An inspiring trip to Vietnam by a motivational speaker
When I first set foot in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), I thought there’s only a few things that I can write about it. Now, I’m not even sure where to begin. But nonetheless, this “not knowing where to begin” I think is a good beginning.
Did I make sense there?
The thing is I can’t seem to organize my thoughts much less my observation and discoveries about this. (Opps! A mechanical engineer named Antonio Dizon of Intercontinental (Saigon), who’s sitting beside me his family just got acquainted with me and had a photo ops with me after finding out that I’m an author).
Anyway, back to my story.
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City with motorbikes greeting me. They are all over the place. Two of three lanes of the main road are occupied by the motorcycles and the remaining by cars and other vehicles.
Upon arrival at the airport, a company car was waiting for me, had a photo ops for event documentation and proceeded to my hotel.
Let me now organize my travelogue by describing my stay in the city:
Transportation. As I said, I was wondering if Vietnamese were born as riders. Bikes are cars for them. It’s seems to be necessity. I’ve asked students, working professionals, house wives, and workers among others own a motorbike. There are only a few taxi brands and buses. Some people make money by offering a ride.
I was crazy enough to give in to my curiosity that I had to rent a bike after shopping at Ben Than Market to Equatorial Hotel. At first I was afraid. I was defenseless with no helmet or any other sort of protection should one motorbike, bus, or car bumped into our bike. I was sitting in front of the driver. It’s the opposite setup for a “calesa” or every other mode of transportation. All drivers should be sitting in front. This case is rare. I was in front!
The plug down for a typical taxi is 9,000 Vietnam Dong, which is pretty cheap. The only problem is most, and hopefully not all, taxi drivers don’t understand English language. You will have to ask your hotel where you’d like to be taken to.
My experience last night was both stressful and tiring. I asked the hotel staff to tell the drive to take me to Caesar Hotel. Then, the taxi took me to Sheraton Hotel. I told him to go back to Equatorial instead. The rate was 88,000. I talked to the hotel staff and manager that I cant pay for it. It wasn’t my fault.
After perhaps 20 minutes of negotiation, they got another taxi for me and didn’t ask me to pay for the first taxi, which was just fair I think. Obviously, I know where I should be taken. So I think if your asking someone to translate for you, make sure the make it real clear.
The People. Language barrier gave me a very little knowledge about Vietnamese as a people. I was only able to speak to my personal assistants during the Asian Publising Convention, one government official in my audience who expressed desire to buy the copyrights of my books, and hotel staff. But looking at their lifestyle, I think they are not as “happy people” as Filipinos. I see them as hardworking people and creative. I have seen many gallery in the streets. If they only know basic English, I think they will be able to connect with tourists.
This communication gap leaves a big room for improvement in Vietnam’s tourism. Once they are able to learn to communicate using the universal language, then it will be good them. I believe their inability to speak and understand English makes their customer service not as impressive as people may expect when visiting Vietnam.
But I believe they are good people, too! And working on their communication problem will definitely make them a better nation.
Food. Vietnam is very close to Thailand. Some of their local food taste like that of Thai’s. I don’t have a taste bud that of food savvy. So most of the time, I can’t say if the food has an excellent taste or better than the other. But I was able to some of the local food and yes I think they are good.
Infrastructure. I’ve seen a number of buildings in the works. Therre a many small commercial spaces that they renovate. I think there will be more high rise towers in Ho Chi Minh in the next five to 10 years. However in terms of urban planning, I dint think they have a very good one. This might be a problem In the coming years but there’s an opportunity for Vietnam people to help the leadership in doing its job.
I noticed that their gutter isn’t really a gutter that we normally see. Theirs are designed so motorbikes can actually use it therefore pedestrians and motorists share the side if the streets every once in a while. It serves as parking spaces of the bikes, too.
My little adventure took me to the popular market where you can buy souvenir items for either cheap or expensive depending on how you can negotiate with the sellers. I always say that it’s better if you have a local guiding you in your shopping so they can speak on their language plus you are somehow protected.
I did a pictorial in their rotonda with the statue at the back.
Then headed back to the Equatorial Hotel for the Asian Publishing Awards night. It was a Gala Dinner and I enjoyed the event.
After the awarding ceremonies, Dups Delos Reyes, also a Filipino speaker at the convention, invited me for a short chat which by the way lasted for more than three hours! But it was a very nice and interesting conversation considering that we are in the same industry and business of developing people.
I invited him, too, to sit in my television show and be a member of the Professional Speakeers Association of the Philippines. He said sure.
(Mr. Dizon is almost done reading my book, his wife whispered to me. I said, he can now return it. Hahaha. They are seated in front of me.)
Alright. The captain said we’re on our final descend and will have to switch off my iPad.