7 Things I’ve Learned About Vietnam

80 comments

7 Things I’ve Learned About Vietnam

I’d only planned on spending a month in Vietnam. The combination of beautiful surroundings and friendly people won me over and I soon found myself applying for a visa extension. Here are some surprises I discovered during my two month visit.

This country is booming. Everywhere you go, you’ll find buildings under construction, roads being torn up and replaced, and new budget hotels opening up before the paint is even dry. The upside of this is a surplus of clean, new hotel rooms at reasonable prices. Less pleasant is when you’re woken up at 7:00 am because the hotel has decided to renovate the room next to yours with sledgehammers and electric grinders.

You have to learn to love the horn. God knows, the Vietnamese certainly do. In Thailand and Cambodia, a beep from the car behind you means “be careful, I’m passing”. Here, it means “get the Hell out of my way.” Cars and buses often pass through towns without slowing down, riding the horn the entire time. Peace and quiet is hard to find.

Traffic is Hell. Now, I’ve said that about other places, but Vietnam has some of the heaviest, most-aggressive traffic I’ve ever experienced. The bus and truck drivers are the worst, and will not hesitate to drive you off the road. Riding through Saigon was one of the most stressful hours I’ve ever experienced on a motorbike.

Bus and truck drivers will not hesitate to drive you off the road.

Vietnam is wired. Free wi-fi access is easily found, especially in the south — most hotels and cafes don’t even bother to password-protect their hotspot. The entire country is well-blanketed with 3G cell phone coverage, and phone SIMs and data plans are cheap. It’s a geek paradise.

The Vietnamese hate the sun. Now, I’ve noticed this in much of SE Asia, but here they really take it to another level. Women take great care to cover every bit of flesh from the sun and wear elaborate shawls that cover their entire head and neck, leaving only a narrow slit for their eyes — kind of an “Asian burqa”.

The roads are in pretty good shape. I’d heard horror stories about the conditions before visiting and was a little worried about riding a bike around the country. Aside from the more remote mountainous areas, the roads are really in pretty good condition and travel is relatively quick and painless.

Western culture hasn’t taken over. Yet. Unlike, say, Thailand where you’ll find endless strings of Burger Kings and Pizza Huts, Vietnam still prefers to brew their own. The only Western chain I saw was a few KFC restaurants and they were pretty rare. The same applies to music — you’re much more likely to hear local pop music playing in a bar or cafe than the “Best of Whitney Houston” soundtrack you’ll find in Thailand.

{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

Caz Makepeace August 26, 2010 at 8:02 am

Vietnam is one of my favourite countries, I went in 99 and then again in 03 and am due for another return. I agree with most of what you have written except the wi-fi wasn’t a reality for me when I was traveling!! I’m so happy to hear that the Western world still hasn’t taken over. It was such a joy to see any Mcdonalds in Vietnam. I also learned about Vietnam that war is never a good thing which I wrote about here
http://www.ytravelblog.com/random-thoughts/personal-growth/trust-where-travel-is-pulling-you
I’m so glad you enjoyed Vietnam as so many people hate it, and I still can’t figure out how they could.
.-= Caz Makepeace´s last blog ..Why I Don’t Want to Be a Freelance Writer =-.

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Truthteller September 21, 2012 at 10:32 pm

Caz Makepeace said: “I’m so glad you enjoyed Vietnam as so many people hate it, and I still can’t figure out how they could”.

-You just have to be there a bit longer Caz, that’s all. Then you WILL be able to figure it out. 1 piece of friendly advice; try and avoid the logical fallacy of an ‘argument from ignorance’ (“I still can’t figure out how they could”…), the fact that you can’t figure it out is irrelevant to the fact that there’s a “problem” which so many other people HAVE noticed and are commenting on.

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 12:32 am

Have to be here at least a year to see what Vietnam is. The first year is great, well other than the discrimination and overcharging, but after that first year you start to see how fake and superficial the country really is. Like an expat told me when I first got here there is the Vietnam they want you too see, then there is what Vietnam really is. 5 years here now and I rarely do much. Don’t need the racism and discrimination from locals, work in the schools here and you will see it, or staring at me like I am an escaped zoo animal, or the crap they tell my girlfriend, she is college educated and a professional worker, but gets talk to like she is a whore for being with a foreigner. I also have grown tired of the pervert and pedophile foreigners that just come here for cheap sex.

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Alex February 17, 2014 at 11:07 pm

I have been here 6 years I can concur completely with what Jake says. Living here for a while or just passing through is very different and when you live here for a long time you do see the real nasty hidden charm of what they think of us westerners

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Laura August 26, 2010 at 9:47 am

I’m about to leave Vietnam in a couple of days and have enjoyed my time here. However, I’m not sure if it was a string of bad luck but I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with rude people. I just had a guy rip up money and throw it at me on the train the other night (he took my train tickets from me and then expected money after the fact that I didn’t want him showing me my seat). I gave him something but he wanted more. I’ve tried not to let these incidents leave a bad taste in my mouth, but it’s difficult after having come from Cambodia where everyone I met was so wonderful. But then again, I’ve met plenty of people who didn’t like Cambodia, so it just goes to show how people can have such different experiences.
I would add an 8th to your list: Everyone in Vietnam loves Uncle Ho! Not sure if you made it to visit the body in Hanoi, but he is so well revered here. (Of course maybe you already knew this before coming to Vietnam!)

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wes August 28, 2010 at 7:46 am

I had a similar experience with a guy helping me find my train. In my case, I was lost, so I was happy to give him 10,000 dong for his troubles. While I was digging money out, he pointed to my 100k dong note ($5) and I just laughed. He didn’t laugh back :/

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Laura August 28, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Oh this guy wasn’t settling for 10,000. But I actually had an amazing time in Sapa and I totally agree that small towns makes a huge difference!

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mike December 29, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Well Laura, the people in Sapa aren’t ethnic Vietnamese anyways as you’ve probably already noticed. But I found them to be much more friendly than the average Vietnamese in the cities although much more poor. What I cannot grasp at all is the pushiness I’ve experienced especially as a patron of their businesses. I mean, if I’m patronizing their businesses and supporting them, they should not shout and rudely suggest that I choose one option or the other or get the hell out. I’ve had generally more bad experiences in Vietnam than I would have liked but thanks for reminding me of Sapa.

