We've Been Duped About Vietnam Travel for Too Long

practicalities - Saigon/HCMC: May 26, 2016

Travel is my field, with 64 countries under my belt. Those who know me well enough would also say that I am a cosmopolitan individual, for good reason.

My dear mum was born and raised in India. My hunting dad lived 45 years across Africa. My beloved grandmother was sent across the globe with her parents and diplomat husband. As a professional athlete, I covered five continents. I also followed two masters degrees in tourism, one in sociology and one in economy.

My research and the consulting work that resulted focused on marketing and sustainable developments for tourism destinations. Upon arriving in Vietnam, I began as a sales and marketing director for a local travel operator. Three years later, we launched the City Pass Saigon Guidebook. Today, Citypassguide.com carries over 100,000 pages of relevant content about Vietnam. So with all that I have learned over the years, let’s clarify the true meaning of travelling in Vietnam.

Most people imagine that Vietnam is scenic north to south, overwhelmed with exquisite landscapes and attractions. I challenge these basic ideas, and for me, travel is in fact a lot more than gazing at poorly managed attractions. The traveller is active, he searches for people and experiences, while the tourist is passive and expects interesting things to happen to him.

With passive tourists, there continues to be too many who still sense Vietnam as being so unique, preserved and authentic that it will impart its effects automatically on them, leaving an everlasting impression. They persist in being blind to the realm of a crushing modernity that erases rapidly most traces of a distant past.

When travelling, let's remember that a foreign country is not designed to make us comfortable. It is conceived to make its own people at ease. And trust is that what makes Vietnam a remarkable place to be, is its humanity, first and foremost. We all travel for some sort of fulfillment, right? It is often the result of combined experiences and emotions often filled by the human encounters and its attached simplicity - something common in Vietnam’s daily life. It is an excellent feed for our souls and well-being. Preserving this part of the local culture is essential for the industry and the generations to come.

What is in fact so prized, but unrecognised, is its appealing cuisine. Vietnam is a country with rich cuisine, unique to each region. “Why can’t Vietnam, with its reputation for rich, diverse culinary cuisine, and a plentiful food source, become a kitchen or a food warehouse for the world?” says Philip Kotler. How can we strive to unify the rustic dishes under a single national identity so that the world begins to value Vietnamese cuisine for what it is worth?

Mr. Sang Ly who sponsors the Golden Spoon Awards stated that, “we as a country have not yet properly introduced the world to the versatility of our food. It’s already recognised that other culinary giants like Italy, France, China or Thailand have different types of food per region. Vietnam is very much the same, but I don’t come across many people who know this.” Yes, street food is acclaimed but fine food has a long way to go. And most continue to miss this essential part of the travel experience that makes Vietnam so special.

At Citypassguide.com, we aim to present an authentic voyage of discovery, created with extensive help from local residents and experts. This voyage not only consists of seeking new landscapes, but casting new eyes on the destinations you probably know already. It’s a re-envisioned way of travelling Vietnam.