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Bad Taxi Driver!

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 21, 2009

June 1-4, 2008

All Pictures

A rainy day in Ho Chi Minh City

So Long, Farewell…

The last few days in Vietnam were bitter-sweet for me. I knew that in a few days I would be heading back to China and then to countries I had only dreamed about visiting. I would also see my brother and mother. It had been almost a year since I’d seen my brother and about six months since I’d seen my mom. But at the same time, I would have to say good-bye to my new friends. I would probably never see them again.

eating Pho in Ho Chi Minh City

We spent our first day back in Ho Chi Minh shopping. We bought cheap jewelry and lovely trinkets. Dong is worthless outside of Vietnam and no one will change dong back into dollars. So, anything that caught our fancy, we bought. It started to rain, but we just put on our rain ponchos and kept going.

The next day, two of the ladies left to go back to their homes in Europe. The day after that, another one left to continue her tour of Asia in Cambodia. I was the last to leave.

My flight to Beijing was on the morning of the fourth. It was an early morning flight, so I woke up before the sun rose in order to pay my hotel bill and waited for a taxi. The front desk clerk called one for me. When the taxi arrived, the door man help me into the cab.

He put my backpack in the trunk and told me that the ride shouldn’t cost more than 100,000 dong. I already knew that the ride should cost about $5, because I had asked many agents and other tourists about it. I even made sure to set aside double that, to make sure I could get to the airport alright as well as to give the cab driver a nice tip.

A Street Restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City

To me, the price didn’t really matter, I planned to give the cabbie all the dong I had left which was about 300,000 dong. The ride lasted about 8 minutes, but even from the start I knew something was wrong with the cab’s meter.

The meter started at 50,000 dong. When it hit 100,000 dong I looked back; I could still easily see my hotel out the rear window. When we got to the airport, the meter said 382,000 dong! I didn’t have that much money on me.

I handed him a 100,000 dong note. He waved his arms furiously, refusing to take it and pointed at the meter. I told him that the hotel man said it should cost less than 100,000 dong and that was all he was going to get.

He took my money and folded his arms. He wasn’t going to move until I paid his full amount. I told him that I wanted my backpack and pointed to the trunk of the car. He ignored me. I was not going to get out of the car and give this man the opportunity to drive off with my stuff.

During my trip I noticed that people in Vietnam like to shout a lot and I figure I would try it. I sat back in my seat and I screamed at him, “I want my bag NOW!”

He turned around looking quite shocked. I had yelled so loud, all the people standing outside the airport turned around to look at me. I opened my mouth, about to yell again, but he was already out of the car. He ran to the back of the taxi to get my bag for me. Once he was standing on the sidewalk with my backpack in hand, I got out the vehicle.

He handed me my bag. I put my arms through the straps, turn to him and politely said, “Thank you.”  I did drag him along for a bit when I walked away because he didn’t let go of my bag. But he couldn’t hold on forever.

I reached Peking 7 hours later and ended up giving my useless dong to the people affected by the earthquake. They took up a collection on Dragon Air.

Shopping in Ho Chi Minh

The Tourist Rate

I usually don’t mind paying the tourist rate for things. As a tourist, I pay more for items sold on the street than a local would. It’s a bit unfair, but the things bought in South East Asia are still pretty cheap even with a price hike. A dollar might not mean that much to an American, but its worth a lot to that vendor.

I think it’s more about how the vendor makes you feel that determines whether or not you really feel scammed. Let’s face it, it’s all a scam. Tourists will always pay way more than the locals and not just in South East Asia. But were you charmed out of your money or intimidated out of it? Did you feel you had a choice to say no?

What I hate is when I’m backed into a corner and I have to pay an unfair amount. That taxi driver looked at me. I was a female traveling alone. He probably thought I didn’t know any better and even if I did, I would be too scared to not pay his overpriced charges. I was already given the ride; I had to pay, right?

I don’t mind paying 20% extra for fruit from a vendor who walks all day in the hot sun to feed her family when I choose to. If I feel the price is too much I walk away; there’s no feeling that I’m going to get in trouble or hurt if I don’t buy anything. But I will not pay 282% extra to an obnoxious cab driver for an 8 minute ride, in a cab with an obviously broken meter, who is trying to bully me into to over paying.

I understand that maybe this cab driver also has a family to feed. Maybe he even has more bills to pay because he also has a car to take care of. I don’t even mind the cab drivers that claim to not have any change. If the change is not too large I just let him or her keep it. It’s a bit cheeky, but there no feeling of being threatened. I just didn’t like to feel intimidated. I knew how much the fare should have cost and he was charging me almost three times that and there was no negotiating or walking away. Well, there was some walking away because that’s what I did.

And I was going to give him all the dong I had…

All Pictures


 

 

Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
  • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Ho Chi Minh City 
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E

You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.

Airport –

The Train –
Long Distance Bus Stations –
  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
  • Mien Tay Bus Station
  • Cholon Bus Station

Website:

Videos:

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Scooters, naps, and PJs

Posted by Heliocentrism on May 21, 2009

May 28-29, 2008

All Pictures

Taking a self-guided tour of Saigon with new friends

Leaving Paradise

There were four of us from Paradise Resort that were going to Ho Chi Minh City, so we decided to travel together. We left Paradise and spent a short time in Nha Trang. We reserved our train tickets from the travel agent that the owner of the resort recommended. The agency wasn’t all that great.

