There’s one and only one company in Vietnam that I boycott: Sun group. Their presence is huge in Da Nang. They own Intercontinental – one of the most exclusive resorts in the country, Asia park – the only theme park in Danang with an iconic ferris wheel that I can see from my house across the river, and Ba Na Hills – a hilltop theme park/resort that I can also see from my house. My reason is simple: they have a habit of blocking public access to whichever area that their development sits on. (They also came up with the genius idea of building a cable car into Son Doong cave, which luckily was shot down because the stupidity could not escape anyone.)

Intercontinental completely blocks the whole North Beach bãi bắc of the Son Tra peninsula. And Ba Na Hills blocks off well Ba Na mountain, one of the only 3 mountains in Da Nang (the other 2 being Son Tra mountain and Ngu Hanh Son marble mountain.) Anyone that wants to go up the mountain has to use their cable car. What’s much worse in this case is that there IS a public road up that has been there looooong before Sun group ever came into existence. Sun group destroyed this road during their construction of the resort and has refused to repair it. They put up a guard post on the road and claim that it’s to warn travelers from the dangerous conditions of the road, but the guards are actually instructed to not let anyone pass.

Sun group is far from being the only culprit. The mentality of turning nature into private property is so widespread in Vietnam. Just look at the beaches. So many people believe and find it acceptable that resorts can block the public off their beaches. Thankfully it’s not legal in Da Nang, though the perception is there. I had a hard time convincing my parents that it’d be fine to sit and swim in front of resorts when they visited. The guards didn’t like it very much; and I’m sure they’d have try harder to intervene if we were a larger rowdier group. But at least it’s nothing like Nha Trang or last I heard Phu Quoc, where resorts put up physical barriers! It makes my blood boil. Hawaii has some of the most beautiful beaches and most exclusive resorts in the world and the public has access RIGHTS. Resorts, condos, multimillion houses, whatever development have you that’s on the beach HAS to provide public pathway.

People in Vietnam don’t know how to take care of nature, you say. It’s better for the resorts to keep people away so that they can maintain it better, you say. Yes, the awareness might not be here yet, but the solution is not to keep people off and let them go pollute elsewhere. The solution is to educate so that they protect nature wherever they happen to be. And I am seeing it getting better with the younger generations.

The mentality of “owning” nature is a lot harder to change. The impulse for nature to have a “utility” – whether it’s to turn a profit, or to keep the ecosystem in balance – runs a lot deeper and wider than just Vietnam. It’s so different compared to societies like Hawaii. We’ve been conditioned for generations, for centuries, so I really have no idea how to change or whether we could even change it.

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