Vietnam: the big ZERO

Jun 22nd, 2008, 08:44 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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I spent two weeks in Vietnam (HCMC & environs, Hanoi/Ha Long Bay, Hue, Hoi An) in 1995. It was the best trip I've ever taken, and that was very much due to the friendliness and kindness of the people that my friend and I met everywhere we went.

Reading the original post, I see that johnwm was disappointed by the stores and merchandise and lack of evening-time commercial activity. While I'm sure much (much!) has changed since my 1995 trip, I can imagine that a visitor looking for that kind of easy-browsing,easy-wandering city experience might well be disappointed in Vietnam. I enjoy that kind of travel, too, but in Vietnam I was looking for, and found, the kind of travel that is more about learning how other people live.
tahl is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 04:38 PM
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Thank you both, MelissaH and tahl! Your comments were delightful to read, and very informative. I appreciate your sharing your experiences.

Actually, what mango7 mentioned is exactly what I have been telling persons who ask me "How was Vietnam?"
johnwm is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 07:30 PM
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I enjoyed your post. It was interesting and well thought out and presented nicely. Everyone has different views and I didn't think yours was negative... It was just your impression. Thank you and please keep posting.
southeastern is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 07:52 AM
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Rebecca, what time of the year were you in Vietnam? Those are the areas we want to visit, but I'm really not sure when would be a good time to visit.

SusanInToronto is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 09:37 AM
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It's funny, cause when we in Vietnam last year...i thought it was alot more modern than what i was expecting..The highways were in such good shape (at least the one's we were on)..We had no problems at the airports...

And we also found it clean..(although we were in India for 2 weeks prior to arrving in Vietnam)

When we were in HCMC...we strolled down the streets in the evening and found plenty of shops and things to look at......same in Hanoi..

People were friendly..we took a cooking class in Hoi An and had a great time..

Also enjoyed our time in Hue, although it seemed less touristy there.

Really enjoyed the Halong Bay cruise...even though it was cold out!!

But was not my favorite destination i have travelled to, and i don't think i would visit again..but i am glad we went and we did have a good is just not what i was expecting..I did not find it very exotic or too was a great travel experience!!

TracyB is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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To Kathie

You mentioned that you spent a week in Luang Prabang. What are your recommendations for a visit there? Did you go elsewhere in Laos and what would you suggest? How did you travel from Vietnam to Laos?

We will have two weeks to travel in January.

Thank you.

CarolSKov is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 01:55 PM
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We didn't go to Laos and VN in the same trip. We went to LP from Bangkok. We only went to LP and the surrounding area in Laos. LP is a lovely, laid back place where you want to soak up the atmosphere. There are perhaps a dozen working wats, and visiting the wats and talking with the monks and novices is fascinating. There are day trips - the Pak Ou caves I highly recommend. There are two nearby waterfalls people visit though those were not highlights for me. We also visited the silk weaving co-op outside of LP, and visited a Hmong village celebrating Hmong New Year.

But LP is wonderful for slowing down and absorbing the place. It's about being, not about doing. We are very interested in Buddhism, so LP held a special attraction for us.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2008, 06:02 AM
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I think it is fine that johnwm felt he had a negative experience with his trip and wanted to know what he missed. We went to Vietnam on a tour in April and the trip turned out completely different, and far more wonderful, than I expected. I was anticipating beautiful scenery, temples, great food, etc (more like Thailand), but I came away with an a far different experience. We had a fantastic guide that brought us together with families, shopkeepers, etc.

The big impact for me was seeing and hearing about the results of the Vietnam/American war - how people from both sides deal with the results. We had a Vietnam vet on our trip, and met with several people who fought for the north. I did not expect the Vietnamese to be so incredibly welcoming, to be so friendly and engaging. To learn about their religions and how they view their place in the world. Their relationships with their families and how it compares to Americans. To see how they still live with the war remains - Agent Orange, bomb craters, land mines (mostly Cambodia), etc. And so much more. The trip was not the tropical paradise I expected, but it changed my life. It was a very emotional experience for me that I really didn't fully apppreciate till I got home.
megdean is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2008, 06:25 AM
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My experience in Vietnam was similar to the orginal poster but i know by reading hundreds of posts on this board that there is an unwritten rule that if someone is honest and says they did not like a city and country, they will be attacked. So I did not bother to post.

Why can't people accept other travelers opinions regardless of they are pro or con on a destination?
intellectual56 is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2008, 06:40 AM
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Did you notice, "intellectual" that John requested positive experiences from others of VN and asked what he might have missed?

