Notes about Vietnam (Part 1)

While I was in Laos, I heard so many negative things about Vietnam and especially Vietnamese people, so that it made me to reluctant to go at all. Fortunately I went and realized that Vietnam is not all that bad and in fact is a lovely country, although I can see why some people dislike Vietnam. Vietnam is like the mini-China. Vietnamese are ruthless, determined and focused. These people fought for 40 years non-stop defeating French, Americans and Chinese (and then invaded Cambodia). If there is a third world war, I want to be on the side of Vietnam for sure. One cannot conquer these people. As a citation in War Remnants Museum says “Those who dare to attack our territory; Will be immediately and pitilessly annihilated” Vietnamese are very business oriented minds and they easily make you part you with your money, sometimes in not so honest matter. But they do it with in a good fashion with a smile on their faces. You have to be constantly alert when doing money transactions. Double checking change, establishing price information in advance and making sure that you really get what you pay for. Nonetheless I found Vietnamese good-natured and pleasant. Especially after you get past the “you as a wallet” role, people turn out to be very nice. In this sense, Vietnam is very similar to China. The Chinese are vicious business-men and act like your worst enemy, when the transaction is being made. But once you get past that, they magically turn into the sweetest people. Jackyl and Hyde style.

I had an interesting experience on the journey to Da Lat, when I forgot my wallet in the bus. I realized the fact only after the bus was gone. A phone call was made and ten minutes later I got the news that they had found my wallet. Immediately a motorbike guy appeared and offered his services for only 150000 dongs (5€). An outrageous price, but I had to catch another bus, so I had to accept it. We went from one place to another one and back. Everybody around me spoke Vietnamese, inquiries were made, I did not understand anything and just followed my guide. Eventually two guys appeared with my wallet in their hands. Their first question was how much money I had in my wallet. To which I told them to just give my wallet back. We argued for a bit, but eventually I got my wallet. Cash card, euros and bahts were intact, but dongs were missing. It was plain obvious from their reaction that they took the money, but words and accusations did not help. Eventually I gave up, hopped on a motorbike and went back to catch a bus connection. This incident produced mixed feelings. One one hand, money was gone, but on the other hand they were honest enough to return my wallet with the rest of the content. Interestingly enough I had more in euros and bahts than dongs, but they did not know the value of these currencies.

I found out that Thai are a nice smiling bunch (at times artificially) and swallow any kind of disrespect, but behind your back they will be sure to express their true feelings. Vietnamese are different. Years of war resulted in the fact that Vietnamese do not tolerate disrespect from tourists. If you offend them, they do not laugh it away like Thais do, but will tell you directly that you are out of line. Tourism industry has created this artificial wall of niceness, where tourists can get away with anything, as long as they pay money. I prefer the Vietnamese way, though. Direct and ruthless, but at least there are no artificial smiles and fake emotions. If they act nice, they are nice. If they act angry, they are angry. Simple as that.

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