I’m writing this post more to vent than anything else. So please feel free to skip over this post.
When we arrived in Hanoi, we had booked a day tour to visit Ha Long Bay. We had a hotel pickup scheduled and were informed the bus would arrive between 8-8:30am. This means we woke up early, packed our day bags and filled our bellies with yummy free hotel breakfast food. We were down in the lobby waiting for our tour guide precisely at 8:00am.
We were not the only ones waiting for a tour. There’s multiple daily and overnight tours offered to Ha Long Bay that depart every morning. Giant tour buses drive around Hanoi providing hotel pickup before continuing the three hour drive to the bay. While waiting in the lobby, I overheard one tour guide speaking with an American college age young lady. There was a group of eight in her party and the tour guide was trying to collect payment for their tour. This group was doing an overnight tour and the bus driver was asking the lady where the rest of her group was so that the bags could get loaded onto the bus. At that point, two gentleman came off the elevator and handed their bags to the bus driver. Then they preceded to inform him that they were going to go back upstairs to get some free breakfast.
This made the bus driver very upset. He raised his voice and told the two guys that the bus had other people waiting outside and that the bus had already been waiting for their entire group for fifteen minutes. The two guys still went upstairs to breakfast leaving the bus driver to deal with the bus full of people outside getting honked at by other cars and motorcycles because it was blocking traffic.
The tour guide in the meanwhile is still trying to settle the bill with the young lady. She’s telling her that her group still owes money for the tour. The young lady tells her that her two other girl friends will be paying their share of the bill when they come down. The tour guide became very frustrated and said sternly to this lady “You need to work with us. We have other people who have paid for their tour and were ready on time for pick up. Now they are stuck waiting on that bus for you and your friends. Go get your friends and bring them down here so you can pay and we can go!”
I wish I could say the story gets better from here. A few minutes later the rest of the party arrived in the lobby with their bags and they paid for their tour. As the bus driver is ushering them out the door the front desk hotel manager informs the group that they still have to check out and pay for their room service, laundry and anything else that was charged to the room. This led to another ten minute discussion of how much each person needs to pay and who needs to pay who or send someone money via PayPal or Venmo. I even overheard one of the guys ask his buddy to go across the street and buy a bottle of liquor for the drive. All the while people are waiting on the bus.
Our tour guide arrived to collect us and this group was still in the lobby figuring things out. The poor bus driver was outside trying to placate a bus full of people stuck waiting.
Now, I understand everyone has different travel styles. I also understand that not everyone travels as organized as we do. But when your actions and your choices are wasting the time of other people, you are showing extreme disrespect for those people and their time. When you show up late, you’re basically saying “I don’t value your time or you as a person enough to get my act together show up when I’m supposed to.”
Personally, if I was the bus driver and the tour operator I would have left this group behind. I would have left them after ten or fifteen minutes of waiting. If they wanted to find their own transportation to Ha Long Bay and join the tour group there that would be fine but it is not fair to the other people who paid for this tour to miss out on their time out on the water. I can only assume that since tourism is a huge part of income for Vietnam this company chose to wait for this one group because they can not afford any negative reviews.
I wanted badly to say something to this group. I wanted to tell them that their behavior is what people will remember. The next time that bus driver meets a college age group of Americans what assumptions do you think he will make about our country as a whole? I hope most of you will read this post and remember that when you travel to a different country, you are a representative of the United States. Always make it a point to put your best self out there on your travels.
The next time you’re packing your bag for a new adventure please remember to bring some respect in addition to your favorite shirt, comfy shoes and your sunscreen. Respect is the most important item that you can bring with your travels.