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Ocean Travel - Dishonest Travel Agent in Hanoi (Recommended by Lonely Planet)

  • CakeFace

    Joined Travelfish
    1st May, 2009
    Posts: 1

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    This is a bit of a long story but I think it needs to be told so that people aren't ripped off or treated badly by Ocean Tours in Hanoi . Ocean Tours are recommended in the 2007 edition of Lonely Planet Vietnam but the experience I had with them makes me strongly believe that they should be removed from future editions.

    My girlfriend and I spent a morning of 27 April 2009 going round various travel agencies in Hanoi's old quarter in order to get some different prices for a trip to Halong Bay with an overnight stay. We went to agencies mentioned in Lonely Planet and some others which we passed as we were walking around.

    In the end, we decided upon Ocean Tours as the itinerary for the trip was what we were looking for (two days of cruising round the islands of Halong Bay with an overnight stay on a small island). At $79 per person (no price change allowed according to the staff) it was more expensive than we had hoped to spend but we the tour looked good and we needed to make a decision. I suppose we also decided upon Ocean Tours because they seemed to be more professional than some of the others and initially they were more helpful.

    We met the tour group on the morning of the 29th and set off. We were assigned a guide separately from the other six people in the group which seemed a little strange but we were told that it was because the other tourists were staying for two nights (as opposed to our one night). The guide kept making reference to the itinerary and repeatedly told us that he would fill us in on the next day's activities later on. That was fine as we had already discussed the full itinerary with Ocean Tours' staff so thought we knew what was coming.

    There were the usual money traps once on board the boat like having to pay high prices for drinks etc. but we were prepared for that having done a little research on Thorn Tree before we booked. The first day was fine and we saw the bay, did some kayaking and went for a swim. All in all, not bad.

    We then arrived at the company's island (Lan Ha Bay) which was a little lackluster but overall not in bad shape. There were a few too many pressures to buy drinks and cocktails but again, that was nothing we couldn't handle and weren't already used to in Vietnam.

    Just before we were about to eat dinner our guide came and told us that the company wanted to offer us an upgrade to a different itinerary which would mean us not going back through Halong Bay. Instead we would be taken across Cat Ba island to look at Hospital Cave then put on a speedboat back to our minivan home. On top of this not really sounding very appealing to us as we wanted to spend another day touring the islands, the change would also mean that we would get back to Hanoi an hour or so later. As we had bus tickets booked to Dien Bien Phu for the evening we were to get back to Hanoi we told the guide that we appreciated the offer but it was better for us to stick to the original plan and get back in time to get some food and get to our bus pick up point. He assured me that the timing would work out fine and that we shouldn't worry.

    The guide started pressuring us by saying that we would only be in Vietnam once in our lives and that we should be grateful for the offer. However, through his insistence it became more and more apparent that there was an ulterior motive for this supposedly altruistic act (which we had guessed already) but he wasn't prepared to tell us what it was. He wanted us to decide there and then but I asked him to let us speak to him after we had eaten. He was very reluctant to give us time to think about it and kept repeating that he needed to let his boss know what we had decided immediately. After an awkward fifteen minutes of going backwards and forwards he left us to eat but his pushiness had already left a sour taste.

    Over dinner we agreed that our priority was getting back in time for the bus so after a slightly marred dinner I went and said again that we appreciated the offer but we really wanted to get back in good time. He became even more pushy and persuasive but I stuck to my line and hoped he would leave it there. He eventually told me that it was really because it was not cost effective to send two people back by boat and it was pretty apparent that in reality there was no choice; we were changing itinerary if we liked it or not. Although he didn't say this in as many words (despite my asking him to be upfront) it was evident that we were being told what to do and had no say in the matter. By this time his manner had become aggressive and things weren't progressing at all.

    I eventually had to submit and said we would make the change if he promised to get us to the bus on time and if we could have the promise in writing. After a lot more wrangling I got him to contact the Hanoi office and write a letter saying that if we missed our bus to DMP, Ocean Tours would refund the money and pay for a night in a hotel in Hanoi. I watched him phone somebody and discuss it so felt it was probably OK.

    The next morning we went to Cat Ba island and looked at Hospital Cave which was certainly not as good as another trip around Halong Bay would have been. We kept stressing that we wanted to make sure we got back in time even if it meant cutting the Cat Ba trip short but he kept telling us not to worry etc. Apparently it was all under control and the driver had been told that we needed to rush back.

    When we got to the minivan it was pretty obvious that the driver hadn't been told anything of the sort as he cruised along at 40 to 50 Km/h. Then it turned out that the transmission on his van was broken (and had been from the start, hence the slow speeds) and we had to stop by the side of the road and wait for a different guy to pick us up. It was now pretty obvious that we were going to get back late but there was nothing that anyone could do about it. The guide didn't really seem to see the problem and asked us why we couldn't just change the bus to DBP. I reminded him about the letter he had signed and he said we could show his boss when we arrived.

    We eventually arrived back at the Ocean Tours office at 6pm and had missed our connection entirely. Then the fun really started....

