Monday, January 14, 2008

Frustrations mounting in Vietnam

We've only been in Vietnam for about 11 days now, but we've already encountered more difficulties and frustrations here than we did during our entire time in Laos and Thailand, in my opinion.

The people here have a totally different sensibility toward tourists than the rest of Southeast Asia. They're all like used car salesmen, hawking their wares with unbridled aggression and enthusiasm. What that means on a daily basis is that for every city block you walk (as a Westerner), you will be hollered at, approached, questioned and/or hassled in some other way about a dozen times. The most common English words I hear are "hello" and "buy something," usually used in conjunction with one another. Other common phrases frequently spoken or shouted include "motorbike," "cyclo," "have a look my shop," and the really annoying, "where you go now?" None of your [censored] business where I go now!

And then there is the single worst thing about Vietnam: the driving. Sure, the streets are crazy in Europe, crowded, hilly and curvy in Thailand, but the traffic situation in Vietnam is flat-out insane. A big part of the problem is that I'm pretty sure every person here is issued a noisy 110cc Chinese scooter at birth, with detailed instructions on how to use the horn. So picture hundreds of scooters flooding each and every uncontrolled intersection, honking out of control, most likely piloted by one of the following categories of people:

- 12 year-old girl
- Family of 5 people including baby, dog and chicken
- Dude with industrial-sized steel drum and/or 23 foot-long metal pole
- 112 year-old man
- Drunk teenager with a death wish

And then there are the bus drivers. Despite the fact that they're driving a 40-ton bus with anywhere from 30 to 300 passengers, these guys think they're Mario Andretti and try to pass every other vehicle on the road. They tailgate constantly, honk their 600-decibel horns every other second, flash their brights, drift violently frome one side of the road to the other, and think nothing of passing uphill on a blind curve.

Oh for [censored] sake, I just spent an hour downloading picasa on this computer, only to find that it doesn't have a CD-rom and I won't be able to load pictures from here. So now I need to go waste another hour downloading it at the internet cafe next door! Son of a [censored]! This sort of thing has been extremely typical in the past few weeks.

I don't mean to crap on Vietnam. Even with all the annoyances, it's a pretty amazing place. We are loving the food, the shopping and the natural beauty. The noise and pace here just have a way of grating on you, though. I think it's a good thing we'll only be here for 3 weeks.

Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. I just moved internet places. This place only has computers with CD-roms, so I wasn't able to access the DVD I had burned the other day. However, the guy running the place just accessed it in his computer and shared the photos across the network. So Liz and I went through and edited all 300+ photos in Picasa (after downloading it again, of course), and got them ready to upload. But it didn't work because the system calendar is set to the year 2000!!!! Anytime you go to an encrypted page like gmail or yahoo, it gives you a warning about the site security certificate if your system time is off (it thinks the certificate won't be valid for another 7 years).

And of course, I don't have administrator rights to fix the system clock, and neither does the guy running the place. End result: No photos, 4 hours wasted. FUIDKOSDHGLKJSDHGL KSJDG HKLJSDHGLKSJDHGLKSDJGHLSGHLKSJkljdsfl kajhklfjhad kljfasdklfjsfadlkjsadf



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