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5 reasons to not visit Vietnam

Vietnam is renowned for its rich historical background and beautiful landscapes. It was supposed to be the cherry on top of our two-month trip to Southeast Asia at the beginning of this year but it turned into the most bleak travel experience. I personally think this country is completely overrated. Travellers' opinions are divided into those who love it and those who would never want to return (more than 90%). And the reasons are quite obvious.

1. Locals' attitude towards tourists

I'm not saying that Vietnamese in general are ill-mannered and unfriendly nation, I know that can't be the case when you really get to know them, but locals that travellers usually encounter on their path (especially if they don't wander off the beaten track completely) are rude, impolite, unfriendly, intrusive, never smiling and always trying to scam you. In my two weeks in Vietnam I only saw two smiling Vietnamese, a couple working in a travel agency in Hoi An where we purchased bus tickets for what we thought was a normal price in comparison with other overcharging travel agencies. Next day on the bus we realised why they had been smiling. It was not so funny for us, though, spending 12 hours in closed space in company of cockroaches.

2. Scams

I've heard so many stories about scams from travellers passing Vietnam. An Italian couple we met in Laos later on had booked a whole trip from Ho Chi Minh to Sa Pa for $500 including transportation and trekking. Next day they waited in vain for somebody to come and pick them up. When we got stranded in Ninh Binh our only option was to book a Halong Bay cruise which included transport with a private bus. Instead they put us in one taxi first, then on a local minibus where there ware 20 passengers and 12 seats, and in another taxi. The worst part was that us girls needed to use toilet and the bus driver refused to stop for 2 hours after I'd asked him.

3. Shoe repairmen

I was standing outside our hotel in Hanoi smoking a cigarette. A Vietnamese guy walked up to me and pointed something on the floor in front of me. Before I noticed he crouched down and started pulling midsoles off my nearly new trainers to show me they needed reattachment. In those 7 minutes I was standing there 4 shoe repairmen came wanting to fix my shoes. In the end the midsoles really started to separate from the trainers. Grrr!

4. Non-impressive beaches

With a coastline of 3400km I would expect to see at least a few amazing beaches. Mui Ne was overcrowded with kiters and windsurfers and on a non-windy day the water was too dirty. I went swimming twice in four days, the rest of the girls rather stayed dry and safe. The beach in Nha Trang is beautiful, I have to admit, only too bad it's right at the main road and you have to wait for the right moment to run in and out of the sea otherwise the waves would crash you like they crashed a huge boat that was getting removed from the beach when we were there. I couldn't even see the beach in Hoi An since it was too foggy. There is no comparison with the neighbouring Cambodia with its 443km of coastline where you can see impressive beaches everywhere you look.

5. Bad weather in the north

As we were travelling north, the weather deteriorated. From wanting to stay in your bikini all day in the southern part of Vietnam to regretting not bringing my winter jacket and gloves in the north. We were in Vietnam in February when it's supposed to be high season. We later found out that the north of the country is usually chilly, drizzly and grey in that season. Needless to say our $100 Halong Bay cruise was a waste of money since I only got a dozen of photographs of fog. We also had to cancel trekking in Sa Pa due to snow there. All four of us ran out of Vietnam one week before initially planned and as soon as we crossed the border with Laos everything changed; the temperatures were back to 30 degrees Celsius (although we were at the same latitude as Hanoi with 15 degrees) and people were smiling and saying "sa-bai-dee" to greet us. :)

Vietnam is not the first country where I've been hassled or treated as a walking ATM. But everywhere else I got something in return. In Vietnam I didn't even feel welcomed. Vietnamese that I've encountered seemed like they want nothing to do with the tourists except take their money and grab some more directly out of the their wallets. But usually they didn't even bother to negotiate on the price as if they didn't need our money. So I'm wondering why travelling to Vietnam and spend my money there and get little for it when in the neighbourhood there are countries well worth visiting. I wonder if Vietnamese would change their attitude when millions of tourists would stop coming to their country?