Wednesday, January 7

Day 132-Ha Noi


I looked deep into the old guys rheumy eyes, asking myself if it was his day to die, because if it was, he was taking me with him. I had just enjoyed a visit to the Vietnam Museum of Ethnography, a splendid collection of artifacts from all over this country of scores of distinct ethnic tribes. On display were the tools of home and garden, musical instruments of every bizarre construction, funereal implements, and outside, a courtyard filled with the very houses these tribesmen might have lived in.

I had arrived by taxi from the bustling city center some 7 kilometers away, and had bargained hard for a reasonable price. The return trip, of course, is always an extortionist dream. So when the old man held up 4 fingers and pointed to his moto, I was left with the choice, bleed through the wallet, or if unlucky, in the street. Feeling confident, I joined him on the mad scramble back into center, each intersection an interwoven flow of hundreds of bikes, a few taxis, and scores of intrepid pedestrians. The bikes especially carry a stunning array of passengers. I have seen up to four people on a single bike, a driver carrying two potted plans in his arms, a woman hauling at least 100 baskets, another was guided by a dozen laden shopping bags dangling from the handlebars, and it seems everyone is on the cell phone. I have also witnessed a partying threesome take a tumble, an old man pick himself up and limp off the interstate, and one young guy quite motionless in the highway.

My fears then, I thought were well founded. But fate is on my side today and we arrived safe and sound at my destination. As I extracted my wallet to pay, however, I learned that his four fingers meant 4 dollars, not 40000 dong (2 dollars). Curses and drats, I could have taken the taxi after all for that price, but then I would have missed out on the thrills!

1 comment:

David R said...

HAHA! Enjoy Viet Nam!! Cha Ca La Vong for dinner. Don't miss it. Go to Ha long bay. $4US for a moto bike ride...come on, you can do better than that...

here's a good one for your friends.. tell them...

chuc mung nam moi = happy new year (as vietnamese new year coming up a.k.a 'Tet')

chu (pronounced chook)
moi (pronounced moy)