I had a chat with an English tourist who’d just ended a three and a half month travel around India. He found it a mixture of the euphoric and the depressing. He’d given up his job as an assistant editor for a magazine to travel. He thought some male western attitude to Vietnam and the Vietnamese, misses the point.
“There’s no point in moaning or complaining about being ripped off down there. Aggressive complaining’s not part of their culture.”
“Yes,” I agreed, “you may come off the worst.”
“Besides, how much are you really losing? A few dollars.”
“It is, though, easily done. It’s part of human nature.”
I related the incident about the unpleasant altercation me and Ronan had on the train about the price of the coffee. How to deal with it non-violently, is much more difficult.
“I like hanging around big cities,” he said. “Hanoi is interesting enough to have spent five days there, just seeing how life ticks over, although it’s difficult to orient yourself. It’s not like Phnom Phenh, for example, where the streets are on the grid system, so are easy to follow.”
“Yes, the streets are all over the place,” I agreed, “although this adds to its flavour.”
“I witnessed some brawling between a couple of guys near the Old Gate and between a couple of woman.”
“You’re kidding?” I didn’t see anything like that,” came my astonishment.
“Probably because they had too much to celebrate over Tet.”
“They can be aggressive, the Vietnamese, but I also found them very civil and polite. They’d have too much to lose if the foreigners stopped coming in; the way and magnitude that they do come.”
Later, we went out for a bowl of beef and rice with vegetables and beer at a an open-air restaurant a young German guy recommended who’d also arrived from India. He was also one of those alpha males: “Look dudes. Look how cool I am,” attitude.
He said, according the English tourist, how he’d like to “beat the sh*t out of a Vietnamese.”
I don’t think such an approach or attitude is a sensible idea. He could come off the worst. A bit earlier, he said he thought ‘Vietnam was sh*t.”
Certainly, the country is a bit overrated, but that derogatory comment takes things too far. Like anywhere you travel to, there is always unique characteristics, interesting happenings and a fascinating history.
We left him to stride back to the hostel wearing a gray trilby hiding most of his thick curly hair. I went back to retrieve my camera to go out again and take some night shots of the lit-up Nanning surrounds and of buildings.
I reminisced about the whole point of travel, seeing life as it is, and how different the English guy thought China is from India – maybe more sophisticated, more civilized….
Perhaps I’m joking.