Why I’ll Never Return to Vietnam

By Nomadic Matt | Published September 19th, 2010

lake in vietnam with bonsaiBack in 2007, I took a trip to Vietnam. Upon leaving, I swore I’d never go back. The only way I’ll give this place a second chance is if I meet a girl who really wants to go to Vietnam or if some business trip takes me there. Who knows what the future will hold, but for the time being, I never want to return. And the reason for that is one of my most-asked questions. People email me several times a week asking why, in this post about myself, I single Vietnam out as being my least favorite country. What could be so bad about it?

Well, I figured it was time to give an answer.

The simple answer is that no one ever wants to return to a place where they felt they were treated poorly. When I was in Vietnam, I was constantly hassled, overcharged, ripped off, and treated badly by the locals.

I constantly met street sellers who tried to openly overcharge me. There was the bread lady who refused to give me back the proper change, the food seller who charged me triple even though I saw how much the customer in front of me paid, or the cabbie who rigged his meter on the way to the bus station. While buying t-shirts in Hoi An, three women tried to keep me in their store until I bought something, even if that meant pulling on my shirt.

On a trip to Halong Bay, the tour operator didn’t have water on the boat and had overbooked the trip, so people who paid for single rooms suddenly found themselves with roommates…sometimes in the same bed!

One of the worst experiences came while in the Mekong Delta. I was catching a bus back to Ho Chi Minh City. I was thirsty, so I went to get a common drink in Vietnam—water, lemon, and some powdery, sugary substance in a plastic bag. The woman making this concoction looked at me, laughed at her friends, and then started laughing at me while clearly not putting in all the ingredients into this drink. I wasn’t born yesterday and knew I was being blatantly ripped off. She was cheating me right to my face.

Hoi An, Vietnam at night

“She’s telling her friends she’s going to overcharge and rip you off because you’re white,” said a Vietnamese American who was also on my bus. “She doesn’t think you will notice.” “How much should this really cost?” I asked my new companion. I gave the vendor the correct change, told her she was a bad person, and walked away. It wasn’t the money I cared about—it was her utter disrespect.

I wondered if it was just me. Perhaps I simply had a bad experience and Vietnam was really amazing. Maybe I just had bad luck. Maybe I just caught people on an off day. But after talking to a number of other travelers, I realized that we all had the same stories. Hardly anyone had a good story, which might explain why 95% of tourists don’t return. They all had tales of being ripped off, cheated, or lied to. They never felt welcome in the country either.

a rice paddy in vietnam

I witnessed other people having problems in Vietnam. I saw friends getting ripped off. Once when my friend bought bananas, the seller walked away before giving change back. At a supermarket, a friend was given chocolate instead of change. Two of my friends lived in Vietnam for six months, and even they said the Vietnamese were rude to them despite becoming “locals.” Their neighbors never warmed up to them. They were always outsiders—strangers even to those they saw every day. Wherever I went, it seemed my experience was the norm, not the exception.

I’ve encountered many travelers who thought the people in Vietnam were really nice and enjoyed their travels there. I’ve often wondered why there’s such a disparity in experiences. Well, there’s one common difference between the travelers who have liked it and those who have hated it. Most of the people who had a good experience traveled in luxury, while those who didn’t were backpackers and budget travelers. It’s a curious thing to think about and reinforces a story I once heard.

the skyline of dalat vietnam

While in Nha Trang, I met an English teacher who had been in Vietnam for many years. He said that the Vietnamese are taught that all their problems are caused by the West, especially France and the U.S., and that Westerners “owe” the Vietnamese. They expect Westerners to spend money in Vietnam, so when they see travelers trying to penny pinch, they get upset and thus look down on backpackers and treat them poorly. Those who are spending money, however, seem to be treated quite well. I don’t know if this is true or not, but given what I saw, it makes some sense.

I’m not here to make judgments about Vietnam or the Vietnamese. I don’t believe everyone in the country is bad or rude. I only have my travel experience to reflect upon. You should go and make up your own mind. After three weeks in Vietnam, I couldn’t get out fast enough. Why would I want to stay in a country that treated me like that? Why would I ever want to go back? I don’t care that they tried to overcharge me. It’s not about the money. I’m happy to pay more—a dollar goes a lot farther for them than it does for me.

But just because I’m a backpacker doesn’t mean I deserve any less respect than anyone else. I wasn’t looking for the royal treatment, just basic respect. And I never felt respected in Vietnam. I felt like people there looked at me not as a human being but just as someone who could be ripped off. There are rude people everywhere, but it was so disproportionately bad that if I never went back to Vietnam, I wouldn’t feel too bad about it.

But just because I didn’t like Vietnam doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. This is my experience, but you should always just take what someone says, file it away, and go yourself. And if you don’t go because of this article, I’ll find you and drag you there myself!

You can plan your trip using my Vietnam guide to find out what to see and do, save money, and avoid getting ripped off.

comments 308 Comments

Interesting… I was a backpacker in Vietnam and I had a great experience. I learned a lot and I found the locals to be rather open and curious. I guess everyone has different experiences and reactions to different countries.

Tonya

I had a GREAT time backpacking in Vietnam… TWICE! And I’ve recommended travel there ever since. Of course, that was back in the mid to late 90s, so maybe things have changed. All backpackers, regardless of where they are, will be harassed &/or over-charged at some time but, what I witnessed more than that while travelling in SE Asia, was backpackers trying to take advantage of the local business people. I hold Vietnam dearly in my memories as a beautiful, interesting & friendly place.

Guillaume Depoule

NomadicMatt says:

“Ohh I have no problem overpaying. I know I’m going to be overcharged and that’s fine”

Oops! There are millions of ways of using Google. One of them is too find out about potential problems and avoid them. Yes, sure, I’ve felt like a had to walk around with sign around my neck that says ‘Where I am going is none of your godamn business. No, I don’t want a motorbike; if i did, then I’d ask you, check out your English, and go elsewhere. No, I don’t want a girl, or marijuana, or heroine.

Finally, I learnt, and, much more fun, got to play the game, even reverse it. In reply to “Want a motorbike?” I’d say. Oooh, maybe, how much for bike I wanna be Xe Om. I got maps, I got three languages, I think I be very good Xe Om and make many money.

The local who bugged me is lost. He only knows those three words “want a motorbike?” Meanwhile, those Xe Oms around who do have some English are chuckling. I get on the bike (to try it out of course) and ask the man. “OK, where you go?” I get out my map, and the guy is trying to find his house. He obviously can’t read, so I offer a pair of my glasses, the strong ones-the only way to get stroger than tht is to cut the bottom off of two wine bottles. By this time, there are 4 or 5 neighboring Xe Oms on the floor trying not to bust a gut laughing.. I backed off and left the confused guy with 5,000 VND “You nice guy, “happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.viva Vietnam!.”

Since then, when I walk down PNL or BV, nobody hassles me. I look a no-one, I don’t launder my pants until they’re 100% covered in coffee stains. Che Guevara stained T-shirt with open-toe cheap plastic sandals… Hell, I’d walk around naked if it was legal!

NomadicMatt says: ….does not make you a teacher..

Nor does a B. Ed. or B.A. There are hundreds of thousands of crap “teachers” with the so-called “professional qualifications”, Many, totally unqualified teachers are pretty damn good, far better than the so-called “professionals”. Marc What’s bugging you? I got BSc at one of the top ten worldwide,, then a CELTA, then 10 years in Asia of teaching experience. I’m not a professional teacher by some standards, but I love the job.

Laura Callis says:
….. I guess the solution is to get away from the tourist areas.
You got Laura. Stay in the Bui vien/Pham Ngu Lau tourist quadrangle and you can find many honest and friendly people running shops and restaurants. Prices are not upped by such people. If you were on the street and broke as a result of robbery or even just bad trip planning, then they might offer their floor as place for you to sleep.

Just by being there you act as a honey pot for the scammers drug sellers, thieves and so on. It blew my mind one night when i was on my way “home” that I got the usual “where you go?”, “wanna girl”

Vietnam’s government could do something, but they haven’t come close to it. Thailand solved the problem by introducing “tourist police” in the major areas affected. Tourist Police there have to have basic English (and/or other language capabilities (usually French/German/Spanish) and are trained to get tourists out of trouble quickly with the least damage done. If the tourists are drunk, then that may end up as handcuffs and a night in a cell, but the cell will only contain tourists/foreigners. The Tourist Police don’t bother with locals, they’ll just call in local police to deal with that side. As such, they are highly regarded, even treasured, by local business people running bars, restaurants, club, hotels, etc..

Yup, Vietnam isn’t one of those plastic paradises. It’s real though. The hassle is 5% of the people in PNL/BV, and maybe 1% in the suburbs.

Basic security:

1. No kids. Vietnam is not kid-friendly. Traffic is too dangerous. Hygiene is limited.
2.No flashy dressing. Vietnam is very conservative. Bum-hugging mini-skirts are beautiful, but not appropriate.
3.No iphones or other flashy gedgets. They are worth a lot on the second-hand market and are easy pickings. Get an 8 year old Nokia for $10.
4. Go to bed early and get up early. Honest viets will often get up at 5 or 6 am and are asleep by 9 or 10 pm.
5.Never go out with more than 100K VND in cash in your pockets unless there is a special reason.
6.if you are there for a couple of days, then use taxis for transport, not Xe Oms. Twice the price, but 1/10th of the hassle.Mai Linh or Vinasun are the only taxis to use.
7.Know the prices. ignore ‘fixed price” stuff. the price IS fixed at 2 to 3 times the real price.
8. If you get hailed in the street by a “madame’ who can find you a cheap hotel, then just ask yourself how she eats. Find a basic hotel, live with it for one night. Spend the next day looking up and down. try the alleyways. Avoid any palce you have to step over the owners to get to your room at night. My favourite is Titi Hotel down past the Buffalo on BV and first left.
$10 to 15 a night, all the modcons, room cleaned every day with change of towels. Wifi. Emergency lighting for the power cuts. No curfew. Flexible on Vietnamese visitors to your room. A lot quieter and cheaper than BV or PNL. Ask for Thinh, the local manager. Titi is his wife. Her parents own that hotel and several others. Avoid her, but be polite, she’s a money-grabber.
9.Save money by eating local, but expect to spend a bit more on toilet paper than you would normally expect. One or two days there, then stay with western food.
10.Travellers cheques for anything over US$100 per person in your party. Cash is asking for trouble in a Hotel you don’t know.

Oh, and don’t miss the Bia Hoi place at 102 (or was it 103?) Bui Vien. Get a seat early, say 7 pm latest. It gets busy. Want to try a big bike, C-J bikes at 114. For a big snack take a “Donner Kebab” at 118. Its pork, not lamb, but a good filler for 20,000 VND. Haircut for guys, 122 BV US$2. Take a right from there and walk maybe 400 meters further from the Buffalo and see Lams (I think that’s the name) restaurant on the left. If the menu seems limited you might have got one of the tourist menus. Ask if they have they still have the satay chicken. You will waddle back to your hotel wondering how you managed to eat it all.

Enjoy. Vietnam is like one of those puzzles or rpgs. “You have just landed on the planet Fart. You can only survice by being smart. Can YOU survive?

All Matt said about Vietnam is ABSOLUTELY TRUE.

Matt’s article is extracted in the Yahoo News as the link belows (in Vietnamese) and has been confirmed correctly by Vietnamese. All Vietnamese said Matt’s article is TRUE.

See link belows for details (you may use google translate if not know Vietnamese, better have Vietnamese translated):

Vietnam also have many odd stories about human rights, religion, demoncracy, opinion freedom…

Lan

I think that you and yr friends are unlucky.I meet many people traveled in Viet Nam and they did like it and they want to come back.When you travel in Asia almost everywhere people are try to sell smt to you with high price.and taxi drivers are trying to cheat you .One more thing is my man is foreiner and he love to live in Viet Nam than in Europe.We are now are living in both countries.but our friends who are living there many of them did like it. so what you tell me,and he hate foreiners who live in foreiner country and they think they are super man.maybe the way yr friends live may not good so the neibough they didnt like them. why didnt you think so?…..Why you didnt say anything in Cambodia when you pay for the floating boat you have to discute it too[the office of the govenment],and many countries we did travel ,we have many problems more less the same .I ASK YOU THINK WELL BEFORE SPEAK UP.Would you like we can dicuss this in 2 of us.Thanks.
one more thing that some vietnamese who live in america they are not Vietnamese in there head.but they was born in the family of traitors in the war.now we have no problem with American ,not French either.why do you have to say that we have problems with them?o did you feel sorry for what yr country have done to mine.

Marsha

Sounds like you had a rough time of it. Although I’ve never had a burning desire to travel to Vietnam, I’d certainly welcome the opportunity if one arose. Maybe I’ll have better luck…or maybe I won’t.

We had a similar experience in Vietnam. It’s our least favourite country in SE Asia. We’ll likely not return either. For us, it wasn’t so much about getting ripped of or treated poorly, we just didn’t like it. We didn’t get the same vibe that we did from its neighbouring countries.

Bao

Dear Matt, I am Vietnamese, Matt comment very right, I very feel ashamed for my homeland, cry cry..!

thanks

Too bad you had bad experiences. But as I like to say, you can’t always love every place you go. It’s part of the whole travelling thing to react and feel differently in different places.

But being ripped-off several times certainly adds up the angst!

huynhminhtri

Your name is Nomad , but you got Mad about VietNam !
You need a Viet guilder who help you in any places in VN .
You need your opened mind to accept whatever happened in your trip .
It’s not that you’re white and people riff you off , I am a Vietnamese who got cheating too much in my trip 2007 and 2009, but I always smile and don’t care !
You need to learn JinJang from China-men !
The riff-off on any purchases in market is nothing compare to the riff-off between Dollar and Dong
( Vietnamese money) ….You need to learn economic and trade ….
Thanks .

Mr Vietrod

Oh, now I understand. Thanks for the heads up. So let me get this right…it’s ok to be ripped off all the time in Vietscam and we should just smile about it and be happy and not let it cause feelings of anger. But what I want to know is…if WE did that to the Viets constantly, would they be ok with it? I think they’d get angry and pissed off pretty quick. What do you think? Am I detecting a double standard of behavior here, or are we right on the money with calling them out on their endemic shameless behavior? I think the latter.

The Backpack Foodie

Went to Vietnam as a backpacker and loved it. Guess you can’t generalize on that one.

I did stray off the beaten path, as I just didn’t like the backpacker scene. Don’t really care for it in Thailand either. People seemed disrespectful and uninterested in the locals. We stayed in budget places, and the people there were amazing. A lot less jaded about tourists than Thailand, friendly and smiling.

That held true in Ho Chi Minh City, once we dodged the crappy backpacker restaurants and overpriced souvenir shops.

NomadicMatt

There’s always exception to the rule. It was my very unscientific observation!

I got off the beaten path quite a bit. I self-biked the Mekong Delta. In fact, one of my worst experience was trying to take the local bus instead of the tourist bus. I found it didn’t really matter. My friend and I were treated pretty badly.

Long Nguyen

That’s a really bad idea you took the local bus, they don’t even treat Vietnamese right.

William

After reading all of this I am shocked, I have been to many places in the world and I rate Vietnam one of the best, Food is excellent and cheap, one has to make sure you understand the local Dong, or fully know how to use the USA dollar, Street food is great, People are clean, friendly, in fact I have made life long time friends on my trips and in New Zealand I like helping the Vietnamese, Hanoi is great, in Hanoi I stay at the Time Hotel in the Old Quarter, 18 Dao Duy Tu Street, this hotel is cheap, friendly, cleaned everyday, with breakfast all for Under $30 US a night. Shopping is easy, I read someone said they were tugged on their shirt, perhaps you must understand how important the money is to these people, its colourful full of life.
London is the biggest rip off, Vietnam is great, some say they do not get change, knowing the Dong its worth so little to give change is stupid, like it would be so little like a few cents.
I have travelled to Vietnam for the last 20 years often,also going to Cambodia, Thailand also, but Vietnam is the pick of the three, rip offs are high in Thailand. Vientam Airways look after us traveller so good, on the other hand Jetstar is terrible for lack of service, poor food, poor time keeping, changing days, have no lost bag service and the price is not much cheaper than Vietnam air. so that is a rip off in a big way to travel by Jetstar to or aroundVietnam.
The markets are goodto shop in, once again you must understand the Dong.

Mark

I’ve been twice (to both Hanoi and Saigon). Both times I went as a backpacker and both times I had an amazing time. Most taxi drivers tried to rip me off. From the airport in Hanoi they took me to the wrong place but I was wise to that scam. We also got ripped off by another guy with a dodgy meter. We just didn’t pay him the full amount. Every watch/dvd/shirt/book seller tried to rip me off. But I fully expect this to happen because I’m a white guy in Asia.

On the flip side of it, I forgot to post two postcards so gave a guy $2 to post them to Europe (and buy stamps). And both arrived. He could have kept the $2. Our Halong back trip was also fantastic. When we returned to the hostel in Hanoi they had given our room away despite our booking. So we had a worse room for 1 night. To say sorry, we got a bunch of free beer in the bar (not that it’s expensive but it was a nice gesture).

Everywhere you go there are people trying to rip you off. Even in London and New York. I’d agree that it’s more prevalent in Vietnam but not any more so than the rest of Asia. It sounds like you had a series of unfortunate incidents that brought you to this conclusion.

I’ll certainly be going back to Vietnam.

NomadicMatt

There’s bad people everywhere. I don’t doubt that! However, I seemed to attract lots of them here.

Ann

lol hi Matt, I can completely understand how you felt and I myself a native Viet. I guess it was just your badluck in which you didn’t met any nice folks over there. On the other hands, don’t feel bad that they laugh and ripped you off, because I myself (a native Viet) gets treated the same. You just have to “bargain bargain and bargain” before you eat/sleep/ride a bus :) it’s how the system works over there “bargaining”. Considering some of the other posts, yes Vietnam is still a developing country, therefore you will find “thieves” almost everywhere you go. If even the government robbing the poor folks I guess they just following the cycle of life and do the same to others…I don’t know if foreigners know it, but whenever I go through the airport security check, I have to give “donation” inside my passport to the security guy LOL, if not he gonna toy w my purse and just buying time making me stay there for hours!!! So if your at the airport and don’t know what’s holding up the line….well now u know. Vietnam really is still a 3rd world country despite how grand the government over there makes it looks.

If you ever met those stuck up Viet shops, it’s bcuz they think they’re “rich” therefore they don’t really care about your business too much. But I must say, don’t expect such good customer service like you do in America, bcuz you will get none!! so next time when you’re in a supermarket in America, love your cashier!!! and your paper or plastic bag boy!!

Anyway, if you’re travelling to Vietnam my advice for you is “BARGAIN!!!!” before you do anything, and ask the price. It really isn’t ripped off like one of the poster said up there, it’s just how people trying to get the highest value for their product, and yes some of them do ripped off even if that’s not the true price they offer to their native people. Put your money and gold where noone can see (not in your pocket or purse LOL). If they starting to laugh at you it’s because you’re beautiful!! :) 80% of the time anyway hehehe, but seriously people over there would tell me “those foreigners so pretty with fair skins and hair” therefore don’t pay too much attention to their whispering and stares.

Wow so sorry you had such a bad experience in Vietnam; it’s one of my favorite countries but you are right it all depends on the experience.

I do agree with the others that once you stray from the mainstream you have really amazing adventures there. I’m definitely going back.

Matt,

This is a nice, balanced essay and I appreciate that you write about the negative aspects of travel. Some travel authors only accentuate the positive and choose to just ignore writing about the negative. But I think it’s useful for readers who may possibly visit Vietnam (or any other destination) to hear good and bad feedback on a place so they can raise or lower expectations.

That said, I’m glad the other commenters have had mostly positive experiences to report. Every traveler is different and every trip is, too. Perhaps if you do ever go back then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. :-)

Best of luck on your continued travels,
Melanie

I had the same experience in Hainan, supposed to be China’s Hawaii. I hated it there. It’s when people refuse to interact with you as a person and instead see you only as a money making opportunity – it makes you feel like a thing instead of a person. I guess the solution is to get away from the tourist areas

NomadicMatt

You can be treated poorly in “local” areas too.

Vietnam is definitely a marmite country – you love it or you hate it. I have been thinking of writing something similar myself but haven’t yet been able to psyche myself up for slagging off a whole race in less than 1000 words. I also don’t trust myself not to go too far in expressing my contempt for these greedy and rude people (you should see what I’ve already deleted here).

Of course not everyone is like that, and the people in the south seemed a little nicer, but we just must have reached the required critical mass of spiteful thievery that we couldn’t come away with anything but a poor impression of the country. Having said that the beautiful landscape makes the country worth a visit along with the chance to form one’s own opinion.

NomadicMatt

I agree completely. People I know either totally love it or completely hate it. There’s no middle!

I enjoyed Vietnam and would love to go back. Travelers have to be on their guard for ripoffs throughout SE Asia, not just in Vietnam. Having traveled through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, I have experienced attempts at short changing, deception by tourist agents, aggressive begging and other annoyances in several countries. Vietnam has a very developed tourist infrastructure compared to Laos or Cambodia. There are many buses and hotels on the tourist trail specifically catering to backpackers. People involved in the budget tourism industry know what backpackers are looking for– including some shady operators who have honed their con artist skills. There are very targeted scams, like having a dozen illegitimate businesses with the same name and logo as the main bus company set up all over town. It can be frustrating as a foreigner, but if you travel with your guard up and take simple precautions (e.g., pay in exact change or almost exact instead of using big bills, do your research to confirm you are using a legitimate company) then you can minimize your risk.

Sorry Matt, can’t really agree with this one. I’ve spent a month or so backpacking around Vietnam as part of a wider SE Asia trip this year, and while I was absolutely ripped off, scammed and treated like a walking ATM regularly, I also encountered many lovely, warm, friendly and helpful people. To be honest, I found southern Thailand even worse with respect to the negative aspects than Vietnam.

It’s such a beautiful, fascinating, complicated country that it would be a real shame if people were put off from going by the less savoury aspects of the place. Personally, while it was far from my favourite country in the region (that award would go to Laos every time), I’d happily go back – in fact, once I’ve got my motorbike licence and a bit more experience on something bigger than a scooter, I can see myself doing the awesome top to bottom ride.

Yep — I had a great time also. Would go back in a heartbeat. And might have a horrible time next time. The thing that annoys me is when people (Matt doesn’t here, to be sure) somehow think they can summarize a country as good or bad, after spending a few weeks there. I had a pretty horrible time in Ethiopia and Russia, but I know plenty of people that have loved those places. For the most part, none of us are in these spots long enough to make too many deep judgments, aside from “had a good time” or “had a bad time.”

Better luck next time Matt.

NomadicMatt

I simply had a bad time. I see many good things about Vietnam (for starters, it’s beautiful) but I didn’t have fun. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go and experience it for yourself!

I am sorry that you feel that wat about Vietnam Matt. We rode our motorbike from Hanoi the North to HCMC in the South and encountered nothing but kindness along the way. Sure during out stay in the bigger city’s the people weren’t so friendly and always trying to charge you a higher price. But that is no different to any other country in SEA. In Thailand you will get charged 3 times the price for a T-shirt then a local would , and in India the chai is double the price for westerners. It sounds like you had a combination of bad experiences. Sorry to hear about your misfortune. I will definitely return to Vietnam.

Interesting to hear your take Matt. Vietnam has been on my list to visit for some time, and if the time comes I’ll have to keep your points in mind. It seems, as with anything, that money is the great divider.

Luke

I have to agree with Matt – I have travelled to Vietnam once and I doubt I will return as I had such a poor experience, compared to the experiences I had in other countries in SE Asia.

Between being swindled in Hanoi, seeing a street vendor selling American dogtags (which looked authentic and as though they had been dug out of the ground recently) in Hue, dealing with extremely pushy sales people in Nha Trang, and the general “blegh” in Saigon, it was a bit of a disappointment.

I even spoke with people who had worse experiences, such as a guy who was mugged in Nha Trang by a woman who was on the back of a scooter which rode up to him, she jumped off, grabbed his … attention … pulled all his cash out of his pockets then jumped back on the bike and took off. Obviously, this poor fellow was in a bit of a bind as to whether to fight back (especially against a woman), and so all he could do was let it happen.

I think that the fact that travel in Vietnam is basically a geographic funnel adds to this situation, though. The fact that everyone who travels from Hanoi to Saigon (or vice versa) basically travels the same route and through the same towns means that the “Sucker Factor” is alot higher than in most other countries. That is to say, in the towns along the tourist trail, vendors will overcharge and mistreat customers because, even if they upset them, they will be moving on in a day or two, and another sucker will be along shortly.

The only town I kind of enjoyed was Da Lat, and that was probably because tourism there seemed to be somewhat subdued compared to anywhere else along the trail (possible because most people chose to travel through Mui Ne instead.

I would prefer to spend my time, and money, in a country where you are not taken for granted, or milked for all you are worth. My time in Burma, for instance, was some of the most relaxing, and connected, time I ever spent, even though the people there have alot more to complain about than the people of modern-day Vietnam.

NomadicMatt

I was feeling out numbered here! Glad someone else agrees! lol :)

When I was in Dalat, they were having a communist rally. It was really interesting to watch.

