Frustrations, Sexual Assault and Bad First Impressions of Vietscam

Vietnam and I didn’t get off to the best of starts. I was all ready to be like a proper grownup and go there on holiday with my girlfriend – until her Visa was rejected at last minute for only one reason; her nationality. It seems Vietnam isn’t too keen on Tunisian’s coming for a visit, and with my Cambodian Visa already expired seven days before – I had to get out of the country.

A little reminder to all of us who have ‘good’ passports – how lucky we are.

That being said, I was looking forward to getting a new country under my belt, so me and ‘The Nam’ put our differences aside and I decided to see what she had up her sleeve for me. After settling in Ho Chi Minh City before deciding where to go next, things started going in a positive direction.

Being a foodie – I was very impressed with the cuisine of Vietnam. They seem to have a staple diet of fresh vegetables (crunchy spinach in buttered garlic being my favourite), lean meat that isn’t molested in fat and a slightly sour taste to its dishes. I didn’t have many bad meals in Vietnam – whereas it’s a daily battle to make my stomach happy in Cambodia.

I lead a bit of a double life. Sometimes I’m a backpacker – jumping from one hostel to another and I’m not bothered about where I sleep. Other times I base myself in a new city so I can crack on with some work and enjoy some luxurious comforts and I couldn’t help but feel that ‘The Hoch’ had a pretty good ‘base’ vibe about it.

It’s a lot more modern than Phnom Penh and ticks all the boxes that I need to hang out for a month or so.

I should have stayed in Ho Chi Minh City.

Because I stumbled upon an evil that still makes me anxious when I think about it; Vietnamese fucking taxi drivers.

Generally speaking, I have never known such a despicable, aggressive, conniving bunch of vermin. Pretty much every taxi driver tried to get more money out of me when the metre had already named a price. This was the regular pattern and I tried not to use taxis, but my hands were tied when I was in a rush.

Particularly one evening, when I was going to the gym. The taxi driver wouldn’t let up about taking me to a “closer” gym and let’s just say he drained me for every penny he could get. And I’m 100% sure he took the wrong note from my wallet (without asking) when I was paying up.

This was after constantly telling the little slime-ball that I DID want to go to the gym and I DID NOT want to “boom boom” with a Vietnamese lady. I don’t even want to think about how much this guy scammed me out of – it makes me sick to even consider the number.

I was losing the plot and getting angrier and angrier after every encounter.

The next day I was going to the gym (the one I actually wanted to go to) in a taxi. He didn’t seem as rude, pushy, or as aggressive as the other drivers and I wrongly thought I was going to enjoy a peaceful ride.

As I fumbled around in my pockets to pay him the metre price he joked about me being strong and made bicep flex moves. I laughed and nodded and he felt my arms. He felt my shoulders too – I was cool with that. And then he felt…a different muscle. MY LOVE MUSCLE!

Memories of that ‘Friends’ episode when Joey gets felt up by the tailor spring to mind. I was in a complete state of shock and denial and told myself surely a taxi driver has not just groped my knob and that maybe I’m hallucinating because of lack of sleep. Or maybe it was ‘just a Vietnam thing?’

Nope.

This time he CERTAINLY, for the second time – absolutely groped my cock. And I’m not talking about a cheeky little feel – I’m talking about a full-on; ‘we are horny teenagers and my Momma and Poppa have popped out for groceries, get ‘Greenday’ on the stereo – take me I’m all yours,’ kind of grope.

I lost control. I grabbed him by the throat and threw him against the drivers door, his head smacking off the window with the impact. I have no idea what he said in Vietnamese and he probably thought that I was possessed by Lucifer, because I was going as you would say in England “ape shit!”

I told him to unlock the door and stuffed the money in his mouth. Yes, his mouth!

Ten minutes into my gym session; panic sets in and I begin to worry. I’m in a foreign country and I have just attacked a taxi driver – and he could tell the police where I am. Of course, that’s not the true story, but I figured the police would take his side over mine.

I left the gym immediately and went for a big wander – ending up back at my hostel an hour and a half later. I’ve had a laugh about the cock-grabbing taxi driver since, as have other people – but would it be so funny if I was a girl? I think not.

I have a really bad first impression of Vietnam and I’m in no rush to go back. In Thailand and Cambodia they try to get more money from you – but it’s done more in a cheeky and jovial way, with an impish grin on their faces.

