Saturday, May 15, 2004

Trading Places

If you're even vaguely Anglo-Saxon, or otherwise non-confrontational in nature, the thought of arguing about how much bewildering foreign currency to pay, while doing rapid conversion arithmetic in your head, for an item you're not even sure how you will get home/ if it will pass customs/ you'll understand why you bought once you get back to life on a comfortable mattress, may induce a hyperventilating panic attack. Never fear, I have a strategy.

Though generally quite argumentative in nature, haggling has never been my strong point...until I inadvertently stumbled onto a useful technique while I was slumming it in Hanoi; hook up with fellow travellers who are even more afraid of haggling, and more eager to pay whatever priced is asked than should really have been allowed for in the evolution of human behaviour. Once you have found said creatures, make sure you can tolerate their presence for longer than an afternoon. All going well, haggle for them. It's that simple. It's astounding how much easier the whole process becomes once the pressure of the sale is completely out of your hands, and the final decision to pay the amount settled on isn't yours. Doing this for a couple of days not only gives you the confidence to start bargaining for your own benefit, but also gives you quite a good grounding in what you can reasonably expect to pay for things.

Note: Individual results may vary, this new found power may go to your head and it may at some point be inferred that you are demonically possessed.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Travel is only glamorous in retrospect ~P.Theroux

I could tell you a lot of really interesting travel facts about the Perfume Pagoda. Set amongt the limestone hills and tropical forests of the Huong Mountain region, I could tell you about the network of magnificent Buddhist shrines set in limestone caves. I could tell you about the strong women who shuttle tourists back and forth up the Yen River on flat-bottomed boats, or even about the deep respect I developed for the joyful elderly Buddhist women overtaking me on the climb up to the main shrine.
Or I could tell you about how I ended up sitting in a metal boat in the middle of an open river during a tropical deluge, feeling rainwater seep in through my ambitiously named raincoat to drench my tickets, passport and about a hundred dollars in ratty Vietnamese dong, while waiting to be fried into oblivion by the enthusiatic lightning storm crashing down around me.
Or I guess I could just tell you about the bit where I saw a dog being chased by a chicken.