Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ha Long Bay

It might be easy to say that watching our cruise boat be hit by another vessel just as we were boarding it was an ominous sign of things to come, but by that point we had already enough indications that the trip was not what we had expected. Rather than an omen, it was more of a confirmation that, yes, we were being screwed. To cut a long story short (or try). We had paid for a higher level tour but were bumped off that boat because they had overbooked it. Our "hosts" tried to tell us that the two boats and tours were comparable but it was pretty clear that it was far from the case. Our cabin door let in more light than my sunglasses and the critters scratching around the ceiling at 4:30 am confirmed that it was not what we bargained for. If you happen to be looking for travel advise, DO NOT book your tour with Halong Phoenix Cruises. They tried to lie their way out of their misconduct at every turn. We did get a refund for the difference between the two trips, but we were left with further evidence that the Vietnamese travel industry is crowded with a few too many ne'er do wells to guarantee that your experience there would be one that would be considered pleasant or hospitable.

It may be a consequence of too many urban legends floating up and down the Mekong and other parts of the country about foreigners drifting through willïng to pay strange amounts of money to go to places that the Vietnamese take for granted. "They wanted to go where?" "They paid how much"? "These people have more money than brains."
At least that is my guess behind the thinking of some operators, and I mean real operators, who have jumped into the industry to make a quick buck. Hopefully they will disappear before they do too much further damage to the reputation of their nation's travel industry or the government will demand higher standards.

That said, we are in Cambodia now and the first few hours here have been pleasant. A great foot massage will put you in that frame of mind.