Three Words to Describe: Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, and New Zealand

When I began this trip I decided I would select three words that best described each country I visited. Initially I was going to wait until the end of the trip and compile them all into one post, but I have decided to do this immediately upon departing each country, as the reasons for selecting those particular words will be fresh in my mind. So, here goes for the countries I have visited to date:


  1. Industrious (With the possible exception of Hanoi, people were bustling about everywhere I went – busy selling, buying, doing. Not surprising, since Vietnam is currently the fastest growing economy in the world)
  2. Emerging (rather than poor)
  3. Stuck (There is severe mistrust between the multitude of ethnic groups that inhabit Vietnam and abiding oppression of the non-Viet peoples by the government; there is distinct dislike between North and South Vietnamese – I heard over and over again from northerners that they wouldn’t want their daughters to marry a slow, stupid southerner and from southerners I heard repeatedly how northerners couldn’t be trusted; and there is severe corruption in the country at the government level. The result is that Vietnam is identity-less – the people themselves do not yet have a feeling for who they are as a nationality, much less a national identity. They are well and truly stuck.)


  1. Lush (Greenery and lush jungle was everywhere)
  2. Spiritual (The most beautiful temples I have seen anywhere in the world)
  3. Beautiful (A feast for the eyes in a small island that has such diversity – dense jungle, towering active volcanoes, colorful offshore reefs, and lovely beaches)


  1. Corrupt (corruption that trickles down from the very top levels of government to the most insignificant worker – perhaps understandable when viewed in light of the minuscule annual average per capita income of $290)
  2. Westernized (Everywhere I found five star hotels and excellent, modern facilities. Street children, in an attempt to get me to buy something, would always try to engage me in conversation, asking, “Where you from?” I would reply that I am from the U.S. and they in turn would say, “Oh, U.S., A-number one! USA, capital Washington, DC, USA have 50 states.” Everyone I met, from the youngest child to the vendor on the street, to the top executive of the hotel, wants to emulate the U.S.)
  3. Recovering (Cambodia has been at war for most of its existence, with some of the worst atrocities having occurred during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge reign of terror. Although the Khmer Rouge were driven from the capitol of Phnom Penh in 1978, the last vestiges of the Khmer Rouge did not surrender until 1998, thus it is not hard to see that this country is just now beginning to recover from a devastating history of violence and ethnic cleansing. Although UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped to restore some semblance of normalcy in Cambodia, everyone I spoke to with regard to the political situation told me emphatically that Cambodia is not a free country and that they wish to be free like the U.S.)


  1. Exotic (There are still things in Thailand that stun the senses – things that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world)
  2. Opulent (At times I thought if I saw one more gold leaf-covered temple my eyes would burn out. The people in Thailand have a high standard of living and prices are exceedingly low)
  3. Decadent (Unfortunately, Thailand also has its dark side. The government closes its eyes to the sex trade, which includes adolescent girls and women kidnapped from Burma to be sold into the flesh trade and discarded or sent back to Burma when they become infected with AIDS, where they will most likely be shot. Scams abound in Thailand, with greedy tourists becoming the victims of touts who spin stories about the money that can be made by buying gems in Thailand and selling them in the U.S.)


  1. Friendly (Without a doubt, the friendliest country I have visited so far. Nary a person said a cross word to me and every person I met, to a fault, was considerate, helpful, and smiling.)
  2. Expensive (Zowie – couldn’t even buy a bowl of soup for less than $9 New Zealand, which is about $6.50 US. A typical lunch was around $22 US.)
  3. Stunning (Gorgeous scenery everywhere I went, with great diversity – the north island is so very green and the south island has those majestic Southern Alps that can be spectacularly crossed on the TranzAlpine Express.

I am in Australia now and haven’t begun to think about my three words for this country. That may be more difficult than the rest up to this point because, like the US, Australia is such a huge country and it may well be impossible to nail it down to only three words. We will see….

1 thought on “Three Words to Describe: Vietnam, Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, and New Zealand”

  1. I have been to Vietnam, and understand what you are trying to put here. It is not only North and South that dislike each other. Even the central part was a little indifferent whenever I talked about North Vietnam i.e. Hanoi.


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