Dishonest taxi drivers -- BEWARE!

Trip Start Oct 31, 2012
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Trip End Dec 12, 2012


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Flag of Vietnam  ,
Friday, November 16, 2012


My second full day in Hanoi, and I actually like the city.  It's been overcast and hazy, though everyone agrees it is from the fires that burn on the streets (street restaurants) and the traffic fumes, thought it also isn't hot either. 

My hotel calls a taxi for me to vist the Temple of Literature, a former university founded more than 1000 years ago.  They also tell me how much it will cost, and speak with the driver in Vietnamese.   No problem, I get there quickly and safely.  The only thing is that half of Hanoi is there, all the tourists, and every young school girl wanting a formal picture taken in her ao dai, the national dress for women.  The place is just swarming, it is very diffcult to get any good picture taking in.  After a bit, I do what I can, then leave. 

Since most of the taxis waiting outside the site are waiting on tourists who have hired them, the rest of them look rather shady -- even the locals are avoiding them.  I walk to the main thoroughfare in hopes of improving my chances of getting a taxi from one of the respectable lines, but none are available.  I keep walking, and walking, and walking, only to discover that things aren't really so far from one another.  I do stop by Hoa Lo prison, which was built by the French, then used to house US POW's, John McCain being the most famous American prisoner.  (The uniform he was wearing when caught, along with his personal belongings, are on full display for all to see.)  While war sites are a popular tourist draw, after visiting this site, I decide that this is all I want to see.  Ironically, this prison that was once dubbed the 'Hanoi Hilton' by American POW's, has several real five star luxury hotels located just blocks away.    

I keep walking and walking, discovering some hidden gems during my journey.  I stick to the major streets that keep the same name from one end of town to the other, so as not to get lost in the city.  It isn't until I get back to my neighborhood that I become lost again.  At one point, I recognize the area, but am so confused as to which way my hotel is that I hire a peditaxi, who pedals me two blocks to my hotel...I was that close, but that lost.  Duirng part of this journey, I run into the Panamanian girl and her French boyfriend unexpectedly.  We see one another, I call out, "Hola," she then crosses the street, gives me a big hug and kiss, and asks me how things are going.  Latin culture, whether in the Americas or SE  Asia, it's all the same. 

Later in the evening, I have the need for two taxi rides.  The reliable taxis are unavailable, so I risk it with the others.  The first one is obviously taking me for a ride, then deposits me somewhere different from where I want to be.  (This is after handing him a map and address for him to follow.)  When I start yelling at him and stepping out of the car without paying, he then 'realizes' he knows where it is I want to be going.  When we reach the destination, the meter says 100,000 dong (about $5), but I pay him only 40,000 dong ($2), saying that I don't pay for being ripped off.  While neither of us spoke the other's language, he knew what I was getting at.  Upon my return to my hotel, same thing.  When I started yelling at him, he then quickly remembered how to get to my destination.  Again, I paid him only what the tour books said would have been the fare for a legitimate ride, which was again $2.  I did get nice scenic rides out of it, but it wasn't what I wanted.  Taxi drivers -- don't f**k with me!  



  
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