Why I’m never going back to Vietnam

  • January 14, 2024

Before we proceed, let me preface this with the following disclaimers:

  • I know not everyone in a country is horrible.
  • I know the country I’m from is far from perfect.

With that said, let’s go over my Vietnam experience, because while I’m never gonna go back if I had a choice, this is an experience I’ll never forget.

The Positives

Of course, there were positives. It wasn’t all bad.

First off, groceries were absolutely cheap. We were able to survive for a week’s worth of overflowing grocery carts and it only cost us around PHP 6,000. For the same things, buying them in Manila would easily cost double.

My hotel room was the best experience of the trip, which says a lot. For an 8-day stay during the holiday season, I got a 2-bedroom serviced apartment at the 48th floor of Landmark 4, with a balcony directly looking at Landmark 81, the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh.

The view from the balcony, Landmark 81

For the price (around PHP 38,000), this came with pool access (which I didn’t bother to use) and was walking distance to a mall and supermarket. Fast internet, quiet, airconditioned and easily-accessible via Grab. I left the hotel maybe 5 times just so I could go to the store, but I spent a majority of my time here, which again, says a lot.

The post office looked cool, but holy hell were the souvenirs overpriced. A music box the size of a matchbox is being sold for PHP 500. Talk about taking advantage of tourists.

I got food poisoning

Coming into this vacation, I didn’t have a positive attitude, so my experience may have been influenced by my “I hate it here” mentality. But the bad luck kept coming, so I guess it’s true: you attract what you feel.

I forgot the day, but it was probably day 3 or 4. I ordered authentic Pho via Grab from a place that was recommended on Reddit. I bought three bowls to share with the family, and when it got here I was pretty proud of that find. For PHP 503 (converted), I was able to order three BIG bowls of Pho.

It tasted great, and I was even eye-ing a second order because it was so damn good. But holy hell, when the night came, I was a regular customer at the bathroom. I felt nausea, a bit dizzy and my stomach felt like it was nuked to the brink of extinction.

After that day, all my Grab orders were from KFC. I stayed away from anything local, I didn’t even get to try the famous egg coffee because ordering from local restaurants traumatized the hell outta me.

I played shoe tug-of-war in the middle of the street

This was day 2 of the trip. I took my folks to the Ben Tanh Market so they could buy souvenirs and look for things they didn’t need but wanted to take home because that’s what old people do.

The market was busy as hell and it was even more annoying than Divisoria, which I thought wasn’t possible. So, being claustrophobic, I opted to wait outside. In Divisoria, people would leave you alone when you gesture “no thank you”. In the Ben Tanh Market, I already told people no, but people kept touching me and telling me “kuya bili ka mura lang” because for some reason I think they know I’m Filipino. They called my aunt “ate bili na” but they didn’t touch her so I guess it’s a gender boundaries thing? Still. Boundaries, people.

I was standing outside the west gate while waiting for my folks, my aunt was looking at some tote bags. Suddenly, a local man came up to me and said something in Vietnamese that I didn’t understand. Then, out of nowhere, he knelt down and took my right shoe.

I was surprised, so after a few seconds of me snapping back to reality, I knelt down and grabbed my shoe. He grabbed it back and was not willing to let it go. At this point, I started raising my voice: let go, let me go — he interrupted and said “No, I clean, I clean” and started some small talk, asking me where I’m from. My stupid ass engaged and said Philippines, but I remembered he has my shoe.

Another local man went up to me, I thought he was gonna help me out. Instead, he said “You want to buy sunglasses?” and showed me the sunglasses he was holding. At this point, local guy #1 started grabbing my left shoe.

At this point I’m too shook to react, so I said this is enough, thank you. I gave him the first bill I can get out of my pocket, a 500,000 VND bill (around PHP 900), and gave it to him. He gave me back my shoe and I sprinted the fuck outta there.

This single experience was enough to ruin my Vietnam experience. But you know what’s worse? I forgot to buy the coffee beans my friends asked for as souvenirs. Fuck it, I’ll try another day.

I went back on day 6 to just quickly buy the damn coffee beans and sprinted back home. It was an awful experience.

There was nothing to do

Even if the horrible experience at Ben Tanh didn’t happen, I probably wouldn’t have left the hotel much anyway. Outside the old post office, the Ben Tanh market and the currently-under-construction chapel, the only things left to go to are the Independence Palace, the War Remnants Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels, which I couldn’t exactly take my parents to since they’re probably not gonna enjoy it.

Every fun thing was in Da Nang and Hanoi, and while I did consider taking a local flight, the experience was just so traumatic that I didn’t even bother and just kept ordering takeout and chilled at the hotel.

The airport was… an airport.

I can’t say bad things about it because it WAS clean, but it’s a boring airport. Not much food choices while waiting for a flight and the damn thing looks like an improved version of NAIA (imagine NAIA Terminal 3 with no cracked tiles and an actual working bathroom). But if you wanted to eat, the restaurants were outside with non-airconditioned tables. The only option inside the waiting area was a local restaurant and they served coffee and Pho, which frankly I’ve had enough of.

Taking advantage of tourists

Once we were at the gates waiting for our flight back to Manila, I got thirsty, so I got up and asked around for a bottle of water. Guess what, you can’t buy one.

To use your card, you have to buy at least two bottles (I guess to offset credit card processing costs), with one bottle costing around PHP 50. Not only that, you’re not allowed to pay with VND, you have to pay with USD (why the fuck is this a thing?), so I couldn’t use my remaining cash even if I wanted to. This seemed to be a common occurrence because I asked three separate stalls, so I just went to a different floor and got coffee from the Highlands Coffee stall.

Never again, never forget

I never thought I’d have this kind of experience considering Manila is a (very) low bar, but alas the universe likes to prove me wrong.

If I have other choices, I would never go back here again. They need to sort a lot of things out. I’m from a third-world country and even I felt taken advantage of.