Yikes what terrible experiences!!! Unfortunately, I’ve experienced that all over the world. Guess that’s just a part of traveling sadly…

Went through Vietnam with my 2 kids last summer. Thought it was amazing. A bit like what Thailand was like about 15 or 20 years ago – less developed tourist infrastructure but still not bare bones. Lots of scamming: e.g. got ripped off on an extra long taxi ride and it cost an extra 6 or 7 bucks – so you’ve gotta keep it in perspective. See it before it gets really popular.

Sorry to hear about your bad experiences. Vietnam is one of the countries I really want to visit. This puts me off, but I guess the temptation of at least one visit will remain. Thanks for sharing something beyond just the good stuff.

Got to say that Vietnam is one of my favourite places in SE Asia.

I was a little bit surprised by this post; It makes you seem like a naive backpacker who gets upset over paying 5 cents extra for something to someone who has little money, and then has no qualms at all about spending $50 on beer at a backpackers pub in Sydney. Like I say I was tad surprised as it is obvious from your post that you are a long term traveller.

In general the sooner that people leave those backpacker places behind, the sooner they escape being ripped off. I’ve never understood why people will jump in a minibus ran by some dodgy backpacker friendly company than get a VIP bus for a third of the price; only eat at restaurants recommended by the Lonely Planet; walk past good cheap hotels that are not in the LP etc.

Anyway, I think that the ‘Backpack Foodie’ summed it up well in his post above.

NomadicMatt

Ohh I have no problem overpaying. I know I’m going to be overcharged and that’s fine. It’s how they overcharge me about it. They were mean about it. I overpay a ton and that’s fine. They need the money more than me. But if your going to openly scam me or laugh in my face, well, that’s just rude.

Yes laughing in your face is rude, I’d just walk away laughing at them because they wouldn’t be getting any of my money. Then again sometimes you have no choice.

One of my favourite memories of my first backpacking trip, back in 97, was drinking a local cocktail called Vietnam Star. It was about 25c a glass, we went through a few bottles of spirits. We went the next day and they had doubled the price. They either lost money on the deal, or wanted to make more money. I have a strong feeling it was the former.

If you do go to Vietnam again, then perhaps just stick to the Southern region.

Now as for me, the place I feel is worst for rip offs in SE Asia is Vientiane, the place is absolutely ruined by the Tuk-tuk Mafia who want to charge a fortune to go anywhere; good job I love walking :-)

Agree about Vientiane.
Good thing is you can go almost everywhere by foot :)

Matt

An American in Vietnam complaining about being treated rudely? That’s a bit rich. Remember who you are and where you’re from and that the Vietnamese have every right to feel wronged and to not hold you in high regard.

NomadicMatt

I don’t buy that. I didn’t bomb them. Should the Germans owe me because their grandfathers put Jews in camps? Germans today that they don’t bear that burden, it wasn’t them. They apologize and move on. Do young Australians have to bear the cross for what was done to the Aboriginals in the early 20th century when they had no control? I don’t believe that we bear the sins of our fathers.

Tom

NomadicMatt is so right! I understand that people hold grudges for a long time and I know this is hard if you were treated badly. I have Irish family and when i go to Ireland and my english accent is heard people get funny because of the history betwen England and Ireland centuries ago! I mean c’mon get a grip! But when they here I am of Irish descent they say that is fine but it gets my back up. Why should I feel uncomfortable because people blame my country’s history as a reason to dislike me. Its wrong and people shouldnt blame a single person for wrongdoings by a country in its past.

I am planning on going to Asia and Vietnam! Hopefully I wont have a problem (being English does help with Vietnamese people). T

Laura

I want to respond for a few reasons – 1. ive just returned from a month in southern Vietnam teaching English, and met more amazing people than I have in any other country I have ever visited (and I have travelled most of SE Asia and parts of Europe).
You seem to have had some shitty luck as most tourists do anywhere in the world, but I think that the bigger issue is that your travels didn’t yet even scrape the surface of what is a complex and beautiful culture, once you spend enough time to immerse yourself with the local people and understand the intricacies of it all.
My other concern is that you arent willing to consider the likely impact of being an American in a country in still a very sore place following a horrific act of war from the US.. You mentioned that its not your fault and you didnt do it, just in the way todays Germans didnt murder Jewish people, or Australians (myself) didnt murder Aboriginal people. I would argue that as an Australian person I have the responsibility to educate myself, understand and pay respects for the ills of my ancestors against Aboriginal people and Vietnamese people for their participation in what was basically attempted genocide.
To say you have no ties to your cultural hegemony as a white American or your ancestors crimes in hideous wars is a very ignorant disposition to carry around and to me it somewhat explains why the beautiful Vietnamese culture was lost on you.
Cheers
Laura.

Khuc Hoang Trung

Hi Matt,

Your writing raises lots of debates among us, the Vietnamese. Sorry for all such bad experiences you had here. We surely have to do a lot to improve the tourism industry and we are doing that.

Like many other travelers commented, they also encountered your experiences and they found lots of beautiful things about places and people, too. Don’t stick with idea never-return-to-VN and give yourself another chance to explore bright side of VN :-).

I am the young generation (born after the America-VN war ended). We are not taught that Westerner owes Vietnamese but to put aside the past and look forward to future cooperation. There is no hard feeling to the Westerners from Vietnamese, even from the veterans who were prisoned and mostly-dead tortured by American agents or method. We are living for present and future, not for the past.
We look forward to the day you return to Vietnam and have great experience.

Regards,
Trung

P.S: I am in Hochiminh City, you have my email add. and I can help if you need tour-guide/friend during the time here.

Snow

You feeled annoying about the women who made the drink for you because you thought that she laughed at your face. You might be misunderstood them. I know that kind of plastic water bag. Actually, It is an ordinary product and nomally they don’t think you an Westen man (white man) will use that product. They feeled pleasant about that, that why they laughed. They are happy with a little bit strange when you use that kind of product from them. They don’t mean to mock at you. Some times you see this behaviour when you buy Street Food.

It is not because they are successed in cheating you. They also don’t treat you rudely because you are an American. All American people are warmly welcome in Vietnam. Ask other American about that.

Good luck with your next trips

Interesting article and really helpful comments. We’re not due to get to SEA until the tail end of 2011 and I have to say Vietnam is one of the biggest shiniest baubles on the SEA Christmas Tree for us and we cannot wait to get there. Interesting to read about off-the-beaten track and on-the-beaten-track in terms of ripped off-edness. Thom loves the beaten track because the LP writes about it extensively whereas I prefer a little off the track for that very reason. Will make for some fun when we’re in SEA that’s for sure!

susiappa

Agree with you. Vietnam will be the last country in my list going my the treatment i underwent while in Hanoi. My company tour this year is to HCMC (sigh). Hope history does not repeats.

Miss G

I had exactly the same experience as you in Vietnam Matt. It’s really frustrating as you can appreciate the people have had a hard time in the past and also it doesn’t really affect you if you pay 1 or 2 dollars for a drink but the feeling of constantly being ripped off does start to get to you regardless. That said I can’t wait to go back and see more of Vietnam – It’s a beautiful country as long as you keep your wits about you!

I must say I’ve been waiting to hear this story for a while :-) Vietnam is the only country in SE Asia I missed on my stint there so I can’t agree or disagree personally either way, but I’ve not heard overly bad stories about it.

I had a few worse things happen than what you mention in Cambodia but still loved the place. Previously (recently for a free promotional tour thing in NY) you wrote that to understand a place and the people you need to look at their history. You seem to nail this (Vietnam feels the west owes them) but don’t accept that is why they are doing it, not because they dislike you personally.

We’re all influenced by the media in our own country, and Vietnam is no different, if anything they have more of a reason as the recent(ish) war backs up their theory that the west caused a lot of their problems.

How experienced were you when you travelled to Vietnam? As I travelled more I showed less sympathy for people trying to rip me off and worked my way around it a lot better. I feel a veteran traveller would have less issues their than someone in their first 3-4 months in asia.

NomadicMatt

Interesting way to look at it. I had been on the road 9 months by the time I got into Vietnam. This was back in 2007.

I will add my vote to the “love Vietnam” campaign. It is without doubt my favourite country of many I’ve visited. We met some wonderful people, loved the hustle and bustle of the cities and of course the food was incredible.

It does raise an interesting point, which is how much the context of one person’s experience of a place influences their views. I hated Mexico – I got ill, felt threatened and the food didn’t live up to my expectations. The point is though, we all need to take a step back some times and ask ourselves how representative our experience is? So much can depend on your mind-set at the time and matters of absolute chance such as crime, getting ripped off and getting ill.

Anyways, I’d encourage anybody visiting SE Asia to put Vietnam well up their list of places to visit. If nothing else it does have a considerably lower banana pancake quotient than the rest of SE Asia.

Very interesting points here. I was in Vietnam a few years back but as part of an organised tour with STA Travel so we had all our accommodation prebooked and transport organised. We also had a Vietnamease tour guide with us so they were able to help us out should we need.

In February I’m going back but on my own, no pre-arranged tour, as I loved the country so much the first time and to be fair I’m hoping my experience isn’t much like the many I’ve read about here, I don’t want to ruin the original memories I had of such a lovelly country. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

I agree with Leslie Travel, scams are everywhere in SE Asia. It’s a matter of rooting them out. I also agree with some of the others, perhaps you were on a well carved backpacker route where touts are known to aggressively target travelers.

I traveled to Vietnam in 2003 when tourism was relatively new there. The landscape and the people impressed me for a couple of reasons. It’s such a plum locale geographically, I was forever delighted by the mountains, beaches, and little towns, and big cities, too.

As for the people, I agree they are aggressive, a bit sour, but I took it as some hard-line entrepreneurship. They have an energy to forge ahead, not feel sorry for themselves, and get on with it. Personally, I admired that. North Americans can be whiny, myself included. As for getting ripped off, that never happened to me. I had an argument with a hotel desk girl about handing over my passport, but later on I made her smile. It struck me that harsh feelings don’t stick around for long, gruffness isn’t personal, just how they engage. That’s not for everyone, so fair enough.

The way you were treated could be because you are American. You never mentioned the countries of origin of your friends… ?

I purposely stayed away from the Vietnam war memorabilia, having seen a lot of that in Cambodia, so my experience wasn’t peppered with that POV.

I plan to go back this trip and venture more North. I’m interested to see how much it’s changed since 2003. All in all, I’m looking forward to going back.

NomadicMatt

The Vietnam War museums are great! Such great communist propaganda about how brothers and sisters beat back the imperial dogs of the french and the americans! Loved it!

steve

I have lived in Vietnam for 4 years. Statistically there is a .5% return rate; so many people feel as you do. My wife is from the Mekong Delta and we lived in Vung Tau for the last 6 months. Because Vung Tau is populated by mostly northerners, none of our neighbors would speak or even look at us. Whenever my wife went to the market I could not go, the prices increased dramatically. When we traveled to Hanoi because my wife had a southern accent and the words were different she was ridiculed and made to say things over again while the street vendors would snicker. The level of prejudice in some parts of the country is saddening. We are now back in Saigon(HCMC) now and I have been subjected to every scam so I am no longer a target but the tales of woe are abundant and I have seen people loose everything they owned. I love my extended family who are the most accepting and supportive people and I love the country. I stay there for those things, I have seen Vietnam change in the 10 years of my travels throughout Asia and it is as cutthroat there as Manila, Bangkok or Pnomh Penh and until the worldwide recession is over I would stay away.

NomadicMatt

Thanks for the perspective!

NomadicMatt

Interesting. I met your travel partner Shannon this weekend. She had the opposite to say. A perfect example of two people, same place, two different experiences.

NomadicMatt

I just want to say that I didn’t stick to the backpacker trail nor am I a “only do what LP” tells me to do traveler. There seems to be that impression in the comments and I don’t want people to think that. I never used a guidebook in Vietnam and I got off the tourist trail quite a bit. I took local transportation many times, ended up on small towns in the north, and biked around the Mekong Delta with friends of mine. I have and always been a traveler who enjoys getting off the beaten path.

Thanks for all the comments too!

NomadicMatt

I don’t need to be a pampered tourist. Just treated like a human being.

So sad to hear you had such a bad experience in Vietnam! I can´t figure out why people does that.

Breath of fresh air. Thanks for your honesty, and I wonder why there aren’t more frank travel blogs around?

Kozma Prutkov

Dude, you’re complaining a lot about Vietnam like poor boy to his mum… Sorry about this.
However, I guess, the people in Vietnam still remember what YOU (americans) did there just several years ago. They remember how many their people died in that war because of YOU.
Probably that woman/seller lost her father or….. And if she overcharged you – it’s just nothing to compare with air-bombing of her city. And also she is now seller to serve YOU, but not engineer/doctor/scientist as she might wanted to be, and travel the world like you. They think they have full right to rip you off for that, as they have their own true. What would you say?

When I was in UK, I also was abused/attacked/ripped off by locals just for being Russian. However, please note – our soldiers never been to UK.

You might say next time that locals in Iraq didn’t warm you up as they should. Why should they love you? I think you should feel guilty for being american instead…

Sorry if this was a bit sharp…

Interesting post but I can’t agree with it either. Vietnam was on my first tour of Vietnam and we hit a few situations where people were superb. In Dalat the bikers took us to the hospital as my girlfriend started to feel really sick 40 minutes into it and they really helped us there. When she felt sick in Mui Ne one of the local restaurant owners made up some special drinks for her for me to take back to the room (although we had built up a good bond there). In Nah Trang we had a great night with locals in one of the late night bars.
We travelled as a couple backpacking and took the normal bus route from South to North which I never looked forward to, but despite being droppped off with no accommodation we found some superb stuff just from the touts on the bus and I really thought it would be the other way round. In Hoi An we had a superb little restaurant we frequented and got treated so well it was hard to believe and the food was superb, and very cheap.
Sure you’ll get ripped off and yes it can get frustrating but that’s not unlike many other countries – you either enjoy the haggling as part of the experience or detest it and don’t buy. On a recent trip to Kyrgyzstan we got really hacked off with the inflated prices we were initially quoted but we’d love to go back. In China we had a starting price of $30 for a packet of playing cards so just walked away.
In saying that Vietnam wasn’t my favourite country in SE Asia but not for the same reasons as you – I just preferred places like Laos.
For others reading this don’t let it put you off. As some of the comments and responses have indicated you get good an bad experiences in many countries depending who you travel with, how you react to things, and just the circumstances you end up in.
If you do go, this is one place I found it was really good to splurge on accommodation if you wanted a break from backpacking…. I stayed in a $50 hotel the night my girlfriend turned up and it wasn’t worth the difference, but if you go from £8 to £15 there can be a massive difference. In Hoi An we could have had a room with a marble bathroom, balcony and desktop computer in our room for $15.
Your comments about the history are interesting though if that’s how it is… if I was them I’d surely be pissed about the history of the country in the hands of others, but the same could be said for Laos. Its disgusting what some parts of the world did to that area but then you can only hope that locals appreciate that it wasn’t you personally that did it.
As for the post itself, good that you speak your mind, but I hope others only treat it as one experience, which may be wildly different from the experience they have. My comments are from a trip inlate 2006.

That’s a bummer that you had bad experiences there, but as the comments show, it seems like it can differ from person to person. I think age, race, and appearance can definitely factor into how we are treated abroad. And you make a good point that they may not have fond feelings for the West. I bet you’re right, that luxury travelers probably have it easier since they are giving the locals more money.

I know what you mean about feeling frustrated with the locals, even though it’s probably not quite as bad. While I really enjoyed the architecture and history of Istanbul, I hated just being there. Everywhere I went–stores, restaurants, markets, even just walking down the street–men shouted at me, followed me, and wouldn’t leave me alone. It was all in attempts to get me into their establishment. Yelling at me that their restaurant was better than the one down the street, and pulling me into the cafe so I could look at the menu. When we were lost, a nice older man came by and offered to help us find our way. After he did, he informed us his store was around the corner and we had to go in since he helped us (we did to be nice, but looking back, I guess we didn’t have to). Some of the people in the markets definitely tried ripping me off, and some of the men were straight-up harassing us–one guy working at a restaurant got very physically affectionate with me and it was not OK. Another guy wouldn’t stop following us and shoving flyers in our hands and faces. Some of them were harmless and friendly, probably just really hurting for money. But after a few days there I was dying to just walk down a street and not feel bombarded by people trying to get my money. I’m so used to America, where we don’t have to haggle or deal with this, so it’s always a little disorienting going somewhere where people are so blatantly trying to get your money. Sorry this was so long….just trying to say that I get where you’re coming from, and it definitely puts a damper on the travel experience!

Damn, that sucks Matt.

Clearly it appears to be a glass case of emotions with all the responses, but Ill be sure to watch out for women who try pull sell me water bags without the lemon and sugar, international heads will roll.

Alouise

I’ve never been to Vietnam or SE Asia, so this is purely an outsider’s observation. People seem to be divided about their love/hate for Vietnam, but part of this seems to be a self fulfilling prophecy. You have a bad experience and it clouds your perception of a place. You start to think “wow it’s awful here, I don’t ever want to go back.” The comments about Vietnam on this blog just reinforce this belief. I know it seems simple but it’s something that everyone does. A friend of mine complained about her time in Paris because everyone was rude. But truthfully she can be a put standoffish, and while she may have encountered some rude people I have a feeling her attitude probably didn’t make things better. I don’t mean to imply you were a jerk in Vietnam, because you seem like a nice guy. And we all have our loves and hates in travel, but you seem to be painting Vietnam with a pretty broad brush. You said that you’d be willing to give it a second chance. But if you went back, would you be able to go without any negative perceptions?

Sequoia

Maybe westerners *do* owe Vietnam and ought to spend a little extra, compared to the locals. Not sure if I ever will travel to Vietnam, though I would love to, but I imagine I would go gladly willing to spend all the money I could to a nation so ravaged in the past. I imagine I would like feeling as if I am balancing out the world a bit. Then again, you may be just exactly right. Interesting post.

NomadicMatt

It’s not that I don’t think they got the short end of the stick or that I demand local prices, it was their attitude that turned me off.

We don’t “owe” them anything. Political agendas from 40 years ago play no part in what we owe or what we don’t owe today.

If they treat me like dirt and try to rip me off, why should they be entitled to anything at ALL?

Matt

If your parents were killed by foreign invaders then that’s something that doesn’t go away for a lifetime. The Vietnamese have every right to hate Americans. Who are you in your comfortable world to tell them how to behave now.

Khuc Hoang Trung

Matt’s blog make people debates not only about VN tourism but also the Vietnamese’s thought about Westerners.
It is for sure Vietnamese, from youngsters to old veterans; do not have hard feeling to Westerners. The war ended 37 years ago. It’s time for us, Vietnamese and oversea Vietnamese; to develop our homeland.
My father was Northern soldier and got wounded in the war. Once he did gardening and found an American soldier’s tag, he told me to bring it to American Consulate as he knew they were running the MIA program (look for American soldier who died in the war and still not found the body) and hoped the tag could help. He sometimes also told us his post-war thought; there is no hateness to American.
Trung

I lived there 2 months, even fractured my forehead in a random bike accident. Everyone there was nothing but super nice. Most backpackers get used to Thailand and assume everyone is going to want to be there friend. Reality is most of Vietnam does not need your cash, so you show up with the “i’m a tourist” attitude you’ll not have fun.

Show up as a person who is friendly and chill and time of your life… Didn’t like Vietnam? Never go to China as they really don’t need your coin.

Dan

It’s a shame you had this experience Matt, because I had some excellent interactions with locals, from a moto driver/guide going well beyond what we negotiated for the afternoon and several local restaurant owners helping me unlock the secrets of their cuisine, and many of those learned I was an American, so I don’t think that’s the simple excuse as many here have theorized. I thought this was a superb post because I completely understand where you’re coming from and make a legitimate, fair argument for your thoughts. I hope you give the country another shot with an open mind. And if the locals make it a terrible experience again, there’s plenty of other countries in the world.

Oh man, you described my experience to a T. I was there for 15 days (during Tet 2009, which made things about 10,000x worse) and I couldn’t WAIT to get out. I made my way from the Phu Quoc island, through Saigon, Nha Trang, Hoi An, and finally Hanoi.

Seriously, I have no idea why the people were so rude there. They constantly tried to rip me off, laughed at me while doing it and some bastard even tried jumping my cab meter. Not to mention, the constant beeping and honking of a million motobikes drove me nearly insane.

I was so pissed/frustrated in my last couple of days in Hanoi that I wanted to clothesline the next person to honk at me from a motobike. Needless to say, when I landed in Laos, it was like I was reborn.

And it’s not just the white man, I’m asian and I still got treated like crap.

They say Vietnam is a country that you either hate or love. Like you, I definitely leaned towards the former.

Oh and I forgot to mention the most infuriating experience I had in Nha Trang.

We went to a restaurant and my two friends got a menu in English. The server didn’t come around so I grabbed a random one off another table. My menu was in Vietnamese and the prices were markedly lower. We ordered our drinks from the Vietnamese menu and made sure the waiter knew about it.

When we had finished our drinks, the tab came and of course it was with the English menu prices. We called the manager and a 15 minute argument ensued. He said the English menu had bigger cups, better coffee, BS, BS, blah blah blah. We told him that we *specifically* ordered from the Vietnamese menu and didn’t want anything from the English menu.

In the end, we refused to pay the inflated prices, gave him the money and left the place pissed off. Ruined what would have otherwise been a great afternoon.

FINALLY, someone who understands!

Greetings from Tai’an, China …

I believe that it all depends on your personal approach, your “look”, luck, mood of the day, and level of tolerance to the general shit of travel.

Certainly, Vietnam will have it’s quota of hassles, as it has become one of the biggest tourist meccas in SE Asia and the world, possibility … (and this tourist back-lash is stretching to many parts of many now-favored travel places, beyond Vietnam).

My first time in Vietnam was for a total of two months backpacking as part of greater Asia-Africa trip, traveling south to north, in 1994; amazing. No issues apart from constant demands from street beggars (like India). Now, in 2010, I revisited on an overland trip from Bangkok into central China, via Laos and the Bien Dien Phu route, and I still loved traveling Vietnam (even thou I knew there were a few inflated prices …but no rudeness, quite the opposite).

But I have had negative experiences in Russia – drugged, robbed; Iraq – arrested as a spy; mugged in Brazil; YET these things never soured my outlook or experience of these countries. I love everywhere …

Simply: The world is a different place … to each individual …

And Matt, if you didn’t like Vietnam – for any reason, then that is enough to say, F**k it! There’s plenty of other countries to explore.

Enjoy the road … Regards – Michael Robert Powell – AKA – the candy trail … a global nomad, since 1988

Hi Matt,

Just a few thoughts on your post & the rest of the comments:

1. I totally disagree on the fact that Westerners, and Americans in particular, owe something to Vietnam. I’m Spaniard and historically Spain and Vietnam have had no relationship at all! So I don’t see why I should have any kind of debt/burden. Especially on events that happened 40+ years ago.

2. Although I was ripped off, sometimes treated like crap and in general, Vietnamese made me feel like a walking wallet I can’t say I hated Vietnam. There were plenty of things/places that I truly enjoyed. So for me it wasn’t the love or hate experience that most of you had.

3. I tend to think that people enhance or ruin my experience while travelling around a country. Fortunately it wasn’t the case in Vietnam. I guess that at some point I just learnt to ignore them (which is a shame I know but I felt that I had no option).

4. Finally, I couldn’t agree more with Robert Powell (the candy trail): “Simply: The world is a different place … to each individual …”. So there’s no great place and awful place. Just a perception. That’s why I read your blog, to know your opinion on this and that, not some objective information that could be found anywhere else. I might agree with you or not but I totally understand that what you write is based on subjective info. So… Thanks! :)

Frank

My wife and I spent 3 weeks in northern and sother vietnam and had a great time. yea people try to rip you off here and there, but stuff is so cheap to begin with – dont sweat a buck or two and just enjoy the place.

Loved the vibrant 24 hour street culture, bia hoi beers on the street, and amazing kayaking ih hailong bay.

interesting post – Vietnam is one of my favourite countries. I first went to Saigon in 1989 – just after it opened – before there was free travel within the country (which is why I never got permits to leave HCM) and when there was no Lonely Planet! At the airport the “offiical” bus was $10 – the 3 or 4 of us who were backpackers – shrugged and walked away. The guy behind the desk put his official hat away and charged us $1/each – on the way to town he said which hotel – as we didn’t know – we said “your brother’s” – to this day he probably doesn’t know why that was so funny for those of us coming from Thailand.

In 2004 I went back. I don’t know if I count as a “rich tourist” – our budget was around $20/night which got us a good room with ensuite, a/c in the south and breakfast. What I noticed though was that most young backpackers were moving in a mob – because they caught the v/cheap tourist buses which dropped them off and picked them up at the backpacker accommodation. We stayed in local hotels – often with locals, caught local buses generally – we got the normal bargaining of course – but nothing worse than anywhere else in SEA.

We did once get a backpackers bus from HCM to Mui Nee – we had booked a hotel which we knew was in to the south of the town. The bus stopped in town – but the guide didn’t want people to leave – he was obviously waiting for the hotel tout to show up (if you pay $1 for a 3 hour trip what do you expect!) To my amazement out of 40 odd backpackers on the bus only us and one other couple got off. The tout tried to tell us there were no taxis in town – I just laughed at him (it was the middle of the day – I could see traffic). I thought we would start a charge off the bus – but all the others just sat there waiting to be taken to a no doubt over-priced hotel! The so-called independent travellers were more passive than your average bus tour!

