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Cablegate: Life Along Route One

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


2001HANOI03086 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ0174

PAGE 01 HANOI 03086 01 OF 02 260643Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 ACQ-00 CEA-01 CIAE-00 COME-00
CTME-00 DINT-00 DODE-00 DOEE-00 ITCE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00
EB-00 ED-01 EXME-00 E-00 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00
FRB-00 HHS-01 H-01 TEDE-00 INR-00 IO-00 ITC-01
L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00 NSCE-00 OES-01 OMB-01
OPIC-01 PA-00 PC-01 PM-00 PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00
SP-00 SSO-00 STR-00 TEST-00 TRSE-00 USIE-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 DRL-02 G-00 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /012W
------------------42E991 260643Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4823
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
AMEMBASSY VIENTIANE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 003086

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI PINS PGOV ETRD VM
SUBJECT: LIFE ALONG ROUTE ONE

REF: A. HANOI 2964
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 03086 01 OF 02 260643Z
- B. HANOI 2963
- C. HANOI 2949
- D. HANOI 2885

1. (U) SUMMARY. ROUTE ONE IS BEAUTIFUL DRIVE BUT A
SURPRISINGLY POOR NATIONAL ARTERY LINKING THE VARIOUS
REGIONS OF THE COUNTRY. THERE IS LITTLE INDICATION OF MUCH
USE OF LAND OR RAIL TRANSPORT FOR INTER-PROVINCIAL TRADE.
SMALL-SCALE PRIVATE ENTERPRISE SEEMS TO THRIVE. RICE IS
CLEARLY KING AMONG AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS. APART FROM SOME
RANCOR AGAINST THE VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS ACT, PEOPLE
UNIFORMLY SEEMED BULLISH ON THE US-VIETNAM RELATIONSHIP AND
READY TO PUT THE WAR HISTORY BEHIND US. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) NATIONAL HIGHWAY ROUTE ONE IS THE ARTERY LINKING
VIETNAM'S THREE MAJOR REGIONS, STRETCHING FROM CA MAU
PROVINCE ON THE GULF OF THAILAND TO LANG SON PROVINCE ALONG
THE CHINESE BORDER. MOST OF ITS LENGTH SKIMS VIETNAM'S
DESERVEDLY FAMOUS COASTLINE, OFFERING SPECTACULAR VIEW AFTER
SPECTACULAR VIEW. TRAVELERS -- E.G., POL/C AND POL FSN
DURING THEIR OCTOBER 25-NOVEMBER 2 TRIP BETWEEN HO CHI MINH
CITY AND HANOI -- SOON GROW FATIGUED BY THE CONSTANT
REPETITION OF "HOW BEAUTIFUL."

3. (U) NO OTHER ROADS NOW LINK THE COUNTRY, ALTHOUGH WORK
IS UNDERWAY ON TRANSFORMING PARTS OF THE ONE-TIME HO CHI
MINH TRAIL INTO ANOTHER HIGHWAY. TWENTY-SIX YEARS AFTER
"LIBERATION" OF THE SOUTH AND NATIONAL "REUNIFICATION," ONE
MIGHT HAVE EXPECTED THAT THIS NATIONAL HIGHWAY HAD RECEIVED
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT LARGESSE OVER THE YEARS TO FACILITATE
INTER-REGIONAL AND INTER-PROVINCIAL COMMUNICATION. MAYBE IT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 03086 01 OF 02 260643Z
HAS HAD, BUT IF SO, THE RESULTS ARE DISAPPOINTING. A FEW
MILES NORTH OF HO CHI MINH CITY, THE HIGHWAY TURNS INTO A
TWO LANE ROAD, MORE OFTEN THAN NOT WITHOUT CENTER OR SIDE
MARKINGS. IN MANY SPOTS FROM NINH THUAN ALL THE WAY THROUGH
TO QUANG BINH PROVINCE, FLOODS HAVE TAKEN THEIR TOLL EVEN ON
THIS BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE. (IN LATE OCTOBER, TRAFFIC ON
ROUTE ONE WAS SHUT DOWN ALTOGETHER AT TAM KY IN QUANG NAM
FOR MORE THAN A DAY DUE TO HIGH WATERS.) THE RESULT IS THAT
STRETCHES OF THIS NATIONAL ROUTE ARE LITTLE MORE THAN DIRT
OR MUDDY PATCHES. CONCERTED EFFORTS SEEM TO BE UNDERWAY TO
IMPROVE BRIDGES, ESPECIALLY SMALL ONES OVER DIKES AND
CREEKS, BUT IN THE MEANTIME ONGOING CONSTRUCTION OFTEN MEANS
ONE-WAY TRAFFIC. (NOTE: ACCORDING TO PRESS REPORTS,
JAPANESE OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE AND/OR LOANS, WORTH
WELL OVER USD 130 MILLION, ARE FUNDING THE WORK ON 71
BRIDGES OVER SEVERAL YEARS. END NOTE) ONCE ACROSS THE
FORMER DMZ, IN QUANG BINH PROVINCE, HOWEVER, THE ROAD
BECOMES DRAMATICALLY BETTER PAVED AND MAINTAINED, ALTHOUGH
IT CONTINUES TO BE TWO LANES FOR MOST OF THE REMAINING
JOURNEY INTO HANOI.

