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Customs: What a Duty

In 1988, when Vietnam invited tourists, the invitation avoided the pleasures and stressed the pitfalls of travels in a country uncomfortable with contacts with the economically advantaged. The lists of no-nos presented on arrival was daunting. Our local guide took very seriously the one about not even thinking about carrying out any Vietnamese cultural treasure over 50 years old. We thought we were complying with that when we purchased a rustic jar, a "lime pot," perhaps 25-30 years old, for a few dollars. But when we were summoned from the departure lounge at the airport the next morning and accused to trying to smuggle out a Vietnamese "treasure," my husband became furious, accused the Customs of robbery. He grabbed the pot and threatened to drop it on the floor. "And you can keep the pieces." It's still intact somewhere. Perhaps in a warehouse waiting for us to claim it once the appraiser determines its age.




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