There does seem to be quite a disparity- I met people who loved it and people who hated it. I was not such a big fan of Vietnam. It was too touristed on the main routes and met more than my share of rude people along the way. I had a local rip up money and throw it at me on the train which was probably the most insulting. I also had a lady in a grocery store give me candy instead of change. I absolutely loved Sapa and the smaller towns like Dalat. I found for the most part that the people working in hotels were really friendly and gave great service. The overcharging thing doesn’t bother me so much, as I’ve traveled in Africa and it’s really common there- I just try to ask a local before I go to buy something. I don’t have much of a desire to go back to Vietnam either but there were parts of the country that were quite beautiful!

I do sympathise with everything you said, and could see how it would all get a person down.
But despite it all, Vietnam is my favourite place in the world, and I go back again and again.
A word on the candy instead of change: incredibly annoying and presumptuous as it is, it happens to everyone, not just foreign tourists – traders (especially those that belong to companies and chains) are trying all on their own to phase out using notes under 5,000 dong. Naturally, this always adds up in their favour, and I don’t know why the government doesn’t intervene. But it drives Vietnamese people crazy too.

JP

I was in Vietnam for 3 weeks last month.

I’m a big city guy – and because of work I have to stick there anyway – so I spent most of my time in Hanoi and HCMC.

I wouldn’t return and didn’t enjoy myself, simply because I thought both cities were dull and don’t have much to offer. Sellers are pushy, walking around is not a pleasant experience with the trafic and constant motobike offers. Shopping is IMO very boring, the few malls are dull, the markets I went to were disgusting.

The other place I went to is Nha Trang. Complete tourist trap. Nothing to do. Hassle everywhere.

IMO Thailand and Malaysia have much more to offer, with less hassle. My number one personal complain about Vietnam is really how dull it is.

Nicole Louis

I have just returned from one and a half months in Vietnam and had the same experience as Matt but worse, despite meeting, mixing and dining with some of the local people. When I was with a Vietnamese I was treated as a curiosity and never ripped off. However when I was on my own it was a nightmare, I was stalked, stolen from, laughed at by rude police, and hotel staff. I felt terribly unsafe. The experience has nothing to do with whether you are nice or not. Vietnamese generally, are rude and aggressive, even the expats who love the place admit this dire quality of the people. And they do not believe in any kind of decent service in return to be paid. And those from the US, I met many Vietnamese from the South who had fond memories of Americans soldiers who often fed them and took the children on boat rides and attempted to protect them from the Communists, they were grateful. I know I’m treading on perhaps a thin line here but it is from some of their views I’m reporting, Surprisingly, especially after seeing the War Museum and having grown up with the Vietnam anti-war protests, some idolized all things American. It is a complex country with a complex history. I attempted to understand the culture, but the people made my journey unenjoyable. I met 45 travelers including myself who were stolen from and mugged. Crime is increasing there and I would appreciate knowing where people can complain, travelers seem to simply walk away after being treated so badly but I think travelers need to demand more in this case. My journey was the trip from hell and it was the people who made it so. I certainly don’t want to go back there, but I would like to complain, because it’s becoming very unsafe for many, because the service is bad and dishonest, because of increasing crime: hotel staff stealing from safes, because of constant rudeness and being made to feel unwelcome, and of course for some nice Vietnamese who are trying to make an honest living and need capital imput to survive. Supporting this, I read on the lonely planet just today a girl who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, warning women not to carry handbags, she admitted she doesn’t know one women who hasn’t been mugged or had their handbag stolen. Of course it happens elsewhere but not to the extent I witnessed in Vietnam. And just to add – some years back the Balinese became quite aggressive sellers towards foreigners but many tourists complained or wouldn’t go back. The Balinese were advised to improve their attitude and they did. That’s how change happens. I wish I could be more positive but despite learning about the diversity, resourceful and fighting spirit of the Vietnamese, I have never hated a place so much- it’s the people.

I feel the same way about Bolivia as you do Vietnam. I was constantly ripped off, treated poorly, and extorted for money (many times for things I didn’t buy). I also had a string of bad circumstances happen in Bolivia that left a bad taste in my mouth. I also hated the food and I couldn’t wait to get into Chile to get a decent meal. Everyone has their country they hate… right now mine is Bolivia, yours is Vietnam. To each their own.

Charlotte

I spent three weeks backpacking in Vietnam this summer and had an amazing time. I found most of the Vietnamese locals to be kind and open to befriending tourists, particularly in HCMC and Hanoi. Although I was scammed a couple of times and experienced occasional hostility, most people were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. And in my opinion the sites, culture and beauty of Vietnam made up for any rare unkindness. To be honest I found some of the other tourists to be more unpleasant.

It’s funny, we met a few people during our travels through SE Asia who warned us about Vietnam and a couple who even begged us not to go for the same reasons you mention here. We considered staying longer in Laos and skipping Vietnam, but I’m so glad we didn’t! We encountered an overbooked tour in Ha Long Bay also and I probably wouldn’t do another tour of the bay, but we met some of the most friendly and kind-hearted Vietnamese people while we were on that tour. We stayed in cheap hostels and didn’t notice any of the problems that many people speak of about Vietnam. The owners of Hoa’s Place in China Beach were extremely welcoming and not out to rip anybody off. I guess sometimes you get lucky.

Wow! We can totally relate! Vietnam was the most frustrating place we visited during our trip around the world. Fortunately (I guess) we met a fun group of travelers to spend our month in Vietnam with which made it fun and easier to watch out for one another. We should have known that things were going to be difficult when we saw a guest/backpacker try to beat up a guy working at a guesthouse for stealing his passport. From then on we knew things weren’t quite right and unfortunately there were many times where my husband and I had to calm each other down before we got into a really heated discussion with the locals trying to provide a service to us-also know as scam us and put us down simultaneously.

Chalk me up for the “hate Vietnam” column. I feel uneasy about the idea of hating something as diverse as an entire country, and there’s all the usual disclaimers of “of course we also met plenty of nice Vietnamese,” but Vietnam is nonetheless the most unenjoyable country I’ve ever visited. And yes, it’s the people – rude, aggressive, unhelpful and avaricious.

An odd discrepancy I noticed was that the people who have no stake in you are friendly and eager to help you out (this happened all the time when my motorbike broke down in the countryside) whereas the people who deal regularly with tourists (tour operators, guesthouse owners, vendors etc.) will quite often treat you with nothing but contempt. And yes, being ripped off is par for the course in South East Asia, but as Matt said, there’s just something about the Vietnamese attitude when they do it that’s incredibly galling.

Incidentally, I wrote about all this on my blog, which was eventually discovered by an expat in Hanoi who blew his top off and rounded up all his Twitter buddies for an online attack. It was hilarious. Expats are so touchy.

Anyway, their neighbours the Cambodians are much friendlier and frankly Cambodia is more interesting anyway. I’m not a big fan of Asia, but if I was to go back there I’d take a month in Cambodia over a month in Vietnam without hesitation. (Never made it to laos, but I hear good things.)

NomadicMatt

Cambodia is one of my favorite countries in the world. Totally agree with you on that point.

Danny Montiel

Matt,
I happen to be half vietnamese (but I look American) and I’m very sorry about what happened to you. I went to Nam back in 04 for the first time since I was 2 yrs old back in 74. I’ll bet I would’ve had the same experience as you did had it not been for my mom and an entourage of relatives who have lived there for generations. As we shopped in Saigon, the vendors did their best to grab my attention and pull me away from my family. The street beggars stalked me constantly and accosted me when I was alone. At Vung Tau Beach, street vendors ruined our picnic by pleading with me to buy their stuff the entire time we were there. Despite these incidents, I had a great time because my mom haggled for me when I wanted to buy something. She made sure I got the correct change although I tipped big everytime. She showed me where to go and where not to go to ensure I had a great time all the time. She advised me to tell my friends not to travel to Nam unless they have a vietnamese/english speaking friend to come along as an interpreter/haggler. She agrees that south Nam blames the US for its troubles and will shake down western tourists because they “owe” them for abandoning them during the war. She doesn’t agree with it but acknowledges that this is the prevailing sentiment. Hope you have a better experience next time…..if there is one. Peace bro

NomadicMatt

That’s a very, very interesting perspective. Thank you!

Matt, I have to say I couldn’t agree more with your balanced and accurate post. It’s a real pain, because without the constant scamming, Vietnam would be a beautiful country, and if overshadows the many instances of friendliness and kindness you see.

Vietnam is the 13th country we’ve visited on this trip (and the 5th in SE Asia) and the only one where we’ve had such experiences.

Don’t feel outnumbered, I think you were pretty even-handed. For us it was a relief to leave! Great site BTW.

Cheers, The Only Gringo.

Glenn Syriotis

Ive been to Vietnam and loved it…what did you expect? its one of the poorest countries in the world? and with a man of your experience with travelling thru other Asian countries i am suprised by your ignorance and negative thoughts on Vietnam…my god if thats your opinion on Vietnam..dont go to India or Egypt, or Cambodia or Laos, or Philippines.There are prices for locals and prices for tourists..you just have to go with an open mind and try to think positive. Otherwise none of us would bother travelling…

NomadicMatt

I’m not upset about the prices. I expect and have no problem paying the tourist price. What bothered me was the attitude and overall unpleasant experience.

I went to China directly after Vietnam and found the average Chinese person to be way, way friendlier than the average Vietnamese person.

Whoops, that was meant to be a direct reply to SHABL-Rob.

I’m from Vietnam and I’m really sorry to read this article. It’s pity when author of this article has just seen and got bad experience in our country. I don’t say my country is really good. It’s beautiful and peaceful. However, it’s pity when the government does not pay much and strong attention to improve all fields of the country, especially tourism’s problems. Actually everything has negatives and positive. I hope after this experience, you could return to our country to get better experience. Our country is more and more changed in good side. Believe that!

Marc

Let’s get something straight and separate the facts from fiction:

1. Vietnamese don’t “teach” anyone that problems are caused by the West. Please post his name as this guy has no business teaching ANYONE with this attitude. The current gvt. is trying to raise the standards for teachers and my guess is that he’ll be out of a job soon.
2. “I was thirsty, so I got a common drink in Vietnam – water, lemon, and some powdery, sugary substance in a plastic bag. The woman making this concoction looked at me, laughed at her friends, and then started laughing at me while clearly not putting in all the ingredients into this drink. ” With bottle water/soda/beer available, you asked for a hand-made drink? Westerners are still consider “unique” here. They might be laughing about your big nose, height, bald spot, etc., but I doubt they’re laughing b/c they scored a big financial hit. You’re not their first “white guy”. This frankly, doesn’t make any sense. The “viet kieu” is pulling your leg and you bought it.
3. When they give you back candies, it means that the amount is less than 500 dong, which means you can’t buy anything with it. A long time ago, 500 vnd can actually buy you a meal but now, it’s the equivalent of 2 pennies; get over it. You broke a traveler’s rule, ask for price before you buy. If you don’t, you deserved it.
4. Generally speaking, Southerners are more friendlier than Northerners. That’s just the way it is here and it’s parallel with whether you’re Vietnamese or otherwise.
5. Don’t buy into the war stuff of “you owed us” BS. 70 percent are born AFTER the war. They’re influenced by MTV and western materialism. Thieves do what they do so let’s not paint everyone with one brush. The south has more animosity towards the north because of what happened after the unification and how people were treated, not because of American abandonment. Get over your selves. It’s forgotten and done with. It’s just one of many wars they’ve won. It’s the only country to defeat the Mongolians 3x when the Mongos owned the world, China, France, and the U.S. It’s forgotten.
6. Business people are generally rude and the locals know this. There are currently a lot of scams that are NOT run by Vnamese but by people from other countries, on tourists. Most of these criminals are from the Philipines, China, Nigeria, etc,. The Vietnamese scams are more low level street peddler stuff and rigged taxi meters. If you go to District 5, you’ll get the chinese rudeness.
7. Friendliness: I’ve lived in Mcmansion neighborhoods in Connecticut where I don’t even know who my neighbors are. Here, you have to be a complete idiot to not get on friendly terms with your neighbors. If you show them you’re want to be friends, you’ll get the same back. And I will go out of my way and say that this is generally what happens all over the world.

I’m not making light of your bad experience because clearly you had a BAD experience. I’m just saying that yours is more of an exception to the rule since they’re really not backed up by facts. Give it another chance. You’ll change your mind.

John

I’ve been to Vietnam 3 times now, and will be taking trip #4 in a few more weeks. Yes, I’ve been scammed like most everyone else, and yes I was mad as hell when it happened. Now that I’m here in North America, I constantly compare the two cultures, and the upfront scams that I see in Vietnam are much more appealing to me than the backstabbing fraud and political special interests that I see going on at home.

How many tourists actually meet real Vietnamese citizens – damn few. Most travelers are only in contact with hotel and travel people when they tour the country. I have made several very good friends in the north of the country (mostly Hanoi), and I go back to see these friends and to make new friends there. Vietnam is the real thing, but too many travelers want Disneyland!

Marc

@John: It’s amazing how many Americans and westerners apply their standards when they travel into other countries. That very attitude is called, colonialism – the idea that everyone else are savages and we’re here to save them from themselves. Yes, let’s give them Christianity so we can save them from hell. What a joke! My buddy came over to visit and didn’t enjoy himself because of the “language barrier”. Yes, everyone should speak English for your convenience Einstein. Then to hear people bitch and moan about trivial things like getting your 2 cents returned in candies is utterly asinine. Btw, 99 per cent of “English Teachers” here are really English speakers. Getting a certificate to “teach” English doesn’t make you a teacher. So for this author to believe what a backpacker has to say about how Vietnamese people teach their children is borderline insane. Then he concluded with “I’m not here to make Judgment about…” Then what are you doing then with your paint brush genius?

NomadicMatt

I was just going on what an expat who had lived their for 10 years told me. In fact, my beef with Vietnam has nothing to do with colonialism. It was about the poor attitude I saw while there. I don’t want to be treated like crap. Would you?

NomadicMatt

I don’t want Disneyland, I want to be treated like a person.

Marc

“I was just going on what an expat who had lived their for 10 years told me. In fact, my beef with Vietnam has nothing to do with colonialism. It was about the poor attitude I saw while there. I don’t want to be treated like crap. Would you? I don’t want Disneyland, I want to be treated like a person.”

No one wants to be treated like crap and I understand; I really do. My guess is that you’ve managed to find the 1 guy that knows everything bad about Vietnam but STAYED for 10 yrs. Isn’t that special? Why isn’t he leaving the country since it’s so bad? Does it make any sense Matt? You’ve stayed on the tourist trail and you were treated like some tourists. It still doesn’t make it right and I truly feel bad for you. It’s one of those things that they need to improve on, but even that is a coin toss. I’ve seen a tourist overpaid a merchant and she actually called her back and gave the tourist her money back and then telling her to be careful because of the likeness in color between the 500K and the 20K. You will easily fall into a trap if you start feeling sorry for disable people or women begging for money while carrying a young child. This is a scam in itself. I’m not defending this but it’s kind of like playing football with a bunch of lawyers and then wonder why you’re getting hit with a lawsuit. Go on the unbeaten path my friend.

Attitudes are reciprocal. I’ve seen too many foreigners treat the locals like third class citizens and acted like they’re God’s gift to VN. A lot of these guys are here because women in their own countries wouldn’t give them the time of day. They spent their time chasing prostitutes and bragging about how cheap it is. A lot of times they ending up marrying one of these bar girls and get taken for a ride. The locals look down on bar girls and if they think you’re with a bar girl, you might get a cold shoulder from the neighbors, even in a local neighborhood.
I had some of the worst attitude in NYC and some of the best in a little town out of no where in Utah. It’s just depends on your mood and the situation.

Hung

I’m a Vietnamese, and I feel ashamed about this >.<. It if difficult to be treated fair for foreigners in Vietnam, especially white people. However, It may happen the same for Vietnamese. Some Vietnamese people don't have a good awareness about the way they treat tourist. Obviously, the lost their long-term customer.

I’d like to offer something other than the loved it/hated it dichotomy. I just got back from Vietnam after a month’s travels. I agree that while the risks, like those mentioned in this article, are greater, I think the rewards are as well.

Yes, I was ripped off, too. (Literally, a xe om driver took the money from my hands.) I was overcharged. I met some hostile children. I was laughed at by strangers (and I laughed with them). But a stranger on a bus also bought tea for me and a woman on a train gave me food. I met a guy at a cafe. After we talked for two hours, he paid for my coffee and gave me a ride across town for nothing, even after I offered. And I could go on about all the Vietnamese I met and who I will remember for nothing more than their curiosity and kindness. (I think it helped that the sentiments were often mutual.)

I’ve been to Thailand, and you’re right. I wasn’t ripped off (neither in quantity or style) there like I was in Vietnam, but I didn’t make nearly as many local friends there, either. And for that reason, if given the choice, I’d choose to go back to Vietnam.

I have visited many countries in Asia and I have to say that Vietnam was my favorite! I found the locals to be extremely friendly and helpful. I will say that I too was ripped off by street vendors and such, but I guess that is something that I was used to as I had previously lived in Thailand for almost three years. It’s too bad that you had such a poor experience… maybe someday you can give it a second chance. :)

Tee

I out of all the countries I visited in SEA! Cambodia stood out the most! Temples, friendly people, Gorgeous undiscovered Island’s, etc! I can spend a whole month there and not get bored!

outsider

As an outsider, (meaning non-caucasian) let me give some different perspective. No blinking wonder that they hate you, and try to rip you off. Like you rightly stated, they are taught to hate whites, specially french and americans. France was the colonial power, and uncle sam tried to bomb them out of existence. Since the terrain is tailor made for guerilla warfare, the americans couldnt win, hence they used agent orange to clear the foliage. next time try telling them you are british, german, whatever. India and pakistan, hate each other but both are united in hatred for british, because it was the colonial power. thats what they are taught since childhood.(all their problems are becasue of british, french americans etc) Even americans, the educated middle class, loves them but the bottom of the pyramid dont. No wonder uncle sam is having problems pacifying pakistan, despite the bilions of dollars in aid. Wont find the same problems in thailand, because it was a kingdom which was never colonised. No reason for hate.

Marc

“they are taught to hate whites” – Where the heck do you get this thinking? The only country teaching hate that I personally know of is the United States with its anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-god knows whatever. Are you sure your trip wasn’t in Alabama or Georgia? They DON’T hate anybody! Over 75 percent of the people are born AFTER the war since the U.S. did such a great job at exterminating the older generation with a plethora of chemical warfare (orange, pink, blue, green, etc.). Many of those who lived through the war has come down with cancer from eating and drinking on the very land which absorbed this chemical. The simple fact is that it amounts to genocide. This doesn’t include unexploded-active ordinance and mines that are still prevalent in the country side. with that being said, these people worries about putting food and the table and sending their kids to get educated.

Just say you had a bad experience, say you got screwed by a few people, say you’ll never go back but don’t paint brush an entire population with your unsupported opinion. Terrain? There are as many Vietnamese who died from malaria, snakebites, and other maladies as the U.S./French soldiers. They just had better tactics for dealing with a more powerful enemy. I really doubt that India/Pakistan hates the British. There are actually positive things that come from colonialism such as technology and education. The U.S. spent billions on Pakistan and Afghanistan to further our industrial military complex economy; not to pacify Afghanistan. The more wars you have, the more weapons you can sell. If you want to talk hate, talk about the current state of affairs between Jews and Muslims. Seriously, you don’t know a damn thing about what you’re talking about. I live here for 4 years now and can say that this “taught to hate” is completely false. Btw, Thailand was very lucky that King Quang Trung died. Had he lived another 2 yrs, Thailand would have became part of Vietnam. This was to avenge for the time the Thais sided with Nguyen Anh. The Thais gave N.Anh 20k troops to take back Saigon (Gia Long at the time) but failed and all but 1,000 soldiers survived and fled back to Thailand. Thailand was on his agenda but he collapse and died suddenly at the age of 40.

You have to understand the history before you go and make unsubstantiated blanket statements. Look at who they defeated throughout history – China, Mongolian, French, U.S.. These countries aren’t push overs. Vietnam overcame many obstacles to get to where they are today. It’s a country that value education and is trying desperately to improve it. There are many improvements that VN has to make such as environmental, corruption, education, banking, and so on but I have never heard of anyone here who preaches hate to their children.

Wow, Matt, that’s too bad.

I’ve been to Vietnam twice over the past year and a half and have loved every minute of my experiences. But I ventured mostly off the beaten path. I think most idyllic places that get overrun by tourism tend to be more of a pain to travel to, and require more vigilance, especially in the tourist areas.

I also believe that you reap what you sow. For years I have been dismayed to see travelers go through countries in SE Asia and totally disrespect the culture. Anyone who has been there knows what I mean. We have, for better or worse, changed these cultures by our very presence.

I have found that if you go away from tourist areas you’ll be treated very well by locals, especially if you show an interest in getting to know them and their culture.

I just came back from Laos, where there aren’t many tourists and the people there are absolutely incredible. I only wonder how much longer that is going to last.

Interesting article. As a former backpacker and now running a tour operator I have also noticed the odd difference in experinces between the budget and more upmarket travellers. As Matt says those travelling in a more organised manner definitely seem to have a better time. However bear mind that backpackers are regarded wth much suspicion throughout the region. Perhaps Vietnamese are just more overtly rude to those they consider cheap. Bad move as in the long run many of our clients are grown up backpackers looking to return inn more stlye

NomadicMatt

Maybe one day…

Interesting post and quite a run of bad luck, I’d say. I spent three weeks in Vietnam in 1995 and enjoyed myself, though on every bus I took I had to fight to pay something akin to what the locals were paying. I was warned about this before going, and so watched what others were paying, and then handed over the same. If they didn’t accept this and a small top up (10%, usually), I just started walking away. It always worked.

Have you been to Taiwan? Safest, most welcoming place in Asia in my opinion.

Fred Verne

You poor abused sissy. Maybe this is why the Vietnamese treated you like sh**.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mai_Lai_Massacre

jellibean

I’m a Vietnamese-American, born and raised in the states. I actually traveled to Vietnam for the first time last June and spent a month there. Although I enjoyed the experience overall, my experience was through the eyes of a ‘Viet Kieu’ (Vietnamese living outside of the country). I experienced many of the negatives you mentioned, whether I was thought to be a local or acknowledged to be a foreigner (usually happened as soon as opened my mouth and uttered my broken Vietnamese).
The mentality of many of the locals seem to be that the world is a dog-eat-dog kind of world. But I’ve also meant some of the most kind and fun loving people there. Locals from different regions of Vietnam are known for different temperaments. The northerners are described as mean, hardworking, and smart. The southerners are described as more laid-back, lazy, and go with the flow.
Although I had my share of run-ins with rude, pushy, scamming, etc. idiots… the food, beautiful scenaries, and interactions with certain locals were worth the trade offs!

Ting

Glad I chanced upon your site! This is my exact same sentiment as well. I had a few nasty experiences in Vietnam and it so tainted my view of the country that I vowed never to go back there again. I was harassed by a tutu driver who, despite my repeated refusals, kept following me around. Finally I pitied him and gave in. He initially said, “For you my friend, it’s free.” I knew there was nothing such as a free lunch and intended to give him a token at the end of the trip for his efforts. For showing me around the city for 4 hrs, he got a free lunch, cigarettes, and afterwards demanded US$100 from me. I refused and he got aggressive and threatened to wait at the lobby of my apartment. Afraid that he was going to cause trouble, I paid up and gave him about US$40. I’ve travelled to many 3rd world countries but Vietnam was the worst.

I have to say that while I’m not surprised at the dichotomy of reactions, I am surprised by the expectation of an optimal experience everytime.

In the Caribbean, it’s the same … tourists come in and expect things to be done for them … in fact the expectation creates the divide.

High-end or backpackers will face the same issue … the only difference is that the high-end travellers wont quibble about being overcharged. It is a value proposition … locals always charge a foreigner more because the foreigner had the luck/fortune/ability to see the rest of the world while they’re trying to eke out an existence.

I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences in Vietnam … however I would go back in a second, simply because what they had over there, I don’t have here. Like any path one takes, YYMV on any travelling experience.

Fran

Hi
I have to say I’m shocked by your story in Vietnam. I spent a month there in 2006 and loved everything about it: the people, the food, the vibe… so much that I would live in Hanoi tomorrow. And I did NOT travel in luxury!!
However, I agree with you that everyone’s travel experience is their own… it just bums me out to hear you had a crappy time there (although I HATED Madrid and southern Spain due to bad experiences… and people tell me I’m crazy to not love Spain!)
Just one more point: being ripped off is part of travel. I’m sure you’re ripped off all the time in other countries and perhaps less aware of it at times? I’m not saying you should accept it all the time… but you have to pick and choose your battles in this regard… and even though we are backpackers on a tight budget, we often still have more money than people in these countries. India, Cambodia, Thailand, etc. will all try to get a few extra pennies from you if they can, regardless of your skin color. They just know you’re not from there… so they will push the envelope a bit.

Gees….it’s really frustrating me if it happen to me. Anyway..thanks for sharing bad things from your journey. I’ve never been to Vietnam but I will. And hoping that all the bad things never happened to me…

Angel

No matter what , l won`t go to that boreing country again !! means even smone give me 10 billon for visit vietnam, NO ! HELL ! SORRY ! I WON`T GO TO VIETNAM AGAIN !! SHIT COUNTRY !!

Don`t go to Vietnam ! Vietnam is a most bored country ! n the airport Custom is so corruption ! They even robbery n Threatening tourist !!

