Thursday, May 31, 2007

Vietnam is getting a better investment climate

(31-05-2007)
Business leaders and officials gather at the Viet Nam Business Forum in Ha Noi yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Hong Ky

Ha Noi — Viet Nam has sent a clear message that it is determined to increase the attractiveness of the domestic investment environment in order to satiate the needs of foreign investors into the country.

Addressing the Viet Nam Business Forum 2007, which opened in Ha Noi yesterday, Minister of Planning and Investment Vo Hong Phuc said, " Viet Nam has been hard at work in preparing conditions to welcome a new wave of foreign investment, including implementing its bilateral and multilateral commitments."

The minister told delegates in attendance that the country was highlighting areas such as the fine tuning of the market mechanism, reform in administrative procedures and financial and banking systems, developing human resources, infrastructure development and establishing needed auxiliary industries.

According to a Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) report, the GDP growth rate in the past five months hovered close to 7.9 per cent and was the highest recorded rate for the last several years.

Over the period, 19,300 new businesses registered for licenses with a total invested capital of VND134 trillion (8.4 billion USD), an year-on-year increase of 140 per cent.

Sin Foong Wong, Viet Nam Director of the International Financial Organisation (IFC), said Viet Nam had with the Enterprise Law and Investment Law shown its readiness to form an equal playground for all businesses.

However, the IFC Viet Nam leader, who co-chaired the forum, urged Viet Nam to further improve its investment environment in order to promote its image on the world arena.

Executives at the forum said economic expansion was being curbed by poor infrastructure and slow legal reform.

Infrastructure shortfall

"Infrastructure constraints threaten FDI in manufacturing and export," said a senior American Chamber of Commerce official. "Private sector participation in infrastructure development, finance and management is needed urgently, especially in electric power and deep water seaports."

A big concern for companies is that poor or under-developed infrastructure directly impacts cost factors and could force the final price of goods and services higher.

To ship a 20-foot container from Can Tho to HCM City could cost as much as VND4.5 million ($281), equivalent to what it costs to transport the same container from HCM City to Kaoshung, Taiwan.

"Local businesses have to deal with high [transportation] costs, which push up product prices and reduce competitiveness," said General Secretary of the Can Tho Business Association Nguyen My Thuan.

Development has, admittedly, been slow. The Government’s initial forecasts on infrastructure, on which they based their development plans through 2030, were grossly inaccurate, leaving VBF delegates yesterday urging officials to not only solve current weaknesses but also create a better model for anticipating future demand.

In addition, construction on key projects has been slow. The Phu My bridge and No2 Ring road, which were aimed at alleviating cargo traffic around HCM City and provide access to the new Hiep Phuoc port, were supposed to be completed this year. Their opening has been pushed back to December 2009.

Senior Ministry of Transportation officials confessed mounting demand has put a physical burden on current infrastructure – a situation which they say may not abate for the next few years – underpinning the need to speed up construction.

The ministry yesterday proposed better communication with companies in publishing quarterly port statistics, creating greater transparency in infrastructure planning, and managing projects.

Regulations pending

Just as big a stumbling block has been legal reform and the lack of clarity on certain legal issues.

"With speedy legal reform comes the risk of weak or opaque legislation," said Alain Cany, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce.

As an example, Cany sited the Notarisation Law, which forms the basis for real estate and securities transactions.

"Although the law has been in effect since late 2006, the relevant guidelines are yet to be issued, resulting in the role of public notaries being left unclear, leading in delays to transactions and uncertainty in some cases as to the enforceability of transactions that are entered into," he said.

Help wanted

Another major issues discussed at yesterday’s meeting was the shortage of skilled labour, and the need to encourage in-house training programmes and innovate retention strategies.

The Government should further contribute to solving labour market problems by developing targeted vocational training programmes in line with industry needs, argued VBF delegates.

Australian Chamber of Commerce members added that Decree 93/2005/ND-CP, which puts a 3 per cent cap on the number of foreign employees a company can hire, also needed to be revised in light of skilled labour shortages. They argued the law also restricts the transfer of new technology and skill sets from abroad.

The Viet Nam Business Forum is an annual event within the Consultative Group Conference of donors to Viet Nam framework and was organised by the MPI, IFC and World Bank. —VNS

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Vietnam's rules of the road

Vietnam's Driving Rules of the Road

Rule 1: The girls totally wrapped up in head scarves, dark glasses, floppy hats and long opera gloves on motorbikes in Vietnam ARE NOT Osama Bin Laden’s missing wives but instead trying to hide themselves from the sun. Unfortunately they can’t see shit in all this garb covering their faces and are constantly running into things…including me while walking!

Rule 2: DO NOT stop while crossing the street nor should you look to your right or left. Walk straight ahead at a SLOW, even pace as the on-rushing hundreds of motorbike bullets view you as a duck in a carnival shooting gallery in which the winner misses the ducks! (…but do you remember however how often you HIT the ducks when you aimed at them?)

Rule 3: Drivers in Vietnam view driving as a ‘right of passage’. If you can ‘pass’, you are in the ‘right’.

Rule 4: Pedestrian crosswalks are target areas for motorcyclist and other vehicles; or if you prefer tourist killing zones.

Rule 5: Red traffic lights or pedestrian crosswalk green lights are nothing more than advisories for sex crazed Vietnamese youth that foreign tourists might be present as they roar through chasing other sex crazed teenagers!

Rule 6: Honda Waves and better yet, a classic Vespa decked out in amazing chrome, are dating machines. No Honda, no girl!

Rule 7: Does anyone really believe that anyone of the 1,000s of raging hormones roaring through the intersection flirting with the others flirting through the intersection has a ‘driver’s license’!

Rule 8: Monsoon rains are nothing more than an excuse for drivers to drive on the less crowded sidewalks. Rains and flooding optional…

Rule 9: Always listen behind you when walking down the sidewalks and never, ever NOT walk in a straight-line (otherwise the bike coming up from behind you will hit you as he passes).

Rule 10: Vehicles DO NOT make turns at intersections but instead start their turns many meters ahead of the junction by going into the opposite directions lane. Applying breaks in Vietnam is an unheard of driving technique or god forbid; STOPPING!

Rule 11: Saigon’s traffic lights, with their ‘countdown’ neon flash, are notices to gun the engine and leap out into the oncoming stream seconds before others leap out into the oncoming traffic. He who can leap first… wins!