Ben Franklin February 13, 2014 at 8:10 pm

I’m pretty sure that visiting a dead body as a tourist attraction, is not high on my list of tourist traps when visiting abroad. The fact that it is, tells me everything i need to know about this country before i even go there.

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wes February 13, 2014 at 9:09 pm

I don’t think I said anything about that. Go grind your axe somewhere else.

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Mitch August 26, 2010 at 8:19 pm

I’m with Laura – I found the Vietnamese to be pretty rude and unfriendly. Not across the board, obviously, but a higher percentage than in any other country (especially Cambodia, which is wonderfully friendly). China has a massive reputation for rudeness, but I’m here now and I’ve found the average person on the street to be much more polite, helpful and friendly than the average Vietnamese.

Speaking of Uncle Ho, I think we all know why KFC is the only franchise restaurant in Vietnam…
.-= Mitch´s last blog ..DAY 116- Election Fever And Regular Fever =-.

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wes August 28, 2010 at 7:49 am

I admit that I was apprehensive about Vietnam — I’d heard similar stories from many other travelers. I did, of course, run into a few rude people but no more than I’ve run into elsewhere. I spent a lot of time in very small towns, too, because I was riding a motorbike — that may have been a factor in my experience. Thanks for the comment!

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Mitch August 30, 2010 at 11:37 am

I was also biking, and I did notice that people in the countryside were a lot friendlier and eager to help than people in the cities (although that’s probably true in all countries, I think). You weren’t riding a Minsk so you probably didn’t break down as much, if at all, but whenever my bike broke down in the middle of nowhere we’d soon be surrounded by people keen to help. More than once, they saved us from being stuck in the middle of nowhere for the night.

An American guy I met at the Chinese border commented that the ordinary Vietnamese are quite nice, while anyone involved in the tourism industry is an asshole.
.-= Mitch´s last blog ..DAY 116- Election Fever And Regular Fever =-.

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Andi August 27, 2010 at 1:25 am

I love that Western culture hasn’t taken over yet!!! That’s why I loved Cuba so much. :)
.-= Andi´s last blog ..Brasil- Day 1 Part 2 =-.

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ayngelina August 27, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Vietnam is definitely top five and in fact may even be number 1. I’m definitely going back.
.-= ayngelina´s last blog ..Welcome to the jungle Part 1 of 2 =-.

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Shane August 27, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Mitch’s dislike of the Vietnamese is quite well known but I have to say I agree with him. Though the land itself is among the most beautiful I’ve not met a more unpleasant, rude and greedy people than the Vietnamese. Judging from the comments here Vietnam is clearly a country that divides opinion, much like my favourite Egypt. I don’t like that I dislike the Vietnamese so I am glad to see the enthusiasm of Wes and others.
.-= Shane´s last blog ..Why I Live In… Freiburg =-.

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wes August 28, 2010 at 7:56 am

I have to say that Vietnam seems to be one of those places that really polarizes opinions. From talking to other travelers, it seems to be about 50/50 love/hate…

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Pirate63 August 29, 2010 at 3:56 am

We have been back to VIetnam 3years in a row,we love it! We found the people on a whole very polite and friendly,it one of our fav places,love your work Wes

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Jodi August 29, 2010 at 7:20 am

I’ve always thought it was interesting the number of people that hate Vietnam. It’s one of our favorite countries. I sometimes wonder if it has to do with how much time you spend in Hanoi, which seems to be the city of scams. If you really want to visit a country without any Western influence, check out Mongolia. It was the best part of our trip.

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Poi August 30, 2010 at 11:37 pm

I’m so excited to get to Vietnam and the whole of SE Asia in fact, seen some people saying they didn’t enjoy Vietnam but they are in the minority.
.-= Poi´s last blog ..Day 1-2 – Tiananmen Square =-.

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Truthteller September 20, 2012 at 7:46 am

Poi said: “I’m so excited to get to Vietnam and the whole of SE Asia in fact, seen some people saying they didn’t enjoy Vietnam but they are in the minority”.
-Well Poi, I guess that explains why 95% of visitors to Vietnam never go back a 2nd time (Vietnam’s own Visa statistics). That’s a big “minority”…when you think about it. They must all be miserable people who weren’t willing to give it a fair go with an open mind. You get that sometimes.

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Mark Ross December 29, 2012 at 5:42 am

We travelled and stayed in Saigon, Nha Trang and Hanoi. We will add to the minority of 95% that will not be returning. We unfortunately experienced a lot of unfriendliness from the Vietnamese and were subjected to persistent hassling, rudeness and numerous attempts to cheat and overcharge us throughout our visit. Often we were not given change for purchases, and too frequently service levels, goods and things ordered or purchased were not as described. We rarely saw a smile, had money snatched from our hands when paying for goods We have visited many other Asian countries including Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Singapore and enjoyed the hospitality and friendly, warm kindness of there people – the same could not be said for Vietnam. If the Vietnamese want to build a great tourist industry or to ensure that visitors return in anything like the 50% that return to Thailand then they need to start treating visitors with more respect and to at least act friendly towards foreigners. The widespread level of dishonesty and greed is astonishing and out of 48 countries that I have visited Vietnam was the only one which left me despising the people – we felt very unwelcome and that the people were only interested in short term gain and extracting the most possible money from us.

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 12:44 am

You mean they didn’t give you a piece of candy and not your change? Seriously to them it doesn’t matter. It is what they can get today, with little to no thought of the future. I had a woman I bought things for 2 years from overcharge me 2,000 VND, which cost her the 2 million VND a month I was spending on her. They have little to no understanding of the value of repeat business, much less fair business practices, with the exception of Phong Vu Computers in HCMC.

Jake September 19, 2013 at 12:38 am

90% of tourists never return to Vietnam because of the Vietnamese behavior, statistically speaking last I heard….that is not a minority.

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Theodora (Travels with a Nine Year Old) September 3, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Wired is great, apart from the Facebook block. I have to say, I love the craziness of Vietnam, now, but it took me two goes to get used to it.
.-= Theodora (Travels with a Nine Year Old)´s last blog ..Buffalo Soldiers- Living for Death in the Tana Toraja =-.