    We asked to speak to a manager (or similar) and were taken to an office upstairs. Having had guides who spoke very good English throughout the tour I was surprised to find myself speaking to a guy who barely spoke a word, but then I can't expect everyone to speak English when I don't speak Vietnamese. He was immediately defensive when I told him that we were disappointed with the trip and produced the letter that his employee had signed the previous evening. He told me that he hadn't given any authorisation to write the letter yet did not ask the guide anything about why it had been written. In fact, he snatched the letter out of my hand as I was showing it to him and virtually ran to a photocopier with a look of glee on his face and told me that the letter was proof that we had agreed to the itinerary change and his copy was evidence of that so we had no right to complain. Pretty shocking behaviour from anyone, let alone the manager of a tour agency that claim to pride itself on professionalism and good customer service.

    He repeatedly asked why I was complaining as we had agreed to change the itinerary whilst brandishing his copy. I told him that whilst that was essentially true that we had agreed, it was purely because we had been totally pressured into it. He acted as though this was certainly untrue and asked the guide about it who lied and said that we had agreed straight away. I pointed out that the guide had told me directly that the change was financially expedient for them which they both denied and kept insisting that the change had been offered out of the goodness of their hearts. I told them it was obvious that they had taken the cheaper option and should at least refund the money they had saved as we had paid for less than we got (in fact, one of the phrases repeated when booking the tour was "book through us as you don't get what you pay for with other agencies"). I knew that no refund would be made as they were trying everything they could think of to worm out of taking responsibility and apologising. In fact, no apology was made at all at any point.

    At this point the atmosphere was becoming more and more aggressive with both the manager and the guide waving their hands around in our faces and shouting. I decided it was pointless to keep speaking to these dishonest and unscrupulous people so we left. It is funny that as tourists in Vietnam we are reminded often not to get angry as it makes the people we are dealing with lose face yet I have personally experienced Vietnamese people shouting over pretty trivial matters and have seen several other people being subjected to aggressive and undeserved behaviour. I notice that there has been a lot of discussion of this sort of point on other forums and I am afraid that my experience in Vietnam overall has led me to side with the group who have found it more of a hassle than a pleasure to be here as this is not the only situation where dishonesty has been openly exhibited.

    I'm sure that there will be people who have not had any problems with Ocean Tours but I suspect there are probably others who have. In fact, some others on the tour group told us of problems with overcharging and promises not being delivered (I'm not sure why they chose to book more through them if this is the case). My personal opinion is that they are not to be trusted, are deceptive and dishonest, and do not represent good value for money. Obviously, you can take my opinion or leave it but I hope that this serves to help people make a more informed choice and unfortunately, not to trust Lonely Planet.

    *Ocean Tours in Hanoi - Avoid them at all costs*

    #1 Posted: 1/5/2009 - 13:30

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  • somtam2000

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    Sorry to hear about your experience.

    That said, the above would be of a lot more use to others if you post the address of the agent concerned. In Hanoi there are many agents that rip off each other's names and so without a address it's difficult to know if you were scammed by the real Ocean Tours or a fake one!

    #2 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 07:37

  • Phen0m

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 6

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I live in Vietnam, and I can tell you that I wouldn't go to vietnam for holiday. Vietnamese people believe that we foreigners are all rich; here in vietnam these people sell me one local watermelon for 200.000 Dong, which is about 10 euros or 11 dollars. But if I send my vietnamese maid to get some she buys 1 watermelon for 35.000 DOng which is like 1.50 euro or 2 dollars.

    Tuan, my driver will build his own house, and he has been waiting for the government to approve the house for about 9 month; he told me that the government is corrupt and they want to get paid extra.

    A friend of mine working for the UN told me that the problem in vietnam is that there are corrupt/stupid people in the government and they try to employ people from their family; That basically leads to a non-working government because the employed people don't know what their jobs are. Same thing in good companies, like ocen tours.

    Another problem is that many vietnamese aren't trusty - i used to go to a women on the local marked, but like the 5th time i came i recognized that she had a different scale, which displayed a really high weight

    i recommend going to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) because people there cheat less.

    #3 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 11:14

  • idreamofdur-
    ian

    TF writer
    Click here to learn more about idreamofdurian
    Joined Travelfish
    5th September, 2008
    Location Singapore
    Posts: 576
    Total reviews: 4

    Well, you haven't been to Vietnam unless you've been ripped off, screwed around, and then told that they actually did you a favour! :)

    #4 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 11:42

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    CakeFace

    I feel for you. I've had a sort of similar experience (nearly cost me my life).

    See: http://www.travelfish.org/board/post/vietnam/5433_warning--faked-sinh-cafe-ha-noi

    - - - -

    Anyway, the issue of travel agents in Vietnam is important. And, sadly, the 'problem' needs to be told and retold.

    Lonely Planet (in 9th ed. p. 91) states:

    "There has been a torrent of complaints about various budget tour operators in Hanoi . The biggest issue seems to be the gap between what they promise and what they actually deliver."

    As you state, LP also writes well of Ocean Tours.

    BUT...

    Did you actually go to Ocean Tours?

    I say this not to question your integrity.

    I went to Sinh Cafe in Hanoi, to exactly where Lonely Planet had them located. It turned out that Sinh Cafe had moved and a horrible shark had moved in with Sinh Cafe logo and sold me 'crap'.

    Anyone reading this needs to be aware that the Hanoi gov't DOES NOT enforce trade-marks or branding: especially if the operator with a trade-mark or registered brand/logo has the HQ outside Hanoi.

