American journalist Kathryn Romeyn spoke to Tuoi Tre News about her recent trip to Vietnam, and how she thinks the country could be promoted to reach more tourists.
Romeyn is a seasoned journalist, editor, and copywriter who specializes in travel, design, wellness, and other lifestyle topics.
She also co-hosts a podcast called Conscious Traveler, sharing stories of culture, sustainability, conservation, and community affairs.
Romeyn contributes to publications including Architectural Digest, Departures, Robb Report, The Hollywood Reporter, AFAR, C Magazine, Los Angeles Times, Vogue.com, Brides, Luxury Magazine, and LALA.
“Walking through Hanoi in the early morning and visiting the food market were perhaps the most memorable instances of stepping into local life, and getting inspired and stimulated by it,” Romeyn recalled of her Vietnam trip.
“I believe that it’s possible to find connections in any place you travel, if you are open to it and seeking authenticity.
"But for this particular moment in time, after the pandemic, and without having traveled extensively for a couple years, it seemed even more present and possible, like it was amplified."
Local residents play badminton at a park in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Kathryn Romeyn
Earlier in June, Romeyn traveled with her husband and daughter throughout Vietnam on a ten-day trip which she later recalled in her piece titled 'I Traveled to Vietnam As Soon As It Reopened to Tourists - Here's What It Was Like' on Travel + Leisure.
The story quickly attracted the attention of many who love to visit the Southeast Asian country.
“Westerners are slowly trickling back into the place known for its flavorful, veggie- and herb-laden cuisine, ancient towns, dynamic cities, heavenly beaches, and special culture,” she wrote in the Travel + Leisure story.
The following interview was titled and edited by Tuoi Tre News for clarity, consistency, and coherence.
Kathryn Romeyn enjoys her time in Vietnam. Photo: Supplied
What was it like to travel around Vietnam after COVID-19 was put under control?
We found it quite easy to travel through Vietnam after COVID-19, and very enjoyable. We appreciated that people were still wearing masks in airports and on airplanes.
What made you come back to Vietnam for the third time?
My first visit to Vietnam was in August 2017 and my second visit was in January 2019. I found the culture fascinating, the people friendly, the food incredible and wanted to experience different parts of the country so I was drawn to return. I know there’s still a lot I haven’t seen, so I’m sure I will be back again.
We live in Bali, Indonesia, and wanted to go somewhere that was not too far away but that offered another culture, type of food, and landscapes. I had been to Vietnam before and loved it but my husband had not been, and it was somewhere he had always wanted to go.
A photo Kathryn Romeyn takes during her trip to Vietnam in June, 2022.
To many people, food is one of the main factors that attract them to Vietnam. What about you and your family?
We loved that the food was so incredibly flavorful and bold but also felt so fresh and healthy. It was bright and savory, nuanced, and rich.
We loved that there always seemed to be a basket of fresh herbs on every table. We love pho, and it was such a delicious way to start every day during our trip. I also really enjoyed trying other dishes with noodles, and one of my favorite other dishes is banh xeo [Vietnamese savory crepes], which I’d actually learned to make during a previous trip and had made for my husband at home once before (though not very well)!
We ate so many fresh prawn spring rolls and loved the sweet and sour dipping sauce, which we’ll make at home in Bali, too.
Kathryn Romeyn and her family enjoy 'bun cha' (noodles topped with grilled pork) in Hanoi. Photo: Supplied
After ten days, what did you like and not like about traveling in Vietnam?
There was not much we didn’t like about traveling in Vietnam, besides the flight delays we experienced.
Since COVID-19, we are also not accustomed to being so close together with people in lines and in public places such as the full-moon festival in Hoi An - that was a bit uncomfortable.
I think generally it’s so easy getting around the country, it’s very appealing to international tourists. And I already know people who are planning trips!
Local residents exercise at a park in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: Kathryn Romeyn
What should be done for Vietnam to promote the country's branding on the world travel map, in your opinion?
I think the country should celebrate its diversity in a way that international visitors can understand - diversity when it comes to regions of course and food but also landscapes and environments.
There are so many different types of places to visit, all within a couple hours. I think encouraging tourists to explore beyond the cities and Mekong Delta, too, would be great to put some of the other destinations on the map to international tourists, not only domestic ones.
The world is talking about sustainable tourism, do you think Vietnam has conditions to develop its tourism with a focus on sustainability?
I would imagine that Vietnam could definitely develop sustainable tourism if an intention to do so is strong enough.
The first step would probably be to ban or try to eliminate single-use plastics. It’s a long road, but even that first effort would be really powerful in trying to re-educate the population about the many reasons single-use plastics are bad. Making a strong statement like that to the world would absolutely entice certain like-minded travelers.
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