No doubt in these past ten years, Vietnam has enjoyed unprecedented levels of prosperity as their government has moved towards a market economy, while maintaining communist party rule. Despite the rampant corruption (bureaucratic red tape or traffic violation citations solved by the slip of a few dollars), there seems to be a great level of stability in the country where people are able to make money and carry out their businesses peaceably. There are still reports of bag snatching and thievery in the streets (someone got mugged outside of my uncle’s house the other day) so travelers should be wary of flashing too much bling around.
I believe if Vietnam keeps at its current pace, it could rise to the standard of living found in places like Hong Kong in the next 20 years or so. Indeed there are many places in Vietnam, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City which appear to have already arrived at this point. (see below)
Despite these advances, there is still much to be done in terms of sanitation (polluted streets and waterways) and poverty levels. Right along side the richest streets in Ho Chi Minh City, beggars and children and elders selling lottery tickets still are prevalent. Indeed, many of the places in the rural countryside scattered with rice field farms still live the same way they did for hundreds of years.