Any Dopers in Vietnam?

Chao cac ban. I’m going to be in South Viet Nam in a few months for a professional meeting. Are any of you there? I’d like to hear about it.

Also, I’d enjoy chatting with anybody who’s visited Viet Nam or Cambodia recently.

Finally, in theory my computer is supposed to allow me to type Vietnamese letters with diacriticals, but I don’t know how to activate this feature. I’ve even tried downloading and installing Vietnamese fonts, which appear in my font list but don’t do anything. Anybody know how to address this?

Cam on cac ban.

Moderator speaketh: I’m assuming this was meant for MPSIMS rather than Cafe Society, and am adjusting accordingly…

Shoshana, I spent some time in the south earlier this year. I’m hardly well travelled or knowledgeable, seeing as I spent most of my time in the provincial areas, but I’d be happy to chat and answer any questions you may have. Is this your first time? Where will you be staying?

As for typing Vietnamese, first you must have already installed the appropriate software. VNI and VPS are the most popular ones, so poke around on your computer and see if you have either of these programs. If not, VPSKeys can be downloaded for free here. You’ll need to launch it before you can start typing in Vietnamese. Customise the keybindings, select the appropriate encoding method (VNI is favoured if you’ll be printing, though you’ll need the appropriate fonts, and Unicode is generally used for the internet) and you should be good to go. Does that help? Can you tell I don’t write instruction manuals for a living?

I was in Vietnam for a month last year, and I spent 2 months there in 1995. Not work, just travel. Whaddya wanna know?

Crazy because I just got back from Vietnam/Thailand last night! Spent 2 weeks backpacking around.

In Vietnam, I went to Hanoi, Nha Trang, and Saigon. Ask away!

Greg Charles is “back home in San Diego”, but his location was once Ho Chi Minh City, and he lists Vietnam as one of his interests in the linked profile.

How about the latest news from 38 years ago?

Ok, a native checking in. While I am currently studying in the States, but ask anything ?

“Xin chào các bạn” , is this what you wanted to type ? and you know Vietnames ?

Vietnamese speaker here (studied it at the Defense Language Institute). For your computer to type Vietnamese diacritics, you need to have one of the special programs for it running in addition to having the Vietnamese fonts. I’m kind of fond of VPSKeys, available from Vietnamese Professionals Society. The full instructions on running the software are here.

The most used Unicode Vietnamese keyboard typing for Windows and Linux is Unikey. There is no need for additional font. You can get it here http://www.unikey.org/

I’m going with a professional group, and we’re likely to be corralled and led arouhd. If I can break away from the grouip, what should I go see?

I’m interested in quality of life issues. How much tension is there between North and South these days? What is the relationship like between Vietnam and its neighbors (including China)? Is the general attitude about the future of the country positive?

In professional meetings, I am going to be asking some questions about diabetes and HIV in Vietnam. How can I phrase these questions respectfully?

I like Vietnamese food but can’t eat very much rice or many noodles, for medical reasons. How can I politely decline foods?

OneCentStamp has stated in several posts that he was born in Vietnam and has Vietnamese ancestry.

Depends on the locations where you will be. To be more specific: it depends on what city/province you will stay in. Each regions has its own must-see spots, as well as lesser-known exotic areas. If you have the time, try venturing out a bit. Since most of the famous and beautiful spots are being heavily commercialized, it would be good if you can keep to the fringe areas of those spots and you’ll likely discover nice places with hardly anyone around. And do so during week days instead of the weekends. Off the top of my head in no particular order, in South VN: Nha Trang beaches with Yen island (swift nests), Hoi An, Mui Ne sand dunes, Tay Ninh, Ca Mau swamp land, Vinh Long, Pleiku, Hue, Quang Tri. I’d definitely skip Cu Chi.

I don’t know in what professional capacity you’re going there, but I don’t think you’ll be able to discern the tension between the two regions. As for the relationship between VN and China, officially I would use “polite” to “cordial” to describe it, but unofficially it can be said to be ranging between ambivalence to disdain.

I think you’ll have no problem asking questions about diabetes since it is recognized as a natural illness by the majority of Vietnamese, but with HIV it’s a difference matter. As with any secretive society, HIV is considered a social disease with shameful associations. When asking questions about HIV, keep them in general sense, avoid the specifics (“Do you know anyone who has HIV?” type of questions) and when in doubt stick to double meaning, indirect method of questioning that open to comparison. This applies to both formal and informal situations. Also keep in mind that the level of knowledge of HIV is quite low in the populace over there.

Unless being offered such foods, you can just skip those places that only serve those dishes. If you’re offered such dishes in an informal setting, just be honest and tell them your conditions and decline. If you want to be smooth, say that you often have those dishes in the US so you’d wish to sample other foods instead. (That always get me off the hook). But in formal settings, you’re stuck.

As for software, I like mViet since it covers all other typing methods of other software such as VNI, VPS and it uses Unicode fonts (which come with Windows 2000 and above) and so you don’t have to download specialized fonts. You can get it here. You must have software in order to type in Vietnamese.

I’ll second all of QuanSu’s great suggestions. If you have time to travel to the southern-most provinces, on top of the U Minh mangroves, I’d recommend Phu Quoc, a little, itty-bitty slip of an island in the Gulf of Thailand. You can catch a ferry there from Rach Gia (and Sai Gon, I think) and it has gorgeous beaches unspoiled by aggressive commercialisation.

Despite economic growth, I’d say the quality of life is still rather poor. The first thing that struck me when I got off the plane was the pollution – too much industrialisation, too little planning and environmental management. While it is better in urban areas like Sai Gon, infrastructure is still woefully inadequate and clean running water is till a luxury. Keep in mind my view is coloured by the fact my experiences are limited to the rural Mekong Delta region.

My Vietnamese friends inform me that they simply use standard English fonts when communicating on the internet, and by SMS. I asked them if it’s a problem to do that, and they assured me it very seldom is, and it’s worth the occasional misunderstanding for the convenience. Most everything is made clear by context, according to them.

They’re probably skipping some of the letters or symbols for using the “telegraph Vietnamese” spellings, then. After leaving DLI, those of us who went on to Goodfellow AFB had to learn the telegraph system. It’s easy once you get used to it, but the major drawback is it’s just doesn’t look right.