Sunday, 1 August 2010

Vietscam!!!!!!! AAAAAGH!!!

Hewow from Hue! We took a bus up to Hue on Friday. Stunning scenery over a 3 hour trip over mountain passes and in flat sea level valleys by lagoons. Really pretty and awesome and made us just wish it was possible to hire a car and go it alone, stopping in some of these incredible places.

Arrived in the middle of Hue and immediately had a tout on our tail. We managed to ignore him and promptly marched off in the wrong direction through this really busy city. Eventually some creative map reading paid off and we sweatily staggered into the Amigo Hotel only to be told they were full. Went next door and they were all "yes yes velly nice room come and look" Relieved Simon went off to view a not velly nice room and so told her one night would do. Immediately she started "where you go tomorrow" - he lied- away on the train. "What time? Let me see ticket. You not know what time train goes? Stay here two night!" etc etc. Oh JUST BOG OFF!!

Found a crappy room in next hotel along, with one light bulb, two beds, one pillow and a loo with no loo roll- yep fine! After a speedy shower we headed out for grub and a well earned G&T (made with god knows what excuse for T and as for the G!) Went to a back packery type bar and were utterly sickened to see two western guys (poss german) ugly vile looking dudes order up a couple of hookers - the bar staff hurriedly providing plastic chairs for the lovely ladies and the two creeps ordering themselves some nice drinks while the ladies ran across the street and had to buy themselves a drink from a street vendor. Couldn't believe the staff at the bar were so okay with it.

Next day we headed out to walk across the river and explore the citadel. It was nice and quiet and very Vietnamese - hardly a tout in sight. Si enjoyed his best grub yet at a street food place. Massively hot though and after about 3 hours or so- no sign of the citadel. Took a cyclo back (kind of a bicycle with a big pram in front) Obviously there was a big discussion about price and some walking away and coming back and walking away before a deal was struck.
Can you feel the flatness in this piece? Are you getting the sense of ... bah!
Pants enjoyed a walk around in the afternoon to a riverside cafe. We then went out and ate western food- the pizza was okay but Si's bratwurst & chips was unsurprisingly awful. Bed by 9pm.

Today great plans for biking out of the city into the villages and finding the pagodas and tombs. First though, we needed to book our train tickets for tomorrow's 12 hour jouney to Ninh Binh. We went to the back packer place and met a po-face that huffed and puffed and said they'd have to send someone to the station to see about booking it as they couldn't do it on phone. She tried to suggest a sleeper train and lied about the times the day train got in to Ninh Binh (saying about 1am instead of what we know is the arrival time of 7pm) We decided to ride the bikes the 2km to the station as it was on the way to the villages and book ourselves.

Simon looked after the bikes whilst I nipped in and stood second in the queue. About20 mins later I was getting right royally hacked off with people just pushing me and stepping in front. At this stage a chap came up saying he worked at the station - where was I going? I explained, making sure I knew my stuff in terms of train number and times. He jumped in and spoke to the ticket girl before turning back to inform me that the train was completely full. All the other trains arrive at stupid o'clock in the morning (2am etc), no use for walking about a strange city looking for accom at that time of day. I asked about the following day and he said "full".

Next thing he is very plausibly suggesting sleeper bus and being quick to book it if we want places. Okay, we realise another revision to the plan is required and eschew Ninh Binh in favour of getting out of Hue and straight on to Hanoi. So he leads us not to a bus booking office as impled but directly into what is obviously his own cafe / scamming business!! Forget it man!

We cycled all the way back to town and went to a travel agent and he says "train station closed on Sunday cannot book train!!" So we are now staying another night here in Hell erm Hue and then travelling on a sleeper bus on Tuesday night straight to Hanoi!

Alright - so it is shit and everyone seems to lie to you but heh, we're here let's make the most of it. Back on the bikes and off we go. Great at first, as we were soon out of busy town (where people pull out in front of you, ride their mopeds the wrong way down the street and cut you up turning right at a cross roads- that's all charming though, isn't it? Travelling is such fun) Down the country lanes and it is starting to look better. Stopped at a red chair cafe and a big bunch of tattoed local lads drinking crates of beer are immediately raising their glasses to us, giving us beer & mangos, and stealing my Marlboro Lights with great joy and much mutual back slapping. This is the life - this is what it's about- these are the real people.

Following this rare success, we travelled on and stopped about an hour or so later at another such establishment for Si to have another great local food experience. The lady piled him up with random looking meats and rice and a beer. (I was feeling a little heat exhausted and not hungry - so took a water and checked out the map under a near by tree- okay there were dogs in the cafe and they didn't like me, I could tell!)
Next thing I hear Simon shouting "What! No no no!" The bloody woman is trying to charge him 100,000 Dong. (It should have been about 30, 000!) The old moo wasn't backing down and nor was Pants. I rather stupidly just threw the money at her and tried to call the boy off before some serious kick boxing ensued. (Quan 371 - the name of the rip-off joint - Pants)
And that my friends is where you leave us.... thoroughly, utterly pissed off with Vietnam.

It isn't the odd 50 cents or the odd dollar or 10 or 20 dollars... it is the relentless scamming, lying, thieving. It seems that you can not exercise your own will to do anything because someone is ALWAYS available to lie to you and lead you off down a different path and probably charge you for it. They offer things... western breakfast for example where you get a cheese omelete... was you get is a basically a messed up fried egg with half a triangle of laughing cow cheese spewing out of it. Everyone wants a piece of you and your money. It's not even poor like in Cambodia. It is just they see a white face and try it on! We would honestly fly back to BKK right now but we'd need to get to Hanoi anyway.

Not sure how others have actually enjoyed this country. Unless you are happy to just get pushed about onto allsorts of tours which cost a lot and are of differing quality and invariably lead to you needing to buy more things. Or unless you want to sit on the back of a motor bike and calm as a hindu cow just get lead wherever they want to take you for the least about of trouble and most amount of dollarage.
I'm sure that travelling types that read this may be happy to blame us for being what.. narrow minded, too western, not chilled.. Fine - our experience of Vietscam has been overall pretty goddamn awful and if friends and family were asking which SE Asian country to visit VN wouldn't be getting any recs from this quarter.

Hope you're all well, enjoying nice food and not paying too much for it just coz you is white!!

1 comment:

  1. We are currently in Vietscam and currently guffawing (and silently weeping inside) in sympathy! We hope that your trauma counseling has been successful and that the flattering light of hindsight has made you see the funny side... We're not at that stage yet.