As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m back in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for a few days. I landed late afternoon – that’s 5.30pm – on Tuesday and decided to go with my usual routine: politely but also angrily avoid all salespeople that pop up like bees around something sweet on my way to the currency exchange desk, exchange my Thai Baht to Vietnamese Dong (apparently not enough), head out to the taxi stands through hundreds of humans, avoid those salespeople lurking outside looking to rip a foreigner off of an expensive, detouring cab ride, get a legit cab and head to my hotel, recharge my batteries (both physical and electronic), head out for something to eat, and then head back home to my hotel room where I’d be a good human and plan my tomorrow.
That’s usually a great routine and a solid plan.
Annoyingly, things haven’t gone according to plan. I got a decent, friendly-looking and non-cunning driver who seemed to (and did) take the shortest and easiest route to my hotel. We eventually arrived to my destination, and I gave him some of my Dongs and I was expecting to get some of those Dongs back since I gave him more Dongs than the receipt said. He looked at me in disgust and grunted, “tip”, to which I replied, “change”, and pointed like a caveman towards my money that rested in his Vietnamese palms. Instead of giving me my proper, full change back, he decided to give himself a little tip and give me a smaller amount of change back than I should’ve had. Had he just given me my change back, I would have happily tipped him. Hell, I might’ve even let him keep all the change, which certainly had made me feel a lot happier and less robbed than I feel now. I’m also quite sure that deep within, he’d also much more appreciate someone tipping him for being a nice driver, than just stealing part of somebody’s change just because. It’s not so much about the amount – that’s really not important here – it’s that good-old principle. This article comes to mind.
A few moments later, I enter my hotel room. Now, I’m not especially picky on these trips, and I don’t demand anything luxurious on my stays here. I don’t give a shit about a nice view, a balcony, room service or anything like that. I don’t even care if my room has a window or not.
By the way, quick side note: in my experience from the hotels in Vietnam, when they say the room has windows, you kind of expect some sort of outside view…right? I’ve paid extra to get a room with a window on a few occasions, and that has only made me sarcastically laugh to myself when I discover that the windows (if there’s more than one) are only 10cm wide and 1m long, facing the alley in between houses, where the only thing to be seen is the fire escape, which is good in case I ever need to use it.
On another occasion, I had a window facing the elevator just outside the hotel room door. That’s right, the window was functioning as a fucking peephole for the sweet hotel neighbours. Not ideal. Naturally, I had to keep the curtains closed at all times, thus eliminating the very need for the window in the first place.
Would the Real Slim Architect please stand up?
Anyway, besides all these complaints, what I really only demand are the basics. Things I think should be taken for granted, like:
- a decent WIFI-connection
- functioning bathroom
If my room has those things, I’m satisfied.
Much to my discomfort, I discovered that the room only has one socket, and that socket is:
- as far away from my bed as possible, on the other side of the room, and;
- kind of a way of saying “fuck you” to my nightly phone-charging routine
Would the Real Slim Architect please stand up?
Very intelligently, almost everything (TV, desk lamp, mini-fridge) in this room is powered through this one socket via one of those multi-devices where all the plugs are connected to the one boss-plug which then goes into the only socket in the wall. Okay, to be completely honest, there is another socket right next to this very crowded one, but I can’t connect anything to it without knocking into those other ones mutually sharing electricity from this device that now looks like a bird’s nest. This whole little story is just to point out that I now also demand more than one functioning socket, preferably in the vicinity of where I sleep, so that I can charge my shit without feeling like I’m living in a dark cave.
Later, I decided to head out to the crowded and noisy streets of Saigon to get something to eat. I decided to go to a café/restaurant on the corner close to where I stay, where I had been before. The restaurant consists of three “layers”:
- Layer 1: Outside, by the pavement
- Layer 2: Also outside, but within a small, one meter-high “wall” or “fence” with some plants and stuff in front of it, creating a small barrier in between Layer 2 and Layer 1
- Layer 3: Inside
I opted for Layer 2, mainly to avoid being harassed by people wanting to sell me various, useless things, such as key-rings, lighters, Vietnamese hats, services, and drugs of various kinds. After sighing disappointedly when looking at the subpar food menu, I decided to at least have a beer and relax for a moment while digesting whatever my street view had to offer.
The Paragraph That Ends This Post on a Sad Note
I was not prepared to see so disturbingly young mothers carrying infants in their arms, begging people sitting in Layer 1 for change. After two different mothers carrying their very young babies in their arms had passed by within the first three minutes, asking all foreigners for change, I started to feel a little sad and disgusted. Of course not because of them, but because of the very fact that they have to beg (they didn’t sell anything) strangers for money is very, very sad.
Things didn’t get better when two girls, who couldn’t be more than 10-years-old, also came by on two different occasions within the next few minutes to also ask for money from the people in Layer 1. I hadn’t even finished my one and only beer, and I’ve already seen four tragic and sad sequences in front of me. I, “protected” within Layer 2, finished my beer quickly, paid for myself, and left, with a very uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.
I was going to go on with my story of how my first night back in Saigon was ruined by a very large insect welcoming me back to my hotel room after dinner, staring at me, running around in circles before I stomped him with my shoe, making my impression of this hotel even worse than it was before because of the limited amount of sockets. But it doesn’t feel good to complain about things when I just thought back on those poor, young women and girls begging strangers for change.
Needless to say, they’re much more worse off than poor me with one (however huge) intruding, but welcoming insect and my pathetic socket-issues.
I’m grateful those were my worst problems that day.