    So, there are literally dozens of Sinh Cafe 'agencies'. We also found 3 Handspan Adventure Travel 'shops'. All claimed to be the 'true' office!!!!

    - - - -

    The other aspect not often touched upon is that often a travel agent is merely marketing a tour for someone else.

    It is possible that your travel agent (Ocean Travel or some impostor) was on-selling a tour operated by some other agency.

    - - - - - -

    The matter of two level pricing is also relevant (it was noted above by Phenom). The Vietnamese gov't not only encourages merchants to charge a higher price to westerners, they demonstrate by example.

    That said, the last decade has seen Vietnamese traders take the dual pricing matter to new highs (or is it lows).

    I used to think "hey, compared to me these guys are poor, what's a few coins to me".

    But, now the merchants, touts, etc., are so brazen about doubling or tripling the price that I contest everything. I no longer care about the Vietnamese vendor. Rather than do their job properly and gain a good living (according to Vietnamese standards), if the vendor wants to exploit westerners then they can go suck!!!

    I booked a pair of mini-bus seats from SaPa to Lao Cai the other day. I expressly paid more to get a minibus that departed at 7am [there were reasons]. The driver contracted to drive didn't have enough passengers so touted till 8:45 to fill the van. I complained to the driver - but to no avail. Half way to Lao Cai, the driver's assistant wanted the fare. As I didn't know whether the late departure would get me to the rail station, I told them I'd pay on arrival at the station at a time sufficient to get a seat on the train.

    The little idiots wanted to throw me off the bus. They repeatedly pulled at me to try and evict me.

    I repeated my proposition. I told the other passengers, some of whom were western of my principles that I would pay on arrival if I could get a train ticket.

    Eventually, they got the message, they drove off and even made sure I got the train tickets.

    I do believe that standing up for one's principles is important: different culture or not.

    - - - -

    Anyway, did you get to Dien Bien Phu, and did you enjoy the south-west?

    - - - -

    I love your 'name': I'm wondering whether you meant it to be for what you like to do (eat cake), or someone told you your face looked like...

    - - - -


    cheers

    #5 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 12:58

  • rebeccafarr-
    ent

    Joined Travelfish
    2nd May, 2009
    Posts: 37

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Hi,

    So sorry for to hear about your bad experience. We are planning to visit Vietnam this summer. Thank you very much for keeping us informed of a bad agent (it is listed on LP though).

    #6 Posted: 2/5/2009 - 16:11

  • waterbeo

    Joined Travelfish
    7th May, 2009
    Posts: 9

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    I'm Vietnamese, and be a travel agent. I'm so sorry to hear your story. Really don't know what to say. As a Hanoian, I'm so embarassed for what you've experienced. We were underdeveloped in the past - thanks to the 2 wars - and now, are on the way to join the world. The outside's uper while the inside is under somewhere, and when the door is open, new things coming in. For most of us, foreigners- from Western- are interesting and rich or something like that. So, some can't help playing trick - to earn money as much and fast as possible.There're many many things that even a Vietnamese like me can't explain what and why it is in life. But I truely believe that what bad will have no land.
    I hope that you still have some desire to explore Vietnam. Though I'm not travelling much, but I can give you some tips for travelling in Vietnam or at least, I think I know what trusted to ask for.
    snip

    #7 Posted: 7/5/2009 - 21:12

  • tokidoki

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Hi there,
    I am planning to go to Vietnam soon for an 1 wk stay.
    I could not find existing group tours with 1 wk itinerary. Most of the tours are customized according to our needs.

    Upon reading the postings here, I am a bit worried and not sure if it is safe to book online for customized tours. Some sites I've been considering on are as follows:
    http://www.southpacifictravel.com.vn/
    http://www.halongphoenixcruiser.com/
    http://www.footprintsvietnam.com/index.htm
    http://www.odctravel.com.vn/

    Really need urgent feedback regarding these travel agents in Vietnam.
    Has anyone booked with the above agents and would like to share their experience with the operator? This will be very helpful to us.

    tokidoki

    #8 Posted: 7/5/2009 - 22:42

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    tokidoki

    I am assuming you are Japanese.

    If I am correct, are you wanting a travel agent to organise your tour?

    Or, are you wanting to organise YOUR own tour and maybe use travel agents to book parts of YOUR tour.

    Your answer to these questions will mean quite different answers.

    Cheers

    #9 Posted: 8/5/2009 - 06:40

  • tokidoki

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Dear Brucemoon,

    1st, thank you for replying.
    I have inquire with those agents mentioned above for a customized tour and is planning to book the tour with one of them. I have preference for the southpacific travel agent's tour but couldn't much find any feedback about this company. They are also not included in the preferred/top agents listed in Vietnam toursim web site.

    Upon reading the posting here, I realize the danger of booking with unknown agents thus want some feedback on which tour operator is most realible and with whom I can pre book my tour before arriving in vietnam.

    Net, my answer will be that I'm looking for a travel agent that will organize my tour for the duration I am staying in vietnam and where I can get best value for money. I am not looking for budget tour and actually prefer more superior accomodations but would want an agent who gives competitive pricing and would keep the itinerary as per agreed.

    thanks!
    toki doki

    #10 Posted: 8/5/2009 - 10:50

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  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
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    Location Australia
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    Total reviews: 6

    tokidoki

    Where do you land (in Vietnam) - ie. which city/

    Where do you stay?