Rule 12: When riding in a taxi, read your newspaper and set in the back seat because you DO NOT want to see what is going to hit you. If in an accident, run like hell if you are still capable because you are liable for the accident!

Rule 13: The tree branch lying on the street ahead of you does not mean that a storm has come and blown a limb to the ground, but instead is an indication of an accident ahead, a vehicle blocking the road or a hole in the road….usually however only a few meters before you hit the stalled vehicle or flip over in a meter deep sinkhole!

Rule 14: In Thailand and Vietnam, 3 lanes of traffic will have 5 lanes in it with 2 additional ‘lanes’ on each side coming from the opposite directions.

Rule 15: In Thailand traffic flows around obstructions where in Vietnam such things are used as something to play chicken with (e.g. pedestrians!).

Rule 15: Vietnam’s population is about the same as both East and West Germany combined, with the vast majority concentrated in the urban centers of Saigon and Hanoi. I was told that there are 6.5 million motorbikes in Saigon with most if not all not having any driver's license or driver's training. Think about it.

Rule 16: Rear view mirrors are optional and are considered non-macho features as are seatbelts in vehicles. Real men don’t look back nor do they wear seatbelts!

Rule 17: And Ohhh my Buddha! You sure as hell aren’t going to wear a helmet as it might mess your hair that you just spent half a day getting styled and punked!

Rule 18: Automatic bikes with running boards are for sexy girls in very high heels! (…trust me on this one!)

Rule 19: Old bikes are never thrown away. They are converted into push carts of one form or another.

Rule 20: The bike intertube propped up on the side of the road is a motorbike repair shop. Usually required after you run into it because it is in the road…

Rule 21: A bottle of yellowish looking liquid in a whiskey bottle sitting on a chair that looks like it is for your 2 year old, is not an advertisement for an Irish Bar but actually a gas station sign.

Rule 22: To be cool, you only drive with one hand while the other is in your lap (Forget that the bike is almost uncontrollable because your shocks are long gone!)

Rule 23: A ‘station wagon’ or ‘saloon car’ in Vietnam is 6 members of a family crushed all together going to see grandmother on a 100cc Honda motorbike. (I swear that 6 is not that unusual but can you remember how many you stuffed into a VW beetle at 17?)

Rule 24: In Vietnam the license plate digits indicate where you are from. Saigon uses 50-59, Hanoi is 29, Da Nang is 29, etc. Beware of the numbers from the provinces in the city who have NO IDEA about the above rules!

Rule 25: If you can survive the above…you have passed your ‘driving test’!

Well…that it for now as my power generation unit (laptop) battery is getting low and as there is no power or lights or air-conditioning or fan…..

Good night Vietnam!
Charlie

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saigon-Life is easy!

by Saigon Charlie


Saigon-Saturday evening

It seems I did it again.

With no guide book, no maps, no advice, no cards, totally flying dumb and blind, I have managed to find a hotel in a neighborhood of Saigon, both of which I can only describe as fantastic!

Even as I write this I have no idea where I am in Saigon other than the facts that I am walking distance to the train station where I arrived in Saigon this morning and down the street there is the ‘Australian Vietnam International School”. Guess I should get a map huh?

It took me three attempts at finding a hotel that felt ‘just right’ as baby bear put it, but after a bit of a walk from the station, I stumbled down a street after asking a young security guard on a street corner ‘hotel?”. He responded by pointing down a side street.

As I walked down the street, I noticed many brightly colored tents on the sidewalk that I now see turn into a large street market that looks like something between Patpong in Bangkok and the street vendors on Sukhumvit. Later however I discovered that although the prices are incredibly cheap for the clothes, it would be extremely tough for any westerner to get in to them as the locals are anything but big.
Sometimes I look at the people and wonder where they put the organs and I sure as hell can't figure out where the babies are stored!

The hotel I stumbled into soaking wet from sweat is called the “Ngoc Chau” and for 200,000 Dong (less than 10Euro), I have ‘bedded down’ for the 1st time in weeks with a room with air conditioning! Wow! I also have Bloomberg as well as HBO, Discovery Channel and National Geographic! Wow oh wow! Isn’t life grand? Guess I can hang here for a few days and get some work done as I even got wireless.

What made me smile as I checked in is no one, and I mean no one, speaks a single word of English. The man who checked me in wrote the price on the paper and we managed to communicate the need for him to see my visa. I managed to communicate I needed my passport back. We also easily got over the hurdle that I needed my clothes washed and ironed with him making ‘ironing’ motions to indicated this was part of the few he held up of “7” to indicated that it was 7,000 Dong per piece. (which arrived in my room a few hours later). As I have said over and over and over, when people want to communicate, they will!

Also tested my overseas banking card from Germany to see if that sucker works here in Vietnam. Hit the magic numbers in an air-conditioned ATM kiosk and out popped the maximum 1,500,000 Dong. This fee however is only 20,000 Dong, or a Euro. Guess that is pretty reasonable as that is far less than the fees charged in Germany by other German banks in country for the same transaction.

Even when I strolled out on the streets in the late afternoon after a much needed ‘cleansing’ (2 showers), I couldn’t help but be struck with how genuinely friendly the people are. Old or young, people look at you and smile and the children are shyly running up to you saying ‘hello’ and run as you say ‘hello’ back to them. If you read guide books you are terrified to step out onto the streets of Saigon as every child is a street urchin and every street vendor trying to scam you. Can’t go through life living in fear, either from children in the streets or so called ‘terrorist’ but isn’t it funny how we believe what we are told….which I guess is one reason I keep pushing the envelope so to speak in discovering the ‘truth’.

Having just returned from a Vietnamese beer bar next to the hotel after a stroll around the neighborhood, I unbelievably come back to my hotel and as I turn on my TV am stunned to see the Miss Universe contest. Huhhhhh??? Talk about contrast.

Here I am in a city of youth, all aspiring for a Honda Wave, and I am watching the "best" that America turns out. What air heads. It makes my head spin.

The neighborhood I am is incredible. In one city block, I witnessed no less than 5 extravagant wedding parties. Yes, no less than 5 and every single one was extravagant to the extreme. Gowns, brides maids, decorations to the extreme, color everywhere. As in Cambodia, Vietnamese weddings are the event of a lifetime where going bankrupt is normal as 'face' is everything!!! (Something most coming here from the west in business just don't grasp). Although Miss Nevada on my TV looks considerably different than the women I saw this evening around my neighborhood here in Saigon, I can’t imagine the clothes cost less.

