I am closing in on four months on my south east asia backpacking trip and today was the first day I lost my temper. Generally, I am very patient, but my patience ran out of all control at Lan Ha bay, which is next to the world famous Halong Bay. And the reason was simple and pure cheating.
We took a boat cruise to the Lan Ha bay and after kayaking, we decided to have lunch at the floating restaurant who rented us the Kayaks. When we asked for the price of a meal, we were told that it is 30,000 VND. We agreed on the price and had our lunch. When we were paying 30,000 VND, the restaurant guy says that we need to pay 50,000 VND for our lunch and that is the price he had conveyed to us earlier. 30,000 or 50,000 VND doesn’t make a big difference for me, but what makes the huge difference is quoting a price for a meal and when the meal is over, then increasing it. I know that they get food from the island and supplies are expensive, but whatever is the reason, he cannot change a price he quoted 15 minutes back. He can quote 10 times more for all I care, but not go back on his word. I paid only because I didn’t want a poor family to suffer even more, but since I absolutely didn’t like the fact that I got cheated, I just could not control it and had to vent it out.
A similar experience happened with our boat guy who wanted to make more money and said he had paid some entrance fees to some island we visited. All this was a scam as there was no entry for that island and he had no receipt to support it. We didn’t pay here, but again was unhappy at the scams happening in one of Vietnam’s biggest tourism money generators.
And to top this all, I found Halong bay to be one of the dirtiest places in Vietnam and also the most beautiful. It is beautiful when you see the karsts from a distance, but when you are on the water, all you see is rubbish, cigarette buds and oil floating on the water. Sometimes, I think how long will Mother nature tolerate all this abuse.
I think why are the people resorting to cheating when they are so poor and badly need the money. I fail to find an answer. But, I will have to say that the people of Vietnam (generalizing from the tourist district) are possibly the biggest cheats I have come across in Vietnam. They just do not want to do anything legally or ethically. I have so many instances to support this fact. Most of the times, I have stayed clear of them scams, but others have got caught in their net. I don’t know how other tourists tolerate this. May be, they are more patient than me or they simply don’t care. But, I am now contemplating on not visiting Vietnam and especially Halong bay again in spite of both Vietnam and Halong Bay being very beautiful and diverse for a travel photographer like me.
It is very rare for me to lose my temper when I am out traveling, since I absolutely adore traveling and visiting different places. But, when I did lose my temper, it meant, I couldn’t tolerate the nonsense any more.
To all you travelers to Vietnam, BEWARE and STAY AWARE of your tourist connections in Vietnam. The people of Vietnam need to realize that we, the tourists, support their economy in a big way. Even if they cannot respect us, they should not abuse us.