Globaltimes: Không ngủ ở Việt Nam

Thứ Bảy, 18 tháng 2, 20120 nhận xét

Bài viết của Matt du mục (TẠI SAO KHÔNG BAO GIỜ TÔI QUAY LẠI VIỆT NAM (Why I'll Never Return To Vietnam) đã làm dấy lên những tranh luận nho nhỏ về du lịch ở Việt Nam.
Mới đây ngày 17/2/2012 Hoàn Cầu thời báo đã đăng bài: Không ngủ tại Việt Nam - Sleepless in Vietnam
Hantimes đăng nguyên văn tiếng anh bài viết này:
Sleepless in Vietnam
Global Times | February 17, 2012 18:50 
By Hu Jianqiao

Japan Bridge in Hoi An  

Once the fasten seat belt sign turned off, everyone stood up, got their luggage from the rack and put on their coats. It took me a moment to realize that I had arrived back in snowy Beijing.  On the plane, I was once again plagued with loud snoring. I sighed, doomed to another sleepless night, just like those I had in Vietnam.
Replaying the past 10 days in my mind, I realized that these experiences and so-called uncertainties, troubles and pains were precious memories that I will treasure forever.

Everything at once

My first sleepless night came after celebrating Christmas Eve on the train with my travel companions from Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to Hanoi, as it was colder than I expected and we had to detrain several times in order to pass customs, where we were asked for a 10-yuan "tip."

We encountered the same situation at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), though this time the tip was $100. Luckily, we ultimately bargained them down to 10.

This was our first experience as backpackers, and the first time we didn't know where our next destination or accommodations would be. Too often vacations become a mere checklist of things to do. So we decided to lose the schedule and allow a little spontaneity into our lives.

It was not until we were walking the busy streets of Dalat desperately searching for a hotel room on New Year's Eve that we were reminded of the convenience of travel agencies.

Thank God I was not alone. I had three friends with me, including a lovely young couple we met at the Nanning Railway Station, well-versed in independent travel.

The backpacker's bible, Lonely Planet, introduces Vietnam as "another world…where colors are more vivid, the culture is richer, and history more compelling."

With that in mind, we plotted our route from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, with stops in Hué to see the imperial palace of the Nguyen dynasty, Hoi An for the Old Town, Nha Trang for its lovely beach, Dalat for Bao Dai's Summer Palace and Mui Ne for its beautiful sand dunes.

During the 2,000 km-long open bus tour, we saw killer coastlines, emerald-green rice paddies and beautiful girls dressed in tight-fitting áo dàis, the traditional silk dress. However, among the rumble of motorbikes and street hawkers' cries, what impressed us most was the modernization process on which Vietnam is currently embarking.

Hanoi gave us wide streets, high-rise buildings, luxury boutiques and countless stores, while in Hoi An, we watched as a newlywed couple took photos against the picturesque background of the Old Town. Down in Nha Trang, teenagers roller skated on the boardwalk while the Eiffel Tower-like radio tower in Dalat served as a backdrop for middle-school students in uniforms, running through dance routines that would steal the thunder from any pop star. 

But it was HCMC that offered exquisite French-style buildings and churches, while shiny boats glided on the Saigon River.

Whiplash change
Fairy Stream in Mui Ne

As in China, Vietnamese traditional culture is threatened by economic development. People in traditional costumes are seldom seen in the streets anymore. Chinese characters can only be found on cultural landmarks like Van Mieu (Confucius Temple).
As the trauma and tragedy brought about by brutal wars gradually fades, people's desire to make money grows like there is no tomorrow, and the country has rushed pell-mell to embrace economic growth.
In restaurants, foreign tourists are provided different menus - with higher prices of course.
In HCMC (formerly known as Saigon), we were propositioned by prostitutes on the streets or in the backseats of motorbikes. In the hotel, we were charged 50,000 Vietnamese dong ($2.41) for a five-minute local call.
In Ben Thanh Market, my friend was overcharged 10,000 VND for a coconut priced at 20,000 VND. And we had quite a fight in a restaurant named 3A3, where they tried to overcharge us for some food we hadn't ordered and for four bottles of yogurt they originally offered for free.
It was the last dinner we had in Vietnam, and we didn't want this unhappy episode to dampen our mood. Fortunately, aided by the video camera we flaunted shamelessly, we successfully persuaded the owner to cut more than 140,000 VND from our bill.

Unexpected disappointments
For a while, I forgot I was wandering in a so-called "different world." Maybe Vietnam is less developed overall for the time being, but its passion for everything state-of-the-art, chic and cool, coupled with a desire for money, happiness and a better life is very familiar.
Travel blogs leave the impression that Vietnam is not only a place of exotic natural beauty and women donning conical hats, but also a low-priced travel paradise, where hotels are eight dollars a night and a lobster meal only costs five dollars.
However, we spent most of our time roaming the bustling narrow streets on rented motorcycles from our hotel; we ate at local restaurants by the streets; slept at relatively cheap hostels and browsed the local markets.
Despite our efforts to be as "local" as possible, we failed to find all the cheap food and fruit mentioned in these travel blogs. Instead, we found that a coconut costs at least 10,000 VND, and lobsters were sold for as high as 1,800,000 VND.
On the Mui Ne Beach, we were disappointed to find that the massive influx of tourists had driven up local prices astronomically.
The rich-poor gap is extremely visible. Bentleys, Mercedes-Benz and all sorts of classic cars cruise streets dominated by motorbikes, ridden by average Vietnamese who earn around $150 a month.
Infrastructure has also failed to keep up with economic development. The 680-km-long open bus trip from Hanoi to Hué still takes up to 12 hours. My friend keenly pointed out that Vietnam is a 1990s China; trying to boost its GDP via exports and head-spinning currency depreciation.

City Hall in HCMC 
A short yet illuminating tangent: A few years ago, my friend Jean's golf coach died of a heart attack. While preparing for the funeral, his family could not find even one picture of him. I did not understand why, especially because everyone takes pictures while traveling. Jean then relayed her coach's approach to life: beauty is best discovered through one's own eyes.
I bear that in mind and constantly curb my impulse to buy an expensive camera. I still love taking pictures, but now only consider this as a way to help remember things I might not otherwise.
It turns out, however, that Jean's late coach's idea is not hugely popular, especially among Asian travelers. Along this Vietnam journey, I found most of my follow tourists not only use their iPhones and cameras incessantly, but also their computers and iPads.
My friend isn't a huge techie, yet I was still shocked by the constantly-changing spectacle of all his electronic devices - a video camera, a tablet computer, an electric shaver and two cell phones. He had to recharge all these devices everyday because he was taking video and pictures for most of the journey. My wrist hurt because I was asked to shoot the streets from the backseat of our rented motorcycle. Watching the other couple use e-books and e-bills, I felt distinctly "20th century" with my old-fashioned book, paper notebook and ink pen in hand.
And yet I have no intention to change. I really enjoy the break from the computer and the Internet, doing nothing other than getting a tan at the beach; I still love the touch of book pages and the feeling of writing on paper, despite my ugly handwriting. Suddenly, the word "de-electronization" flashed through my mind. 
I bet Jean's golf coach would be delighted in heaven to find a follower of his principles in a land as beautiful as Vietnam, which is clearly best appreciated through one's own eyes.

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