Dust Up in Hanoi
09.08.2011 - 11.08.2011 38 °C
The trip to Hue took about 5 hrs and by early afternoon I was happily settled into my hotel room on 4th floor, with a good view of the city. I ventured out onto the street and hired a bicycle to check out the local area and get my bearings for future forays except when I returned to where I thought my hotel was, it had vanished. So cycling ever decreasing circles I eventually I found it. The temperature outside was around 37 or 28 degrees so I retired back to the AC of my hotel room to watch a replay of a good game of football between Man U and Man City.
The next morning I grabbed the bike and went to visit the Imperial Palace. It had seen better days, due mainly to the fact that it was extensively bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War. After I did the usual the midday check out of my room, I intended to cycle 7 kms out of town to see the Tomb of Tu Duc, the guide book describes it as a “majestic site, laced with fragapani and pine trees set alongside a small lake”. It was also a haven for the emperor's concubines.
But the thought of travelling that far ona bike, in the heat, seemed just plain maddess even by my standards so I opted for Plan B, cycle around the corner to a recommended vegetarian retaurant, have two great salads and a cold beer. Which made me feel, just lovely and then cycle to another part of town and repeat the proccess, this time I starting with a apple pancake and chocolate sauce and then a slice of gouda, the size of my small finger, and a baguet, plus another two cold beers. A very enjoyable afternoons work.
But on reflection I could have missed the stop over in Hue. So it was on the bus for the overnight to Hanoi. When I step off the bus the rain is teeming down, I am totally shagged as usual, and look for a metered taxi to take me to my hotel, which is in the old quarter of Hanoi. I ask my taxi driver all the usual questions, does the meter work? does he know where to go? Its a trip that should cost about 90,000 Dong. He hits the meter an puts 12,000 Dong as the initial standard charge and set off down the motorway, we are getting close to my destination, maybe a couple of kms away when I look at the meter and it's reading about 130,000 Dong and then instantaneously jumps to around 142,000Dong. He had been jigging the meter somehow. So this is when the discussions started!
I first measured response was that “ he was nothing but a cheating prick and to pull over so we could sort out our differences. After pulling over he holds out his hand and says I owe him 200,000Dong, I'm thinking, where in the fuck did that figure come from. Is he really trying to press my buttons? Not only has he cheated me but to add to the insult he is going to try and intimidate me into paying even more. Momentarily I think grabbing from behind and choking him to death, might be the easy option, but thankfully reason prevailed and I yelled and shouted at him instead. I used short descriptive one liners to let him know what I thought about him. So thoughtful, that I am going to leave them off this page. This helped bring the discussions forward as he understood ever single word.
As I am being ejected from his taxi I make sure to grab both pieces of my luggage. He trys a little intimidation tactic of his own, by taking a photograph of me on his cellphone. Dream on pal! What shall I do next? Do I scarpa? Do I pay? Eventally we agree on 120,000 Dong but I only have a 200,000Dong note and he needs to give me change. So he is sitting in the car and me on the side of the motorway, with money in our hands. He says you first, I say no him first. The love has gone, there is absolutely no trust in this transaction. He eventually relents and hands over the change and I respond with mine. He vanishes down the motorway never to be seen again. Welcome to Hanoi!
I used Hanoi mainly as a stepping stone to other places another two places, Halong Bay and then Sapa but while I here I toured around a little and went to the Vietnamese Water Puppets Theatre, which was entertaining without being amazing.