Its a ture SHIT COUNTRY !

andrewsongnyc

I too had a bad experience as Nomadic Matt had in Vietnam…
I just got back from Vietnam less then a week ago.

I (a Korean-American) had traveled there with my wife (Taiwanese) and her friends (a group of 12 Taiwanese).
I must say the same experiences happened to me… I don’t mind being swindled and overpaying but the people are just flat out rude and disrespectful in Vietnam.

Everyone there seemed to just have one train of thought – swindle and be rude as F*CK.
Even our tour guide was unhelpful… when we would ask when and where we would eat, he would reply,”oh , whenever and where ever we see” this was a tour guide setup by a travel agency mind you. I felt like most of the trip was spent driving on the tour bus… we would ask how long we would be driving for he would reply we’ll get there soon… and we would arrive to our destination 2 hours later….When he took us out to a club one night to drink he had told us one price before we got there and then switched and upped the price 2x’s before the bill came out.

I felt like everything there had to be an argument or a hassle to do/buy anything. I am not a stuck up person either and I have also traveled else where in Asia but this type of experience is a first. Just the look in peoples eyes just seem scheming like they are out to rob you. My ex room mate when I was living in Brooklyn, NYC was Vietnamese, after his first trip back from Vietnam, he was telling me how fun and great it is there… but he had also told me ” it’s the land of hustlers ” but he sounded proud of this and made it sound like people work hard for a living. But since this trip I understand what he had truly meant by this… It’s a land of conniving swindlers… a country of people who’s goal is just to get over on other people to live….

Even the service at the Intercontinental in Hanoi Westlake was mediocre. I was staying on the first floor and the cleaning people decide to leave my balcony door unlocked and shades open for all to see my luggage and belongings.

At the airport departing, the ticket counter lady would not let one of our tour group members to fly back to Taiwan, even though he carries a Taiwanese passport and 4 days prior flew in from Taiwan. Only after 2 hours of arguing they allowed him to get his ticket. Even my USA passport was in question if I was allowed back to Taiwan, even though I carry a VISA for Taiwan. Everything is so corrupt there… I was so turned off to this country.

I have traveled to Shenzhen, China many times for business and when that gig was up I vowed never to go back to there, but after Vietnam and dealing with the people… Shenzhen and the people there seem to be more civilized and warm.

I too will NEVER be going back to Vietnam…. even Thailand, Malaysia and other SE ASIA countries who are in the same economic climate are not like this…

Samy

im sorry. but what do u mean ” shit country”. I wonder u have really aware of what u said.
Respect Viet Nam.

Juan Pablo Izquierdo

I am feeling exactly the same, I was before in Myanmar, China, Thailand and Laos.. lovely friendly people…but here i am feeling screwed everywhere. and worse then that i am feeling like i am invading , not wanted…like please get out of here…and i am doing a documentary about friendly Asia…

Wow

Wow. I’ve been traveling for a year in around 25 countries so far and Vietnam would be in my top 5. It is not perfect, but generally I found the people friendly and easy going. It’s cheap as hell but you still get quality accomodation. There is good nightlife in Saigon, awesome beaches all over, nice food, and its generally easy to get around thanks to all the tour buses and cheap domestic flights. You have ancient culture as well as plenty of war related stuff. It really is one of the most interesting places in the world.

Sorry you had a bad time but I’ve found other places like Thailand far worse. Fact is that in any poor country people try to screw you, it is just the way it is. You can’t take it seriously, and especially don’t take the laughing seriously. In Vietnam it is pretty common, esp in the South, for locals to laugh at foreigners. I was near the Mekong and everywhere I went people just laughed. They weren’t being rude, it is just that they never see that many foreigners and they laugh at them in a playful way, just as I laugh when I see a half nude dude dressed in a banana suit riding a bike down a San Francisco street (this happens like once a month).

NomadicMatt

See Thailand is one of my favorite places. Everyone’s experience is always different and so while you hate Thailand, I love it and while you love Vietnam, I hate it.

To each their own.

Joe

I had an awesome time in Vietnam, but I think maybe it was because I knew ahead of time they were going to try and overcharged. I bargainned everywhere in Ben Thahn Market, and didn’t have to with cabs as I stuck with Vinasun and MaiLinh. It’s not always that easy. Some cab companies look like “Mai Linh” but are actually rip offs. I got one major ripoff with a cab, and one asshole tried selling me two bottles of water on the street for $5. He wouldnt give me my change back. After 5 minutes of constant voice raising he finally gave in. Only bad experience of the trip.

Just remember with Vietnam to always have lots of small bills (confusing, I know), lots of bargainning and as in Asia, don’t lose face unless they’re completely rude and arrogant – like my water bottle friend who tried taking me to the cleaners.

We met tons of locals who were super friendly, and weren’t trying to sell us anything. Sucks you had a bad time in Vietnam!

In my travels, I have met so many Americans who hate most Americans.Why is that? Why do most travelling American’s always feel like they’re getting screwed? Look on the bright side of life!

andrewsongnyc

I too had a bad experience as Nomadic Matt had in Vietnam…
I just got back from Vietnam less then a week ago.

I (a Korean-American) had traveled there with my wife (Taiwanese) and her friends (a group of 12 Taiwanese).
I must say the same experiences happened to me… I don’t mind being swindled and overpaying but the people are just flat out rude and disrespectful in Vietnam.

Everyone there seemed to just have one train of thought – swindle and be rude as F*CK.
Even our tour guide was unhelpful… when we would ask when and where we would eat, he would reply,”oh , whenever and where ever we see” this was a tour guide setup by a travel agency mind you. I felt like most of the trip was spent driving on the tour bus… we would ask how long we would be driving for he would reply we’ll get there soon… and we would arrive to our destination 2 hours later….When he took us out to a club one night to drink he had told us one price before we got there and then switched and upped the price 2x’s before the bill came out.

I felt like everything there had to be an argument or a hassle to do/buy anything. I am not a stuck up person either and I have also traveled else where in Asia but this type of experience is a first. Just the look in peoples eyes just seem scheming like they are out to rob you. My ex room mate when I was living in Brooklyn, NYC was Vietnamese, after his first trip back from Vietnam, he was telling me how fun and great it is there… but he had also told me ” it’s the land of hustlers ” but he sounded proud of this and made it sound like people work hard for a living. But since this trip I understand what he had truly meant by this… It’s a land of conniving swindlers… a country of people who’s goal is just to get over on other people to live….

Even the service at the Intercontinental in Hanoi Westlake was mediocre. I was staying on the first floor and the cleaning people decide to leave my balcony door unlocked and shades open for all to see my luggage and belongings.

At the airport departing, the ticket counter lady would not let one of our tour group members to fly back to Taiwan, even though he carries a Taiwanese passport and 4 days prior flew in from Taiwan. Only after 2 hours of arguing they allowed him to get his ticket. Even my USA passport was in question if I was allowed back to Taiwan, even though I carry a VISA for Taiwan. Everything is so corrupt there… I was so turned off to this country.

I have traveled to Shenzhen, China many times for business and when that gig was up I vowed never to go back to there, but after Vietnam and dealing with the people… Shenzhen and the people there seem to be more civilized and warm.

I too will NEVER be going back to Vietnam…. even Thailand, Malaysia and other SE ASIA countries who are in the same economic climate are not like this…

Peter

Hallo, your comment is an absolute truth that so many people here (in Vietnam) cannot speak out of a polite courtesy. It should be repeated over and over and over again until this bad reputation spreads and influences tourism in this country.

I have been working here for over a year and even some of my students would suddenly bring out a obsessive underlying idea : that we should give them everything !!! ‘Can I have your watch ?’

Vietnamese culture has become a poor leftover of what it could have been. Take a motorbike for speeding and not caring about traffic rules, icecream and superficial window shopping and consuming. Moral values have thinned from its original Confucian core. Add an extremely bad social infrastructure and non-transparent government.
Instead of sharpening their critical thinking about their own country, Vietnamese evade thinking by cheating non-Viets and racing through the traffic. It is a very sad state of affairs.

Education is the only way out

Pauline

That’s weird, because I have the same problem with, except it was in Thailand. The place that you seem to like most. I was totally ripped off. Cab drivers will charge me an outrages fee, not at all going by the cab meters. One cab driver even wanted after more after we had negotiated a price! But you know what, it is a poor country, so I let things slide. But I suppose no one likes to be looked upon on as a walking ATM and definitely no one likes to be ripped off no matter where they are.

Anh

I don’t mean to cause any controversy here, but I want to mention some politics. How the government and the system of the country works is a huge factor in the people’s behavior. Communism causes the people to do those type of things. It’s sad, and even I am a 2nd generation Vietnamese-American. I went to Vietnam last year, and you would think that they would treat me better because of an ethnicity similarity, but absolutely not. What they feel is that I belong to a family who “betrayed” their country and that because life in America is better (economically and politically), they feel the need to treat us badly. Jealousy and distrust are the key traits. What a corrupt system! I may be too young to understand everything, but I do know about the war in 1975 that caused my mother country to be this way. It’s so sad that Vietnam has to be this way. I don’t feel anger toward the people, but rather, I pity them for being raised in a system like this.

frustratedtourist

It’s not just you. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say nobody wants to go back to a place where they get treated badly. I’m in Vietnam right now and I’m wanting out! It’s only 5pm here in Hoi An, but instead of going out, I’m in my hotel reading up what shithole this place is. Just got a bad experience(again) and still trying to recover from it.

Boy I miss Thailand and Laos badly. Of course tourists get ripped of in those places as well, but at least they do it with a smile! In Vietnam, they make it so obvious that they’re only interested in your wallet.

I just spent 6 weeks in India and had a very similar experience. In fact, replace the word Vietnam with India and you have the story I’ve been telling. For me the worst part of India wasn’t the poverty, dirtiness, noise, pollution, mistreatment of people/animals, or the awful smells, it was how poorly I was treated and how many times locals tried to cheat me. Sure, I had a few good interactions, which I appreciated immensely, but sadly these were quite rare.

NomadicMatt

The people always make or break a place and shape our interactions. People may go “but X is so great!” However, if people aren’t nice to you, it doesn’t matter. I won’t go back to Vietnam because the people were mean to me…and that is that!

Matt, Bummer about your experience. I stayed about 4 days in/around Saigon (Ho Chi Min City), and found the Vietnamese delightful. I ate inexpensively and got help when needed. On my second day when having some difficulty crossing one of Saigon’s wide boulevards (motorbikes just kept coming!), I felt a gentle tug on my right hand. A little old Vietnamese man (about 70 years old, 5′ 3″. 125 lbs) grabbed my hand, and walked me across the street sidestepping the motorbikes. While this was a little embarrassing for me (5’11″. 190 lbs, 3rd degree black belt), I was grateful, and found it comforting. He walked off without asking for a thing. (I did get the hang of crossing by the next morning.) While Thailand is far and away my favorite (I’ve been to 6 S.E. Asian countries), I plan to return to Vietnam. In any case, I appreciate your experience, and you’ve got a great site/blog. Thanks! John R

Vietnamtravel

I think it’s funny how people are such penny pinchers. Man, so you got ripped off 1-2 dollars. In America, you get ripped off $10 or so. Things are so cheap in Vietnam it’s like I got a haircut for $3, I gave him $20. In America, I pay $35. A beer was $1, in America I pay $6.

I think the people that travel Vietnam need to stay longer. Once, you live there longer, you know their rules. You start to hustle. For instance, if you showed up to a restaurant and they charge you more, so be it. The next few times, go back and bargain with them. Say you charged that person less and you charged me more. Keep going back and then you’ll eventually be friends with them.

Jason T

Are you kidding me??!!! Living here longer would help see the “better side” of Vietnam???!!!!

Please do educate.

Vietnamtravel

Also, reality check for people. It’s not peaches and cream in other countries. After traveling to other countries, you will surely find out you got it made in America or England. So it’s a nice reality check for some people. It’ll definitely give you a more humbling outlook on what you have in America.

Stephen Millar

Interesting article. My wife and I just got back from Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and we agree that Vietnam was our least favourite country to visit.

Compared to Thailand and Cambodia, people in Vietnam just tended to be less friendly and in some cases downright rude. The vendors, taxis and tuk tuk drivers were in many cases demanding or expecting tips, or obviously trying to rip us off – which is very off-putting. We did encounter some wonderful people too, but it was very hit and miss – whereas in Thailand in Cambodia it was almost entirely positive.

That said, we stayed at the 5-star Sofitel Legend Metropole in Hanoi, and it was the most superlative hotel experience we’ve ever had – and the staff were beautiful and wonderful in every way. So your point about catering to affluent travelers rings true as well.

Julie

I had a terrible experience in Vietnam, but I have wanted to return in order to try and rectify the experience. Now I am questioning whether it is worth it. I was in Ho Chi Minh volunteering with orphaned disabled children – many disabilities that are a direct result of the war. That experience was completely wonderful! I do not regret that time for a second and those children really touched my life. But, during our day tour of the city, my expensive DSLR and brand new lens was ripped right from my hands by 2 men on a motorbike. They created a distraction by pretending to run into me. You never think that could happen to you, but it did and it was quite traumatizing… not the material aspect, but the fact that someone could look you in the eyes and violate you. It was hard to get over and during my time in India, I hardly wanted to pull my camera out. At the same time, I didn’t find people to be overly rude and I actually made great friends with many young Vietnamese who I would love to visit again. I found many Vietnamese people to be sweet and friendly. It was just this one experience, which really could happen anywhere, that tainted my view entirely.

Rubin

I recently travel to New York and was robbed at gunpoint in a public restroom while 20 cops were walking outside central station.
I was called “gook” and “japs” while travelling in Los Angeles. for the record i never bomb Pearl Harbor.
In Chicago, I got lost in a bad neighborhood and again was robbed at gun point.
My point is I don’t go back thinking to myself all american are mother fuckers.
So lighten up and do not paint the whole country in a single brush!

Rubin

Also Matt, according to this definition you are a RACIST.

Racism is the belief that there are inherent differences in people’s traits and capacities which are entirely due to their race.

NomadicMatt

Wow. Just wow. I never knew thinking people in location X are rude makes you a racist. I’ve never been to India but I have heard that the sellers there can be very, very pushy. Are the people who say that racist too?

I’ll be sure to tell my Vietnamese friend back home I’m racist against her people. We will get a good laugh out of it.

Annet

Thank you for exactly putting into words what I am experiencing here…was talking about it last night even. Good to hear because it makes you feel u’re not the only one who feels unwelcome (and considers that important)…

Annet (from Vietnam, leaving asap)

Ad

I can see why Vietnamese people dislike Westerners. You are obviously too young to remember the Vietnam War, which the Vietnamese people call the American War, but hey, it was a totally disgusting war, which, in the end, the West did not win. Villages were bombed and totally destroyed. Children died, screaming in terror. And you don’t understand why the Vietnamese gave you such a terrible time? Give your head a shake!

Annet

@Ad, I don’t think anybody is to young to remember that war, even if you weren’t conscious of it back then, the multiple movies, docu’s etc will for sure make you aware of it while growing up. And yes, I agree it’s a horrible history, with a lot of unnecessary human suffering….and ofcourse i think there must be a big connection with the war and their resentment to foreigners. And maybe you are right that that horrible history makes them behave like that to tourists and give tourists a feeling of unwelcomeness. I am not arguing if they are right or wrong to behave like this, but I do think you agree that I personally have nothing to do with that history. And that if I feel unwelcome, it’s understandabe I want to leave.

Ben

There are lots of good people in Vietnam. Probably you need to get away from the tourist areas to see it.

Jason T

My friend- you need a reality check.

As a Japanese-American I’ve often wondered how I will be treated in certain Asian countries I want to visit. Unfortunately Japan did a lot of bad things in Asia and of course people aren’t soon to forget.

Chris

I have to say that for somebody that has travelled so much, you are very ignorant. Having travelled extesnively and lived within SE Asia, I think your comments are representative of many backpackers who think that they deserve better than the locals. When you were in Vietnam, did you not notice the conditions that many locals live in? I for one would not hesitate to try and overcharge somebody by $1 if it would help to improve my standard of living, and I am sure if you put yourself in their shoes you would too.

And overcharging is not limited to Vietnam… the only difference is that people in Thailand do exactly the same thing but with a smile on their face. I guess that makes you feel a lot better.

An additional point is that Vietnam has not long been open to the western world. As a result, the level of English is extremely low in most places in Vietnam. So quite often the language barrier makes it difficult to embrace the people and their ways of life. Having taken the effort to learn Vietnamese, I can honestly say that when I have spoken to people in their own language, I have found the vietnamese to be friendly, warm and generous… people in the countryside with litlle/no money giving gifts for free because people make the effort with them.

I hope that you will realise how ignorant you are in the future. Vietnam is an inspirational country where people have suffered so much in the past, and yet they just get on with life without complaining. I for one hope that other travellers ignore your advice and go see Vietnam for themselves!!

Jason T

Why, are we being rubbed the wrong way? The truth remains my friend. I guess the ignorant is the one who won’t take reality as REAL, huh??? CHEERS!

Mike

Just came back from Vietnam and I HATED IT SO MUCH! I will never return to this boring country ever again! I find Cambodia and Laos much more friendlier and interesting than Vietnam! The beaches and Islands in Cambodia are way more superior than Vietnam beaches! I’ll spend a month in Cambodia over Vietnam without hesitation!

Jarrad

We are 31 hours until we leave Vietnam after having spent 2 weeks here and it cant come soon enough…. Dont get me wrong, there have been some lovely and helpful people we have met along the way (mostly the guesthouse owners), but nowhere else in SE Asia have we been so consistently the target of racism and money grabbing. We are no strangers to ‘foreigner prices’ however some of the prices they have quoted us are laughable, and then they have the gawl to swear and insult us when we then decide to refuse to buy and walk away. I cannot shake the feeling that all they see when we walk down the street are a pair of dollar signs.
Every time we see a newly arrived tourist falling for one of the (very common) scams we sigh because it just means that the locals are more and more likely to continue to scam and the few honest ones struggle to get along.
Now dont get me started on the constant hassle from touts…

John

I was in Vietnam about 6 months ago and I honestly don’t see what is so special about this country! I mean compare Vietnam to like say Thailand, Malaysia, or even Cambodia it just pales in comparison! I know people who spent a month in Vietnam. But for me 2-3 days is enough! Saigon and Hanoi are a shithole! Nothing to do!

Dany Ong

First: thanks for sharing your experience Matt.

Second: Getting a tour guide is a must or simply knowing someone from the town helps for those that are a little wary about making friends, impatient, or not incredibly open-minded — and I highly emphasize “INCREDIBLY OPEN-MINDED.” Your comfort zone will eventually broaden, and once it does, the rest is smooth sailing and away you can take to heart a piece of that country.

Wow, sounds like some of you really had a bad time in Vietnam. Although, I must say that many countries in the world are exactly the way Matt described – China & Tibet, Egypt just name a couple. Don’t get me wrong, I get traumatized by it too. But keeping an open mind is part of the main point of travel. I was so bitter for a time in China that I stayed away from China for a several years (I’m ethnically Chinese and speak Chinese, but was born and raised American.) I know I will still go back to China because the positive things to see, do, and eat outweigh the bad (which is a matter of opinion.) I also feel the practice of tipping was brought on entirely by the Americans – the Europeans don’t usually tip and if they do, it’s a nominal amount that isn’t expected as a hard and fast rule. It’s part of the reason I get so frustrated because as soon as they know you’re American, all they see is $$.

VietnamMike

What I find most interesting is the sheer number of people who were positive about Vietnam. I have been living in the north for about 1 year. I can assure you all that the people who either sell stuff or business owners are rotten human beings. Ok, let’s clarify: 98.6% of them are pond scum. Example; you eat a cheapo lunch for 50,000 vnd and you give your server a 20,000 vnd tip they must give it to the owner or they will be fired. (unless foreign owned) The average joe (nguyen) is not whom you dealt with. The average working citizens are great people with 3rd world country ignorances. Such as; not allowing you off the elevator only to push their way in in.. Cutting in front of everyone in line, speaking much to loudly, public urination, public nose picking and my favorite is never be honest about anything. Other than those things, these people rock!!!!

Tam Nguyen

Hi Matt,

Interesting post indeed. I was getting good tips from ur blog to prepare my grand travel when I come across the post that totally discourages the travel to my own country hahah.

This post actually made me laugh so much since it answered some questions I used to have. I always wondered if the tourists knew and felt annoyed when they were ripped off or followed by curious locals because most of them seemed pretty calmed or rather had fun with it. Well, I see now you and many other were aware of it, somehow annoyed but accepted the bad side of travelling to another country. It’s sad but travelers all get through such things I guess.

It got me laughed again when at some point you said you were looked down on and not treated as a person. That’s pretty rare cos for me and most people (Vietnamese) I know, we feel like we are looked down on as “local” tourists when it comes to service and often “bitterly” watch all the hospitality given to foreigners. Well, you are treated as a rich foreigner who will be willing to pay, or a walking wallet as someone call it. For me, I feel annoyed/ looked down on because most sale people refused to consider me a walking wallet but rather some minor/invisible being, unless I dress up or start speaking English. Now I wonder if I would feel better if they ever think of me as a walking wallet. Or you would feel better if they just make you invisible :).

However, there is this thing I don’t agree with you or rather the friend you met in Nha Trang. We had a history with French and American, and we learn in school about the wars and such. But I have never learned or heard anyone, even those from my parent’s or grandparent’s generation, talking about how westerners owe us anything, should spend money on us, or should get ripped off. I think it’s mostly business, just not professional enough to make you get ripped off with a smile on your face :)

With all that said, I am so sorry to hear about your bad experience and hope you would give my country a second thought. Next time (if ever) find a Vietnamese friend with a clever mouth to get you through the hassle, you may find it a totally different experience!

Shinta

i am totally agree with Tam Nguyen above.
altough i had a bad experience too with the coconut seller there trying to charge us $10 for 1 coconut, for God sake it’s only $1 in my country (indonesia).

well, as a person who born as native from developed country, we learn about our history that white man was once in a war with our country. but our parents/grandparents never taught us to hate foreigners.

me, myself taught to see the world by my family. they encouraged us to learn english and other languages so that someday we can live the way foreigner’s live. i dont like being laughed too, but maybe they just think you are cute :)

Jeffrey

I couldn’t disagree more. I found the people to be some of the most friendly I have encountered in the world. Smiles, kindness, helpful, honest, wonderful people. This is codified when I fell terrible ill in Nha Trang and was unable to leave my room for three days. The night security guard was the only employee of the hotel that spoke English. He came in early, fetched me food, water, and medicine. Checked on me every 2-3 hours (for three days!) and nursed me back from the most awful sickness I have ever experienced in my life.

People try to “rip you off” where ever you go, however, i think this concept needs to be re-framed. People are just trying to get the highest value for their goods or services. It’s your choice whether to buy. If you felt ripped off, be mad at yourself, not anyone else.

I also find it true that people are seldom objective. You no doubt heard all of those negative anecdotes about Vietnam because that’s all you were listening for. I have had both positive and negative experiences on every trip I have taken. I just chose to focus on the good parts.

Happy travels!

This is a bit worrying, as I was planning to go backpacking in Vietnam for my honeymoon in January. We’ve had this kind of treatment in India and Morocco (in Marrakesh, guys would accost us on the street trying to sell us tours, and swear and spit at us if we refused). However, I’ve never experienced it in South East Asia. Normally I’d take the chance but I kinda want this particular trip to go smoothly!
PS: I’ll never go back to Morocco, but that’s a different story.

Jen

Have you thought about Cambodia & Laos instead?

Don’t get me wrong, you may have a wonderful time in Vietnam but from my experience, and others would agree (not everyone though), if you’re staying in higher end and not backpacking you’d probably have a better time.

We found Cambodia and Laos wonderful and the people to be so friendly. Just worth a mention since it’s your honeymoon and I know how important that is (funny coincidence; we went to Morocco for our honeymoon :-) so I understand your concerns).

Jen

NomadicMatt

Two of my favorite countries in the world.

Jen

I’m with you on this one Nomad. We have been backpackers in many places around the world over the last 10 years and Vietnam is the one and only place we would not return to for love nor money. It’s for the very same reasons you mentioned.

Funny how one place can be loved so much by some and not so much by others.

We spent much of our time completely off the beaten track in Vietnam too. In fact, so much so, we ended up stranded (after getting a ‘local’ bus and being told we were at our stop and to get off) in a completely random place in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t even anywhere to sleep! This is just one of the many stories that reminds me why I would never, ever visit again.

It’s great though that this is not the case for everyone and some of us have just been unlucky in our experiences.

Happy travels everyone xx

I’ve been hearing from others how Vietnam is an up and coming destination for adventure travel. I have several friends who have visited Vietnam and enjoyed it, but they knew people there, so it would have been a completely different experience for them. I enjoyed reading this and getting a different perspective.

i have to agree with matt.

if you’ve been labelled as a tourist by the locals in vietnam, they will constantly trying to rip you off. it doesn’t matter if you’re american, australian and i’m a malaysian. i was saddened by the way they treat the tourist. it’s like you have to pay a “tourist tax” on everything. and they hardly speak english, i guess that’s how they marked up the price as high as they want.

i believe it’s only worth to travel to vietnam for the sightseeing. other than that, don’t expect much.

Tee

Sightseeing in Vietnam????????????????????????? What is there to see in Vietnam? Temples and pagodas while we can cross to Cambodia to see the legendary Angkor! Beaches in Vietnam hahahahahaha! Pales in comparison with other beaches in south east asia! The rest of Vietnam is just boring period!!

