The scam on public buses #1 from Danang Bus Station / Da Nang downtown to Hoi An City, Vietnam, my experience including the description of scandal.
What do I think about Vietnam?
In Hoi An, university students from neighboring Danang interviewed me twice in the street. Among questions, there were "What do you think about Vietnam", "What do you think about Vietnamese people", "What do you think about Hoi An"...
These students reminded me kids, so enthusiastic, so idealistic. They were sad and even frightened when I, instead of saying the sweetest words about Vietnam, had stated: "as everywhere, there are the bad and the good guys in Vietnam".
I said that I liked colors of Hoi An and mentioned that prices here twice higher than in Da Nang at least for us foreigners.
When I reported the examples of prices in the shops outside of the Old Town of Hoi An -
10 000 for a small bottle of water (3 800 in a supermarket in Danang), 15 000 for a Pepsi (6500 in Da Nang)
- one of the interviewers, a nice girl, became much depressed and said: "I am very sorry about that. Can I offer you water?" (This is because she noticed I had an empty bottle in a pocket of my backpack.)
After these interviews, I felt a kind of lighter as if I lost 3 kg of weight ... but I felt not good about that, my conscience was displeased.
Why did I grieve the kids?...
Just to spill out the negative emotions to feel better?
At the same time, should I hush up the bad things just because sharing them makes me feel better?... Should I please the young Vietnamese to keep them believing they live in a Gingerbread house?
How they scam in Hoi An bus
During my long stay in Da Nang, I traveled to Hoi An several times. I had read about the scam on the bus Da Nang - Hoi An so, every time, I prepared a 20 000 dong banknote to pay for a ticket without change and made my face gloomy to show I am not one of newbie happy tourists easy to rip off. Also, I safely packed my camera into my city backpack to make me look more like an expat, not a traveler, and, at the same time, to secure the camera for a case somebody would push me off the bus.
And the strategy worked. Only once I was asked to pay 30 000 dongs. I shortly answered "No" and the conductor immediately gave up. Easy!
I watched how other foreigners (including Asian ones, of course) were treated and I heard they were asked to pay 30 000 or I saw a conductor showing three fingers (it means 30 000 dongs).
This game with fingers, by the way, is just perfect. In such way, a conductor states two things together, the price and the fact he can't speak English so all debates about "I read on the internet that the ticket price is actually 20 000 dongs" would be useless.
The official application of the Danang public bus system (DanaBus - totally free, I recommend!) says the ticket fare is 18 000 dongs for this bus, by the way. (But I saw the locals pay 20 000).
But maybe they didn't touch me because I traveled light on a day trip from Danang City to Hoi An while other foreign passengers had big backpacks that showed they were on their long journey - uninformed, uncertain and sometimes tired. And the fact of having luggage is an excuse to ask extra money on this bus.
The conductor always tries to take big backpacks away from travelers and put them in the front of the bus and this is how they prove you have not just a backpack with you but the luggage.
So this is how the buses 'Danang-Hoi An' live, this is their system.
Fight in a bus from Danang to Hoi An
I was lucky until the last trip to Hoi An, the day I was interviewed by the mentioned students. This time, there was a woman conductor in the bus and, from the beginning, I felt something would be wrong this time. This is because of her voice that was slightly hoarse and harsh that made me believe she was a pushy person, a female one that must assert herself in the society of the rude men by demonstrating her outstanding skills of being exceptional impudent with travelers.
When I was coming into the empty bus that was waiting for the time to go she immediately pointed me to sit on the front passenger seat very near to the driver's chair. "You! Here!"
Yes, this is a special bus where you can not choose a place to sit, and all conductors do it in the same way. (Actually, you can switch seats but you risk to disappoint THEM, the power.)
After we left Hoi An station, she approached me showing that this was the time to pay and I immediately stretched out a prepared 20 000 dong banknote.
- Thirty thousand, - she said. (Yes, she could speak English. As I believe, all of them including 'finger-talkers'.)
- No, - I answered with the hope that the reply would work as it did before.
- Thirty thousand, - she repeated.
- Twenty thousand, - I stated and stretched out a banknote again. But she refused to accept it.
- If you don't need 20 000, I will have it, no problem, - I tried to joke.
- Pay thirty!
After all trips on this hostile bus route, I was just tired of feeling like a prisoner of war.
- I traveled this bus several times [she blinked at this moment] and paid 20 000 every time! - I explained not trying to hide irritation.
But .. just "Pay thirty!"
The driver was doing his job and was not going to involve into the conflict in any way. Vietnamese passengers sitting around me were listening but kept silence. Four foreigners were out of my sight in the middle and the back of the bus.
The time of heavy artillery came.
- I will shoot a video of you.
- I don't care!
- ...and I will send it to the police! - I shouted pointing on my mobile phone.
- I don't care, I don't care, I don't care! - she yelled.
- Really? - and I started the video application on my phone getting prepared to shoot the scene and, right at this moment, she angrily jerked the 20 000 banknote out of my hand and disappeared behind me, in the back of the bus.
A woman passenger glanced at me with an awkward smile. And I, hardly able to control emotions, cried out to her:
- THIS! IS! VIET! NAM!
As a postscript, to Vietnamese patriots
I am sure you are already in search of convenient explanations, why me, 'this angry foreigner', humiliates your dearest motherland. Instead of this rationalization, just write to departments of tourism of Da Nang and Hoi An, and ask them to investigate why a group of dirty villagers sabotage the governmental politics to attract tourism and the connected investments to Vietnam. Attach to the letter some of the dozens or even hundreds of negative reviews on Hoi An bus that published on the internet.