As I sat at my table, I was constantly being offered cigarettes in the most polite way. Food from tables of others. Cheers after cheers of beers from the tables around me. (super cheap with even a bottle of Tiger going for less than .50 Euro) Someone came by and even gave me a couple of coupons to the “Hoang Dieu 2 Massage Hotel’. Had to laugh as I looked down at the coupons and finally figured out what they were but was even more intrigued by the price, 50,000 Dong (a little over 2 Euro) for a 60 minute massage. Nothing is in English on the coupons but the words ‘massage’ and ‘hotel’. Wonder if that is also the words in Vietnamese? Guess so huh….

Also found out from Bloomberg TV that this weekend is Memorial Day in America. Guess that means a long weekend for the working classes there. Seems like a million years ago when I experienced such things although I remember it was a ‘super party’. Wow....here I am and there you are....how philosophical.

Friday, May 25, 2007

German President wraps up Vietnam’s visit


09:17' 25/05/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge - German President Horst Koehler and his spouse left Hanoi on May 23, successfully concluding his official visit to Vietnam from May 21-23.

During his visit, President Koehler held talks with Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet and met with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

He was also received by Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh.

The President had dialogues with several National Assembly deputies, businessmen and experts on Vietnam-Germany relations.

The Vietnamese and German leaders expressed pleasures with development of relations between the two countries, saying the visit by President Koehler and the smooth implementation of high-level agreements between the two countries mark a new milestone in the friendly and cooperative ties between the two countries.

Germany wishes to boost all-round cooperation with Vietnam and become a Vietnam’s reliable partner, President Horst Koehler affirmed.

(Source: VNA)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hanoi impressions and images

by Saigon Charlie

The morning has come and gone and I now working on uploading some photos after taking a long walk in another part of Hanoi.

There is much that impresses me with the city but of those many things, one is the ready availability of Internet in the form of 'WiFi". Even here at my backpackers guesthouse it is free and powerful with my upload speeds the highest I have found anywhere here in Asia. It seems just about everywhere you stroll you pass a hotel, cafe or hotel advertising free wireless. Just the fact that is starting to be made available tells me where priorities are being places in this country and with communications one of the most critical in my opinion, the Internet is very close to the top of the list, if not at the top.

It was also interesting to note this AM how traffic accidents are resolved. Like in Cambodia and Thailand, the police seldom get involved and the issue is sorted out with those that were involved and witnessed it. As you can see from the photo, you have your victims, witnesses and jury. The second accident just turned into a screaming match with the old lady and her cargo and those that had hit her. Seems no one really cared what her problem was...

I even got hit while standing in the middle of the street trying to make my way through the chaos of traffic by a girl who was making a U-Turn. I am pretty careful but unfortunately don't have eyes in the back of my head, although in Hanoi, you should have!

Another thing that makes me smile is the horns. Yes, everyone and everywhere at all times is honking but it is the variety of the horns that makes it all worth while. If anyone has ever seen the 'Dukes of Hazard' they might understand what one might hear in Hanoi.

I had a really decent lunch again at a small street cafe and as you can see from the lovely ladies working the tables, service with a smile. It was comical however to watch motorbike after motorbike come onto the sidewalk and drive through the cafe and out some rear entrance. I can only guess there was a parking lot in the rear or that was the parking area for the cafe. Either way, I have noticed this to be quite normal with parking spaces at a premium. One can only imagine the problems as the motorbikes start to fade away being replaced by the inevitable cars that will come.

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Train trip from Hanoi to Saigon

May 22, 2007 –1,726 kilometers and 40 hours
by Saigon Charlie

It has been quite an interesting few days since I departed Hanoi by train to make my way eventually to Saigon.

Hanoi was great in all ways and has left me with a warm impression although along the way I have discovered that all that visit there did not like it which rather shocked me. I guess the reason most voiced was the coldness of the people although I found that not to be true in my case.

I think I am beginning to see that ‘certain types’ are targeted for the “hustle’ with me being a single traveler and somewhat older and male not so easy to prey on. Personally however I boarded my train south happy and content.

I can’t really relate a large amount of detail about the train to Da Nang except compare it to other trains I have traveled on in the region.

The trip from Hanoi to Da Nang, my chosen stop at a mid-point down the coast was 15 hours and combined with a decent sleeper cabin, not so bad as I had opted for a ‘soft sleeper with air-conditioning’ at a rate of 530,000 Dong (a ripoff as I later found out as the ticket was really only 493,000 Dong).

On top of that, the cost for such an accommodation was double that of a similar trip with comparable ‘amenities’ in Thailand although the Thai trains and staff far outshined the Vietnamese version of the same on this version of the ‘Reunification Express’. No problem however, as it seems this is significantly less than what was being charged of foreigners only a few years ago ($100 for the coastal run).

If you are curious as what the difference between the 2 country’s trains are, the Thai trains have a steward that turns down your bunk for the evening and makes your bed from a sitting arrangement to bunk. In the Vietnamese version, you are simply assigned a bunk in a cabin with 3 other intrepid travelers. There is also a ‘dining car’ of sorts on the Thai train where there is none on Vietnam’s trains that I can find. It also seems they make an effort here in Vietnam to ‘lightly monitor’ the ‘foreign devil’ as there was an ever present ‘watcher’ in my coach, who was a young man whose eyes were scanning and probing everywhere and in Thailand, even after the coup, no such animal.

As usual there were interesting conversations onboard, beginning with my bunkmates. They included a French couple who as expected spoke little English but seemed very pleasant. The woman across from me was Australian and from Sydney and talked up a storm and within an hour, I knew her life’s history.

As the evening progressed from our 19:00 Hanoi departure, around 10PM or so it seemed everyone was interesting in sleeping so conversation pretty much ended and the lights went out. I was rather happy for this as I was all ‘listened out’…..

As usual on these trains in the region, when they say ‘aircon’, they mean ‘AIRCON’ as the cars turn to freezing as the night goes on. I had a bit of problem sleeping on this leg of my trip as it was too cold and even though I had chosen a ‘soft sleeper’ as my bunk, a bit hard where the ‘soft’ was suppose to be.

The night wore on and when dawn came I was up with it grabbing my camera and shooting photos from the windows in the narrow corridor that ran down the side of each car. Evey 3rd window was allowed to come down so this really helped in the ability and quality of my photos. Within a hour or so, it seemed most of the western occupants had woken up and were shooting form the few windows pushing me to other areas to shoot, including the small wash room where the window was down.

