Our article naming conventions say to use the most common English-language name for a place as the destination guide article name.
Saigon was renamed to Ho Chi Minh City, but it's still widely known as Saigon, and many guides, as well as internal tourism offices, use the name.
I don't think Ho Chi Minh City is the right name to use. --Evan 12:17, 31 Dec 2003 (PST)
Most locals will refer to the city as Sai Gon. Ho Chi Minh City (Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh) is to cumbersome and is easily confused with the person. The airport abbreviation for Ho Chi Minh city when I at the Taipei airport was SGN (Sai Gon). Also bring mosquito repellent and itch creme. You'll need them. -- Minh
I think that's actually two different concepts. It seems to me that Saigon is not just the old name, but it only refers to certain area of expanded Ho Chi Minh City. --22.214.171.124 13:08, 31 May 2010 (EDT)
Standard names: to combine or not to combine syllables?
Sai Gon or Saigon? Da Lat or Dalat? I think we need to come up with a standard for how to spell these places. My preference would be to use the combined named for English ("Hanoi") and then separate the syllables for the Vietnamese ("Hà Nội"). Jpatokal 23:50, 15 Oct 2005 (EDT)
I think there are only 3 places in Vietnam that are commonly in "westernized" spelling: Hanoi, Saigon, Dalat. Even if it comes to famous Nha Trang or Da Nang, the seperated version is common usage. The language that yielded those place names does never combine the syllables if it is not a foreign word. The "western" spelling is derived from a certain form of ignorance to the indigenous culture and dates back to colonial times. Moreover, there is no apparent advantage to reading or understanding if the name is spelled combined. Should we take an error as the basis for a new rule? Let's not have Wikitravel continue this tradition, but promote a more respectful approach to the country's language: Separate the syllables in every English name, add the tone marks in the Vietnamese one. --Ront 06:02, 18 Oct 2005 (EDT)
I'm fine with the suggested policy, although I'd suggest that Danang also should be written together (see eg. Danang's official site). The 'colonial oppression' interpretation is a bit much though — Vietnamese was previously written in Chinese characters, and once free from their own oppressors, the Chinese decided to have romanized Chinese written together ("Beijing"), not apart ("Bei Jing"). Writing Vietnamese in Roman characters, on the other hand, was imposed by the French!
It's not about 'colonial oppression', but our ignorance. That's also the reason why I do not criticise the indeed ingenious work of Alexandre de Rhodes and the like. But they decided not to contract the syllables. Pinyin for Chinese is Pinyin for Chinese and a different topic. And the Vietnamese romanization is already there and decided the other way round. It's not our task to invent a new romanization, but to simplify the existing one. I think leaving out the diacritical marks in Wikitravel-English is simplifying enough. There is nothing bad about the existing system, so otherwise we should use it correctly and not degrade to western slang "corrections". So I still think: Do not combine syllables, not in Hanoi, Saigon, Dalat, Danang or Hochiminh, Rachgia, Ninhbinh. Instead it should be Ha Noi, Sai Gon, Da Lat,.... --Ront 07:18, 18 Oct 2005 (EDT)
I am Vietnamese and since I started surfing the Internet, I've found difficulties with foreign invested name like Saigon, Hanoi, Dalat, Danang... I agree that they are not written in correct Vietnamese format, but historically very familiar with foreigners. Hence, this is an issue of history, and thus because we are talking of travel, we should try to use the most common and recent formats, that's Sai Gon, Ha Noi, Da Lat...
