Was it just a whim? I've never been to Asia period but I intend to go. My travels will mostly be to Japan, South Korea and China though (the traditional big sites mainly.) I write travel stories so I like to get of the beaten path in places where people can actually get to feeling safe so I avoid places like Vietnam. Still, sounds like a blast. CHEERS!

10:57 AM  
Blogger scarlettholly said...

Well, Katie, I would agree with you but for the absolute lack of quality!!! Hanoi is meant to be very French - noisy and grimy maybe, but none of the charm, I'm afraid.

5:25 AM  

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