I am Peter Lepercque, a 49 year-old Belgian globetrotter. I have had the honour of visiting Việt Nam as a tourist twice already. I travelled from the south to the north of Việt Nam over three and a half months and I have seen so many beautiful places and met so many friendly people. Việt Nam has so much to offer tourists: great historical cities and sites, fantastic mountains, nice beaches and such good food. It is also positive to see that the economy is doing well, and that there is growing prosperity.
Sometimes I am a little jealous of your country! I just like it so much. I believe in a great future for Việt Nam.
But, there is one really important bad thing in Việt Nam that I want to talk about. It is bad for tourism and bad for the Vietnamese people, and that’s why I write this letter.
There is just so much dirt and pollution everywhere! On the land, in the sea, everywhere. It breaks my heart! Just some examples: It still seems a common practice in many fishing villages by the sea to throw all their waste on the beach, including baby diapers! All this rubbish ends up in the sea. The result?
Shocking! On the island of Phú Quốc, I only went swimming in the sea once. The sea was full of dirt, plastic and other garbage. I had never seen this before in my whole life. What a shame! So far away from my idea of “paradise”.
Also, I noticed that everywhere in Việt Nam, children throw empty bottles and used packaging into nature. Every time I saw this behaviour, I was so shocked. In my country, we learn at a young age to respect nature. It looks like the educational system in Việt Nam has failed in this.
In the cities, there are cars and motorbikes everywhere. This makes the streets very unpleasant, noisy and smelly. There are no car free zones. The car is still king. However, in Hội An I saw a little sprinkling of hope - many (even some electric!) bicycles.
I have a dream. I dream that economically emerging countries like Việt Nam can learn the mistakes we have made in western countries concerning environmental issues, instead of just making the same mistakes. I dream that emerging economies can stop consuming like western people have done for so long, learn to recycle more, buy more second hand goods, use more public transport and bicycles, and educate their young people to respect our planet and the environment.
Yes you can, Việt Nam.