Not just disasters, urban chaos turns into new kind of adventure travel

Wednesday, 2018-06-06 18:04:04
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Tourists enjoy new experiences with Hoi An floods.
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NDO – Locals in the old town of Hoi An (Quang Nam province) had been worried about their empty guest houses during the flood season. But that was the old story, now the situation has completely reversed. Tourists have flocked to the UNESCO-recognised site to experience the flood season, making the Hoi An flood tour the most exhilarating experience! Flood prone Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City can learn from Hoi An in turning disadvantages into advantages.

Several Western guests were giggling interspersed by curiosity at an intersection of the Hanoi Old Quarter. They were preparing to cross the road through the bustling Hanoi traffic. A young man tiptoed forward. Suddenly he screamed as the sound of several motorbikes approached, making the Western man leap back to his starting point. Then he hugged his friends and laughed as if he had just escaped danger. Motorbikes were still flying around blind to the traffic lights.

They progressed forward and backward. The screams of excitement mixed with jokes. Finally, the work of walking across the twenty-foot wide intersection finished after quite a long period of time. They hugged and shouted as they had conquered a difficult challenge. Then cellphones were instantly pulled out to take selfies marking the achievement.

I've asked several big names in backpacking about the attractiveness of adventure travel, which features new feelings on new experiences, even something that endangers our lives. People will feel that they have surpassed their limits when the challenge is over. Voila, the traffic in Hanoi is enough to serve such features.

Visitors from Europe, Japan or the Republic of Korea are witness to organised traffic almost all of their lives, with cars and trams going, stopping, or turning in a bored manner following the traffic signal lights. They could find strange things in the traffic in Vietnam’s capital city, with endless lines of motorcycles demolishing the border between roads and sidewalks, splendid dodges as in a race and congested intersections.

The feeling would be stronger if the guests are sitting on the motorcycles in the traffic or passing along the road. Almost every day, I meet foreign travellers who are busy taking pictures of Hanoi’s traffic. Uruguay’s Rama Martin, a lover of Hanoi, admires the talents of the Hanoi motorcyclists as he described them in his book as having the ability to master the delicate actions of ballet dancers in Vienna. What experience is more heart-throbbing?

Cross the road if you can!

If you come to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City in the rainy season, it is no doubt that you may catch a moment when the streets turn into rivers - an experience that not many foreigners can have in their lifetime.

A few days ago, the story of a narrow railroad in Hanoi's old streets which became attractive to foreigners made the headlines in the newspapers. Actually, that story is very old. The train crossing the inner city, from the intersection at Dien Bien Phu street stretching to Phung Hung street, has long been a destination for foreigners.

There they can see children playing, iced tea stalls, kitchen corners with delicious cuisine, and old men playing chess. All occur on ... the train rails. As the thousand-tonne train dashingly arrives, all vanish very quickly, and then come back in a faster way than when they disappeared. These pictures are one of the best things that foreigners tell each other and are a must-have experience when travelling to Hanoi!

Several years ago, Hoi An was worried that not many guests would come to the town in the flood season, but now tours offering chances to experience the flood have become the most sought after travel product! So why has Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh not learnt from the experience in Hoi An to turn their disadvantages into benefits, especially when the traffic chaos has become the brand of both cities. Of course, even if you accept risk, taking safety measures to avoid trouble is a must.

The World Tourism Organisation has rated adventure tourism as one of the fastest growing travel trends around the globe. If a tour operator offers a chance to travel on a motorcycle in a crowded area during peak hours, definitely the adventurous guests will be racing to register.

Many people from the deltas that go to explore the high mountains compliment the local people on their good opportunities for conquering the mountain passes, streams and swings across the rivers every day. The Western visitors are also the same. However, there are people that argue that Hanoians are lucky, because they don’t have to go anywhere to experience the strong feeling of adventure travel!