Where are we now and what have we been doing??? Patience, I believe there is some history to cover first. ;-)

Prior to our trip I had done some research on the current state of coffee in Vietnam, in hopes of finding something drinkable. Luckily I stumbled across the website of Indochine Coffee Company, they had recently begun to grow strictly estate Arabica bourbon beans in the central highlands near Dalat. I had emailed the owner of this small cafe chain while we were in Canada and discussed with him the possibility that we would try to drop into one of his cafes. He was most welcoming in his responses and I was looking forward to tasting his coffee. Well, as things turned out I never did bump into one of his cafes it was Doreen who noticed one while she was scouting the neighbourhood. In a strange twist, as Doreen was explaining how she had found a place she thought might serve good coffee that sparked my interest, she didn't know anything about my emailing with the owner. That was a stroke of luck because it turned out to be the first cup of coffee since we arrived that didn't make me stop drinking after two or three sips. The french press I had was a Vienna roast (not my favourite roast level) so I would be keen to try their lighter roast. Doreen's espresso was pretty good, even though it was pulled too long, having said that I would wait in line for an hour to drink another one before drinking some of the other Robusta coffee's we have been served. I would like to cup some more of Indochine Coffee Company's coffees and I wouldn't mind doing a tour of their Dalat based estate, since we will be in Dalat a few days from now. Hint, hint...

After we left the cafe we headed toward the Rex Hotel to hang out at a small park where a lot of locals were letting their children run around. We spent quite a long time there just letting the boys play with all the other kids. The generosity of the Vietnamese is really something to see for yourself. While at the park the boys were bought bags of chips, balloons and candies by people we don't know and will never see again. It's hard to explain how much impact some of these almost innocuous actions had during the time in that park.

Later in the evening found us in the street-side restaurant (already mentioned in the previous post) having a BBQ meat and seafood feast; all this for the same price as you would pay back in Canada for a nasty bag of movie theatre popcorn and a pop. All the running around combined with the heat/humidity and a long day had the boys getting tired so we walked back to the hotel to get organized for our 0500hrs wakeup call to head for Saigon Railway Station.

The boys are managing things really well so far. The taxi from the hotel to the Railway Station, which was a 15min ride in the dark weaving though streets that already were starting to fill-up with motorbikes and bicycles, was taken in stride. The two of them watched interestedly as the city passed by, as if they were two seasoned travelling veterans. The taxi driver was great and had a really nice quiet smile, the fare he offered before we got in the taxi was 60,000 Dong which I thought was reasonable given the distance and the HCM City rates, so I didn't begin to negotiate. For his efforts I tipped him 10,000 dong, why, not just because he drives taxi but because he seemed like a decent man doing his job well and doing the little things that count. Prepare now for a rambling pet peeve...

I'm not a guy who throws money around to either impress others or impress myself but there are certain things that deserve credit where credit is due. As an old-school backpacking kind of traveller, I like to drive hard bargains where necessary and tip or ease up on the bargaining when warranted. Back in the day I have been annoyed watching other travellers who throw money around unnecessarily by either paying way too much for items or by trying to buy respect. That kind of thing just makes it harder for travellers following in their footsteps. At the other end of the spectrum is the equally annoying "tight" traveller who doesn't recognize good service, fails to notice a kind gesture because the vacation is all about them or they drive a hard bargain without the sensitivity to realize it's supposed to be a two-way conversation. A good example of this occurred at the Railway Station this morning. With Doreen and the boys on the train, I got off to grab some supplies for the ride. As we have only just arrived in-country, I'm still trying to get a good handle on what's fair and what's a money-grab. First up on the supply chain was the fresh baguettes and cheese spread vendor who requested a price that I thought was a bit high, (40,000 Dong for 4 x large baguettes and 4 x cheese spread) but she was friendly and honest and eager to please - price paid. Next it was the coffee lady, again very happy and friendly and responsive to my requests, her price was probably a tiny bit high (15,000 Dong for 2 x condensed milk/sugar/pre-made coffee concentrate/hot water coffees) but I respect the way she treated me and I gave her a 20,000 Dong note, she scrambled for change and because of the way she was earnestly scrambling to get me back on the train in time, I told her to keep it and was rewarded with a smile. Then it was on to the water lady, who's only demanded word was "20,000 Dong!" when I pointed at a 1.5L bottle, when I responded with "too much" she turned and showed me her back, I started to walk, she spit out "ok, 15,000!" I shook my head and said "no it's 10,000" and folded my arms, she relented and I gave her what she deserved, 10,000 Dong. I got a nod and a smile from the baguette lady who had watched the entire transaction. Sometimes you tip, sometimes you don't, sometimes you walk away even if it's only about 10 cents - it's the principle that counts. I don't think its rocket science, it comes as second nature to good travellers, by the time the boys are old enough to pack their own backpacks I think they will have it figured out.


Jack said...

Again - great post! I particularly enjoyed the
"bargaining" parable - nice illustration of advice we've seen elswhere.
Cheers & stay safe