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