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Leigh September 16, 2010 at 11:20 am

I cycled from Hue to Saigon over two weeks in Vietnam a few years ago. It was the craziest cycling I’ve ever done. Intersections were always a trial though once you learned the free for all traffic system it seemed to work.
We never had a problem with rudeness – quite the opposite in fact. What turned me off was the constant noise & traffic – don’t know how people live with that. What I marvelled at was the physical size of older adults who were very obviously malnourished through their childhood. I regret not visiting the tunnels near Saigon but wasn’t up to the hours of traffic required to get there. Next time I’d make the effort and GO. FYI – there are first rate commercial art galleries in Saigon that are well worth wandering through.

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wes September 17, 2010 at 9:36 am

I missed the tunnels as well — it was 40 degrees and I just couldn’t find the gumption to go. The traffic is insane, but –as you say– once you get a feel for it, it’s manageable.

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hildergarn September 20, 2010 at 11:14 am

I heard in another blog about vietnamese people’s rudeness. hmmmm, how come they behave like that?
.-= hildergarn´s last blog ..Disculpas a todos =-.

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RichardAlois November 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

Vietnam is an certainly an interesting country!
RichardAlois recently posted..Uncle HoMy Profile

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Mick March 22, 2011 at 11:43 am

After 35 years of traveling and 170 countries a few comments on Vietnam. First there is some nice scenery there.Second the country is booming.Third and most important the people suck like no other country I have been to. They are totally greedy, rude and very dishonest. I have not met one traveler who is truly experienced who thought any different. Coming back into Laos was like returning to heaven. The travelers I met inside Vietnam who put up with it were for the most part Very young and “naive”. It is the only country out of 170 countries where I truly despised the people.

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NoIssue September 22, 2011 at 8:27 am

“It is the only country out of 170 countries where I truly despised the people.”

You “despise” the people? A country of 85 million?

I’ve been to VN several times over the years. Found them to be nothing but friendly and generous. VN is my favourite country that I have been to.

I think the Vietnamese are a little harder edged that Thais and Cambodians but you have to consider that Vietnam was in a virtual perpetual state of war from 1941-75. The Japanese occupation 1941-45, the war with the French 1945-54, Civil War 1950′s-1975 including massive bombing and spraying of agent orange etc. isolation from the world 1975-1994 including embargo by the US as the country was trying to rebuild from the devastation and destruction of the war.

All Vietnamese born before 1985 have experienced hunger. There was virtual famine in the country during the years after the war.

To go through all that the Vietnamese have demonstrated just how incredibly robust and resilient people they are.

The only people I “despise” are those who would label an entire nation of 85 million people worthy of being despised presumably because of your own bad experience.

Your comment is bigoted and racist. Stay at home.

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OneWhoKnows December 16, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Thank you Mr Viet Government official, commie apologist. Mick was simply telling it like it is…that’s also called telling “the truth”. If you can’t handle “the truth”, that’s your problem. I lived there 3 years too long, and can tell you for a fact Mick is spot on with his comment. The 95% of visitors who do NOT return for a subsequent visit to Vietnam…also apparently concur. You don’t have to meet every one of the 85 million to get an idea how things are, and to tire VERY quickly of the constant scams, lies, deception and general dishonesty which are perpetrated upon you almost constantly and certainly opportunistically, EVERY day; you’d be better served directing your ‘apologetic’ efforts towards educating the Viet people at large, not to behave in a manner which brings such disrepute to the country. Or, you can keep pretending it’s not actually an endemic problem…and keep enjoying your dismally low 5% visitor return rate. Meanwhile all western visitor ca$h will keep pouring into other places which DO make an effort to treat foreign visitors respectfully. Have a great day thinking about these new concepts!

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slowswan November 5, 2012 at 8:41 am

I hate to say it, but I agree with you. I have met Vietnamese who are incredibly spiritual and kind. But often I find that greed and rudeness prevail.

greg franklin September 18, 2013 at 4:03 pm

No issue,
you have no issue with rude money grabbing and unpleasant people. And you then make excuses for them because of the vietnam war. That war was terrible and the people suffered terribly, so that, in your opinion, justifies their behaviour and anyone who disagrees with their behaviour is a racist you say.
Well, The cambodian people suffered proportionately more as a result of the vietnam war than did the vietnamese, at the hands of both america and vietnam who interfered in neutral cambodia, and whose joint actions resulted in the so caled communist Khymer Rouge and its leader Pol Pot comig to power and decimating the country in the years 1975-1979. After Pol Pot caused 1.25 millon deaths Vietnam invaded Cambodia and this resulted in huge famine that caused starvation and more deaths on this already devastated people. The result? Cambodian people who are happy to see foreign tourist visit their poor country that will help their economy. Contrast this with the attitude of vietnamese to tourist who are helping their economy also, disdain.
So you need to wake up and broaden your mind to the reality.
Using you argument every country and people that were involved in terrible wars and injustice should not forgive and forget and bitterly treat all foreigners and tourist with contempt.
If every downtrodden country did this there would be more wars and endless suffering all over the globe!

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 12:51 am

5 years here, I can count on one hand how many Vietnamese I met that can actually behave like normal people. The fact that you stated you come and go tell me you are a tourist with no “real” time in Vietnam. Stay here a few years than bring your opinion. Sorry not to be direct, but this war excuse and everyone else is to blame is so typically Vietnamese. The are the ones responsible for their condition and behavior. If you spent any real time here you would know this.

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Mick March 22, 2011 at 11:55 am

By the way Pirate 63 u need some advice. There are sloop many countries to visit in this life, one time ok, three years in a row?Have u Been to India, S.America,Burma, Africa, Indonesia, South Pacific , Middle East, Europe. Send me an email I will be glad to give u some great ideas. I used to work for National Geographic and know many exotic cheap places, with GREAT people!

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Elaine Thatcher April 17, 2011 at 2:08 pm

I lived in Vietnam (Saigon) for 3 years and can count the number of unpleasant experiences I had on, well two fingers – not bad for 3 years! I met many travellers who had negative experiences and said that they hated the city but these tended to be the people who only frequented tourist areas – if your experience of Vietnam is limited to the backpacker areas then the chances are higher that you will be scammed.