In Vietnam they are aggressive and they lock the doors to intimidate you. They’re not very friendly and they just see you as one big wallet. Be careful when in Hanoi, it saddens me to write this as I hate fear mongering and this is the first time in a whole year that I didn’t feel safe when travelling. Hell, when I’m in Thailand I feel safer than I do back at home!

I’m just being honest about my encounter – travel isn’t always sunshine, rainbows and an orgy of Mark Twain quotes.

My Theory On Why Vietnamese Taxi Drivers are Scammers

Politically speaking, I’m a bit of a lefty. I think immigrants who travel overseas to better their families lives are modern-day heroes. I want world peace and free hugs in the streets. If Yoko and John had room for one more, I would have squeezed into the bed with them. But when it comes down to enterprise – I couldn’t be any more of a capitalist.

There is a common belief that Capitalism is some sort of pyramid scheme – I say it’s the perfect opportunity to become a self made man/woman. Maybe I wouldn’t say that if I was born in Zimbabwe, but it’s been good to me and I see many benefits over its opposite. I’m a perfect example of the world ‘being my oyster.’

Of course it’s not perfect – but what is?

When you indoctrinate the principles of Communism/Marxism into a society – you take away the strong human desire to evolve and in turn, that makes people pull all sorts of nasty tricks like they do in the taxis of Vietnam just to get a little ahead. I’ve seen how petrified they are of the police over there, when they come to close down their businesses for the curfew with their big sticks and heavy-handed tactics. They mentally beat the people down and they put limits on them and a ceiling on an individual’s possibilities.

It’s against the core of the human spirit to be treat like that and it’s only a matter of time before people fight back – I just think it’s the travellers who suffer.

Of course I could be wrong (it’s been known before) and I could visit Cuba and come back with stories of the nicest taxi drivers in the world. I guess time will tell.

What’s your thoughts on Vietnam?

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51 Responses

  1. Tom @ Waegook Tom

    Funny you write this, because everyone I know who has travelled in the region says EXACTLY the same thing – that the Vietnamese are more aggressive, and that transactions are done with a smile, until you decline, and then it’s swearing and ill feeling.

    I don’t blame the taxi driver for groping your penis, though. I’d have done the same.
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..Gongju: Fortress & FermentationMy Profile

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Tom,

      I don’t know that many people who have been so I was just going with the flow. It seems with the comments below (or above, wherever the fuck they go after I reply) that I was very unlucky as the taxi companies they are suggesting were the worse culprits haha!

      “I don’t blame the taxi driver for groping your penis, though. I’d have done the same.” – Promises, promises ;)

      Reply
      • Sovann

        Youtube: Cyclo Scam in Ho Chi Minh turned out to be free riding! Thanks

        I had quite similar experience which I hope you’ll watch it. In my video you see how the cyclo driver look lik, how he behaved.

        We learn through sharing!

      • Darren

        Hey Anthony,
        I’ve been to Vietnam 5 times now and I was lucky on the first visit to get a legitimate English speaking taxi driver.
        The second year I went he invited me into his home and his mother cooked for us.
        Over the years we have become very good friends. I take someone each time I go and have sent (on good recommendation) 3 separate couples and a family of 4 to be looked after by him. All came back with glowing references and some plan to return. My son who came on the second trip with me plans to take his girlfriend there soon.
        He is based in HCMC and his name is Anh. He has never been unfair with payment and the last trip this year in March, he welcomed my brother and I as old friends and refused to charge us anything. We are going again in January 2014 for the Tet Holiday celebrations and plan on taking him with us up to Hoi An for a few days for all he has done for us.
        Don’t get me wrong though..I totally agree with you on the vermin description, they are all around and scams are rife and the crooked cops do nothing about it except ask for money. Apart from wanting to commit murder in some situations, I am hooked on the place, – the food, coffee, places and beauty, but if it were not for my lucky encounter with Anh, I probably would have ended up with a filthy little flea ripping me off and turning me off the place for ever.
        Incidentally, if you or anyone planning on going for their first trip there or for those who want a second chance, Anh’s number in HCMC is: 9009434317, mention my name and you WILL get the royal treatment at incredible value. No fuss, honest service an assistance, you WILL save valuable holiday time and money. He has connections everywhere and will help see you through sa smooth holiday experience. I don’t get anything for mentioning him, but if you were to know him like we do you would understand why I feel that I owe him that.
        Cheers,
        Darren. B.

