HCMC teacher left stranded in Singapore by travel agency

July 29, 2009
Back at her home in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Le Phuong Thao (R) tells the story of being left behind by Vietravel in Singapore

A disabled Vietnamese tourist was allegedly left behind in Singapore by a travel agency after she had lost her wallet with all of her money and identity papers.

She contacted the Thanh Nien office in Singapore to help her with accommodation and related procedures to return to Vietnam legally.

Nguyen Le Phuong Thao, 43, a teacher of physics at the Gia Dinh High School in Ho Chi Minh City, was among 30 teachers from the school on a six-day Vietravel outbound tour, from July 4-9, to Singapore and Malaysia.

On the second day of the tour, Thao found she had lost her wallet with all her money and identity papers when she was having lunch with the group at a restaurant in the Sentosa island resort.

Thao said the two tour guides, one Vietnamese and one Singaporean, took her to the police station to report the lost passport and one of them lent her 100 Singapore dollars (US$69) telling her she’d have to look after herself because the group had to leave for Malaysia the next morning.

The guides also showed her some cheap accommodation at 17 Singapore dollars ($12) a night sharing with others.

Trang, the Vietnamese guide, said the group would fly directly from Malaysia to HCMC without returning to Singapore and that the agency had no further responsibility besides calling an employee in Singapore to help her. The tourists, however, did transit in Singapore.

Thao said that no one had helped her which is why she contacted the Thanh Nien office in Singapore who vouched for her identity to the Vietnamese Embassy for immigration approval to return home on July 7.

She said she was shocked to learn that the group had transited in Singapore on the return flight from Malaysia to Vietnam, unlike what the guide had told her.

Vietravel says…

Vietravel on Monday said though the tourism contract with Gia Dinh School had stated that the teachers were responsible for their own losses, the agency and guides had helped her and lent her money.

The guide, Trang, said they had to leave Thao behind when they departed for Malaysia because they had to take care of the rest of the group. She said they lent Thao the money so she could pay for a hotel.

The guide also said she had received an SMS from her boss saying Thao had to pay all other fees if she failed to follow the group.

“Neither Vietravel nor the guide left the tourist behind,” said Nguyen Minh Man, a Vietravel representative. “Thao didn’t wait for our employee [in Singapore] to help and had chosen to solve the problem alone.”

He said this was a regrettable incident and the company was considering contributing to Thao’s costs, including the return flight ticket.

However, he didn’t explain why the agency had instructed the guide that Thao would have to pay her own expenses.

Reported by Thuc Minh – Nguyen Le Nguyen

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