Monday, February 21, 2011

Vietnam, I like you, but you're bringing me down.

After an 11 hour bus ride from Dong Ha (near Hue) to Hanoi with Corrina and Craig from Calgary, we hoped to hop on a bus to Halong City straight away and catch a boat on Halong Bay!

Where to start?

We got ripped off 3 times in less than an was the sickest attempted robbery I have ever heard of, let alone witnessed.
Well, before I start, as a disclaimer - the actions Corrina, Craig, and I took were extremely out of character and will probably never be taken again.
On the bus from Hanoi to Halong, maybe 30 minutes into the ride, Craig noticed Corrina's bag was missing and saw it at the back of the bus and went to hand it to her but when he picked it up realized it was super light and said 'something is wrong'. The bag was open and NOTHING was inside! By this point we realized a local guy sitting at the back of the bus was the one robbing us as Craig grabbed the camera and lens from him and noticed my big backpack open on the floor in front of him and yelled at me to check my stuff. Hearing that someone had violated my privacy and went through my stuff, I started 'what the eff'ing all over the place and gave him a rough push on the head, only to then pull my hand and SLAP HIM BALLS HARD across the face. 

Corrina then yelled that they were missing their laptop and money so Craig proceeded to man handle the guy and yell at him to give their stuff back. Craig grabbed him by the collar and threw him into a seat and started smashing his head into the window. Call it luck but Craig noticed a bulge in his sock and found all their money in his sock and took it back.  We knew the computer was on the bus but he wasn't giving it up and we couldn't find it. Its funny how I had already looked on the shelf over head but didnt know yet that they were missing their laptop, and once it was mentioned I saw it along with my shoes. Ha! My red leather shoes made in Hoi An. That was probably the funniest part. Or the only funny part? We yelled at him, Craig again smashed his head into the window. Most of the stuff was returned, but their point and shoot camera was still missing. The thing is, this guy as much as he may have been in pain (maybe? he looked drunk, so he may have been numb), he only wai'ed apologetically and smiled. It was like it didnt mean anything to him what we were doing.  Craig literally started choking him and finally the guy pulled the point and shoot out of one of his pockets. 

After much convincing and pointing (we didnt speak any Vietnamese, no one on the bus spoke English), the guy was kicked off the bus.

.....And this was after the guy who collects the fare for the bus (4 hour bus ride to halong) charged us more for the ride even though it says on the bus  how much the fare is...

....And right before that the cabbie ripped us off. We were supposed to have a 35,000 dong ride to the bus station but the meter said 210,000 and we realized he was driving us in ciricles.Once we noticed, the guy suddenly was immediately at the bus station! Craig gave him 100,000 dong but then the guy accidentally hit corrina on the head with the trunk when he was closing the back and craig was like "and you fucking hit my wife!" so he left him with 50,000

...And these guys have been traveling around the world for 10 months and nothing like that has happened. Nothing like that has happened to me in 3.5 months.Vietnam is really bad with the theft. Everyone I have met has a story about how they got robbed in Vietnam. It's nuts because Vietnam is far better off than it's neighboring countries. I went into this country noticing and laughing over the extensive "Dangers and Annoyances" section in Vietnam which described kamikaze hookers, scam cabbies, motorbike-ists who grad things off your bike, your shoulder,anything...and now I have met people with ALL of these stories.

I cannot help but have this effect my trip. I was paranoid walking up a dark street on Cat Ba Island, and did crazy zig zags everytime I heard a motorbike coming. And then in Hanoi, these men have been blatantly taking my photo (and Rebecca's, when we were together) but never smiling as they do it. At the very least smile.

I miss Thailand. I miss Cambodia. I am so very looking forward to Laos. I miss these countries (my home Thailand especially) because I never felt judged. I always caught the Thais looking at me, but they would so quickly, sweetly, and honestly smile because they were embarrassed and would rather smile and laugh about it then lose face. Here I have smiled back and for the most part I have received stares the thoughts behind which are uncertain. I have been yelled at here. And of course I wonder if it is a result of the French and the American conflicts that have happened here in the past (to say the least). But you meet people who say "No, it was difficult at first, but we welcome Americans and the French now. No problem." But you never know what kind of habits develop and become a part of the culture...they may like us, but I often feel disliked. I feel like I am at a zoo. I literally turned around and Rebecca put her brochure in front of her face to prevent this guy from taking a photo of us. My last days here I have stayed away from local food stalls and have eaten at Western friendly restaurants instead. Tonight I head for Sapa where it will be colder than Hanoi, but I hope that the scenery will chill me out and leave me with a positive last impression of Vietnam. 

I like Vietnam. It is a beautiful country with good food and many good people, but the further North I have come, the more uncomfortable I have felt as a result of interactions I have had. I will come here again, and I will tell you to come here, too.

Vietnam, I like you, but you're bringing me down.

****Thanks to Corrina for emailing me her more complete and coherent version!


  1. Whoa, those are some crazy adventures. Good for you getting your stuff back and standing up for yourself. Hope the trip improves from here.

  2. holy shit! I hope you make it out there with nothing else going wrong :o

    No one else on the bus said anything or interfered when you guys were beating up the thief??

  3. I just noticed my google account is g.

    it's goink. hi2u

  4. damn. glad you got your stuff back. i wouldn't doubt that there is still (continued and new) contempt for America and American there. hell, i don't blame them. but it's not your damn fault, blah! get out of there and get back to where you feel comfortable, girl. good luck on the rest of the trip!

  5. "g"-
    The locals at the front of the bus just sat there wide eyed, as anyone else would! The guy who ripped us off with the fare was trying to hold Craig back at first, but realized it was a lost cause...and realized WHY we were attacking the thief. There was this one really nice guy who was helping us look for things and was asking the thief where our stuff was. But overall, yeah, people were just shocked, I think. Damn, I was!