Unlike many people, the Coronavirus brought Salmon Arm’s Marcel Bedard a little good fortune.
Marcel and his spouse Paula Britton-Bedard had booked a trip to Vietnam leaving Feb. 15 and returning home March 4.
When they left, the virus was being talked about, but nothing like the current reality.
On Feb. 15, they flew from Vancouver to Taipei, Taiwan. Then they made their way to Vietnam starting in Hanoi and travelling south to Da Nang and on to Ho Chi Minh City.
They spent a few days in each place along the way and soon found that, as travellers, they were something of a rarity.
Because no one was travelling from China due to the virus, and because people from China make up about 80 per cent of Vietnam’s tourist traffic, Marcel and Paula found tourist transportation, accommodations and many tourist attractions relatively free of people. The lack of tourists translated into extra special treatment for them.
“All our hotels were upgraded and our flights,” Marcel explained, showing photos of luxurious-looking hotel rooms. “We were pretty surprised.”
On some of the flights, there were only six or seven passengers.
The couple also took a number of boats, travelling on rivers and once on the ocean to see their destinations.
On one trip, “there should have been eight or nine groups and there was just my wife and I, the guide and the boat operator,” Marcel said.
Asked if they were worried about contracting the virus, he said no.
“No, everything was great, they treated us great. We had our temperatures checked at every airport, and we went to three or four different airports. It was 37.5 every time.”
On one overnight cruise, there should have been 60 people on it but there were only 30.
At a lunch spot in Ho Chi Minh City, normally 100 people would be there but Marcel and Paula were the only customers.
Marcel said people spoke very little about the virus, unless he brought it up. One fellow told him the temperature is too hot in Vietnam for such a virus to survive.
Marcel said although it took a few days to get used to the country, particularly the way everyone gets around on motorcycles packed tightly together on roads, he really enjoyed the trip.
One outstanding memory was the meeting of two worlds – a man standing in a rice field with his water buffalo while busy texting on his cell phone. Other highlights of the trip included the many interesting stops, such as the pearl fields, the temples and a cooking course he took because he is trained as a chef.
Known better as Salmon Arm’s bylaw enforcement officer, Marcel said his trip is not a popular topic of conversation with his co-workers.
He explained with a smile that because his fellow staffers had to cancel their trips, “I can’t say anything about my trip because they all get mad.”