His last paragraph: "I am curious, though: could those of you Fodorites who felt Vietnam was a worthy tourist destination share some of your positive experiences with me? Could I have completely missed what Vietnam had to offer?"

I think we have given him the information he requested.

I do think people (rightly) were critical of John writing off a whole country on the basis of six days spent in two cities.

Anyone who has posted to this board very long has posted negative experiences as well as positive experiences. I certainly have.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 6th, 2008, 03:32 PM
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I apologize, I'm just coming back to this thread now, so I hope you find this...

I visited Northern Vietnam in early September. I thought the weather was perfect. It was right before the rice harvest in Sapa, so everything was green and lush. There was a bit of rain in Hanoi, Halong Bay and in Sapa, but it was mostly limited to an hour or so in the evening. It got pretty hot in Hoi An, so I got a hotel with a pool and spent a lot of time at the beach!
RebeccaVT is offline  
Aug 25th, 2008, 02:04 AM
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I have lived here for almost 3 years and I am from Toronto, it can be a very tough place to visit and live. The heat the humidity can be a real killer, and the congestion can be awful, but we gotten used to it. What I like is that there are very little adverts for materialistic items, and few if not any fast food places. You step back in time, however there is very little personal space and at times this can become depressing. Hanoi is about 20 years behing Bangkok,but everyday they are trying to catch up.I would never have thought to visit Hanoi, but there is a side to Hanoi that grows on you. I enjoy the history of Vietnam a place that has gone through hell and back and the people are a proud people.
SaraJane is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 01:30 AM
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I think johnwm hit the nail on the head when he said he was an "older" man....

Maybe he should do more research before planning his next trip....possibly to Rome Paris or London, which would appear to be more his cup of tea.

Part of the reason for visiting Vietnam is to experience a country that is not cluttered by tourist infrastructure, modern hotels and swank shopping plazas.
Mitch04 is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 06:51 AM
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c'mon, guys. Cut the guy a break already...

I'm actually a "young" guy and, honestly, I can agree with a lot of the things john didn't like about Vietnam.

I found a lot of folks I encountered there to be decidedly chilly in comparison to most other SE Asian countries--and that has nothing to do with infrastructure at all.

We're all allowed our different opinions on where we've been. There's no reason to flay people who are simply expressing their different experiences.
filmwill is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 03:39 PM
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Hey, filmwell! I'm also an "older" guy at 62!
Mitch04 is offline  
Aug 26th, 2008, 04:55 PM
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... the night markets, and felt the booths were offering lesser quality merchandise. Perhaps the charm of it was for the locals ...

Actually, I believe the night markets were created for the foreigners. When I visited Saigon two years ago I remember reading about the night market that was being created to serve the foreigners. This is part of the tourist "infrastructure" I suppose as apparently anyone who visits SEA or Hong Kong is expecting a night market.

constant barrage of government propaganda against foreigners
I don't know if such a barrage exists. But isn't one of the national themes about the resiliency of the Vietnamese under foreign oppression (Chinese, French, American) and how they repel the invaders? There is a certain well-earned xenophobia there, isn't there?

My impressions of Vietnam were generally negative also, but I would like to go back.
mrwunrfl is offline  
Aug 29th, 2008, 08:52 AM
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I have loved traveling in some countries that others have hated. Morocco is one of them.I think what is difficult for some to do is to drop their "preconcieved cultural expectations" when they visit a country. Go with an open mind. Lack of tourist sights and nice restaurants aren't a negative for me. For some, this is why they travel. Are you "traveling" or on "vacation"? There is a difference.
If you constantly compare your culture to the one you are in, you WILL be miserable.
lollylo25 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2008, 10:45 PM
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Hi all,
You don't need to give Vietnam 5 years, come back now and see things are pretty much ready.
Futher to some parts of Kathie's report, things( prices ) have gone up twice as much of 2003.
Poor Johnwm! having worked in the tourism industry for over ten years, I met hundreds of American and none of them in general feedback as this bottom-list report.
May I invite you to come back to compensate for what you'd missed.
IndochinaVoyages is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2008, 10:24 AM
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Hey, Mitch, you're not an "older" guy -- just getting into the prime of life I would say, especially if you now have more time to travel!
CFW is offline  
Jul 19th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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I never been to Vietnam but I am familiar with Asia ,I lived there for few years.
My son lives in Korea now, he went to Vietnam for two weeks and really enjoyed it.

His experience with the people that he met were quite different from yours John.

Actually he found the people in Viernam quite friendly and open..Very different from the reserved and cool Koreans.

As I said earlier I can only tell you his experience and opinion of that country.

Of course, he is used to deal with Asians and knows and understand their mentality and ways of life.
kismetchimera is offline  

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