Chapter 1. Page three – Just paid a BRIBE!
March 27, 2012 § 3 Comments
“…in Rome, do what the Romans do.”
It was past 12 midnight. Our flight was just about the last flight landing for the night. The atmosphere was relatively quiet. The last thing everyone wanted to do was to get their luggage and go out the gate to meet their families, relatives, love ones, etc. This would be the most exciting part before crashing due to jet lag and exhaustion. The only thing left standing in the way is getting your luggage through the machine for the final check.
If you ever travel to a foreign country to visit friends and family, don’t let them know! Yes, just show up. You know why? Because you would have to buy gifts and presents and be responsible to buy expensive items as requested of you.
Basically, I had one laptop that I was using while bringing two netbooks, brand new in the box, inside my luggage. Immediately, I knew it was hard to get them through without any struggle. I remember from all the stories of travelers going back to Vietnam, never let the bag boy help you with your stuff unless you’re willing to tip an outrageous amount of money (usually 5-10 dollars). Just take care of your own luggage. If you want any process to go faster (getting through customs, going through the gate), just forget about 5 to 10 dollars in your passport.
So, as an American, I try to do the right thing. I pushed my luggage through with a stern look hoping to not have to pay any tea money (bribe). Of course, my luggage was taken to the side. One lady went by to the agent taking care of me. She whispered something to her, and then the agent lady proceeds to ask my questions. Basically, let me see your passport. This is a cue for you to put in some money; they’re not really interested in your passport. Seeing how it is almost 1 in the morning, I gave up into my temptation, and put a 5 dollar bill in my passport and gave it to her. You can tell that she’s experienced. She flipped the pages in my passport, and found the bill. She took it and slipped it in her drawer without even making eye contact to confirm with me. Basically, we both know was sup. So without further wasting her time with me, she let me through. It was as simple as that. No more hassle, no more questions, not even a look. I’m done. Got my luggage and out to the gate I go.
I have not been to many airports in Asia, but Tan Son Nhat airport has always been a zoo every time you walk out the gate. Many petty crimes also occur here. It gets crowded so people push up against you and steal your wallets and belonging. These petty crimes also happen everywhere in the city where it is crowded. I also personally witness such a crime happening right in front of me during Chinese New Year but that’s another story. My duty for that moment when I get out of the gate is to locate my relative. Boom! Found her. She was alone. I guess that’s all the people that were excited to see me. But it’s past midnight so no complaints. I’m glad someone came out at all.
We hugged, and we start walking. Walking really far. Far away from the airport into the parking lot. Why? I’ll tell you. Most taxi scams are the ones in the airport. And most scams happen at midnight when you’re really tired, and you’re new to the country, and you’re new to the currency you have just exchanged. You probably don’t even know the difference between 20,000 dong compare to a 100,000 dong. If the taxi driver gave you a fake bill, you would be clueless as to what is fake and what is real. The taxi driver could use the timing to confuse and take advantage of you like dropping you at a different location (hotel), so that they get commission, and it is late at night so you won’t have too many chances to fight back. So why do you go out all the way to the parking lot? So you can get to the domestic side where the taxi drivers are less likely to scam you. Another trick I learn recently is to go up one floor to the departure and catch a taxi as they drop off passengers.
By the way, if you guys ever travel, make sure to do your homework. Know how much from destination A to destination B. Know what the local currency looks like. Know which taxi company to take. If you have a friend, call to make sure they know you’re coming. Arrange for a place to stay. Use trip advisors to look at reviews. And always stick to the plan. Do not deviate unless you absolutely have to in an unknown environment. Just take extra precautions when you travel. Not everyone is a crook, but all that it takes is just one crook to mess up your whole entire traveling plan.
Home sweet home. Made it and too exhausted to care for anything else besides sleep.