Vietnam, while prospering as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, does not tolerate any challenge to its one-party rule. Rare protests are quickly quashed by security forces, and a spate of prominent pro-democracy activists have recently been arrested or given lengthy jail terms after calling for democracy. The government also routinely blocks access to websites considered a threat, including Facebook.
But the country, once defined by grainy images of U.S. planes dropping bombs over pockmarked jungles, has moved far beyond what Vietnamese here call the American War. Since the mid-1980s, Vietnam has embraced capitalism, and today’s Ho Chi Minh City is electric with a sea of motorbikes buzzing past shops selling everything from knockoff North Face backpacks to real Chanel bags.
A single glass skyscraper defines the city skyline, but the flurry of construction in all directions assures visitors that more change is coming.
“The chances of watching Bob Dylan live are not many, and he’s no longer young,” said Hoang Dao Cam, 42, who flew from the capital, Hanoi, for the show with five other hard-core fans. He said his father taught him English at age 6 by singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” to him. “I just cannot miss this opportunity.”