The lady there was a bit rude to my friends and me. We bought the train tickets with no problem, but then she tried to trick one of my new friends into buying an overpriced visa to Cambodia. The lady lied, by telling my friend that a visa cannot be bought at the border. Then she tried to pressure us into buying a package tour of the Mekong Delta, but refused to tell us what was included in the tour unless we paid first.

on the train to Ho Chi Minh City

We walked around Nha Trang for a few hours sampling street food and browsing in a very nice book store with no books in English. When we went to pick up and pay for our tickets, we ran into a couple who had left Paradise a few days before. They joined our group to Ho Chi Minh City.

Picking a hotel

Saigon

We all boarded the train and talked about our plans for our time in the city that used to be known as Saigon. The choice was between the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Since I am a bit claustrophobic, I had very little interest in wandering around a cramped underground labyrinth.

Once we got to Ho Chi Minh City, it was easy to find accommodations. We stood on the sidewalk in the part of town we wanted to stay. We put all our packs in a pile and as we were about to plan our next move, the hotel guards started to approach us. Guard A from Hotel A offered us a price. We turned to guard B from Hotel B and asked him if he could beat Hotel A’s price. In the end, we went with a really fancy, yet forgettable hotel because it gave us the best deal and it came with free internet.

Most hotels, but not all, in Vietnam have free internet for guests.

Using the Lonely Planet walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City

We did a walking tour of Ho Chi Minh City courtesy of the Lonely Planet: Vietnam. On our tour we saw lots of the sights the city had to offer.

Since most of the things I did on this leg of my trip were planned and executed by other people, I don’t have the information about them like I usually do. I didn’t have this blog back then and I didn’t take notes.

While traveling in Vietnam I did noticed three things about the city dwellers.

Napping on a motorbike in Ho Chi Minh City

1. People sleep any and everywhere.

Naps are very important and you should do it wherever and whenever you feel the need to snooze. The most popular type of nap in Saigon is the scooter or motor bike nap. There’s also the hammock in a bus nap, the butcher’s meat cutting table nap, the park bench nap, the sidewalk nap, the chair nap, and many more! This inspired me to make a special album called Naps Around the World.

2. People love to pile stuff onto their scooters.

How many family members can you get on your bike? Just five you say?! You are going to have to improve your motorbike stacking skills. You could at least try to get some dogs on there! How about 4 or 5 fat pigs, a chicken, and a couple boxes of geese? I’m sure grandma wouldn’t mind holding onto a TV or two as you speed down the dirt road at a whooping 35 mph. While she’s got the TVs your nephew can hold on to your week’s worth of recycling. You should also never leave home without a few empty cardboard boxes to pick up anything else that might catch your eye. Remember, the key is to never have empty hands aboard you scooter. Everyone must do their part.

3. Women love to wear pajamas outdoors.

They could be cotton, silk, or satin. They could come with or without cartoon characters. You don’t have to stop wearing your PJs when you get out of bed, or even when you leave your home. Neither do you have to wait until dusk to put them back on. Wear them to work. Wear them to school. Wear them to the temple. Wear them when you just need to go outside to yell at people. You have a fancy party to attend? Why not wear those silky pajamas you got for Christmas last year?

I ♥ Vietnam!!


 

Vietnam
(Việt Nam)

How to get there:

  • You can enter by plane, train, boat, or bus.
  • Make sure to get a visa before going to Vietnam. Although some nationals can get a visa at the border for a few days, many cannot or will need a visa for longer stays.
  • Visit the Vietnamese embassy in your country to get a visa.

Phone:

Website:

Videos:

Notes:

  • Don’t worry if you cannot get Vietnamese dong from your local bank back home. You can get your dong at the airport either in your country or in Vietnam. Don’t get too much; no one will buy it back from you. Many hotels, fancy restaurants, and tour agents will take US dollars or Euros. Though who knows what exchange rate they will use? You will need dong for taxis, small shops, and local restaurants and vendors.
  • When you get to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh pick up a map of the area from any hotel, hostel, travel agency, or tourist information center. Once you have one of those you’ll be able to find anything.
  • Having a map of the area in Hanoi is very important. Every block has a different street name so once you know the name of street something is on you can easily find it with a map.
  • Wherever you choose to stay, make sure you bring a picture and the address of the hotel. One common trick that taxi and motorbike-taxi drivers like to pull is to take you to the wrong hotel. When you say, “I asked for ABC Hotel!” They will tell you that the name changed. They usually get a commission for bringing tourist to certain hotels.
    • Sometimes hotels do change names. But most likely a hotel will not change names between the time of your booking accommodations and your arrival without telling you.
  • Also for taxis, NEVER agree to a flat rate fee. The flat rate fee will always be way higher than it should be. Always demand that the cab driver use the meter. If he doesn’t want to use his meter, get out. Taxi drivers are a dime a dozen. This is true in most countries.
  • For motorbike taxis, settle on the cost of the ride before getting on. Ask fellow travelers for advice on how much a ride should cost.
  • Watch out for cyclo drivers that claim not to have change as a way to get more money out of you. If you need to, wait for one of those fruit vendors to come along and buy something from her to make change. You really should ask the cost to your destination and make sure you have exact change before you get in the cyclo. 
  • It’s best not to say anything bad about Ho Chi Minh while in Vietnam. He is still very much loved by his people.

Ho Chi Minh City
(Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh)

How to get there:

  • 10°49’24.2″N 106°37’48.3″E

You can get here by train, plane, boat, or bus.

Airport –

The Train –
Long Distance Bus Stations –
  • Cho Ben Thanh Bus Station – This one is downtown and near many tourist sites and hotels.
  • Mien Dong Bus Station – Buses to and from northern destinations
  • Mien Tay Bus Station
  • Cholon Bus Station

Website:

Videos:

Map:

Click for Google maps

Posted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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