Students and professors from the University of Montana learn about how people are dealing with life and livelihoods under dynamic conditions

Archive for January 30, 2011

Tourists Wanted

January 16, 2011

Story By Bryan Zimmerman

Photos By Kevin Radley

Coconut trees run along the length of the beach, shading those who have found their comfort. The sound of the waves crashing into the sand is like a mythical creature as the water laps at your feet. The sun glistens on the ocean as its vibrant blue body seamlessly blends into the horizon. Such a spectacular scene is one we all dream of yet its location is one that is not heavily visited.

Phu Quoc Island is a tear-shaped land mass located 45 kilometers off the western coast of Vietnam. It runs 50 kilometers from north to south and is home to the most gorgeous beaches I have ever seen.

Vietnam has a rapidly growing economy, especially in the industrial sector, and while the country’s growth in tourism has certainly spiked since the American-Vietnamese war, it is a relatively small part of the country’s income.

Vietnam has awe inspiring scenery, whether it manifests itself in densely packed mangrove forests, cryptic expanses of melaleuca, or glistening stretches of pearl white beaches. Many people overlook what Vietnam has to offer as far as tourism goes. It is not heavily advertised, I had no idea these beautiful places existed in the country until I came and saw them for myself.

My visit to Vietnam took place during the dry season, which lasts from December to April, and is also the peak of the tourist season. While I did see many tourists in the cities, visiting monuments, war museums and remnants, the beaches at Phu Quoc were sparsely covered with people. The majority of the people I saw were indeed foreigners but I was expecting a scene from spring break Cancun. I’m not saying I was disappointed, I would prefer to have more of the beach to myself, but I was shocked that a place such as this would have so few tourists.

Vietnam is truly a diamond in the rough in the tourism industry. Not only is it beautiful, but your money goes quite a long way with around three times the purchasing power with the US. Dollar. While the rest of the world is in a hurry to go to places like Fiji, Jamaica, or Mazatlan, I’ll wait for the just as scenic, and far less crowded beaches of Vietnam.

The Climate Change Challenge

January 16, 2011

Story by Hailey Graf

Photos by Kevin Radley

The motto of Vietnam is “Independence- Freedom- Happiness.”  And, this country has fought for these ideals throughout history.  The Vietnamese people have repeatedly faced war, famine, and economic crisis.  Only in the last 30 years has Vietnam known peace and prosperity.  After all these trials, how can Vietnam face the possible devastation of climate change?

Vietnam, especially the Mekong Delta, is flat and low-lying.  With the expected one meter sea lever rise, much of their current coastline will to disappear.  Thousands of acres of agricultural land and homes will be lost.

Sitting on the bus, driving though Can Tho, I have a high-speed view of Vietnam.  We are passing rice fields, newly constructed buildings, markets, and schools.  I am very impressed with the people of Vietnam.  I have faith in them.  In my time here, I have seen nothing but hope in the eyes of everyone I meet.  Vietnam is a country that faces forward, embraces the future, and is not hindered by the past.  As one professor from Can Tho University told me, “Vietnamese people know how to adapt. They can face climate change.”  And, I believe him.

As climate change progresses, so will Vietnam.  They are a very adaptable and resourceful people. Vietnam has faced many challenges in its history.  Climate change is just the next challenge.  They will face it and conquer it just like all the others.

A Veg-Head in Vietnam

January 15, 2011

Story By Monica Lomahukluh

Photos by Kevin Radley

As a vegetarian it’s hard to find a fantastic cuisine in Missoula, Montana.  The basic restaurants may not even have a vegetarian option.  Most markets carry only a limited amount of items for vegetarians.  Most of my meals come from home–cooked vegetarian recipes because no one can live solely off of grilled cheese with a side of tomato soup.  Now however, my taste buds call Vietnam paradise.

While traveling throughout Vietnam, I have experienced the best curry, fruit and vegetables of my lifetime.  The culture embraces vegetarianism as being a pure soul through Buddhism.  Although most of the people love fish, pork, chicken, and many other types of meat along with vegetables they try to offset the balance by being vegetarian only on the 1st and 15th during the lunar months.  Most monks are vegetarian, as Buddhism teaches a refrain from the act of killing. At times, the religion sees the use of pesticides and tilling as indirect killing and an unnecessary taking of life.

My experience in Vietnam has been amazing.  The country cooks tofu in so many different ways that it blows my mind.  The people are true artists with every meal I have been served.  I have never seen a culture so thoughtful of the presentation of meals.  Every piece of food has a balanced place on the plate. The people truly recognize the harmony of food.

My taste buds will long to be in Vietnam while I am back home eating my tomato soup and grilled cheese.  Thank you Vietnam, for showing me a new variety of cooking and thank you for the fruits that I have never experienced in the United States.   I will be leaving from this beautiful country, not only what my eyes have embraced, but rather what my whole body and soul has experienced.