Letters from Vietnam (2): Three disturbing travel truths
Letters from Vietnam – Part 2
Or should it be: Lessons from Vietnam?
Three unpleasant truths about your journey and what they mean for your business
Welcome to the second Letter from Vietnam that we will use to draw a second Lesson from Vietnam – and most of all what the findings of this lesson imply for your own business.
Let’s right jump into it.
When you travel through a foreign country and try to stay off the beaten tracks you will detect things, find views, and explore corners that amaze and fascinate you. You feel sorry for the package tourist who will have a rather mainstream experience and who withholds himself from such intriguing experiences. Finally you want to share your excitement with a fellow traveller next to you. And this is the moment where your zest gets smashed to pieces. Because…
Travel truth No 1: You are always too late
No matter how extraordinary your experience is and how proud you are that you made it on your own, there will be someone next to you who has been here years before. And he will let you know, what you are enjoying right now is nothing compared to what he underwent when this place was pristine and untouched. Even though you notice that the faces around you are mainly indigenous, your sour neighbour will tell you that this place is rotten by the ubiquitous and excessive tourism.
“Years ago we had no water, no electricity, no hotels, …” – “Yes, and no douchebags like you!” I always like to reply. “Times, when no one was here to spoil the experiences of others.”
No matter what treasures you find, there’s always a smart-aleck co-traveller who has found more in the past.
If you can’t avoid it you will be compelled to have a further conversation with this co-traveller. These guys are hard to avoid and they follow you more obstinate than most of the street merchants. They will try everything to continue bombarding you with their unwanted travel advise. And after a while they (or somebody else) will confront you with the second hard fact that you didn’t ask for.
Travel truth No 2: You are always in the wrong place
Yesterday I was visiting the floating markets near Can Tho on the Mekong river in Vietnam. An absolutely thrilling experience of mongering intercourse. I was sucking in the atmosphere, was thrilled by the hawkers who piratically entered our boat without asking for permission, and I had a big grin on my face. This was obviously the invitation for another traveller who didn’t hesitate to explain, that this is so different from the floating markets in Thailand.
There are three ways to answer such a comment.
- “Yes, I know. I’ve been there myself.”
- “Yes, may be. I’ll check it out later.”
- “So what?! I am not here by accident. I came here for a reason and on purpose. I am here because I wanted to see exactly that. Why on Earth should I care about a different market in a different country. Why don’t you disembark right now and share your stories with the crocodiles? They’ll love it!”
No matter what treasures you find, there’s always a smart-aleck co-traveller who has found something better somewhere else.
Let’s come to the third undeniable truth. When you hang around in foreign countries you buy stuff. Be it food, fruit or fancy fabrics. As soon as you turn around to carry away you booty you look right into the face of the unwanted travel consultant. He will open his mouth and with a sardonic smirk he will ask you this one dreadful question:
“How much did you pay?”
Travel truth No 3: You always paid too much
“What? How much?”, he will yell. And he will let you know that he bought the same stuff for a fraction of what you just paid. And by the way, “it had a better quality, too.”
Thank you for trying to degrade my experience once again, wiseacre. But I can’t remember asking you for your opinion.
As much as I am a friend of the idea that tourists shouldn’t overpay simply for the reason of not disturbing the local micro economy, I couldn’t care less if I paid 10ct too much. My usual reply here is: “It doesn’t kill me and it feeds a family.”
I could explain to my co-traveller, that there are at least two things to trade from my side, and that is money as well as time. Both are commodities that a traveller need to keep a keen eye on.
But since I have to catch a ferry to the island Phu Quoc I can neither tell the co-traveller to bugger off nor can I give to you, dear valued reader, the conclusions from this letter to your business.
I will continue this post in due course. First I have to continue my journey while trying to avoid the you-know-who.
To be continued…