That woman's dishonesty came back to haunt her

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
Trip End Dec 12, 2012

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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I don't know why I decided to stay in Da Nang for two nights, rather than spend at least one night in Hoi An.   Hoi An is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once a major trading port that rivaled others that are still powerful.  Today it is a sleepy village that has seen its downtown area transformed into shops, restaurants, bars and small hotels.

To get to Hoi An from Da Nang, I take the local bus, which should take about one hour, if all goes well.  Since I am one of the first on the bus, I am given the best seat for my legs, then sit and wait.  There is no reason to ask when the bus will leave, because in the developing world, buses leave when they are full, rarely any sooner, even if they claim they go by a time schedule, so it depends on how fast the bus or van fills.  After about thirty minutes, when it is obvious no new passengers will join us, the bus leaves the station, then goes up and down the major streets looking for passengers

I am told by the fare collector, the nice lady who made sure I had the best seat in the bus, that the fare is 30,000 Dong ($1.50), though I have no proof that this is correct.  (I have read in many guidebooks and websites that the buses that ply this route are notorious for overcharging foreginers.)  Along the way the bus starts to fill.  A German couple with two small children get on in the city center.  They are told to pay 18,000 each for the two adults, but they refuse to pay more than 10,000 Dong each.  They claim they were told that the fare was only 10,000 Dong from where they picked up the bus.  An argument ensues between the German woman and the woman taking fares.  The arguing continues, then the fare taker gives up.  The bus is now more than packed, everyone is squeezed in.  Then the argument between the money collector and the German woman starts up again.  The money collecter asks this one guy to translate for her.  He tells the German couple in English that the fare is 18,000 Dong per passenger each way.  The woman then starts arguing with him.  The money collector joins in, the argument gets ugly, so the bus stops and they kick the German couple off the bus, but not before their 20,000 Dong is thrown on the ground for them to pick up. 

I ask the English speaking guy how much the fare to Hoi An is.  He tells me 18,000 Dong (about 90 cents).  I then tell him I was charged 30,000 Dong.  He calls the woman over, has a few words with her in Vietnamese, which is then followed up by her opening up her wad of money and staring at me with daggers, then hands me 10,000 Dong in change.  He tells me to forget the other 2000 Dong.  He tells me that when I return to Da Nang that the fare will be the same, so hold my ground.  

Since Hoi An has been developed as a top tourist destination in Vietnam, there are plenty of good restaurants.  At one, the waiter asks me where I am from.  When I respond, he tells me he has family there also, all living in San Jose.  This bond gets me better service.  

To see the sites in Hoi An, you have to buy a ticket, but I decide to forgo it and just walk the streets, marveling at the architecture, and seeing what the stores are selling.  After about eight hours, I take the bus back to Da Nang, and again they try to overcharge me, but I refuse to budge now knowing the actual fare, handing the man 20,000.  He finally agrees, saying that it is a fare deal.  Just as we are about to leave, a couple of motorcyle taxis drive up, shouting for the bus to wait.  One person on the back of the motorcycle looks like the girl from Panama.  When the various people from the motorcycle taxis step onboard, her boyfriend/husband (I don't know which) sees me, then turns toward the outside of the bus and announces loudly, "Your amigo!"  We greet each other warmly.

The fare taker tries to rip them off as well.  We speak a little in French and Spanish so the money collector can not understand.  I tell the French guy that he shouldn't hand over a 100,000 Dong note to pay, because he won't see the rest of it back.  I can make change for him, but the money collector finally agrees to 50,000 Dong for the two because they have their luggage with them.  They're too tired to argue, and think it is fair, since their luggage is taking up extra space.  Along the route back to Da Nang, I find out their story.  He's a French national who was sent to Panama to work at one of the French banks.  During his two years there, they met.  When the office closed, he wanted to remain in Latin America, but they shipped him to Singapore instead because he spoke Spanish.  Who in English-speaking Singapore banks at a French bank and expects to be spoken to in Spanish?  Another WTF moment.  They've been there for two years, and have been traveling around SE Asia when they have the opportunity.  Toward the end of the journey, the money collector tells the girl, who is Afro-Hispanic that they look alike, then places his arm next to her's to show they are almost the same color.  They, and everyone else I talk to, are surprised that I didn't stay in Hoi An for the night, and I keep hearing how pretty the downtown area is at night, as it is lit up by Chinese lanterns.  Oh well, it's too late to change hotel plans, so Da Nang for another night.

When it's my stop, we say our goodbyes, and I get off.  When a motorcyle taxi offers up his services -- as a taxi driver, not as a pimp -- I agree.  Poor man, he has no clue as to where he is going, even after I show him the hotel's business card and the map.  We go up and down the streets, to which I run into the couple again.  "He's lost,"  I yell to them.  Thank goodness it was a fixed price.  Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, he somehow finds the way to the hotel, with the help of half the city.  The hotel is very nice, but it is too isolated, and there is no restaurant in the hotel or at those in the surrounding area.   I am glad that I had dinner in Hoi An before returning.  I am now in for the night.        
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