From experience, what great things about Vietnam can we recount?

The real and ulterior motive for my opening this thread is that I met with a senior tourism representative from a foreign country for dinner last night in HCMC (she is the wife of a friend of mine). She told me that it is becoming increasingly difficult to sell Vietnam as  tourist destination due to "word of mouth" negative opinions of Vietnam from people who have visited and .....  "who know someone who visited".

So now we have had the polemics and some uninformed nonsense from people in response to the, at times, explicit answers, to the previous question "what are your experiences of Vietnam?" As well as some very good points raised.

How about the other side of the coin? What personal experiences of Vietnam would you say that could be used to encourage others to come here.

This thread isn't looking for people to pile effusive praise on "Mrs Bong", the coffee stall owner who once made you a good cup of coffee. Its for good informed comments about all that is good in Vietnam and which needs to be highlighted - and a few of which of which maybe the Vietnam governments tourism department might take notice.

I'll kick off by saying that the vietnamese grub is fantastic. We ate last night in  Vietnamese restaurant in D1 and, as usual, the food was excellent. I have been going to this restaurant for a number of years and the waiter / waitress service has improved 100% over the past few years.

Whilst I was working on a seismic survey project in the Mekong Delta, I came across a small restaurant in a tiny village just off the road in between Bac Lieu and the sea. This restaurant served something I had never had before. It was rice (of course) but it was like a rice pancake embedded with tiny prawns onion, garlic and herbs. It was utterly delicious and was very ably complemented by a couple of glasses of ice cold Saigon Do.

And for those expats who don't know it (and I have only ever seen three or four foreigners in there), there is a sea food restaurant in D1, within a small network of back alleys that serves sea food like I have never had before. In fact I had never seen some of the sea creatures they serve up there, except on natural history programs.

And for a hearty breakfast I do like the cardiac surgeons delight of a full English fried breakfast, with sausage, egg, baked beans, fried bread, bacon and black pudding - but coming in at a very close second is the Vietnamese Banh Mi, truly a delightful breakfast.

On a completely different note, we have my wife's nine year old nephew staying here for the school holidays. He comes from a small town in the highlands and his father asked me if I could help him with his English as he is a less than average language student. He has been here a week now and once he realised that learning didn't mean having a ruler applied to the back of his legs for getting things wrong, he has become a veritable sponge for assimilating knowledge. He actually pesters me for English lessons. Which is a very refreshing change from UK kids who largely seem to want to sit playing computer games all day.

So, ladies and gentlemen, we have had a couple of threads about the things that are wrong here in Vietnam, now lets talk about the things that make our stays here interesting, stimulating and rewarding.

The neighborliness of the people around us who always have a smile and a kind word for us as I push my wife's wheel chair to and from the hospital. Note, this isn't because I speak Vietnamese. I mostly stay quiet and they are surprised when I enter into the conversation.

So many things.

To return home with good memories, tourists have to meet some locals. When you travel, personal interactions, good or bad, you remember the longest. If you don't try to meet people, then the only ones you encounter are grumpy officials or taxi drivers or salespeople. There are two difficulties: one is that you don't speak their language, the other is that most Viets are shy of foreigners because of culture (yes?) plus lack of English language confidence even if they know some. It is actually easy to meet people, but you have to initiate. City people under 30 can often speak good enough English and other languages. Try parks, look for the English practice groups. See a group of school kids, just wave and say "Hello". Go to some activity like exercise in the park, or concert. Ask questions of shop people in stores if they are not busy. Ask someone for directions or anything to crack the ice. And importantly, smile, and speak slowly. You won't know ahead of time if they can understand you, just try. And smile and thank them even if they don't understand. I have had many conversations with older people in stores, who have traveled overseas, etc. and love the opportunity to speak.

