You would not think that relations between capitalist Taiwan and communist Vietnam would be particularly amicable. But the realities of life take precedence over the abstractions of political theory. And so it is that relations are, in fact, flourishing. There was a 27 per cent rise in the number of Taiwanese tourists visiting Vietnam last year. Of course, these days all kinds of tourists and entrepreneurs can be seen in Ho Chi Minh City, increasingly one of Asia's most attractive metropolitan centres. Taiwanese interest in Vietnam goes back at least 15 years, to the adoption of an 'open-door' policy by the government in Hanoi, mirroring China's opening. Today, there is a large Taiwanese community living in the Phu My Hung area of Ho Chi Minh City, also known as New Saigon, an area being developed almost entirely with Taiwanese money. Investment and construction are marching hand in hand to advance Taiwanese interests there, just as they are extensively in the mainland. But there is a more personal dimension to the relationship, as well. Taiwanese men of a certain age have, for some time, been in the habit of taking young Vietnamese wives, almost invariably in exchange for a financial consideration. The older Taiwanese males become, one friend told me, the more anxious they are to produce male offspring. And so it is that Taiwanese-Vietnamese liaisons, whether resulting in residence in Taiwan or a second home in Ho Chi Minh City, are a significant phenomenon. The going rate is, apparently, NT$200,000 ($50,600) per bride. The liaisons continue nonetheless, But there is a blot on the horizon in the amicable arrangement: women from Cambodia are now coming on to the market, and at a distinctly lower price. There is only one problem, another informant told me. Whereas Vietnam's culture has much in common with Taiwan's (Vietnam was ruled by China for 1,000 years in the first millennium AD), Cambodia's is utterly different, and Cambodians can only rarely speak Chinese. When I raised this question in a Ho Chi Minh City restaurant, the young female public relations executive looked down at her cutlery and blushed. There were three things to be said about the practice, she said finally. First, it made the poor rural families usually involved rich beyond their wildest dreams. Second, the government acquiesced in the practice because the marriages that resulted were above board and legal. But third, she said, the Vietnamese public was embarrassed by the whole business - these were widely seen as marriages without romance.