Specifically not being able to organise one in the other. Just a quick post to vent frustration at the sheer ineptitude and dishonesty of your average tour operator and public transport worker in ‘Nam. We thought Thais were lazy and clueless when it came to this kind of thing, they ain’t got nothing on the Vietnamese though.
First case: We’re in our hotel in Hanoi, trying to get to Cat Ba island in Halong Bay. Easy enough, we already know that it’s just a two hour bus ride to Haiphong then a 45 minute speedboat to the island. Ok, so we ask the receptionist about it, she can sort it out for $12, no big deal.
Or so we thought. We get bundled on the bus the next morning and the next thing we know the driver is talking about going to Halong City and then a boat tour through the bay. Hmm. We ask him and he says it’s no problem, they’ll just drop us at Cat Ba.
Horseshit. We arrive at Halong City a whole three and a half hours later where we’re deposited next to a food and drink stand, good opportunity to buy a few tinnies for the ride. Then he tells us we have to pay for our entrance to Halong Bay, another 30,000 dong. Grr. Then we get on the boat where we’re told that we have to sit on board for the entire four hour duration of the tour while the rest of the guests wander around caves and the like. Not only that but they charge a 5,000 dong ‘service charge’ for each beer we bring on board. Finally we don’t get dropped at Cat Ba town but at the other end of the island altogether – the guests have a bus covered, if we want we can pay 50,000 dong for a ticket or walk the 35km to town.
Pack. Of. Cunts.
Second case: Getting from Cat Ba to Hue. Now this is going to be a long journey, it’s halfway down the country, so we’re prepared for a bit of a slog. We opt for the overnight sleeper bus, basically a standard coach modified so it has 40 bunks instead of seats. I hate buses but if it’s overnight and comfy I won’t mind too much. How long does it take? 12 hours, leave at 7pm and arrive at 7am.
Horseshit. At 7am we arrive at the first of two meal stops. We’re too dazed and tired to even negotiate food with the locals who speak no English at all. Okay, we’ve no idea where we are but surely it can’t be far from Hue, we’ve been driving all night. Yeah, we wish.
Three hours later we reach another food stop, this time for a spot of brunch and I manage to sit down with some of the Vietnamese passengers (we were the only three farang on board). I must admit this was kinda fun, them laughing at my chopstick skills while filling me with breakfast vodka. Yum. Still, where the fuck where we?
Finally at noon we roll into Hue, tried and pissed off but glad to be off the bus.
I don’t mind people being vague with their times. Just say “Yeah, you’ll get there between 10am and 2pm depending on the roads and traffic”, I’ll be fine with it. I’ll set my expectations for the later time and anything earlier is a bonus. Just don’t tell me I’ll be there at 7 if you know damn well there’s no way in hell that’s going to happen, especially when I’m hoping to Skype with Em, who I miss immensely, when I arrive and the time difference blows any chance of that to hell – Minnesota’s 12 hours behind us.
Pack. Of. Cunts.
Now don’t get me wrong, the ‘Nam is an interesting country, full of amazing scenery and some incredibly friendly people. Sapa is one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited and all over the country you can indulge in the wonders of Bia Hoi – sitting at Oompa-Loompa-sized plastic tables in the street and drinking seemingly neverending glasses of beer for as little as 3,000 dong (ten pence) a pop.
They just really need to get their shit together when it comes to dealing with tourists – we’re not idiots and we don’t like being ripped off or lied to. Cunts.
Footnote – as Tristan rightly, although in a certain sense horribly wrongly, pointed out it would have been better if the Vietnamese had been occupied by the Germans instead of the French. A wee bit of efficiency would have gone a long way 🙂