Hello Matt! I stumbled onto your website and seeing this post made me very sad.

As much as it pains me to know that some of my ppl are ruining Vietnam’s reputation, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes during many of my visits back there. These are mostly merchants in the city, hustling to win their daily bread, and in the process of all that, they become almost vile, heartless.

My friends who have visited, love it, because they were with me, as i speak fluent Vietnamese and can make one hell of a snappy bargain in markets ( I’m Vietnamese, born in Vietnam but moved to Canada as a pre-teen. I’m now in my 30s) I have met expats in Vietnam, who became “locals” and integrated completely & never went back to their own countries. I’ve also met people who were ripped off on a daily basis during their traveling and swore never to come back.

It really comes down to how well one can deal with that kind of stress and either be able to ignore it, and go on, or leave and not have to feel the anger again. I’m sincerely sorry that you had a terrible time, as I’m sure if you were with my friends and I, your experience would have been completely different :) Keep on traveling and having amazing journeys!!!

I guess Vietnam seems to be polarizing the travellers. Many love it and a few hate it. I had been living in Vietnam and I never had problems. Too me the people were utmost friendly, funny and honest. But I wasn’t flowing in the mainstream. I rode my little motorbike all across the country and I was always welcome, received great support and felt that people appreciated that I tried to explore their country. Prices are occasionally subject to change depending on whether the vendor likes you or not. But that happens to Vietnamese folks as well.

Really I don’t reply to these, but I’ll make an exception.

Being Vietnamese American and having never been to Vietnam before and having never met my Vietnamese father or relatives, I thought maybe entering Vietnam during my SE Asia backpacking trip fall 2009 feel like my ‘second home.’
From beautiful, relaxing Laos the first place I entered was Hanoi. Matt, I had the same experiences like what you wrote about. If you’re not keen on things and a bit of a naive traveler, that could work to your advantage b/c you wouldn’t noticed getting ripped off. However, in Hanoi it was so blatant that by day 2 in Hanoi I had a breakdown, balling by the lake, saying, “I can’t believe THESE are my people!” I was horrified. North Vietnam was not good to me. I felt better in S. Vietnam (but then again, I contracted the swine flu in Mekong Delta)

This year I found my father and went to Saigon for 2 months (just returned a few days ago) to meet my relatives. I was always with an English speaking relative when I went out, and so was not ripped off. I almost forgot about the terrible experience back in 2009. Despite this and my relatives requests for me to live and work in Vietnam, I knew Vietnam is not for me. The last 10 days I went out by myself and suddenly felt very….not good. The staring, the laughing, talking behind ones back. By this point I knew the correct price and could speak and understand back in 2009 (which at that time was ziltch).

For those that tell Matt to get an open mind…seriously?? People have bad experiences, it’s part of life. Venting or sharing the reasons (as opposed to just saying “i hate vietnam”) is healthy. I prefer to read a blog or talk to someone who is real–sharing the good, bad, and ugly. Thanks Matt.
PS. Do you ever volunteer while traveling? I spent time teaching English at the AIDS orphanage in Thu Duc (Saigon). You can check out the vid hopefully next month. cheers

Claudio

I think, that many westerners forgot how to be tough! If somebody cheats me I’m willing to show my angryness. That is not necessary often, but sometimes, to keep my self respect up, I do it.
Also if I would see, that the lady is not mixing the drink properly I would tell her to do it right or just walk away. And I never pay before I got what I have. Sometimes I also just help myself, if someone pretends to be stupid. But if you’re baffled and stiff and don’t know how to react, they’ll do with you whatever they want, not just in Vietnam, in Thailand too.
Plus, everywhere in Asia, use the power of the smile. If you smile to someone while buying or doing whatever else that reduces the probability of getting cheated somehow …
But most of the time everything just goes fine.
Cheers from Claudio

Kramer

I moved to Vietnam 2 months ago and will probably stay out my year contract but NEVER have I been faced with such incredible rudeness in Asia (and I have been living in Asia for nineteen years). Just today I went to a shop to but some simple things and the woman barked the price at me. I have been studying Vietnamese for about an hour a day but it will take time…anyway, I smiled and mimed that she write the price on paper–she rolled her eyes then spat on the floor. Needless to say I walked out. I really don’t get this gouging and cheating but offering absolutely ZERO in the way of service by return–I actually don’t mind being cheated if it’s done with a modicum of manners but here they want your money but will be damned if they’re even going to be nice about it. It’s totally one-sided…you provide the smiles, the courtesy and the money, they provide NOTHING. Okay, I’m having a bad day…trying to buy a bicycle: was utterly ignored in the first shop I entered (not even looked at although I was the only customer) and then quoted nearly double in the next. Was laughed at and shouted at on the street and then robbed by my hotel employees. Some days I’ve been happy and met genuinely nice peoiple but in aggregate this is by far the worst country I have ever lived in.

lemonade3295

i should say hi first,right?
i’m a Vietnamese and i have to admit that i m quite upset when reading your feeling toward my beloved country.it s ok ,i don’t have any rude meaning and sure u are,your feeling somehow is right.
sometimes i do hate Vietnam as much as you, but still,it s my country.i cant deny all the things you guys say are wrong or right because i myself also don’t know ( i used to be overcharged billion times when i went to the market 4 my mother,after that,my mother didn’t trust me any more and then,i don’t have to face those bad people:).
but there is one thing i absolutely don’t agree. your friend-who is a teacher u said, said that because you ( the West ) used to invade us that we hate you or treat you poorly ,somehow,i don’t think so.
come to Vietnam,why don’t you just go to feel,not to see?
i m sorry for letting you feel such a bad feeling like that .Well,that s why the teenagers like us have to learn and rebuilt it someday….i cant surely promise you about anything but i will try my best to not let you,again, experience Vietnam the way u had.
shouldn’t you give a place a second chance? then,next time,why don’t you come to Ca Mau? i promise to be your guide whenever you go and wherever i know
nice day,my sweetiest blesses

Kramer

Lemonade, I’m sure you’re a good kid and as I said before I have met really nice people here. I was just having a bad day–everyone was being rude to me. It’s interesting to hear that you also got cheated at the market. I’m sorry to say it but somehow that makes me feel better (again, sorry). Anyway, good luck. If anyone is going to take Vietnam safely and smoothly into the twenty first century it will be people like you. You have my admiration and good wishes.

lemonade3295

thanks so much,and it’s ok,i sometime also find it fun 4 my friends to be cheated!
im just nothing ,just speak my mind,there r so many people outside making it.i admire them more
and you r a good person too. Any ways,thanks 4 your support
nice day!..:D

Adam

I have the same experience when I go to New York City.

Ben

I’ll add one to the “loved it” side of traveling in Vietnam. I spent two weeks there as part of a study abroad program and thought it was beautiful, the food was great, and people were so nice! Our entire two weeks were in Ho Chi Minh City, so I can’t speak on traveling around too much other than our day trips to Vung Tau and the Mekong Delta, but our overall experience was very good. If you find some locals to go with you you’ll often find things go more smoothly.

I’m sure I was overcharged a few times, but I never felt “ripped off” per se. I will say this for the “As Americans we owe them” argument though: It truly is unfortunate what happened there years ago, I get it. To be honest, both sides did some pretty awful things, and one of my mother’s best friends fled Vietnam during the conflict, so I’ve heard what awful things their government has done in the past. Both sides were wrong. The American government today pours millions (if not billions) of dollars into their economy through various aid programs, farming education programs, and more recently, to help fund a brand new seaport that will add to Vietnam’s much needed infrastructure buildup. I’ve seen first hand the benefits from some of these programs.

Here’s another little anecdote for you. One of the people I met in Vietnam has a niece who is living with the effects of agent orange. After listening to his lecture on culture and history someone asked him if he has any ill feelings towards Americans because of that. His felt (and he believes most Vietnamese people feel this way) no sort of anger towards Americans or the United States because of all of the research and aid that have come into Vietnam to try and right the wrongs of the past. He said, “If you look at our history, we have always been fighting with our neighbors, if we shun all of them, we could not live because we would have no trade, no way to live. So it is just easier to forgive and move on.” I truly respected him for those words, and while 100% shouldn’t be expected to feel that way, I’m sure most do.

Really what I’m trying to say is, it’s one thing to have bargaining as part of everyday life, that is fine, and I don’t mind paying for something, but I don’t feel that as an American visiting their country we necessarily should “owe” them. Using that kind of logic we could go back hundreds of years and you’d find that everybody owes everybody from some wrongdoing long ago.

Mike

I have been to Thailand several times, Cambodia several times, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Look, these are poor countries and of course the westerners have more money than they do. Consequently many people will try to overcharge you in all these countries except for Singapore which is modern, affluent and super expensive.
But without a doubt the Vietnamese are just plain rude and nasty people. They go out of their way to lie, cheat and steal. It really has nothing to offer compared to the countries so why bother? I lived in Vietnam for 4 long years and had a job making good money but the hassle was not worth it. It is corrupt from top to bottom. They are dirty, rude and vicious people. The men will target women and steal from them and assault them. I have seen a big VN man punch and kick a tiny girl (about 80 pounds). I have seen 2 men rip a necklace from a girls’ neck and run while scratching her neck badly. I have been ripped off twice for my rental deposits. I have seen numerous VN people make rude, racist comments to VN girls with foreign men. They hate people with dark skin and will make loud remarks about it. They are also lazy and don’t want to work. They would rather lie, cheat and steal than work. I am just giving you the tip if the iceberg here. The overcharging is the least of the problems here. Thailand has a 50% return rate and Vietnam has a 5% return rate for tourists. Why?
An elderly couple from Australia told me that a taxi driver grabbed their wallet and threw them out of the care and drove off. A female friend who is lawyer was punched in the face by a taxi driver. The people here are cowards. They only pick on single women, the elderly or the weak.
It is a police state in Vietnam and the police are corrupt. Everyone must register with the police. they once pounded on my door at 3:30 in the morning demanding to see my passport. I do not drink, do drugs nor was their a prostitute or anyone else for that matter in my room. I was alone and trying to get a good nights sleep because i had to work in the morning. It was a shakedown procedure which is common here. I will stop now because there is just too much to write and it only gets my blood boiling to think of that evil place!

Regin

I agree. Though Vietnam is a beautiful place, we were ripped off too. They ask more money. They increased their prices for us. We are Filipino backpackers but still they ripped us off. Street vendors, souvenir sellers, and motorcycle drivers.

I has so many similar experiences in Vietnam! Overall I found it exhausting to deal with the hassling, cheating etc. (I am not talking about having to bargain a price down before buying.)

What I have found to be a pattern is those who went to Cambodia first were less impressed with Vietnam, and vice versa.

Not sure if I would return, maybe. The coffee was outstanding and I met a lot of wonderful Vietnamese people who ran cafes and the like. I am grateful I got to know these people, but that was likely because I was taking the CELTA in Hanoi and had a chance to bet to know folk.

I feel the same about Taiwan, never again. I wasn’t ripped off, but the people there were definitely not happy to see us, or serve us.

In terms of being ripped off, I feel Thailand is the same but I’d still love to go back there. Maybe it’s cause they rip you off with a kind smile on their face?

Jason T

So after reading this long chain of posts, I couldn’t help but put in my 2-cents worth. I am currently staying in the hellhole and yes, most of what people said about Vietnam being a crappy place and all is (unfortunately) TRUE. But to say it’s an EVIL place is being TOO KIND, mind you. I couldn’t begin to tell you how many times I couldn’t help but wonder- are these &^^%*^% Vietnamese HUMANS????!!! Well, from what I observed here- apparently, NOT! Now, before any one of you Vietnamese “patriotic” in here start with your accusation crap on me, let me make it clear that I am NOT white. And no, I am not Black either. I know Vietnam too damn well for anyone to convince me it’s a friendly place with…ahem! friendly people….After all, I speak the language, I traveled the places, I mingled with them all too many times and yes, I know so well about this place – it’s not even funny. As for the rip-offs, I couldn’t begin tell you how disgusted I am when observing the street vendors running after…what I call another “target” to harass them. To the poor sightseeing foreigner, it’s just someone trying to make a living. To the vendors, you are just another potential idiot, so BEWARE!

I can sit here and write a novel about this s-hole called Vietnam. But you know what, it would be a waste of time and gray matter (LOL). To sum it up, Vietnam is a damned place. Nothing worth seeing or visiting here. The country and its people are an embarrassment to humanity, a shame to the so-called “developing nation”. For the only thing I could see them trying to “develop” is their ignorance, rudeness, and stupidity. They’re all the same, from the children to the adults, plain and simply put: SAVAGES. So if you’re thinking of visiting this place- please go spend your money on something worthwhile like visiting a tribe somewhere in remote Africa. Perhaps, people would be more civilized than here.

lemonade3295

i wish that i could meet y now.
the things u say, is n’t it too hasty? to talk about someone’s country like that,don’t y feel shame?.tell me how many vietnamese have you meet? i really wonder what you had experienced to be able to talk about Vietnam like that. Vietnam may be not good, but there r good people too. i don’t believe that i will hear something like that from someone call himself “cultured”. you can dislike my Vietnam, but you don’t have the right to say something hurtful like that,there r many foreigners want to stay here for the rest of their life,they also were charged, or anything that u have experienced too,but they see the things you can not see when you think only bad side of theirs.
to be honest, no one forces you visiting Vietnam.you decided yourself and you visited it,then don’t complain if the things you saw were not the things you expected.
and this is some advises for someone will or being in vietnam right now, erase from your mind the picture of a wonderful country.no,Vietnam is not. Vietnam just beautiful the way it is and if you just want to see without discovering,only see what your eyes can show you,then dont come to Vietnam anymore. If come and be back with such an unhappy feeling,then you should stay home,try to see the beauty around you,or else,anything is just a waste
im a Vietnamese.i’m not good at english and im sure there are many mistakes in this,but i cant keep quite.sorry if make you angry.

Rob

I have found that talking to people the consensus on Vietnam is always very back and white. either it was the worst or it was the best… but never anything in between. Kind of makes me not want to go… adly enough to say.

Chuck Pham

This post is for mr been there done that, know it all, Jason T. First of all, you are a liar; why in the world would someone spent his/her time to learn the language of a country that he/she has nothing to say but hateful things? Secondly, seem to me that you spent a lot of time there in Vietnam, a place you furiously dislike so much. Reading your comments, i can see why you feel the way you feel. Dude, you are a racist man; you should stay in the comfort of your own home and hopefully you won’t see your own family as salvages. PLEASE take my advice seriously, it is for your own good. Having an outlook like yours and still wandering around will land you in the hospital someday. Atleast that is what i would have done if someone lookdown on me.
And. And as for your bad mouthing, there is no cure, what a waist.

Chuck Pham

Matt, you obviouly have interacted with lots of Vietnamese; you have Vietnamese friends back home. What you experienced in Vietnam, unfortunately, is fairly common; may not be to the extreme as you described. In a way, it is how things are done overthere. I can assure you that you are not being singled out. Be open minded and take it with a grain of salt, you will have blast. Keep in mind, Vietnam is far from being a developed and civilized country like the US; She is changing rappidly everyday as the economy getting stronger and quality of life improves. Vietnamese are born fighters and fast learners, they will do what it takes to better the country. So Matt when you do decide to revisit, you will have a more enjoyable time.

Gen

Went to South East Asia with a tour and Vietnam was also my least favorite. Horrible non identified meat in the food on the boat to Haalong Bay, a night train infested with rats AND cockroaches that would climb on the beds and the walls, rats in a hotel room, water slides park that was very unsecure and people got hurt, woman laughing at me sold me a bottle of water that was already open (basically just filled with tap water that we can’t drink), etc, etc… I was so glad I brought a mummy style sleeping bag I used it almost every nights in vietnam for hygiene reasons!!It is an interesting country though but I kept asking myself what I was doing there. Cambodia, Laos and Thailand were a blast though!!

Anon

OMG, your article on Vietnam are so true. As a Vietnamese American, I went back to Vietnam for the first time with my mom for TET earlier this year after 20 + years living abroad.

I am fluent both in reading and writing Vietnamese. Although I might not be the average Vietnamese local, but I’m in touch with my root and I experienced the same thing in Vietnam, just like you. I was on guard before landing in Vietnam, thanks to my reading/participation in Travel Fish.

I had an especially terrible time in Hue – cheating, lying, scamming, etc….that is, I am someone who speaks and understand the local languge. I wasn’t a backpacker traveler, but I was not in a luxury tour either.

I vouch to never come back to Vietnam too as I was having such a terrible time. Luckily, I went to Cambodia and I had a 180 degree experience and I’m in love with Cambodia. That is the country I will come back again and it’s only been 7 months, I’ve been itching and saving for another possible Cambodia trip, perhaps early next year.

justin

I have lived in Nha Trang, Vietnam for awhile now. My best advice for not getting ripped off is by getting out of the toursit areas. If you mix with the locals in local places away from tourist districts you will be treated kindly and probably never get ripped off. The people here are lovely to me, they are kind and funny. If you want the best food at ridicously low prices go to the local places. That can be scary for many people to step out their comfort zone like that and go into places that probably has never had a white person eaten there. The locals love it, you are still a thing of curiosity in most places in Vietnam. They have the best food in the world, hands down amazing. Vietnam is also extremely safe, I would walk anywhere anytime of the day or night. Watch out in the toursit areas because they will steal your phone or purse in a heartbeat. Anything in this country that is not nailed down is as good as gone. It’s a great place to live.

Muca

I have lived 1 year in Vietnam, in Hue and Hanoi, and I definitely think you should come back to Vietnam again. I have met many travelers while living in Vietnam and all of them were so biased and wary about being ripped off, by hearing all the rip-off stories before, that it started out to become self fulfilling prophecies. Sure, I got ripped-off as well, but even in my native country that happens once in a while.

I think that backpackers in Vietnam are so inward looking, only visiting the regular spots and often don’t dare to interact with any locals, that the backpacker-places simply attract all the scum of Vietnam. In Hue, you will only meet backpackers in Pham Ngu Lao and the Citadel, outside those places, you literally don’t see any tourists, but exactly THOSE places, are the places where you meet the true locals. The same with Hanoi. All of the tourists stay in the Old Quarter. Not daring to go out and meet the locals. I have found Vietnamese people among one of the most open people in South-east Asia.

So please, do come back to Vietnam, and travel like locals do (the locals love traveling). Try to meet local friends, e.g. on couchsurfing, and visit the country with an open mind. If some old ladies rip you off, for a few US dollar cents more, dont be to stiff about it. Id be more than happy to pay more than the locals do, since the average salary in Vietnam is just 2000-3000 US dollar a year, which is my 2 monthly salary.

3 weeks in Vietnam, and visiting the regular places, is definitely not enough to get to know a place. Try to avoid the backpacker places as much as possible. Visit some provincial capitals which are not mentioned in the lonely planet. Try meeting local friends, a visit to a foreign language university will be so rewarding. Do something, instead of keeping the myth that Vietnam is the country of people trying to rip you off.

Mike

I will add more about this hellhole called Vietnam. People keep saying why did all these people stay for so long? I will tell you why. It is easy to make money in Vietnam and it is relatively cheap to live. The girls are easy to get. You can find a girl by just walking down the street and talking to one. All the girls here want a westerner so they can live on easy street. They just see you as a source of money for her and her family. Pretty soon she asks for ongoing support for her family. When she meets some of your more successful friends she will try to get one of them if she thinks she can get more money from them. It’s all about the money here. They go to the pagodas to pray for money. The travel guides list 90% Buddhism for Vietnam but nobody knows anything about Buddhism nor do they care. Money, money, money is the mantra.
Now if you think you can handle this then keep reading. About half the women here carry an STD of some sort. Parasites are common here and the girls have parasitic STD’s that you can catch during sex.
Condoms are optional here and Vietnam has the highest abortion rate in the world. many girls use it as a form of birth control.
As for getting out of the tourist area and mixing with the locals? Forget it. They loathe westerners. All of them. My friend used to shop at a bakery and they would say something to him and laugh. He later found out they were calling him a “cunt” in Vietnamese. They go out of their way to cause you problems.
You cannot walk down the street with a Vietnamese girl without the locals calling her a whore. She will ignore what they are saying and never tell you.
make friends with any of them and ask them to help you buy anything. They will not help you negotiate a good price. They would rather have you pay a high price than help you. That includes your girlfriend too. They take sides with Vietnamese over a foreigner even if he pays their rent and supports her family.
As for racism? It is the Vietnamese who are the racists. They hate anyone with dark skin. They will not hire any ethnic minorities with dark skin. They will openly say “your skin is too dark”. And all the Vietnamese agree with with this. Even the educated ones will agree with this policy.
I was riding my motorbike with my girlfriend on the back when a Vietnamese asshole passed us and smeared blood on her leg. He took off and I could not catch him. When we told others of this they said it was common for men to slash women’s legs with knives while riding. Nice people.
The people who make comments here about how nice Vietnamese people are must be totally unaware or unconscious.
You want the camera ripped out of your hands or the necklace torn off your neck? Go to Vietnam. Country full of thieves. Why has EVERY house and business got a huge iron gate with multiple padlocks and chains? Because of the problem of theft. Nobody believes anybody here because they all lie. Lying is so very much part of the culture that it will never change.
This is not just my experience. Every expat who has lived in Vietnam for more than a year will tell you the horror stories.
Two true stories. 100% true. There was a Vietnamese teacher who was going one night after work. he had an accident with his motorbike and was killed. Instead of calling an ambulance, the locals picked his pocket, stole his wallet, watch and other valuables and left him on the street with no identification. It took a week for his family to find out that he died or where his body was. He worked for a school called VUS in HCMC.
The same school had a teacher who started coughing up blood. The expat teachers asked the staff to call an ambulance but the staff decided they would rather argue about whether they should call an ambulance or a taxi. Then they argued about what hospital to go to. In the meantime the expat teachers were giving him mouth to mouth so he could breathe. The teacher, who was from Australia, died before they could get him to a hospital. The idiots on staff couldn’t claim any responsibility for his death and in fact told his family how they “did everything they could to save him”.
Incompetent, lazy, lying, thieving, dirty, nasty, racist and hateful people.

Muca

Mike, you are traumatized by some unfortunate events, but it made you a racist. You are a classical example of the arrogant neo-colonial expat, with all due respect. You take out some (emphasize on “some”) valid negative points about Vietnamese people, but you blow everything up, untill the point its just simply laughable. Ill show you:

“”I will add more about this hellhole called Vietnam. People keep saying why did all these people stay for so long? I will tell you why. It is easy to make money in Vietnam and it is relatively cheap to live. The girls are easy to get. You can find a girl by just walking down the street and talking to one. All the girls here want a westerner so they can live on easy street. They just see you as a source of money for her and her family. Pretty soon she asks for ongoing support for her family. When she meets some of your more successful friends she will try to get one of them if she thinks she can get more money from them. It’s all about the money here. “”

- Try not to find your girlfriend in the bars or clubs. They attract the bad girls. I can obviously see that you talk about a personal experience here. Bummer man, but its just not true. I dont know about Saigon, but its quite rare to see mixed couples in Hanoi or Hue, especially compared to Thailand or Cambodia. VN girls are more traditional, and having a western boyfriend is often not a prestige thing, which is in other countries often the case.

“”They go to the pagodas to pray for money. The travel guides list 90% Buddhism for Vietnam but nobody knows anything about Buddhism nor do they care. Money, money, money is the mantra””

Its a developing country…… what do you expect?

“”Now if you think you can handle this then keep reading. About half the women here carry an STD of some sort. Parasites are common here and the girls have parasitic STD’s that you can catch during sex.””

Could u give me a reliable source for this one? Because its just a big lie.

“”As for getting out of the tourist area and mixing with the locals? Forget it. They loathe westerners. All of them. My friend used to shop at a bakery and they would say something to him and laugh. He later found out they were calling him a “cunt” in Vietnamese. They go out of their way to cause you problems.””

Ah your friend was called a “cunt” in a bakkery, and thats your evidence that locals dont want to meet westerners. What a logic…. Again, its not true.

“”You cannot walk down the street with a Vietnamese girl without the locals calling her a whore. She will ignore what they are saying and never tell you.””

I can speak Vietnamese, and most reactions to mixed couples are positive….. Yeah sometimes people say bad things, as if that would never happen in your native country. You are blowing everything up man. Btw isnt it a good thing? Even though your VN girlfriend is being called a whore, she doesnt make a fuzz about it, dont care about it, and is just happy with being with you. A big plus, dont you think?

“”make friends with any of them and ask them to help you buy anything. They will not help you negotiate a good price. They would rather have you pay a high price than help you. That includes your girlfriend too. They take sides with Vietnamese over a foreigner even if he pays their rent and supports her family.””

Again thats not true….. Most of the time, the wealthier Vietnamese are also being ripped-off. Its just a matter of haggling, and social status. Not Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese. If u would have made good friends, they would have told you. But obviously you never did. If i would go out with you (knowing your attitude), I would be more than happy, to see you being ripped-off.

“”As for racism? It is the Vietnamese who are the racists. They hate anyone with dark skin. They will not hire any ethnic minorities with dark skin. They will openly say “your skin is too dark”. And all the Vietnamese agree with with this. Even the educated ones will agree with this policy.””

They dont like the dark-skin, but it doesnt mean that they dont like the people with a dark-skin. But i have to give you a valid point here. Vietnam has some problems with racism, like any other country in the world.

