Tuesday, 21 September 2010

3 Reasons Why I'll Never Return to Vietnam

My sis is now in Hanoi for a short holiday, despite me and 101 other people telling her not to go. Reason is because Vietnam sucks big time!

When I visited Hanoi in November 2007, I came back vowing never to return again, just like what travel blogger Normadic Matt said in his website: "There’s not enough money in the world to get me to go back to Vietnam."

1) Dishonesty
First of all, the Vietnamese are a bunch of dishonest people. In fact, they are so dishonest, they bring dishonesty to the next level.

I know it's unfair to label ALL Vietnamese people as dishonest, as this may be a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. But based on my experiences, the bad apples are indeed MANY.

The mother of all cheat experiences happened within my first few hours of landing in Hanoi.

I was exploring the streets of Hanoi when I saw a girl carrying a basket of pastries. She asked me in broken English if I wanted to buy some. At that time I had just arrived and was rather hungry, so I thought why not? Moreover I kasihan (pity) her lah.

I didn't have any small change with me, so I asked if she had change for a big note, to which she said yes.

So I chose 3 pastries which costs 20,000 Dong and handed her a 50,000 Dong note. She took the money, tucked it into her waist pouch, picked up her basket and started moving away. When I asked for my change, she gave me a smug look and kept on repeating, "Vietnam pastries, very good, very delicious" and kept moving away. Soon she was lost in the crowd.

I did not give chase for fear of getting waylaid into an alley where thugs are waiting to beat the crap out of me. You'll never know what sort of syndicate is going on and it's always better to be safe than sorry, especially being a foreigner there.

That incident happened at the beginning of my Hanoi trip and it spoilt the rest of it as I had to constantly watch my back for fear someone may just come up and rob me. My mind was not free to absorb the culture and atmosphere of Hanoi and I hated that feeling.

2) Nothing really interesting to see
Apart from having a drap and dull landscape which mades poor photos for my point-and-shoot camera, there's nothing much to see and do in Hanoi.

Of course there's the famous Tha Long Water Puppet Theatre, but there's perpetually a long queue at the ticket counter. After spending like 30 minutes in queue, the ticket seller puts up a sign saying "Sold Out" and the line disperses.

Later another traveller told me she bought her ticket from the same counter after me. So what's happening here? Why tell people tickets are sold out when it's not the actual case? If this is how they do business, then I wouldn't want to spend my money making the water puppet theatre richer.

Hoan Keim Lake is a good landmark to navigate your way around Hanoi. But look at how drap the lake looks. The more interesting subjects to observe there would be the benches where couples neck away like there's no tomorrow.

3) Language problem
Language was a huge problem. The Vietnamese can't communicate in simple English. Everywhere I went I had to use sign language or whatever forms of communication known to humankind.

And when they speak English, it doesn't sound like English.

I was at the Tourism Office in the middle of Hanoi to make a few enquiries and to book a taxi to the airport for the next day.

The officer there spoke English that didn't sound like English, and I had a difficult time trying to tell her what I wanted. I was worried she may not understand me but thankfully the taxi arrived on time and I kissed goodbye to Vietnam, vowing never to return unless it's a matter of life and death.

Ordering food from roadside stalls can be a nightmare. First, you don't know which meat to point at (choose). Silap-silap point, get dogs meat. Secondly the hawker won't be able to tell you how much a bowl of pho (noodles) costs. But thank God we all share the same numerical system and for electronic devices to display the figure.


G said...

Well, one of my friends said the same thing about Malaysia ...
(1) Scary taxi driver sleeping while driving from the airport and not speaking English.
(2) The Tourism Officer speaking only Bahasa
(3) Food stale speaking only cantonese

But you know what? she loves Malaysia.
You can't judge a country based on that. Otherwise, you'll condemn every single country.

Anonymous said...

I spent 2 weeks backpacking the northern half of Vietnam. I did get scamed by a taxi driver and had to run across a busy highway (like a bangla) to get away from a motorbike taxi guy with a knife. This all happened of course only in Hanoi a.k.a scam capital of SEA.

Nevertheless Vietnam to me was one of the best travel experience. There're just so much to see and the food is delicious. Definitely recommend Village trekking in Sapa, historic sites in Hue and relaxing in Hoi An.

I still remember at the end of my trip, I had breakfast with a bunch other travelers at a guesthouse where we shared our scam experiences and laughed bout it. You know what, we all agreed despite all that we still love Vietnam!

So it's not a matter of avoiding being scamed totally, it's about getting scamed the least lol. It's Nam!

Julie I hope you'll recover from you 'thousand yard stare'.
Vietnam is awesome.

Marsha M said...

i wanted to go and see the culture and temples (I am big on culture) but after reading this...hhhmm...maybe not THIS side of their culture, huh?

Julie Lim said...


Well, you've read the other two comments here. Just goes to show that one person's meat is another person's poison. So who knows, you may like Vietnam after all :-)

JIPP said...

