Greasing the wheels and 50yo pickpockets
Well it was bound to happen if I stayed here long enough. In the last week I’ve had to unfortunately pay two bribes, and also fend off a couple of 50 year old aggressive pickpockets whilst I was trying to buy myself an ice cream.
Bribe one This bribe had to do with my taking a ‘wrong’ turn. At an in intersection where I’ve turned about 100 times straight in front of the permanently stationed traffic police booth. He asked for 300,000VND ($15), I said I could do 200,000 – and the deal was done. The alternative was get my motorbike impounded and be hauled down to the station for a shitfight. I don’t have a license here you see.
Bribe two This one had to do with electricity to my house. The other night I came home, and my housemate told me we were without power, and that we were the only ones in the block without it. Probably a bill issue. It was about 11.30pm so we couldn’t do anything. Do you know what it’s like to sleep in disgustingly humid, high-twenty degree heat with no airconditioning or fans? I had to open all my windows and cover my impressive body in insect repellent to ward off the inevitable onslaught. Then I would sleep for a few hours. Wake. Reapply. Sleep. Wake. Reapply. Spare a thought for two of my housemates who don’t actually have any windows. i.e no breeze. Oh, and the kicker? We ran out of bottled water. So we had no drinkable water. Aweeeesome. Anyways, the next morning I called the power company, and it wasn’t a bill issue, but something technical. So they sent a couple of dudes round, and turns out the power cable from my house to the power poles had exploded into flames the night before. Not really surprising to anyone who has seen a Vietnamese power line configuration. Although, in fairness – mine had been treated a little better. You see, to stop the rain shorting the fully-exposed wiring, someone had sheathed that part of the cables in slightly modified empty old bottles of water. Unfortunately the explosion the night before had melted that, so I can’t show you a photo of that. Anyways, upon inspection, the electrician said I needed new cables, but he couldn’t do it right then and there as the spare cabling he had on him was meant for someone else that day……..150,000VND and five minutes later and that spare cabling was now encased in a new water bottle powering our house.
Pickpocketing The first two tales above I can deal with. This one left me feeling homicidal. I was lining up at Kem Trang Tien in the middle of town. Kind of an institution amongst the populace here. Great young rice flavoured ice cream. Anyways at night, it gets chaotic. Really chaotic. You basically have to box out kids and small women to get your order accepted. Thank god I have about a 30kg weight advantage on those people. And of course, here in Vietnam there is no concept of queues. Anyways last night I was standing amongst it, trying to get my order, and this middle-aged man was really stiff-arming me with his fistful of cash, trying to get it to the front. It was really odd and aggressive and after a while, I realised this motherfucker had no interest whatsoever in getting some young rice goodness. I had my messenger bag on me, and ripped it back around. At this point I saw his accomplice was trying to tuck into my bag. She was similarly aged and had her arm covered by a big jacket. They both looked quite well off. They now realized the jig was up, and tried to act casual at this point before eventually meandering away. My only regret is that I didn’t call them out for it then and there. So I am going to go back regularly now. With my messenger bag. And maybe just fill my bag with an open container of fucking acid. It’s my goal to catch these fuckwits out. ‘Scuse the language, but I really don’t have time for pickpockets.
Urgh. Japan post tomorrow.