When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.
– Clifton Fadiman
Today is a travel day – which means I have time for an update
16 hours on a bus from HCMC, Vietnam to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. So, I shall update you all on yesterday evening and all the random things we saw in Vietnam.
Last night, after the tunnels, we went to the main market. My wardrobe has increased by two pairs of trousers and a dress. And our house now has chopsticks in a hand carved box.
Tips about tipping
We also had a massage. It was lovely, but they seem to have decided tipping is the way forward. And they give you a sheet of paper to fill out with set tipping options… $6, $8 or $10… considering the massage was meant to cost $4-12, the expected tip really does more than double the price!
From all that we read before we came, tipping is not expected. But the American influence seems to have corrupted this country. Tips and service charge are automatically added to pretty much every meal and drink, and they tend to double the original price. This is somewhat disappointing to me as I have always been one for offering pretty decent tips when the service is good, but I don’t like to give them when the service is poor, and thus hate being forced to give a set amount.
Other things I have learnt in Vietnam
The moped rules. They are everywhere, like a swarm. There doesn’t actually seem to be any particular rules of the road. Except that when you cross the road ‘you must never run, because it will probably be the last run of your life!’ So, essentially, you have to walk, with traffic moving towards you, and stay at the same speed because if you stop, a moped will hit you, if you speed up, a moped will hit you. But stay at a steady pace and they just go around you. Oh, and they don’t stay on the roads… mopeds can drive on the path. And into shops and bars.
I guess the only other advice I can offer is that bartering in key! In the markets, any price you are offered can be more than halved. We were asked for 550,000 dong for two pairs of trousers (about £18) but we walked away with 4 pairs for 350,000 dong (about £12) and I got to keep both my arms (grabbing and clamping an arm is apparently the norm when bartering until you have agreed a price) Oh, and beware, the stall owners pretend they can’t speak English very well until you agree a price, then their English is pretty impeccable.
Also, like with most of SE Asia, if you go anywhere, the bus will stop somewhere en-route for you all to get off, buy food and souvenirs. This is normal, and there will be some form of kick back to the driver. The prices will be almost extortionate. You will stay long enough to essentially force people to buy something. But as soon as people stop spending money in the place, the bus will be moving again.
To finish, I shall explain the title. The hotel next door to us had a welcome sign, and it reads ‘sorry, we’re open’. With that on the door, I’m pretty happy that we weren’t staying there!
Have you travelled through Vietnam? What are your thoughts on this country?
S (and the rest) x
Ps, the iced coffee in HCMC is possibly the best in the world.