Dear Vietnam

Dear Vietnam,

Enough with the shenanigans. I have come to marvel at your beautiful country and you, your vendors, motorbike drivers, cycles, are making me want to run away. Or punch you in the face.

First off, why oh why do you feel the need to scam and cheat all the time? It is one thing to set a price and deliver whatever service or product we agree to (even if overpriced, that’s the charge of being a tourist). It is another to set a price, provide the service/product then demand 10 times the price agreed. Or perhaps, pretend to have no change. Or refuse to sell something worth $1 for less than $10. They didn’t do this to me in Thailand, Cambodia or Laos. Just here.

I had heard of your unscrupulous, conniving ways before arriving, but I came with the belief in giving the benefit of the doubt. 2 weeks later, I know I was naive. Your land is so beautiful, your towns colorful and historic, but you ruin it with your incessant “you buy something!” “where you go?”, and one dollar bike rides that in the end are $40.

You know what you are? You are the older sibling that makes a fixed $1 bet with the younger sibling and after winning assures the youngest that their $10 bill is actualy a $1 bill.

I have been fortunate enough to avoid your most evil of scams, but many of my friends have not. If you could kindly stop ripping people off and badgering every second of the day, it would be much appreciated. Understand we are here to enjoy, to learn. Do not take me on a museum tour and spend 3/4ths of the time in the gift shop instead of the museum.


One of the many irritated, fed up and tired tourists.

And P.S.- Your food stinks and has made me repeatedly ill. All this talk about great Vietnamese food, and this is what you deliver? Bahn mi aside, I don’t get what all the fuss is about. Where are the goods? Sorry, Vietnam, sometimes the truth burns.


7 responses to “Dear Vietnam

  1. A real shame. Vietnam is so much more. But this is the problem — tourists only see the front line of it; a place for money grabbers and mediocre to poor food. No wonder the return rate is so low. But you will just have to believe; Vietnam is so much more than the above. But yes, something needs to be done.

  2. This problem occurs on Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand.
    This problem occurs on the River Side in Phnom Penh Cambodia,
    .. on the Tiananmen Square in Benjing, China.
    .. at the numerous night markets of Taiwan.
    .. in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
    .. at the Kuta beach in Bali, Indonesia
    Hell, it happens on the red square in Moscow, Russia.

    Those places all have something in common. They are tourist spots
    Word of advice… avoid staying there for too long and things will be better. You’ll have the real deal: decent food, normal rates, people who are not working with tourists days and nights.

    Sounds to me like you didnt get out of the Old quarter of Hanoi much ( or Pham Ngu Lao st. in Saigon or didnt go very far from the bus stations all around the country)

    Sorry you had a bad experience.
    From what i see and hear everyday more people like than dislike Vietnam.

  3. I’m a Vietnamese and I’m really sorry about what happened to you that makes you feel this way about Vietnam. While I agree with most of what you said I also agree with the above commenter that there’s so much more to our country that unfortunately you couldn’t get to see and experience. Maybe if you give yourself another chance, give Vietnam another chance you’ll understand what I say.

  4. Unfortunately, this was my experience in my much much shorter time in Saigon. I am sure the understandable resentments of the war still linger, but still. You go, girl.

  5. business.hippy

    This might shed a bit more insight.

    A few years ago, I, American, crossed a river by boat in Central Vietnam with my Vietnamese friend. A huge argument ensued on the boat in Vietnamese between my friend and the boat operator. I assumed that the argument was related to the fact that my fare was decided to be 10 times the Vietnamese fare. Wrong!

    Later, my friend explained that it was “OK” that I should be overcharged. The real injustice was that my friend was also chared 10 times the local price as a *friend* of the foreigner!!

  6. Your observations about scams in Vietnam are spot on and repeat every hour of every day. But I think they also happen in Cambodia, Thailand, etc. It’s a big problem for Vietnam tourism. Despite all the reasons to visit which the national tourism board can advertise, first impressions ruin it for all the foreigners who do come. It helps to raise the issue though.

    Your observation on food, though, is completely off. Banh mi is at the low end of Vietnamese cuisine. It only gets better from there.

  7. A sad, very sad commentary. However it does ring true to a side of the VN people that is oppressed by a low standard of living and low GNP.

    While the IQ of the VN people isn’t being challenged by your observations but it is the moral integrity or lack thereof that is being questioned. Why? Why is this human behavior so dominant in VN? Poverty or greed? A unhealthy mix of both, of which the condition is worsened by the self-righteous nature of the vendors. i.e. 10x charge for expatriates. That is rationalized by the resentment that the natives feel, by the expat “abandoning” VN and returning as tourists the USD$ to spend. *sigh*

    I was told 10 years ago when I visited VN .. Saigon (HCM for the current politically correct) is what Bangkok was 15 years before it boomed… That was in 1985 today is has worsened.

    Uncontrolled growth. Unequal opportunity for economic or social advancement.
    Blame who? The people or lack of direction from leadership. Either way it permeates throughout.

    Do I view VN with disdain, or pessimism ? Do I loathe the people? No, in part they are subject to the conditions present today. How many generations of the VN people have never known what prosperity truly is?? They seek economic gain as a means to alleviate themselves from their current condition.. BUT WHOA!

    There is an old saying of the VN people .. “How you offer something is more important than what is being offered”.

    All I want is a fair honest price for goods and services! –and that doesn’t matter in what country I am in.

    Good luck!

    disclaimer. I am an expat visited in 1985. Toured North and South Vietnam via hired driver. Visited for over 1 month. I left VN as a child in 1975. I have no “desire” to return visit. I feel no connection to the people nor their plight. Lack of humanity on my part? No, just a large disconnect. I face the same struggles today on a different scale.. that is the human condition. The difference is how we handle the challenge before us.

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