We reached Hue and even though I had considered this as my first stop down the coast I subsequently opted to continue a bit further on to Da Nang. As it turned out it is another dumb luck event, as I discovered the next segment of the journey, which was in the early morning light of a new day, ran along some of the most spectacular scenery that one can imagine; the mountainous coast of the South China Sea!

I discovered later after arriving in my guest house in ‘China Beach’ after listening to other travelers that most seem to get off the train in Hue and then continue their trip further down the coasts to destinations such as China Beach and Hoi An by bus, thus never seeing this incredible coast by train that they had been on. How sad I thought.

The coastal train trip is incredible by all standards as it slowly winds it way up and through the rugged cliffs and steep valleys passing often over bridges and through long narrow tunnels. The coast along this segment is filled with beautiful sand beaches in hidden coves with flowered slopes flowing to the sea. Combined with the serpentine train winding its way through the rugged mountain sides, quite a site to behold!



It also astounded me along this section of terrain to see the grave sites too numerous to mention painting the landscape for hours in unbelievable colors, shapes and combinations. I wondered in amazement at the legacy of these tombs and beliefs knowing that local religion and tradition demanded that the remains of the ancestors be carefully selected or else the spirits would come back to haunt the living. My only question was what happens to the spirits when the land becomes so valuable that they must be moved? Will the spirits accept a larger and prettier shrine and be pacified? A question that I must research….

I was also once again fortunate to meet another couple who were headed a bit further down the coast than my destination guest house on China Beach. They were from England and Nat was working in telecommunications sales and to hear him tell his stories, had seen the world. Nice couple to say the least and as we talked cameras and technology, I eventually offered to download my shots to them from the coastal excursion (which I did once we got off the train in
Da Nang
).

The train arrived in Da Nang on time and after saying our goodbyes, I grabbed a cab for a 120,000 Dong (6 Euro) to the Noa’s guest House, a place highly recommended by Matt at the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel. As it turned out, it seems it has also made it into the Lonely Planet.

The taxi drivers as usual were pushy and when my driver tried to raise the price from the agreed on price of 120,000 to 130,000 Dong (after my bags were in the trunk and we were underway), I started to open my door and threatened to get out, he said , “no! no! 120 OK!”. He got my point with my little bit of theatrical flair!

We arrived at Hoa’s Place about 15 minutes later after making our way through downtown Da Nang and hitting the ‘superhighway’ beach road to China Beach.

If one understands that China Beach is 21 kilometers long by itself, one starts to grasp the size of Da Nang as at one time in recent history, this use to be one of the largest bases that the American’s used during the Vietnam (American) War, with the remnants of that presence still very apparent in the form of hardened bunkers and old runways along the beach.

I arrived at Hoa’s Place and was given a key to what appeared to be another guesthouse just up the street from him. Hoa’s Place is on the last corner before you reach the beach and just across from the police training academy (not sure at what level but there are several hundred cadets undergoing training there).

It seemed that his fame from Lonely Planet was taking its toll and he had to put his ‘overflow’ guests in places other than his, which is OK by me but unfortunately I got stuck in some room with a fan with no window or ability to get fresh air. As it turned out, it was a nightmare to sleep in and with the outside day temperatures hovering at 40 degrees Celsius; I was up during the night taking showers to cool down with the occasional 3AM stroll down the beach to get relief form the stifling day’s heat built up. Ouch!

I don’t want to complain too much as it was only $5 a night and the evening social banquets of 15 or more guests and the surroundings more than made up for it….it was just that it was hard to even breathe and I was soaked in sweat even with the fan directed at me constantly.

Others I met in the morning had the same problems and combined with the occasional power outage, outside was far more pleasant than inside. Maybe that’s the excuse for the beach parties lasting until daybreak? Or maybe the often heard local phrase of ‘awesome’ originated here from the guests?

If you are going to hit China Beach, the place to stay is Hoas’ and he can be contacted at hoasplace@hotmail.com . Decent guy, with many of the backpackers from Hanoi passing through thanks to recommendations from the boys at Hanoi Backpackers Hostel.

China Beach, like Da Nang is a bit hard to explain, as they are both about ready to explode from sleepy backwaters to ultra-modern tourist and industrial centers. Growth and infrastructure development are everywhere the eye can see but what is spectacularly different in this case (from similar cases like Thailand), is that the infrastructure is being put in place first, including the expected roads as well as power generation and transmission facilities. If one uses the roads that have been built as a gauge, someone is expecting something like a renaissance of development (massive airbases to beach resorts). Maybe the folks at Goldman Sachs are on to something?

In the first morning’s light I was out on the beach but was not alone as many locals seem to come to the beach and go for a swim but to protect themselves from the sun, fully clothed.

As you watch this spectacle, overhead Mig 21 jet fighters roar down the coast obviously doing a downwind leg for landing approaches for an unseen airfield inland from the coast. They are joined at times with various forms of Soviet era helicopters making their thumping noises as they enter and exit the same installation. It all seems surreal at times.

I rented a motorbike for a few days ($3 a day) and started to cruise the roads of the area, making my way as far south as the also booming resort town of Hoi An. Although Hoi An has turned into a very beautiful resort there are many empty buildings with ‘for rent’ signs everywhere. Hotels and restaurants have of course popped up along the main streets with prices appearing to be reasonable although I suspect many guests will be caught off guard when they go there and find it takes $6 to get to the beach as the town is a long way from it, with prices ‘fixed’ by the local transportation ‘association’ (mafia).

There are no such things as helmets in this part of Vietnam (or any part for that matter!). Rear view mirrors also seem to be something that motorcycle manufactures and customers here view as ‘optional’ equipment with mine having only a left hand mirror, with most bikes I observed having none. Guess the mirrors sort of ‘reflect’ the thinking of the country and its youth; ‘no looking back’.

I next drove the back roads inland from the beach not sure where I was going but keeping the mountains to my left as I headed north. It wasn’t long before I hitting intersections telling me this road was headed for Hanoi, 736 kilometers away, which puts Saigon roughly another 1,000 kilometers to the south.

Continuing north I eventually crossed into Da Nang according to the signs and was soon crossing some pretty impressive bridges where it was easy to see the sprawl of the ‘new’ Da Nang. Entering the city into what I guess would be classified the downtown are, construction was evident everywhere, and not simple Chinese shop houses either.