I heard of many scams while I was there but I don’t think it is any worse than India, where I had to be constantly on my guard.
Elaine Thatcher recently posted..Climbing the World’s Most Perfect VolcanoMy Profile

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wes April 17, 2011 at 2:17 pm

I totally agree. I found India to be much more exhausting in this regard. Thanks for the comment.

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Truthteller September 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm

You should have gone out more…

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greg April 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

just an observation.
I went to Vietnam having been previously to Thailand and Cambodia and Laos. I had a huge sympathy for Vietnam because of what they went through during the awful war of the 60′sand 70′s. That unfortunately changed on my visit to Vietnam where I was scammed, overcharged and dealth with constant rude and unhelpful people even when I stayed in their hotels etc.
In Cambodia they experienced as bad a time in the war of which it was not involved (another story) and then worse under Pol Pot yet the people are generally polite and delighted to have tourist to help build their country again.
Being Irish, and coming from a background , albeit a longer time ago, of poverty due to our colonial past, we are re-known for our hospitality towards tourists. Similar, I feel to the Cambodians, we have used our past pain to make us more respectful and grateful to people who visit our homeland as this enhances our economy and forges connections with of other nations.
It is obvious that the Vietnamese culture of disrespect to tourists is from the government level down. Epitomised by the unhelpful authorities that allow the scams that are constantly played on tourists, the unhelpful police if you have a problem and the cost and complicated process to obtain an entry visa to the country. In Thailand, and to a lesser degree in Cambodia there are tourist police specifically to cater for tourism to tourists needs because of its important to their economies.
Vietnam, if it is ever to develop an important tourist industry needs to encourage and embrace tourists if it is to become a country tourists will return to again after an enjoyable visit.

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wes April 15, 2013 at 10:24 am

I agree that they definitely need to step up their game tourist-wise. It seems to be a love it or hate it kinda of place. I think I had a very different experience because I rented dirt bike and rode the length of the country so I hit tiny places where they weren’t used to tourists. My bike kept breaking down and half the time the mechanic would refuse to take any money. While they were working on the bike, Grandma would bring out the kids to show off their English or one of the guys would lead around back where we’d sneak shots of rice whiskey. Completely different experience than Saigon or Hoi An, etc…

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 12:59 am

Most likely to distract you as they robbed the good parts out of your motorbike and replaced them with cheap Chinese parts, an all to common practice here, and why you broke down all the time.

john obrien June 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

to say that the vietnamese people are the worst in the world( or words to that effect) is really suprising to us.we are in our 60′s and have travelled for over 40years mainly in asia and never experienced that! the only hassle we got was in sapa from hill tribes around the hotels.i hasten to add not the people outside of town.frankly i even expected a lot worse considering our war involvement there.but it never happened.i learnt a lot from these people.however,it doesn’t please me also to read the wrongdoing done to some innocent travellers.

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wes June 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I, too, loved Vietnam and was very surprised to find very little anti-American attitudes. It seems that everyone I’ve met either loved it or hated it. Put me down for the former.

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NoIssue September 22, 2011 at 8:33 am

Considering what the Americans did to the Vietnamese, I too found the non-existence of anti-American feeling a little surprising.

I have never heard of anyone experiencing anti-American sentiment in VN.

The Vietnamese have a tremendous capacity to forgive. They forgave us long before we forgave them. I dont think America has really got over the fact that despite being on the recieving end of everything the US military could throw at them less the atomic bomb the Vietnamese persisted, defeated the US forces and further humiliated the US when the South Vietnamese puppet government collapsed in 1975.

American veterans are welcome in Vietnam even more so than tourists. The way the Vietnamese see it, you have a shared history of pain and suffering.

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VietKieu March 20, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Mr. No issue,
You are either a naive brainwashed anti-war westerner or a “vietcommie” propaganda mouth piece. The Vietnamese never despise at the fact that American involved in the civil war, only the “communist” want to “drink the blood” (your national anthem says so) of the American and the Freed Vietnamese (Southerners). After the war, the Vietcong stripped the Vietnamese of their souls, religions, tradition and replaced them with communism (a cult), that is how the Vietnamese turned into sly, greedy, and rude group of people and it’s a reality

It’d be a joke when you say the all the Korean (including South Korean) love Kim Il Sung, and despise the fact that American helped the South from the “Red” plague invasion…back to reality, you can see the contrast between North and South Korea today!

Vietnam was in the same situation except the American politician have have sold their allies in the South and ten of thousands American soldiers to get China open up (Remember Nixon deep french kiss with Mao tse Tung?)…Uncle Ho became the beloved uncle from North to South (if you don’t love him, you’d be dead) !….

I’m a Vietnamese myself, love my country to death, but I can barely recognize my people, my culture, my country when I went back there in a business trip of one year stay … never been back since…that’s sad! but culprit is the effing commie!

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LienPham March 28, 2012 at 9:33 am

Oh my god, since I’m a Vietnamese (that is currently living in Vietnam) I feel asshame reading this. I’m very sorry for the kind of treatment that you guys encountered in Vietnam, especially in the modern cities. I know that people can be unfriendly and rude, and I do admit that’s the average kind of treatment I would receive myself, too.
But however, please don’t judge every single vietnamese like that. (don’t say that vietnamese people are the worst)
We don’t anti-America, that’s for sure. If you ever hear somebody says that, than I am here (as a Vietnamese student) stating that it is not true. The people selling things on the streets for not very modern people, they are from small towns, coming to the city to sell things. They are rude to all, even to Vietnamese. The way they would push us to buy or get out, the way they get grumpy when selling things. But if you are ever lucky enough to get a decent tour guide, he/she sure will introduce some amazing aspects of Vietnam. I know that it will be extremely difficult ’cause no one likes meeting rude people when they travel.
But as travelers, I hope you can find yourself a more generous view, decent guide, or a friend in Vietnam to help you around ’cause once you move past the negatives, the country is beautiful (landscapes, food,…)
I am very sorry for the kind of treatment you get again.

