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​2017: A tough year

Saturday, December 30, 2017, 18:31 GMT+7

Can’t wait for 2018 or reluctant to leave 2017? It brought absolute joy to some and horror to others but certainly not a year we’ll forget in a hurry.

More than a few of my Vietnamese friends can’t wait to see the backside of 2017. Although the expats didn’t have so rough of a time, the general consensus seems to be it was a rotten year.

Particularly for the local population it has been another hard year caused by drought, floods, Typhoons, landslides and the never-ending traffic insanity. Some issues were ongoing from previous years. 

The Formosa pollution scandal continues to plague the lives of fishermen struggling to sell fish now viewed as suspect or ‘tainted’.  Homes fell into the sea and rivers due to environmental manmade damage from construction, to the Mekong River’s growing water flow problems increased, with no real, large scale solutions in place. And Ho Chi Minh City is still on track to become the world’s first aquarium where you can watch inhabitants pushing motorbikes underwater.

People are seen on a flooded street in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
People are seen on a flooded street in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

The internet sharks were busy this year. Three breaks in the cables in one year while the government attempts to get income out of Facebook, Google and Skype by insisting they have local servers and offices.  Given the rising level of Cybercrime and security issues, the government is even setting up a massive online monitoring system.

Typhoon Damrey roared through in November; a reminder that even smaller storms that stay longer can wreak appalling destruction. Sixteen storms in one year! Damery also exposed the shocking state of the nation’s road construction quality. You’ll read a lot more about flooding infrastructure and property price fluctuations as result in 2018.

The  APEC came to Da Nang too. A strange affair of not resolving the East Vietnam Sea issues, the Trans-Pacific partnership, or economic market access.  Although considered a success for hosting by Vietnam and Da Nang, it appeared as messy as the traffic chaos I have weave my way through during that week.  I guess the American president got trumped by Putin and Xi Jinping…

For expats, confusion over house ownership rules, pet dogs needing to be muzzled in public and the usual merry-go-round of silly visa and work permit rules continues to befuddle us.  However males wearing man-buns should be denied visas at all costs as a ‘social evil’.

A market is seen in the aftermath of typhoon Damrey in Nha Trang, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A market is seen in the aftermath of typhoon Damrey in Nha Trang, south-central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

But it wasn’t all bad.  Vietnam has just recorded the best economic growth in ten years. The 4G phone network is expanding like the big band with 5G being trialed this year.  Just need internet shark repellent! And backpacker English teachers are not staying as long as in previous years.

Among the central coast expats there was an explosion of new babies (explosion?) and house moving as local flooding revealed the flaws in houses built near sea-level.  Never believe the local ads about housing – it’s about as genuine as a Khaisilk scarf!

For me, 2017 started badly with the death of my mum after my dad died in 2016.  When I returned to Hoi An from Australia after the funeral, my oldest dog (I had two) died suddenly as well and the English Centre that I was involved with in Da Nang closed.  Yet I luckily came into some money and have been able to retire for the time being and travel for a while.  So it’s worked out in the end for myself!

2018 is going to be my year, I just know it.  It’s the year of the Dog (I’m a dog in the Vietnamese zodiac) and all my horoscopes predict I’ll blossom and profit well from the year.  Remember dogs are very loyal, fierce protectors of friends and always fun to be with.  However I’ve often got a bone to chew over with someone and I sleep and eat too much… I’m just so dog-darned lovable!

A kid smiles in an event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A kid smiles in an event in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Next year should be fascinating with the potential for war in North Korea, Hanoi banning motorbikes and Vietnam’s football team looking for a new sponsor! I predict we’ll see the introduction of the full 30 visa for all tourists from any country and the rule requiring expat inhabitants to leave the country to renew visas.  Well…I can dream can’t I? 

Among other innovations, I also predict that investors will flood the country, Vietjet will be in trouble for its 2018 Calendar, every resort on the central coast will be finished on time and driving on the correct side of the road will become the latest trend.

I wish all our readers a very happy New Year and may prosperity and good luck follow you everywhere! 

Stivi Cooke


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