I'm not entirely convinced the current regions make sense. Should "South" and "Mekong Delta" be rolled into one, and should "Central Highlands" be moved into just "Highlands", as eg. Sapa isn't "central" by any definition? Jpatokal 09:28, 31 Jan 2006 (EST)
Hi Jpatokal, I agree with you, though one suggestion I do have: Why not leave "Central Highlands" and add "Northern Highlands" to do justice to Sa Pa and the surroundings? Both regions are unique and very different, their only common aspect being the geological quality of "Highlands". --Ront 10:09, 31 Jan 2006 (EST)
Certainly merging the Delta into South makes sense, but are the "Northern Highlands" much of a region as a travel destination? Other than Sapa and DBP what is there? If we can gather enough info, than we can make it a "Wikitravel ad-hoc region", but in most guidebooks the entire north is rolled into one. And the Central Highlands are definitely a region of their own, culturally and geographically. -- Paul Richter
You can easily spend a month travelling the Northern Highlands, provided you are not only going on an Open-Tour-bus to Sa Pa and DBP. First, there is the area around Bac Ha with its flower H'mong villages. Next, consider Lai Chau, which is not only the former provincial capital but the origin of amazing travel to surrounding areas, e.g. Sin Ho with its unique mountainous scenery (In my opinion this was even more impressing than Sa Pa). Third, Son La is a nice place for a short stopover. Fourth, Mai Chau might be the only opportunity for the hasty to encounter ethnic minorities. So we got a lot here, and: it is definitely as or even more different from the red delta Viet culture as the Central Highlands are from the coastal regions. You cannot do justice to it by having it in the same context as Ha Noi or Ninh Binh. Moreover, a lot of travellers do not go there if they are on a tight itinerary, but almost nobody would miss out on Ha Noi. I consider Wikitravel as being a project of its own and not a clone of Lonely Planet and the like. Even if they do give some inspiration, they shouldn't be something like a standard for us. By the way, the reliable Rough Guide is separating the "Far North" from the lowland-North. -- Ront 05:08, 1 Feb 2006 (EST)
Cities . . . I have found in my travels in South Vietnam, that some cities have been moved or renamed. My first experience with this was when I hired a driver to take me to Song Be. I was stationed there during the war and wanted to see the sites (it's there, but not in the same place). I believe some cities that were to friendly to the Americans, and south Vietnam's army, were literly wiped off the map . . . it would be very helpful to list the changes. In the near future many vets will want to travel back to their old familar cities . . . This would be a great resource and I'm sure many vets will be greatful. Also I think it will help not cause some veterans bad feelings and thoughts about the friends they may have left behind in these cities (both vietnamese and American.)I know I will, and have been, taking tour groups back to Vietnam; I intend on resuming my tour groups soon; And this kind of help would be great.
Please let me know if there are current maps that show the changes.
Thank you very much in advance; From a disabled Vietnam veteran, who wants to help; Both the x-soldier, and the Vietnamese people.
Well, in fact, after Vietnam was reunified in 1975, many Southern regional names, such as provinces and cities were restored to their original names (prior to the birth of South VN government). But there have been many changes also, due to regional divisions. Your issue is a great.. I will write a list of changes of regional names in Vietnam.
Whoever wrote the respect section seems to have a real grudge against much of the country. When I travelled there we found everyone to be really nice and friendly. The fact that we were from Australia who participated in the war never came up at all. The person who wrote the section really seems to think otherwise. I think it should be rewritten.
Cities and OD's
In the process of drawing the Vietnam map I was struck by the lack of a National Park listed in ODs. Surely Cuc Phuong at least should be there as one of the nine? I suggest replacing Vung Tau (which is a town not an OD in any case). Also there are 11 cities listed. We need to cull two and I suggest Da Nang and Can Tho. --Burmesedays 10:38, 28 December 2009 (EST)
just realised that My Son is also missing from the ODs. Suggest Mui Ne goes from the OD's and is replaced with My Son. --Burmesedays 01:59, 29 December 2009 (EST)
In the cities section, the destinations are more than 9. Please limit the number of destinations to 9. - SnappyHip 19:38, 24 January 2009 (UTC)
Yes, that is the exact point I made above which emerged when I was drawing the map. Sadly nobody has commented on the proposed changes. I will give it another 24 hours and if no comments are forthcoming, do as proposed.--Burmesedays 22:04, 24 January 2010 (EST)
Pardon my intrusion - the main page states that it is possible to get visa at the Laos/Vietnam border. Is this a reliable information? Can anyone confirm for sure that it's possible?
Alas it's not possible - see the new information on the main page. RedKite 08:52, 29 August 2010 (EDT)
Background Notes to Sort Out and Publish Later
Here are some background notes to sort out and publish later:
Vietnam on Friday started the first phase of a joint plan with former enemy the United States to clean up environmental damage leftover from the chemical defoliant Agent Orange, a lasting legacy from the Vietnam War.
The work concentrates on a former U.S. military base in central Vietnam where the herbicide was stored during the war that ended more than three decades ago. It marks the first time the two sides will work together on the ground to clean up contamination.
