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10
Aug 05
Wed

Cuts, rips and commissions

Underlying everything to do with tourism, it seems, is an intricate, multi-layered system of commissions. Today’s attempt at commission grabbing was the most blatant. We took an Open Tour bus from HuĂ© into Hoi An – a four hour air-conditioned coach ride for US$2. When we got into Hoi An, the bus stopped at the local Camel Travel office, which was fair enough, since that was the company that was running the bus service. However, before anyone could get off, the Vietnamese dude up the front said, “But first, we take you to a great hotel! Only 7 minutes from city centre. You go, look, and if you don’t like it, you can walk elsewhere.” And before anyone could object, the bus was off again, hurtling down the road and incidentally, taking us away from the hotel we’d already booked when back in Hanoi.

Eventually we arrived at the Green Field Hotel. I looked up the trust Lonely Planet. “Green Field… Green Field… ah, here it is… ‘Green Field Hotel is the furthest hotel from the city centre.’ Ah. Oh, it’s not even on the main map.” A British girl in the seat behind who had been reading over my shoulder yelled out, “This guy says the hotel’s off the map!”

Mass confusion ensued on the bus as a tired mob of caucasian backpackers complained that they already had booked at another hotel and that they wanted to get back to the city centre. The Vietnamese dude just kept repeating, “Don’t worry! Stay 10 minutes, check out the place! Don’t worry!” In the meantime, a horde of hotel staff had boarded the bus trying to get all of us to check out their new pool (“We don’t need a stinking pool!” an American was heard shouting, more than a little miffed). Some people disembarked and took motorbikes back in. The rest of us refused to disembark, and eventually they figured out we weren’t going anywhere unless they brought us back into town. As the doors shut, the Vietnamese dude tried again.

“Hey! You all must be hungry… I know a great restaurant—“

The cry of dismay on the bus was unanimous and instantaneous. Evidently, we looked like we were about to riot, because he quickly shut up about the restaurant and drove us back into town… to yet another hotel. However, in a twist of fate, it was the very hotel we had made reservations at, so it had worked out quite well for us.

Hoi An is lovely. Small, quiet, walkable and the shopping looks to be excellent. Especially if you’re after clothes, for tailoring is the town’s profession. But more on that later.