Outdoor camping has gained popularity over the last few years in Vietnam, receiving a particular boost during pandemic times, but the trend is having several unsightly side effects.
For months now, camping activities have been organized along Dau Tieng Lake, the biggest artificial freshwater lake in the southern province of Binh Duong, two hours from HCMC, without permission from local authorities.
Visitors who get there are offered tents for rents of VND300,000 to 500,000 ($12.05-20.09) a night and there are also services like canoeing, boating and fishing to enjoy.
Hundreds of people flock to the lake every week, but they litter the place and dump dirty water into it. Illegal camping facilities that have sprung up in the area have adversely affected the lives of people in Dinh Thanh Commune, locals say.
Minh Tam, 30, member of a camping association who provides related services, said he and a group of friends had to stay behind to clean up a beach in Nha Trang in the central coast during a recent camping trip.
“The campers left a pile of garbage, full of plastic paper cups, plastic bags and food scrap. If it was not cleaned up immediately, everything would have been washed away into the sea,” Tam said.
The area along the Boi River in the northern province of Hoa Binh, two hours from Hanoi, has in recent years seen floating rafts and camping rental services spring up.
Tien Dung, 34, a tourist, said he had an unhappy experience there.
“Most campers rented loudspeakers and turned them on to maximum capacity. I couldn’t take a nap or rest properly the whole day,” he said. The noise pollution in such areas can harm local fauna, experts have said.
Floating rafts near a campsite in the Boi River, Hoa Binh Province, northern Vietnam. Photo by Tien Dung
In addition to environmental pollution issues, outdoor camping is also posing safety risks with tour operators and tourists undertaking adventurous activities on mountains and along streams without permission from local authorities.
On August 30, a group of 17 teenagers went camping along a small stream near the Ankroet hydropower dam in Lam Dong Province’s Lac Duong District, one hour from popular resort hill town Da Lat.
Sudden downpours caused its water level to rise and 10 people in the group risked their lives to wade through the swollen stream to return home while the remaining seven remained stuck in the middle of the forest until locals rescued them.
Following this incident, provincial authorities have instructed travel companies not to organize activities in areas prone to flash floods and landslides.
Campsite security has also become a serious issue.
In some areas, theft has become common as there are too many strangers and tents made of fabric are easy to slit.
The risk of rough or even extreme weather conditions and their impacts, like landslides, high waves and strong winds, is something that outdoor campers have to contend with.
In areas with no phone signal like Hang Tau village in Moc Chau Town in the northern highlands, it is difficult for campers to seek help if they face any problem.
Tran Quang Tu, 38, who runs a camping service in Cao Bang Province at China border, said that it was very important to check the weather forecast and determine the terrain before camping.
“You should not camp too close to the river banks, streams or the edge of the sea because when it rains or gets breezy suddenly, flash floods and landslides can follow.
“In addition, when camping on mountains and high hills, you should avoid being close to tree stumps because they can attract lightning.”
Outdoor camping has become a trend in Vietnam for about three years now. During the pandemic, several Facebook groups were established with large memberships, like Camping Together (more than 173,000 members), Vietnam Camping Association (31,000) and Camping Association – Hanoi picnic (nearly 74,000).
In developed countries, there are usually clear rules and regulations displayed about keeping designated camp sites clean.
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