A friend of mine who had spent a few months in Hanoi wrote to me today. He expressed agreement that the roads here are abominable and must be improved before Vietnam can truly grow and move from the third to the next level of world countries.
Some time ago a person from America who did a lot of business in China told me the same thing. He said that while the Vietnamese have the intelligence and the work ethic to succeed, he refuses to move his manufacturing from China to here because the supply chains cannot sustain steady and continued production. He had done studies and seen for himself the near impossibilities of moving materials from sources to a central manufacturing point. The poor roads, the corrupt traffic police, and the overcrowding and constant accidents caused total unreliability in moving materials around this beautiful country.
Imagine if America only had one two lane highway from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, CA. Imagine that US 1 was only a two lane access highway, with broken road surfaces, traffic moving onto the road from every direction, and about 10 times as many vehicles as now travel the road, AND that US 1 was the ONLY north-south road in the country. How would America grow?
Vietnam has those issues and before they can be resolved, the transportation systems MUST be improved and these problems corrected. When a 120 mile trip takes six and a half hours by bus, seven hours by train, and four and a half hours by private car, there are major problems with the roads. I live here. I have the time to spend, altho not the desire (sitting on a bus for six and a half hours is very, very exhausting). Any tourist flying into HCMC from abroad is not going to want to sit for another long period just to get to a beach resort. The only viable way to get around Vietnam is by flying, but even then many of the airports are an hour or more outside the city.
That said, this is still a fascinating and wonderful place to live. There are work-arounds for these issues and we invite you all to come visit and see one of the most exciting countries in Asia. Do it now before the tourists come flocking and ruin the beauty.
Just bring your own toilet paper…