Travelling is wonderful if you plan it and get organised beforehand. It is especially important when you travel to a country where you don’t know the language. And if the currency is approximately 1 dollar to 20000 dong, you get a whole lot of mind bending challenges. Going to Vietnam blew this inexperienced travellers mind. It started soon after the plane landed in Ho Chi Minh city.
The first challenge was to catch a taxi. Well you have to be ready to find the Vinasun group if you know something about which company is widely used. What not to do is walk out of the arrival terminal and receive the friendly greeting of the first bloke who swoops on you and offers to take your bags. Then he proceeds to take you past what looks like a taxi rank, to then walk you to a dark car park and reassure you (without using an english word)that 350000 dong displayed on his smartphone calculator screen is your best option.
Luckily for me, I had a partner who knows a bit about dealing with the locals of a few countries. She quickly engaged her, “let’s get the hell out here” switch. She swept me in the right direction and we went back to the actual taxi rank. Relief…we then (second time lucky) had another reassurance from an official-looking taxi concierge. Quoting a price of 200000 dong for us to get to our hotel. A saving of 150000…maybe.
Living in Canberra all my life sheltered in my beautiful country town trying to be a city did very little to prepare me for the big wide world I was entering. So sheltered, even dealing with a currency that more zeros in its prices than this little country lad could bare. Moving on we get into the taxi and we are on our way, let’s go. Well we get 100 meters down the road and the taxi driver gestures towards the toll prices. It all looked like gibberish to me, but we gathered that it was 10000 dong. I delved into my wallet only to realise that the smallest note was 100000 dong. Without time to think, he snatched it out of my hand pocketed it and then paid the toll…he had quickly pulled a 10000 dong note out of his other pocket straight to the toll booth operator.
Ursula and I stared at each other. The fact that we tried to talk, but were not able to communicate was distressing. The taxi driver had us on the back foot with nothing but failed attempts to get our 90000 dong back. No way he was gonna be giving that back to us. I suppose we should have done more lessons of speaking vietnamese. We are in his world now and there is no way we will be able to negotiate. As it happened, we ended up paying the 200000 dong, add on to that the 10000dong toll and the slight of hand 90000dong acquisition we end up paying just a little below the shifty operators we had previously encountered. But to put this in perspective we were gonna pay $17.50 but ending up paying $15 and maybe our lives!
We got to our destination, Caravelle Saigon, though through the night it was dark and unknown as we ventured into a mysterious destination where maybe no-one spoke our language and a whole new adventure would begin. As it happened the hotel was excellent, Ursula’s choice was a good one. Straight from the first moment we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly face ready to take us in. So stick around for the chapter of our adventure in a crazy place where the electricity cables are infinite, traffic is mind-blowing and the food is even more so……..
R & J PSShare us