It is so difficult to do, organize, or direct business in Vietnam. I have become convinced this is a very large part of why it lags far behind the rest of the world. I sometimes wonder if there is any hope that things will change, but sometimes…. I see a glimmer, when one of many people that surround me all of a sudden understands a small piece of western logic. It does not happen very often, but it does. Unfortunately it seems not to happen to those that are closest to me. Ahhhhh, the spice of life. I have been meaning for many nights when I am not busy with tours or guests, to write of the latest events in my life which truly reflect doing business in Vietnam, however, it has been hard to find the time. It is now very late and I am pounding out these words as fast as I can….. I might forget tomorrow, such is the nature of my memory….. anyway…. So let me give you a few of the many frustrations that I am dealing with. I have mentioned before that everything except backpack areas close doors between 11:30 and 2 pm. Realistically it is more like 11 – 2:30 as there is no ambition to do anything in the half hour before and after….. soooo… I wake at 7 or 8. I have breakfast and respond to sometimes, a large number of emails wanting advice or professional service. By the time I finish it is quite often 10am. There is no point going shopping as all places close in an hour. The result is that a person will often settle for things that might not be quite what a person wants, but it is simply too frustrating to have doors closed in your face and being forced to wait for a couple of hours before open again. I have lost count of how many times I have shown up at 11:30 with a fist full of money to make a purchase, only to find the store employee more concerned about locking the door than making a large sale. Well……
I was forced into a situation where renovations were required on our house and for the last month or so, construction has been happening. It is a major renovation with virtually the entire rear house having to be redone because of a lack of foundation for the old buildings. Since all new construction, I dsignes a set of blue prints that were to be followed that included all measurements, power and plumbing location etc. I had all windows drawn in and made allowances for my idea of kitchen cabinets. Some of the items that were very important to me were:
All switches and electrical outlets were to be an international standard. All plumbing
would consist of hot and cold water supply, and the location of the sinks and drains would be such that a person would not have to walk through the wet floor of a shower to the toilet and constantly suffer wet feet and pants. Well……… things went crazy from the onset. I was warned by everybody (as I was already aware) that you had to be there 24/7 of instructions would not be followed……. THIS IS 100% ACCURATE…. Bet even if you slept onsite to watch every job, you still have nightmares….. So here is only a few of the events that happened even overseeing all processes.
The foundations were laid and everything looked good the floor was poured and when I returned after it drying, I noticed sewer and water pipes sticking out of the floor. Wha? I called the foreman over to ask about it and was informed there needed to be a supporting column in those locations and the plumbing would go inside. AAck!! This is where I had kitchen cupboards!! I got a measuring table and did some measuring the room ant too my horror, the room was smaller than my blueprint. I asked to see the plans and I was shown some scratching on paper….It turns out that they simply wrote down the room dimensions and discarded my plans as not the way things are done. The measurements
were now the exterior size and I lost 40 cm because of the wall thickness making all of the plumbing in the dried concrete foundation 20 cm out as it was still measured from the smaller interior size. Again Aack!! I cannot fix this, as it would require hammering up the floor and starting over. I have now gone from understanding exactly what I wanted to having to make decisions on the spot. They came and asked where I wanted the doors…. I pointed “There” and about the windows? They had written down the distances so later when the walls were built, they were 20 cm incorrect. Then came the power outlets…. I was very clear that they were to be 40 cm off the floor and all light switches 105 cm. Should be a no brainer right? Wrong!! They measured, cut the holes, and ran the wiring before adding 5 cm of filler, cement, and tiles to the floor. I was now in a position where my only option was to custom built the cabinets to fit a room that was nowhere close to my plans, and even after long discussions, they were not what I ordered. It took a lot of return trips, but finally that task was completed. The final
touch was the granite countertops painstaking chose for color and beauty. I was forces to go to Saigon on the weekend they were installed and was reassured constantly by phone that everything was OK. I returned to find that the 3 section of countertops were all of a different shade and looked absolutely horrid. Absolutely nobody noticed (or cared) and had paid the crew. After screaming bloody murder for a couple of days, it was redone and is barely satisfactory. OK…. Kitchen mostly accomplished even if not correct, now to the small apartment adjoining and the upstairs rooms and balcony.
To be continued……………