Just returned from another motorcycle tour of Vietnam’s mountainous interior, along the Ho Chi Minh trail at the Cambodian border, for three days. People get rich here with coffee, and replacement their traditional but drafty wooden houses with gaudily ornamented concrete ones, sometimes right in the middle of the village next to a bamboo barn.
The scars from the American War are still visible; some hills are still bare after being bombed with napalm and agent orange. But the Vietnamese are very effective at illegally destroying their own environment – there are stacks of logged trees and clearcut and burned mountainsides everywhere. Those coffee plantations need space I suppose.
The border to Cambodia is still off-limits to foreigners, but the locals on their Chinese-built open motor tractors farm every available space. There are few big towns, and those few are very unattractive. There is very little luxury. But the locals are friendly as ever and gawk at the big foreigner; they aren’t getting many of those up there.