Vietnam: Day 4 (Night Market Saigon)

We left our friend’s house and headed to the tourist area in district 1 to buy our bus tickets. We took a cab, but had to cross 10 lanes or so of motor scooter traffic. There are no lights, but there are ironic seemingly crosswalks painted everywhere. The flow never stops. Crossing the wide and loud street looks deadly at first, but you just look for gaps. As soon as you see one, you have to seize that opportunity and step off the curb. The gap will be filled momentarily. You will panic and you will be tempted to rush across the street. This is a mistake. You have to walk slowly and calmly, allowing the gaps to align, and you pass straight through what looks like an impassable wall. You must be aware of your surroundings, but usually you will be okay if you keep a steady pace and look for the gaps. There is something zen about it; a feeling; a rush. You wade through the mechanical river. It is like slowly walking over a waterfall or a set of rapids, along the stepping stones that jut out of the water.

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Vietnam: Day 3 (Diving, in retrospect)

I forgot to weblog my third day in Vietnam. I went scuba diving. They took me out early in the morning on a glorified version of the banana-shaped fishing boats that are omnipresent on Pho Cuoq. It was a sunburning hour and a half boat ride to our dive sight, but it was worth it. There was a divemaster for every two recreational divers and we were paired up with a woman from Vancouver. All the divemasters are foreigners staying in Phu Cuoq for employment.

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Vietnam: Day 2 (morning coffee)

I woke up at around six hundred hours (Vietnam time, of course) this morning, still a little jet-lagged, but substantially refreshed. Still a little used to my old institutionalized self, I was surprised to find myself covered in mosquito nets, with all my belongings next to me in a big safe. I spent a few moments lying there in order to let my mind get a better grasp on its surroundings and reset my (Swiss-made) circadian clock.

I went outside and laid down on my hammock just as thew Sun was rising over the jungle palms. It was a breathtaking sight and it reminded me of an idea I’d had looking East on a November morning in Montreal.

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Vietnam Day 1

The following being an account of my travels in Southeast Asia, Starting with my overly complicated and lengthy trip from Montreal to the Pacific island Phu Cuoq:

I have finally obtained my long-awaited state of cathartic release. I feel overjoyed as I realize this, sitting on the beach of an island on the south-eastern coast of Vietnam. The last 48 hours, in addition to the last 4160 hours spent in gruesome mind-numbing rehabilitation, have been torturous. Fortunately, all of this only added to the catharsis.

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The Art of Bargaining in Vietnam

When traveling in Vietnam you barter, bargain, and haggle. Its part of the culture. Its a way of life. And that’s the way it is.

For foreigners and tourists it is not the way things work at home. But with the right attitude, it can still be a lot of fun, and can save you money. Here are a few helpful hints to get you started.

First and foremost you need to smile and embrace the entire process. From picking up things and investigating their value, to the haggling, to the actual purchase, it is important to remain positive and friendly. Having a pen and paper, or a calculator will help greatly if you haven’t yet brushed up on your Vietnamese. As well, coming into the barter with a little background information – an estimated price – will also be to your advantage. And, predetermining a fair price that you are willing to pay is key to the success of the experience!

When bargaining, don’t be a afraid to really low ball. If you’ve gone too low, you will know by the look on the sellers face. Nevertheless, continue with poise, tact, and strategy with the back-and-forth negotiations. A little acting and drama goes a long way, and might add an extra dynamic to the show. So go ahead, let it all out, especially if you have found that extra special something.

You can consider adding a number of items to the tally, helping to discount the overall price – remember to be strategic here though. Also, finding a small flaw could also be a means of marking down the price.

Finally, if you just can’t seem to get the price you want, but think you are close, you can try the ol’-thanks-but-no-thanks and walk away approach. This is a little risky because if it doesn’t work you will loose face by returning, and thus be forced have to start all over somewhere else. Nevertheless, ever so often it works like a charm!

At the end of the day, be proud of the items you bought and the prices you paid. Reflect on the people you dealt with, and forever cherish your purchases and memories of traveling in Vietnam.

Traveling in Vietnam

The Vietnam tourism industry is slowly but surely picking up over the years. Known for it’s scenic natural views, it’s one place nature lovers must not miss. As a matter of fact, I am doing a bit of research on Vietnam tours as I intend to travel Vietnam, either by tour or backpacking sometime next year (well, I need to save enough money for the trip!).

There are many tour options and there are also cruises as well for those who wish to visit the famous Halong Bay. I think it’s good to know a little about the country you plan to visit. Beside tourist spots, I think it is good to know a little about the people and the culture just so you know what to expect. If you’re looking for travel information like language and literature; climate and weather; currency etc.