Vietnam just experienced some of its busiest travel days of the year during the Reunification Day and Labor Day holidays.
Now, as the travel industry gears up to welcome the next wave of tourism as summer begins, cleaning up the mess left behind by the holidays’ travelers is the biggest task.
This year I stayed at a mid-range hotel near the beaches of Vung Tau. I talked to Muoi, 58, who has worked as a housekeeper there for over 10 years. Her son is the receptionist and they stay in a room near the hotel’s kitchen.
Muoi said cleaning up after unconscientious tourists is hard labor. Some hotel guests, “mostly our Vietnamese,” she said, litter the room with trash. She will find collections of garbage under the bed and in the wardrobe, and travelers often stain the hotel’s white towels cleaning up food messes and wiping off their dirty feet.
The cleaning team’s notebook in April reads:
– Room H – Guests were out for two days without turning off the air-conditioning. – Room X – The door’s curtain has pizza stains and needs to be taken down and washed. – Room V – Guests brought in durian fruit and dropped the seeds in the bathroom sink. – Room I – There’s crab legs in the bathroom sink. – Room S – There’s trash in the hand-washing sink and the towels are gone. – Room Y – Guests only checked out after 2 p.m. after several reminders.
One time I saw a man washing his child’s genitalia in the hand-washing sink. I told him: “This is for washing faces and hands. Please bring your child to the bathroom.” But he snapped back at me: “I already paid.”
And that seems to be the bitter truth: tourists pay money to exploit a facility as they please. There is no compassion or humanity in the trade.
The hotel’s owner told me: “You can’t just serve people you like, you have to be an expert in saying hello and goodbye to everyone with a big wide smile.”
But I can’t just smile. I keep wondering how a man can wash his child’s butt in a sink that others use to wash their hands and faces, how some tourists can use their room’s curtain to wipe off their dirty hands, how some can keep the air-conditioning on with their windows open, all without feeling a bit of shame.
This kind of behavior is a kind of trash in itself, and the biggest piece of trash tourists create is the fact that they believe they are entitled to acting this way.
They do so without thinking twice, without considering that after they leave, Muoi will have to put her hand into the bathroom sink to clean up the crab’s legs or durian seeds.
The impression you leave behind can be trash, or gold, it depends on you.
Anywhere you go, you create an influence. It is the energy that you exude, the things you say, and the things you care about. Want it or not, your existence and your behaviors can make people around you feel refreshed or suffocated.
Many modern people try to come and go without bothering anyone or anything. Literally speaking, they clean up after themselves, so that other people are not bothered by their trash.
But others seem to think that paying customers can do whatever they want and get away with it. The mindset of “I pay money so I’ll behave however I want” is very common.
However, your money does not reflect your value.
You’ll see people screaming at waiters and making unreasonable demands at restaurants, or cutting the lines at shops.
These people are reducing their own value.
*Hong Phuc is a journalist.