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|Essays · Travelogs · Poetry · Comedy · Art · Digifilm||spring 2007|
Hanoi: On Arrival
On arrival at the airport in Hanoi, I was accosted by one of several blue-jacketed "official" airport taxi touts. My earlier anti-airport-ripoff training immediately clicked in: "No I need to call my hotel." He dutifully complied, taking me to a phone desk where I called what appeared to be a reasonable, mid-range hotel (as described in my Lonely Planet book). The woman who answered spoke only Vietnamese; I finally had to give up.
"I take you to hotel," offered my new friend. But I knew that old ploy: he drops me off at the most expensive hotel in town and won't take me anywhere else, even if he first promises to take me to any hotel that I like. Been there; done that; thank you Bangkok. I ask how much. $20. "Too much," I spit out, having no idea what is the going rate. Pressed against the bank of doorways at the end of this hallway is a thick crowd of hyper-eager, less official taxi drivers calling out to me.
Stupidly, I walk out into that sea and am immediately surrounded by hungry taxi-sharks desperate to drive me into town. I have no idea what to do, so I keep walking, out into the parking lot, hoping that most of them will drop away from me. They keep begging me to ride with them, arguing with each other.
"You go with me cheapest!"
"I asked you first!" complains the blue-jacketed tout who was probably allowed to "officially" greet me because he has family connections to the Communist government.
"Too many people," I plea, "Too many people!" I come upon a line of neatly parked metered taxis, and ask the quiet man standing near the closest one, "Can you take me to the Mango Hotel?" He doesn't seem to really understand English, but he's smart enough to recognize a fare when he sees one. This really pisses off my many suitors, only intensifying the melee.
"My car is just like this one!" argues one.
"It doesn't matter" says my original suitor.
"But this car's closer," I say, and dash into the back seat to end the chaos. The rejected taxi drivers are quite inflamed now, and one of them pounds angrily on my window. The strap of my pack is caught in the door, but I don't dare re-open the door to get it out.
The driver has since gotten into the car, and I flip through my Lonely Planet book, trying to find a decent hotel for him to take me to. Just about when we've found one, an angry rejected taxi driver yanks open the driver's side door, as if to pull my driver out of the car. My driver looks at him, then floors it. We go speeding into the parking lot, with the driver's side door stuck open. Driver reaches out and pulls it shut while honking at a couple of nearby kids directly in our path. At no point does he slow down. Fortunately, the kids and other pedestrians dash out of the way just in time.
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