28 April 2003 - Hue, Vietnam
Is there such a thing as being 'too friendly'?

I like Vietnam. Don't get me wrong, most of the people are nice, but there is one segment of the population that I've grown to dislike intensely. In fact, this has been a problem since Cambodia, and it's gradually become more and more annoying.

It's the cyclo and moto riders that hang around outside hotels, waiting for tourists to come out so they can take them to where they want to go. You would think that this is a good thing, to have service at your doorstep so you don't have to look for them, they are there to serve you.

The problem is that they don't know that 'no' means 'no', not "I'll think about it". They will ride alongside you, trying to persuade you that they know wherever it is you're going, and that it's very far, and you need them to go there, otherwise you'll never get there.

I know that they are trying to earn a living, but what they do becomes a bother and I don't like not being able to walk around town without somebody pestering you all the while.

They try a variety of tricks to get you to get in with them. One is this: "Where you come from?" "Malaysia" "Ah, Malaysia, I know Malaysia, good, good, I know many Malaysians, I take you around".

If you do go with one, they'll try to stick with you like glue. And not just any ordinary type of glue, but the really sticky, stretchy type, like hot UHU glue that's gone all stringy.

In Siem Reap, all these people on cyclos and motos would hassle you as you get off the bus and offer to take you to a nice, cheap motel. That pays them a commission, of course.

If you ask them to take you somewhere to eat, they take you to a place that costs twice as much as anywhere else.

If you ask them to take you somewhere, the first place you go to will be reasonable, but then if you want to go to other places, the price suddenly goes up.

All the while, they're calling you "my friend, my friend".

I'd really like to be able to trust people, but when all that they seem to do is to lead you to places where they get commission, and take you for a ride, it gets hard to be open with people.

I have met something like half-a-dozen of these people, and not a single one has really earned my trust.

One took me to restaurant where rice with fried fish would cost me VND30,000 (about RM6.50), when it wouldn't cost more than VND20,000 in most places.

Another charged me VND40,000 to go to the train station and back, when a one-way trip would not cost more than VND15,000.

Yet another wanted to charge me an extra USD2 because he took me somewhere further than expected, and it ate up his petrol. Nevermind the fact that he went on his accord, and didn't mention anything about it costing him more.

Another one (this I'm really annoyed with, but mostly with myself) took me to a money-changer who, not only didn't tell me that I was not getting US Dollars for my travellers cheques until after I signed it, but also took 2% commission, and exchanged it into VND at a rate 10% less than what banks offerred.

The actual money really isn't as important as the fact that I don't really trust them on anything.

All this came to a head the other night, when a cyclo driver invited me over to his house for dinner, because, he said, his sister worked in Kuala Lumpur.

I didn't really think very hard about this, and said "yes", but then later that day I was online with Errolyn, and she said (typed, rather), "WHAT!!!!", followed by sentences like "You know some people lure tourists to some dark corner and then rob and murder them" (I can't remember the exact words, but the idea is there). She really didn't think it was that good an idea.

I thought about it, and thought about the fact that he had also pulled the 'expensive restaurant' and 'poor money changer' scam on me, and I decided that I would feign illness to avoid dinner (not too difficult in this heat, and with my tummy problems).

Now, on the one hand, this guy could have been really genuine, and nice, and wanted to be hospitable to somebody who lives in the same town as his far-away sister.

On the other hand, yes, he could have been in collusion with a band of nefarious fellows who would waylay me in the middle of the night, and pull my fingernails off one by one while asking me for my ATM PIN code.

I would prefer to trust people and think the former, but I guess, in this case, the risk was to great for the return. Normally, the worse that can happen is that I lose some money, but that night, I could have possibly lost more.

In the end I didn't have to, because he didn't turn up. I now have an extra box of chocolates and a pack of cigarettes that I was going to give them as thanks.


posted on Friday, May 02, 2003 - permalink
Comments: Post a Comment