A statement Friday by the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said Vietnam's Ministry of Defense will begin sweeping areas around the Danang airport for unexploded ordnance. It will then work with the U.S. Agency for International Development to remove dioxin from soil and sediment at the site, which is expected to begin early next year.
U.S. aircraft sprayed millions of gallons (liters) of the chemical over South Vietnam during the war to destroy guerrilla fighters' jungle cover.
Contamination from dioxin — a chemical used in Agent Orange that has been linked to cancers and birth defects — has remained a thorny topic between the former foes as relations have thrived in other areas. Washington was slow to respond to the issue, arguing for years that more research was needed to show that the wartime spraying caused health problems and disabilities among Vietnamese.
"As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked while visiting Vietnam last October, the dioxin in the ground here is 'a legacy of the painful past we share,' but the project we will undertake here, as our two nations work hand-in-hand to clean up this site, is 'a sign of the hopeful future we are building together,'" said Virginia Palmer, the U.S. Embassy's charge d'affaires, in a speech during the kickoff ceremony.
The $32 million project will remove dioxin from 71 acres (29 hectares) of land at the Danang site where a 2009 study by the Canadian environmental firm Hatfield Consultants found chemical levels that were 300 to 400 times higher than international limits.
Two other former U.S. air bases in the southern locations of Bien Hoa and Phu Cat also have been identified as hotspots where the defoliant was mixed, stored and loaded onto planes during the war, allowing spilled dioxin to seep into the soil and water systems.
The war ended on April 30, 1975, when northern communist forces seized control of Saigon, the U.S.-backed former capital of South Vietnam. The country was then reunified under a one-party communist government.
Vietnam's Red Cross estimates up to 3 million Vietnamese have suffered health-related problems from Agent Orange exposure. The U.S. has said the actual number is far lower and that other health and environmental factors are likely to blame for many illnesses and disabilities.
After Agent Orange, Where's the Next Nuclear Weak Link? Imagine a country where corruption is rampant, infrastructure is very poor, or the quality of security is in question. Now what if that country built a nuclear power plant?
It may sound alarming but that is what could happen in many developing countries which are either building nuclear power plants or considering doing so - a prospect that raises serious questions after Japan's experience handling a nuclear crisis.
A trove of U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party provide colorful and sometimes scary commentary on the conditions in developing nations with nuclear power aspirations.
In a cable from the U.S. embassy in Hanoi in February 2007, concerns are raised about storing radioactive waste in Vietnam, which has very ambitious plans to build nuclear power plants. Le Dinh Tien, the vice minister of science and technology, is quoted as saying the country's track record of handling such waste was "not so good" and its inventory of radioactive materials "not adequate."
In Azerbaijan, a cable written in November 2008 describes the man who would have the responsibility for regulation of a proposed nuclear program, Kamaladdin Heydarov, as "ubiquitous, with his hands in everything from construction to customs."
"He is rumored to have made his fortune while heading up the State Customs Service, and is now heavily invested in Baku's rampant construction boom," says the cable, which followed a meeting in Baku between Heydarov, the minister of emergency situations, and then U.S. Special Envoy Frank Mermoud.
Even in India, which already has a well developed nuclear industry and plans to build 58 more reactors, eyebrows can be raised. The security at one nuclear facility visited by a U.S. delegation in November 2008 is described in one cable as only "moderate" with security officers performing bag and vehicle checks that weren't thorough, a lack of cameras in key areas, and some parts having very little security at all.
In response to the disclosures, a Vietnam government official said that the quotes attributed to Tien were "completely ungrounded" and that the country manages radioactive waste in compliance with local laws and recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
An Azeri official said the government had not taken a decision to construct a nuclear reactor but instead had a plan to conduct a feasibility study into the construction of a nuclear research reactor, which was the subject of talks with the IAEA and had been put off until 2012 from this year. Heydarov could not be reached for comment.
A senior official at India's atomic energy department, A.P. Joshi, said it hadn't previously heard of the security doubts and therefore couldn't comment on them.
The anecdotes illustrate risks ranging from corruption to poor oversight and bad infrastructure. The dangers have been thrown into stark relief by two shattering events half a world apart - the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and the popular unrest that has brought unprecedented political turmoil to the Middle East.
This helps to explain why leaders of the Group of Eight nations late last month sought more stringent international rules on nuclear safety.
The speed with which the operator of the Japanese nuclear plant lost control, and the subsequent meltdowns of three reactors, ensuing explosions and overheating of fuel rod storage pools, were a wake-up call for nuclear regulators.
