Different travelers in Indochina.

20130325_153507 (Medium)Indochina is an exciting place to visit and it attracts many different kinds of travelers. From what I have observed working in tourism in Vietnam, nowadays the mix is pretty equal between back packers, flash packers, general and upscale tourists. I sometimes wonder which group gets it right when visiting a foreign country. There is a general attitude that I have noticed over time to be common with each group. None of them are better or worse than the others, but simply different. There are businesses that cater to all. The reason I bring this up as a topic is that today I had a shower and dried myself with a cheap low thread count towel that had a faded monogram of another hotel. Whaa ???? Why did we have this instead of the20130126_111300 (Medium) thick absorbent towels I spent so much extra for? To my dismay, I was informed (for the first time after 4 years of business) that customers would swap our good towels for cheap ones and since they look mostly the same, the theft would not be discovered until the customer was long gone. Oh My God!! A single towel is half the cost of 1 night in the room. That was not the end of it. I also, our top sheets would regularly go missing. Because of comments on Trip Advisor, we decided to supply these as other budget hotels did not but unfortunately these would also be stolen. This discovery had us rethink the type of customer that we wanted to provide services to. We entertained the Idea of a dormitory style of place that can bring in big dollars. We had decided that we were going to build an all inclusive place that provided tour packages in Nha Trang and even beyond, however, we have since reconsidered this due to the large number of enquiries expressing interest in a stay only. We have entertained all classes of customers in the former Tide Hotel from my 5 star friends Marilyn and Joe, to the ultimate backpacking nephew Eric who have educated me to the reasons people travel the way they do. 20130126_104444 (Medium)So……. Which traveler makes the best customers for our new venture? Here are examples of some of my experiences with the different classes of traveler. Most of our customers from all classes were excellent and I feel honored to have met them, but there are some that I will never forget for less than happy experiences. I have had upscale people stay in my one star hotel numerous times. Most of them came for a night or two to meet the man behind the blog with the idea that they could “rough it for a few nights”. In all cases they were polite but had issues with the simplicity of the accommodation and the services available. For them, services in area in their language was important, and having to climb stairs instead of a ride listening to Muzac was not desirable. In almost all cases, they simply checked out early and apologized. NO PROBLEM!! I actually appreciate the fact they made the effort and some of them are my friends today. The regular hard baggage traveler is a mixture and sometimes a joy, but other times an absolute pain. You never know what you134 (Medium) will get. We have had complaints of moldy bathrooms when the truth is that the construction workers grouted walls with dirty hands making the walls less than white, or issues with the bedding not being to western standards, but mostly they were good sometimes decent tippers to the staff. Some of these people are regular customers and I look forward to their return every year. The Flashpacker is a person traveling on a budget trying to get a good value for their dollar. After consideration, it was surprising to me that these travelers were our best customer. Almost none complained about service or conditions, were decent tippers to the staff, and were not reluctant to pay for the inexpensive services offered by the hotel. Sure there were a few that were trouble but mostly good people. The backpacker is an interesting traveler. Most of them are young fun loving people trying to travel on a shoestring budget. Their youth and lack of experience make them very easy to take advantage of. Their mind set also tricks them into believing they are travelling on a budget when in fact, they pay more than others. There are many “hostels” that offer a bed for 8 dollars in a dorm and with 4 to 8 beds in a room, that generates a very profitable 32-64 dollars a night revenue. Attach to that a booming bar with expensive drinks. 2012-11-19 12.58.19 (Medium)Even though I have met many nice backpackers, my experience with some of them has been frustrating. For example, a bottle of water in my lobby cost 5000 dong (25 cents) ice cold. And a good quality breakfast 30000 dong (1.50). Many backpackers will walk down the street and purchase warm water for 4000 dong, and perhaps have a bowl of soup for 25000 to save money…. Perhaps all the zeros confuse them but if this happens for a week (5 days), they will have saved ONE DOLLAR AND FIFTY CENTS! Some also think that because they can find a room for 6 dollars a night, that if paying 12 dollars, they should be able keep the room cool all day even when not in use. Power in Vietnam is incredibly expensive for a business. It can cost as much as 4 dollars a day to run an air conditioner. Perhaps the funniest situation I ran into was a young woman that arrived at my door and was not happy with my 12 dollar rate. She asked for a discount as she could get a room for 10 dollars in the back pack area. I know a person like this will not spend a penny in my hotel, and I would not lower my rate. We called a taxi for her and for 4 dollars she arrived in the backpack area to her prized 10 dollar hotel. Hey!! Wait a second!! Add the 4 dollar cab ride to the cost and the room is now costing her 14 dollars, 1.50 more than she would have paid if she had simply stayed. If I was chasing the money, I would have built the dorms, and offered entertainment with a party atmosphere in the fold of “real” Vietnam. I am sure this would have been an “adventure” so many would look for but in the end…… we decided it was the Flashpacker and general family travelers that we would appeal too…. Darn…. Now what to do with my Disco Ball!!

