The Russians have arrived!

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I moved to Nha Trang permanently from the US over eight years ago and after the usual adjustment period which found me spending my evenings in the tourist quarter. Later, I got married and built a comfortable house and began spending my evenings at home.

When I first came to Nha Trang, the business signs were all in Vietnamese and English and the majority of tourists one met were from western Europe or Australia with a small smattering of Americans and Canadians. (Although we are regularly informed that the greatest number of foreign tourists come from the US, most of them were Viet kieu.)

However, in Nha Trang, the Europeans are now mostly Russian or from the former Soviet Union countries. I have no real idea what has brought this about because I have rarely come upon any that can speak English. Until recently, I thought "dosvedanya" was "hello" when, in fact, it's "goodbye." I did finally learn "hello" but I've forgotten it already. Consequently, I've been unable to get any information from the horses' mouth! I've tried to start a conversation with several but they just aren't very receptive and, of course, I expect them to speak English while they, obviously feel it would be appropriate if I spoke Russian. An unfortunate stand-off!

One thing I have learned is that the businessman who developed the Vinpearl resort and entertainment complex in Nha Trang Bay, as well as numerous other properties in Vietnam, is a Ukrainian Viet kieu. As the resort has developed, I am sure he is advertising the city's attractions in Russian speaking countries.

In an article several months ago, Vietweek reported that direct charter flights were coming from several cities in Russia into the Cam Ranh International Airport. Three flights a week bring between 200-300 Soviet region tourists right to Nha Trang.

Many expatriates have written to Vietweek concurring that despite the problems they face in Vietnam, it is simply not acceptable that people direct their anger and slurs at all Vietnamese. This forum, "Your two cents", opens the floor for you, the expats, to hold forth on the changes you see in Vietnam: what disappoints, what pleases and what you would like to see happen. Email your thoughts to
Most tourist businesses now have their most prominent foreign language signage in Russian, not English; and many no longer have any English language signs at all although they still have English language menus in most restaurants.

I was visiting with the marketing director of a five-star hotel last week and she told me that their hotel was 100 percent occupied, with 20 percent from Russia and the rest from northern Vietnamese cities, mostly Hanoi. Several resorts that had been experiencing little if any patronage are now booming with similar figures... in some cases more Russians. Local business is delighted because the Russians are known to be spenders, but they are demanding customers and frustrated with the lack of Russian speaking help.

Over recent years hotel developers have been building like mad on the beach with several thirty plus story hotels set to open in the next year. We've been wondering where the guests were coming from to fill all these new rooms and this looks like a partial answer.

Recent news reports indicate that there may be an agreement reached between Vietnam and Russia to again lease the naval facilities at Cam Ranh Bay for the Russian navy's use. Sailors on shore leave would have a definite impact on the currently Miami Beach like scene here. I will keep looking for some English speaking Russians to visit with to get a better perspective on what it's like from their side of things but in the meantime I'll do my limited observations during the day and continue to spend my evenings at home.

By Richard Mckenzie
The writer is anAmerican expat who lives in Nha Trang

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