My Love Hate Relationship with Vietnam

China Beach

It was my first time in Vietnam and as of writing I am now in Danang which is located in the central of this beautiful country. Danang, Vietnam is a coastal city facing the South China Sea.  When I first reached Saigon from Bangkok, I wasn’t prepared. I thought Vietnamese are a friendly bunch but I was wrong.

The Airport Taxi

My first contact with a Vietnamese was the guy manning the airport taxi counter. The counter has a sign “USD7.00” for a ride to town. I paid him USD7 but he asked for a dollar extra for the toll fee. Fair enough I paid him the extra dollar. When I got in the taxi, the taxi driver asked me money to pay the toll. I was so pissed I told him in English that I have already paid the toll fee. He couldn’t understand a word of English or maybe he pretended not to understand. I gave him VND50,000 as I didn’t have small change. The toll fee was VND10,000. He gave me back only VND20,000 and I asked him for another VND20,000.

I didn’t know what the problem was but he kept asking for more money despite the fact he has not given me the correct change. It was a major confusion but I think I ended up giving more money because I wasn’t proficient in reading too many zeroes on a single note. I was really mad as Vietnam currency has simply too many zeroes. I thought Indonesia’s currency was worse. I really got sour over the incident but this was the first I of the many incidents yet to come.

Vietnam Airlines

Ho Chi Minh City was a one day stopover and you guys are probably wondering why I have so many stopovers. The next day I took a taxi and headed down to the airport’s domestic terminal. I was very excited about my first experience with Vietnam Airlines. I expected a commercial carrier such as Vietnam Airlines to be top notch but the service is worse than Jetstar or any other budget carriers.

I entered the plane and none of the flight attendants smiled. They looked like they didn’t want to work and it seemed to them the passengers are a big nuisance. Their uniforms are nice though. The only thing that I have to praise about is the leg space. Beats other budget carriers. As soon as we reached a certain altitude, it was meal service. I was really excited. When the trolley came near to my row of seats, my excitement level just went downhill. The flight attendant handed me a meal box consisting of a chicken ham bun, a packet of mixed nuts and sweet sago pearl dessert. They were probably cutting on cost but the meal box was something I did not expect out of a commercial carrier. It was a 2 hour flight mind you. I finish my meal and was waiting for another round of juice refill but it didn’t come and the flight attendants did not even collect my rubbish.

Vietnam Airlines Boeing 777-200

The Crazy Hanoi Bitch

I reached Hanoi in the afternoon and did made an arrangement a week before with the travel agent who booked my Sapa Trip with to pick me up at the airport. As soon as I reached their office, I settled down for a while and decided to walk around the city while waiting for my night train to Sapa.

I walked out of the alley and found Hanoi’s Old Quarter to be really charming. I crossed the road and happened to see a monument. I don’t know what it was but it was a big statue of a man and woman. Just as I was snapping some photos, someone tapped me and greeted me with a hello. It was a 25 year old lady who claimed that she was a student helping disable kids. She showed me some documents and a student pass which probably is not legitimate. She said it does not take a lot of money to donate but who was she kidding me? How much is not much money? I told her I didn’t want to donate to her as I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

Here was what she did. I said no to her and she screamed at my face and hell yeah my balls shrank. She stormed off like a senile old women and babble something in Vietnamese. I thought it was going to be a “Thank you I hope to see you again” kind of ending like the ones in Singapore but for screaming at me for not donating, she deserves a “Crazy Hanoi Bitch Badge with First Class Honours”

Right after taking this photo, the crazy bitch tapped my shoulder.

The F**king Screwed Up Travel Agent

I am not waiting to get sued but I deserve to say this loud and clear. The travel agent whom I dealt with about a year ago seemed nice and genuine and they are located in Hanoi. I put my bags down and walked around the Old Quarter. They even let me use their shower as to get ready for my night train to Sapa. After the long 9 hour train journey from Hanoi to Lao Cai which is the base city for the mountain in Sapa, a representative picked me up and I took a van to Sapa. The van driver dropped other passengers off. When it was my turn, it seemed that the driver dropped me off the wrong hotel. The name of my hotel was Green Valley Hotel but I ended up at Sapa Global Hotel. I asked the staff from Sapa Global Hotel about the location of my hotel and he said it is a 10 minute walk. It wasn’t just any 10 minute but it was going up and down hills and it was really bad with my bag which weighed nearly 20kg.

I reached the hotel and checked in but my booking was nowhere to be found. I booked a dorm bed through www.hostelbookers.com about 6 months ago. I also emailed them about my confirmation. Apparently the dorm beds were full and I had to pay extra for a private room which wasn’t really pricey but I could do so much with that money.

