The West is best, or is it? Exchanges with Christobel

After reading the blog of Nguyen Hoang Mien to be hit hard by “The West is best, or is it“, I sent that article to Christobel, a client who went with me to discover North Vietnam in 10 days. Getting a different perspective to visualize a bigger picture is damn interesting. Coming from Australia, Christobel shows a deep love for Vietnam with articulate analysis from her point of view. Rather keeping that private, I think this is worth discussing further.  It is time to seriously reconsider the deep-rooted “Western dream” inside me, and I believe, in many other people. “The grass is always greener on the other side“, so we say.


Hi Mai,

I am reading the article while a prepare this email…I wish the interview with Giang had an English translation with it!  I could at a pinch get someone (my friendly VN baker’s son) to do it but in the meantime…it is true what the author says when he writes ” “as long as your payment can still be automatically processed you are “OK” is true.  It could I think be said about just about everywhere – nobody likes someone who owes them money especially in business.

I completely agree with every word he utters.  It is true that we often do not recognise what ‘riches’ we have in our own backyard.  For me, in your country I wanted to learn about your culture, which included food, the way people lived and live now, their struggles, their achievements, the beauty of the country, the development which is happening to big cities and small places like the homestay you showed me and Peter’s school. The left and indelible mark on me.  It’s people like Peter and all his friends and their friends that make the country.

chỉ mục
Everything is done simply in VN.  I will in time send some photos and examples of how in many parts of Australia we are over governed.  There is an expression which is a “Nanny State“.. Many people believe we are being looked after too much by laws which protect us from others.  That idea is going to be challenging to explain because I will have to be careful about providing an understandable context.

In the west it is a widely held believe that Insurance Companies rule.  For example, a person can claim for compensation for injury in a wide variety of situations.  It is not uncommon for business houses to chop down beautiful tall shade giving trees because of the fear of a falling branch or twig which might damage someone or someone’s property.  The owner of the tree can be sued for $millions.  So once where there was a nice shady spot to park the car, now it is parked in the boiling hot sun.  Stupid.
There is such a thing as Occupational Health and Welfare.  There are rules and regulations as to what is acceptable to do and not to do in the workplace.  Most of it is common sense  but it has moved past that now and if you do the wrong thing and someone else suffers you could have a law suit levelled against you.  For example all electricity power cords running across the floor must be covered with a certain covering so that you don’t accidentally catch the toe of your shoe in it.  If the covering is not there and you suffer injury as a result (serious broken arm/leg etc) you may have to deal with an expensive insurance claim against you.  Life is full of that sort of thing.  I could go on for hours on that topic.  They would tear their hair out if they saw the state of power lines in the streets of Vienam towns and cities!!!!!

If someone wants to work in a school as a volunteer helping the children with for example, reading they have to have a police check which costs $100.00 to make sure they are not a criminal.  The police only record the baddies if they have a conviction against them.  It does not include all the people who are baddies but have not been convicted of a crime in the courts.  The result is all sorts of people, both good and not so good are working with children.  In Australia at the moment there are a couple of huge and important court hearings investigating the presence and harm which pedofiles have caused in Australian schools over the past 50 years.  Many people question the validity of the police checks.
One of the reasons for the police checks is that 40 years ago 3 little girls were abducted from a crowd at a football game.  They have never been found.  Since then a new type of car came onto the market – one in which parents could safely deliver their children to school.   So now the children don’t get to walk to school (exercise) and have grown ‘soft’  (Mummies boys and girls).  Another word is pampered children.  They are generally very demanding and very much “me first” everyone else does not matter.
Which brings me back to VN.  People in Vietnam have been fighting for their freedom for 1000 years.  You have it now.  You (as a people) have ingrained in your genes some tough lessons of history.  They are wonderful assets to have.  No other country on Earth has had to fight for so long and hard for freedom.
People in Vietnam are friendly, gracious, helpful, accommodating, all wonderful attributes.  It is the Asian way – it is very attractive it is what everyone says about Vietnam when they come back to Australia.  They love it.

Most of the tourist companies go on the same route.  It is convenient for them to do that.  Hopefully when I come back I would like to be able to plan to go to National Parks and see the wild – animals flora and fauna.  This is also your heritage, which is sadly disappearing due to logging etc.  Not many tour groups go to Da Lat which is a shame.

I was very interested to read in the article about AISEC this seems a wonderful concept – wish I was a lot younger – I would be there with my ears back!!!!!!!


I was surprised to hear you say one day that you did not think that Vietnamese food was anything special?  Did I get that right?  There are a lot of foodie tours organised for Vietnam – mainly focussing on Hoi An Hue and Hanoi.  I am sure there are delights to be enjoyed just about everywhere!  Do you have an opportunity to get information/videos/books by Luke Nguyen?  He is a wonderful ambassodor for VN.  He was born in Vietnam and came to Australia as a very young boy.  His family escaped and spent 2 years in a Refugee Camp on the Thai border  before arriving  in Australia in the 1980’s  He and his sister are famous Chefs in Sydney.  He has presented television programs on food; growing it, harvesting it, cooking it, and eating it in many of the regions from the top of the Mekong River down to the sea.  Most interesting.
This is what people know and want, but what other secrets are not yet available to the tourist which might uncovered by you and your friends in the future????

I will do my best to answer your questions and send some pictures as illustrations where possible.


One of the best thing about leading tours, to me, is to have deep exchanges with such people. Having a limited perspective due to little exposure, to me, it’s such a bliss to have people from outside to come and share things from their point of view. And I was lucky enough to meet a few.


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