Two weeks exactly until I am back in Bali!!
I say this with a mixture of apprehension and excitement. Over the past four years I have travelled at least once a year to an Asian country, I have been to Phuket, Thailand twice and recently came back from Vietnam, which is where the trepidation comes in.
The first thing I would like to say is that I am not someone who is stuck on colour, I am aware that going to some countries where there are a not of tourists that look like me might cause people to look twice, I am sure it’s the same for other races.
The second thing is that Phan Thiet, Vietnam was beautiful. One of the most stunning places I have been to.. which is why my experience there left me with such a bitter taste.
Some of my fave pics from my time there.
My partner and I went to Phan Thiet which is the Southern part of Vietnam and about four hours from Ho Chi Minh City airport I believe, with beautiful beaches and picturesque sunset it could have been paradise but I was so very uncomfortable at the stares, the pointing and the comments.
When I arrived at the airport people stared and I am used to that but when we arrived in Phan Thiet, it felt a lot more sinister and uncomfortable, there were a group of Chinese tourists in our hotel and they would openly point and laugh whilst I was sitting at the table having my breakfast which I ignored, I believe that the staring thing is quite common and is part of the culture. I had an unpleasant experience at Guangzhou airport where a lot of Chinese people waiting were indiscreetly taking pictures of me and wouldn’t sit near us, this was so extreme that when we were on the plane a Chinese girl that was on the sit next to our partner immediately got up when we sat down, said something to the air hostess and moved seats.
The Vietnamese people also stared, quite a lot, one child came running up to you and touched my thigh and ran off in peals of laughter I found this so strange as the parents didn’t say anything to them and I couldn’t fathom this. I have no idea of what to do with out of the norm behaviour, I just sort of splutter and hum awkwardly to myself. Anyway, I digress, so the staring made me uncomfortable, but the laughter made me cringe, they pointed out my large African butt, my massive jiggly boobs. I went to a mall and all the people rushed to the windows with their cameras and a child pointed to his skin to his mother and acted out vomiting, I found this the most distressing.
This was so unpleasant to me that I dreaded leaving the hotel during the day time. Strangely, there are a lot of Russians in Phan Thiet, their bright blonde hair and caucasian skin is a stark difference to the Vietnamese locals yet they went by and were barely noticed, a lot of the Russians would stare at me and would look at me with thinly veiled derision. I was unsure about why this was, I definitely wasn’t paranoid. I found it so frustrating that my partners advice was just “keep your head down so you can’t see it”- I feel that is slightly unfair as he did state that he also felt for me because he could see how much staring was happening and that one of the best way to beat bullies is to ignore them. I just don’t think one should go on holiday to feel uncomfortable or like you have done something wrong, I also don’t think most of them cared about my opinion of them. Additionally, though my partner is half black and half white as he is more of a lighter brown complexion he blends in with most of the locals when we have travelled, whereas my skin is unapologetically dark and melanin rich… I stand out like a beacon of chocolate sunshine lol.
When I went to Thailand, I had a lot of people staring as well, I could handle this though, I realised that there were barely any Afro-Caribbean tourists, in fact I only saw one other black person the whole time (it’s a fun game) we give each other the knowing nod, I have the same interaction anytime I spot another Londoner. Also people were a lot friendlier, I would smile when I caught people smiling and they would smile back, some of the masseuses would say “We love your skin”, “Wow pretty woman-big boobs!” or would hold their arms next to mine and would marvel at the difference, I could accept this awkwardness as at least I knew why I was being stared at,though I was made to feel like an ‘other’ I wasn’t made to feel like I was disgusting.
So, yes that had a major impact on my time in Vietnam, I also feel where we stayed did not need two weeks there, I would see 3 days max but I usually like to spend two weeks in a place I like with a lot of activities but Phan Thiet is more for people who like watersports.
I want to end on a positive note though, despite the shouts to me on the street and a woman almost falling off her bike in shock at seeing me I still tried to be as friendly and smiley as possible and some people were really nice, the staff at the hotel I was in and some of the shop owners would be so warm and friendly to me that I would try to hold on to the memory of those interactions than the more negative ones. Has anyone else had similar experiences?
I will probably add a guide on places to explore and go to if you do decide to visit. Let me know what you think.