Floating villages should remain on Ha Long Bay tourist agenda
Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers whether they felt a recent regulation issued by Quang Ninh People's Committee in September that bans tour boats from stopping at floating villages in Ha Long Bay will stop tourists from being disturbed, overcharged or ripped off. Here are some responses:
A new Government decree taking effect next month sets quotas for how many Vietnamese students can be enrolled in foreign-invested schools in order to tighten management of the schools' operations.
Accordingly, foreign-invested schools at primary and secondary levels are allowed to recruit Vietnamese students, as long as they do not make up more than 10 per cent of the total student body. At high schools, the quota is 20 per cent. These schools offer foreign educational programmes and issue foreign licences.
Meanwhile, foreign-invested kindergartens with foreign programmes are only for foreign children.
This decree has resulted from violations in which some institutions in the country in co-operation with foreign partners illegally offer courses or grant degrees for thousands of students.
However, many people wonder whether these regulations may cause difficulties for foreign-invested schools.
What do you think about this decision? Do you think there are other ways for these institutions to operate?
Do you have any experiences with this kind of institution, either in Viet Nam or in your country? How are foreign-invested institutions and educational affiliation programmes in your country formed, operated and managed?
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, October 11.
John Reilly, American, Ha Noi
Sadly, I have visited the floating fishing villages in Ha Long Bay and felt that the prices charged for live seafood were excessive.
I thought it would be a great experience for me and our visitors to be able to stop at the village and catch our own fish for lunch, but what I had hoped was going to be a seafood feast turned out to be rather meagre and very expensive.
Maybe the Quang Ninh People's Committee could list seafood prices at the harbour where the boats leave from, preventing some people from overcharging and keep costs fair .
I am not in favour of stopping the tour boats from visiting these fishing villages, but something could be done to make this experience fair for everyone.
Do Ky Nam, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I don't agree with the ban. I feel that every time something gets out of control, we ban it as a solution. Ha Long is one of the country's trademark destinations for travellers, and getting a taste of life on the floating fishing villages is part of the journey.
With this ban, negative publicity will also hurt our efforts to promote and improve tourism services. There must be a way to allow visits while at the same time, protecting tourists. This could mean running campaigns that raise awareness among residents. We have to teach local people that by ripping off tourists, they are hurting their only source of income and their livelihoods.
We also need a long-term vision to make sure that these fishing villages can be part of the tourism development plan for Ha Long Bay, where tourists can feel safe and secure.
Rip-offs can happen anywhere. It is also happening in Ha Noi's Old Quarter. Does that mean we will ban tourists from visiting the Old Quarter? Ha Long has a lot to offer, but with the recent boat accidents, we don't need any more bad publicity. I think real efforts must be made to make this World Heritage Site truly a world-class destination.
Kounila Keo, Cambodian, Phnom Penh
I would love to visit Ha Long Bay. The first time I saw it was when I was in high school. My friends and I went to a bookstore to buy some book covers, and there I saw this cover with a picture of a group of tall rocks and islands.
I've been to Viet Nam many times, but never made it to Ha Long Bay. I've promised myself that next time I'm in the country, I'll visit the bay. I've got a few friends who have travelled there, and all of them loved the experience.
I think it would be very sad if tour boats are banned from visiting floating fishing villages permanently in Ha Long Bay. I've heard that there are a lot of fishing villages in the area, but by banning the boats, it won't stop people from ripping off tourists or committing other fraudulent activities.
Overcharging and fraudulent activities happen everywhere, not just in Viet Nam. The most important thing is that tourists are well informed of the dangers before they travel somewhere. Put up signs or post information on the internet, and inform tourists when they get to the area.
Punishments, including fines, should be imposed on those who break regulations.
Nan Tin Htwe, Myanmar, Yangon
I've always wanted to visit Viet Nam, and if I have the chance, Ha Long Bay would definitely be one of my must-see destinations. It looks amazing, even just from postcards.
For me, banning tour boats from visiting the floating fishing villages is quite sad. Almost every tourist attraction has these kinds of problems, but I really don't believe that this is the right solution.
In Myanmar, we have a really big lake called "Inle," which is located in the southern state of Shan. It also has villages in the middle of the waters, their lives floating alongside the mountainous scenery.
When I visited the lake, even I was disturbed by villagers trying to sell me stuff, despite the fact I'm a local. Most are poor. Do we want to get rid of them? I would definitely say ‘No'. They're just poor people trying to make a living from tourism.
However, these boats are not allowed to follow us inside the main buildings or attractions, where historic images of Buddha are situated. There are also some lines that vendors are not allowed to cross. So there are certainly some restrictions, but not a total ban.
Local people make a place interesting, and that's how travellers feel they're better connected.
Luu Tu Anh, Vietnamese, Da Nang
A complete ban is not really a good idea. I personally did not enjoy visiting the floating villages when I toured Ha Long Bay, but probably some people do. A local friend of mine wanted to buy some fresh seafood and that was the right place to do it. Another friend from Europe loved it because it was something she had never seen before.
It's a matter of personal taste, so why not give tourists a choice like many tour operators in other countries do? Tourists can choose tours with or without a visit to the fishing villages.
Excluding this stop could reduce tour prices, which is sometimes very important for budget tourists. It could also help local people benefit from tourism - a no-less important goal for this industry. — VNS