One Big Package Tour

After three weeks in Vietnam, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the country. Although it has taken me awhile to warm up to the people (it’s not like Thailand where everyone is always smiling at you), I’ve found once you break through the initial barrier and get away from the legions of people trying to sell you something, the people can be quite warm. In light of what our country was doing here just 40 years ago–this is remarkable.

Despite my improved view of the people, I’m still weary of giving independent travellers a wholehearted recommendation to visit the country. Travelling here is like One Big Package tour. Vietnam wants your tourist dollars, but they’ll tell you what to see, where to stay, and how to travel. Buses connect from Sagion-Mui Ne-Nha Trang-Hoi An-Hue-Hanoi. These buses take you to hotels owned by the bus companies and you are encouraged to stay there. Most of the time it is so convenient it is hard not to. From Hanoi, there are more package tours to Halong Bay and Sapa. After a while it feels like you are being herded around like sheep. And don’t get me wrong–sometimes the convenience of it all is quite nice. Some people love the packages, the tour buses and not having to think about what you’ll do next, where you’ll eat, etc. For me, it makes the travel less interesting. I loved my Halong Bay tour, but by the end playing the game “mafia” with 10 other native English speakers seemed out of place.

All of this is to say that if you like tours, you’ll love Vietnam. I don’t and think it is time for me to move on to a new country. My visa expires tomorrow so it is good timing. I’m headed to China by bus, where I’ll probably soon be yearning for the ease of travel that exists in Vietnam. I’m a bit nervous, but more excited. My first stop is the city of Kunming, a city of 4 million people.

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