LIFE IN A DIFFERENT WORLD: Halong Bay, Vietnam

Empty everywhere - like a scary movie

Empty deck chairs on a beach at Halong Bay, a popular travel destination in Vietnam, last week. While waiting for the tourists to return, the writer is learning new things, like languages, and growing a lot of vegetables.
Empty deck chairs on a beach at Halong Bay, a popular travel destination in Vietnam, last week. While waiting for the tourists to return, the writer is learning new things, like languages, and growing a lot of vegetables.PHOTO: REUTERS
Empty deck chairs on a beach at Halong Bay, a popular travel destination in Vietnam, last week. While waiting for the tourists to return, the writer is learning new things, like languages, and growing a lot of vegetables.
LIND NGUYEN, 29, OWNER OF WANDER STATION RESTAURANT

For the past two months, many of the world's most popular destinations have been shuttered, leaving monuments, museums, shops, restaurants, bars and streets almost empty. As the world reopens and residents step out, they are faced with the reality that life today is different from what it was before the coronavirus pandemic, and will likely remain so for some time. One of the most significant differences - a bittersweet realisation for most - is that there are currently no tourists to attend to or crowds to shuffle through. Residents in some of the most crowded tourist spots reveal what it's like.

On May 1, it was the (Labour Day) holiday and it was supposed to be busy everywhere; but it was empty, we had no customers, so I decided to close and have a look around.

Everywhere was empty, the road, the stores, the walking streets, everything. Like a scary movie.

In normal life there's supposed to be hundreds of boats cruising in the bay, music playing - pum, pum, pum - and people having beer outside and walking around. But now no more.

I'm sad and worried. How long does it take to get back to the normal life?

I just want tourists back here, meeting up, chatting and having fun. This place is just hanging there; we are open but we don't have any customers - not "any" but very few.

To keep open, we have to pay for the electricity, the rent, the staff, everything, but we don't want to close.

It's boring. I get bored, and everyone needs money to survive.

I miss making new friends, sharing stories, learning more about their cultures. I never get bored. Now I'm bored. Even my English is not as good as before, because it's been a long time, three months already.

People are thinking more about their families, friends, careers so they pay more attention to learning.

I'm texting with some of my friends and they're also doing the same, staying healthy, learning something new, reading more - like learning English for all of my staff; I'm learning Spanish and I've started to grow a lot of vegetables.

We will remember this time as a very important point. Everyone is scared of the virus, scared that life is ending.

 
 
 
 
 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 24, 2020, with the headline 'Empty everywhere - like a scary movie'. Print Edition | Subscribe