I emailed the travel agency about my ordeal. I asked them for a partial refund because it is obviously their fault for the lack of information. They didn’t mention anything about the refund. They only offered me a stupid Vietnamese Noodle Soup for breakfast when I get back to Hanoi. Do you know that the guy (travel agency staff) who picked me up at the train station in Hanoi screamed at my face for not understanding him? I guessed that’s how Northern Vietnamese people talk. Shouting and screaming is really normal to them.

That's me in Sapa, Vietnam

The Family Train Cabin

Before I go on, I would like to clarify that I have nothing against locals in Vietnam (apart from the unfriendly Northern Vietnamese). I booked a return night train on ET Pumpkin cabin with the screwed up travel agency. The train going back to Hanoi was overbooked but it wasn’t a huge problem for me because I paid full for it. When I got on the train, I thought I was the only one in the cabin that was meant for 4 people. A few minutes later, a Vietnamese Family arrived by huge numbers. The man of the family started to light up his cigarette but I told him not to smoke in the cabin because smoking was not allowed.

The cabin that was meant for 4 people ended up with 12 people. The wife of the family asked if she could place her children on my bed and I said no. I paid full for it and I think I paid more than what the locals pay. Not that I don’t want to share but it’s my entitlement to say no. What’s worse is that her kids cannot shut up when I tried to sleep. One of her kids cried in the middle of the night. Even so, we had a great time talking to each other. It was the only chance to mix with locals.

Night Train to Sapa

Vietnam Airlines (YET AGAIN)

I took a domestic flight from Hanoi to Danang with Vietnam Airlines. The experience I had with them was enough to understand why many of their flight attendants are not proud of their job. I mentioned earlier that their leg space is good given their cheap price. This time, the leg space is still good but their seats are like hell. I almost got a back ache but thank God it was a 1hr 15mins flight. The seat had a huge bulge on the lower back and it couldn’t be adjusted. For nearly one and half hours I was sitting like I had a long term erection. It was a Boeing 777-200 by the way.

One woman around her 40s seated behind me put her legs on my arm rest and I used my elbow to hit her foot. I turned to her and raised my voice at her. She apologised but I feel that putting your foot your on someone else’s arm rest is fucking rude.

Danang Oh Danang

I reached Danang and I tried to get on the “reliable” taxi company called Mailinh Taxi Service. None of them wanted to take me to town. One even had to shout at me for God knows what reason even thought I spoke nicely. Now I understand why shouting is part of being a Vietnamese. They are the least gracious people I have met in the entire Southeast Asia.

I got on an unknown taxi and we agreed on USD7 to town. I asked him to bring me to the hotel on Lonely Planet’s listing. The driver brought me there and the hotel was nowhere to be found. I was short of money and I don’t know if the money I had could last long. When I asked him to bring me to China Beach which has a cheap guest house, he asked me for another USD8 which is really expensive for cheap country like Vietnam. I tried to bargain a lower price but he still insisted on USD8. I paid USD15 altogether which I believed could be a lot cheaper. Fuck the taxi driver seriously.

Don’t Gimme That Look Ok?

Even till the last minute in Vietnam as when I was about to leave for Bangkok, the people try their best to squeeze every single dollar out of me. I wanted a cheap ride to the Ho Chi Minh Airport so I decided to take a motorbike taxi which is only USD3 in contrast to the expensive taxi which cost around USD8.

I enjoyed taking the motorbike. It was truly an experience which I will never forget. The traffic was heavy with thousands of motorbikes thronging the roads Ho Chi Minh. As we reached the airport, the motorbike driver drove into the wrong lane. The security guard shouted at him to stop but he still went in. We stopped somewhere which was only meant for cars. Seconds later, the security guard who shouted at him came over and reprimanded him. The guard confiscated his keys and I was really shocked.  Later on he gave me a sympathetic face which I believed.

I didn’t have small change so I decided to give VND200,000 which was around USD10.00. He did not even give me back the change and he went off pushing his motorbike. I guessed money that he took from me was meant to pay the guard to get his keys back. Fuck him seriously. It was more than the cost of a taxi to the airport. I told myself to forget about it because the people there are just vicious cheats. USD10 won’t bring my morale down.

Overall Experience

I am not saying the whole Vietnam population are made up of cheats. Vietnam is a place where it is too beautiful to miss. The experience I had in Vietnam has led me into thinking that the people are not honest and they are definitely exploiting tourism. All of these nearly brought me into a huge meltdown as I told myself I have had enough of dealing with dishonest people. When will you people change? This experience too has taught me to deal with different kind of people and surprisingly I was able to keep cool despite the meltdown.

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4 thoughts on “My Love Hate Relationship with Vietnam

  1. I salute you Shai ’cause you handled those situations in a very nice way… 🙂 And, you don’t let them to ruin your trip…

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