First full day in Saigon and it was…full!
Saigon and Ho Chi Minh are interchangeable as it turns out. “Same Same” as my taxi driver on the way in said.
Went for a walk this morning and went about 2 blocks and this guy pulls up on a motorbike next to me and starts asking me where I’m from, and says he’s moving to CA next year and does the whole rapport bulding thing. He was selling me on taking me around town and down the river and normally I just say no to all these guys but I was just in the right mood to do it. I said “What’s the price?” And he says “No price, nothing, you just pay at the end if you’re happy”. I knew of course this was a red flag but jumped on his bike anyway!
He took me to a few spots, I got to get whizzed around the INSANE traffic here, and went through this tunnel and went on this little boat up the river and got some nice photos. So yeah the whole thing was kind of a scam and yep, I ended up paying the guy too much for it. I had to pay $25 for the boat and after the boat the guy wanted to negotiate our deal for his taking me around! We were in this remote spot so I was kinda screwed, couldn’t exactly walk away…so basically he wanted $90 from me and I was able to get him down to $25, and he looked so disappointed. I got a bit taken but at the same time it was a cool experience! Maybe the whole thing was worth $25 to me so I got out of it not too bad. When I get taken, it’s never the money I’m mad about it’s the fact that I lost the battle!
This getting screwed thing happens to me once on every trip I go on. I usually over-tip someone by a lot or do the currency math wrong and pay for it…it’s part of the deal!
Later, after chilling at a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I met up with my friend Elisa from the Dynamite Circle (DC) had lunch and then crashed another coffee shop (there are zillions of them here) and worked for a couple hours. Fun!
Jetlag kicked in at around 5p but I just pushed through it and ended up going to dinner with a bunch of the DC people here and went to a Brazillian steakhouse…..all you can eat meat! Not exactly Vietnamese cuisine! Not my choice but it was really good. There were 7 of us and pretty cool group. I went into a meat coma after that and had a meat hangover today!
So when I taxi’d home I thought I got completely jacked. By this point it was 10:30pm and my brain was in a fog from it feeling like I stayed up all night. Well I went to pay and the meter said “62″ which is 62,000 Vietnamese Dong, which is like $3.20. I gave the guy what I thought was the right amount, and he starts speaking vietnamese really loudly and saying no. So I gave him more and he keeps pointing to the meter, and I opened my wallet and he pointed at the money and pointed at the meter and added it up as if it was the right amount. I thought I gave him too much but I was way too tired to understand what he was saying or how much it was. I was told there would be no math on this trip! Anyway it turned out to my relief that I did give him the right amount, figured this
Note to self: Never deal with numbers when jetlagged.
Some observations so far:
-Weather is PERFECT! It’s super sunny and a little breeze and only a little humid, not nearly as much as Bali or Thailand.
-There’s tons of modern buildings and modern restaurants here. Really surprising. I get the feeling there’s this huge middle class and upper class here mixed in with poverty and people scraping by.
-Traffic is INSANE! Constant almost accidents on motorbikes! Crossing the street is intimidating at first. There are very few rules here so everyone is on their own. It’s always a game of Frogger when you go to cross most streets here! I actually kind of enjoy it, although it will get old soon I’m sure. The key is to not hesitate ever, just go. It’s sort of a dance, where you just move on through and kind of keep a little hypervigilance as you go.
Cool video someone took of the traffic here. I love the first commment: “I was an atheist before I watched this video.”
-People are generally really nice. Better than Thailand! Many people speak English. Just not taxi drivers.
Staying at least 1 more night in my same hotel. It’s very comfortable and cheap, just $20/night with good wifi. My only issue is that it’s a little out of the way from where I would want to be, and I’m not ready to brave a motorbike at this point!
So I’m working on a project a lot the next couple days…planning to do some sight seeing after that. The nearby stuff I want to see is the Cu Chi tunnels, the Mekong Delta, and the War Remnants museum. Hopefully knock those things out next week and hit the far away stuff the following week.