“”This is not just my experience. Every expat who has lived in Vietnam for more than a year will tell you the horror stories.””

Every expat in your neo-colonial club will certainly tell you. As for all the others, most of us have had a great time in VN.

The rest of your examples are unfortunate events, but I cannot verify its truth, nor could I say that those wouldnt have happened in other countries.

Hellen

Vietnamese Hospitals are the worst and the people don’t care about people’s health and safety.

My dad was hit by a car when visiting Vietnam just by himself last week and his state is very critical. We have for days tried to get him transferred to Bangkok for a better hospital, but the greedy, inhumane hospital is ripping my mum off and are refusing to let SOS International transfer dad to Bangkok. SOS have tried 6 times already and my dad is still in Ho Chi Minh and is very poorly. Mum, my brother and I have flown all the way from Europe expecting him to be in Bangkok, but he isn’t.

There are many reasons why I dislike Vietnam but this made me HATE it even more.

Greedy, money-sucking leaches!

Mike

Muca, you are so full of shit it’s coming out your ears. The people who have a “great time” in Vietnam are either drunk or stoned all the time. Which is it for you? As for racism, I am an Asian myself. Other Asian people don’t act like the Vietnamese. They don’t honk their stupid horn at EVERY opportunity. You don’t hear the same noise in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia or even Cambodia. And speaking of Cambodia, the Vietnamese laugh every time Cambodia is mentioned. They think they are superior to Cambodians. The south of Vietnam has many Khmer people. The south was annexed from Cambodia by Vietnam many years ago and these people were forced to change their names to Vietnamese names and forced to send their children to school and only learn Vietnamese and lose all their ethnic identity.
It is VERY common for Vietnamese to turn away Khmer people for jobs because their skin is dark. VERY common. They say it to their face. “Your skin is too dark. No job for you”.
So fuck you Muca. You asshole. You know shit. Pull your head out of your ass.
The Vietnamese also punish their people if their ancestors helped the Americans. This is generations later. If your great grandfather assisted the Americans then you cannot go to law school or get a job with the police or government. Fact. Research that you jerk.
If a Vietnamese wants a job at the airport they have to pay a years salary to some schmuck so they can clean the toilets there. Research that.
I had a Cambodian girlfriend (who I didn’t meet in a bar) and wherever we went the Vietnamese were always shouting out comments about her dark skin. Everywhere we went. Even upscale shopping centers like Diamond Plaza and Parkson. And these were the staff working in the stores making the comments.
You want to dismiss my other stories as “unfortunate events” because you cannot verify them? Who are you to verify anything? I don’t need to make shit up.
Try not locking your door when you go out Muca. Try leaving your motorbike for 5 minutes with the keys in it. Try leaving your laptop unguarded for a moment.
Treat that as research.

Muca

I can see very clearly what kind of person you are Mike and you are clearly traumatized. Just don’t use swear words in a discussion, its pathetic. You are still are racist, since “Asian” is not a race. You pretend that Vietnamese people, all of them, are worse than animals, by coming up with lies or some incidents you have encountered. The sad thing is, that some of the points you mention are true, but you blow everything up, and come up with hasty generalizations, which are very racist and simply not true. It is true that Vietnamese people generally dont really like the dark-skin, but I have encountered enough black/brown people, who lived in Vietnam and still had a good time. Its an Asian thing to be honest, I see it as the same obsession in the West to be tanned.

I personally think that you have been rejected by too many Vietnamese girls, due to your temper and rude behavior, and that your character also did not allow you to make many (or even any) friends. Those years in isolation made you crazy and racist, and you have started to hate Vietnamese society. Try to watch the movie Taxi driver, you look a little bit like Travis Bickle. I have traveled and lived in many countries, and by far Vietnam was the greatest experience for me. Im not Asian nor Vietnamese, so I do not necessarily see a reason to defend Vietnam, but when things start to become racist and untrue, I have to reply.

As for your dark-skinned khmer girlfriend. I knew an American guy with a khmer girlfriend, living in Vinh. And she received more positive attention, just because she looked different, than the American guy himself, who was also quite handsome. On the other hand, and I have to give you some credits here, I knew a laotian guy in Vietnam, who was not always happy how people treated him. Vietnamese society is not perfect, like any other society. Try to be a black man in Europe, and you will encounter just as much problems.

Vietnam is a developing nation, and it takes some time for society to be adjusted to foreign influences. With an open mind you can meet the real people, besides the scum you encounter in touristic areas. In Vietnam I have found so many good people, that all my own negative experiences (i had quite a few) seemed to be irrelevant. if i would still be living in VN i would have invited you to come and see a different side of Vietnam, and the other hand, I dont know if I would be safe with you, you seem to be quite a dangerous man.

Mike

So sorry Helen. The hospitals in Vietnam are not good. You are right to get him to Bangkok asap.
Try calling your consulate in HCMC. Maybe they can help.

Best of luck.

Mike

Muca, you asshole. You have just summed me up like you know me. haha. What an idiot. Then you accuse me of lying. Wow.
I know what is going on in Vietnam and you have a Pollyanna view. It’s not a :”developing country” at all. I predict it’s downfall shortly due to the lying and cheating that goes on here. Just watch. The government owns Vinashin which is a huge corporation. They just robbed the company blind to the tune of billions of dollars and now the whole country’s credit rating has been affected. But that the tip of the iceberg. Lying, cheating and stealing is a way of life in Vietnam.
As for getting rejected by Vietnamese girls, that’s a joke. I could have any girl here anytime.
Maybe you should try getting laid you loser.

Muca

Vietnam has one of the fastest economic growing rates in the world :). But I don’t want to talk with you, since you don’t know how to debate without making it personal. This explains your funny and racist view of Vietnamese society. But just don’t go there anymore, stay in the US or where-ever you are from.

Mike

Hey Muca, you made it personal in the first place by calling me a racist and a liar. You personally contacted me. I just wrote my experiences here. I didn’t seek you out.
But you tried to invalidate every experience that my friends or I had. You need proof and evidence of research. What a joke. Who the hell are you? My experiences are real and I don’t need you to validate them. I know what is happening. You also made a stupid comment about me being rejected by “too many Vietnamese girls”. That’s just so stupid and childish to make a comment like that. Anyone knows how easy it is to get a girl in Vietnam. You see 60 and 70 year old men with young women all the time.
I will say that Vietnam has more beautiful women than Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia combined. But that is just my opinion. You see, I know an opinion from a fact unlike you, Muca.
Now it happens that i am living with a Vietnamese woman who shares all views on the people here.
She, like many others are disgusted by the behavior of people here.
For others who want to know the truth here are some facts:
Vietnamese people are selfish. Example. They never allow anyone to cross the street. I have seen 4 year old children and 80 year women try to cross a busy street and nobody stops for them. They just whiz by on their motorbikes coming within inches of them.
Vietnamese people never pull over to the side of the road for an ambulance. But when they are in a hurry they will drive up onto the sidewalk.
They will butt in front of you in line in any store and even at the airport.
They are thieves. I taught more than 5,000 students at university in Vietnam and got to know many of them. It is very common for friends, neighbors and even relatives to come into their home and steal things. Many students have verified this. When I asked the other students about this behavior they didn’t deny it. They justified it by saying “we are just trying to get ahead in life”.
Sure get ahead by stealing from your friends, neighbors and relatives. Nice people. That’s why there is a big iron gate and locks and chains on every home and business.
But what can we expect from a nation that admires Hitler. Yes, That’s right. Do a survey of people from the past who they admire. Post names like Abraham Lincoln, Ghandi, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton etc and see how many choose Hitler as a person they admire. Fact.
As this “fast growing economy” keeps stealing money and selling off all it’s natural resources, let’s see how long it takes for a complete collapse. Another Zimbabwe?

Muca

You see, doesn’t it feel much better without saying swear words? Let me justify why I think you are a racist. If you say that ALL Vietnamese people are bad, you are a racist, since you say that all of them are the same and that all of them to the things you mention (steal, cheat, rude, etc.etc.). Just from personal experience alone (let alone statistics or proper research, its bullshit to assume that half of the Vietnamese girls carry STD’s – for this one you need a source, seriously), I

Muca

oops, pressed reply already, but let me continue

I lived for the 12 months I lived in Vietnam, with Vietnamese people. First, a lovely family we took good care of me, and no one, even the cleaner, did not steal anything from my room. I could easily keep money on my desk, knowing that it wouldn’t be stolen. Let me tell you a thing, in my native country, Holland, my bike got stollen so many times, while in Hue, I didnt even needed to lock it. If I use your logics, then i would say DUTCH PEOPLE ARE STINKING CHEATING THIEVES!!1, but I dont, Since I know “my” people, and I can distinguish bad from good people :).

Second, maybe Vietnamese girls in Saigon are easy. I have never lived there so I don’t know. But its quite rare to see a mixed couplde in Hue, and its also rare (but less rare as in Hue), to see a mixed couple in Hanoi. In Hue some people tended to be a bit negative towards mixed couples, but still there in general, people still said more positive things than negative, I think that the negative comments in Hanoi were completely absent.

Try to be more nuanced in giving your opinion about Vietnam. You are not presenting facts, and you will never able to do so. The same like me. But I can clearly see that you are frustrated about something. What is more interesting for me is to find out way you are so frustrated. That’s why i assumed that you have been rejected too many times. But ofcourse I could be wrong, I dont know you :)

- Vietnamese people are as selfish as any other people. Crossing the street is easy once you know how it works. I thought that even you would know that…
- Like I said before.A vietnamese person has never stolen anything from me, in the time I was in Vietnam. I often did not lock my front door, my host family never stole anything from me, nor my Vietnamese roommates. I can easily trust my vietnamese friends with my wallet, its never going to happen from the people I trust. They are like any other people. And sure, some of them are bad, but you cannot generalize.
- People in Asia generally don’t care about Hitler or about our history. Are u also accusing them from being anti-semitic? Come on………
- I would say, another China :)

Mike

I’ll let you be right about your experience. I cannot deny what happened to you but you want to deny what happened to me. As far as race goes, you define it as nationality. Race is not nationality. But you must go to school to learn these things.
You happened to be lucky. You still don’t know anything about what goes on in Vietnam. I didn’t say Vietnamese were anti-Semetic. Once again you are putting words in my mouth. I said that Hitler was admired in Vietnam.
As far as crossing the street goes, tell that to a scared, little child or a frightened elderly person. They are Vietnamese but I guess you have it all figured out how they should cross the street in their own country. What about not pulling over for an ambulance? You didn’t address that?
What I said about theft was that many, many of my students claimed that their friends, neighbors and relatives came into their homes and stole things. I guess you are calling them liars?
Stick to your own experience because I know what mine is.

Alice

Hi Muca…what’s wrong with you guys? I can see that you guys don’t have experience in traveling. 1st of all, vietnamese are friendly, if you have a chance to visit vietnam, you should find a tour guide who is vietnamese, of course they have to speak english, and guess what, you’ll have a free tour by tour guide in here, you should find a student…they will show you many beautiful place, you can enjoy food in here with a very cheap price…

Muca

Alice, learn to read ;) I share your opinion on Vietnam

Eddie

I have an experience that tops all. I’ve been living in Vietnam now for 2 years and can’t wait to leave with my 1 year old son once I get his passport in 2 more weeks. My Vietnamese wife colluded with a few corrupt Vietnamese police ( one stationed inside San Bay Airport in HCMC ) and a few mafia losers and repeatedly tried to set Me up to steal my nest-egg by planting drugs in my suitcase to hacking all 7 of my computers and trying to make it look like I’m a Communist Basher to a SPAM King…… The scary part is everybody smiles here, you can’t tell the difference between the good and the dogshit. I barely escaped these attempts and now am finally ready to accept that my wife is bad. They tried to ruin my life to steal my money and they all work together when it comes time to sabotage a westerner. This place is evil, but you wouldn’t know that until it’s too late because they are cowards that won’t move on you until they are 1000% sure they have you, I was lucky enough to divert the first attack with a last second warning from a jealous friend of my Wife’s that wasn’t getting enough money I assume. I can write a book on this experience, never trust anyone in SEA if you are American.

Mike

Good luck Eddie! These people who think that Vietnam is so cool with friendly people don’t really know these people at all. You and I know what they are like. Not all of them but so many that it makes it a hellhole to live.
You are right not to trust anyone. They smile at you and rob you blind. The cowards will not attack you unless they outnumber you by at least 3 to one with weapons too.
I could write a book too on the evil in Vietnam.
Take care of your son and don’t ever let that evil woman near him or she will poison his mind against you.
I have seen that too. Women turning their children against their father. I know it happens elsewhere but there is more venom here in their method.

Colette

My hubby and I backpacked Vietnam in 2010 and after 3 weeks couldn’t wait to leave. We had exactly the same experience: We did lots of research and were aware of the inevitability of being ripped off. So we tried our best to be polite, fair and respectful to show that not all travelers are oblivious asses in the hopes that we would be shown the same respect and fairness in return. All this just made it worse when we got charged 16x more than locals for a bus… multiple times. And when we argued they threatened to drop us in the middle of the rice fields if we didn’t pay. Just one of the memories that will last a lifetime from our travels there! Vietnam does have lots to see, eat and experience. But, at the cost of sacrificing a visit to another country where people are not so rude and vindictive, I’m also not willing to return.

Zen

It’s understandable to have negative feelings towards a country where you had plenty of bad experience with, provided you don’t start judging and painting the whole country the same color.

To each and everyone’s preference and to each and everyone’s experience I guess. I had a terrible time in Beijing. People were rude, I nearly got conned by three ‘students’, the bus driver and tour guide were the rudest I have met in my whole life (I only went with a group twice), the backpackers I met were assholes, and to make things worse it was under -10 on most days and I was traveling alone.

Will I ever go back? No, not anytime soon. Do I hate Beijing? No. Because I know understand why people act this way and the history behind it all. Matt didn’t say he hates Vietnam did he?

thor

I agree with OP, i live and work here, and sometimes on my flight back to saigon and see travellers coming in from other places i feel sorry for them.

Dont ever compare to Thailand, thailand is heaven compared to here, i go there to get sanity back, for me bustling bangkok feels like a quiet resort compare to this place.

Problem here ? neverending lies, neverending ripoffs, pricing that simply never match what you get, and basically they dont care a shit about anyone other than themselves, you will see that the second you step out the airport.

Its all about the money here, and there is not the soothing buddishm and politeness that you find in thailand, yes people try to rip you off some places in thailand, but they do it with a smile and you can have a good laugh about it. Thailand is PARADISE compared to here trust me.

Here they will get downright mean and angry at you and they will try to maximize it in levels that only China can beat ( thats the worst place ).

Dont take the war into this, its nothing about that, its about a mentality of cheating and lying thats the core of it all, it goes through all levels also business.

To understand it you should think of going from china to vietnam – that will be experienced as a nice wind of change, going from any other SEA country, even a poor Laos or Cambodia you will most likely get a pretty decent chock.

Basically when in vietnam try not to pay for anything especially NOT when something tries to say “highclass” which is everything new coming up here, highclass here sucks they have no perception of service at all, seriously, so dont go and pay x hundred of dollars for something in vietnam, you will get same level what you get in thailand for the 10th of the price there.

Good thing about vietnam is you can still live cheaper than thailand, but for people and in general their sense of order & politeness its hell, you can get a pretty good sense of it when you see the traffic here.

I totally understand OP, and there been a survery being done that 15% will return to vietnam, in thailand its 85% – you do the math :)

Ofcourse there are some sweet people here, alot of people have touched my heart here and you are able to make real friends which can be harder in ex. bangkok, also among vietnamese, that has a big value BUT as a holiday-spot ? no way in hell i would do that !

Zeke

Don’t generalize…It’s like saying Italians are asshole…

thor

Zeke when you got a rooted culture of cheating and lying then its hard not to. Not that everybody does but you wont be able to spend just a short time in vietnam without getting cheated/lied to, you cant say th same about italy because its a culture thing.

Ephraim

As an expat who has been here for six arduous years. I have also seen and experienced a great deal of rudeness and dishonesty from people in every walk of life. In fact, living in Vietnam has made me realize how much I love the United States. When I first came here, I was a happy and naive fellow. That is, I was easy pickings for every silly con available. Now, I am mean. If I get shouted at, I shout back even louder. If I am treated rudely, I treat the other person even worse. Sure, I don’t experience war on the streets everyday, but if a local person wants to get stupid with me, I can be just as stupid. Interestingly, The locals are shocked when someone doesn’t play along with their games. You don’t have to just sit there and take it.

I remember an incident where a xe om driver (motorcycle taxi) stopped several blocks before my destination and said in broken English, “You pay more.” He must have thought I was a newbie and/or that I was lost. I wasn’t. I got off the bike. Shouted at him at the top of my lungs. He cursed at me, and I cursed right back. Finally, we reached an impasse. I took off the passenger helmet, threw it into the street and tossed a smaller sum of money than was originally agreed on the ground and walked away. He continued shouting while he ran to recover his items.

Please note that every situation does not call for a confrontation but know your limits and don’t be afraid of defending yourself vocally. You don’t have to take the abuse. Frankly, if enough visitors and expats stopped taking the abuse silently, then perhaps the people would change.

Lisa

I was robbed at the weekend night market in the Old Quarter (full of people). I was pushed down very hard in a crowd. Then they used a knife to rip my bag and steal my wallet. I then went to the main travel office in the center of town. They refused to call the police and told me to keep my voice down. While I was there, another lady said she had the same thing happen to her the night before. On the same weekend, a man had his wallet stolen too. The Vietnamese tell me ‘Hanoi is a very dangerous city. Anyone can get robbed.’

The thievery in stores is also such a problem that there are strong-looking security guards carrying sticks at the end of the check-out lanes who are there to watch and pound people who steal. Don’t even think of carrying a bag into a supermarket! Today, I saw a thief steal from a local vendor. She started yelling and it stopped rush-hour traffic. They chased him down with a butcher knife.

The crime in Hanoi is the worst I have seen anywhere in the world. I’ve been all over America and 30 different countries around the world. I lived in Thailand (five years), South Korea (one year) and spent many months at a time is several other countries. Vietnam is the worst! It’s very dangerous!

The people are extremely rude or extremely nice. They rarely smile or apologize. I would advise people to give Vietnam a pass and check out places with less crime and better treatment. The bad service and scams in Vietnam make Cambodia look like kindergarten play. I’ve spent many months in both places, so I should know.

Just read your post now, but it turns out we were at about the same time. In terms of ranking, Vietnam is 83rd for us, that is 83/83 in terms of favorite countries visited. We experienced all you said and worse. Can’t stress how much I hated it, in fact we cut our visit short. Not only are people unhygienic, rude and rip you off but it’s a really dirty country. Of course there are exceptions, but very few and all the rest ruin the country. I find their excuse to treat Westerners bad ridiculous, most of the world has been colonized and in wars with others, doesn’t mean you will treat their citizens 50 years after like you’re still at war. We blogged about Vietnam and got plenty of hate mail and comments for telling the truth. Where we come from we do have a right to freely express our opinions based on our experiences. We like reading your blog because you express the good and the bad, unlike other bloggers who are always trying to be PC – boring….

Roger

I share your feelings! I went a week and litteraly ran away 2 days earlier so fed up i was being cheated, scammed and pushed. People were rude, impolite, uncivil. Everything was not overpriced (I am used to the quadruple standard of Thailand) but plain robery, particularly when you come from a neighbouring more developped country and have some idea of what things cost (we were charged 3 times what we would pay in thailand for a coffee in the street).

Up to the airport for our flight back to Bangkok, for which i gladly paid a charge to change the date and leave sooner, the airport duty free cheated us on the exchange rate and on the bill! As the plane took off I was finally able to breath again.

Note that I am not a naive backpacker. I am well travelled and have lived in South East Asia (Thailand). But of all the SE countries, that’s the one I will not go again and one that is on the bottom of my list when it come to recommending which country to visit.

Thank you so much for this post! It’s my first time in Vietnam now and I started to think I’m the only one who don’t know how to appreciate the country. After visiting Thailand and Cambodia, this was such a change and I must agree with every your sentence. (And as you said, maybe it’s just me having bad luck, or doing something wrong. But anyway…)
It’s a relief to know, I’m not the only one:).

Dave B

I’d bear in mind as a seasoned traveller you probably noticed the people cheating you more easily. A lot of people even penny pinching backpackers don’t realise because everything still seems cheap.

John

I intend to travel in Vietnam later this year or in early 2013. Based on the reports of quite a number of Australian friends who have enjoyed the experience of travelling there. Not in luxury but at a basic level using local public transport etc. Unfortunately they report that there is still a lot of resentment towards Americans……

NomadicMatt

I’ve found most Vietnamese have resentment towards most Westerners in general.

Btw. I used link to this article in my blog, cause I couldn’t describe it better myself, i hope it’s alright (the source is clear:))

Muca

How many do you know?

It’s not only Americans, I never even visited America myself and still struggle when speaking english (so clearly non-American person:))) and it was the same. I think it’s just that you’re white = you’re Westerner = you better pay for it.

These are your worse experiences in Vietnam!!??? Please be open minded…these people are poor, and they will do many creative things to gain more money from tourists as yourself…be smarter about things going forward, and you should be ok with being overcharged!! ;)

Maybe Vietnam is better off without you!! lol

Lisa

vagabondmark, I’m very use to people trying to overcharge me as I’ve lived in Thailand for five years and spent many months in Cambodia as well as so many other countries. What gets me is the culture of violently robbing white people at knife point as they go about their own business. Or stores that never treat customers like customers, but rather like potential thieves because theft is such a problem there. I’ve never seen a place in the world with more thievery than Vietnam! They STEAL from each other like it’s NORMAL. Vietnamese dismiss it as, ‘oh, they are just trying to get ahead. It’s not serious.’ They even laugh went they hear about someone getting cheated in a big way. They think it’s cute and clever!

BTW, it’s not only Americans that they have a problem with; I also have French friends in Vietnam and they complain about how badly they are thought of too. On the flip side, as an American, I have mostly received a positive reception from average Vietnamese when I say where I am from. My Korean student is having problems nearly every single day as she takes a taxi and they drive way out of the way to cheat her on the way to school. The same thing happens to her father. A 40k dong ride that should take 10 minutes will cost her 200k and over 30 minutes. Then she’s late to school and upset. Does she have the right to complain as an expat.’s dependent of 17/18 years old? She’s NOT a tourist and NOT a white person! I’m fortunate enough to have a regular driver who acts as my bodyguard and my buyer. I couldn’t live there without his help!

NomadicMatt

And I am better off without Vietnam. It’s win-win.

Muca

Matt, its truely a sad thing. I mean you seem to be very smart with making money with travelling and blogging, I’d have to give you kuddos for that. But writing off Vietnam, just because you are not experienced enough to backpack in developing countries, is not only unfair for the country and its people but also for the young beginning backpackers seeking for advice. Not only that, you keep the myth that its all so bad in Vietnam. I have seen it so many times; travellers expecting something bad to happen, which then actually happens. Its a pity.

Totally agree with you Muca!! Finally someone else sees this as total crap!! As a seasoned backpacker and world traveler, Matt should be able to be a little smarter about the situation…maybe it’s the smugness of some so called backpackers…who think the world is for their pleasure, not seeing through the realities of other peoples lives.

It really is a pity

NomadicMatt

I was treated poorly and because of that I have no desire to return. I travel in developing countries all the time. They are far the most interesting but because they are developing doesn’t mean they get a pass for not treating people with respect.

Muca

Matt, you have been treated poorly because: 1) the tourism industry in Vietnam is not that developed, so some of your bad experiences are due to the bad infrastructure and not because of the people, as a traveler myself I totally love that kind of experience, 2) ofcourse people try to overcharge you, please try to be realistic here, it alsp happens in our own countries, they just do it less obvious, this is just capitalism, matt. Should I feel sorry for u that you got ripped off that few cents for your drink? Id be more than happy to pay a bit more. 3) judging from your article I can see that u are clearly influenced by others opinions on Vietnam. Lets make it clear here, there is no thinking or whatsoever in Vietnam that Americans and French have to pay for their past mistakes. Even though the American war has happened quite recently, I have never heard, during the year I lived in Vietnam, that Americans or French should be treated poorly. I was always the one who was most radical in discussions about Americans in Vietnam, my Vietnamese friends always had to remind me that I shouldn’t be so stuck in the past and keep on looking forward.

Muca

BTW, Its really bull-crap that Vietnamese people would hate Americans. I have met so many American war veterans travelling to Vietnam who felt so touched because the people didnt bear any grudge towards them. In my native country Holland there are so many more people anti-American, while the Americans liberated us 60 years ago!

Lee Link

Hi Matt
Thank for review about our country, that’s true, but that a part, im sure that a small part..
So … let’s come back Viet Nam one day, tell me know, tell we know.. then you will see another Viet Nam :)

Dazza

American!!

Say no more. Have lived here for 5 years and find it genuine and real.

