Public restrooms can be a nightmare
Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers for their thoughts on the lack of quality restrooms plaguing the country's tourist spots, and which tourist sites and destinations in Viet Nam they felt were in dire need of better restroom facilities.
Here are some of your replies.
Julia Wang, Singapore
I was told about the natural beauty of many pagodas in Viet Nam, and as a Buddhist, I decided to go to your country earlier this year. Generally, I found that Viet Nam is an attractive destination for foreign visitors with charming places, good food and nice people.
The Vnexpress e-newspaper published a story on September 6 on Quynh Tram, a man having a sex-change operation in Thailand. It's claimed Tram will be "the first legally acknowledged sexually transformed person in Viet Nam".
Tram presented to Vnexpress official papers as proof of her status.
While some people have congratulated Tram on her new sexuality, many others have expressed doubts and confusion about her case. Some say Tram's transformation might encourage a new "trend" among gay and bisexual people to have their sexuality changed, while others have said that it is a way of escaping reality.
Do you think sexual transformation should be legalised in Viet Nam?
Please reply by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, September 13.
However, the public restrooms were a nightmare for me, especially when I visited pagodas outside of the city.
Most of the pagodas I visited were located either on top of a mountain or on an island, so it took a lot of time and energy. I needed to drink a lot of water and use a restroom as a result. However, my desire to use the toilet ended when I saw what was on offer. The so-called restrooms were dirty, smelly and wet, and some locals kept running into the toilets, ignoring the line of people waiting for their turn. There was no toilet paper and the sinks were dirty with no soap or water.
I was warned about this before visiting Viet Nam but I couldn't believe how much worse the reality was. Luckily, I didn't have this problem in Ha Noi as I learnt to use toilets in hotels, restaurant or shopping malls.
I think Viet Nam should allocate more attention and funds to public restroom maintenance and hygiene at tourist sites. Tourists are willing to pay to use a clean toilet. If these are put in place I think more and more people will visit your country. If not, they will tell others to never step foot in Viet Nam.
Liz Huston, US
I have travelled to more than 10 countries in the world, and my latest destination was Viet Nam. I came last month, and the tourist sights really impressed me. Though before coming to Viet Nam, I had heard a lot of complaints about the shortage of public restrooms at tourist destinations, and their safety. I was worried to hear this because I have kidney problems.
Upon arriving in Sai Gon I was really interested to see the city. I visited the Reunion Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral, the city's central post office and much more. After about two hours of wandering and contemplating the beauty of the city, I needed to go to the restroomm, but I recalled my friends' complaints. I was afraid that I may be attacked and became hesitant to go to the WC.
After half an hour of ‘holding it in' my Vietnamese tour guide encouraged me to try, so I decided to go in. Admittedly, it wasn't as terrible as my friends had described. It was clean enough and quite well-organised. There was even a nice newspaper stand right next to the restroom and the facility was even managed by a supervisor, which, for me, was pretty unique. The fee was VND2,000, which I found very acceptable.
Following this experience, I found out that this was a new type of public restroom, built especially at tourist destinations. I think Viet Nam should develop more of this type of WC to make tourists feel more comfortable.
Tsuki Watanabe, Japan
Prior to visiting Viet Nam, I never thought restroom standards would be something to worry about since it should be a compulsory concern for any country's tourism industry. How wrong I was.
Before my trip, the tour guide warned us about the shortage of quality public restrooms in Ha Noi, even at tourist sites. To avoid this problem, I drank less water and used toilets in restaurants and hotels.
However, on our way back from Ha Long to Ha Noi, the shuttle bus stopped randomly by a house along the highway, which offered us free restroom usage. I was shocked to realise that the restroom was actually a tiny hole in the corner of the garden, roofless, and surrounded by mossy brick walls. It was practically a unisex toilet, which is very inconvenient and unimaginable for tourists. There was also no water tap nearby to clean our hands, only a mossy water tank inside.
Since local authorities obviously aren't solving this issue, I suggest tour companies and transport companies co-oporate to set up sanitary systems along their tour routes. This could simply be a series of indoor toilets with separate lounges for men and women. Also, handicap-friendly wash rooms would be more than welcome.
Le Mai Hanh, UK
I'm glad Viet Nam has realised the importance of public toilets if it wants to boost its tourism industry.
Most of the country's major cities already have public toilets, which cost little to nothing to use, in place at most tourist sites, but the quality of these facilities is another story.
Many public toilets in Europe charge visitors much more, which in turn cover the cost of maintaining the facilities. This is something Viet Nam should learn to apply. —VNS