    What trips or places do you want to do/see (that is where do you want to go in Vietnam)?

    If you tell me that, I will advise you more.

    Cheers

    #11 Posted: 8/5/2009 - 11:11

  • muggel

    Joined Travelfish
    9th May, 2009
    Posts: 14

    Late year, we did the "Cruise Away"-3 days/2 nights-Halong trip with oceantours, Hang Bac, Hanoi. Costs about 145 USD each.

    Could say, that we had bee impressed of this fine tour! The boat was nothing special, but ok, the food was good, we visited a cave, and had a night with exellent dinner at the small private island with the "Ocean Resort".

    No pressure, friendly email contact in advance, everything honest.


    Sorry, you had this experience, you are sure, that we booked the same tour????

    muggel

    #12 Posted: 9/5/2009 - 18:20

  • tokidoki

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Hi Brucemoon,
    We will be landing in HCM. Place to stay will also be booked with agents.
    Places we intended to see are those in the NORTH. Halong, Sapa, Hanoi.

    Btw, since you're from AU would you have any idea who's best and most affordable tour operator in NZ interested in Mt Cook, Milford Sound, Glacier fox and the likes... Won't be travelling there now but hopefully sometime in the near future. Thanks!

    tokidoki

    #13 Posted: 9/5/2009 - 19:14

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    tokidoki

    I looked at the travel agents you have listed. There is nothing wrong with these firms, however their prices are very very high. One, Southpacific travel, is really only a front for their Halong bay cruise boats. The second is another option that is focussed on Halong Bay cruising and like the first, is offering other options they onsell from other agents (as most do). The third has some reasonably priced options, but I suggest there are better. The fourth doesn't appeal to me.

    - - - -

    As for Halong Bay, there is are several threads on this here at Travelfish.

    I made a comment on one thread regarding the Pinta cruise on Columbus Tours because I found it very good. Many people responded that they also found it very good.

    Try looking at the company at:

    http://www.pintacruiser.com/

    I did a 3 day, and the lunch on a beach option (so, go to my blog on Vietnam to see my experience - www.travelblog.org/Bloggers/brucemoon/ - and make up your own mind.

    Like all operators (and this one is no different), they all arrange a minibus to pick you up from your hotel / Guest House.

    - - - - -

    As for Sapa , it depends on whether you want to do a trekking option, or just go to the towns and take day walking trips.

    I'll explain...

    People take a sleeper train from Hanoi to Lao Cai. The train arrives at about 5:30am. People take a minibus to either Sapa, or if it is Sunday, to Bac Ha .

    The Sunday Bac Ha option is SO FANTASTIC. There is a once weekly market at Bac Ha, and it is visited by Flower H!Mong tribespeople. The women wear very colourful clothing (so the place is visually appealing), the market sells everything a rural person would like to buy (so you'll see all sorts of strange things being sold), and the way the local people 'exchange' or 'trade' can be fascinating.

    If you can plan to take the Saturday night train, then get taken to Bac Ha, at about 1pm, the minibus then takes you to Sapa.

    If not a Saturday night train, but any other day, the minibus takes you to your accommodation at Sapa and you do what you then want - day trips, trekking through villages, etc.

    There are many firms offering the Sapa option.

    Of the firms you've suggested, there appears only one:

    http://www.footprintsvietnam.com/Tours/Trekking/Sapa-EasyTrek-Market3days.htm

    But here, the Bac Ha market option is the wrong way around (meaning you'll miss the early market buzz).

    Try instead:

    http://www.sinhcafe.com/english_pro/trekking/Sapa%20BacHa%20trekking.htm

    If you can, choose the reverse option (that is, leaving on Saturday night, doing the Bac Ha, then going to Sapa).

    Sinh Cafe has a good reputation in Vietnam.

    - - - -

    I suggest that no travel agent will organise things so that you don't have to do anything.

    Be VERY aware that travel agents in Vietnam promise you everything, and rarely deliver what they promise.

    If you rely on a travel agent to do everything for you, unless you do an organised tour where there is a guide accompanying you, you WILL be let down.

    I really suggest you book the tours you want for each section, and so get what is best for you.

    If you really only want to deal with the travel agents on your list, then the best of a poor bunch is footprints.

    Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    #14 Posted: 10/5/2009 - 07:56

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
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    Location Australia
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    Total reviews: 6

    tokidoki

    As for new Zealand, don't do a tour.

    I'd suggest you self drive a mobile home. Self-drive gives you so many options, you get to DO your thing, and they're so easy to drive on (relatively) good roads with sparse traffic.

    Try:

    http://www.nzmotorhomes.co.nz/index.php

    or

    http://www.maui-rentals.com/

    or

    http://www.pacifichorizon.co.nz/

    and there's many more companies as well.

    Cheers

    #15 Posted: 10/5/2009 - 08:10

  • tokidoki

    Joined Travelfish
    4th May, 2009
    Posts: 4

    Dear Brucemoon,
    Thank you so much for all the informations parted. I am considering your advise and might just take tours separately and organize other details such as hotels and flights myself.

    Also checking out Shincafe website.

    Again, thank you so much.

