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Indulged or creating employment?

posted 27 Nov 2012, 04:09 by Sandra Kirby   [ updated 27 Nov 2012, 04:14 ]
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Today I was up and about by 6am as it was just after 7 that I was collected for my tour to the Mekong.
I had booked tour at hotel and it was costly - but very personalised.  There was me,the tour guide and the driver for 9 hours. Actually the driver got a couple of hours off while the junk operator and then rowboat rower also got work . . .

It was amazing - drove for about 2 hours - mostly at less than 80km/hr through city, rice fields and villages.  The progress through The city at 7, rush hour was v slow, with motorbikes everywhere.  According to Tsu, my tour guide, there are 9 mill people in Saigon and the same number of motorbikes - any adult with money has at least2 motorbikes.  Suspect that was the same degree of exaggeration as her comment that the Mekong was not polluted.  Tony would say she could be a Boyd woman, I of course wouldn't say that!

Roadside cafes not at all like those in UK - more likely to be a bike and a young woman on the side of the road with either coconuts or Pepsi.  And on the side of the road is quite literal, if she is lucky someone will have set up a hammock on the metal bars that mark edge of corner, otherwise she is likely to be squatting by her bike on the side of the road and in mortal danger from the traffic

I wondered if driver plus tour guide was to ensure that only pro government messages were imparted - but either that is Western propaganda that people in Communist countries can't speak freely or my tour guide and driver were risking all.  Inflation in Vietnam has been running at more than 20% for several years and there is not full employment The other thing that challenged my preconceptions of Communist rule is a very capitalist approach to business, welfare and government intervention.  Only government workers and the army have more than half of their healthcare subsidised, the healthcare model seems a lot like the US private health insurance model.  Obama care equivalent could be welcomed as most workers insurance covers around 20% of health care costs and if you cannot pay balance treatment is not provided.  No welfare so people work till they die.  Education is totally private so although highly desirable it is not universal.  So despite propaganda posters that read "Thanks to Uncle Ho I can read" it seems Uncle Ho's influence has been modified by capitalist influence.  And yes Adrian I did see this poster on the street as well as one that said "Don't let your work ruin your family" - it was explained this was the concern that parents needed 2 or more jobs each to cover health and education costs as well as living and the government is worried about family breakdown.

I feel very very privileged, but having spent more than I intended on tour I resisted every attempt to sell me more - and that was frequent.  Tour did include tea stops - the first one was shared with the bees that made the honey that sweetened the tea, fruit stops, and lunch.  
Did like the art made with egg shells - but didn't buy that either.  So although I may have improved the lives of the people who transported me I didn't take very opportunity presented to me to improve the living off the people I met.
Have taken lots of photos on Maria's camera not sure how good they are.  

Tomorrow I go to the tunnels that are remnants from the occupation of both French and US.  
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