thrifty traveller, happy traveller

Cheap internet is not neccessarily CHEAP internet, I guess. I mean, we are upstairs in a cramped corner of the cafe; the roof too low for us to stand. It's hot, and I'm sweating and I'm really worried about being electrocuted (ed: Bec is more worried about falling through the floor), but at least it works.

I haven't blogged properly for a while now, the girls have really been picking up the slack for me. Really, I've run out of things to say about the country. For a while I was having a really shit time. Many local people out to make money off us have left me somewhat jaded. I can't count the times I've been lied to, ripped off, or just been left with the feeling that something is a bit dodgy. The place we are staying at is a little off. The room is okay, but they tried to charge us $25 a night for it. It's not even as nice as Sa Pa, and that was $12 with breakfast. Anyway, just a warning that when you come to Vietnam you WILL BE RIPPED OFF. This is not a maybe, this is a definate fact that you will be ripped off, more than once, every single day you are here. It's just the way it is. If you are not Vietnamese, if you do not speak Vietnamese, if you are not familiar with how things work you will end up paying more, getting less and then being looked at funny. That said, the people here are very friendly. Not five minutes ago we were sat on the steps of a makeshift stall run by the friendliest 'little person' named Phu. He is the first Vietnamese dwarf I've met. He wanted to know if there were little people in Australia. He was amazed to hear that little people are able to hold proper jobs, and even marry tall people. He wants to come to Australia and do some fishing. Of course Claire traded email addresses with him.

But money, I think, is the one thing that sours the experience here--as anywhere I suppose. There are so many people that just see us as walking money-sacks. And it's not just the people on the street scraping to make a living either, the official train ticket prices are stamped as either Vietnamese or Foreigner. If you are foreigner, you can pay up to twice as much. Of course, there are the swindlers that try to get a commission on top of that by spouting their horseshit stories about the boat or whatever being sold out and that they can call the captain and maybe you can sit in the front with him. Whatever. It's all lies. Taxi drivers trying to charge you up to twice what a ride will be worth, maybe pretending the meter doesn't work. NEVER ride in a taxi that doesn't have a meter. If the driver says it isn't working, then GET OUT. Maybe it will miraculously start working again. Also, try to at least look like you are paying attention to where you are going. A good technique is to get a map of the area and follow the streets as you pass them. This way it is more difficult for the driver to take you on the scenic route. If you are sleepy, you WILL PAY MORE. And yes, even using these techniques you will pay more if you don't speak Vietnamese, or if you have white skin. They only do this because they can get away with it, so the best thing is to prepare yourself and never give away more money than you are comfortable with. Don't let people rush you in a decision. If they want your money, they'll wait for it. Believe me. They want it.

We were going to post a photo of the internet cafe we are at right now, but we just noticed that there are no CD drives in the computers. Maybe once we get back to the Hotel we can use theirs for a few minutes, just to upload.

Here it is 2,500 VND for an hour, the hotel... not so cheap. Closer to a dollar.

Then, of course, there are the homeless people, the people that haven't eaten in days, the children trying to sell post-cards and cigarette lighters. You'll end up feeling like a total son of a bitch at least a few times during your trip. This cannot be avoided unless you buy something from every single peddler you see. This would end up costing us as much as our plane ticket on a trip this long. So I don't buy anything. I don't give away anything. Often, I don't even acknowledge them. If I did, I'd have to give it to everyone.

It's just something you have to deal with. You'll either feel like shit about it, or you won't.

- Paul,