On a Rooftop in Saigon

I’ve got­ten scammed a few times. But it was my fault.” “How’d you get scammed?” I ask him. He looks like he’s in his mid to late 20s, kin­da scruffy, neu­tral North Amer­i­can accent. “Buy­ing weed”.

I arrived ear­ly this morn­ing to Ho Chi Minh city and am ask­ing around at the hos­tel regard­ing com­mon scams and dan­gers to be on the look­out for. I’ve been in Chi­na and Hong Kong most of the last eight months and have got­ten a lit­tle lax on scams and pick­pock­ets. I read about the motor­cy­cle taxi rip-offs ear­li­er in the day: over­charg­ing after agree­ing on a price. Now it seems there’s a weed scam.

We’re hang­ing out on the 7th-floor rooftop of the hos­tel, watch­ing the con­stant flow of motor­cy­cles swarm­ing through the streets on a warm mug­gy after­noon. “They look like bees” I think as I watch them from high above, glad I’m not down there fran­ti­cal­ly try­ing to cross the street like a real-life ver­sion of Frog­ger.

1st Bag of Weed

I took a day off and decid­ed to relax in my hotel room, just watch porn and drink beer.” He tells me. Some­time lat­er in the day he got bored and decid­ed to go out and look for some weed. “I was walk­ing around for a few hours but didn’t find any­thing.” Just as he gave up and head­ed home his luck changed for the bet­ter, or so it seemed at first. “Right as I turned onto my street this guy asks me if I want weed.” 500k for the bag (about $22). But after hand­ing the 500k note over the deal­er tells him he only gave a 20k note. “The bills look almost the same, they’re both blue. The 20k is just a lit­tle small­er.” He hands the guy anoth­er 500k note, dou­ble pay­ing.

20 k and 500k notes

20 k and 500k notes

2nd Bag of Weed

As soon as he leaves a guy comes up to me and says “hey you just bought tea”. So I open the bag and sure enough its tea. It looks exact­ly the same but no smell.”

Deal­er #2 pulls out his own bag of weed and hands him a bud. “I break it up and smell it and its weed” he pays for the bag with a 500k note but again the guy tells him he only gave him a 20k note so he pulls out anoth­er 500k and pays him twice.

3rd Bag of Weed

As soon as he leaves anoth­er guy comes up to me and tells me I just bought tea. I told him no I checked it.” The prob­lem is he didn’t check the con­tents of the bag, just the bud he was hand­ed. He opens it up and sure enough, it’s anoth­er bag of tea that looks just like weed.

Deter­mined not to be scammed again he opens up the bag deal­er #3 offers him. “I check the first bud and its weed. Then I check anoth­er and its also weed.” Con­fi­dent he’s now got the real thing he pays him. Deal­er #3 again tells him he gave him a 20k note and not a 500k note. For the third time, he dou­ble pays. “I kept think­ing I’ve been giv­ing them the wrong bills the whole time, I wasn’t real­ly pay­ing atten­tion, but when I got back home I checked my wal­let and cal­cu­lat­ed how much mon­ey I with­drew from the bank and real­ized that I was giv­ing them 500k each time.”

After get­ting back to his room he checks the 3rd bag. It’s all tea except for the first two buds he checked. $132 for three bags of tea.

Sunset on Po Toi Island

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