    Cheers!
    tokidoki

    #16 Posted: 10/5/2009 - 14:15

  • oceantours_-
    vietnam

    Joined Travelfish
    26th May, 2009
    Posts: 2

    Posted from within Vietnam.

    Dear Ms CakeFace & Travelfish Forum Members

    First of all, please give a pleasure to introduce me by myself. My name is Chien, Iam the Founder & Director of Ocean Tours and also the Founder & Chairman of Ocean Corporation which includes Ocean Tours, Ocean Beach Resort and Ocean Sails.

    Let me start my post by saying I am really, really sorry for the Bad Experience had happened to Mcgrammar while taking the trip to Halong Bay with us and also would like to say many thanks to Forum Members for discussing the problem.

    Actually, I have been thinking a lot wether I should be here or not because these kind forums is not for the people like us. It is for the travellers discussing together but anyway I here already so would you all, Tripadvisor, Forum Members and Ms CakeFace keep patient to read it all first then if Iam worng please delete my post.

    Now, I would like to explain why this problem had happened and why Iam so late.

    I have been far away from office already 3 months and there’s no Internet Connection in the place I stayed so I just know about this yesterday then I have to hurry back to office and left all my works behind to be here today.

    1. How is our system working

    The problem most related to these departments

    • Travel Department:
    - This department controll the all tours and products which has been under managed by Mrs Thuy then other staff.

    • Sales & Marketing Department
    - This department controll the works of Selling, Marketing, Managing Service Quality and Customer Care which has been under managed by Mrs Hien then other staff.

    Why I have to explain how our working system because there’s a sentence on the Mcgrammar post show that I had known the problem. ( The sentence is: He was very reluctant to give us time to think about it and kept repeating that he needed to let his boss know what we had decided immediately. ) So, I just mean that I didn’t know anything on that day because depending on our working system you can understand I didn’t. the guide have to working with the Tour Operator.

    It means our guide made a mistake when saying to the customer that “ He needed to let his boss know”.

    Otherwise, I can’t believe why Ms Hien, who have responsibility to discuss with customer when ever have problem, didn’t talk with you, Mcgrammar.

    2. I would like to explain of the changing initerery
    You know we organise dailly tour and most of our customer just book in advance in 1 or 2 days so we don’t how many customer for that tour, enough customer for running or not. So we offer the Upgrade Policy, which we use to have to pay more than the orginal cost, incase we can’t have enough customer whom we will discuss to change a litle bit with a better product ofcourse we can’t do if our customer don’t agree. Somehow, in your case our guide had bad attitude while discussing with you. If he did iam honestly sorry for that.
    You know why we offer the Upgrade Policy becease other customer who have to buy the full rate can’t complaint us. Please check this information on our website: http://www.oceantours.com.vn/Info/Info.aspx?CatID=3&id=12

    Faithfully, I have to say that we don’t make any profit when organising the tour on that day because there’s only 7 customer on the group of that day; 5 customers take the Ocean Style http://www.oceantours.com.vn/Tours/Default.aspx?CatalogeId=4&CategoryId=42
    and just 2 of you take the Ocean Breeze http://www.oceantours.com.vn/Tours/TourDetail.aspx?TourId=158&CategoryId=72.
    The maximum of the group is 16people so if the group has less than 10 people we will lost some and we just have some profit when the group has more than 10. So, I hope after reading my explaintation you will understand why we have the Upgrade Policy in the terms & conditions.

    After reading your post, I have decided provisionally suspending all the staffs, whom related with your problem, to work together with all of them to find out all the mistakes, wrongs and rights then I will be back to discuss with in a few days.

    3. These are our letters, which I had solved the problem with our clients, which will show we are dishonest or honest and how we do when a problem happen.

    The situation happened to a client who have been stay at Ocean Beach Resort and unfortunately their bag has been bitten by a rat. So, they email us and Hien is the person solve the problem with them:

    Please read the letter below: ( Sorry I have to delete the email address but I will concact with them to join in this topic. Just their name here)

    On Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 10:31 AM, Hien wrote:
    Hi Avital,
    Sorry I couldn't get back to you yesterday as I was out of the office and there was no internet. So I talked to boss this morning and he was very sorry to know since it was out of control. We have been trying the best to avoid them or some other insects.. I tried to call you at the # 861 368 but they say you are not there. We are very pleased to give back you some fund as you got damage. Pls let us know how much you want to get back?
    Our partner address in Hoian is: Phu Thinh hotel – 488 Cua Dai, Hoian. Tel: 0510 923923. Pls ask for Mr Quang and give me a call when you are there.
    Hope this email won't come late and I'm very sorry again for not getting back to you as wish
    Enjoy your trip!
    Do Minh Hien ( Ms )

    This our client’s mail:

    Hello Hien,
    Thanks for the quick reply. I am very surprised about the positive answer. As for fairness because for all I did the tour, I would like to get back 80 Dollars which is about 55% of the original prize. I will now go to the Hotel address you gave me and call from there.

    Thanks a lot. I appreciate the very positive attitude.

    Kind Regards, Avital

    Then here is my mail because I don’t agree with Hien’s solution.

    Dear Mr/ Ms Avital

    On behalf of Ocean Management, Iam Chien - Founder & Chairman of Ocean Corporation. First I would like to express my sorry for the Bad Thing happened to you while taking the trip with us. By the way, I would also like to explain to you that: Hien didn’t write to you because we are now busy to set up the management for a hotel. Hien have been told me about our problem happened to you and I have been already making a meeting with Ocean Management to solve that problem.

