I decided to take the bus to, District Seven, the modernismo development of Saigon. D7 has wide boulevards, sidewalks, traffic signals and big glass buildings. It is a relatively new business-burb with pockets of jungle between five star malls and man-made ponds.
I started my journey from my western suburb. I was surprised to find that my bus was completely empty except for two Japanese women. They were still wearing the flowery dresses so typical of Japon-féminin. I instantly began to ask them, in my well-rusted Japanese, why they were in an area that has nothing of interest for tourists.
They had gotten lost and were headed back to the city proper. I talked with them a bit, however they were a bit standoffish. I can understand their feelings. They just got lost 11 kilometers away from where they needed to be and now a strange man is talking to them.
Talking to them reminded me of an eye opening conversation I had with one of my Vietnamese girlfriends. By the end of that conversation, I walked away with a sense of awe in how relatively wealthy and independent Japanese women are. They have full-time high paying jobs, they are well-educated, they have their own apartments, they have money for vacations across the world, and they even have a relatively more open society about marriage and the pursuit of happiness. “We want to live like Japanese women”, my friend said to me. From my place of privilege, I had thought that Japanese women were woefully oppressed. Relative to western women one could draw those conclusions. However, relative to Southeast Asian women Japanese women have got it all.
Even though we had been talking for most of the hour-long ride, the Japanese women got off the bus without saying goodbye. I’m no longer accustom to the stale way Japanese treat strangers. Shrugging it off, I felt happy not to be living in Japan anymore.
Then Vietnam, an exceptionally jealous lover, slapped me for daydreaming about Japan women
My connecting bus won’t come to this station. A motorbike driver told me this a few times and offered to drive me to the connecting station. He repeatedly lied about the distance and I repeatedly called him on it. I was in a bit of a hurry so I decided to pay him 50 cents to drive me five blocks. This is a bit of a rip-off. The driver literally laughed at me for agreeing.
The driver started to take me the wrong way in order to charge me more. I told him angrily, “ Stop here !” I got off his bike and told him he was a “liar”. At that very moment my bus went by. In Vietnam, the buses don’t stop so you have to run and hop onto a moving bus. I jumped into the bus without paying him.
This is when things got tricky.
The motorbike driver chased after me to get his undeserved money. I leaned out the open door of the moving bus and tried to hand him 10 cents. I intentionally handed him too little money, because that’s all he deserved for the ten dishonest seconds I was on his bike.
He rejected my small money and tried to get the bus passengers to help him. He was driving next to the bus like a highway bandit beeping and shouting to the bus driver that I had ripped him off. The bus driver’s assistant came up to me and started gesturing that I needed to pay the motorbike driver. I started yelling at the motorbike driver in Vietnamese out the window… “ No, you are a liar!”
This one of the great phrases one learns from dating in Vietnam
He kept driving after us and making all sorts of noise. The bus assistant got more in my face and then I decided to get in his face. I projected loud enough for the whole bus to hear, “ The taxi driver is a liar ”! Before it could escalate further, I pulled out 50 cents and reached out of the open moving bus door and placed it in the out reached hand of my literal highway robber. He rattled his fist triumphantly and rode his black horse back all the way back his mountain hideout.
The situation looked a lot like this photo except it was me shouting out the window
The passengers smiled at me and said, “ OMG” , “you speak Vietnamese?”, “ Those taxi drivers are all lairs“ Have a seat” The bus attendant gave me a bunch of friendly gestures to make a bridge over troubled waters and the whole thing washed away.
I sat on the bus for the rest of the ride and smiled about how that would have never happened in Japan, how insanely cheap I must look to my readers, and how much more fun that was than any other bus ride since.