It appeared to me that an orgy of construction was underway on some very impressive structures including shopping complexes, office buildings and other very modern and beautifully designed structures that I have no idea what they are going to be used for (auditoriums or educational facilities?). It even appeared that another huge bridge was under construction crossing the same river only a few kilometers from the one that was obviously new and spectacular in its own right. Combined with the intense traffic of the area; somebody, somewhere is flooding the municipality with tons of new money.

Later I made my way into the mountains following winding roads in which other streams and navigable waterways were frequently encountered. It impressed me that one could find such beauty only an hour from this modern day urban sprawl. After stripping to my shorts and taking a dive into a cool mountain stream, feeling refreshed and new, I headed back towards the coast and an evening beer. All in all, I spent nearly 300 kilometers on a motorbike exploring the region.

May 25, 2007 – Friday –Da Nang Train Station, Vietnam

8:55 AM – We depart the station at Da Nang and head south to Saigon. 24 hours and nearly 1,000 kilometers lies ahead of me.

The morning started early with me checking out of my guest house on China beach before 6AM. Caught a motorcycle taxi for 50,000 Dong after settling my bill and saying my goodbyes to Hoa.

11 AM – Ga Tam Ky, Vietnam

The train continues to speed down the coast with what seems like frequent stops on side rails to let north bound trains pass. This stop however happens to be our first major stop, the city of ‘Tam Ky’, 2 hours south of Hanoi.

As mostly locals board the train, I do notice 2 young Aussie lasses board my coach and park themselves towards the middle of the car. Somehow they seem a bit out of place in what is obviously a non-tourist train.

Shortly after we start to pull from the station, I notice a food cart enter the cabin and start to distribute meals to the passengers. What a surprise I thought as having paid significantly more money for what was supposedly a better class down from Hanoi to Da Nang, there wasn’t a single meal or snack served.

As they made their way down the aisle, I noticed the young ladies turned their noses up at the offered meal. As it got to me, I politely accepted and started to peek into the 4 separate cartons.

It wasn’t streak but I wasn’t expecting it. It did however turn out to be quite filling and consisted of a large rice portion with 3 separate toppings including chicken and vegetables. They also handed me a bottle of water as well.

An older lady also joined our seating compartment and she seems determined to wander back and forth in the aisle, stopping to stare at the two foreign girls. Shortly after this, she goes back to her previous seat further up the coach and brings her bags and puts them in the seat directly in front of me whereupon she turns backwards in the seat and now starts to watch me as I am writing, looking away as I glance up at her.

This little game goes on for awhile and then she starts to pull the curtain back from my window behind her so she can see out my window. I reach up and take the tie for the curtain and bind it back so she can now see out the window. With her hair bound up in a bun it occurs to me that once long ago she was probably a very beautiful woman and even with her age, you could sense her regalness.

11:45 – “Ga Nui Thanh”

We stop again and the older lady departs and as I watch her from the window, a man of about 30 or so meets her and carries her bag to his motorbike where she takes a bit of an effort to get on. The stop is a short one and as we pass out of town, coastal dunes and sand appear while off in the distance I briefly catch a glimpse of a large, apparently abandoned airfield with a long row of hardened aircraft shelters from a war long ago.

I am beginning to realize that my eyes hurt from the previous couple of days of motorbiking around Da Nang even though I was wearing sunglasses and had a hat one to shade my face from the intense heat, light and dust from the area.

Wow…that’s interesting…..a farmer walking through a rice paddy near the road with a metal detector. Hard to believe landmines are still a threat so close to the highway in what is obviously a well cultivated paddy.

At noon we pass over a river that is obviously far lower than its banks and at 12:30 we stop again at a place where I can’t find a station name and many more board. At 12:45 we cross another river and at 13:30 we arrive at ‘Ga Dac Pho’. A half hour later the train passes through an area which is the nearest it has gotten to the coast on this segment of the trip south since we left Da Nang.

As I look at the amazing landscape unfolding before me, I am struck with just how much effort is being made here to utilize every square meter of land for growing food and crops. Even the numerous tombs have crops growing the edge of the concrete they are on and where one crop like rice won’t grow, another such as corn has been planted. Nothing is going to waste anywhere.

15:50 – ‘Ga Deu Tri’

Although I can’t find this place on my map, I have a rough idea where it should be as I chart our course down the coast. The landscape has changed radically and it appears that there is a huge water shortage as the rice paddies are brown and dry as is the surroundings of the town. With
two long horns and immediately after the 3rd and short horn from the engineer, we once again start our trek south.

17:00 – ‘Ga La Hai’

La Hai is a pretty poor looking area as well compared to what I observed before we reached the area surrounding Deu Tri. There are even ox carts at the station but just outside town in the valley which appears to be suffering a drought, a huge complex of some form overshadows the surrounding homes and town. It has got to be government or military.

To ease us into the long evening and night ahead of us, once again the dinner cart boys ease their way down the aisle handing out our evening meal. Once again, a tray with a large rice offering as well as 3 separate containers with fish and vegetables. Filling but that is about all I can say for it. Once again the white girls turn down their evening meal.

I also opt to splurge on a can of ‘333’ beer at 9,000 Dong a can. As the sun sets to my left and west, a massive shrimp/fish enterprise appears in the large lake to the east. Having just finished my meal, I thought an ice cream would taste pretty damn good about now.

18:00 – ‘Ga Tuy Hoa”

As the train makes it hard, lurching stop at the station, a woman walking down the aisle with the boxes from the evening meal falls backward and lands hard on her backside. The young man behind her, making no effort to help her, watches as she gathers her things and pulls herself up. I am beginning to see that chivalry left when the French did.

Just after we leave Tuy Hoa, we pass over a long but low bridge passing over a rather large river delta. A bit further south, another airbase slides past, this time with even longer rows of hardened aircraft shelters which once again, appear to be empty and remnants of the ‘American War” as it is called here.

As the sun quickly slides over the western mountains, I can’t help but reflect on what this country was not so long ago and where it appears to be headed.

It seems the older folks who keep staring at me are trying to tell me something with their eyes and expressions, because without exception, when I look at them, they break into broad grins and you can just tell they have some secret they want you to know. Maybe it is about their brother or sister who made it to California or Virginia?

The younger ones however, as with the ‘gentleman’ who watched the girl fall in front of him, seem extremely rude and selfish. Even when a young girl in my car ran out of water and was sucking her bottle dry, after I offered and her mother accepted my water, there was no form of thanks in any manner, verbal or facial. Maybe no one trusts the ‘foreign devil’ but actually I sense a culture which has slid backwards in its march towards ‘civilization’, however one defines that term.

