L.A. Times
by Betty Martin

Vietnam: Land of the Ascending Dragon
Vietnam Shares Beauty, History

Viewers get a rare portrait of Vietnam, a beautiful and intriguing country with much to attract American tourists and veterans, who are met with warmth and enthusiasm.

Maps and a narration filled with myths, legends and ancient and modern history take viewers from the northern capital of Hanoi on the Hong (Red) River Delta, which opens onto the Tonkin Gulf, south to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and the Mekong River Delta. Conversations with the people and reminders of the legacy of foreign occupation, along with geographical and climatic conditions, help explain cultural differences between north and south Vietnam.

A tour of Hanoi opens with a Tet holiday festival and images of rice cultivation along the delta. There are scenes of Hanoi University with a discussion of the influence of Confucius on education; the historic Long Bien Bridge across the Hong river; the Thong Nhat (Metropole) Hotel; the infamous "Hanoi Hilton," where American prisoners of war were held, the opera house, the French Governor's Palace, and the burial site of "Uncle Ho" (Ho Chi Minh) in Ba Dinh Square. Viewers hear the story of his life illustrated with old film clips.

A scenic journey over the cloud covered Hai Van Pass between Hue and Da Nang in central Vietnam takes viewers to Da Nang's Cham Museum, which houses relics from the 2nd-Century Kingdom of Champa; to Marble Mountain, honeycomed with cave shrines, and to the beautiful Huyen Khong Grotto that served as a field hospital during the war.

A tour of Hue, along the Perfume River, includes pagodas, the Golden Buddha and the Nguyen Dynasty Citadel, a city within a city. Viewers attend a traditional musical show and watch a performance of water puppets.

North of Hue, a series of tunnels called Vinh Moc reveal where Vietnamese refugees hid during the war.

In Ho Chi Minh City, viewers see war relics such as artillery and old uniforms and visit Madame Dal's Bibliotheque, an exclusive restaurant housed in her former law office.

The narrator covers such things as Ho Chi Minh City's economy, religion, fashions, and artisans and artists. Other stops include Chinatown, the Ben Thanh hotel (formerly the Rex) and the Dong Khoi (formerly the Continental), where foreign guests can stay again.

Seattle Times
by Delores Tarzan Ament

Seattle Times Travel Review

Vietnam evokes many things for Americans. Rarely do they include vacation plans. A new travel video on the country suggests it may be time to change our thinking.

Producer and director Janet Gardner shows Vietnam as a country filled with settings of pure enchantment, and people busy healing the scars of war as they build new businesses and new lives. The long crescent of the land on the edge of the South China Sea has recovered enough to be the world's third largest exporter of rice, through it remains among the world's poorest countries.

Gardner's look at Vietnam is intelligent and thoughtful, balanced between political history and tourist draws such as a bewitching performance of water puppets, complete with fireworks and a fire-breathing dragon.

One feels the breath of history as she reviews Vietnam's long centuries of resisting foreign invaders, and shows a quick history of Ho Chi Minh, who rose as a leader against French colonialism.

Even those who never plan to visit Southeast Asia may find this video irresistible for its look down the famous tunnels, where thousands of Vietnamese lived to survive American bombing.

Despite widespread bombing, much in Vietnam is ancient. But some attractions are new. A Women's Museum in Ho Chi Minh City celebrates the heroism of individual women - "long-hair heroes" - in many past eras.

But the newest draw could prove to be Vietnam's most profitable: Vietnam's first international golf resort, under construction last year as this video was being filmed.


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