Most people visit Hoi An on a romantic getaway, to party, since beers are cheaper than water, or to get a glimpse of the beautiful, traditional lanterns lit up and widespread throughout the small town at night by the rivers and beaches. Me? I came to practice my Vietnamese and even more so my haggling.On my recent trip to Hoi An I felt I won all my haggling except for with the old women there. Walking down the river by the main market I was stopped by five of them carrying the traditional poles which each hold two baskets of fruit in balance. Without even saying a word they were putting one of their hats on my head, putting one of their poles on my shoulder, and taking my camera off of my person. Quickly realizing what was happening I asked, “bao nhieu tien?” (how much for it?). They exclaimed, “don’t worry, free,” which definitely made me skeptical me but made my day. Before I knew it they crowded around me but couldn’t figure out how to work my camera which was on auto-focus so the button must be held down to take a picture. I explained it needed to be held and they took a few not so great photos, but beggars can’t be choosers. Afterwards, they asked if I wanted to buy their fruit, feeling grateful, I replied “mot ky cam vat,” (one kilo of oranges). They handed it to to me and said, “hai tram'” (200.000VND/$10USD) for a small bag of oranges, easily what should have been only $1-2 at most. Shocked, I firmly said, “mac qua, bot mot chut duoc khong?” (Too expensive, can you give me a better deal?). Without a breathe, they replied, “mot tram, hai muoi,” ($5, $1 for each of them). Feeling over it and that it wasn’t worth the hassle, I ended it by handing them the money and saying, “toi yeu chi, khong co gi,” (I love you, your welcome). They laughed and then laughed harder when I sat at a nearby riverside bar and watched them do the exact same thing to foreigner after foreigner for hours. Whenever they looked over I’d give them that disapproving finger wave with a smile. You win again Vietnam.
I spent the day in Hoi An to take photos, practice my Vietnamese, and test my haggling skills. Turns out, I don’t have anything on these old Vietnamese women because the second I parked my motorbike this ‘chi’ (an older Vietnamese woman) stood in front of me, with a big smile, and said, “photo!” I happily obliged thinking how kind she was until she quickly added, after I snapped the pic, “one dollar!” I looked at her in a mix of surprise and faceass knowing she had got me. I began haggling in Vietnamese and she began laughing at me trying to give her a run for her money. We ultimately agreed on four photos for 50.000 Vietnamese dong (about $2.25USD). I saw her again two more times and on both occasions she insisted on more photos in a different scenery but I turned her down explaining to her in Vietnamese that she is beautiful but too expensive for me 😉
One of my favorite thing to do in Hoi An is sit outside a coffee shop and people watch. Something I always laughed at are the drivers on these manually operated carts called cyclos which are almost always filled with a Chinese or Korean tourist with an older, Vietnamese man steering and cycling from behind. The funny thing is these cyclos always move in crowds, but in a single file line. However, none of the cyclos have bells or horns so the drivers always exclaim, “beep beep,” like Walt Disney’s The Road Runner. Imagine a group of ten of these with all of them going “beep beep” especially after a few Irish coffees.