If in a modern, stable democracy, there could be apparently lax regulatory oversight, failure of infrastructure, and a slow response to a crisis from authorities, then it begs the question of how others would handle a similar situation.
"If Japan can't cope with the implications of a disaster like this," said Andrew Neff, a senior energy analyst at economic analysis and market intelligence group IHS Global Insight, "then in some ways I think it's a legitimate exercise to question whether other less-developed countries could cope."
REGULATION AND CORRUPTION
For many, rule No.1 for a safe nuclear program is a regulator with at least some semblance of independence from government or corporate influence.
Critics worry that authoritarian governments will not tolerate an authority with even pretensions to partial independence or transparency of decision-making. While nuclear authorities in the West have also faced criticism for being too close to the industry they regulate, they are at least open to media and lawmaker scrutiny.
Rampant corruption in some developing countries could also lead to corners being cut in everything from plant construction to security, critics say.
For Najmedin Meshkati, a professor at the University of Southern California, the dilemma for regulators in authoritarian countries can be summed up by a saying in his native Persian: "the knife blade doesn't cut its handle."
"If you have a government regulator overseeing the building of a plant by a government utility," said the nuclear expert, "then there is no way the knife will ever cut its handle."
Samuel Ciszuk, a senior analyst at IHS Energy, cited the example of Saudi Arabia, which was reported this month to be planning to build 16 nuclear power reactors by 2020 at a cost of more than $100 billion.
"In countries where you have an authoritarian, personalized power system in place, the very idea of a completely independent oversight body is anathema," he said.
A spokesman for King Abdullah City for Atomic and Reusable Energy, the Saudi center for nuclear research and policy, did not respond to phone and email requests seeking comment.
Led by the increasingly hardline President Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan is an interesting case where poor regulation and corruption meet. It ranked joint 134th out of 178 countries in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.
In the meeting with Mermoud, Heydarov said his ministry had been given the task of researching the regulations needed for possible future nuclear energy plants in Azerbaijan and that the government was considering a move to nuclear power in the next 20-30 years, according to the cable.
When asked about its nuclear plans, an Azeri official sought to play down its nuclear ambitions, saying that the nation does not need additional energy resources.
"There is a plan to conduct a feasibility study on construction of a nuclear research reactor in Azerbaijan," said Siyavush Azakov, the head of the state agency on nuclear and radiological activity regulation. "Initial plan was to conduct a feasibility study together with IAEA experts by the end of this year, but then it was extended till next year," he said.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND POWER
While there is general agreement that modern reactors are far safer than the older ones like those at the Fukushima plant, there are always going to be dangers.
The critical problem in Japan, for example, was the loss of the main power at the plant and then the failure, probably because of the tsunami, of back-up generators.
With brown-outs still a problem in many developing countries, power could be a very big issue.
Vietnam would rely on a 500 kv transmission line that transmits electricity from the southern to the northern parts of the country as an offsite-power source, Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission Vice Chairman Le Van Hong said in response to a query from then U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioner Jeffrey Merrifield, according to the 2007 cable. However, Hong acknowledged that "power redundancy issues were important" to address with nuclear power plant designers.
Poor roads would be a problem if a nuclear plant was crippled and urgently needed emergency support.
Vietnam, which has one small research reactor in operation currently but plans to bring eight nuclear power plants online between 2020 and 2030, has one main north-south highway and a decent network of provincial roads.
But the scene on the roads consists of a mixed procession of trucks, buses, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, water buffalo, stray dogs, ducks, children going to and from school and the occasional horse-drawn cart - and that's on a normal day. In an emergency it could, of course, be more chaotic. There is a north-south train, but it's slow, old and narrow gauge.
"Do you plan on bringing an emergency generator by truck?" asked Jordi Roglans-Ribas, deputy head of the nuclear engineering division at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. "Or do you need to account for damage to infrastructure? And what is the condition of your infrastructure to begin with?"
"If the roads are not very well developed to begin with, then I would presume that the emergency response plan would have to account for that," he added.
Storage of radioactive materials, whether from hospital medical waste, industrial processes, or from spent fuel rods at nuclear plants remains a problem around the world.
The Vietnamese vice minister Tien was quoted in the U.S. diplomatic cable saying the country must create a nuclear waste storage site and "improve controls over the imports and exports of radioactive materials."
