It’s been quite a journey. Over 7000km altogether, 4 countries, countless hours by bus, train, and plane, I came to this conclusion:
If you are planning to visit this country, I recommend you avoid big cities such as Hanoi and Saigon. The true value of this country is nature. With its many parks, mountains, rivers, islands, and lakes, you should focus soon where exactly you wanna go instead of getting pressured into other places that lead you to tourist traps. Most importantly, check the transportation alternatives. Sometimes its better to use a more expensive but a more comfortable mean of transportation. Vietnamese people are genuinely kind, curious, and helpful people. If you ask something they will surely help you at anytime. But again, beware of tourist traps. Don’t use agencies offering tours.
Don’t be shocked that the Viets are not clean people. They are the biggest litterbugs I know. They throw garbage, plastic, rubbish everywhere. They don’t know what sustainable development is, especially in big cities.
For food, feed yourself in the food markets. It’s tasty, large portions and cheap if you have a limited budget. And for accommodation you can find individual rooms as cheap as $15. Know a place good enough to spend a night or two.
Overall, the Vietnamese people like foreigners. And many times, I had school kids come up and wanting to take selfies with me. They are all friendly and warm and welcoming the Vietnamese people. Especially kids. They would hang around the train station and practice their english there with foreigners.
I’ll definitely come back because I didn’t have time to visit 3 recommended places: Nha Trang, Da Lat, and Phan Thiet. I left Vietnam with the impression that the country will soon become an economical success in spite of its problems. But compromising with environmental issues will be a challenge.
To be fair, if you have to go to Cambodia because you’re going from Thailand to Vietnam or the opposite, just do Battambang, Siem Reap, and Phnom Penh. The rest is just not worth it. I don’t mean to be negative but I’ve been to the capital already and I must say that most of the places I’ve been to was like a giant junk yard. You’ll see garbage everywhere and I came to the conclusion that Cambodians look like friendly people but in reality they don’t like foreigners and they will try to take advantage of you. There’s no fixed price so there’s always trading. Always raising prices last minute and what not. And the most irritating part from them, they “borrowed” this gratuity culture form the U.S. but got no idea on real customer service or how to work with foreigners. Therefore, there’s a big misconception here. Tourists’ expectations will be the complete opposite. The Western tourists may be generous though at the condition that service goes beyond expectations, which I did in Siem Reap, the 5 star hotel team was very dedicated and thoughtful. That was much appreciated. With regards to the country’s politics, it’s obvious there’s lots of corruption like in any Southeastern Country, it’s not a communist dictatorship anymore thanks God! But the mafia over there and they own everything.
Everyone wants you to pay cash in dollars ($) because it rounds up their benefits, therefore, change your currency into their currency so it’s more advantageous for you.
I’ve got mixed feelings about Thailand, it’s true that it’s beautiful but its been over exaggerated comparing to “Lonely Planet” trip advisor and what people said. Lots of rubbish, especially in Pattaya, Phuket, and all the mass tourism places. It’s not as “cheap” as reputated the South is expensive as Europe, the North is poorer, less touristy, therefore, cheaper, less polluted too. Don’t mess around with locals or the police like these 2 Russian girls who were stopped at Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort. In short, they got fined for swimming in a hotel people because they were even guests at that hotel. The cops charged them 2000 baths (30 USD). So the girls were forced to stay in the police station without being asked for their documents. They stayed there for like 4 hours and then the big guy decided to release them. Having some asshole hold you down for 4 hours to squeeze out 30 USD is pretty normal in Thailand. They will milk you.
Until I came there I didn’t know it was still a communist dictatorship. And the first country I’ve been to in which I had to pay $5 to get in and pay $2.50 to get out. Nature there was gorgeous. Luxurious forest and monumental mountains. But roads are terrible, narrow and badly maintained. Therefore, you spend lots of time on transportation. If you’re going there for ecotourism then this is the perfect getaway. Other than that, it’s the wrong place for relaxation and comfort. Yes, people are friendly, but very very poor so they will expect a lot out of a tourist. Some parts of the country are dangerous like the escort with guns because of the rebels fighting against the government. In the mountains you get bandits robbing tourists. But overall, Laos is underrated and a must see.