We wish to spend the first winter after the pandemic back in Vietnam

By Michael Steiner   October 20, 2022 | 06:22 pm PT
We wish to spend the first winter after the pandemic back in Vietnam
A foreign couple dine at a restaurant on Bui Vien Street in HCMC's District 1 in 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
Before the pandemic, my wife and I, who are both 60+, always spent winter in Vietnam.

Even though we are from Switzerland, we don't like the cold and the older we get, the cold climate affects us more and more.

We are lucky enough to be in a position to escape the winter every year and travel to Southeast Asia. So before the pandemic, from 2013 to 2019 we always traveled from Switzerland to Vietnam each winter and stayed there from around early November until March or sometimes April.

Of all the travels in our lives, we loved being in Vietnam the most. Being among the most wonderful people, blessed with the incredible food, and spending our precious time in some of the world's most amazing landscapes, Vietnam felt more and more home to us.

We could afford to spend the rest of our lives in Thailand on their retirement visa, but we don't want - because for us, Vietnam feels much more dear to our hearts. We have made many Vietnamese friends over the years, who showed us the beautiful country from north to south.

Of course, if Vietnam would offer a similar visa scheme like Thailand, we would be among the first to buy property and settle down for good. This is sadly not the case, but we still come every year.

When we heard that Vietnam stopped issuing 3- and 6-months visas, it felt like a stab to our hearts. It was our biggest dream and wish to spend the first winter after the pandemic back in our 'home'.

With an extremely heavy heart, we sadly had to decide against it and spend this winter in Thailand instead. We don't travel 20 hours at our age to then just being able to stay for 30 days. We love Vietnam more than we do our home country here, so it hurts not being able to go where we really desire to go and spend our time (and money; for the cynics here) with our wonderful Vietnamese friends.

It's a shame that this is the current situation, and above all it is an affront to keep claiming that "Vietnam is fully open for tourists." I know that if you keep saying things to yourself over and over and over again like a mantra, you start to believe it yourself. But let me tell you - and in the voice of thousands or millions of tourists - no, Vietnam is not open for tourists. Not at all.

The current signal that the Vietnamese visa policy sends out to the world is "you can quickly come stay in a hotel, but then you have to leave quickly again." This is the opposite of welcoming tourism marketing.

As long as the "competent authorities" as they are called don't adapt to today's world in which more and more people travel more slowly, explore rather than just visit a country, being more a traveler than a tourist, retire away from the place you were born, work remotely, Vietnam can only lose. And nobody wants that.

We wish to spend the remaining winters in our lives in the place where we feel where we belong. But we can't. We wait - but who knows for how much longer we can...

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