Friday, July 3, 2009

They Told Me Not to Take the Motorbikes

When visiting foreign countries, one tends to think in the foreign currency. Pay $20 for a hostel? not likely. Hock up an extra $3 for the air-conditioned room? I'll just sleep with my clothes off. By using budget airlines and eating from street vendors, I managed to have a 5 day extravaganza in Vietnam for less than $250.

I rarely felt at ease when I was walking the streets in Saigon. In passing, my dark-ish complexion and black hair keep the passersby from staring, but my overstuffed backpack betrays my true tourist identity. Vendors present tourists with smiles, but indiscriminately overcharge and haggle. I don't have a huge problem with a little bit of price inflation, but the manner in which it's done is a bit unnerving. On at least four occasions I was charged a higher price even when items had price tags. I reiterate, rich foreigners deserve the inflation, but I nonetheless tire of the constant haggling.

I had been advised by friends in Singapore to stick to the metered taxis when moving around, but having never ridden a motorcycle, I wanted to try it once. I hopped on with a driver to make my way to Chinatown.

"You ride moterbike eh?" the driver said, flashing a huge grin. "How much
you want pay? You tell me. You one doing me favor."

This sounds like an offer for the gullible, but I decided the most I could lose is whatever reasonable sum I offer him. I pull out a crumpled up 20,000 Dong (USD1.5ish) note from my back pocket.

After riding 10 minutes, he turns back to me, "You want girl... Viet girl... to phkkk." I quietly reply no. He asks another 5 or 6 times to which I repeat no though I'm pretty sure we heard each other correctly the first time. Warning sign #2.

He pulls onto a street corner and calls to another motor biker. An English speaker, he promptly tells me that the driver was confused as to where I told him to go and that I owed them another 50,000 Dong. Again, not a huge sacrifice for me, but I step off the bike after my attempt to negotiate is met with hostility. Three strikes is already two too many.

I jump into one of many metered cabs swarming the opposite street corner. He drives in the opposite direction of the way I had been driving. This trip costs 70,000 Dong. Apparently the first asking price was right, but the destination was wrong. I'm afraid to think where I was originally being taken. There are three possibilities:

1. He was taking me to the girls.
2. He was taking me to get robbed somewhere
3. Or perhaps he actually misunderstood me and I overreacted.

After a couple of hours getting lost in Chinatown and asking directions in Mandarin, I take another street bike back to my starting point. This time I only pay 20,000 Dong.

I'm lead to believe it would have been option #1 or #2.


  1. 4. He was into you and the Viet girl thing was a guised question

    Also, Vietnam's currency is the Dong hahaha

    thats 20 dongs please

  2. Why say no? Diseases are a good thing.