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LienPham March 28, 2012 at 9:46 am

And yes, in an entire nation, you cannot say that you despise the people. Even though you were treated awfully. Can I go to your country, meet some thieves and say that the whole country is bad? Please don’t say that. As a vietnamese, I am nice to the people around me, and they are nice to me too. Who have you met? shop vendors? they are not all of us! The people who make up the country are not just that.

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wilbue nerton April 10, 2012 at 7:20 am

agree with mick, found them to be a shower o shite, though did enjoy my time there when on a motorbike driving the north, shame I could not have slept on it.

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akashiyo September 2, 2012 at 11:36 am

that is messed up!!
don’t be talking about Vietnamese people like that

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Truthteller April 15, 2013 at 7:20 pm

…”found them to be a shower o shite!” Haha ha!! I got 10 minutes of stomach cramps from laughing at that so hard, my right lung shut down!! The brutally poignant truth!!

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Dave September 5, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Spent 10 days in Vietnam. Myself being a New zealand born Polynesian covered in Tattoos, some what the Viet people just seemed very unfriendly and most most just laugh with each other and point at me. I do not understand the Viet Language, but I definitely know what body language means I would have to say 95% of Viets are just unfriendly and dont smile and didn’t make me feel welcomed there! Its like they all have that Poker face look, even after I give them a big smile

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Rob & Liv September 20, 2012 at 4:37 am

We’ve just spent 4 weeks cycling through Vietnam and it has been absolutely appalling. Not everyone is to blame, certainly, but for the first time in our lives we found that a sizeable percentage of the population were deeply unpleasant. What really surprised us was that this problem was worse outside of the tourist areas. Out of all the hotels and guesthouses we visited away from the backpacker hotspots a full 2/3s of them tried backhanded tactics to get more money of us, or even just messed us around for their own amusement. To illustrate: one hotel waited until we’d agreed on a price and carried all our gear up 2 flights of stairs, then they came in and said that the rom rate was going to double. Another guesthouse tried to ransom our passports for 100’000. And a couple of nights ago two ladies on reeption put us in a room with no light, no hot water, and a ceiling that dripped water onto the bed. When I went to see about moving rooms I had to stand there for half an hour being laughed at as they said every other room was full. Finally the manager intervened and we were ‘allowed’ to pay a bit more money and move rooms. Out on the road my girlfriend was groped and then, when she stopped and confronted the offender, had a rock thrown at her. (this is in rural central vietam) We’ve had kids throwing fruit, motorbikes swerving to drive us off the road and ride off laughing, and numerous times passing riders flicking us the finger and saying fuck you. I want to stress that this is after 9 months on the road with only two or three problems to speak of. If it’s our attitude or us not being open minded enough, it’s not been a problem anywhere else. Vietnam has been nasty frequently. Pretty much daily. And its not about scams, its not about cultural difference, it seems instead to be an endemic problem with treating other people like human beings. Tomorrow we go to Laos, and cannot wait. PS Sorry about the dismal formatting but I’m writing this on a kindle and can’t enter a new paragraph! Robin & Liv

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wes September 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Wow, I’m sorry to hear that. I had NONE of those responses, despite being in the country 60 days and on a motorbike for 30 of them. I stopped in small towns to have the bike repaired and people would bring their kids out to practice English, give me cold drinks and usually refused to take money for the repairs. Vietnam seems to be a love it or hate it place — surprising how different the experiences are…

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Robin & Liv September 30, 2012 at 3:26 am

True say sir, it is interesting how experiences can differ, and it’s reassuring to hear that people have great experiences there. We thought perhaps it was like India, in that you might get a beating for the first couple of weeks but then figure it out and have a whale of a time – sadly Vietnam just did not do that for us.

In fairness, our experience with the rock lobbing thug fatally wounded any hope of us enjoying our last few days in the country – for the first time in Asia we felt nervous and as a result small problems might well have been magnified into larger ones. That said, that same afternoon two people shouted abuse at us as we rode past (well enuciated “F*** you”‘s complete with middle fingers), and that night was the night our hotel decided to play games and pretend the only room available was the broken, leaking one.

We may be overstating our case, but certainly we had a string of bad times in Vietnam on the bikes – met some lovely people too, mind – but the near daily schemers, abusers and malefactors quite easily and quickly sullied those good times, and had us leave the country with a very bad taste in our mouths. Not something I ever thought I’d say about anywhere in the world, but to say otherwise would be dishonest.

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 1:08 am

Vietnamese, in general, are not taught it seems to care about other people, not the same as we are in Western culture, but only care and think of themselves. The concept of respecting others as you would want others to respect you is foreign to most of them.

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Mike October 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

I lived in Vietnam for 5 years. Any rudeness that you all found was the tip of the iceberg. They are the rudest people in SE Asia and I have been to every country there. Lie, cheat, steal, rinse, repeat. They have no feelings for anyone but themselves. My friend would buy bread from a bakery every day and the man would say something in VN to him and everyone would laugh. He later found out the guy was calling him a cunt. I paid for the laundry woman’s son’s funeral and then she tried to rip me off. I had 3 landlords steal my deposit money. My girlfriend was assaulted by a parking lot attendant. She was also robbed of her gold chain when they ripped it off her neck and scratched her in the process. They are racist people who comment about the color of people’s skin and won’t give a job to their own people based on skin color and height. The police and government are corrupt. Friends, neighbors and relatives regularly steal from each other homes. The list goes on and on. I will never go back to that evil place.

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Olive November 29, 2012 at 4:17 am

I was in Hanoi for about six months. Had my share of run-ins with street cons like vendors selling banana, oranges and flowers. And taxi drivers except from Mai Linh and CP Hanoi. One time a Vietnamese colleague rescued me from such a situation and was very apologetic about it… It hurt being hoodwinked in the face but knowing how difficult their lives are, I felt no anger towards them.Try seeing them live in a cramped, often windowless house with more people it can handle and you’ll understand.

And for a tip, try speaking the local language and be cool about it. The simple “xin chao” (hi) goes a long way in making friends with the Vietnamese.

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Jake September 19, 2013 at 1:13 am

You will feel less sorry for them being “poor” when you see them walking around with iPhone 5s and iPad 4s, spending all their time in coffee shops, and restaurants, drinking their Starbucks coffee, driving their SH or Exciter motorbikes, and complaining then about how the are “poor”. Most are not “poor” bu their condition is caused by financial irresponsibility. Image and looking good comes before paying the bills.