    Being the Founder & Chairman of Ocean Corporation, I promise with you that we will definitely compensate to the damage adequately in any way and I would like to inform you that our compensation which will based on your damaged property, not based on the cost of the trip even through our compensation is more than the cost of the trip.

    Would you please send us the total cost of your property have been damage with some pictures would be great and your suggestion compensation which worth with your property damage. Then we will making a Management Meeting to solve that.

    Once again, I would express my terrible sorry for that because that was really out of our control as you know that the Island is too big to protect from rat even through we have been pay a lot of money for that and we still finding the methods to prevent it.

    Thanks a lot for your complain letter and any of your sympathies are highly appreciate and it also definitely be the major encouragement to Ocean Tours Team’s Work.

    Yours Sincerely: Le Van Chien

    This our client’s mail:
    Hien,
    Here are the pictures.
    Regards, Avital

    My staff Mail: On 8/29/08, Hien wrote:
    Dear Avital,
    As you have received our boss' email, our compensation is based on your property's damage, not on the cost of our trip.

    Therefore, after our management's meeting, it is the result to compensate you 150 USD as it is mentioned yours 247 usd. Hope you understand we won't be able to give you all 247 usd as they has been used lately... So hopefully our attention is appreciated by you. So still we will give you 68 usd as you have collected 82 usd in Hoian.

    Please go to our partner in Saigon to collect the rest. It is Vietnam Travel at 10 Do Quang Dau street. Ask for Mrs La: 0913636737 for that 68 usd.

    And Avital, we are glad you have been travelling with us. Hopefully we still can meet you if you next travel to Vietnam. 5% discount of the next trip is what we can promise. Don't forget to contact us if you will ever go back here.

    Give me a call when you are in Saigon
    Do Minh Hien ( Ms )

    This our client’s mail:
    Hello Hien,

    I know that my demage is more expensive then the prise I paid for the tour. I bought my belongings in Switzerland and those things have a high quality. That is why they are so expensive. I will collect the money today.

    Thanks a lot, Avital
    Do Minh Hien ( Ms )

    This is my last mail after they received money:

    Dear Avital Gur

    On behalf of Ocean Tours Team I would like to express our sincerely apology to you once again for the thing that happened to you during taking the halong bay. I just wonder either you happy with our compensation or not. Actually, we can compensate you the full cost of your property but we chose the way of compensating 150$ and a 5% discount of your next trip with Ocean Tours because we really want to have a chance to server you as well as want you to be our friendly client. So, if our compensation does not match your expectation please let us know about your suggestion.

    By the way, I just want to know either the trip match your expectation or not and any of your feedback of the trip or about our works are highly appreciate and also the major motive power encourage Ocean Tours Works.

    Sincerely Thanks; Le Van Chien

    The situation above is definitely truth but iam sorry I can write down our customer’s contact on the forrum. I will try to contact with them join in this topic.

    The above situation also just show you all know how we solve the problem.

    4. The bus arrived in Hanoi at 5.30 or 6.00
    As your post the bus arrive Hanoi at 6.00 so that you missed the bus to Dien Bien Phu .
    As our staff says that the bus arrive at 5.35 which just 5 minutes late as promised. I really don’t know who is right because there’s no any evidence prove it.

    Let me explain the situation was difficult or not for our staff solve that problem:

    Firsrt, our driver have been working together with me quite long time and he also know all drivers who are now working on the area, the Old Quarter. So if the time arriving later than Tour Operator requrired he must be have responsibility because it will be his fault. He will be chastised to pay for his mistake which was written on our contract. You see that he know all the drivers so it is very easy for him to contact with that bus driver to ask where they are and tell him to wait or something like that then he can drive a litle bit more to catch that bus for you. It was not difficult for him or for us to solve that problem.

    That just my sugesstion according my experience, I don’t mean our staff right or not right.

    There’s an important thing that I think I should let you know is: All people working at Ocean Tours has their own responisbility for their mistake or fault even me means all of us have to solve the problem by our self and paid for it even the cost of the demage much more than their salary. So, if the problem they can’t solve by themselves they have to inform their Manager to solve then next will be to me if the manager also can’t make a decision. When ever I get a complaint from them I will immediately make a meeting with Ocean Management Board to discuss for a decision. If customer complain any our staff, they do not only have to pay the compensation to customer but also will be disciplined and decrease salary as well. That is Ocean Tours Working Regulations & System.

    5. The agreement writting between you and our staff
    I don’t know why Hien, who have responsibility to talk with you and execute the argreement, didn’t do it. I really regret if you had sent to Ocean Tours Management about this at manegement@oceantours.com.vn (http://www.oceantours.com.vn/ContactUs/Contact.aspx). We setup this account in order customer’s complaint can’t be solved or customer complaint about our staff. It is a litle bit late but I am, on behalf of Ocean Tours Management, sure that this problem will be solved in any way.

    6. There were a few too many pressures to buy drinks and cocktails on the island
    I really surprised with this. Would you please tell me how our staff do it, how they represent to pressure you buy drinks so I will know to teach them and improve our services. I have no any explaination for this, let’s our clients who have ever been stay or will stay there will prove it.

