Monday, May 5, 2008

Calling all tour operators

Tourism in Vietnam is really still in its infancy; that was the appeal. But while we nodded and were very grateful to our Vietnamese tour guides we generally found that some good info via Lonely Planet, and our own 'steam' was the most satisfying.

In general the guides we had, really had quite limited English and knowledge of the location beyond the basics. There were also some pretty serious duty of care issues we encountered; funny at the time but potentially dangerous.

On Halong Bay a couple of Thai tourists off our junk drifted (thankfully in life jackets) across the other side of the bay, and caught by the tide did not have the strength to swim back. The tour guide had no idea they were still in the water and no-one was watching out for them. They ended up being rescued by one of the 'water-women'.

video: sridgway

On Cat Ba island, we were poorly warned or prepared about the conditions of the trek path to the top of Ngu Lam. It was very steep and very slippery. The guide led the way and one woman soon fell way behind. Steph fell back to assist her, and at the peak I triggered concern when they didn't arrive after a time. They had taken the wrong path but thankfully eventually retraced their steps. What would have happened without Steph's goodwill or if she had decided to turn back, I fear to ponder.

image: trekking up Ngu Lam peak from sridgway

Another issue we encountered was the use of Vietnamese guides into Minority Group villages. The young girls selling goods in Sapa for example, spoke excellent English, and in hindsight we should have abandoned the tour and employed one of them to trek around their own area with us.

There's a great support opportunity there for some Australian volunteers!


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