Kiwi Girl

I’m a native Northern Vietnamese and I bet you’re right about most of the things you’re describing here. I’ve got treated badly and ripped off by my own people, too, if I trust them too quickly. I don’t know who to blame for all this? But I believe years ago people were much nicer to one another and of course to international visitors. My grandparents and parents’ generations, for example, were much more decent, respectful and kinder than people of my generation (who were born just after the Vietnam war and saw so much hatred against our own people from the South and the Americans). Should we blame this on the communist education which emphasizes hatred rather than compassion? Or should we blame this on the recent fast economic development which is unfortunately not accompanied by a corresponding ethics education? Among native Vietnamese ourselves we always complain that people nowadays are much less ethical. Corruption, cheating, and robbing happens everywhere. Government officials cheat, and so do ordinary people.
Anyway, I’m so sorry to hear about your negative experience. But you might know as well that there are still good-natured people in Vietnam. My foreign friends who stay in Vietnam for quite a long period of time all have had nice experiences. Perhaps because they have been well informed before they go and perhaps because they’re luckier, too.
Best wishes for your continued travel!

PS: I wish the tourist officials in Vietnam could read what you wrote here and improve their practices.

Rozzy

Hi Matt,

I am a Vietnamese, i have many foreigner friends whose comments about my country i got varied from each person. I did not deny your comments. But u know, that was just one side of VN society, and u could not evaluate VN and Vietnamses only by your some-day-trip, and some person whom u met. So you should come VN one more times to see another positive side of VN, i will be willing to show you then.

Linh

I have some questions for you, hope that you can answer them.
Have you ever really been to Vietnam? I cant find any clue that show you in Vietnam
Why dont you public these stories after 3 years? It’s been long enough although there are some thing can remind bad feelings
You are Nomadic Matt with many traveling experience. What did make you so easy to be hassled, overcharged, ripped off?
I know each people have their own experience but I believe Vietnamese people always welcome you as tourist.

Phuong

Hi Matt,
So sorry you had such bad experience in Vietnam. I’m a vietnamese woman and I am really sad when reading this post. Vietnam is a developing country, we have definitely some problems. The problem of overcharge is popular in tourrist places, mainly with the street sellers, for also vietnames peoples, not only for foreign peoples. You can avoid this problem if you choose some restaurant that has menu. I think every tourist places have positive and negative things. For exemple, I heard that there are many stolens in Barcelona, in Roma, so when I went to Roma, I’m very careful and everything is fine. Many of my friends are victims of stolens in Barcelona (they lost their passport, their camera, …), but they always said that Barcelona is a nice place and they will return back if they have occasion. Everybody has his same experience but it not fair for us if you write only about the negative things.

And we are not taught that “all our problems are cause by the West, and that the Westerns owe the Vietnamese”. It’s not true. The street sellers are normally poor peoples, almost of them have never occasion to travel. So they think that the people who could go travel are rich people, and they expect that you could spend more money. It’s not good, but it’s not because we think that the Westerns owe the Vietnamese.

I’m really sorry about your bad experience in Vietnam and I hope that you will return and see that there are many nice vietnameses and that Vietnam has many beautiful places.

Amese

This comment is pending approval and won’t be displayed until it is approved.

I was born in Vietnam, then went to study abroad, and also don’t want to come back to Vietnam.

I understand why you were f’ked by the people there. People in this country basically f’k each other to live. The government has f’ked its people since independen­ce from France in 1945, by telling the lie everyday. In 2012 the government­al officers are f’king Vietnamese citizens everywhere by robbing them, this includes the Vietnamese embassies abroad which charge how much a passport or visa cost depending on how much you need it. From higher authoritie­s the f’king chain goes down to the lowest possibly ranked citizens: the farmers. Then, these farmers f’k back people from the top by producing fake, poor quality agricultur­al products.

The whole Vietnam is f’ked by its people: garbage are thrown everywhere­, water and air is polluted, natural resource is sold to foreign countries till the last bit, and the image of the country is f’ked by sellers who overcharge foreign tourists.

This is a f’king country and does not deserve to be visited.

But, on the other side. Matt, why the hell did you dare to go to Vietnam, after your country has bombarded Vietnam to the stone age and caused millions of dead. Your fucking people cause war everywhere in the name of keeping peace for the world. And you still expect to be well served ?

Sh’t your mouth up, my dear Matt.

anne

“While in Nha Trang, I met an English teacher who had been in Vietnam for many years. He said that the Vietnamese are taught that all their problems are caused by the West, especially the French and Americans, and that the West “owes” Vietnam. They expect Westerners to spend money in Vietnam, so when they see western backpackers trying to penny pitch, they get upset and treat them poorly. Those who are spending money, however, seem to be treated quite well. I don’t know if this is true or not but based on what I had seen and the experiences I had heard, it did make some sense”
–> I guess that you have some personal issues with Vietnam, because it looks like that you’re judging too much without considering right or wrong.
As a vietnamese, I’ve never been taught this way. Contrary to what you told, Vietnameses have been taught to be tolerant with Western people. Nowadays, we know that you western people are not richer than us, it’s just the exchange rate who makes the difference. Look at the price of the same car sold in the US or in the EU and that in Vietnam, you’ll see that we do have money! You consider that you’re superior than us, that’s why you’re so angry being treated as inferior in our country. I don’t agree with Viet people in your story, but I can see that you’re too short-minded to be a budget traveller!

chipham

maybe you’re not wrong but you are too short-minded to understand us. So. Don’t come back because we don’t want to see you.

Huyen

First of all, I am sorry to hear about the troubles you had in Vietnam. As an ordinary Vietnamese, I have to shamefully admit that most of the facts you pointed out are true. There are many different aspects of Vietnam and unfortunately you just bumped into the “no-so-pleasant” ones. I know Vietnam will hardly have another chance to welcome you. However, please remember if you want to know a real country you visit, come to the real people and do real thinking. Good luck on your travels. Cheers.

John Trinh

Hi Matt,
i’m a vietnamese guy who had worked in hotel industry for several years and I completely understand what you had experienced in Vietnam. I am very sorry about that, but there is something I wanna tell you.
1. you are well-known as an experienced tourist, but you had forgotten the basic principle you should learn before travelling to another country was reading or studying about the positive & negative sides of tourism environment of that country. without that preparation, your depressed experience was totally sympathized.
2. you had not looked for any assistance from your hotel staff, did you? I had been a hotel receptionist for 3 years, and I was trained to inform guests about things that guest should or should not do, even the guest did not ask us.
3. there is no evidence that you was in vietnam in 2007… what on earth took you years to post your comment about Vietnam onto your blog? is there any photos of you taken? bonsai’ photo on your post can be from googlen and Hoi An’ might have been taken by a cellphone, not a pro one which should be carried along such person you are.
4. it is easily to find out that below your article, quantity of positive comments about Vietnam is properly higher than the negatives… why?
cheers…

Dung

hi
You is worse when you say a country where you have not been to . Because nothing to convince me that you went to Vietnam .

People can do themselves a favor NOT going to Vietnam with the mindset of it being what it was 40 years ago. That’s all I’m saying.

Le

Okay, Vietnam is a poor countries. So “being ripped off” is what you got for being green and naive. And it’s not just you! Even the locals, like me, could potentially being ripped off all the time. I guess it’s the poverty that’s cause all this. But I disagree with some of the comments here about some crooks do it to foreigners because of the WAR. That’s ideal is simply stupid! They just do it because they want to cheat some extra coins out of you! Simple as that!

Nautical Mile

Matt, I’m a Vietnamese myself. I’m just giving you this statistics (taken from the mainstream media sources in Vietnam): at least 70% of foreign visitors will NOT return to Vietnam.

Have a good one :)

Luke

I have no doubt about what you said. I can be true to anyone.
I traveled to Vietnam too but didn’t get that much bad experience. But I got the same problem when I come to Pataya, Thailand. You see, the ripoff, overcharge, scam,.. exist anywhere.
The matter is how a backpacker can avoid that.
I recommend you to write another article which is “How to avoid trouble while travelling to Vietnam” then your opinion will be more appreciate.
Regards,

Muca

Luke, as if Matt knows……. You can better read other guides on Vietnam, or just watch Anthony Bourdain travelling and eating in Vietnam, to get a better picture of the country. I basically can give three tips on travelling in Vietnam: 1) This seems so obvious, but many people forget to do it. Make 100% clear what the price is, if you are not sure if they get it, try to write it down, just make sure that u have agreed upon the price before you buy anything, 2) get a phrase-book, look at the Vietnamese menu, make sure that you are as independent as possible, so you can look up the prices yourself, 3) Be friendly and keep your temper, I have learned that the way how you approach people will decided how you are being treated. I have seen so many arrogant westerners in Asia, who already assume to be ripped off on beforehand, and that attitude will be rewarded with another negative attitude of the other side. From the airport to Hanoi city centre, the taxi driver was trying to rip me off on the middle of the road, asking me a crazy high price, but I kept my smile on my face, i kept calm, and I just told him that I would pay him in the hotel. So what did he do? Stopped on the middle of the road, called another taxi for me, and let me go without paying him (even no screaming or swearing, just because I stayed calm), while he, as a con-artists, could also dump me in the middle of the road, not caring what would have happened to me. So: In vietnam, do as vietnamese do, be direct, agree upon the phrase, try to learn some of the language and, most important of all, try keeping your face, by staying calm.

Lan Nguyen

As a Vietnamese, I think you might meet such unpleasant experiences. Not only “the white” but also “the yellow” are usually ripped off and treated poorly. However, everything has two sides (good n bad). If you keep your mind only bad things you will never discover the good things around. If you have a chance to come back VN, I hope you will take it in order to assert your arguments or discover another things
Although your experiences in Vietnam didn’t bring you pleasure, you’ve got a lesson.

P.S I ‘ve met nice people everywhere i come

Never say never :)

I’m very very sorry to hear you had those bad experiences in Vietnam, Matt.
I wish you could meet better people, had pleased experiences and found nice things around you here.

I have one American friend, who’s come to visit … well, me, and has decided to stay here forever, in Vung Tau. I have many Western friends who also paid a visit here and still want to come back.

We, the educated ones, never think the Western or American owe anything to us or to any other people in this world, and we’ve never been taught like that.

Yes, all the facts you stated is true, so bad but very true, and it makes me feel sad, very sad. I apologize. I wish your friend took better care of you while you were here. I wish my poor people have more knowledge, understanding and have better manner to others, especially, the foreigner. They might laugh, point at others … have rude manners, they’re just not well-educated, the low class ones, but deep inside, I’m sure they have good heart, sympathy …, if you had difficulties, there would be many people help you, beg you be their honored guest, eat together, sleep in their houses without any hesitation.

Find me here, at vietgle.vn, we would love to be your friends.

Phuong My

Andrew

i dont think Matt have been to vietnam for real. it doesnt sound like a travel expert’s story.

suongsuong

Hi matt, although I’m not going to anywhere in the world but I’m still proud of my country would not inferior to the country. you may encounter some cases negative, but I know the Vietnam ready to laugh with you when you look at them, maybe they just know every word Hello, but they were happy to greet you … no one despise you, whether you are American or French, or any other country.

I guess you have never been in Vietnam yet. Nothing proved you came to Vietnam.
All your photos don’t have your face.
Exif of all your photos were deleted, so no one can check information about the photos.
Your only one photo about the tree has exif that it was taken by Canon Ixus 60 in Jan-2007, but it did not prove anything…

Amanda

I am a Vietnamese, I feel ashamed and I am terrible sorry for what you had got during your trip. You are right, there are still many good people in my country, and I am sorry that you had not met them at that time. And I don’t think the opinion of that English teacher in Nha Trang is correct, this is the first time I’ve heard about this odd idea.

I have met many foreigners who are living, working and travelling in Viet Nam, including my bosses. My bosses have been living, working in Viet Nam for many years. Some of them got married with Vietnamese and they said that they liked living in Viet Nam.

I think we need time for people from different countries to understand and love each other. I hope there would be other chances for you to come back Viet Nam, to understand and love Viet Nam and Vietnamese like we do.

Besides, your trip was at 2007, and it is 2012 now, things have changed and who can be sure that your heart will not be held by a Vietnamese girl. Who know what the future will hold.

You are always welcome, Matt.

I feel ashamed and I am terrible sorry for what you had got during your trip

FallingAngel

Anyway you’re right! You’re in a bad situation, I know. But something you need to khow
Vietnam are going to modernize and on this prodedure-something (or almost) are good and something still bad, we’re improving it! For E.g:
Now I study in Hue tourism colledge,Vietnam. I’ll become a tour guide who has a good education to help the foreign tourist everything such as: from design a tour to help when they want to buy something, even dealing with complain…
I agreed with you what you think and what you met in your trip in Vietnam but you’re need to hope that Vietnam’ll has a brighter future.
Maybe you’re read the comment of Laura in this topic-she is my teacher and she’ll be my teacher forever, never happier…
Did you think when you post this topic, you’re take bad affect on Vietnam tourism industry?
OK, I’ll guiding free for you when you come back Vietnam, I hope you will change your mind. Contact me if you read this comment.
And please don’t show you’re an unprofessional traveller when you say something.
Cheers
Luat
P/s: sorry I’m bad in English but I know what you and others said

Todd

Anthony Bourdain explains his love for Viet Nam, a country devastated by war and isolation, that is turning around to make up for its lost time and to show the world what its rich culture, friendly yet hard-working people and magnificent landscapes are all about …

Youtube video Link
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ii4w9NhYSA

Kate

Hi,
I am Vietnamese and feel very sad when I read your article. Not because of you, because of VN. To be honest that those things you saw does happens everywhere in VN but it is also a bad luck because you experience those all.
There is a thing in some “vietnamese mind” it is like they don’t make much money from every day customers, and when they over charge them they are sometimes in trouble because the rumors will spread very fast. That is the reason why they over charge you because they know they don’t have to face you ever again and they laughed because they were satisfied with them self, they thought they had done a great job and earn a lot and because you would never know it and if you ever knew you can’t do anything…
But they didn’t realize that they lost something more precious .. the proud of the country, the honesty and the bright future of it.
There is no excuses .. even I sometimes get ripped off if I don’t know the price .. ( silly ) I hate to bargain here but it is a must..

But pls do believe that there are good and bad people every where .. :) when you travel, make local friends with some one that you know they can help you and are trustworthy, you will have a greater experience.

I wish you all the best.
A vietnamese girl.

A VNmese American

Matt,

You ought to stay put in the US where things are exactly how you have been accustomed to since birth. It appears to me that you expect US rated hospitality, the sort of hospitality citizens developed over a century of having no war, civil or otherwise, no foreign invaders, no famine, only peace.

You appear to expect too much in a country that is far from equal your own. You expect all people there to be gracious to you while such is not even to be had in many parts of US. I had met many snotty Americans while traveling in Vietnam. They were cheap and ill mannered. And the simple minded Vietnamese likely formed opinion of Americans and US the exact way you formed yours about Vietnam here.

FYI, some merchants there do this to oversea Vietnamese, local Vietnamese too (much like Americans conning Americans, non?). One, when travel to unfamiliar, unequal territory of the world, just have to either travel with open mind and loose attitude toward money (after all a bag of lemonade there only cost few mighty US cents) or shrewdness (which if you pondered deeply a bit is what you’d have gained with your “struggles” there).

But you were rather arrogant for having traveled all over Asia thus needed not to learn to be smart eh?

You were lucky you didn’t get mugged (or is this an American specialty?) LMAO!

A VNmese American

Btw Matt, you claimed that you are not making a dime out of this article of yours on Huffington Post site thus will not retract it.

You do make money of it kid, through all the ads here. When you wrote that claim, were you lying or thinking your readers idiotic?

I am not asking you to retract this article however as every one is entitled to his/her opinion and each of us on earth has different experience even while we do the exact thing at exact same place.

But pray make an honest claim from now on.

NomadicMatt

All those ads on the side are paid regardless of whether you come and buy the products or click on them. More traffic does not equal more money for me.

Padme

“He said that the Vietnamese are taught that all their problems are caused by the West, especially the French and Americans, and that Westerns “owe” the Vietnamese.”

–> this is NOT true! I was educated in Vietnam and I was never taught such thing.

They expect Westerners to spend money in Vietnam, so when they see travelers trying to penny pitch, they get upset and thus look down on backpackers and treat them poorly.

—> this is also NOT true! we never looked down on backpackers because they spent less.

“Those who are spending money, however, seem to be treated quite well”

–> excuse me, but I thought this is the case in ALL COUNTRIES. That is why you pay more to get better service!!

The boy from Viet Nam

Oh no my comment :((((((
Anyway, don’t think we mean… Have fun !!!

Mr Nguyen Nguyen

As a Vietnamese I was not surprised about the bad experiences that Matt had in Vietnam. Such things do happen even to local people.
What makes me surprised is an experienced traveller like Matt seems to know very little about Vietnam (and other countries in SEA in general).
Though other people might have mentioned already (there are too many comments so I can not read them all), I like to give a few tips for you when you are in Vietnam.
1. Bargaining before buying is a golden rule. It may not be easy for foreigners but if you think the price is too expensive then try to offer 1/3 or a half price. If the seller says No then go over to the next shop. There are many shops selling similar goods at the same place. Here you can offer a bit better price and you will probably get the deal. Bargaining is also a fun to do.
2. At any restaurants always ask for a menu where the price is shown. If not, ask for the price first otherwise you may be overcharged.
3. Say NO to street sellers if you do not intent to buy anything from them. Trying to talk to them for fun (many foreigners like to do that) will only make them follow you until you agree to buy something from them.
4. Local people normally do not get back small changes of a few thousand Dong. The value is too small (remember that 1 USD is worth more than 20,000 VND) and in many cases the sellers do not have small changes. That is why your friend gets some chocolates at the market instead. I know you are from a different culture but this is very common in Vietnam. Funny right?
5. Many Vietnamese people especially people in country side are curious about foreigners and they like to talk and laugh in front of you. By no means this means they say “HAHAHA I rip you off”. I doubt that a foreigners can understand exactly what local people talk about because even Vietnamese people from the North sometimes can not fully understand.
6. There are fake taxis where meters go like mad. Unfortunately it is not easy to recognize them. Always ask your hotel front to call a taxi for you. If you catch a taxi on a road then choose Mailinh or a taxi where you can hear voice of operator. If you get on a fake taxi (you know by the unusual jump of meter), pay and get out immediately.
7. Talk to your tour guide if you are unsure about something.

Hope that this will help. Enjoy your time in Vietnam

Kevin

What Padme said is right, even I have never heard any of those “Westerners owe the Vietnamese” stuffs before. It’s just pure greed … that’s all I have to say. They’ll try to rip you off as much as they possibly can, especially foreign visitors. But if you happen to give Vietnam a second chance by paying another visit, make sure to check with someone who’s familiar with the country or do some researches first and I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time there :)

Sorry it turned out sour for you.

I’ve come across similar behavior in other countries as well, but that’s the fun of it for me. You have to have thick skin in places like this and it helps to know what you’re in for. Sounds like you did though and met a few unsavory characters. There are going to be folks of this ilk everywhere though.

I’ve only seen it in the over touristy areas of countries though. Lots of backpackers go down to Phuket for instance and get the piss taken out of them, but think it’s cool because they don’t realize what’s going on. I just people watch, smile, and finish my beer.

I can almost guarantee you that if you hop on a bus/motorbike/train and go 1 hour in any direction outside of the major tourist areas it’ll be a totally different world.

Zen

Hi Matt,
As a typical CURIOUS Vietnamese, I come across your travel blog for your original article (in English) which was translated and posted on Vietnamese newspapers. Congratulation, you are getting more famous now.

Although it’s not my fault but sorry to hear many awkward incidents that you encountered in the trip in Vietnam ( if they indeed did happen). As a lone backpacker myself ( been to not as many places as you, but enough to not be called a novice traveler), I encountered similar incidents here and there, not all in one trip though. However, they are never buried in my heart as a hatred to a land or a nation. I just think of them as bad luck. If your trip to Vietnam was true, I believe that you would either have been too confident on your knowledge about Vietnam or too naive as a backpacker.

First of all:
Hard bargaining: Backpackers always learn the lesson at heart that you have to bargain as much as possible when you are in tourist place especially Asia. However, you guy forget a lesson: Everything has its price. Things are cheap in Vietnam, but NOT ridiculously cheap. Especially, when Hanoi and HCMC are in the top of 100 most expensive cities in the world. You also forgot the inflation rate of nearly 20% annually in Vietnam as well. During the festive season, the normal price would be twice or three time higher. In the tourist place, price would also be 150%-200% higher. Make sure to count that in when giving out the travel guideline. (I recommend you follow Mr Nguyen Nguyen’s guideline above ). Also, only if the price is ridiculously a rip-off, I won’t bargain to street vendors (sellers at shopping mall, hotel are in a different story), since they are all poor and selling cheap stuff. “a dollar goes a lot further for them than it does for me” – That “a dollar” does go further for street vendors but won’t change their life for your information. I would consider it as charity money if I were ripped off by a street vendor, and I’m totally fine with that. Living in Australia, I do sometimes give few dollars to a homeless on the street though I know that they are actually living on my tax money, and they actually ask money for buying drug or beer. Many Australians still do the same way like me. Should I change this habit now since those homeless do not even give me any product or service in return and without my few bucks, he/she still can survive ?

Anyway, for time’s sake, I would show my intelligence at my work not at a thrift-shop.

Smile: Vietnamese love smiling, laughing and being optimistic (Else we would never win the wars). We are curious as well. Hence, educate yourself how to understand our laugh before coming to Vietnam. We laugh to communicate and cross the language barrier, we laugh because the situation is funny. We don’t laugh to show that we are bad people.

Open eyes-Open heart: I think you put yourself in high alert mode whenever you are on travel: easily believe in people because they are the same kind like you but not the local. It’s understandable since when we are a in a strange land, we have tendency to hook to what we are familiar with. Believe in the expat guy because he is white, believe in the Vietnamese-American because he is an American, believe in other backpackers’ stories because they are backpackers. Did you make any effort to talk to the Vietnamese born & live in Vietnam (like students who are capable of speaking English to you )?. If not your experience of traveling overseas is only a hearsay kind of experience only. If you were overcharged, or abused, you should have declined them and shown your reaction directly to the one who abused you. That’s respecting yourself & being smart (bear with those uncomfortable feelings, and memorize those incidents for 3 years really harms your brain & your heart).

“Two of my friends lived in Vietnam for 6 months, and even they said the Vietnamese were rude to them despite becoming “locals”. Their neighbors never warmed up to them” –> Relationship never comes with one side, it’s mutual. My parent in Vietnam always have foreign neighbors. Some become great friends (even later we visit them when they went back to their home countries), some were merely strangers. With broken English, my parent & some other Vietnamese neighbors always greet them when they first come. But if they just show their cocky attitude back, these people would never be accepted & become “locals”. As simple as that. It’s all about personal relationship & can’t be generalized by a country. Why aren’t we loved by all the people we meet ?

“They were always outsiders. Strangers to even those they saw everyday. Wherever I went, it seemed my experience was the norm not the exception.” ==> Did your two friends say “Hi” in Vietnamese continuously for 1 week to her neighbors ? If not, then don’t expect to much. Expecting without acting is just a day-dreamer!

At a supermarket, a friend was given chocolate instead of change. ==> Vietnamese note range from 0.01$ to 25$ & we don’t have low value note in the market (the inflation phase it out). What can the cashier do ?

in the end, WHY SO SERIOUS! & wish your travel blog is not only about “been there, done that” but “I was a part of it & it was a part of me”

Jerod

It is essential that you get the price of everything before you agreed to pay for it. No price given, no deal. There is almost nothing for sale that you can’t find elsewhere — it is a buyer’s market, so take advantage of it.

I can’t say I found Cambodia or Thailand to be much different. The people aren’t as aggressive, but they will still overcharge you if you let them (or underserve you when it comes to food — I could swear the locals got bigger portions than me).

I ended up having a lot of respect for the Vietnamese — for lack of a better phrase, they have big balls. Having said that, starting out my lengthy trip there may have been a bad idea, since I seem to have some lingering cynicism about being taken advantage of. I had a jacket that I dropped off for a zipper repair stolen from me by a cloth shop in Hoi An. I was stupid enough not to get a receipt, so there was nothing I could do about it. I hated the damn thing anyway, so no big loss, but like you the gall of lying to my face about it stung.

For the record, the thieves were at SU cloth shop at 48 Tran Hung Dao Street. Avoid the bastards like the plague!

Lisa

Jerod, it doesn’t sound like you spent enough time in Cambodia or Thailand to notice the differences between those countries and Vietnam. I spent five years in Thailand. Six months in Cambodia (over the past four years) and lived four months in Vietnam. You’re lucky they only stole your jacket in Hanoi. This city is dangerous!!!!

My Vietnamese friend recently told me that he’s afraid to drive in Hanoi because he doesn’t know if he’ll have an accident or a robber will stab him with a knife and leave him for dead in the street. He says he reads about this happening all the time in the papers. Crime is terrible in Hanoi! It is far worse than anywhere I have ever been in my life! So take the lying experience as minor thing by comparison to what could happen to you.

You don’t ever want to end up in a ‘hospital’ in Vietnam – complete hell holes! I would not send a stray dog to one after what I’ve seen. I met a foreign doctor at one and he completely agreed with me. This was suppose to be one of the good hospitals! I know Vietnamese people who don’t trust Vietnamese hospitals and they have everything done in Bangkok or elsewhere.

Jerod, I’ve spent a lot of time in Thailand and can’t remember one time when Thais ‘underserved’ me. If anything, when it comes to food, they usually try to give me more than normal and I’ve never been overcharged from that angle. In Vietnam, I have to go with my driver and let him do my buying for me because I just don’t have the patience anymore to deal with these vendors. They are oftentimes mean and nasty even to other locals.

Muca

Lisa, Hanoi is relatively safer than any other big North-American or European city. These are just facts.

