An Angel and a Devil in HCMC

He asked me if this was the carousel for the luggage from the Cebu Pacific flight from Manila.  I nodded.  He seemed in his late 60’s but still had some spring on his feet.  He was alone at the moment as his family would join him after Christmas.  He asked me where I was staying and I remarked Pham Ngu Lao.  “I wonder if it is near my hotel.”  Scrawled on a small notebook was “Sunny Hotel.  De Tham St.”  I offered to share a cab with him as it was near my street.  He introduced himself, “______.”  I gave him my name.  We shook hands.  I have made my first travel connection in Vietnam.  Or maybe he was an angel sent to be my travel companion in Saigon.

We headed to the line of cabs waiting outside the terminal and took the first one.  Big mistake.  I had let my guard down and should have looked for a Mailinh or Vinasun instead.  But I guess  I could be excused as I thought it was a taxi queu.  I did manage to have the cab driver use the meter but he pulled a fast one on us.  At the toll station, he quickly paid and then said we would just need to pay him D200,000!  What the heck!  I saw him give a D100,000 note and got a lot of change.  Besides, toll fees are per vehicle and not per person! “D20,000!” I insisted, showing him 2 D10,000 notes.  He stopped the cab on the side of a street and told me it was D200,000 plus 120,000 for the fare.  I would have stepped out of the cab right then and there if we were in some touristy area but not at some dark road at 1 in the morning.  “Okay, D200,000 and meter!”  We drove on.  Alex and I agreed that we both get off at his hotel and then we negotiate.  The driver seemed to understand as at the corner of De Tham and a min road, again not very lit and with hardly anyone on th street, he stopped and insisted we pay him before he brings us to the hotel.  He really didn’t seem threatening but his burly looks and menacing eyes were enough.  We paid him.  He drove us to the hotel which was less then 500m away and we got off.

Grandpa offered me to just stay at his twin room rather than have me walk back to Pham Ngu Lao where I had booked a dorm room at the Me Them Bed and Breakfast.  Of course, I accepted. I was sleepy and a little pissed-off with the scam.  The $25 room had a spacious twin room with a nice bathroom.  It was very clean and the staff, especially the girls attending to the free breakfast are really friendly.

Honestly, I thought the old man had some grand design on me but there was none.  He was simply a nice old man traveling alone and perhaps, because I told him I had travelled to Vietnam and Cambodia before where he was also headed, he might have seen me as some sort of tourist info.

Flying to Danang later.  Welcome to Vietnam!

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