The Socialist Republic of Vietnam ranks among the friendliest nations I have visited. It is friendlier than nearly any country in Europe I have experienced, and my own country. I give full credit to the Vietnamese people for this national characteristic that deeply affected me during my short trip there in November-December 2003. Geographically and historically, the nation is rich with many treasures. The cuisine is equally dynamic. I never once had a bad meal there. It is also a country in the midst of transition, with global economic and demographic forces creating rapid change in nearly every community. Vietnam is competing in a highly competitive and inter-connected world market, with one of the world’s few remaining communist systems. Historically, the country’s recent legacy is tragic, marked by colonial rule under France, Japanese military occupation, division during the Cold War, and decades of war. The challenges Vietnam faces in the 21st century will be as demanding as those it recently endured. Below you will find a few visual impressions that continue to stay with me. Please click on each image for a larger view with the lightbox tool.