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George March 2, 2013 at 10:32 pm

They have a crap load of KFC, Pizza Hutt, Burger King are going up everywhere, Baskin and Robins, and Carl’s Jr now here….more everyday. Only missing McDonald’s here in Ho Chi Minh…..

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traveller July 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

Of the places I have travelled so far, I have found Vietnam to be the least friendly.

On entry to the country, I was ‘welcomed’ by a decietful and dishonest man. He seemed very nice and approached me to take his taxi from the bus station to my hostel, in Ho Chi Min. He said he’d have the meter on, it was a short drive. I took money out from the ATM along the way and he was asking how much I’d taken out, which of course I told him was private. I gave him my 500,000 VND note from the ATM and instead of giving me change, he wanted more, trying to convince me it was a lot more than it actually was. He of course ripped me off. He seemed like an official taxi driver, with a taxi sign on his car and a uniform which is even worse.

Since then, having shared the story with fellow travellers, they also share similar ones with me that have only happened over the last week. In Ho Chi Min, a guy was robbed twice, 2 days in a row. His phone and money were taken. A female friend was walking along the pavement and was knocked over from behind by a motorbike and the guy didn’t stop. Luckily she was only bruised. Numerous friends have been cheated in regards to money.

I had planned to stay here for 2 weeks and have tried to be optimistic but when people are unpleasant it puts you off. Today I arrived in Dalat which i initially thought was nice but i’ve just had another bad experience in a small supermarket. I was looking at things to buy and the shopkeeper prodded my arm and said ‘you, go, we are closed’. I thought that was rude enough but i left without saying or buying anything. This was in the afternoon. A few hours later the shop is still open, so I asked the man why he said it was closed when it was not and again he said the same thing. There were other people in the shop. I am shocked at the rudeness, lack of manners, dishonesty and decietfulness i have encountered. Travelling alone as a female and being made to feel so unwelcome in a country, really makes me wonder what I am doing here and why I’m spending my hard earned money here. So, of course I will be leaving at the earliest opportunity.

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Rik September 18, 2013 at 6:53 am

All the negative comments are true I’m afraid. In the country at the moment and can’t wait to get out. I’ve been robbed, swindled, over charged, had people walking off with my money and refusing to give change. I’ve had people offer me cigarettes instead of change and refuse to give me my money. I was robbed by a toilet attendant in Hanoi so I went into his money bucket and helped myself to my Change. Thought this would cause a fight but instead he looked at the female he worked with said something in VN and started to laugh.

Only 15 minutes ago in halong city a guy came up to my girlfriend and started shouting in her face and then laughed and walked off.

I’m going to put my neck on the line here and call them cunts. The most horrible, nasty, dishonest people on the planet.

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experienced_wanderer November 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I really have to agree with the general consensus. The 95%ers are correct! Take it from a guy who lived in Vietnam for a year with my Vietnamese wife, traveled the ENTIRE country from south of Ben Tre in the Mekong to Dong Van on the Chinese border. With my wife by bus along the coast, and by myself on motorbike through the mountains. (part of a 10k km loop from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and back to Saigon) Vietnam would be wonderful if it weren’t for the 20% of absolutely despicable scum of the Earth that call themselves Vietnamese. And the 50% that are reckless, horrible, inconsiderate drivers. Foreigners will NEVER be treated like normal people in Vietnam. Just so you know.
And to NoIssue: Shut up you misinformed idiot! The Vietnamese built the craziest routes of the Ho Chi Minh Trail network, through dense jungle and over huge mountain passes, only working at night, avoiding bombing runs, and carrying everything by bicycle, in just a few weeks. And after the war is over in peacetime, they can’t even distribute food to their starving people? Sure. Blame the Americans for what they did 40 YEARS AGO for why Vietnam can’t get it’s act together today. It’s because of idiots like you that blame everyone else for Vietnam’s terrible “Communist” policies, that have killed millions though starvation! Far more than any war. Nobody knows about what happened during the dark years, except the people who lived through that nightmare. (my wife and her family included)
Avoid Vietnam like the plague, because of idiots like NoIssue! (And faux communism, corruption, scams, death roads, … , need I say more? Lao is right next door!)

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Tom November 23, 2013 at 1:57 am

They are rude people in general including here in the states. Vietnamese people are shamelessly rude, men and women. Ran into a vehicle incident with this Vietnamese couple in the postal parking lot at Beaverton, Oregon and oh my gosh they are making verbal seem and almost got into physical violence. The short story: They parked their SUV so bad that the passenger wheels are on the parking space divider solid white line. I came alone and parked my car on the passenger side. I knew exactly that I didn’t have much room to open my door so I opened carefully but when I let my hand off the door swing open a bit and hit their SUV. The damaged, if it was caused by me, was about 2mm radius chip. The SUV’s wife saw it and screamed right there. The husband (the driver) came out and cussed, screamed, yelled, and demanded for my insurance. They both verbally assaulted me from both sides. I then apologized and because they were yelling and screaming so loud, I casually mentioned how bad they parked. The husband, “don’t f…… give me attitude or I’ll the cop.” I said, “please do call the cop.” Then he back out. I gave him my driver’s license and insurance card, the guy took picture of them and they left without giving me their information. I can’t even stop them for their information. This was a personal incident but I saw a lot of Vietnamese people on the darker side.

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Trung December 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Im vietnamese born in saigon but live in Australia for 36 years and currently in vietnam at the moment traveling from saigon to ha long bay and seem to notice that people seem to get more and more rude as i travel further and further up north which i was warned by brother of how rude and weird people are further north doesn’t matter your vietnamese or not,maybe cause i speak broken vietnamese so they consider me a foreigner too.I found people were much friendlier in saigon, first rude experience was in a convenience store in mui ne where she just stared at me like she wanted to kill me and then just threw my change on the table and most rude people seems to be the one that works in tourism mainly travel agent ( i hate travel agent here,they are very rude).but I’m not gonna let a few bad apples stop me from coming back here in the future which I’ve experience everywhere in america,japan,combodia,bali but thailand was the worst didn’t meet any friendly people there.There’s good and bad everywhere just gonna know when to open your heart and when to put a defence barrier to rude people.

