The Vietnamese government works in mysterious ways - consider its intermittent, unofficial ban on Facebook. This can be highly inconvenient for the traveler who wants to keep people posted about their shopping sprees through the Old Quarter: navigate to Facebook while you're in Vietnam, and you're likely to get a "Page Not Found".
The ban is "unofficial": as the BBC reports, the story from the government is that there's "a fault blocking connections to Facebook's US servers", and the government IT guys are trying to restore them. Other web firms, though, are reporting that the government has requested they block access to Facebook from their servers.
The ban is also intermittent - users report certain days where the connection to Facebook is all clear, only to find it blocked again after a few days. But since 2009, when Vietnamese Facebook users first found themselves denied, the connection has been off far more often than on.
But since Facebook has not been officially banned by the government, it's this guide's opinion that you can circumvent government firewalls with a clear conscience, allowing you to use Facebook in Vietnam without worrying about the authorities knocking down your hotel door.
Here are a few ways you can Facebook in peace within Vietnamese borders.
Hotspot Shield is a free, ad supported app that encrypts your web browsing when you're using WiFi connections in Vietnam. Once you install and enable Hotspot Shield on your laptop, the software encrypts your traffic and courses it through its own data center tunnel, bypassing Vietnam's firewalls.
Limitations: it's ad-supported, so you see ads on your browser window. The software also imposes a 5 GB transfer limit.
Ultrasurf is an executable file you can run (no need to install) on your laptop - once it's up and running, you can visit websites blocked by your ISP. It's an extremely popular option in the remaining Communist countries in Asia - users in Vietnam and China have driven traffic to about 800 million daily hits and a daily traffic quota of about 8 TB.
Limitations: it's slow, to the point that Java and Flash may not work correctly.
- Ultrasurf - Official Page (offsite)
Anonymous proxy servers
If installing software is just too much for your pretty little head, you can access a CGI (Common Gateway Interface) proxy server like 12345proxy.com; it loads as a web page that lets you input, say, Facebook, and browse without worry.
Methods That Used to Work, But Don't Anymore
Facebook users in Vietnam used to be able to access Facebook through URL variants like lite.facebook.com, lisp4.facebook.com, and m.facebook.com; the anonymous techs manning the firewall have since plugged up those holes.
Elsewhere on the Web
These pages offer more detailed explanations of workarounds you can apply on your laptop to overcome the Facebook firewall in Vietnam.
- EHow - How to Access Blocked Facebook in Vietnam
- Saigonist - Bypass Vietnam's Block of Facebook Part 1, Part 2
Happy Facebooking! While you're at it, why don't you visit About.com Southeast Asia Travel on Facebook and add us to your "likes"?