As a budget traveller on a long term (1 year) travelling, it's necessary to keep expenditure at minimum and onlynecessary; You prefer to find pleasure on less than a dollar local dish on a roadside stall perhaps 500 meters away, just to stay on your budget and keep travelling; Holding horses over a $8 steak on a fancy restaurant just beside your hostel.
It is frustrating when you're keeping your urges only to be overpriced, or scammed over something else for no reason other than you're a foreigner. More, you hike not only 10%, 20% or 30% (which would probably be acceptable); Sometimes, you do it twice or even more; Worst, you do it so bluntly, it is insulting within oneself to just accept being ripped off (and over and over again).
In Saigon, a streetside coffee vendor asked for 30,000dong for what normally costs 15,000; Even Highlands Coffee, which pays rent, maintains electricity, and pays a staff sells their coffee for just 29,000.
In Nha Trang, I ate in a local restaurant, and was charged 60,000 Dong for what should've cost 30,000.
Sadly, this happens not only in the city; Even the remotest countryside;
Just recently, because of my visa compliance, we had to run through several borders, and ate at wherever; We were sick of noodles so asked for fried rice; This local restaurant where we ate don't even have the usual ingredients for the fried rice; Just fried whatever rice there was, mixed with whatever there was too - mung sprouts and spring onions; No meat whatsoever; Not even egg.
After eating, When we asked how much, we were asked 100,000 Dong (which normally, with meat and a mix of veggie on a decent restaurant shall be between 20-50K); Then again, we can't complain because our hunger could not contain having to ask for price first; The same exact thing happened the second day. Just when we thought we're having a good time with the staff, even having pictures with them, only to end our time with "Shit! Again!."
It happens not rarely, not occassionaly, not seldom, mostly always.
In Ninh Binh, I stayed at a family guesthouse, and family would tell so much story while i'm having coffee. I would tell myself "they're so nice and entertaining. I ran out of money so had to go to an ATM which was 12kms away to the city proper. There was a rusted and squeaky bicycle in the guesthouse, and I asked if I can borrow; I returned in 1 hour. On my checkout, I saw it on my bill, and way more than what a well maintained bike would have cost a full day's use in a proper rental shop.
It feels great to feel how nice people can be, but regretful that this is to take advantage of you. Can't we just work on simple fairness and trust and logic?
Usual initial conversation between random travellers who meet would more often than not, "how do you like <insert Place>"; And if we talk Vietnam, more often than not, i'd hear, i don't like the people and the overpricing, and scam.
On another instance, when you read on blogs about Vietnam and destinations in this country, I often encounter those that say they won't go back.
Would you rather let your visitors leave your country with such a bad lasting impression, which they'd probably talk about in their circle later and carry it for the rest of their existence, being so cold every vietnamese they'd encounter thereafter? It's also unfair for those, although rarely and only a few, who are sincerely nice.
Back when I was trying to designate my time between countries, I was initially thinking of staying long (2-3 months) in either Cambodia and Laos. Cambodia, it's cheap, but I think I found it short of attraction; Laos was serene, but a little too laid back and not as relatively cheap. It never occured that I'd spend the 3 months in Vietnam.
But I'd say i've been enjoying it, especially your coffee. I'd say Vietnam has the best balance between sights and spends.
I find a disconnect between how I have been enjoying it, and what I have been hearing about the country. I have experienced the same, but am more aware now, so take pre cautionary measures such as asking for prices first. After this time, i just laughed at every such instance, and treat it as my mistake for forgetting something I should've known better already by this time. More importantly, as I wrote earlier, i've met a number of people too who are genuinely nice that make me always think a second time when I make statements about my bad experience in this country;
I love your country, but sights, once seen, are probably not as interesting on a second look. Tourism is not just about historic buildings, green landscapes, fine sand, etc; discretely, it's about people too. It does not solely stop at making money, it's about telling the world, who and what souls you have.
There were some discourteous encounters too, but i don't want to detail, as I would like to use the benefit of the doubt there, in the assumption that it may be just normal treatment around.
It don't hurt to chill a bit at times, be with people, and stay calm and nice. Again, I love Vietnam, and can love it even more.
next up.. i'll write about the great vietnamese people I met in Vietnam... :-)