Money from US transforms traditional Vietnamese village


AN BANG, Vietnam — An Bang is a fishing village approximately 25 miles outside of Hue. After the end of the American (Vietnam) War, the villagers, as in other places in what was then South Vietnam, attempted to flee. Anecdotal figures suggest one in four villagers was successful. Of these, most took up residence in the United States.

Thirty-five years later, the money sent back from these Viet Kieu, or Vietnamese abroad, has transformed the village. Dramatic shrines to ancestors dominate the landscape and massive mansions have displaced shacks.

Despite the apparently normal exterior of the village (extravagant shrines aside), An Bang is no longer an average fishing village. The influx of wealth from the U.S. allows villagers to live off their American relatives without actually working — for example, much of the fishing is done for fun, not as a livelihood. 

The new money has not created new jobs, though. Instead, people drink, pray and hang out in the markets. The lack of opportunity has led to an exodus of young people to the cities and away from Vietnam. 

This photo story looks at the village and its people, both current residents and visitors from abroad.