Beware The Cyclo Drivers

I learned my lesson the hard way.  You see the cyclos all over the main tourist district around Ben Thanh Market. Cyclos are the bikes with a passenger in front and the driver on the back, kind of a pedi-cab for one.  I managed to keep them at bay – they’d pitch but I made it clear I wasn’t buying.  But when I emerged from the Ho Chi Minh City Museum – soaked from the heat, exhausted after walking for miles through the streets of Saigon, and feeling a bit lost, one cyclo driver had me where he wanted me.  He gave me the pitch “where you going sir? You want me to take you to the War Remnants Museum?” Bingo!   I had made my way through the streets getting lost many times, and when he approached I was actually trying to figure out where the museum was.  I asked, “how much?” I knew we had to agree on a price before we would go anywhere.  He answered 15,000VND which works out to under a buck, and based on other prices here I thought it was about right. I said “are you sure – just 15,000?” and when he replied, “yes yes” I was sold.

As we road through the streets he gave me a mini tour, pointing out the various landmarks along the way.  When we arrived at the War Remnants Museum he launched into his next pitch.  He would wait for me out front, and take me to Notre Dame Cathedral (no not the one in Paris).  How did he now that was next on my list? I asked, “how much” and he said “all the same price, 15000”.  How could I say no.  And as I emerged from the museum close to an hour later he was still waiting.  As we set off he said he would take me to a nearby Chinese Pagoda.  I said I wasn’t really interested but he said it was one the way, so I said okay.  We made a quick stop there for a few pics and then headed to Notre Dame. About two blocks away he suddenly stopped and said that was as far as he could go.  I thought that was a little strange,  but had heard that cyclo drivers are restricted about where they can go,  and some streets were off limits.  So I got up and dug in my pocket for the cash I had pulled out earlier to pay him with.  I thought I’d give him a big tip and handed him 25,000VND – almost double.  That’s when the jig was up. He said it would be 500,000VND or about $25!  I was shocked but not too surprised.  We argued back and forth for several minutes.  He pulled out the laminated ‘official’ rate card that said it was 500,000VND for one hour.  After more back and forth arguing – he wasn’t going to let me go- I gave in (I know, I know… but I’m Canadian, what can I say). I dug out my wallet and handed over the ransom. Ah but he wasn’t finished with me yet.  He says “500,000 more! We were two hours”.  That’s when I started to get angry – up to that point I had kept a smile on my face as we argued, (the way you do business here, so no one loses face) but at that point my back went up.  We argued a bit more and then I just walked away.  Of course he wasn’t about to let me get away that easy.  He followed me, arguing the whole time (I was ignoring him) , but what happened to him not being able to go any further?  After a block or so he got the message that I wasn’t going to give in and he dropped off.  I was angry, but more at myself for getting sucked in and ripped off.  I put it up to a lesson learned, and I expect its only the first of many lessons I will learn before this adventure is over.  Stay tuned.

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4 Responses to “Beware The Cyclo Drivers”

  1. Amanda
    January 9 at 7:01 pm #

    OMG!! I can’t help but laugh to myself though because I can totally picture you so pissed off in that situation! I’m sure you’ll encounter more of those experiences but they’ll be outweighed by the random acts of kindness along the way;) Keep writing, it was exciting to read!

    • Darren
      January 9 at 7:21 pm #

      Ahahaha thanks Amanda. I knew that anyone who really knows me could picture the entire situation… arguing with a smile on my face until I reach the breaking point… then look out people!

  2. Joe Sawan
    January 14 at 12:43 am #

    I’ve seen you angry, good thing you didn’t have a pen to throw at him, the bastard got off lucky! 🙂 Stay safe

    • Darren
      January 14 at 7:11 pm #

      ahahahaha… too funny… and yeah he did!

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