Hustling remains in HCMC but in a subtler calmer sense compared to Hanoi. Feeling untouchable for almost an entire month, no scam would get me. I fell victim of a scam, particularly a coconut scam.We were waiting across the street and a gentleman carrying coconuts. Willingly gave us advice about our cell phones by not using them out in the open because scooterists would snatch them as they ride by. Jamie, the coconut guy, and I, begin crossing the street. At this point I knew he wanted to sell us a coconut. Reaching inside his container, he pulls out a coconut and begins handing it to me. I told him no. I don’t want it. This is where things take a turn. Remaining nice, he stubbornly said “here, here, it’s free.” That should have been my first red flag. Silly me thinking, oh a free coconut, I take it without hesitation. Then he goes after Jamie. Gullable me at this point was like, Jamie he wants to give you a coconut. Keep in mind, he never said free or mention of any price. Hands her a coconut, pulls out a machete, opens both our coconuts. We were about ready to walk away and the coconut guy stops us and said 115,000 dong looking directly at Jamie and her coconut. Contributing to the idea of a free coconut to Jamie, I am defeated. Not only did I fall victim to the scam, we found out hours later, ordering lunch, the coconut juice from the coconut was only 18,000 dong. Now, I’m crushed. No longer untouchable and learned nothing is “free.”
There have definitely been numerous lessons learned along this journey and it hasn’t even been a complete month yet! I started researching Southeast Asia well over a year before our arrival date, and yet I still see and learn things I had not read about in my previous searches. Or I will come across things that I had read of, but it was not entirely correct information. Let’s begin!
When we purchased our tickets, we had just bought “one-way” flights through a third-party website. They appeared to be the cheapest. Looking back now, I wish I would have bought them directly through an actual airline, and paid a wee bit more for round trip airfare, but with flexible date booking so we could change the date back home for little to no extra cost. When it comes to our luggage, we each brought a medium-sized bag that would fit America plane standards for carry on so we would never have to pay for checked baggage and a carry on bag. WRONG! Most airlines in Asia allow you to have a single carry on (carry on/personal are the same thing here) that weighed no more than 7 kilograms, and the second bag absolutely has to be checked. If you only have a single bag all together and it is more than 7 kilograms, you have to check it. Knowing this now, we both wish we would have just brought our backpacking bags we use for camping as our checked luggage bag. Checked luggage here is only a few bucks as opposed to America’s OVERPRICED baggage fees so it isn’t a big deal. Next! Something I had to get used to right away is that personal space is ignored. No matter where you are, someone will be touching you. I personally do not like to be touched so I try to fart on command, but this doesn’t always seem successful. Just get used to it. One thing I am going to strive to understand is why people cut in line. I will be standing directly behind a person in line, and a stranger will walk right up and stand in front of me. It isn’t a racial issue since I’ve seen people do it to anyone. I was brave enough to try it one day! I was waiting in line to step on to a bus and a female came and got right in front of me. I calmly stepped out of line and got in front of her, which she then promptly left the line and stood about 10 feet away staring at me. Take that for whatever it means. When I am in line now, I stand so close to the person in front of me I may as well be hugging them, but that keeps the cutters away! One of the most important lessons I have learned is that the Vietnamese do not seem to change the sheets in between people staying in the rooms. If the sheets look AT ALL disheveled ask for new ones, or better yet, just ask for new ones! When getting on a city bus, you have .03 seconds to get on or they will immediately leave you. You better be waiting on the curb, not the bench when you see that bus a-comin. Also, the drivers here are a bit crazy, but it’s good to know that every time you get on a city bus, you have medical insurance provided to you by the bus company as long as you’re on it. While there are public restrooms everyone, or WC’s as they call them, still carry your own toilet paper. Most toilets just have a bidet, but in scarier situations, I have encountered bathrooms with no bidet and NO TOILET PAPER! Some of these were in restaurants! What are you people doing to wipe?? I think my favorite thing is free WIFI everywhere! Yeah sometimes it is slow, but it is literally everywhere! Even if it’s locked you just ask for the password, or the will have it taped to the wall. This is going to keep my phone bill so cheap! Come on America, get with it! When it comes to Airbnb’s, the owners either sugarcoat the room and amenities or forget to mention a few things. Like there is construction going on literally next door that starts when the roosters begin singing. We have learned to ask a few extra questions: Is there a curfew? Is there construction? Do you charge for electricity during our stay? It doesn’t hurt to ask loads of questions! When looking for restaurants or food stalls on Google Maps or just plain Google, don’t trust the location it gives. It seems as though a lot of these places move kind of frequently. This has led to numerous events of us walking around looking for an exact place that just isn’t there anymore. We now use the “Foody” app that is up to date and will save you a lot of heartaches. Well, I think this is enough for now, hopefully, this helps any future travelers steer clear of issues, or at least give you a giggle at our expense! Til next time!