Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I felt challenged today, by the weather, the broken sole of my shoe and the rickshaw driver who ripped me off.  I awoke in Hoi An to a steady rain, hoping 63 miles north to my destination in Hue the weather would be sunnier.  It wasn't.  In fact, it was colder, 59 degrees, and wetter.  After checking into my lovely hotel, the former governor's art deco mansion, I ventured out in my fleece, rain poncho and disabled shoe held together by tape.  Within two blocks the tape was a crumpled mess on the sidewalk,  and the wind wiping off the river pelted rain in my face.  My plan was to walk near The Imperial City, a replica of The Forbidden City in Beijing, have a hot bowl of soup and call it a day.  Stop lights which should seemingly aid pedestrian safety did the opposite.  At a green light only the motorists on my left stopped, the others crossing the intersection from the right were still able to go making it impossible to cross the street.  I was getting frustrated.  The sole of my left foot flapped with every step, and mud from the wet streets were leaving black stains on the bottom of my pants.  I was cold and wet.  Seeing my distress a rickshaw driver waved me over.  I told him I wanted to go to my hotel and mistakenly gave him the address.  He said he'd drive me by the Imperial City.  I told him I was hungry and just wanted to go to my hotel.  He told me not to worry, he'd take me to a place to eat and drive me around the Imperial City.  One hour of riding for $15.  A taxi would be cheaper and drier, but I went with it.  The cart which was low to the ground and in front of the biker was covered with a woven plastic tarp.  A hole was cut out so I could see the oncoming traffic and the near misses of minivans and scooters.  The driver brought me to a restaurant, where the food was mediocre and the only other diners were foreigners and then to the Imperial City.  I thought we were going to drive by, but he stopped, encouraging me to go in.  I was longing for my comfy, warm hotel room, but again I went with it and joined the other wet purple and blue ponchos exploring the vast grounds behind the ancient citadel.  I wished to be there on a warm sunny day, camera in hand leisurely strolling the grounds.  I admired the wood work, the Chinese architecture, the rooms where kings watched dancers and elephants perform.  I read an odd sign in a room with a gilded throne on an elevated stage "No sitting on throne unless you've purchased ticket for costume".  At that moment a young man adorned in a bright yellow robe, hat and shoes ascended the stage.  He regally sat on the chair, puffed out his chest and grinned like an emperor while his friend snapped a photo.   Even wetter and colder I found my rickshaw driver.  "I drive you to the market and then your hotel."  I knew there was a well known indoor market close by so I agreed.  He wanted to show me some stalls, but I told him I'd wander in alone and be out in a few minutes and THEN to my hotel.  A block from my hotel he stopped to let me out and collect $55.  "What?" He told me we were riding for 3 hours so the fee was no longer $15, but $55.  Actually the correct math would have made it $45, but what is accuracy when you're being scammed.  I argued the sightseeing, the times he was hanging out smoking a cigarette, wasn't included, and the actual riding time was still an  hour.  He dug in and I felt foolish and angry for having a tourist target on my chest.   Defeated, I gave him $40 dollars and walked the rest of the way to my hotel.

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