Foreign tourists stroll down a street in Nha Trang. A debate has begun recently over whether foreign tour guides are good for Vietnam, and at least one expat is sure they are. Vietweek’s Guiding Principle article, about the problems caused by foreign tour guides in Vietnam, was an ill-informed and occasionally xenophobic piece which barely reflected the reality for tourists and tour companies in the country. Earlier this year I took a visiting British travel journalist on a motorbike tour of Saigon. Our guide for the day was an Australian war veteran who has lived in Vietnam for over 30 years, speaks fluent Vietnamese, and knows the country better than anyone I have ever met. He spent the day taking us well off the usual tourist trail, to places that even I, having lived in Saigon for nearly 10 years, had never visited before, and kept us informed, entertained and amused throughout. He was basically the best tour guide I have met anywhere in Asia – and as an expat tour guide in Vietnam, he is the shape of things to come. The assumption that only locals can guide foreign visitors to their country is arrogant, naïve and extremely old-fashioned….
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