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Tour designer and Guide specializing in off the beaten track tours of Vietnam

10 thoughts on “Different travelers in Indochina.

  1. Thanks for the mention in your blog 🙂

    I think you do a very good job in summing up the mentality of a lot of the travelers I met while I was touring South East Asia. Even traveling as a backpacker through most of my trip, I understand and feel your frustrations with a lot of them. Not necessarily the smartest crowd overall, but many of the young people are simply looking for that party atmosphere, for a low price and with a bunch of other young people around them. I think as far as a choice you can be happy with day in and day out – you picked the right crowd to attempt to cater to.

    Can’t wait to visit Rip Tide, it was good seeing you again when you were back in Canada!

  2. Dear Owee,

    I enjoyed your blog wholeheartedly, informative and unbiased. As a Vietnamese-American who left the country 32 years ago ,Nha Trang hold a special place in my heart ( I was born in Nha Trang) .I remember fondly of the memories that I had with my dad at the beach whenever he had Holiday vacation from the Army, those War time was rough on everyone and going to Nha Trang Beach was the only time we try to forget about the death and destruction around all of us. On behalf of all Vietnamese ,I Thank You for being the voice and advocate of this beautiful city with a lot of upswing potential. By the way I am voting for guys to be our next MAYOR and Deputy MAYOR.

    John Bui

  3. Hi Owen,
    It felt great to discover your site last week. Thank you for all the work you’ve put into it.
    Last year I spent 4 weeks in Vietnam and had a brief glimpse of life there – although I never made it to Nha Trang. I left wondering if I’d ever have the chance to return, and possibly check out long-term stays or retirement there.
    The time has come that I’m able to say I’m retired (feels really strange saying that now), and maybe it’s a good time for a return visit there before long.
    So many things influence a person’s perception of a new place (the weather, busy summer traffic, the people you meet, costs, to name a few), and I’d really appreciate it if you could recommend one of the better times to visit for 2 or 3 months.
    I live in BC, Canada, and as you know the spring and summer are favourite seasons for most people here.
    I checked out your new website for the Riptide, and look forward to staying and meeting you there sometime – and also to go on a tour if possible. The beer will definitely be on me.
    Sincere thanks for whatever help you can provide.

    1. For a 2 to 3 month stay I suggest march through end of may…. Good weather and slow tourist season. Feel free to email me via riptide email and i will do my best to answer your questions

  4. We were checking out at a hotel in Davao City a few years back. The front desk clerk made us wait until someone checked our room first. Even though they had our credit card on file, she said they are unable to charge account after we left for any stolen items. This type of situation must be rampant in Asia.

    Sometimes, being early retirees, I wonder if we are the only travellers trying to find a clean, comfortable room at a decent price. We don’t know how comfortable we would be in a hostel though. At some point we still want to travel to Vietnam. I am following your blog to see when you’ll open a homestay or b&b.


  5. we feel so honoured to have gotten a mention in your interesting blog today owen- had such a surprise as I was reading through and saw my name..:)

    I think you summed everything up really well.

    We look forward to seeing your new venture and wish you all the best for the future and hopefully achieve the huge success with RIPTIDE that you deserve.

  6. No problems at with my stay at the Tide. Good rooms, cheap beer and you can’t beat the local experience offered by the host. Anyone not happy with that combination should stay at home becuase nothing will make them happy.

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