The noise of this train is constant but I have adjusted although I am glad I am not further forward as I can hear the constant, and I do mean CONSTANT, wail of the horn from the engineer as he passes from country to city and back again. I guess this is where the expression, “he really likes to tute his horn” comes from….

Night comes and goes…………

May 26, 2007 – Saturday – Nearing Saigon

6AM – Somewhere 21 hours south of Da Nang

The sun is up and the train passengers are starting to come alive. I wouldn’t call it the best sleep I have ever had but sleep it was.

Once again, I boarded the train with no expectations or trip times in mind and after 21 hours, this looks like it might rival my single longest trip ever; a murderous, 24 hour bus trip back across Turkey some years ago.

One of the things I really enjoy about these types of trips is that I am able to observe the people through their ‘cycles’ of living; interesting to watch the older man and his beautiful younger wife who is obviously not happy about the arrangement; the amazingly loving mother who adores her charming and vivacious daughter and the young intellectual with her studious looking glasses buying newspapers from the station touts who is constantly studying the countryside as the train slides south to Saigon. People are different colors and races but at the end of the day, we are all the same.

My laptops battery went dead long ago on this leg of the journey and now I have even reached the last few pages of my journal that I carry with me. Guess it is time to refresh and replenish in Saigon although, once again, I have no idea where I am going to stay. As usual, “we will cross that bridge when we get to it” as my dear ole Mom would say….

07:25 – A side rail near Saigon

We have been waiting here a bit over 30 minutes and the 2nd of 2 trains has now passed us. I guess this is the difference between ‘express’ and ‘non express’ and the obviously huge price difference as well between the 277,000 Dong I paid and the 330,000 Dong I was offered for ‘express’ or the 530,000 Dong I was charged for the 15 hour ride in a sleeper between Hanoi and Da Nang. It seems the rates are rather ‘flexible’ but at least the music kicks in when we take such breaks with the song at the moment being a musical rendition of a ‘Summer Night’s Dream’.

The natives however, as myself, are starting to get restless but I do notice that the lady that has acted as our cabin steward has removed the sign from the outside of the train indicating our car and destination, ‘Saigon’.

This makes me reflect on some of what I have read and heard about the political correctness and the use of ‘Ho Chi Minh’ instead of Saigon in the north but here we are on a train leaving the north carrying a sign telling passengers we are headed for ‘Saigon’. I also open my wallet and confirm that my ticket uses the same word for my destination. I guess someone forgot to tell the bosses with the train department that someone changed the name of the southern capital in 1975. I also notice the further south we go, the less Vietnamese flags I see……

08:30

It seems we are finally entering the train station that serves ‘Saigon’ although you would never know it from the lack of signage or station signs. I guess they can’t make up their minds what to call it or the locals can’t quite come to terms with ‘Ho Chi Minh City’. Honestly the only thing that tells you are arriving that is different from the previous 23:30 minutes worth of stops is that at this stop, everyone is getting up and leaving the train. Even once you are on the station’s platform you have to look high in the sky at the top of the terminal to notice words that say ‘Saigon’.

As the sun is rising in the eastern sky and the heat of the city hits me as I climb from my Car 6, I can’t help but smile a sad smile and think……………..

Gooooood

Morning

VIETNAM !!!


Photo Galleries -

http://picasaweb.google.com/mysticsailor/ADayInTheMountainsOfDaNang

http://picasaweb.google.com/mysticsailor/DaNangToSaigonTrainTrips

http://picasaweb.google.com/mysticsailor/DaNangVietnamGrowthAndConstruction

http://picasaweb.google.com/mysticsailor/HoiAnVietnam

http://picasaweb.google.com/mysticsailor/ChinaBeachVietnam

Vietnam's President emphasises ties with Germany

President emphasises ties with Germany
11:07' 22/05/2007 (GMT+7)


VietNamNet Bridge - Vietnam attaches a great deal of importance to its relationship with Germany and highly values the role of Germany in the European Union and the world at large.

Those were the remarks made by State President Nguyen Minh Triet while holding talks with visiting German President Horst Koehler in Ha Noi on May 21.

The two Presidents held talks right after an official welcome ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace for President Koehler, his wife and a high-level delegation from Germany, marking the first visit to Vietnam by Koehler.

President Triet applauded the visit by his German counterpart, considering it an important event, which, he said, marked a new development in the relations between the two countries.

The Vietnamese state leader expressed his thanks for the sentiments and valuable assistance that the government and people of Germany have provided for Vietnam during its renovation and national construction process.

He went on to speak highly of cooperative projects initiated by Germany in the fields of poverty reduction, economic reform, education, health care, natural resources protection and sustainable development.

President Triet lauded Germany’s policy to enhance multifaceted cooperation with Vietnam, particularly economically and commercially.

He stressed that Vietnam and Germany boast huge potential for cooperation for the benefits of both countries, for peace, cooperation and development in the region and the world at large.

For his part, President Koehler spoke highly of the immense achievements made by the Vietnamese people during the country’s renewal process, and its open foreign policies.

He appreciated Vietnam’s role in Southeast Asia and the country’s policy on regional integration. He also congratulated Vietnam on its admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and affirmed that Germany wished to intensify its multifaceted relations with Vietnam.

The two sides went on to exchange views on regional and international issues of common concern, focusing on those relating to sustainable development, natural resources and environmental protection.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hanoi - A magical city

May 21, 2007 – Hanoi, Vietnam – Monday

Wow!!! What a city!

Where do I begin? Maybe with the lyrics of a song I hum sometimes when I travel, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…by U2” but it is pretty close to it.

I left Laos last night after being dropped off by another American, Ken Desportes, who is the leaf and blend manager for a tobacco company there in Laos. Great guy who has a couple of children, one being a boy who is about to graduate from an aviation training program in Australia.

After clearing immigration in Laos at their very modern airport, I made my way to the upper deck departure lounge where only a short time later we were being told we could board our flight to Hanoi. I had been under impression I would be flying on a Lao Airlines turboprop but as it turned out, it was a Vietnam Airlines Fokker 70, which is a 2 engine short range jet. Nice equipment I thought as I boarded.

I had barely got seated before safety instructions were being read by the Captain and as the engines were winding up, only a few minutes later we were taxing to the runway. I thought ‘wow’, this guy is a hurry and as we made a fast taxi to the end of the runway and turned into position and the pilot put the throttles forward I looked down at my watch and saw it had only been 6 minutes since we had first cranked the engines until the time we were beginning out takeoff roll!

