out with the old, in with the new

Trying to summarize my journey through North and Central Vietnam, I knew the words ‘old’ and ‘new’ had to be in it. The contrast between the traditional and the modern seems more tangible here in Vietnam than anywhere else.

While a group of elderly men drink their tea and have a leisurely chat on one side of the street, on the other you’ll see a group of youngsters hanging out, playing with their smartphones and sipping coffee with egg or yoghurt. You’ll see the iconic conical hats alongside a baseball cap with Mickey Mouse. You’ll see someone with ancient balancing baskets next to a scooter that’s packed to the brim with goods.

The three girls in the photo, the middle one wearing a Minnie Mouse shirt, wanted to practice their English with us. They introduced themselves as Sophia, Kitty and Dora, although I suspect those were not their real names. Mysterious young ladies. “We want to study in France when we grow up,” was their answer to my question why they wanted to learn to speak English. It seems that Europe is still the promised land, even though China, relatively close by, seemed like a more obvious choice to me.

They say ‘old habits die hard’. But in Vietnam, it seems that they coexist happily with the new. The contrast of old and new, east and west, the modern and the traditional: you see it everywhere you look.

April 2019