Friday, February 06, 2004

It's been a few days since i updated this, and now is a perfect time to do it since it was one of the most intense/angry/irritating/amazing/best days of my trip so far. If you want a decent and pretty funny recount of what our day in Saigon was like check here. After a day in Saigon we went on a mekong delta boat tour for 3 days. It was the first time we really did a package tour and overall it was very good. Since we travelled in a group, we met a few people, and a couple people we had met before happened to be on the same trip (Almost every traveller that we're met and spent some time with we saw them at some point later on in the trip). We saw some floating markets on the river, visited a candy factory, honey farm, and climbed a 900m mountain (I was stupid enough to bring my 15lb small backpack along with me up the mountain). Our tour guide at one point gave us a brief history of Vietnam and talking about the "imperialist Americans" several times in the speech. I was a little worried about being american and coming to vietnam, but everyone we've told that we're american has been really interested in us. They all get this strange fascinated look in their eye and start asking a bunch of questions. Anyway, the main thing I wanted to write about in this entry is what happened today...I'll add more details about the mekong later.

So we got to Mui Ne, a beach town, at about 1am last night and looked around for a room, but the only place that was open that late was this hotel next to where they dropped us off. Except they wanted to charge us $12 a night for the room, which would be the most we've paid this entire trip. So we decided to sleep on the beach, and they told us to leave because they owned that part of the beach, and tried to charge us $4 each just to sleep outside there(the most we've paid so far the whole trip was about $10, and that was at the first place we stayed and before we knew that we should only pay about $8 or less). We told them that if they would just offer us one of their many open rooms at a reasonable rate we would take it, we'd be happy and they'd be making money...but they didn't accept it and we left...they were pretty obviously trying to scam us because we seemed desperate for a room. next door there was a cafe that was open that had a dorm room with 6 beds for only $3 a night for each bed we took...they turned out to be really nice people and we were lucky and had the room to ourself. So in the end it turned out ok...

Next morning we wake up and want to rent a motorbike to drive over to these big sand dunes about 20km outside of town. We walk down the street looking for a place to rent a motorbike, and this guy stops us and offers his bike...we negotiate him down to 45000 dong ($3) for 4 hours, which is the rate that hotel that tried to scam us last night charges. The gas gauge read near empty, but he told us many times that it was broken and there was a full tank in it. he seemed like a nice guy, so we believed him. about 15 minutes down the road, right at the point where we are in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road and it's about 95 degrees out, the bike stalls. We think it's a mechanical problem, because the guy assured us there was a full tank of gas. So I tried for about 10 minutes to start it up again, finally it starts, goes about about 2 minutes, and stalls again. This time it won't start at all...we sit there stranded for about 10 minutes, and we flag someone down driving by on a bike. He is really helpful, and checks the engine, and pulls the gas line, realizing it's out of gas. So he drives away and comes back 5 minutes later with a 2 liter bottle of gas...fills up the tank and it starts and runs fine. We get really angry because that guy lied to us when we rented the bike. So we take out 10000 dong to pay the guy for the gas, and he motions no (he doesn't speak any english), and goes through my wallet to take out a 50000 dong bill. I refuse...I know the gas can't possibly cost more than 20000 dong, so we try to pay him 20000, and he keeps saying no. After about 10 minutes of arguing with him, both of us not really understanding each other me and shaul pull out a pen and start writing down the price...he says it should cost 40000 for the gas. We keep saying no, and after another 10 minutes of going back and forth, he empties our tank and drives away. He wasn't even upset really...just did it very routinely. So we knew there was a place to buy gas up the road, because he didn't drive that far away. I pushed the bike up to a little grouping of restaurants and there was a kid selling gas on the side of the road we buy the same 2 liter bottle he brought us, and it was only 14000 dong. We thought the guy was being nice at first, but he was obviously trying to scam us. Make that scam number number 2 for the day and number 3 for the last 12 hours.

But things have always had a way of turning around on this trip. As soon as I am really pissed off at the people scamming me, and all the crap that has gone on, something great happens which reaffirms why I wanted to come here to begin with. The people at the gas place were honest, we accidentally gave them too much money, and they gave us the change after we started walking away. So we sat down to have a drink at the little restaurant and let off some steam. We ordered some coffee, and then a couple vietnamese people motioned for us to come over and sit with them (a man and a woman). They barely spoke any english, but we found out they were teachers at a nearby school, they were about 28 years old. We became friends with them pretty quickly and just had a great time sitting there for a couple hours playing pool with them and drinking coffee and tea (which they kept offering). They had to leave at about 3pm (after hanging out for about 2 hours) to go back to their school and teach, so we asked if we could come along and check it out. I've been wanting to go to a school in one of these countries since we got here and it was great. When we first walked in the teachers had the kids sing us a idea what it meant but it was pretty cool. The kids were perfectly behaved (they were all between 8 and 13 and it was a 2 room schoolhouse)and we just played with them, took pictures, sat in on a class and joked around for a couple hours. Every moment the teacher wasn't looking they were staring, waving, or making faces at us. It was a lot of fun, so the bike running out of gas turned out to be a good thing...

At about 4:30 we left the school to go back to town, promising to meet up with the teacher for a drink at 7pm tonight. We now had to return the bike and yell at the guy who rented it to us...we decided we wouldn't pay him more than 20000 because he obviously lied to us about the gas, we were pretty pissed about being scammed constantly, and we would be returning the bike with at least 2x as much gas as was originally in the tank. We got back, and explained the situation (his english was really good). After a lot of arguing and explaining how we were stranded and him saying that we were lying about it he finally said "well you should have checked the tank before you left." At that point we both flipped out, said we weren't going to pay him anything and walked away to a cafe down the street to eat dinner...the guy followed us and sat outside brooding. we ignored him, but after we ordered he stormed in screamed "Fuck you" and to give him the money, picked up a chair and was about to hit shaul with it...we both just stared him down. he was on the verge of tears, one of the ladies at the cafe started talking to him in vietnamese, I told him we'd pay him the 20000 like we said, but he didn't deserve any more...I really didn't care about the money, the difference is a $1.50, but we both weren't about to let him get away with lying to us and stranding us in the middle of nowhere. He yelled a few more obscenities and argued a lot more, I could tell he was extremely upset, and eventually accepted the 20000. he drove away angrily and came back 10 minutes later with a camera and took our picture...we just waved and took a picture back at him...he drove away screaming "you leave town tomorrow." We were really upset...not really sure if we'd done the right thing but we felt overall in the right...both of us aren't confrontational people and we didn't want that whole thing to happen, but the guy had to be taught some kind of lesson or he'd be pulling that shit again with someone else tomorrow. Nevertheless we decided that after dinner we'd try to find him and offer him another 10000 dong if he admitted that he lied to us...i've been told that admitting a lie is a really big deal in asian culture, but I'm not really sure. 10 minutes later he comes back in the restaurant and apologizes to everyone else for getting so upset and yelling. Shaul got up and took him outside and smoothed everything over...he apologized profusely and eventually admitted that he tried to rip us off. We gave him another 10000 dong and everything was better.

So was a pretty crazy day...tonight we're off to Nha Trang at 2am, about 4 hours away, to hopefully just sit by the beach and chill until we have to go back to saigon and fly to China.


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