world travel, street vendors are the norm. They come in all shapes, sizes
and ages, selling everything you can imagine from fresh fruit, hand woven
baskets, and jewelry, to bug repellent. Performing a much needed service,
the product comes to you, and the experience creates colorful memories of
your journey away from home.
Most vendors, it is well known, will
bargain for the price they will accept for their item. The more you are a
tourist, and unaware of what an item is worth, the more they are able to
charge. Some tourists think “It’s ok, it’s only five bucks, and I’m on
holiday.” Others say “I don’t know how/don’t
want to bargain, and it’s not
very much anyway, -- I’m on vacation.” The vendors know this situation
perfectly well, and are especially looking for YOU.
MOBILE EARLY MORNING VENDORS
Traveling full time for almost three
decades, we are not tourists. Our style of viewing countries is to “get local”
as soon as possible, know what something costs or is worth, and set up a
We then like to get to
know the locals of any area, especially shop owners, restaurant owners, and
any wait staff or service personnel. We have dealt with street vendors in
countries from Mexico and the Caribbean, to Thailand, Bali, Laos, Burma,
Vietnam, and China. Although there are similarities with all of them, the
Hoi An vendors stood out as some of the more obnoxious ones we have
A typical Vietnamese selling technique is to come up to
you right away, tell you their name, and to say, “I meet
you first, you buy from me”. This goes for everything
from tailoring to cut pineapple in a bag. Capitalism is
fairly new in this Communist country, and skillful
methods of selling and service are just now being
learned. Some sell through their delightful
personalities, filled with smiles and engaging jokes.
Others sell through sheer will and persistence. Some,
through sob stories that they have perfected long before
we came across the scene, and it’s hard to separate what
is going on from what one is supposed to do about it.
BEAUTIFUL SMILE, BOUNTIFUL CHOICES
This challenging mix of wanting to milk the tourist, with the actual need
that is prevalent and obvious, is a hard combination to balance. The
disparity between the fortunes of the visitors and the life of the locals is
On the beach, there is a beautiful hotel
that charges $140 USD per night to stay. This is fairly reasonable as
beachside resort hotels go, however, translated into Vietnamese Dong, it is
over 2 million, for a single night. It is beyond any comprehension of money
that the locals know. And they think that all the foreigners are staying
there. So when they see you coming, they beg, whine and grab you, and won’t
take no for an answer. The perception is that all foreigners have unlimited
money, spend millions of Dong a day, and so therefore, 10,000 for this, and
30,000 for that is nothing to you. They will size you up, and
of Dong or more to anything they sell.
In the picturesque town of Hoi An, the
sense is that the tourist is here for a short period only, so the sellers
feel that pressure of time. There is very little authentic interaction of
any sort from most vendors. “You look Vietnamese. I like you. Buy from me.”
Now Akaisha has been called many things, but it is a full stretch to say she
EVEN ON A PEACEFUL BOAT TRIP, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!
This is a handsome, quaint town that has
been overrun by their action. You cannot walk five feet from your hotel’s
front door before you’re asked to “buy something” rent a bike, or hire a
motorbike. And that’s before you hit the shopping streets. Once there, it’s
a constant barrage of “come in and buy something”, which gets old fast.
We personally enjoyed our
stay in Hoi An. It could be described as upscale tourist, with gouging
included. If you look, you will find bargains, but it may tear your heart
out in the meanwhile. The scenery and weather is beautiful, the envy of many
countries, and the place is very clean.
Vietnam is a nation with an emerging
economy. All things are up for grabs; giving decent service, what makes good
quality, speaking English. There are lots of opportunities mixed in with the
“other stuff” one has to put up with in this tourist destination.
If you are prepared for
the onslaught of the sellers, where polite “ no thank you’s ” are completely
ignored, Hoi An, with it’s spectacular beauty is your perfect destination.