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Vietnam (Evergreen Series) by Marc Rousseau

Vietnam (Evergreen Series)

by Marc Rousseau

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Twenty years ago, after half a century of conflict, Vietnam opened up to the world, and increasingly it is a destination for tourists from around the world. This large book introduces the reader to today's Vietnam, a nation steeped in tradition but rapidly entering the modern world. Marc Rousseau gives a first-person account of his tour of the country, from Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by its residents) to Hanoi and into the northern reaches of the country. (The dust-jacket wrongly describes his journey as passing from north to south).

Accompanying photographs are excellent; however, many are reproduced at less than optimal size to provide room for the text. Unfortunately, the photographs and text do not always match. The two photographers whose work is represented here did not accompany Rousseau, and photographs appear to have been chosen after the fact in an attempt to illustrate his text. The result is not entirely successful. For example, a description of Hanoi is accompanied not by a panoramic view of the city or multiple street scenes, but by several photos of a water puppet show. Similarly, a caption states: "The whole of Ho Chi Minh City is one huge open- air market, where everything can be bought and sold...", and the accompanying full- page photograph focuses on a woman holding some money (whether she's buying something, selling something, or counting her change is anyone's guess). Because panoramic views are rare, the product gives an oddly claustrophobic feel. What's more, because the text and photos bear only an indirect relationship, the whole is rather less than the sum of its parts.

Nonetheless, this book does offer a glimpse of the country, and one likely to encourage visitors. I was particularly intrigued to learn of the newly developed religion, Caodaism; it combines elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confuscianism, Islam, and Catholicism, and has an array of saints that include Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Descartes, Lenin, Pasteur, Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, and Joan of Arc. The book begins with a brief history of Vietnam and its final pages offer lots of information of use to potential tourists. ( )
4 vote danielx | Jan 14, 2011 |
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