I do agree that we have to lift our guards up when we're in Vietnam. I've had bad scam experiences when I was there as well. I lost my camera that I left for charging in my hotel room. I wouldn't even talk about their taxis - the worst of all. And the rudenss of people - my yeses to this. They probably got it from years of French colonization. But i think Vietnam is a beautiful country. It's only the people that make it less apealing to tourists.

Julie Lim said...


Sorry to hear you lost your camera in Vietnam. Hope it's not an expensive one!

My sister had a bad encounter with a dishonest taxi driver in Hanoi. After arguing with him about the fare and whatnot, she got out and slammed the door as hard as she could!

Thanh Le said...

Dear friends,

As a Vietnamese from Hanoi, I feel compelled to comment on this blog and other comments.

I do feel sorry that some of you did not have a pleasant experience to a point that we can't even pay you to come back. However, my opinion is that just like with food: if you don't know how to eat something (e.g puffer fish or fugu - a Japanese delicacy), then it is unlikely that you will like what you taste... Sometime, it is even deadly. I would give you my 2 cents to improve your experience in the next paragraph. Understanding the social norms and practices in a country before traveling would positively influence your visit. I encourage you to look for multiple sources of information to have a good overview of culture in Vietnam. Once you know the social dynamics (at least a little bit), Vietnam is probably one of the most unique places to visit. Here is what I have to share:

1) Get a tour guide if possible . It is often cheap to hire one in Vietnam. There are plenty of people who are fluent in English. There are even student groups who provide free tour guide for foreigner in exchange ONLY FOR ENGLISH CONVERSATION. I used to be a member of one when I was living in Vietnam. This person will not only seamlessly bridge you with the local culture and people (often time mistakenly be thought of as unfriendly and unwelcome) but also make your trip more fluid (as they know exactly what attractions to go to). Moreover, they help tourists to negotiate prices at open markets and transportation. A lot of time, not knowing where to visit would make your traveling experience a "uninteresting" and "Suck big time" one.

2) Understand that Vietnamese economy, culture and politics are very different from those of America. Because $1 exchange to 20.000 VND in Vietnam, it means that you appear much richer than the local people. For example My mother is a medical doctor who is in the profession for 30 years and her official monthly salary is about $400. Because you appear richer, some local businesses feel like they can charge you much higher than what things actually cost. Understand this fact, in Vietnam, you negotiate until you and the merchant agree on a reasonable price. Do not feel bad in negotiating, the merchants don't why should you? Always remember that the merchants have the best interest of selling their goods and are willing to negotiate with you as long as it is needed. Don't afraid to call out a price you believe is reasonable for a specific goods (you often ask for a much higher price anyway). Don't feel cheated or scammed on the price you and the merchant agree upon after a few rounds of negotiation. YOU ARE TRAVELING for ENJOYMENT, expect to spend some money whenever you travel :). In fact, if you are a good negotiator, everything is on clearance :). Dwelling on the feeling of being cheated or scammed will ruin your trip and will make you write such negative blog as this one.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I'm Vietnamese, 13 and can communicate in fluently English and I am writing this to you to exclaim my disapproval against your judgemental post.I am a native Vietnamese, I can communicate in an ENGLISH accent and have been doing so for years
Yes, Vietnam does have dishonesty,but where doesn't anyway? And just look at the way you start your "1) Dishonesty" Has it ever occured to you that Vietnamese people has feelings?And that they don't have to dedicate themselves to someone like you just to be judged. Before coming to the country, did you ever check that maybe the lifestyle is still poor,living conditions are still low, and that the government is absolute crap? Not much people has conditions for proper education, let alone speaking english, fluently, especiaally those people who has to work in vendors. And there's another thing:
"Hoan Keim Lake is a good landmark to navigate your way around Hanoi. But look at how drab the lake looks. The..." you might want to check your spelling before judging other people about languague.

Anonymous said...

You'd be heard from me, soon.
This came to you by an 8th grader with attitude towards you now and a demand for explanation.
There are more complaints to come, but now I have to focus on exams , first.

melvin said...

there's so much chinese influence in vietnam from their culture to architecture its evident so theres nothing that interest me about vietnam.sorry to hear all your experiences

Julie Lim said...


You're absolutely right about the huge Chinese influence in Vietnam. Even the level of rudeness in Vietnam is equivalent to the Chinese. Maybe that's why I didn't find Vietnam interesting.

Anonymous said...

I can't agree any better. Every vietnamese who replies in your blog goes on to ask which country does not has dishonest people. My answer to them is none but the level of dishonesty experienced in vietnam makes the biggest of scam artists in my country looks like someone making an honest living.