4. (U) TRAFFIC IS REMARKABLY LIGHT, WITH RELATIVELY FEW
TRANSPORT TRUCKS. IT IS POSSIBLE TO GO FOR MILES AT A TIME
WITHOUT PASSING ANOTHER SEDAN OR TRUCK, ALTHOUGH THERE IS A
STEADY FLOOD OF MOTORCYCLES AND BICYCLES AS WELL AS THE
OCCASIONAL CATTLE- OR HORSE-DRAWN CART. FLOODS OF PRIMARY
SCHOOLCHILDREN HEADING HOME ON FOOT OR BICYCLE AFTER THEIR
HALF-DAY SESSIONS COMPOSE ONE OF THE FEW PERSISTENT "TRAFFIC
JAMS."

5. (U) IT MIGHT BE TEMPTING TO ASSUME THAT MUCH FREIGHT
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 03086 01 OF 02 260643Z
MUST BE GOING BY TRAIN FROM THE TWO ENDS OF THE COUNTRY.
THE SOLE MAJOR NORTH-SOUTH RAILWAY LINE RUNS PRETTY MUCH IN
TANDEM WITH ROUTE ONE, CRISS-CROSSING REGULARLY AND OFTEN
WITHIN SIGHT OF EACH OTHER. TRAFFIC ON THE HIGHWAY MUST
COME TO A HALT AT MANY CROSSINGS, WHERE THERE ARE ALWAYS A
SMALL BEVY OF PETTY MERCHANTS WITH LIFE'S DAILY NECESSITIES
-- CANDIES, CIGARETTES, FRUIT, ETC. IN EIGHT DAYS OF
TRAVEL, WE SAW NO MORE THAN 3-4 TRAINS A DAY, VIRTUALLY ALL
OF THEM PASSENGER TRAINS. EITHER INTER-PROVINCIAL TRADE IS
EXTREMELY LIMITED, OR MUCH OF IT IS GOING BY BOAT.

6. (U) SIGNS OF A VITAL IF LARGELY SMALL-SCALE PRIVATE
SERVICE SECTOR ARE EVERYWHERE. DUSTY ROADSIDE RESTAURANTS
POSITION EMPLOYEES IN THE STREET TO WAVE IN WOULD-BE
CUSTOMERS WITH THEIR HANDS AND SMILES. BEACHSIDE BEER HALLS
DO A BOOMING BUSINESS, AS DO UBIQUITOUS COFFEE/TEA
RESTAURANTS, SOME OF THEM QUITE ELABORATE. AN ENTHUSIASTIC
LEISURE CLASS CLEARLY EXISTS ALONG ROUTE ONE, ALTHOUGH THEY
SEEM TO HEAD HOME FAIRLY EARLY. EVEN NHA TRANG'S HOPPING
DISCO SCENE APPARENTLY CLOSES DOWN AROUND MIDNIGHT. NOT TO
WORRY, THOUGH: AMOROUS COUPLES CAN STILL HEAD TO THE
BEACHES AFTER HOURS. OTHER BEACH-SIDE HUTS EVEN IN A
BACKWATER RESORT LIKE NHAT LE (QUANG BINH PROVINCE)
APPARENTLY OFFER MORE THAN SEAFOOD SNACKS. THEIR YOUNG AND
HEAVILY MADE-UP FEMALE STAFF GAVE EVERY INDICATION OF
BECOMING MORE AND MORE FRIENDLY AS THE DAY WORE ON (WE ONLY
STOPPED FOR LUNCH, WHICH SEEMED TO THROW THEM INTO A GOOD
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 03086 02 OF 02 260644Z
DEAL OF CONFUSION: "SOMEONE ACTUALLY WANTS TO EAT HERE?").