As we flew down the runway and heavy vibration set into the aircraft which as we lifted off the runway and the gear left the concrete the vibration stopped. I can only assume it was some type of issue with the wheels or tires. As we made a hard bank to the right and headed north to Hanoi I couldn’t help but feel that in a previous life this guy had been a fighter pilot as the way he was flying this plane was not standard procedures for passenger airlines. Oh well I thought, this should be fun.

The flight ended as it began and after a quickly served bologna sandwich, we were informed we were making our descent into Hanoi and to fasten our seatbelts and put our seats in an upright position. I had barely enough time to complete my immigration and customs forms on this very short 50 minute flight but did wonder about the last question……”was I was carrying more than 300 grams of gold?”.

It was shortly after this that after what seemed like a faster than normal approach speed for a terminal area and a straight in approach, we were touching down and once again, the vibration shook the plane as we decelerated at Hanoi’s airport. It held together though and we taxied off the active runway.

On the ground, the de-planned and there was zero lines at the immigration counters as there seemed almost as many officials as passengers. I was the first at a counter and after a bit of scrutiny and what seemed a bit longer than normal process was stamped into the country. So far so good I thought…

The bags took a bit of time to get to the carousel but my bags were the first up the conveyor. Cool! Everything seems to be going as planned and with my rucksack slung over my shoulder I exited the customs area with no even a glance from the single official. The folks past the are were reasonable and other than one young man trying to take me into Hanoi in a new car, (he SWORE it was new or I did not have to pay although why this was important escaped me at the moment), I found the taxi stand easy enough and for $10, was ‘quickly’ being swished away into Hanoi.

I have to smile a bit when I use quickly as it was anything but. Although the car was new enough and appeared quite safe as did the very modern divided highway we entered, this guy insisted at driving at tuk-tuk speed. After about 10 minutes of this I politely asked him why he was going so slow and he told me it was because this road was very ‘dangerous’. Hmmmmm I thought, dangerous? Compared to what? Thailand’s roads as I smiled to myself.

Anyway. It was obvious that this guy at some time in the not to distant past had been driving motorcycles for a living as he used the technique of applying a bit of power, release, than again, release, again, etc. etc. that is the pattern of someone transitioning from motorbikes to cars in this part of the world.

We did eventually make into the city and what astounded me was just how good the roads were, how few cars there were and how amazingly dark the surrounding homes and buildings were.

Realizing it was a Sunday of course and knowing the value of electicity I could understand this from commercial structures but even appeared the buildings serving as apartments and home were mostly dark with an occasional light here and there.

When I saw a sign that said Hanoi was 26 kilometers ahead I asked him how long it took to get to the old quarter, my destination. His response was 40 minutes. Once again, doing the math quickly in my head and knowing we moving slow I still couldn’t figure out why it should take that much time. As it turned out it didn’t.

As we got closer and closer to out destination, the lights and traffic increased and yes he was right, the motorcycles swirling about seemed a bit dangerous driving in a manner that almost dared you to hit them.

In Thailand the driving style, although insane by western standards, ‘flows’ and gives. I compare driving there to water in a stream that encounters rocks and boulders in it….it simply shifts around them and continues on. Here in Vietnam it initially appears that driving is a ‘macho’ affair where playing chicken is a rite of passage.

The driver, or as his name card later explained, ‘Mr Dung’, told me it was the summer holidays from school and that all the men where now out on motorbikes doing the things men do out of school on their ‘wheels’ on a hot and humid May day.

As I had no clue where I was going to stay, I simply told him to drop me off at St. Joesph’s Cathedral in the Old City. I think the word ‘cathedral’ tripped him up and when I said ‘church’ and added ‘Hoan Kiem Lake’, that got immediate recognition and we were fine after that.

As desired, in front of a nice hotel on Church Street we stopped where I paid my $10 and immediately a porter leaded from the very nice and upscale hotel from across the street and made an effort to drab my bags. No, no, no I quickly explained and grabed my bag from him and proceeded down the street a few meters to the square where the very tired looking catholic church stood.

Standing here at the square and as I scanned my surroundings, I saw a couple of obvious backpackers coming my way, each with a thick guide book. I asked the young ladies if they knew an inexpensive but clean guest house near us and after looking in their books pointed me down one of the 4 streets that were options at that point.

As I made my way down the street, on the first street to the left I saw several lighted signs indicating either a ‘hotel’ or ‘hostel’. One caught my eye saying it was a ‘backpacker’s hotel. Perfect I thought.

As I entered the establishment I was immediately surrounded by smiling faces. Asking once again if the folks seated on the couch thought it was a good place to stay, they quickly indicated with beeming smiles it was ‘wonderful’.

OK. Sold. And after asking the really sweet and super friendly young girl behind the counter if they had any rooms/bunks, she proceeded to tell me my options. I chose a bunk in one of their ‘dorms’ that has turned out to be super clean and super comfortable.

The place I had stumbled into, once again by dumb luck, is apparently one the better low end places to stay and is run by a couple of really nice Australians. Their place, the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel, I discovered is one of the highes rated places in Hanoi to stay and I sit here and type these journal notes, and for those that might read them, it is the place to stay if you want great accommodations and a more than reasonable rate.

I immediately ran into 2 super nice guys in my dorm who were Norwegian and German. The German as it turned out was from the same state in Germany where I had been living and as are most of the folks in Baden-Wurtenberg, super friendly. They asked me to tag along with them as outside and around the city a party was being thrown for Ho Chi Minh’s birthday, founder and father of what is today Vietnam. Sort of a Vietnam version of Mao Tse Tung.

The next several hours were spent strolling around the lake and watching the evening festivities. Dancers and singers everywhere. Beautiful shows with 1000’s of smiling families watching the productions. Everywhere I looked and at everyone I looked at, my smile was returned with a warm and genuine smile and even an occasional ‘hello’ from a child on the back of this motorbike or that. Wow! This is really wonderful I thoughts, and as an American maybe a bit more than I deserved considering what the past and what we did to this amazingly beautiful city.

We ended up having a couple of beers at a lake side café during which we were forced to move under cover due to a very hard evening downpour. Our conversations were brisk and frank as anyone might suspect between a German and an American and having the required fencing about politics, history, travel, culture, etc., we established that we were all on the same wavelengths in our search for knowledge.

But as an American, you sure have to have some thick skin and take quite a few shots before you can get to this point. I don’t think it would be too pleasant as a 23 year old backpacker traveling the world after having just exited the US military from Iraq. Probably similar, but even harder than coming back from Vietnam in 1968.

