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The Big O.E An epic adventure across the world, backpacker style :)


VIETNAM | Wednesday, 6 June 2007 | Views [2165] | Comments [5]

Chinese style dragon guarding one of the royal tombs, Hue

Chinese style dragon guarding one of the royal tombs, Hue

We've been so lucky with all the people we've met and trusted on this trip.

Our luck ran out this morning. Seriously. Can you even imagine a crazy knife-weilding Vietnamese dude with his top lip cut off wearing a communist soldier's hat? He even sounds like a character from a bad novel.

Reading the description, you might think that we would have avoided the crazy knife guy. But no, we decided to get a ride on his motor bike to the Ethnographic Museum in Hanoi for $2. As you do.

The first fishy thing was that we stopped at the wrong museum. About 5 kms from where we paid to get to. Once the crazy knife guy realised that we knew it was the wrong museum, he said it was 'just a photo stop'. Hmm.

Then we were treated to a death defying ride to the correct museum. Crazy knife guy said he would wait for us and take us home at the end. I value my life, so said we would be fine to get home ourselves and that we would just pay him now.

Money note: the fare we arranged was 30,000 Dong. About $2 and pretty standard rates for rides in the city.

When we tried to pay him, he said we'd agreed to pay 30 US dollars, not 30 thousand dong. Thinking he was joking, I laughed and said not to be ridiculous, and handed over 30 thousand dong.

That's where he started to be the crazy knife guy. He stood right in my face (and reminded me of a sulky Boys' High student) and shouted at me, yelling, "30 dollars!" We said no, 30 thousand dong is what we agreed. You can take it or leave it. There was no way we were paying $30 US. That's just plain crazy. Just like the crazy knife guy.

Coz then he showed us his huge butcher's knife concealed under the seat of his motorbike and said we would pay him. He would wait outside for us and would call the mafia.

Which sounds ridiculous now, but at the time, when a crazy shouting guy with a knife whips out his cell phone and makes several short calls in Vietnamese, and you just start wondering why his top lip was missing anyway.... So I was pretty scared. I had visions of being tailed by all these motorbike mafia guys back to our guest house and getting chopped up with a butcher's knife when we went out for dinner in some dark back street...

When he started grabbing James and pulling his clothes, I marched up to the ticket counter to explain the situation (would have helped if the ticket lady spoke english). Somehow, after many attempts at shoving our money away from us, crazy knife guy got the 30 thousand dong in his hand, so we moved inside the museum gates. Crazy guy followed us, shouting about how we'd cheated him and shoving James' arms and chest. The ticket lady must have realised what was going on, and so the security guard started coming over.

Thank goodness the crazy knife guy kicked me in the leg. It hurt, but it made the security guy understand that he was a crazy guy, and I think he must have sent him on his way.

I didn't know that at the time, and spent the whole time in the museum wondering how long it would take to get on NZ news about the slaughter of two young travellers in Vietnam. James emptied his wallet and put everything in the moneybelt, just in case. Not much good if you're sliced to pieces, but it made me feel a bit better.

I was SO RELIEVED that the knife guy wasn't waiting for us when we came out of the museum. Even so, we took a taxi home instead of a motorbike, and I kept checking to see if we were being followed.

It's a shame that we encountered such a prick, but it taught us a good lesson about being more cautious. And about appreciating all the kind, wonderful people we've met. And about how putting your laundry in to be washed and it coming back dirty is not such a big problem.

Love from a very alive Catherine and James (who are about to walk home by themselves at night, always on the lookout for guys wearing soldier's hats with missing top lips)

Tags: Adventures




That is so, so scary. I'm glad you guys are OK! That could have turned nasty ...

  Annie Jun 15, 2007 12:09 PM


I am a Vietnamese from Australia and very sorry to hear this happened to you. I am planning to travel back for the first after more than 23yrs. I will be travelling on my own and therefore your experience here is very valuable for me. Please take care and thanks again. Regards, philip

  philip Jun 23, 2007 2:56 PM


Wow, makes me shudder to read it, and quite unlike my own experiences in Vietnam many years ago - glad you survived and amazed at your courage (?) in not giving in to his demands.

It always pays to expect the worst and be pleasantly surprised when things work out better than that - keep on enjoying the trip and I look forward to hearing how HK went.

Love from us all, Don

  Donald Low Jun 25, 2007 9:12 PM


OMG! That puts our tuk-tuk experience in Bangkok to shame!

We're just catching up on you blog. We're so jealous of your motorbike tour in the highlands, we just couldn't fork out that much money. Another time maybe. It was so frustrating to be on that tourist trail!

Hope you're enjoying your time in London!

  Adrienne and Sean Jul 1, 2007 9:53 PM


I live in Viet Nam and I really don'nt want people to get the wrong idea reading this. I have lived here for 4 years and never experianced personally or heard of anyone else experiancing somethig like that. In general I've experience friendly and good-nature people. Please don't get your impression of Viet Nam from this, there is people like this in every country including your own. Also please try and remember that many people are in poverty and while 30 dollars honestly doesn't really mean anything to you, is enough to keep them surviving. Though, I am glad that you did meet some wonderful people.

  may Nov 18, 2013 3:56 AM

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