Almost everyone there is an opportunist preying on you for that one minute that you let your guard down. I've worked in the country for 2 years and the first thing my countrymen told me when I first arrived in vietnam was not to trust any vietnamese. Its a lesson I held close to my heart until I left for good. My friend lives in a secured compound where many expats lived in. they had to change the security company every 6 months because once the guards get too comfortable with the residents, they will let their friends into the compound to burglarise the houses. Pretty easy to understand why I left.

Recently, I went back to vietnam again for a short holiday and met up with an old friend who was recently posted there. The first thing he asked me was, ' why are you back in this shit hole?'. Frankly, I couldn't quite answer his question, but after spending 2 days in hcmc, i remembered why I left and i know I won't be going back again unless I have a good reason to.

Julie, yes the china nationals are no different. Met up with a friend who was posted there and the stories sound seemingly familiar.

For the guy who says welcome to the real world, that world is only real to you and I'm glad I'm not a part of your world. My world is a lot safer! Oh its a developing country thing, but hang on I don't have the same level of distrust for the thais. They are helluva lot nicer and more trustworthy than vietnamese.

Julie Lim said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you for sharing your experiences in Vietnam. Sorry you had to go through that ... But the bright side is that you've left that shit hole.

Anonymous said...

hahaha, for a moment I was worried that a man with superior intelligence would effectively argue the many, many, many positive reviews of hanoi and Vietnam of the table. But thank God, if this minor bullshit is what made you conclude that Vietnam is about the worst of all places, than I wish you better luck in other places. A more upbeat mindset will have to be acquired first though...

Anonymous said...

Well, i am not a person with intelligence. So, i will tell you some brief episodes regarding people also with less intelligence.

I speak Vietnamese. Unfortunately it can't help me to be exposed to what local people want from me, money, but it helps me to understand a bit deeply about what's happening here.

One day, i asked my friend the emargency number to the police. She replied, instead of telling me it, "Don't get any ideas. You'll have to pay much...(guess what)."

Another day, my driver told me that he was fooled by other drivers because he didn't get any extra money from me. They make money from gas, parking fee, fine and many things so that they make their income double. Anybody can buy a receipt at a gas station. Then they proudly say "I know how to earn money."

Last of all, a young lady who worked as a housekeeper kindly left a memorable word to foreigners. She wasn't get whole salary because she didn't work a half of month to go to school. She taught me "You have to pay full to me. Where do you think you live?? THIS IS VIET NAM. You have to follow our way."

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your honest review about my country. I am ashamed and disgusted about my country because I know that most of what you said is true. However, with that said, please be a little understanding when you visit a 3rd world country like Vietnam. Our people have been oppressed by one regime after another. I cannot recall one leader in our recent history who ruled with his love for the nation instead of for his own interest. The system has long been so deeply corrupted that people has accepted this is the way of life. It's a dog eat dog world and grab what you can get. If you understand this then you will visit my country with an open mind and enjoy the good things that we do have to offer. There are no places in the world which only evil or goodness exist. There are some incredible people in Vietnam who are not the way you described.

KZ T said...

Even Vietnamese people from the countryside consider people in the large cities, esp. Ho Chi Min City, very "tricky". Yes watch out for dishonest taxi drivers.

But you expect people to speak English to you? You are the foreigner in their country. I suggest studying a basic common phrase book on Vietnamese (or any country you visit).

Tiên Trần Thị Cẫm said...

That what i want to say too! 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 well done Bro

JL Ammo said...

Fuck vietnam. Beautiful country with piece of shit, soulless, devolved cons. They were, are and will always be animals. They are cruel, heartless animals.

JL Ammo said...

Hanoi hotel...has propaganda on how well they treated our prisoners. Lying sacks of dog shit

JL Ammo said...

Hanoi hotel...has propaganda on how well they treated our prisoners. Lying sacks of dog shit

Unknown said...

This points out my biggest issue with native English speakers(usually Americans). Why do you think people living in a country with a separate language should speak English? They are in Vietnam. They speak Vietnamese and sometimes an ethnic language also. How many languages do you fluently speak? They are not obligated to know English. Did you try to learn any Vietnamese while you were there? Maybe people were rude to you because you barked at them in English. You need to learn how to be a traveller. You go somewhere to observe a culture not judge or change it. If that's your objective please stay home. And please don't admit to being American. We have enough issues. Thanks, your fellow American traveller

Andy Andie said...


Andy Andie said...

You expect foreigners to be ok, to be beholden to viets to rip them off?

Han said...

I've been in Hanoi for four hours and I've already decided that I'm never coming back. I'm glad someone feels the same. I already got ripped off twice, once with a fruit vendor blatantly grabbing bills out of my wallet and running off in broad daylight. I may not have been on my guard enough, but in other SEA countries such as Thailand and Cambodia I don't have to worry about this crap. Yeah they will harrass you in those two countries but it's nothing like this. The only two places in the world, and I've traveled quite a bit, where I've run into this is China and Vietnam. And these are two places I will never, ever go back to, no matter how you try to convince me otherwise.

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