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my2cents December 18, 2013 at 6:56 am

I myself Vietnamese and I have to confess that im seriously sick to death of my people.

To be honest, I’m feeling a little relieved knowing how awful you foreigners are getting treated in Vietnam because I’ve always thought that we South Viet are the only hated people in VN considering how anti-communist we are they always threatened us of killing us if we ever step foot in vietnam because we insulted their government and uncle Ho.

Noticed that there are a lot of Vietnamese that returned to VN are getting killed.

While living in the Vietnamese community I’ve experienced way more rudeness than any westerners. These people seem so heartless, cowardice, passive and so money oriented. I don’t want to lump them altogether but I’ve experienced way too many bad experiences from most Viet despite the fact that im viet myself too.

Especially because I have the shy and kind look I was deemed vulnerable by their people they keep ripping my heart from bit to pieces with their overly rudeness and heartlessness.

I’ve stood up for them but they backstabbed me. When I was victimized by the evil lying racist deceitful muslims harassed me left and right laughing at me trying to take down the vietnamese community in melbourne to make way for their people to come over. Then instead of backing me up the viet community attacked me backstabbing me giving me so many dirty stares while trying to get along with the muslims.

Now to protect their reputation they keep calling me chinese and not vietnamese because viet are so good boy and love everyone very long time. Well i don’t give a shite i don’t care if im not viet anymore

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Puhlease December 20, 2013 at 4:34 am

As a Westerner, if you enjoy being consistently ripped off, compulsively lied to, constantly treated like a walking ATM machine, stolen from, pushed around, yelled at, insulted, bombarded by extreme noise and pollution, and eating greasy, poorly made, over-priced pho, then Vietnam is the place for you. Have at it.

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Jung Vo March 24, 2014 at 12:54 pm

Why i have no ticket back to vn? Every flight is full. Stay home foreigners! I wish they rip you guys harder so that i do not see you , tourists. Who care?

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wes March 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

I’m feeling the love.

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Shane March 24, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Well hey there, I remember you from my visit to Vietnam. Then again, perhaps I am confusing you with one of the other equally charming and honest people I met in your country – I can’t be sure. Hugs anyway. xx

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steve May 20, 2014 at 1:16 am

I’m an ethnic minority person in Vietnam, from a hilly and remote area.

After living in the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, for 3 years, I find people there are extremely rude, emotionless, aggressive, greedy, warlike and selfish, especially the working class.
Those people there are ready to quarrel and fight each other mercilessly at the slightest provocation. They dare to do every immoral things to survive life and to earn a little more money, even if it is stealing, robbing, fighting, betraying to their own friends.

They’ve got a rotten regime. The Vietnamese communist regime has propagated that Vietnam is one of the most beautiful, democratic, freest, happiest place in the Earth and the outside world is rotting. And that American society consisted of 1% of its population who hold 90% possessions of the whole country while 99% of its population are the poor.
What a propaganda !

The Communist regime is rotting, and its own people are sickening too.

These people, the Vietnamese, often ask what province I come from. Once they know my province, they immediately switch to another question: what ethnic I am. After get my answer they always laugh at me as if I’m something beneath them.
The Vietnamese are fucking racist.
It’s them who are discriminated in many countries like Singapore, Malaysia etc where the Vietnamese are prostitutes, servants, illegal workers etc.

It angers me that my people living in the mountains have been influenced by mass-media from the Vietnamese and have gradually become as rude and inhuman as them.
I’m very relieved when Vietnam has been bullied by China over their territory recently.

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Jake May 20, 2014 at 2:01 am

Sorry you have to go through this, and understand as an American here that has dealt with discrimination in my time in Vietnam. Tourists and backpackers can never understand these things since they only see the image that is made. More appalling is they treat people, and Americans, so poor here, but then beg, if not expect, the US to help them with China.

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Lily June 25, 2014 at 4:16 am

Hi!
Im Vietnamese living in Vietnam so i try to tell the true & fair, not because im Vietnam so i’ll deny anything bad from us & take all the good one.
I admit, my country have alot problems but for any country, any race have good & bad side not different here in Vietnam/south-east asia or western…
The traffic is most terrible even myself is Vietnamese it never easy but once you enter here it not dangerous as it seems, sure you still be careful.
Second, you may ripped off by some people on street try to walk & talk to you just to sells somethings. I advice you, if you dont wanna buy anything just say “no, thanks” and do your things, they’re go away. I know it annoying but its their life, a sellers will try to sell anything & sale more & more. Special seller-street almost of them is poor person, low education so some of them is really rude or bad attidue (not all of seller-street like that). So dont mad at them, as i said because my country is still devolope country & alot poor people & they just do their job to survive. Dont act like you want throw bad words or bad attidue to them, just make situation is worse.
Third, always smile to people so people will treat you nice back too. Once you meet bad situation, crazy people not mean evrybody same like that so dont act like you hate people, hate cultures, hate place…. means hate everything & put-in-face so evrything will ok.
As you know Vietnamese dont speak English well & many percentage of them even cant speak english, mostly is middle & old people so sometimes its hard to conversation. Its the reason why most foreigners people feel like people here is unfriend but its not true. Because they dont know how to speak, answer or keep the conversation/help then they just go away or keep silent, some even shy even they’re young-generation shy too.
Last, in restaurent or shop, bar or hotel their have so you have no worrie but other that in any pplace their wont show you price first, always remember ask how’s cost. If their sales somethings & say its 200.000 dong so pay 100.000 dong, always lower 25-50% cost depend.

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Lily June 25, 2014 at 4:39 am

Yes, in daytime you see bump of people (mostly is women) wear long t-shit or jacket, hat, gloves and mask to cover their face & neck. Its not because Vietnamese scare the sun. As i said Vietnam still is developing country so our income is in middle to low, un-clear air & dirt by many many motobyce… so its the reason why their cover their face to avoid smog & environmental pollution. Its easy & cheap way to protect their skin & nose. Almost, take care their skin of the sun to burning the skin & avoid aging.
In Western or another well developement country people use to skytrain, car… so they wont exposure direct the sun & the air is clean its different here.
But in the nigh-time/evening everybody cover their face like that. You must know the reason before say anything like that.