      • Anthony Middleton

        Hi Darren,

        It’s amazing how people can have complete different perceptions on a country! Of course our experiences couldn’t be any more different.

        I’m glad you had a good time, but I defo won’t be going back in a hurry.

  2. Barbara

    This is what happens when you come to town when I’m not here to look after you.

    Did anyone tell you to take Mai Linh or Vinasun taxis and no other type? And to sit in the back seat of the taxi?

    After reading this post, I feel terrible, like I’ve just witnesses someone in steel-capped boots kicking a defenceless puppy. :-(

    Reply
      • Barbara

        I asked my husband to read this post. Who is, as you know, Vietnamese.

        He said he was confused by the headline. Because, he said, why would a guy complain about being sexually assaulted? But he assumed it was a woman who had manhandled you.

        So after reading your assailant was man, he got the giggles. When he calmed down he said: I don’t know of anyone who has gotten themselves into that terrible situation.

        Mate, I think it’s the mo. You are too sexual with it. For your own good, you have to be hairless or the rest of your life or these kinds of things will keep happening to you.

  3. Dyanne@TravelnLass

    Not to say it’s all daisies and puppy dog tails here by any stretch, but… one question.

    I’ve lived here more than a year now, and – I simply have to ask:

    Why on earth were you using taxis (rather than xe oms)???

    That and – most anyone who’s been here more than a week knows that the only taxi you can rely on to be honest (mostly) is the green and white Mai Linh line.

    But in any case, unless we’re talkin’ a typhoon, why not simply hop on a xe om (after negotiating the price – usually no more than 20-30k most anywhere in the city)?

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Hey Dyanne,

      Sorry to sound dumb, but what is an xe oms? I was encountering in a bit of speed tourism, which is admittedly not ideal and I took the taxis when I was short of time.

      It was Hanoi where this all happened.

      P.S. The cock-grabber AND the little slimeball was Mai Linh. 100%.

      Reply
      • Dyanne@TravelnLass

        Sorry Anthony, as you eluded to being in Vietnam a month(?) I thought you’d heard of the term for “motorbike taxi” (i.e. xe om – I believe it actually translates to “bike hug” or some such as in you “hug” the driver, yes?) Leastwise xe om was the first Vietnamese word I ever learned.

        ANYWAY… Sorry, for some strange reason I was thinking this all happened to you in HCMC, but I see now that you’d already left Saigon for… parts unmentioned. Sorry. Hanoi could well be different, and of course even here in Saigon one must be on one’s toes (which of course is true when traveling amid any large city on the globe, no?) Still…

        You did seem to sum up your experience to include ALL Vietnamese taxi drivers, and that seems a bit of a stretch (i.e. most here have had little, if any such trouble with Mai Linh and Vinasun leastwise in HCMC – though I’m now permanently ensconced here in wondrously cooool, green, deliciously serene, Dalat).

        LOL, that said (and speaking of “despicable…vermin”) check out my most recent TravelnLass post – upon my return to HCMC after a month’s romp in Australia, I got totally ROBBED in HCMC by…

        (wait for it…)

        why a motorbike XE OM of course! ;)

      • Anthony

        Hey Dyanne,

        I was there for even less – 2 weeks. With regards to the motor bike – I’m living in Phnom Penh right now and a lot of people get mugged on them – they cut the straps and drive off in a 2-man operation.

        BASTARDSSSSS! Haha, send me the link! :)

      • Lissie

        Hmm – motobike taxis – as a solo traveller why would you take anything else – unless you were moving with a huge backpack? Must say I don’t do a lot of taxis – a find a central hotel and then walk – but I didn’t have any issues.

        And as a woman – how did the driver get that close to you? Particularly at the end when you are paying – I am always out of the cab and at arm’s length – basic security 101 world wide
        Lissie recently posted..How To Get a Myanmese Visa? Do I Need A Visa for MyanmarMy Profile

      • Anthony

        Lissie,

        Like I said to Dyanne, I’m not sure moto taxi’s are flawless either. I guess I’m going to be a lot more paranoid when I hit the road next haha.

  4. Denise

    mmm…I was in Vietnam for 2 months last Feb, and I caught Taxis constantly, though I made sure I ALWAYS used the green ones which you can find all over Vietnam. There were a couple of occasions where the taxi driver took me on a bit of a longer ride, but this only resulted in maybe a 50 cents increase in my fare.

