Some tourism activities are overrated

April 27, 2024 | 05:00 pm PT
Darren Barnard Teacher
Over the last decade Vietnam has established itself as a popular destination for tourists to spend their time with approximately 12.5 million international visitors in 2023.

The influx of tourist has helped the industry grow significantly and this has countless benefits for locals who can financially profit from the increased tourism. Unfortunately, a byproduct of this are activities and sights that are overcrowded, inauthentic and a few that are quite frankly, a complete waste of time.

Let's explore some of the activities that I personally believe are overrated and are either not worth the money or are perhaps just better spent doing something else.

Golden Bridge

In the lush green mountains 20 km away from one of Vietnam's beautiful coastal cities of Da Nang, sits one of the most popular tourist attractions in the whole country. The Golden Bridge that you'll likely see on any individual's online dating profile within a few minutes of swiping in Vietnam, is one of the endless list of international attractions that became famous in this new form of travel in the social media era. It is described as "heaven on earth" - well if heaven is full of selfie sticks, overpriced refreshments and huge crowds, then count me out.

Everyone who visits is eager to get a unique snap lacking any people anywhere near them, however in reality that is only achievable if you rise well before the sun. The entire mountaintop should be an area of pristine beauty as the zigzagging road ascends through the trees with mountains and greenery as far as the eye can see.

Trang An Boat Tour

Ninh Binh is without a doubt one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in all of Vietnam. The karst mountains that ascend high into the sky amongst the golden rice fields leaves anyone in awe, whether it's your first time visiting or a repeat visit.

If you truly want to enjoy this stunning nature, I would suggest queuing in the heat with a thick lifejacket among hundreds of people packed together like sardines for what seems like an eternity, before sitting on a tiny plank of wood on a bamboo boat with limited shade for up to three hours isn't the best way to do it. Rather than enjoying the splendour of the area, you'll be more concerned about your numb backside, a congestion of boats reminiscent of motorbikes lined up in the city and the scorching sun above.

Alternatively, I would suggest taking the shorter Tam Coc boat trip instead, or the Van Long Nature Reserve tour that has much less tourists, a cheaper ticker and peace and quiet. If you are particularly lucky, you may even spot a critically endangered Delacour langur in the mountains.

Ha Long Bay boat trip

For many visitors who come to Vietnam, Ha Long Bay is considered the pearl of their trip that they anticipate with untold excitement in the lead up. However, the more travelers I have spoken to who've paid incredibly high amounts for a cruise, are shocked by the amount of trash whilst exploring the landscape. They are similarly disappointed whenever their boat anchors to discover they are surrounded by more boats than Jack Sparrow has sailed in his life.

Restrictions on swimming and regulations in the bay further worsen the cause for a trip there, many have suggested that authorities just want to make as much as money as possible rather than protect the nature or provide an optimum experience for the customers.

I would strongly advise anyone to visit the much quieter Lan Ha Bay or Cat Ba Island instead, where the transport is cheaper, faster and you can enjoy far more activities without half as many restrictions, overcrowding or litter.

Cai Rang floating market

Many tourists who explore south Vietnam usually follow their time in Ho Chi Minh City with a trip to Mekong Delta. They are promised plentiful coconut trees, a glimpse into the slower pace of life and the most attractive part of the tour, a trip to the famous floating market in Can Tho.

Social media and other images online portrays the market as a hub of activity as the city wakes up and thousands of people buy a range of goods from electronic supplies, groceries and even spare parts for their motorbike/boat. Unfortunately, since the pandemic the number of boats that participate in the market has depleted significantly and the buzz of the atmosphere is rather underwhelming compared to the unique experience many anticipated. It’s a sad state of affairs, and one of many areas of tourism, not just in Vietnam, that were really affected by the pandemic.

Hanoi Train Street

Tourists take photos of an upcoming train in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Tourists take photos of an upcoming train in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

Did you know Hanoi has a train track that cuts through the middle of the old quarter of the city and you can drink a coffee or beer just inches away from it as train whooshes past? Of course you did. It’s been the leading attraction for things to do in Hanoi on popular sites such as TripAdvisor for many years now and similar to Ba Na Hills, everyone who visits the capital is itching to get their own shot of them looking natural as the train shoots past at high speed.

Like most tourist attractions though, train street became far too popular and now has to be policed with queues down the road alongside it as many stand in the heat waiting to be partnered up with a cafe owner to place their order and patiently wait for the train to arrive. It’s certainly safer than it once was, but the queuing, the shouting and the chaos has taken much of the essence away from what once made it special.

*Darren Barnard is a teacher based in Hanoi.

The opinions expressed here are personal and do not necessarily match VnExpress's viewpoints. Send your opinions here.
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