I really like the outdoor markets. Vietnamese bazaars. The activity, the commerce. District 5 has a tool market on the west side, and Chinese traditional medicine dealers on the north side, for several blocks around Cau (bridge) Cha Va. The smell of the herbs is amazing. Up the road there is the pet bird and rooster market. And further on the huge motorbike parts market. Then there's the long furniture street. Fabrics at Cho Lon. Flower market warren.  Just getting started. I rarely buy anything, and not a place for casual conversations because they are all business, but very different from the modern western world I come from. By the looks of the paint, these places haven't changed in 70 years.

Before arriving, google for recent restaurant and attraction recommendations. There are lots of good travel bloggers passing through. There is too.  Tourists are just not going to stumble on the amazing cafes all over the city; you need a guide or webpage. Some have music too, modern or traditional. Entertainment is free, just buy coffee, dessert. The cafes are so uniquely Vietnam. Beer bars are a different experience, you don't have to get drunk, you can meet people, and often there is good bar-b-que.

Note I am not someone who does tours, I don't enjoy being herded onto a bus. You might see more sights in a group, but you will only meet tourist trap salespeople and other tourists.  I try being the independent inconspicuous explorer, except I am 6'1".

Enough for now, but there are also the small towns, fishing boats, rivers...

Thanks 70 and Gobot! Two responses so far, lets have some more, please.

Robot, I agree with your liking for being the unobtrusive traveller. Difficult for me too as I am also 6 feet tall - well probably a little less now as one apparently shrinks as one ages - and I'm built like a brick outhouse, so difficult for me to be unobtrusive.

However, the months I spent travelling the Mekong delta by boat during a seismic survey project were incredible. We travelled in modern enclosed passenger launches with local crews who had been trained in safety by our HSE staff.

Many of the small villages we landed at were deserted during the day, the streets shimmering with heat as the locals were all away in the fields toiling. The silence was amazing in most places with only the occasional breeze rustling the rice ears.

The people who were at home almost inevitably invited me and my No 2 in to their houses for a cup of hot smokey flavoured tea. Tiny shops with snotty nosed kids who run away from the huge foreigners, shrieking in mock terror. I Would always buy something from the shops we visited - packets of biscuits or similar, just to help the local economy, even if by a minuscule amount.

On one occasion I bought a whole branch of bananas and brought it back onto the boat, intending to take it back to the office in Hong Ngu and share the bananas with the  office-bound staff. About fifteen minutes after we cast off and started motoring up a canal, a very large and hairy black spider crawled out from the bananas and commenced terrorising us occupants of the boat (well it wasn't really terrorising us, just looking for an avenue of escape). But my long haired dictionary, the aptly named Dep, shrieked in horror and dug her fingers into my arm so hard that I had bruises there for days.

The variety of river craft that ply their trade along the Mekong Deltas waterways is truly astonishing, from tiny fishing boats with oars moved by foot power, to 1500 ton freighters carrying anything from corn  or rice to dredged river mud, lying so low in the water it seemed that they might sink at any moment. Fishing boats with holes at the water line so that the cargo of recently caught fish has fresh water flowing in continually, the holes being covered with mesh to prevent the fish escaping. Tiny tugs pulling huge barges full of dredged river silt (and the odd bomb), destined for bolstering rice field water retaining walls, or for raising the level of someones land. And it should be noted that much of the river traffic travels at night in pitch darkness and with no navigation lights.

In places we passed over rice fields in our boats, rice fields that were then under three metres of water due to the annual flooding of the delta, fields that we would later walk over placing seismic receivers and cables, when the waters receded.

I could write pages on this subject, but suffice it to say that during my 6 or 7 months sojourn over the Mekong Delta, every day was filled with either hypnotically peaceful, sedate travelling over quiet waters, or experiencing the sights and sounds - and smells of a myriad small towns and villages, busy shipping lanes, shimmering rice fields and smiling people. It is the real Vietnam.

It was an experience I will never forget.

