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Readers give their top tips for a smooth, stress-free holiday

Update: December, 28/2012 - 09:14

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A Japanese person who lived in Ha Noi five years ago was disappointed to walk again on the streets of the Old Quarter. "It has become a noisy street of vendors selling dubious products," she said.

Starting in 2004, the People's Committee in Hoan Kiem District selected a 1-km route from Hang Dao to Dong Xuan to pilot a walking streets project. The project aimed to introduce and promote Ha Noi's image through culture, gastronomy and traditional handicraft works. The city plans to open 10 walking street areas in the city with the same goal.

In May, the city opened three more walking streets around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh.

"The new walking streets are solely for walking, since they are around a solemn place, while those in the Old Quarter fail to accurately convey the city's image," said my friend.

Have you walked on walking streets in Ha Noi? Do you agree with my friend? What would you expect to get from walking streets?

Do you think walking streets in Ha Noi should have a more specific theme, like the Rue de l'Etuve in Brussels (Belgium) or Rue de la Huchette in Paris (France), or more nearby, Khao San in Bangkok (Thailand)? Or is that too ambitious for Ha Noi to attempt?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, 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, January 3, 2013.

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers about their experiences booking holidays, covering all aspects from securing transportation, accommodation or tickets to major events, right through to the best ways to avoid the crowds. Here are our readers' top tips for a happy holiday.

Jing Jing, Chinese, HCM City

I have been really enjoying my Christmas and New Year holidays in HCM City. It is really wonderful and I don't get annoyed about anything except for traffic jams during rush hour.

I planned my trip three months in advance so all of my air and bus tickets were booked smoothly and conveniently. I got good deals on all of the tickets so it's definitely true that early birds catch worm.

My strategy is to avoid public places where large numbers amass at certain periods.

On Christmas Eve, I was not in the centre of HCM City but on the outskirts where people have their own way of celebrating.

Which is more wonderful and comfortable? Being at a peaceful church or village ritual decorated with colourful lights or being crushed by crowds on a hot night having rushed to some place you do not know.

Not to mention that, with the second option, you risk becoming the victim of pickpockets or getting lost.

I also did not let myself miss the Christmas spirit in the middle of HCM City by walking around the central streets of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Hai Ba Trung and Pasteur two nights earlier.

During Christmas, I knew traffic jams were likely so I booked tours to neigh-bouring provinces to discover lifestyle, production activities and the wonderful Mekong River Delta, including My Tho-Ben Tre-Can Tho and Cu Chi tunnel.

I did not get any problems with overcrowding because I knew that at that time people were busy pushing one another in popular public places.

I think Viet Nam, like many other countries, is unable to solve the situation of crowding in public places and lack of tickets because the common attitude of most people is gathering in public places to enjoy their holidays.

Ha Mai, Vietnamese, Hai Phong

I think Viet Nam has many new and wonderful tourist havens for people to visit, especially in mountainous areas or "newly discovered" beaches.

So these days, overcrowding situations in traditionally popular destinations have been lessened during special holidays.

Moreover, the trend of young people nowadays is to discover new horizons, instead of old roads which many people have already walked on. So why don't tourist companies focus on advertising new destinations to attract tourists instead of keeping the old journeys for years?

These companies should take a main role as presenters of these places. They should perhaps offer coupons or discounts for these new tours to encourage tourists to try. That is the best way to serve customers and help them enjoy their holidays.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

I once rattled around a bus floor in southern Thailand on a Buddhist holiday as everything else was packed. I almost missed a trip due to a national holiday that my travel agent didn't account for. I vowed never to stay in Taiwan for Chinese New Year as everything was even more crowded, noisy and stuck in traffic than usual.

Last Ha Noi Tet was cold, lonely and almost impossible to find fresh bread. This time I will not be able to get a flight at the exorbitant, immorally high price. It is like hotels that raise prices during the Olympics. I will probably stock up on DVD's, red wine and dark chocolate.

Like scholarships and train cars reserved for women, there should be a guaranteed and transparent reservation system. Some unscrupulous people resell (scalp) concert and other tickets. I would like to see ASEAN, and Viet Nam in particular, set up a transparent, easy to understand tourist visa service. No fast buses and overpriced taxis. No scams. Open up a reputable Homestay exchange service.

I would love to, and be more than willing to volunteer for a few days or stay in a countryside government housing/orphanage/army barracks/retired person's home over Tet (or other times) and get to know the ‘real people' better. There are a lot of individual travelers with plenty of goodwill to share. Instead, I don't want to be a sucker paying crazy middleman fees for an impersonal tour.

Le Binh, Vietnamese , Singapore

As usual, all services in big cities and tourist attractions will rise by at least 40-50 per cent during special holidays. But it is acceptable because they have to work harder.

However, I became angry because I was played by a hotel in Sa Pa. I booked a room in a Sa Pa hotel for two weeks before Christmas time last year and sent them money. But when I came there they gave me my money back with the reason that others customers paid them higher prices. Oh, my god! I could not believe in this. I had to search other hotels to find a suitable room.

Not to mention that, I had to buy my railway tickets via middlemen at the high price of VND1.8 million (US$86) for two-way tickets because the station ran out of tickets.

The bad luck continued.

When I stepped up to the train to come back to Ha Noi, I was pushed by a crowd and fell from the train, breaking my hand.

It was so terrible. I don't want to take such risks any more.

I don't have any intention of saying no to my country's tourist destinations. But to enjoy them the most, I will avoid planning my journeys during special occasions such as the New Year Holiday or Independence Day.

Regarding the situation of overcrowding in railway stations or bus stations, the infrastructure of these stations needs to be improved and the number of buses/journeys to be raised.

Mai Pham, Vietnamese, Sydney

It rained in Sydney on Christmas Day and even on Christmas Eve this year so I had no chance to see the firework display at Darling Harbour as usual. However, even if it had not rained, Darling Harbour would not have attracted too many people that night. The reason being that people prefer attending ceremonies at churches with their families and friends. Warm and enjoyable.

But it is different in Viet Nam because Christmas Eve has been considered as a chance for people to rush out of their houses and integrate into the flowing crowd, to central places where entertainment activities and festivals are held.

I think choosing to be amongst crowds or not in public places during special holidays partially depends on different cultures. This means people in some cultures want to join the crowds during these special holidays and enjoy the occasion. Meanwhile, others just want to spend time with their families.

In Viet Nam, to spare the overloaded public transportation services during special occasions, relevant agencies should be based on the number of passengers to raise enough journeys to serve passenger demand.

It is necessary to encourage people to use different transportation options such as bus, train or air travel, instead of sticking to one type. —VNS

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