The day ended with me on the top bunk in a dorm bed waking up in the morning after a really nice sleep. Sort of amazed how quiet it had been considering that there was probably 8 or so souls in the room, including a young Canadian lass on the top bunk across from me. The morning came and as usual I was up at 6AM and out the door after a quick shower, camera in hand and ready for what await me.

Strolling down the street heading for the lake I had walked around from last night, I was quickly encountering the morning routines of Hanoi’s locals, which appeared to be various forms of exercise from fast walking and stretching to ‘jazzerecise’. Everywhere, hounderds were out in the very early Sunday morning hours exercising their minds and bodies.

I continued taking photos of this and that and started to widen my area from the lake where I also discovered what was apparently the embassy district of the city as well as the high end shopping areas. Strolling past the Chinese, German and Italian embassies I was taken aback by a gold sign on one of the walls indicating this was the ‘Embassy of Palestine”. Palestine? Since when was Palestine a country? I guess here in ‘communist’ Vietnam it was apparently.

Later that morning I returned to the hostel and had a fantastic breakfast in which I had a very long conversation with a Swedish couple who were taking three weeks traveling about SE Asia combining their holiday with health research as part of their medical studies. They were really fun to talk to and after a bit discovered they were starting new careers as he had been an engineer and she a pharmacist. We were joking that in Sweden it makes more sense to go to school for ever instead of working as the government pays for as long as your grades are good. After suggesting a few routes in and out of the countries they were traveling to, we parted and I was once again walking down the street with Julian, my German friend.

It seemed this morning he had plans to head for the war museum and being German, he always had everything planned. I just smiled and said I would be happy to join him and we soon got into a pretty interesting discussion about language and culture, although we got side tracked on who established the German owned company ‘DHL’. He insisted it had always been German and even gave me the German words for what DHL meant. I was rather surprised (shocked actually) at this new information as I seem to have remembered a different version of who owned and who had started DHL but given his unshakeable and absolute belief in the correctness of his knowledge, I let it go....

We continued into the war museum after he pointed out the massive complex that was now the German embassy but at one time had been the East German (DDR) Embassy. It was quite impressive to say the least and maybe even as big as the Chinese embassy compound. I noticed that there was also an embassy for the EU here as well.

We entered the museum as you would suspect, not many things could be found there as an American that left you with any comfort level although I can honestly say these people seem to more interested in making money now than war and politics. But honestly, aren't most people really concerned with their families and education and health?

The museum as you might suspect had the exhibits and photos of great deeds and events of the heros of their war, with the French, the Americans and even the Chinese in 1979 (there was a war with China even after the end of the 'American War' as it is called here).

Julian seemed to be fascinated with the carnage that was on display and kept referring to it as 'art'. He was also quick to point out how the posters, banners and awards from the DDR's participation in that war and also stated that over 200,000 Vietnamese spoke fluent German as the best and the brightest from Vietnam were sent to the DDR during the war years to learn how to better fight the Americans. Hmmmmm I thought....seems my young friend here has a bit of a 'liberal' streak to him and thought it quite funny that folks here referred to him and his beard as 'Karl Marx'. In spite of what might be perceived as the lack of 'politically correctness' of many comments, it flowed off like water on a duck's back, as now, it just comes with being an American.

At lunch our fencing continued and he said I was probably one of those American 'conspiracy theorist' as well and believed in UFOs. Bingo! He was right on both points and that led to another hour and a half conversation in 2 different restaurants!

But deep down inside me I was smiling as I knew his English was improving by the minute and somewhere he had picked up an Aussie twang. As he had stated his future goal was to be a member of the German foreign service, I indulged him and his intellectual challenges. It was actually great fun and he had a super bright mind.

We headed back to the guesthouse and after a shower I joined the folks for the Sunday afternoon 'kegger' of free beer and BBQ. That also turned out to be a highlight of the trip so far in Hanoi and got engaged in several wide ranging topics with a wide variety of people from everywhere in the world.

With a Canadian lady I talked politics and surfing. With the Aussie owners we talked business and history and in one hour from a 25 year old Aussie music student, I learned more about heavy metal and hard rock than I could ever imagine learning elsewhere. It was great!

If you want to have some fun in Hanoi, check out the Hanoi Backpackers Hostel .

"Beer, so much more than a breakfast drink!"

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Central Vietnam EZ lure investors with top incentives


New investors in central Chu Lai Open Economic Zone (EZ) will be given preferential treatment as an incentive to invest there, the Quang Nam province government announced Wednesday.

Following a newly established policy to woo investment sources, the Chu Lai EZ said it would give the highest incentives to investors as well as to apply liberal management policies that follow international rules.

Site clearance would be completely taken care of by the zone, and wast water treatment would be subsidized in an effort to facilitate startups.

For projects which employ over 1,000 laborers in select sectors, Chu Lai Open EZ’s management authority will allocate areas where the infrastructure has already been developed.

Investors are to be exempt from land-use fees during their lease period.

The local government will assist 50 percent of training cost for investors whose projects require training.

Additionally, special preferential policies on tax, finance and banking services are also on offer for projects in the zone.

Chu Lai Open EZ established in 2002 - the nation’s first such zone, has seen good response to its calls for domestic and foreign investment over the past few years of operation, according to the zone’s management board.

It has just licensed three local tourism projects worth over $100 million in zone, all of which got off the ground this year.

The first five-star resort is to be developed by Cadasa Research and Application Information and Technology Joint Venture Co, worth some $37 million.

In the second project, Mai Doan Joint Venture Company will spend $50 million to develop 50ha in the zone into a high-end resort of 220 rooms, a golf course, and a marine recreation area.

The third resort of $15 million is invested by Quoc Viet Software Joint Venture Company.

The zone is home to a total 58 projects with a total registered capital of $531 million, of them 21 projects are operational, and 21 others are under construction.

Covering 18,000ha-site, Chu Lai EZ is designed to create an open investment and business environment compatible with international practices, said provincial authorities.

In its first stage, the zone includes Ky Ha Port, Chu Lai Airport, and the Tam Hiep and North Chu Lai industrial zones and urban areas.

To attract more investment into the zone, the province has poured VND500 billion (US$31 million) into upgrading infrastructure and creating favorable conditions for investors to receive investment licenses promptly.

In addition, the province has stepped up investment promotion and marketing for the zone.

Reported by Ho Trong – Compiled by Dong Ha