People are usually eager to speak with me wherever I go in Vietnam. The people here make me feel welcome and happy. Once when I was waiting outside the hospital to visit my wife who was a patient there, out on the street where I could buy a coffee, coke, whatever and take a smoke break, I became a familiar "fixture" there as my wife endured multiple surgeries and long term.....well, the venders and xe om drivers would sometimes joke around with me and try to "lift my spirits" and I asked one of the xe oms where there was a good restaurant I got tired of the same vender stuff and wanted to bring my wife some food....he took me to a nearby restaurant, brought me back and refused to take any money from me. They all knew my wife was Viet. They all knew I was going through a difficult time, in a dark place.......I knew... that this was just one more example of the honor and respect that is demonstrated by Viets wherever I go in Vietnam.

Thanks eodmatt, I cant disagree, I love Vietnam, even the fact they don't collect the rubbish in the same way we have become accustomed adds interest. It's the exotic the keeps me come back to what is becoming home from home, Bhan mi tops your #1 any breakfast time, and pho' is the best, I also enjoy the humour from the stall holders, the general attitude of the VN people is something we could take a page from in the west.  I for 1, can't wait to get back.

Very encouraging stuff guys... why no ladies responding?

But...... how about encapsulating the things that might help people from outside - potential tourists for example (I use potential tourists as a target group because they have dissimilar needs to business visitors and I'd like to address that aspect in another thread) - to consider coming here as visitors?

So far have had (my, and anothers), views on the grub and personal anecdotes about the interactions they have with local people. These are all very valid points but quite difficult to engage tourists with.

If we were marketing magnates, how would we change visitors perceptions of Vietnam from being "another Thailand" from our personal perspective - what is it about Vietnam that fires our rockets?

I guess what I am trying to do is to get a kind of global view of why people who live here  love Vietnam and how that can be translated into attracting visitors.

I have to say that I have no commercial interest in the matter. But my Vietnamese wife, who has an MBA in tourism development told me two years ago that trying to get tourism really flying in Vietnam is like banging your head against against the wall.

Keep the comments coming guys - and ....gals? Please.

If you shop around, you can get dental work done here by English/French speaking Dentist for less than what you pay in Thailand and the quality of work/dentures is far superior.

vnescape :

If you shop around, you can get dental work done here by English/French speaking Dentist for less than what you pay in Thailand and the quality of work/dentures is far superior.

This is true and if anyone needs a good dentist - and I mean world class, pm me for his surgery contacts.

Speak from my limited experience with  VN, as compare to Thailand where i spent 4 yrs.

French heritage , one and only in APAC; it has blended nicely into everyday life - ex.: bread and coffee is the best in this region;  HCM is also more relaxing yet as vibrant as Bangkok.

From what i have seen and heard, Viet Nam is considered to be a Communist State that America lost a War with. While that is a true statement, that is also history and does not reflect today's Viet Nam.

I also think that the South China Sea disputes and Viet Nam's constructive role in these disputes will, to some extent, help change American attitudes.

I know that Viet Nam is and has for many years worked for friendly relations with the Viet Kieu population. Still, a lot of that population is still very bitter. While the Viet Kieu is a rather small population, they still pretty well mold America's perception of Viet Nam. Though, I believe, the number of of imprisoned "Political Dissidents" is well less than 100 and that similar levels of political dissident have caused arrests in America, fair or not, this is an issue, especially with a large portion of the Viet Kieu population.

If my elderly memory is correct. former PM Võ Văn Kiệt really did work hard to bring all Vietnamese everywhere together. Perhaps returning to some of Kiệt's views could heal some of the wounds that fester in the Viet Kieu community.

Another issue is American Viet Nam War Vets. Some are very bitter. In my experience, Viet Nam is one of the friendliest places anywhere for Viet Nam War Vets and American Soldiers. A friend of mine, Doug Reese, who died a few years ago arranged for hundreds, if not thousands of American Viet Nam War Vets to visit Viet Nam and better understand the war.

American Viet Nam War Vets are dying off. Their impact is no longer that significant and is diminishing. The Viet Kieu and their descendants remain.

i love the coffee shops and how each one has its own style and personality. also the relaxed can sit there for 3 hours and no one blinks an eye.

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