Well… talk about another adventure. We arrived in Saigon after a smooth flight and I decided on behalf of both of us to try to travel as locals from the airport to district one where all the tourists go. We had a lot of time and I am determined to share with all of you how to cope in this sometimes chaotic place. I spotted a bus across the parking lot that had Binh Thanh which is the main downtown market close to the tourist area in the middle of district 1. Because Brad had a couple of large bags, we were asked to pay a triple bus fare. No problem… My fare was fifteen cents, and Brads a whopping forty five cents. My experiment was a total success!! We arrived in the tourist area only 1 block away from where I wanted to go. Until now I have taken a taxi. No longer!! The bus got us to the same area in the same time, only for 3000 dong instead of the usual 100,000 dong. The bus number is 152 or 153… I cannot recall exactly, but it will say binh thanh on the windshield. I will try to get the right number tomorrow. Now that I have discovered the local way to travel, I will never use a taxi again. After arriving at our destination, a couple of other foreigners were standing, confused as to where to find their hotel. I offered to help and we were on our way walking the busy streets of Saigon. As we were walking along, a hawker trying to sell a hotel room started following us. I told him in Vietnamese the we were helping foreigners and maybe we would be back to talk. Seeing the potential customer, he stuck with us until the end. I understand how it works here and he is in for a bit of commission if he delivers us to a location. I laugh silently to myself as he calls on his cell to make his arrangements to get his cut. He will make a dollar and I am happy. He deserves it for the hours he has been trying to attract someone to go to the mini hotel that is out of the way. And out of the way it is…. Winding through narrow alley ways into deep Saigon where very few tourists go, but still in the heart of the tourist area. I inspect the 15.00 room, knowing I could get it for a bit less, but am very happy with the cleanliness and the location, so no arguments. We stay. Funny though, I talk a bit about business, and we now have an agreement to send customers to each others hotels. So far everything is going well. Brad and I head out for a walk and see someone familiar on the side of the road. Brad recognizes him as a person who lives in NhaTrang near my house. I approach him and it is as Brad says. Not only is it a person who lived close to me, but he is someone who I was trying to meet for months. He is the only other western IT tech in NhaTrang that I have heard of. Finally I meet him but now he is leaving the country… some what not his choice from what I was able to glean. We stopped for an afternoon drink and then headed off for one of those great Doner sandwiches I have blogged about in the past. Richard…. If you read this blog, I look forward to seeing you again in the future.
I am stupid!!! In the early evening after dinner, Brad and I went for a walk around the neighborhood, We walked off the end of Bui Vien street on to a more local street in the tourist area. We walked a bit when Taxi girls, or in this instance I should say boys…. (yes there are ladyboys in Vietnam, but they are not to be trusted) pulled up beside us and offered sex. Of course we did not want. Brad, not wanting anything to do with these people moved inward on the sidewalk but I stayed on the street. I know about these tricksters and should have been aware of what was to come. I knew my wallet is always in danger from these people so most of my money was in a secure place however, The gal/boy jumped off the back of the motorcycle and grabbed me by the privates very hard. Of course the distractions are promises of sex and such, did not tempt me. The problem was that I was grasped so hard by the balls, that both of my hands went to fend them off. This was a pro. He/she was able to hold on hard enough so after both of my hands were involved in freeing my testicles, the other hand got my wallet. I saw the pair drive off quickly and was unable to get the license number. HaH!! What an idiot I am. I know the scams, and the area and its petty crimes, yet I fell victim to it. I have to laugh about it a bit. I have not lost anything too important that cannot be replaced. My drivers license from Vietnam and Canada, a credit card and bank card, a few phone numbers, my health care card, and about seventy dollars. Brad seemed a little surprised at how I was able to laugh about it, but alas, this is probably the worst thing that can happen to anybody here. Live and learn……I think I will push back a bit. I am going to pick up another wallet, and glue it closed with a plastic bag full of ink and let that get picked… He He He….