Lisa

This was an answer to someone’s question about crime in Vietnam:
‘a few tips:

put your bag under the seat when you’re on bike
Never leave your bike unattended

hold on tight to your purse when you’re walking, be cautious of whom walking near you or following you behind…

when you’re at an outdoor cafe, keep your purse right next to you or put it on your lap… never put your phone & wallet on the table.

do your homework about the neighborhood before moving in
Buy a safe and store your valuables. Don’t carry extra cash, credit cards, passports, jewelry or anything else you really don’t need.

make sure the locks on the doors and windows are working properly… if you’re a family with kids and are staying for long, you might consider installing alarm system for the house… bring peace of mind ;)

Never open the door to strangers, does not matter who they say they are. Call your landlord

Single Female – Carry a pepper spray when you’re out alone in the evening

try to take taxis rather than motorbike taxis, prolly paying the same anyway (Taxi 3 sao 0432323232, taxi thanh nga 0438215215, taxi morning 0462525252, taxi van xuan 0438222888)

after all, trust me, HCMC is even worse than Hanoi when it comes to crime rates… and be very careful between New Year and Tet, a lot of people would be desperate for some money to bring home for Tet holiday, they’d likely do anything !’

Everything above is good advice. It goes without saying now that Vietnam is very dangerous!

I grew up in Detroit and never had a problem with crime. Nor have I ever heard of anyone in my whole family that has ever had a problem with crime. I’ve traveled all over America to so many ‘dangerous’ cities and no problems personally. I can’t speak for Europe, but I have rarely heard of anyone being robbed there, except in Italy. I hear about people being robbed in Vietnam on a DAILY basis.

Muca

Lisa, please see this website for safety in Hanoi: https://www.osac.gov/pages/ContentReportPDF.aspx?cid=10577 . + stats there are more homocides in the US than Vietnam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

Lisa

Muca,

There’s a lot more to crime than just homicide. You also have to factor in that America is much bigger and has a much larger population than America. It’s pointless to compare! And you really think developing countries honestly report all homicides? MOST do not report for face saving reasons and because of the incompetency of those running the show.

I was out with my friend and her five-year-old daughter was nearly run over by a woman who would have run killed her if the mother hadn’t dramatically scooped her daughter out of the way. Another young child was purposely run over and it was all over the news. My colleague just recently had her 3 year old hit by a motorbike. When she entered the hospital, there were people everywhere in the emergency room with motor accident injuries. RARELY do the people at fault ever get any punishment! I have seen more hit and runs in Hanoi in three months than I have seen in my entire life!

And I am constantly reminded about peoples’ homes being broken into and robbed while they sleep. Urban fishing (as it is known) is a common problem in Vietnam! Nobody carries bags because it is so dangerous to do so. NO other country in the world that I have been to (over 30 countries) has this big of a problem, not even Cambodia.

So don’t you DARE tell me that Vietnam is relatively safe! It’s extremely DANGEROUS!

Muca

Dear Lisa, I dare to say it to you again: Hanoi is relatively safer than most other big cities. Yes, the city has its problems such as motorbike accidents, which I consider to be the biggest problem of Hanoi as well as its biggest threat. But you are really exaggerating. Could you name me one district in Hanoi which should be avoided due its safety? No, while in the US all the big cities have ghetto’s which are often no-go areas. Concerning theft, I lived in Vietnam for a year, and my house has never been broken into. I also can’t recall other places where that has happened, but I do believe you if you say that it is a problem in Hanoi. I just don’t see why in other cities that wouldn’t be a problem. And why wouldn’t people report a homicide to the police? I don’t see how that is related to saving face. Please visit any other big city in the developing world, such as in Africa or South-America, and you wonder why Hanoi, being a city with a big poor population, is so relatively safe. I have never felt unsafe in Hanoi, and I walked everywhere at any time of the day. But its good to advice people to be cautious, as in every other big city.

Tashi

I hadn’t previously read this article but stumbled across it the other day just after finishing our few weeks in Vietnam. We were so relieved to get out of there, we felt bad about thinking negatively but couldn’t help but notice how different and better we found Cambodia. Can definitely relate to all the points in the article and did not enjoy Vietnam except for the great food and beautiful landscapes. As accepting and understanding as we tried to be we could not shake the feeling of being treated like crap except for a about 5 lovely locals all up.

My Country

Hi Matt,
I am so sorry to hear about your bad experiences in Vietnam. I can’t defend because what you said about Vietnam was pretty much reality though I love my country with all my heart. I have been studying in the U.S for 5 years and always wish some day I will take some of my American friends to Vietnam with me on a vacation. I will show them how lovely and beautiful my country is. There are some rude and nice people anywhere. There are many kinds of people in Vietnam and I can proudly say that most of Vietnamese people in Vietnam are hospitable and friendly, only a small percentage of them are rude and mean because they are poorly educated and only think of money. You trip would have been great if you have traveled with a Vietnamese companion. I bet you would have had a great experience and loved my country more than the other countries. It is much lovely than Thailand! I am not really convincing you to take another chance to return to Vietnam but just wanna tell you that what you experienced was just the dark side of a country and that wasn’t all.

Hope you have great experiences with all of your travel!

Muca

Only seeing the reactions of Vietnamese people to this blog, reminds me how friendly Vietnamese people are. Instead of swearing or complaining, they say: so sorry that you have had those bad experiences + next time meet me/us and we will make sure you have a good time. So Matt, take the challenge, and try meeting local people, write a blog about it, and do justice to the country. Or are you going to repeat yourself, because in those three weeks you had some unfortunate incidents?

Thank you, Muca. xxx

Viet United

Hey it’s me again.
Sorry to hear about your grievances.
There is a saying in Vietnam about the market places in general “Cho? bu’a” it’s meaning is analogous to getting roughed up at the market. Most of your experiences occurred at the market stalls or shonky tour businesses. Hence I am not surprised, the rest of the VN people are quite polite I know because I am one a nice one of course. Here is my experience.
In Paris I was abused by a hotel manager speaking in French, though the guy did not shout at me directly but his body language was not that charming, in Austria the taxi driver was an %$% hole I wanted to give him the Zieg heil instead of the tip but thought otherwise. Lastly before returning home to Aust we stayed in Nice(France) to relax and there I ordered a seafood pizza, after fifteen minutes they gave me canned tuna pizza WTH????

Vietman

Mr Nguyen Nguyen

I just checked Tripadvisor for visitors opinions about their trip to Vietnam http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g293921-Vietnam-Vacations.html.
Tripadvisor is a very good website to get reliable statistic data about visitors (including backpackers) opinions. I went thru 6 destinations in Vietnam and found that most visitors think their trip was excellent. So why bother about some people here who seem to bear grudges and biases against Vietnam? Go and explore by yourselves.

(Abbreviation: Ex = excellent; VG = very good; A = average; P = poor; T = terrible)
1. XO Tours – Vietnam Motorbike Tours: 241 visitors (Ex 231, VG 9, A 1, P & T: 0)
2. Hoi An “Love of Life” Bicycle Tours: 125 visitors (Ex 124, VG: 0; A: 0; P: 1)
3. Smile Tourist – Day Tours: Visitors 36 (Ex: 36)
4. Saigon River Express: 203 visitors (Ex 140; VG 47; A 12; P 4)
5. Tomb of Khai Dinh: 66 visitors (Ex 50; VG 13; Av 3)
6. Tra Que Herb Village: 61 visitors (Ex 52 ; VG 7 ; Av 1 ; P 1)

Mr Nguyen Nguyen

I continued searching other destinations in Tripadvisor and found similar statistic data. All the data show that majority of visitors like their trip.

(Abbreviation: Ex = excellent; VG = very good; A = average; P = poor; T = terrible)
7. Halong bay: 107 visitors (Ex 66; VG 22; Av 6; P 9; T 4)
8. Hanoi sity tour : 21 visitors (Ex 10 ; VG 7 ; Av 2 ; P 2)
9. Hue tour : 73 visitors (Ex 67 ; VG 6)
10. Mekong eyes cruise tour : 53 visitors (Ex 37 ; VG 5 ; AV 7 ; P 4)

Final word: Now I understand that not everyone dislikes Vietnam like Matt does. I make this comment again: if you come to Vietnam to explore its landscape, its unique food and lifestyle, you will enjoy your trip. But if you just come as a writer/blogger who wants to dig deeply into its black sites to find problems (it is easy to find problems indeed) you will find your trip unpleasant. If the latter is the case, you should never return to Vietnam.

Viet United

Sorry Mr Nguyen Nguyen but that’s a bit harsh. Matt is just stating the facts. At the end of the article he signed off with something like “but do go and experience it for yourself”.
If I were to travel to America, I would expect rednecks among decent people. Just have a good laugh and think of it as WTF? rather than being a little defensive. Ps Matt the bit where you said “Westerners owe us” where on earth did you hear this from? Oh that teacher? Was he drunk or what? LOL.

Mr Nguyen Nguyen

@Viet United. “After my experience there in 2007, I’ll never go back to that country. Never, ever, ever. A business trip or a girlfriend may force me there in the future but for as long as I can see down the road, I’ll never touch down again in that country”. Matt wrote in his article to Huffingtonpost.

What motives are behind this “Never, ever, ever”?

If he just wanted to share his own experiences in VN to Huffingtonpost readers, then why he chose such harsh sentences in his article. This gives an impression that Vietnam is indeed a hellhole (if you read thru Matt’ s comments to readers you will find more harsh words).
I also suspect his motives because he chose to publish this article 5 years after his trip. During this time there were many changes in Vietnam.

Coming to the end of a 6 month stretch in Saigon. Its an absolute s*ithole that I will never return to and will go out of my way to tell people not to bother visiting.

Of course not all the locals are rip-off merchants and as someone who has travelled and lived around the world I dont get ripped-off easily anyway. But even the most seasoned traveler can do nothing about the constant harassment from the motorbike taxi drivers. These idiots laze around on street corners until the mere whiff of some foreign blood and then leap to action shouting and gesturing at you “Motorbike? Where you go?” They also ride along next to foreign women almost intimidating them into agreeing to get onto their bikes for fear that there will be even more harassment if they don’t.

The motorbike taxi men of Saigon need to sort out their lives and stop hassling foreigners. Some of us are happy to walk and actually enjoy it.

The traffic in Saigon is the pits. The place is a living hell-hole. All you ever hear is the noise of motorbikes and beeping. If you happen to be walking across a road on a red light and it changes to green mid way across, the traffic will just ride straight at you (even if you are an 80 year old Vietnamese woman).

In conclusion its crap. I make a lot of money here and still cant wait to leave.

Mr Nguyen Nguyen

Sorry, but I just can not understand. You spent 6 MONTHS in Saigon?
What made you stay for that long in that “s*thole” dear Mr. Scouser? If you hate it so much then why you did not fly away after 6 days? LOL.

Well I was meant to be here for a year. No chance. Ive stayed 6 months to earn enough money to never have to come back to work in a dump like this again.

Lisa

‘I think You’re just a SH*T in that HOLE….’
Trung, you’re probably rude enough to say that to nearly all visitors to your country. If you don’t say it directly, you certainly do think it. Just love the way you people yell and shout at each other in the markets…. so abusive. It’s part of your culture. You are just RUDE and and shameless. Vietnam has few allies in the world and I don’t wonder why anymore. Keep your paws off of foreigners in your country. You have no right to lay a finger on us – we don’t like it and we complain.

Muca

Lisa, I would be pretty pissed off as well, when people describe my country and its people as shit-hole. Furthermore, you had to pick the only Vietnamese person in this forum who gave an insult back, but you are ignoring all the positive and encouraging comments of the other Vietnamese here. You go even further than that, stating that its part of their culture to be rude and how “you people yell and shout”. That is a very generalizing remark which comes close to racism. You know what is really rude of “our people” (referring to western tourists/expats now)? That if someone comments that Vietnamese are evil, everyone seem to silently agree with it, but when a Vietnamese person stands up for himself (being the only one, since all the other Vietnamese here apologized!), its suddenly something worth to negatively comment about, talking about you people and so on. This is an attitude “our people” should get rid off. If you don’t like Vietnam or its people, please leave. Don’t be a hypocrite and take advantage of the country while bitching about it. I mean valid criticism is always good, and even I can critize Vietnam for its shortcomings. But being a racist (I am not directly implying that you are a racist, however, many people in this forum are, while living in that host country. It’s something I really can’t stand. That many people don’t bother learning to language or culture is own thing, but even are openly racist about the people in their host-country is absurd and a big problem for “our people”. And Lisa seriously, yelling in the market is something rude? Obviously you haven’t been to many markets yet havent you.

Lisa

Muca you are an apologist for the Vietnamese, plain and simple. Your apologist rant is not even worth replying to. FYI, there is no such thing as race unless you ARE a racist. There are only cultures. Vietnamese expats do not behave as rudely, nor shout or yell as they do when they live in other countries. Such behavior is common and condoned only in Vietnam.

Daily, I see crime or hear about it in Hanoi or elsewhere in Vietnam. I have to go all out of my way to avoid it, especially in the Old Quarter. Violent theft there is all too common. Safe boxes sold everywhere to keep the thieves away. Don’t even think about carrying your purse around or any bag for that matter because they will rob you! All money should be worn carefully under your clothes. You’ve been warned!

Lisa

Today, I was walking around the Old Quarter of Hanoi. As I passed a few shops, I noticed a fairly large number of security and police around the area who were carrying batons. This area is where they sell expensive jewelry and watches. The message was clear, ‘mess with these shops and we WILL crack your head wide open.’ I continued to walk for about three minutes past those shops where I found two punks sitting by the side of the road with a red plastic laundry type bag and guess what it was full of! It was FULL of old wallets, credit cards, etc. and they were thumbing through them right out in the open. Yep police were all around there and apparently these thieves weren’t a bit worried as they were practically showing off their day’s ‘work’ to any and all passersby. I think it’s pretty clear that the police turn a blind eye to this crime and they know exactly who’s doing it.

Muca

Dear Lisa, i do agree with you that there are no races in this world among human-beings. But whether you talk bad about races or cultures (since the people are its culture, without people no culture), I would say that this also falls within the classification of a racist. I mean you can criticize cultural traits or characteristics, but if you talk about ” you people” are like this and that, then there is something fundamentally wrong in your way of arguing. Labeling me as a apologist, just because you disagree with me, is killing the messenger instead of the arguments I provide. And I do believe that you are not necessarily a racist, and that an unfortunate incident has changed your view of Vietnam quite negatively, but try to imagine this – if you would get robbed in your home-country, would you despise your own people? The country where you are from has districts which are no-go, where gangs rule the streets and which makes Hanoi relatively safer than any big North-American city. There are no ghetto’s in Hanoi, you can go anywhere you want, hence even my small home-town in the Netherlands is much more dangerous than Hanoi. Try to visit the central station of my home-town at night, you certainly don’t want to do it again. A friend of mine was stabbed 17 times, just because he gave the wrong looks to someone else. But do you see me bitching about Dutch people? No! Why? 1)Because Im Dutch myself and 2) I have too many good experiences with Dutch people, which make me put the bad experiences in the right context. The same counts for Vietnam. Yes, I heard stories of robberies (actually its more pickpocketing, I have NEVER heard of someone who was threatened with a weapon in Vietnam), but my good experiences are way more to talk negatively about Vietnam and its people. I have met so many warm-hearted people, that every time, I got a bit ripped off or whenever I had some negative sentiments about Vietnam, I thought about my good experiences and the beautiful people I’ve met. I mean even you are not able to name one district in Hanoi which is a no-go area. So its very unfortunate that you got robbed in hanoi, and its always good to be cautious, but lets keep things realistic here. I have no single benefit why i would have to be an apologist for Vietnam. I just share my experience. I have lived 6 months in hanoi, 6 months in Hue, and I have traveled quite extensively in Vietnam – from the country-side (for my research) till the unknown provincial capital till the tourist areas. Most of my bad experiences where in those tourist areas, therefore I do agree with some people, that for the beginning backpacker, Vietnam might not be that easy. But still, try visiting a real developing country. I have heard stories of friends in Africa, who were being attacked with stones by the local people.

Binh Le

Wow! Personally, I do think you did a great job Matt, you drive an intensive traffic to your website just thanks to this article. Congratulations!

All the things you said about Vietnam are just right, although it’s just the bad side, like the other Vietnamese said, perhaps you didnt have enough time to discover all the other good things yet. Unlucky you.

Being a Vietnamese people, I dont apologize for what happened to you (if I need to do so, so you should apologize me because of a New York cab driver cheating and yelling at me, the Italian people should apologize me because of a thief in Rome, the French people should apologize me beause of the Parisian dog shit on the street as well…), but thank you for stating it out. We, as the local guys, we get used to all the bad habits that you mentioned and accept them as a part of our daily life, but hear from you, an innocent and naive traveller (I guess from your baby crying attitude), I know that those habits are really really bad for the forreigner, esp. the fragile guys like you, and we need to do something to improve the situation. Our government didnt put many efforts on it yet and hopefully thanks to your article, they will change their attitude…

On behalf of the Vietnamese people, thanks again for your contribution to your country.

However, please, please, please just state out the facts that really happened to you, dont go further to try to judge or evaluate our country, our people through some stories that you heard from someone, that’s not fair and personally I dont think you are mature enough to do such a adult thing. An example: see how you trigger and drive the racist idiot people with the stupid comments like half of Vietnamese women have STD…, the countru os a sh*t hole…Your reputation really goes bad with your subjective and uncareful opinion Matt.

But believe me, I dont judge you a bad guy just because of those bad things happen on your website. I’m not like you mate.

Good luck for you journey ahead!

My Country

Well said Binh Le!!

Lisa

Kentucky and Tennessee are some of the absolute most beautiful states in all of America. I lived in both of those states for many years and never heard about any ‘lynching’ happening during my entire lifetime. I think you’ve been reading and watching way too many very OLD stories about the South. Travel to Kentucky and Tennessee and you’ll find plenty of black and white people getting along like ‘kinfolk.’ The bonds and friendships there between blacks and whites are stronger than probably anywhere you’ll ever find in the entire world. I had plenty of very close black friends and neighbors and they never complained in Kentucky or Tennessee about racism. Go North, East and West, my friend, and you’ll find a different story.

“Oi, oi! Motorbike, Motorbike, where you go?” He shouted at me every 15 seconds, gesturing with turning motions of both hands. Of course I walked on ignoring him. And he returned to lying across his motorbike seat to pick his nose all day whilst waiting to perform the exact same charade when the next foreigner walked by…

Pathetic.

There are a lot of decent Vietnamese of course, Im sorry for them that they cant leave like Im about to. Most Saigonese Ive asked have never even been to Cambodia. They have no idea that there is a civilised world outside of their borders.

Muca

This is a man trying to earn money. What do you expect? If he is not so persistent, how the heck will he find his customers with so much competition going on? It all depends on your attitude, if you say a firm but polite no, they won’t chase you, but I know people who already say ” fuck off” or behave incredibly rude, oh, if i would be a moto driver, id show them.

No. Its their persistent pestering that puts people off using them.

I’m walking down the road, having a nice thought or two, then suddenly from nowhere some motorbike moron is yelling “Oi, oi” at me and doing the stupid gesturing and leaping around like a tit.

He’s just stole my privacy, stole my thoughts and for that I’d have every right to tell him to fuck off.

I believe that there are too many people in Saigon from the countryside. They lack the sophistication needed to achieve comfortable and sensible city life.

Just look at how they drive all over the pavements….uncivilised.

Bamboo

Hi there,

After reading almost comments on your topic about VN, I am sure that what you thought and felt about Vietnam has been changed. I don’t need to tell you my name or HOW WONDERFUL VIETNAM – MY COUNTRY – IS because I don’t think you can answer my question “How long do you need to understand a little girl?” One week is wrong answer.

One day, if you had an answer for me, that would be the day when you were old enough to have a general view. Finally, I’m pretty sure that you will come back Vietnam at least once before leaving forever ;and even you will be treated worse than last time you will also be happy to post something different in a good way about Vietnam.

Wishing you a nice day!

Bamboo

Muca

Poor guy, he stole your privacy……… You have no right to say fuck off to people, because you consider your own thoughts as so important. Talking about uncivilised. If you say a polite and firm no, he will leave you, for 9 out of 10 times, alone, and you can continue with your thoughts, but he is not stupid, if you treat someone rude, he will treat you rude back.

Lisa

Muca, it all makes sense now; you’re Dutch! In all of my six plus years of travel throughout the world, I’ve found that it’s the Dutch travelers and expats who are the rudest, most anti-American, anti-Western and confrontational of any people I’ve encountered. They are generally always comparing these developing countries to their own country so I can only imagine how dangerous and terrible it must be. I’ve always found that the Dutch will excuse and minimize the most heinous acts of the locals in Asia. Therefore, I’ve made it my policy to avoid any dealings with the Dutch if at all possible and I will not be visiting your country. Muca, you’ve met your match with the Vietnamese; you’re simply made for each other.

Lisa

Muca, Labeling me as a RACIST, just because you disagree with me, is killing the messenger instead of the arguments I provide.
BTW, I’ve LIVED in real developing countries (i.e. Cambodia) and visited countries such as Myanmar. Have you? Apparently you have not and you can only compare Vietnam with your own country, which according to you is far more dangerous. You don’t have to remind us all not to visit the Netherlands. I think the readers get your point now. But it sure sounds like you get a lot of your information about North American cities off your TV and reading materials rather than experiencing it yourself firsthand. I’ve spent decades in those so-called ‘ghettos’ and I have never experienced any crime there or seen any for myself. In fact, you’ll find that the vast majority of poor people living in those ‘ghettos’ are far more civilized and kind than the vast majority of people you’ll meet in Vietnam. I can promise you that!

Muca

Dear Lisa, let me respond to two of your replies in one reply. I have traveled to and in many countries in the Middle East and Asia + I have lived in The Netherlands, Vietnam, China and Turkey. I don’t want to do a contest who has seen most countries, but it’s quite clear what kind of person you are. Once you meet people with a certain background which you don’t like, you tend to label all of those people as bad, or to say it in your words: their culture and its people are uncivilized!!!!!!!!1. So please don’t deal with the Dutch if they annoy you, don’t deal with the Vietnamese if you think that they are uncivilized, hence, go back to a ghetto in the US, if its all so great there. Ask yourself the question, what am I doing among those uncivilized bunch of people. Please go back, do yourself and Vietnam a favor, and get out of the country and never return. You clearly don’t know how to nuance. I haven’t labelled you as a racist, I don’t know you. I just feel annoyed by the fact that you generalize about millions of people, who you hardly seem to know. I mean you are still not able to name one district in Hanoi which should be avoided. Do you have Vietnamese friends? Do you know something about the language or its culture? Or are you one of the many English teachers, just trying to get a quick buck from dodgy language schools? Have you been invited to celebrate Tet- lunar new year? I mean, I don’t believe that you can talk so negatively about Vietnamese people, once you have Vietnamese friends. How are you ever able to explain them what you think about their people and culture? You have lived in Cambodia, yes? Well, I was more often forced to pay bribes in Cambodia in the month I was there, than in my whole year in Vietnam (But I do know its a very big problem there as well). The Netherlands is relatively safe, anyone who has been there, knows it as well. Im just putting the things in context here. Because Hanoi is much safer than many big cities in the Netherlands, and I honestly don’t believe you if you say that it’s all that safe in big North American cities.
See for example the crime stats of the US: http://www.nationmaster.com/red/country/us-united-states/cri-crime&all=1 . If there is one doom-scenario which European cities are afraid off then it is having American-style ghettos. I do believe that people living in ghettos are generally good people, and that they are living there because of unfortunate events (the income-inequality in USA is among the highest in the world), but exaggerating about the crime in Hanoi is one thing, but then at the same time also smooth over the crime-situation in your own country, is just something very silly and sad. Let me end this reply with something I have said before: pack your bags, and leave Vietnam. Please don’t visit the Netherlands or China OR try to make some Vietnamese friends, try to walk out of the old-quarter, and try to see the real every-day Vietnam. If you are able to do that, or at least try, I will shake your hand, and say, welcome to the real world.

NomadicMatt

Comments on this post are now closed before they get too out of hand.

NomadicMatt

I don’t mind the scams- you find them all over the place. I just found the vietnamese a bit open and rude about it. Whereas in Thailand it’s a game, in Vietnam it was more like “HAHAHA I rip you off!”

NomadicMatt

People make the place. I didn’t have the best encounters. That makes all the difference!

Thanks for the support too!

passerby

Hi Matt,

Is your girlfriend is from Vietnam or do you sell package tours to Vietnam? Cause in my personal experiences, Vietnamese see westerners as easy preys. If your current girlfriend is a Vietnamese, wait till she sucks you dry and leave you a note saying, ” You sucker! hahaha”. I lost 35,000usd to lonely heart scammer, a tiny, not so attractive but cunning girl who immigrated to Canada when she was 18. I helped her out find a job and place to leave. I proposed to her and she said her father can’t approve her marrying a white guy. Well, she was lying. She moved to another suckers. Thanks!

anne

Actually I wonder how you could understand that the sellers was laughing on you, while you don’t speak Vietnamese? How could you believe the guy who translated, while he was American too? You should know that when local people talk to each other, they don’t use the formal language, there’re so many local words and slangs. Even if you learned Viet for 10 years, you wouldn’t understand what they say!
There’re many points in this article showing that you’re shallow. Sorry to speak it out :)