7. (U) APART FROM A FEW STRETCHES OF RUBBER PLANTATIONS,
THE UTTER DOMINANCE OF RICE CULTURE WAS STRIKING, ALBEIT
WITH CONSIDERABLE VARIATION ON MATURITY AND FERTILITY AMONG
THE REGIONS. THE FARTHER SOUTH, THE MORE IMPRESSIVE. SANDY
STRETCHES IN PHU YEN AND BINH DINH WERE MORE BLEAK, IN
PLACES WITH EXTENSIVE SALT FIELDS. HA TINH, NGHE AN AND
THANH HOA IN THE NORTH WERE AGAIN RELATIVELY MORE
PROSPEROUS, WITH SOMEWHAT MORE VARIETY OF CROPS EVIDENT.
HOUSING STANDARDS FOLLOWED THESE GENERAL PATTERNS. HOUSES
IN THE VARIOUS SOUTHERN PROVINCES OFTEN SPORTED THE DATE OF
CONSTRUCTION, WITH A SURPRISING NUMBER HAVING BEEN BUILT IN
THE 1970'S, BOTH PRE- AND POST-1975. RELATIVELY FEW SEEM TO
HAVE GONE UP IN THE 1980'S, WITH ANOTHER SURGE IN THE
1990'S. FOR FARMHOUSES, THERE WAS LITTLE TO DISTINGUISH
THOSE FROM THIRTY YEARS AGO FROM MORE RECENT ONES, BUT EVEN
VILLAGES AND TOWNS TYPICALLY HAD AT LEAST A COUPLE OF
VIRTUAL MANSIONS IN THE TYPICAL TALL AND THIN FASHION
FAVORED IN VIETNAM.

8. (U) REGIONAL DIFFERENCES IN ACCENT REMAIN SHARP, WITH
ACCENTS IN CENTRAL PROVINCES LIKE QUANG NAM AND QUANG TRI,
AS WELL AS THE MORE SOPHISTICATED CITY OF DANANG, DISTINCT
CHALLENGES AT LEAST FOR ONE FSI-TRAINED DIPLOMAT. NATIONAL
EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMS, AND STATE-RUN TELEVISION AND RADIO
BROADCASTS APPEAR TO HAVE DONE LITTLE TO DISPEL SUCH
REGIONAL VARIATIONS.

9. (U) WHILE THE ISSUE OF THE VIETNAM HUMAN RIGHTS ACT
INEVITABLY CAME UP DURING OFFICIAL MEETINGS (REF A), ALONG
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 03086 02 OF 02 260644Z
WITH OCCASIONAL COMPLAINTS FROM OFFICIALS IN PROVINCES
NEAREST THE OLD DMZ ABOUT DOUBLE-STANDARD LECTURES FROM THE
U.S. ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS PROBLEMS DESPITE DAMAGE CAUSED
DURING THE WAR, ANECDOTAL IMPRESSIONS AND UNSCIENTIFIC
SOUNDINGS WITH OFFICIAL AND NON-OFFICIAL INTERLOCUTORS ALIKE
INDICATED AN ALMOST ACROSS-THE-BOARD INTEREST IN THE U.S.,
FAVORABLE DISPOSITION TOWARD THE U.S., AND GENUINE EAGERNESS
TO SEE THE US-VIETNAM RELATIONSHIP MOVE FORWARD. A GUIDE IN
A QUANG TRI WAR MEMORIAL -- ON A HISTORICAL SITE WHERE IT
WAS ALLEGED THAT THE US BOMBS DROPPED THERE HAD SEVEN TIMES
THE DESTRUCTIVE POWER OF THE ATOMIC BOMB ON HIROSHIMA --
WENT THROUGH HIS RATHER HORRIFIC SPIEL WITH A STRAIGHT FACE
AND CALM DEMEANOR. WHEN ASKED SUBSEQUENTLY IF HE OR OTHER
LOCAL PEOPLE REMAINED ANGRY AT THE U.S. OR RESENTED THE
CURRENT DEVELOPMENT OF BILATERAL TIES, HE SMILED AND
ANSWERED "NO, THAT'S ALL IN THE PAST. NO ONE WANTS TO THINK
ABOUT THAT ANY MORE." IT'S NOT A BAD SUMMARY OF POPULAR
ATTITUDES ALONG ROUTE ONE.
PORTER

UNCLASSIFIED

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