Saigon Stories – A Day in Saigon

The day has finally arrived. Tonight at midnight I’m traveling back to Tokyo, stay a couple days and then back to the USA. So today I have been running many errands and trying to get all those loose ends tied up. However, I’m not sure if the moon is not aligned or some cosmic forces can sense my excitement and are playing games with me because nothing is going right today. Or perhaps I have been here too long and my patience with normal Saigon insouciant-ness has simply run out.

I simply had to hit four or five stores, picking up Christmas presents, getting contact lenses and so on. The first store I went to was a place to pick up my grandmothers Christmas present. It was already paid for and they simply needed to give it to me. I parked in front of the store and upon walking in the staff immediately came up and told me to park somewhere else.

Now, as my patience being completely gone, I was unable to smile and played the impatient westerner. I showed her my receipt and told her I would wait outside on the bike. About ten minutes later, I receive it but then remember I need two boxes and go into the store with her. The staff had promised me I could have two big unfolded boxes so I could put them in my suitcase without taking up too much room.

So there I am sitting on my bike and ask for two boxes and wait. About five minutes later the security guard comes out with two bags. Since bags are not what I need but boxes, I go in and try to explain that. She shows me two extremely small tie boxes and says that’s all she has. I told her I was shown two big boxes and those are what I need. After she tells me the smalls are the only ones she has and me getting impatient, another staff member says something to her in Vietnamese after which she goes to the back and comes out with two big folded boxes.

I then explained again that I need flat boxes and say the words “suitcase” “airplane” and make a gesture after which she finally gets it and I get my flat boxes.

The next stop would be contact lenses. I went to a small suspicious looking store before, but had found a more credible looking one and headed there. The staff told me they had my one day Acuvues but not in the store but would order them if I could wait 30 minutes which I did.

Finally the courier arrived but with only one box. She said it was all the company had, but there was one opened box although it was missing one contact lens. Being Saigon, I tried to explain that they would have to give me a discount since one of the lenses was missing. But not being very Saigonese, they told me no discount and wanted me to pay full price for the opened box with one contact missing. They then told me there were no more boxes, but she could go and get me another pair of contacts to put in the box if I could wait 30 more minutes.

Now that I think back about it, it’s not such a big deal, but last month I had to settle for a piece of crap air cleaner from China for $160!!!! And it wasn’t even new, but was the floor model!!!!! I need an air cleaner because I live in the city and frankly like to breathe clean air. I also couldn’t find an air cleaner anywhere else so had to settle. But in the case of the contacts, I knew another store that had them and it’s up to the westerners to sometimes teach Vietnamese staff that one will not pay full price if pieces are missing and the item is not new!!! It’s the damn principle of the thing.

So I go to my usual store and I get three boxes of one day disposables although one of the boxes was opened, all the contacts were there.

I then go to Citimart for items, park my bike, walk through about 5 people pushing DVD’s on my chest only to find out that Citimart has no power, and is closed until 3 pm. God love Vietnam. So I go back to where I parked my bike but still have to pay for parking even though it’s only been 30 seconds. The parking attendant tried to short change me (F&^%ing idiot must be new, in from the country) but knowing how much parking is I called him on it and he gave me the rest of my change with a smile.

Then it was off to buy some plush animals for my friends with new babies. On the way I saw one motorbike run smack into a stopped one going about 10 miles an hour. The guy who got hit was none too pleased. The Saigonese often have a short attention span even when driving and often forget that concentrating on the road is important.

Anyway, I got to the toy store and although the attendants were friendly the toys were all kind of dirty and looked old. So I think it’s better to wait until Tokyo where everything is super clean and I can present the presents wrapped 42 times like the Japanese do and put into a box which goes into a bag.

Now that I’m back home, I’m almost afraid to go out again to have something else go wrong.

By Mateo de Colón

Global Citizen! こんにちは!僕の名前はマットです. Es decir soy Mateo. Aussi, je m'appelle Mathieu. Likes: Languages, Cultures, Computers, History, being Alive! \(^.^)/

1 comment

  1. oddly enough, you can have the sames sorts of shopping experiences in Manhattan if you hit the right shops in China town. Amber and I were hanging around out there and saw some neat looking outfits for little Olivia (our friend’s 2yo daughter), so I asked to see them. The lady told us they were “pure sirk, no polester. all sirk”. then proceeded to make up figures for the cost, add them completely incorrectly, and then shortchange me. I was so amused at the end of it, I ended up letting her get away with the dollar as a tip.
    Next time, however, she just gets to deal with my haggling!!!

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