Virtual meanderings

Tag Archives: Halong

Organized or freestyle? Organized be it this time…

I can only handle about half an hour of sign language a day (on a good day, that is).

In Thailand, Cambodia and Laos I was seldom in a situation where no-one knew any English –it only happened once or twice. But enter in Vietnam and it is a different story altogether.  It is easy to circumvent the language barrier when you want something to eat, or when buying stuff. Street sellers, a practical folk, will stick a calculator in your face and pinch the price they hope to extort from you for the object you pointed your finger at. You will laugh back at their humorous suggestion (politely, of course), and then pinch your own counter-suggestion. Repeat three times. Deal.

Vendors near Halong Bay. Vietnam

               But try finding out a particular location, or when a bus to a particular place leaves, or asking for directions to get from A to B, etc. The GPS won’t save you. The Internet won’t save you. Nothing but proficiency in Vietnamese will.

And you know why? Because in Vietnam people leave their own life, rather than catering for tourists, that’s why. Tourism is growing fast, but no one is betting the future of the country on it. Say, back in Vang Vieng in Laos, I could not help but notice that 100% of business in town revolved around tourists. Same thing in Siem Reap in Cambodia (home to Angkor Wat). Not much different in Thailand.

Getting off the beaten track or traveling to remote places on your own may not be the best idea in Vietnam just yet (this is also true for the other countries I mentioned but here you really feel it well). You must be a person of great patience who does not mind waiting for a bus that doesn’t come and when it does, it takes you to the wrong destination where you have to find a place to spend the night before going back and there just isn’t any. Or so I imagine, since I never tried things that way.

Truth is, if you really want to see yourself free as a bird in Vietnam, that bird better buy a motorcycle for itself. Being able to move from A to B with your own transport is a game changer. Read more of this post