For everybody, if you’re kind stick with your own cultures & lifestyle maybe you wont like it here or even hate it. But if you’re kind open-mind, dynamic… you’ll like to enjoy as well. If you close you heart & mind to have attidue you wont see nice things in here or anywhere to see people, place, cultures, traditional.
I hope you all have great trip!!!

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Dragon Club July 15, 2014 at 9:55 am

Glad there is a lot of haters towards Vietnam. This means it will not be like Thailand where tourism destroys the country. And the people and girls are so jaded.
Vietnam is no good, save the country for real people

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quoc October 24, 2014 at 9:11 pm

Thanks

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ginger July 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Re: the people who are saying the Vietnamese are poor and starving and this is why they are rude and take advantage of people with scams etc. My ancestors come from Poland, a country that has been decimated by war since WWI, and indeed, at times did not exist because it was divided up by occupying forces. It also had a long standing communist government. Not everyone stooped to theiving and scamming. Those who didn’t, often didn’t have much to eat, but they had their integrity. So, I believe dishonesty can be made worse by the environment you live in, but not created by the environment you live in. My hypothesis is that the people with integrity have tried to escape Vietnam, once they see what most of the population is like. I know Vietnamese people who left Vietnam and they are different from the people I have met while on a long term stay here in Vietnam. I have had so many traumatic experiences here, that I will most likely leave early. I was robbed, scammed (some large), some just daily dishonesty over prices or the number of things charged to my bill, and finally, extorted for a large sum of money. By the way, I was in a very tourist area before the shops opened and the Vietnamese shopkeepers either ignored me or glared at me. Once the shops opened, they all smiled broadly. I notice many tourists give a lot of money, in Vietnamese terms, to Vietnamese people. I’m wondering if some Americans do it out of guilt for the killing they did in the Vietnam war. The problem with giving people a lot of money, is that you encourage them to see Westerners as a source of money and to become angry and frustrated when the Westerners don’t come through with the money the Vietnamese expect. Also, I noticed many expats who live here appear to refer tourists to local Vietnamese people a lot (some of these VN people then scam the tourist). I believe this is due to the fact that, in order to buy a house here, title to the house must be registered in the name of a Vietnamese person. So a Westerner who wants to live in their own home, (more cheaply than at home) needs to befriend a Vietnamese family and their entire ‘clan’ and stay on really good terms with them.

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Traveler September 8, 2014 at 12:52 pm

I’ve just arrived from Hanoi and have stayed there for 5 days. Having read all the horror stories here, I am very much confused why majority of the people here had a nasty experience. Every one was nice, polite, and helpful. Even a policeman in green uniform approached us because he knew we were lost. He helped us and guided us to the Museum we were looking for. We even approached a middle aged lady selling fruits asking where’s Hoan Kiem lake and she happily guided us. Even the hotel manager advised us to be careful of Taxi scammers, rickshaw drivers touting us for a ride, pick pockets, street vendors, and ipad/mobile phone grabbers. Perhaps, we were lucky and did not experience such but only persistent rickshaw drivers who touted us for a ride around the old quarter for 200,000 dong. However, a simple friendly smile and simple shake of the head was more than enough for them to move on. We tried taking a taxi going to Tran Quoc Pagoda, although we were warned ahead by our hotel manager, we took the risk. We stopped a taxi and told him how much going to Tran Quoc Pagoda, he told us 100,000 dong. We said, “no, only 40,000 dong, ok?” He agreed and we hopped in. After that, we took a taxi again, going to Quan Su temple, we haggled on the price for 50,000 dong. He agreed. A rickshaw driver whom we refused earlier, even helped us guide the taxi driver to the Quan Su temple, although we did not ask him to. Every one seemed to be really helpful. At the French Quarter, it’s already dinner time and we were hungry, we went to this food stall whose main specialty is Bun Cha. The other Vietnamese customer who was eating in front of us who finished her meal ahead, told us, “have a nice meal!” and we said, “thank you very much!”. I wanted to buy some T-shirt souvenir and approached this t-shirt vendor. She told us 180,000 dong. I told her, “What? Ha ha ha… No, too expensive.” We walked away and she approached us, “ok, ok, 80,000 dong.” We said, “NO, no. Give me last price!” “Ok,ok, 60,000 dong!”. I said, “50,000 dong! But, I buy many many!” OK? I bought more than a dozen t-shirt with a happy face. lol. I was also craving for the straight donut on a stick. At first, the girl told me 20,000 dong for a stick. I told her, “I shook my head..no no…” and walked away. She then told me, “ok, ok, 10,000 dong.” NOOO…. “ok, 5,000 dong”. 5,000 dong deal and I was happily eating the donut. lol

I guess to avoid getting scammed do not succumb to their first price. Haggle and squeeze them hard. You’ll know when you’ve squeezed them to the limit if they show no interest at all and with a pissed face, so much so they will tell you to find another vendor. lol.

Maybe, it’s only 5 days in Vietnam, not long enough stay for me to notice any remarkable rudeness.

I have a theory though, maybe they don’t like tourists of Caucasian heritage in general because of the war and all. Or, maybe I’m simply an Asian dude from the Philippines and they can easily relate to me and they know I’m not an easy target. I can be as rude and annoying as them. If they laugh at me speaking in Vietnamese, I will also speak in my native tongue and laugh as hard. lol

Generally, in my 5 days stay in Hanoi, it was a very pleasant experience. I will come back again in a few month’s time if I crave for Pho and Bun Cha. lol

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the traveler October 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm

for those that say they love Vietnam, the reason is you are all just visitor, and only on vacation and so on, but I am vietnamese living in United States, Vietnam is the most rude ignorant people, Government system is the worst, bribe everywhere….live and go deep inside, ofcourse you are a traveler, they want your money , money and money…Vietnamese have Money written on their stupid forhead…

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wes September 24, 2013 at 6:53 am

No, I didn’t see anything like that. The header had a crack and allowed the bolt to vibrate out. I stopped in a small town and the guys put in a helicoil, spending over an hour working on it and refused to take any money.

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