    7. The bus to Dien Bien Phu
    I really surprised and still wondering which company organise this kind of bus to Dien Bien Phu with the cost US$15. As my experience, I have been nearly ten years working in tourism at the Old Quarter, I haven’t heard any information of the bus to Dien Bien Phu. Before 2002 we use to organise tour by bus to Sapa & Bac Ha, those are the most interesting destinations of the north west, on Thursday and Friday and all of us have to start the trip very early in the morning at about 5.30am because the road to the northwest were quite difficult for driving eventhrough day time. It always up and down and foggy sometimes. Similar to Dien Bien Phu, if they organise that bus I think they must start in the morning because the road condition is not so good and it is also dangerous and very hard for customer stay on the bus all night.

    So, I insist on you, Ms CakeFace, to take some time to check over the information of the bus again through Search Energy or ask former travellers, who have been travel through the northwest or Dien Bien Phu, on some other Forums how is the road condition and save or not save to drive all night.

    All the above explaintations are just first my represent my opinion of the problem and aslo want to show you all know that we are responsible or not. We will definitely solve the problem properly so any sugesstions of all of you, Ms CakeFace or members of the Travelfish to solve this problem are highly appreciate with sincerely thanks of Ocean Management Board. Please, email us your suggestion at management@oceantours.com.vn or post on the forum.

    Sincerely Thanks

    #17 Posted: 27/5/2009 - 15:39

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    Le Van Chien

    In the west, we have a saying "the more you write to justify your position, the less you justify it".

    The simple fact is that 'Cakeface' described a horrible experience with your company.

    Sadly, your company is not alone in Ha Noi when promising much and delivering little.

    In China, they have a saying that we use in the west: "it is all a matter of moving mirrors".

    This Chinese saying means (in this instance) that you are hiding behind a series of supposed 'facts' to justify your position (the moving mirrors), when really you should be talking to your staff to make sure the experience of 'cakeface' never happens to any one else.

    If you cannot make sure your staff are following your orders, then reduce what your company promises to ensure that you and your firm CAN deliver what you (or your agents) can deliver.

    Only when you can deliver time and time again on what you promise can anyone ever really believe you.

    In business, there are no excuses - only deliveries!

    Have a nice day.

    #18 Posted: 27/5/2009 - 18:31

  • c1ee

    Joined Travelfish
    13th May, 2009
    Posts: 15
    Total reviews: 2

    Wow, this post is making me reconsider traveling to Vietnam. Between Thailand and Vietnam, which country would you consider to have more of these deceptive practices?

    #19 Posted: 28/5/2009 - 11:46

  • brucemoon

    Click here to learn more about brucemoon
    Joined Travelfish
    27th December, 2008
    Location Australia
    Posts: 1941
    Total reviews: 6

    c1ee

    Yes, many people have second thoughts about travelling to Vietnam.

    Personally, either one wants to go to Vietnam, or Laos, or Thailand, etc., or one doesn't.

    And, there are many reasons why someone wants to visit a nation: just coz it's there, their friend recommended it, they read up on the place and it sounds great. These are a few of the many hundreds of reasons.

    If you look at Travelfish in more detail, you'll see there is no such place without touts, crime, etc. That is just a fact of life. The only relevant point is whether one place has more or less than another.

    Both Vietnam and Thailand have touts wanting your money. But, the Vietnamese culture is different to the Thai culture. The Vietnamese are more 'in your face' and are more ready to lie. But, if you know this, then you can prepare yourself to get a good result for yourself (which SHOULD be a basic part of holiday planning).

    May I suggest you first determine how much time you've got, then look at some of the Travelfish pages, and start planning YOUR journey.

    It may be that you don't have time this trip to travel to both Vietnam and Thailand, so you will then need to make a choice between the two.

    Try starting with:

    http://www.travelfish.org/travel-planning/less-is-more

    then go to:

    http://www.travelfish.org/travel-planning/dont-over-plan

    After that, and just below the Travelfish banner up the top, there are links to pages for each country. Go look at Thailand, then Vietnam, etc.

    Following this, and under those nation links, there is a grey area with a drop down menu titled "Before you leave". Scroll down there and you can see some suggested itineraries.

    Hope this helps

    Cheers

    #20 Posted: 28/5/2009 - 12:05

  • muggel

    Joined Travelfish
    9th May, 2009
    Posts: 14

    My ideas to Vietnam, basic-travelling and Ocean-tours:

    1. After travelling for many years in Thailand (we also did in India, China, South America, USA, Europa and Africa), we had been 2 weeks in/arround Hanoi- Halong in summer 2008:

    This was a great experience, we loved the people in Vietnam, and all our (small..) experience had been so lovely, that we will go to visit more of this country this summer!

    2. We are lucky never having had this feeling, brucemoon called it "Vietnamese are ready to lie".

    I'm sure, brucemoon,you meen, this is a "young" country concerning devellopment of tourismus. They want to "make money", nothing wrong with this.But mybe, travelagencys mmust find the right balance of marketing and honest behaviour.

    Our tours with A und Z Queen Travel and Oceantours, also our small hotel,Return Hotel in 19 Bat Dan, Hanoi, had been exactly what we expected be reading there homepages and travellers experiences in advance.

