by Hiep Bo
Vietnamese youth getting bitten by the travel bug
Although they love to spend time at home with their families during holidays, many young people today are increasingly choosing to travel during their free time.
Nguyen Thuy Dung, an art manager for a Japanese-based advertising agency, likes challenges, works hard and provides for herself, saying that her trips at home and abroad make her life meaningful.
"Travelling is learning. I like discovering the world through my trips," says the 26-year-old.
Her first overseas trip was a five-day tour to Thailand in 2010. She spent money on shopping, going to the movies and partying at discotheques.
"I have some foreign friends, and some of them also work in advertising. When they visited HCM City, I took them around to discover my city," Dung recalls.
Dung has visited Cambodia twice.
"The first time I went to Cambodia I learned about the country's history and culture. But the second time I learned about the local youth's lifestyle," she says.
Last year, Dung spent more than two weeks visiting Europe, including France and Germany.
"I plan to visit London this year. I want to discover the wonderful place where my music idols like One Direction have developed their career," she says.
Nguyen Duc Khang, a second-year student at Ha Noi-based Viet Nam National University, travelled to 15 cities and provinces around the country, including remote regions like Ha Giang and Central Highlands provinces.
"Our group of 10 visited Ha Giang by motorbike. I met local villagers and learned many things from them," says Khang.
"Travelling around the country makes me appreciate my homeland more than ever."
Saigontourist, one of HCM City's leading tourist companies, says more than 15,000 Vietnamese customers took tours abroad during Tet (Lunar New Year).
"We expect this figure to be much higher for the upcoming holiday season," says Nguyen Huu Y Yen, a marketing manager at Saigontourist.
"Vietnamese customers are major clients of budget airlines like VietJet Air," says Yen.
Today's modern life is changing how people live in Viet Nam. Most Vietnamese from older generations did not go overseas while their children now are travellers.
"My child doesn't have much time to talk to me. She is very ambitious. After days of work, she relaxes by travelling rather than staying at home and chatting with me," says Dung's mother, a housewife.
Libraries fail to enthuse, serve students' interests
"I don't like reading books at my school's library," says Tran Thi Xuan Loc, a third-year student at HCM City's University of Pedagogy.
It's run down and has only old books. I research online for my exams at home."
A librarian at the university agrees, saying that most of the books "are out-of-date, with many published in the 1980s or even earlier".
"We receive only several million dong each year from the university to run our business," she adds.
HCM City has more than 20 district libraries and many universities and college libraries face a lack of funding and poor management.
Most librarians complain that, with shortages in new books and periodicals, they can no longer attract readers and young people, particularly students who always carry a laptop.
Bui Xuan Phong, a librarian at the city's General Sciences Library, says that funding for his library has increased but book and periodical prices are also rising.
"We simply can't provide enough good material for readers, particularly teachers and students from universities and institutes," he says.
Established in 1968, the library is one of the largest in the region, and serves as a depository for international organisations like the World Bank and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
With its huge collection of more than 500,000 books, newspapers and journals, 4,000 microfilms, CD-ROMs, music, maps, videos and more, the library is a rich resource for students, researchers, teachers, foreign scholars and local residents.
"To improve our business, we've worked to hold a book-exchange agreement with more than 30 libraries and information centres across the globe," says Phong, adding that the library in co-operation with its foreign partners will offer new computers and telecommunications technology to fulfil the needs of its visitors more efficiently.
Around 50 computers and PCs can be used by visitors with low vision.
Loc says that local authorities should approve more funding for the library system and training of librarians.
"Libraries should also improve internet connections, and a library network would help students share information related to their studies," she says. — VNS