I’ve been in Vietnam for a few days now and when I arrived in Hanoi last week I was expecting some pretty dire weather as tropical storm Mangkhut was bashing the city. Well, it turns out that tropical depressions aren’t particularly powerful but they do bring a lot of rain with them. My first day in Hanoi was a washout. With many parts of the city having poor drainage it wasn’t long before the roads became rivers and fields became lakes. The city’s floodgates had to be opened for only the second time since devastating floods back in 2008, and with 30cm of torrential rain falling in 24 hours, Hanoi certainly wasn’t a place to be getting the sun. The storm brought flash floods and caused landslides and widespread damage to communities. Even food prices were affected, with water spinach doubling in price overnight. Fortunately on my second day the rains quietened down and I was able to get out and about in the city collecting data.
Tropical depressions are just one of many natural disasters which affect the globe and the lives of those living on it. It’s a common pastime in England to moan about the weather but one thing all my travels have made me realise is just how mundane and ‘safe’ our weather is in the UK. Rarely do we get dangerous extremes in temperature, we have no ‘storm’ season like they do in South East Asia and the Caribbean, we don’t get strong earthquakes or tornados and we have no volcanoes. The weather conditions in many parts of the world greatly affect day to day living and this is something which expats going on assignment need to be aware of. If you’re from Stockholm and relocating to Riyadh it would be wise to understand that 45 degree heat in the summer is not to be underestimated. Likewise, the typhoons of Asia would come as a huge shock to a citizen of Cape Town. Natural hazards are just one of the many factors taken in to account when companies pay a location allowance as part of an assignment package. From language barriers to personal security and air pollution to socio-political tensions there are many reasons why an allowance, or compensation, might be offered. ECA provides a free white paper on the subject of location ratings if you want to know more on that.
I knew in advance, of course, when planning this trip through South East Asia that it is typhoon season and although tropical storm Mangkhut has now petered out there is a huge ‘super typhoon’ which struck the northern Philippines island of Luzon over the past couple of days. And guess where I’m headed on Thursday? – Yes, the capital Manila! Typhoon Utoh is the second typhoon of the season but has been dubbed a super typhoon because of its ferocity. Luckily I will miss any of the winds and rain down here in Ho Chi Minh City.
After leaving Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, I headed to Danang, the leading industrial city in the centre of the country. Vietnam is one of only five communist states left in the world, declaring itself so after the Vietnam War in 1976. However, their interpretation of communism is rather different to that which many may associate with the Soviet Union. Formerly split in two, with a communist north and a democratic south, Vietnam exists in many people’s consciousness because of the Vietnam War and Hollywood’s subsequent take on it. It was a bloody conflict which lasted for 20 years from 1955 and which saw heavy involvement from the USA. Now very much peaceful, the country has not however made the economic strides that some others in the region have. Danang, formerly a part of the democratic South Vietnam, is devoid of the glitzy shopping malls like in Taiwan, but there do seem to be even more mopeds in Vietnam than in Taiwan. And Danang has the awesome Dragon Bridge, which Taiwan doesn’t have!
And the answer to the poser in my previous blog? I asked what the town of Filadelfia in Paraguay has to do with Kaohsiung in Taiwan. Well, they are antipodes, as in they are diametrically opposite each other on the globe. I mention this because I recently came across this rather fun website where you can find out the furthest place away from you – http://www.antipodr.com/. Enjoy!