by aengelson | October 11th, 2010
Most folks who follow this blog know I’m a big fan of Hanoi. I’ve lived here a little over a year, and every day I generally discover something to love about this manic, frustrating, beautiful, dirty, authentic, and fascinating city.
You may have noticed lack of blogging or photos about Hanoi’s celebration of its 1000-year anniversary on 10/10/2010. I tried to muster up the enthusiasm to go take some photos or attended events. But I couldn’t do it. The much-anticipated gala, in my opinion, was a huge bust. A fiasco. I’m happy it’s over. Can we all get back on with our lives, now? Sin cam on.
Maybe it was the fireworks accident that killed four people several days before the event–or the way the Vietnamese news sites conveniently hid stories about the accident on their websites. Or maybe it was the flooding that killed 85 in Central Vietnam this week. Or maybe it was reading that $63 million has been blown on this 1000-year party, and all there is to show for it are a few temporary flower displays, a billion Christmas lights, and some cheap painted-plywood stage sets that will all be taken to the landfill today.
Maybe it’s the completely boring series of events scheduled. I’m sorry, I’m just not into entertainment in the form of revolutionary film festivals, blaring patriotic music, and traffic jams. Did I mention traffic jams? I was happy miss the one yesterday the one that kept the president of Vietnam sitting in his motorcade for five hours. Hope he had a minibar.
Or maybe it’s the fact that, on the one evening I planned to celebrate–Friday night, I couldn’t find a taxi after our date-night dinner and upon walking in the dark, I plunged into a three-foot hole in the sidewalk. I suppose a visit to the SOS emergency room to receive five stitches in your shin does something to dampen the celebratory mood.
I’ve agreed with the skeptical Western news coverage on the birthday celebrations. The New York Times had a good piece about Hanoi at 1000 years–not exactly a place brimming with enthusiasm. The money quote comes from Nguyen Qui Duc, arts impresario and owner of Tadioto:
“Tacky things, bad taste, expensive decorations,” he said. “But what is it we are celebrating? Taoism, Confucianism, communism, capitalism — Hanoi has everything, but it adds up to nothing.”
Another recent article in the Economist noted the huge missed tourism opportunity for the 1000-year celebrations. With events like “Launching ceremony of the bookcase named: Thang Long thousand years of culture at the National Library,” the celebrations were a complete snooze. Unless you’re the kind of person interested in military parades, ribbon-cutting ceremonies and children singing about the eternal power of the Communist Party of Vietnam. The Economist article goes on to note that significantly, Vietnam has a 5 percent return rate among tourists, compared to 50 percent for Thailand.
So to all the tourists who expected great things in Hanoi for its 1,000 birthday: ya’ll come back now, y’hear?