    Reply
  5. Andi

    Holy shit!!!!!!!! I’m so glad you defended yourself like that. What the hell is wrong with people? I hope nothing like that ever happens to you again!

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Andi – I have no idea what made him do that, but I can’t help but feel it’d be worse if it was a girl in that position. I’ve learnt to sit in the back now! Still, wouldn’t stop them locking the doors though!

      Reply
  6. Edna

    I got totally scammed in Vietnam too, by a cyclo driver in Saigon for an embarassing amount of money I’d rather not disclose. Wasn’t my favorite memory, especially since it was my first time in Vietnam, but overall I had a good experience and will definitely be back. I think it’s the food that’s got me hooked — I’m willing to overlook it all for bowls of pho and bo bun!
    Edna recently posted..Baku to the FutureMy Profile

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Hey Edna,

      I can totally empathise (although I did have to check how to spell it bahaha) with the feeling of embarrassment here :/

      hahaha yes the food is rather impressive. But I can do without as I’m going back to yummy Thailand soon :P

      Reply
  7. Rachel

    I’m sad to say I had a bad experience in Hanoi too. I found the aggressiveness of hawkers and just about everyone I encountered really hard to take, and like I was viewed as a walking ATM. Nothing quite like your experience, but someone did steal almost all of my electronics :( Not really keen to return to Vietnam.

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Rachel,

      I’m sorry to hear you had a rough time, but at least I’m not the only one – people were starting to think I was going mental :P

      How did they manage to get your tech gear? Poor lass :( I’m in no rush to go back also!

      Reply
  8. Vicky

    Wow that is seriously absurd! We try to avoid cabs at all costs since it’s usually an unpleasant experience (had a few in China) and have only taken a couple cabs in Vietnam so far but they have all turned out alright. We are heading to HCM tonight and will be there until January 3rd – if you’re around would be nice to meet up!

    Reply
  9. Ayngelina

    Within the first hour of arriving in Saigon I was robbed. I had just taken the bus from Cambodia and still had my passport and everything on me. Two guys on a scooter drove up on the sidewalk and slashed my bag off with me with a knife.

    You would think I would hate Vietnam but it was the best thing that could have happened.

    No one on the street spoke English and they all looked at me in amazement. But then they flagged over more people who spoke English and these people drove me to the police station on their scooter, waited 3 hours while they convinced the police to take my police report. I wrote it in English and they translated it into Vietnamese.

    A stranger robbed me but other strangers showed such kindness. I will never forget the kindness.

    As for the robbing. It was in 2007 and I think it was a blessing because I realized that even if your passport is stolen it isn’t really that big a deal so when I took off for Latin America I was no longer afraid.

    The funny thing is I don’t really remember taking a cab in Vietnam. I think we either walked everywhere or somehow we lucked out because I don’t have any bad stories. I loved Vietnam and I’d definitely go back.
    Ayngelina recently posted..How I will remember 2012My Profile

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  10. MikeJJ

    Just browsing travel Blogs and clicked yours because of the title! Great title :D

    Although Man VS Cock would have been more suitable for this story!

    Hope you have better luck next time!

    Mike.

    Reply
  11. Wends of Journeys and Travels

    I had been to HCMC and was trying to be nice to a man who overcharged me for a motorcycle ride around the city but nothing comes closer to your experience on the “Love Muscle” haha I am picture out quite a headspin for the bastard for groping you in his cab. Darn, he cant get enough touching you on your biseps and gone all the way down there.

    Good decision to not stay at the gym and wander around instead. In a foreign land, that is what I feared the most.

    Reply
  12. Sovann

    Youtube: Cyclo Scam in Ho Chi Minh turned out to be free riding! Thanks

    I had quite similar experience which I hope you’ll watch it. In my video you see how the cyclo driver look lik, how he behaved.

    We learn through sharing!

