Sunday, October 5, 2014

How NOT to shop in Vietnam

We're here! After a 25.5 hour haul across the world, we finally made it to Vietnam! We took a route from Raleigh to New York to Hong Kong, ending in Da Nang. The flight from JFK to Hong Kong was a brutal one - over 16 hours...eek! Four movies separated by awkward sleep and two meals, sitting behind an extremely aggravated infant. Poor Andrew got stuck next to the weirdest woman who felt the need comment the whole flight on how the woman's "husband" in front of our row wasn't helping the mother take care of their child the whole flight. She was all up in Andrew's space and when she spilled her Bloody Mary on Andrew, she wasn't at all apologetic, she was more concerned about getting a re-fill. It made me giggle when we got off the plane and realized the woman in front of us wasn't even with the guy next to her...tis why you shouldn't judge.

Hong Kong was one big airport! With a Popeyes? So strange. And no mom, we didn't eat there haha. We arrived in Da Nang in the evening at around 7pm, making it out of the airport in a reasonable amount of time and exchanging a bit of cash before heading to our hotel. In Vietnam the currency is called dong and the conversion rate is about 21,200 VND per 1 USD. Taking the taxi sure was an experience! Reminded me of driving in Haiti! Everyone was on motorbikes and there were little to no rules. Just drive where you want and honk if you're bigger than the other vehicle haha.  We decided to splurge a bit for the first two days we were here and stay at a lovely beach-side hotel called A La Carte. It is the first hotel in Da Nang to have a rooftop pool and bar. The whole place was like a dance club, playing American pop music 24/7. The rooms have great big windows and neat lights that only turn on when your key is in the light switch thing. Pretty neat. We were off to bed by 9pm, so pooped from the long journey we just had...but we had big plans for the rest of the weekend!

Saturday morning we were up by 6am.  Definitely not our norm but it's apparently routine here in Vietnam! We decided to go have breakfast at the roof-top bar and discovered that there were plenty of people awake, hanging out on the beach and driving their motorbikes on the roads. After a lovely breakfast of yogurt, salad, fruit, Vietnamese coffee and a Tiger beer (they forgot Andrew's food so he ate off mine), we decided to get our stuff together and take a day trip to the ancient city of Hoi An. The hotel had a shuttle that was cheaper than a taxi, so we took that and headed in to town.

Hoi An was quite an interesting experience. The town wasn't too busy when we arrived around 9:30am, but the locals were ready for us! We stepped off the shuttle and were instantly dragged in to a tailors shop as they told us they could make us something just for us, at a "good price". We did good and passed on that shop but then the swindler found us. Her name was "Flower" and she found us at a hat stand. Andrew had wanted to buy a hat and a watch that day, so we were in the mood to buy and man was she taking advantage of it. We forgot that we needed to haggle and bought the hat for 150,000 dong. Not too bad considering that's about $7 but I think we could have got it for MUCH less.  Flower asked where we were from and said her grandmother was living in Atlanta. She made some good connections and gained our trust quick...we're so gullible. She told us where to go to get to the old part of town and then sent us on our way...but that wasn't the last we saw of her.

After traveling around through the city, stopping to grab a bite to eat and some drinks (pho bo, a Larue beer, 2 waters and some delicious vietnamese coffee for 110,000 dong or $5 USD), we got to the riverside and here comes Flower. She was quite adorable, in a little motorbike helmet and wearing a pink sweatshirt. She called me "chicken hair" (if someone could explain to me what that means I would be greatly appreciative haha) and told me I was "very beautiful" and told Andrew he was "very handsome". We told her we were looking for a watch so she took us to a specific shop...for some reason it didn't click that she was probably working on commission, but we went with it.  They tried selling us on the expensive watches and we thought we were being smart by passing and going with a little plastic one...they ran to get a new one for us (because we're special...not) and when they came back, said it was 25 dollars. We were like, 25,000 dong? And they said, no, 25 USD. Andrew tried to barter but we weren't good at it and only got them down to 500,000 dong.  He felt kind of good about it but then after the next purchase we realized what had happened.
Flower took us through the central market, showing us the neat local fruits like this rambutan (also known as a "hairy cherry"), and weaving us through the people. It was busy now, and the streets were filled with motorbikes that were ready to run us over haha. She was on a mission, and as we weaved through the crowds we started to realize she was taking us to her families shop.  She had mentioned it before but we didn't think anything of it because it was a tailor and we weren't looking for anything specially made.  But then there we were, sitting in this inside market, flipping through the books of dresses and suits. Andrew did great and passed, but then I was like, well, I did want a dress to wear here that was simple...and she did show us I picked out a dress and asked for the price. They said it depended on the material so we went over to the wall of fabric and I picked out a fun purple. "It's 45 dollars" said the woman who was swindling me. I looked at Andrew, the money controller, and asked him what we had left. Before I knew it we had handed her 1,000,000 dong and I was being measured. Speed must be there thing because it was purchased and a done deal before I could think through a thing. "Come back at 1pm" they said. So off we went...totally confused...

After the buyers remorse we realized that Flower had bailed the moment we sat down to look at the books of clothing options. Off she had went to find her next victims. Man was she good!! So we went to a cafe and had a beer (333 beer for Andrew and a Tiger beer for me)...sitting there thinking "what the hell just happened?!". We were a bit angry at ourselves for quite some time, and after picking up the dress at 1pm decided to leave the town early and get back to our hotel before we made any other bad decisions. We took a nap for much longer than we had intended and when we woke up, we decided "what's done is done, and now we've learned" and went up to the rooftop bar to eat dinner (because we were out of dong and had to put it on our hotel tab haha). What a great choice! The bar was pretty packed with a variety of customers young and old. There were children running around everywhere! I was so amazed by how they were allowed to just run free and any time one of the kids fell, no one cared. They were face planting left and right, jumping back up, and running full speed again. Definitely not how parents work in America...freaking out if our kids stub their toe haha.

We ordered a beet and beef burger and some calamari to start, accompanying it with a Tiger beer for Andrew and a mango martini for me. The food was - interesting - but not bad. I think I'll stick to Vietnamese food though for the rest of the trip haha.  Dessert was the best part. We saw a few people with ice cream in fun bowls and decided to try it out. They had all sorts of fruit flavors and of course chocolate. We got two chocolate ice creams and before we knew it, there were two chefs in front of us, making it right at our table with nitrous oxide! It was amazing! And surprisingly very delicious!  We saw a few more people order ice cream and they didn't get a show, so I have a feeling they did that especially for us. I'm not complaining. An awesome end to the day, eating our made to order ice cream as we listened to the loud American pop music haha. After filling our bellies, we decided to turn it in early so that we could wake up the next morning for the sunrise. Unfortunately we didn't get a nice sunrise, but we did get another interesting be continued...haha.

No comments :

Post a Comment

Leave a comment! Tell me what you think :)