    As brucemoon said,read travelfish and tripadvisor forums in advance, to be good prepared and get a feeling for the country in advance. But don't believe everything, be ready to make your own experiences.

    Travelling has always a small risk, something might be the wrong with information at home or not the greatest deal...everything changes fast or depends a lot on your trip-guide and the group,but thats basic-travelling, I think! Nothing is perfect, but you have a good change to get in contact with culture and people.

    3. In Vietnam (and Thailand) you get what you ready to pay! Return Hotel (18 USD) is not a Mövenpick or Radisson Hotelstandard.. also their lovely photos on the homepage looks similar...(haha) Ocean tour boat is a good working boat with good and clean ac cabins, but not the AIDA !!
    Doing these sort of trips with a group, you always have to be a little bit more flexible concerning timetable of busarrivale....

    4. I can't understand all the trouble arround the backpack, getting a hole by a rat.
    In the Ocean- beach-resort-bungalows, there are clear advices in the room, not to put personal belonging, food!!! and backpacks on the floor, because this will be a risk to get animals in !!!Logical for every "proofed" traveller, or not?
    It is not ok, not to follow this rules, and afterwards crying and discussing about the "selfmade" damage!
    It makes not a good opinion of travellers-behaviour, to press more money for this damage than the full costs of the trip( why to travel with such expensive bags (Gucci-bags on a wooden old floor??), and booking a midrange-budget-tour??!

    5. Like I said in my first post, we had a great 3 days-trip for 145 USD Ocean tours, no pressure, friendly guide and driver and a fantastic meal and stay at the island resort. Everbody was satisfied.

    Hope, I added a little personal experience to this "hot" discussion
    muggel, Germany

    #21 Posted: 1/6/2009 - 17:02

  • muggel

    Joined Travelfish
    9th May, 2009
    Posts: 14

    My ideas to Vietnam, basic-travelling and Ocean-tours:

    1. After travelling for many years in Thailand (we also did in India, China, South America, USA, Europa and Africa), we had been 2 weeks in/arround Hanoi- Halong in summer 2008:

    This was a great experience, we loved the people in Vietnam, and all our (small..) experience had been so lovely, that we will go to visit more of this country this summer!

    2. We are lucky never having had this feeling, brucemoon called it "Vietnamese are ready to lie".

    I'm sure, brucemoon,you meen, this is a "young" country concerning devellopment of tourismus. They want to "make money", nothing wrong with this.But mybe, travelagencys mmust find the right balance of marketing and honest behaviour.

    Our tours with A und Z Queen Travel and Oceantours, also our small hotel,Return Hotel in 19 Bat Dan, Hanoi, had been exactly what we expected be reading there homepages and travellers experiences in advance.

    As brucemoon said,read travelfish and tripadvisor forums in advance, to be good prepared and get a feeling for the country in advance. But don't believe everything, be ready to make your own experiences.

    Travelling has always a small risk, something might be the wrong with information at home or not the greatest deal...everything changes fast or depends a lot on your trip-guide and the group,but thats basic-travelling, I think! Nothing is perfect, but you have a good change to get in contact with culture and people.

    3. In Vietnam (and Thailand) you get what you ready to pay! Return Hotel (18 USD) is not a Mövenpick or Radisson Hotelstandard.. also their lovely photos on the homepage looks similar...(haha) Ocean tour boat is a good working boat with good and clean ac cabins, but not the AIDA !!
    Doing these sort of trips with a group, you always have to be a little bit more flexible concerning timetable of busarrivale....

    4. I can't understand all the trouble arround the backpack, getting a hole by a rat.
    In the Ocean- beach-resort-bungalows, there are clear advices in the room, not to put personal belonging, food!!! and backpacks on the floor, because this will be a risk to get animals in !!!Logical for every "proofed" traveller, or not?
    It is not ok, not to follow this rules, and afterwards crying and discussing about the "selfmade" damage!
    It makes not a good opinion of travellers-behaviour, to press more money for this damage than the full costs of the trip( why to travel with such expensive bags (Gucci-bags on a wooden old floor??), and booking a midrange-budget-tour??!

    5. Like I said in my first post, we had a great 3 days-trip for 145 USD Ocean tours, no pressure, friendly guide and driver and a fantastic meal and stay at the island resort. Everbody was satisfied.

    Hope, I added a little personal experience to this "hot" discussion
    muggel, Germany

    #22 Posted: 1/6/2009 - 17:02

  • susanhaokhan

    Joined Travelfish
    9th June, 2009
    Posts: 3

    Ocean Tours trying the best to explain their fault

    #23 Posted: 22/6/2009 - 16:23

  • daawgon

    Joined Travelfish
    17th April, 2007
    Posts: 910
    Total reviews: 2

    As long as we're discussing Vietnamese travel agents, let me recommend a very good small agent in Hanoi - Mr. Diep of Vietnamtour Travel. I first met this man online during a Skype 3-way conversation in 2008, and later that year in person at his then employer Adventure Indochina Travel. Last year Diep opened his own new agency down by the main train station in Hanoi. His office is certainly not the fanciest in town, but I can vouch for this man's integrity and willingness to go the extra mile for his clients. Diep is not the usual businessman just out to make money - he genuinely likes people and it shows.

    http://en.vietnamtour.com.vn/

    #24 Posted: 29/7/2010 - 11:22

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