    Reply
  13. Nico

    I’ve heard a lot of bad things about Vietnam, but never cock grabbing. Not the easiest country to be a tourist in South East Asia, but when I went there I had no problems at all (but then my dad speaks some Vietnamese, so it makes a difference)
    Nico recently posted..The Most Dangerous Country in the WorldMy Profile

    Reply
  14. Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com

    I love Vietnam. The first 3 times I went there, it was absolutely peachy. The 4th time, however (and it was just last December), I was cheated by a taxi driver and a moto driver told a German friend of mine (who was waiting for me on the sidewalk in front of my hostel) that I was actually a scammer and I had already murdered an Australian during one of my scams. Funny eh? Actually, NOT!
    Aleah | SolitaryWanderer.com recently posted..Remembering the Unforgettable Beauty of SantoriniMy Profile

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  15. Foof Song

    Now that I am officially a “howay man….a little bit more travelled like” in the realms of SE Asia I can actually join in with this! Yay!

    I was in Saigon and was lucky enough to have a friend living there who told me VinaSun or MeihLin taxi’s only and we had no problems – actually if anything found the taxi guys we came across really helpful in comparison to some others we came across in Thailand. I didn’t feel the place was aggressive though I travelled with my boyfriend and was with him most of the time and no hassle (he isn’t Tunisian and so got a visa fine…..what a shame about your girlfriend :( how ridiculous). When I was alone, I did get more hounded than elsewhere though, but mainly by women grabbing my arms as I walked past their stalls or shops which I find totally off-putting.

    That said, a couple in my hostel were done out of a load of cash on one of those “here, sit on the front of this bike and I will push you round town looking like a total tit for half an hour for £100″ type trips. They experienced the old “taking a 500’000 note 20’000 note out of wallet” sketch and wouldn’t actually divulge how much they had their pants pulled down for, so it must have been bad.

    I personally wasn’t a fan of the cuisine there (though ate a lot of bread and pastry if that counts) and completely LOVED Khmer food which is interesting – but then I don’t think we ever have been that compatible with our scoff eh Anthea *bites into raw onion*

    I think someone grabbing your pork sword is equally as disgraceful as someone grabbing a foof – how disgusting to experience that, I bet you were fuming. Good on you for going mental at the man, bless you.

    This is a massive post…are you anxious!? haha
    peace out

    Reply
    • Anthony

      Hahaha it’s Foof On The Dancefloor!

      Get you – all like Brummie’s answer to Michael Palin. I think the fact you travelled as a couple meant you were less of a target. If your man went on his own I can guarantee they would have been the same, but I hope I’m wrong ad it was just a bad week :/

      hahaha yes the food thing doesn’t surprise me. With the exception on Bacon sarnie’s and Uncle Ben’s rice – we are world’s apart in that respect. Hahaha yes the long post has given me an asthma attack and I do not even have asthma. Interested to hear your opinion on other countries we have both seen :)

      Reply
  16. Milt

    Brollocks! I’m literally just hovering my mouse over the buy button for a Bangkok to HCMC flight for my first time. Avoided Vietnam for a decade of bouncing round SE Asia because of these sorts of stories. Not heard any for a while thought I’d give it a go.
    But on the motorbike taxi thing – I now do it that I hate them all unless they prove me otherwise. Thailand, Laos, Malaysia the lot. Must admit, I’ve gone ape shit on a few of them overtime also. At the same time I do have quite a few taxi guys who thru using over time I have become really good friends with and they do things like give me free rides if they are passing me in the street.
    Milt recently posted..Six weeks in Darjeeling – The Wrap Up.My Profile

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  17. gwenda

    I agree with you. I experienced being forced to pay double of what the meter says. I don’t think I still want to travel back here… alone. I was really damn scared with how the taxi driver treated me. I thought the people here are nice until i met that taxi driver an hour ago.

    however, if you are to take a cab, please choose Mailinh or Venasun. It so happened that there was neither of them outside the market that’s why I took the taxi with the Cooperative name and it was the most horrible cab ride I ever experienced.

    Reply
  18. andy D

    stumbled across your blog today, so sorry to have heard all of bad experiences you have had in Vietnam, I am Vietnamese born Australian by the way, fluent in Viet, talk the talk and walk the walk and had been living/working in Vietnam for the past 8 yrs. still the local would try to take me for a ride on a daily basis, completely sick of it, enough for me to have finally decided to close down my business here last week, packing my shit up and head home in about 2 wks from now, … just you wait my friend, you will be shock to hear my own stories, can’t speak much now until I am totally out of this shit hole for good.
    take care now.

    Reply
    • Anthony Middleton

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for the back up! Sorry that you had to endure that – I can’t even begin to imagine dealing with that long term. At least I got out soon enough!

      Good luck with everything in the future and I hope you find a more friendly country :)

      Reply

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