So as we mentioned we first wrote the previous post early this morning over a very relaxing breakfast in our hotel. We had a nice breakfast of Vietnamese tea and bread with jelly serenaded by a melodic blend of grinding metal from nearby construction, a radom squaking chicken and the beeping of horns. However as soon as we went hit the post button we lost internet connection and lost our entire posting. Thank God it was stuff for our blog and not school work which you should all know Kate has already been working on.
So hopeful, we set out in search of the Jade Emporer Pagoda which is supposed to be the biggest nicest pagoda in Saigon. Our hotel lady gave us directions to catch a bus there, however we didn’t really understand her or her directions so we hopped in the first taxi we saw. Caitlin was a little overwhelmed by the craziness of the streets and her lack of ability to navigate them, so we video-blogged about our experience in the taxi (we will post that for you all to enjoy). After what seemed like a long ride in which we passed a cool botanical garden- (TV trivia here- it was on this past season of the Amazing Race where they had to move terracotta animals across town and into a park)- we finally arrived at the Pagoda. Now from the outside this really didn’t look like much of anything so we were already a little worried about where the hell this taxi man had brought us. Then we had trouble figuring out the bill for the taxi and the jerk taqxi driver saw what I had in my wallet and took 3 times what we should have paid him. For those of you keeping score Vietnam transportation- 2, Kates- 0.
Now trying to get over our frustration and being taken advantage of we walked into the pagoda which is apparently a small dark building which smells of incense but is not quite the tourist spot we were hoping for. Still flustered and now broke from our taxi ride we decided to go in search of an ATM and a hotel which could help us get back to our backpackers ghetto. After walking in the hot Vietnamese sun for about an hour encountering absolutely no tourists or people who spoke any English kate spotted a taxi which we thought must be a mirage. But he was available, and gotus back to our hotel without overcharging us. At this point we were stressed and just wanted to lay down for a few minutes- at this point the frustration took over Kate. After a quick pep-talk we decided we would not let this city beat us so we set back out in search of drinks and more sightseeing. We went to our trusty restaurant- mainly because we knew how to get there there and that they spoke a little bit of English.
While enjoying our Asian beers we had an interesting sighting. Now the day before when we were sitting at this café we noticed a male tourist walk in and ask for a specific woman who worked there, when he was told she wasn’t working he said he would come back the next day. We joked around about how maybe he was looking for a happy ending or some other tourist lure we have all heard. So we forgot all about that man until today we saw a different tourist man standing across the street from the restaurant. He was dressed a little spiffy to just be standing there and the waitress at the café waived to him as if she had met him before. No we were confused as to why he wouldn’t come into the restaurant if he clearly knew the people there, but it seemed as if he were waiting for someone. That someone turned out to be what we can only assume is a Vietnamese prostitute. That was our introduction to sex tourism.
After relaxing at the café we decided to try sightseeing again, this time by cyclo which is basically a bike with a seat on the front of it for tourists. We met “Doc” a nice cylco driver who grabbed his friend “Roy” and they agreed to take us to the Chinese Market for what we thought was 50 dong- which is about $3US. So we took an eventful ride through the crazy streets praying not to be hit by a motorbike or a taxi. Our guides were very friendly and they spoke decent English and tried to point out different buildings which we were passing. When we got to the market we were surprised when they told us not to pay them then, but to pay them once they brought us back to the hotel. They dropped us off on a corner and told us that they would be there when we were done in the market.
Now the market is absolutely crazy. TV trivia time again- this is the market that this seasons Amazing Race had to go through to find the scarves. This place was 5 levels packed full of all kind of stalls selling everything from dried shrimp to fake Prada shoes. After navigating through the narrow walkways, being completely overwhelmed but still cheerful we decided to head back to our cyclos and see if the guides would bring us to the botanical gardens for a decent price. After a moment of panic when our cyclo men weren’t were they left us, we found them and asked about more sightseeing. At this point we became a bit suspicious of the men when they told us it was now 350.000 dong- rather than the 50.000 they had originally quoted us. It is really hard to understand these men, so we gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed that we had misunderstood the first quote. At this point we decided it wasn’t worth the money to go to the botanical garden, and we had the men write out what it would cost for us to get back to the hotel. He told us it would be 700 to bring us back to the hotel 350.000 a piece which was the original price we had apparently agreed on. At this point we were hot and overwhelmed and these men were basically pushing us on their bikes so we agreed that about $20 US for each of us was a fair enough price. Our frustration quickly turned to anger when we were dropped off in the middle of a random street and told that our hotel was only a block up. They told us our hotel was very close (which in all fairness it was only about a block away) and to pay they there. So Kate pulled out 350.000 dong for each of us and we handed it to them. They then informed us that it was 350.000 dong per person per way totaling 1400.000 dong all together- for those who don’t want to do the math that totals about $80 US. Of course we didn’t have that much dong on us because you are supposed to be able to live off of $15 US a day!! So we paid half in dong and half in US cash. We walked away after telling them that we realized that they were liars and scammers. For those of you still keeping score it is now Vietnamese transportation- 3, Kates- 0. Kate realized that they let us off in that spot rather than in front of our bustling hotel so that other tourists would not see us angy and accusing them of being dirty liars., Hot and defeated we headed back to the hotel with the promise that on Sunday we are getting the hell out of Saigon.
We hate to say that we were defeated by a city, but in this case we wave our white flag. Tomorrow we are taking an organized tour through our hotel to the Mekong Delta which is a series of rivers and floating markets. Then on Sunday we hop back on a plane (ughhhhhhh!!) and head to the laid-back and apparently undiscovered island of Phu Quoc.