Nathan Sage, the Pacific Disaster Center's Southeast Asia program adviser, says he is concerned about how Vietnam will handle its spent nuclear fuel. "Where are they going to store the used fuel?" he asked. "More advanced countries can't even get that right, so how's Vietnam going to?"
However, the Vietnamese official, Tan Hau Ngoc, told Reuters that nuclear fuel at its current research facility at Dalat is being used in accordance with a safeguards agreement the country has with the IAEA.
Ngoc, who is deputy head of the department of international cooperation at the Ministry of Science and Technology, said the country has a radioactive waste storage plan for the years to 2030 and a vision until 2050, including locations for the storage and burial of the waste in a way that "must ensure the safety of people and the environment."
Ngoc also said that the feasibility study for the first of the nuclear power plants has yet to be completed. "Vietnam is presently in the process of putting together the report with the criteria that maximum safety requirements for a nuclear power plant with modern technology and controls must be met."
A lack of knowledge and nuclear engineering skills presents its own risks in many parts of the world.
"Many people now believe that so-called third generation of nuclear power will be more safe. It's wrong," said Pham Duy Hien, one of Vietnam's leading nuclear scientists and a former director of the Dalat Nuclear Institute. "The safety of a nuclear power plant does not depend on the equipment, the technical aspects or the design, but mostly on the people who are running the plant."
When asked about Vietnam's plans for eight reactors in a decade, Hien said: "This is mad."
"We don't have the manpower, we don't have the knowledge, we don't have the experience," he said.
"THE FEAR IS REAL"
After decades of inertia following the accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, industry representatives say the needs of an energy-hungry world have made a massive expansion of nuclear power inevitable.
According to World Nuclear Association data from just before Fukushima, there were 62 reactors under construction, mainly in Russia, India and China, with 158 more on order or planned and another 324 proposed. To put those numbers into context, in 2008 there were only 438 reactors in operation globally, unchanged from 1996.
The main tool to ensure safe adoption of nuclear power by new countries is the IAEA, whose mission is to "promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies."
But the IAEA's main drawback is it is not a regulator and can only provide advice and guidance to aspiring nuclear powers, not halt projects or enforce sanctions. Its apparent impotence at Fukushima underlined the weakness.
Officials at the IAEA declined to comment for this story, but in a June 1 report the agency said Japan had underestimated the risk of tsunamis, adding that "nuclear regulatory systems should address extreme events adequately... and should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved." [ID:nL3E7H1086]
Those in the business of nuclear power insist that Fukushima changes nothing.
At the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference in Chicago in April, industry representatives spent time acknowledging the public concerns raised by Fukushima, but also blaming the media for blowing the disaster out of proportion.
"We must acknowledge the fear is real and deal with it," said Richard Myers of the Nuclear Energy Institute, before going on to attack the "toxic misinformation that we've been exposed to by some of the media."
Ian Hore-Lacy, director of public communications at the World Nuclear Association, rejected suggestions of improper behavior by the regulator in Japan and said he did not see any new questions being raised as a result of the disaster, for developing countries or those that already have nuclear power.
"I don't think Fukushima raises any new issues," he said. "It just highlights what's already happening."
While technical issues are a challenge in many countries, for some the black swan could be geopolitical.
Turmoil of the kind sweeping north Africa and the Middle East could affect the security of power plants and nuclear fuel - which some fear could be turned into weapons in case of a coup or if they fell into the hands of terrorists.
"It's fair to say that political risk will likely be scrutinized much more harshly in the future," said Ian Maciulis, a Paris-based nuclear risk management consultant for the JLT Global Nuclear Practice Group. "To be honest, it's not the technological issue that scars me."
Some of these organizations take issue with the economic and political aspects of globalization as they fear that economic interests either subvert the nation state in its ability to protect civilians from economic exploitation, or support instead of remove governments that violate the human rights of civilians. The central question of this aspect is whether such governments and officials should be merely removed or assassinated. However when violations against civilians have continued for more than 48 hours without a timeout (many decades for example) the targeted killing of maimers is more than warranted and must be scaled up to an industrial scale. The number of officials who must be killed may already be in the millions but failure to kill them would constitute an evil. They must be killed. Finally, billions of dollars in assets and currencies are exchanged daily around the globe by electronic means at virtually no cost. They must pay.