Pave Paradise, put up a parking lot…

Published: October 19, 2004
Updated: October 19, 2004

I guess that for any person living in a country that is foreign to them, certain frustrations must arise from time to time that cannot be easily resolved. This is mostly to due to language difficulties and completely different ways of approaching a situation. Many many such frustrating incidents have happened to us since coming to live here, and the best way to deal with them is simple acceptance. That is, accept that things are different, realise that it doesn’t really matter, shrug the shoulders and put the incident down to experience.

Generally in my writings about Vietnam I have not been critical of any of the strange things that have happened to us, and I hope to remain so. However, in the interests of a balanced approach to this place, I thought that I would relate the following incident not as a criticism, but as a simple tale.

Please expand more to read about it….

Last Friday night Lisa suffered an asthma attack and we rushed into the Family Medical Practice (by motorbike - it was the quickest way to get there) next to Diamond Plaza . Very quickly she was on all types of intravenous drips and receiving large doses of drugs to relieve the situation. She stayed in overnight and I picked her up on the Vespa on Saturday but had to take her in again for further treatment on Sunday.

Sunday morning we rode the Vespa into the clinic to discover that the area around Diamond Plaza was the scene of some type of enormous demonstration and there were thousands of people pouring into the area. Getting through the conglomeration of people, buses, motorbikes, cyclos etc. was a nightmare. However we made it to the clinic OK and Lisa went inside while I attempted to park the Vespa in the bike park next to the clinic.

These bike parks (Bai Gui Xe) are everywhere in Vietnam. Normally it costs VND2,000 to park for as long as you want, although while we were away in Hue recently most parking attendants tried to charge us VND5,000, but quickly gave in when I told them in Vietnamese how much it should be. However, that is another story and this story begins by my being refused entry to this bike park.

I joined the queue of bikes that were lining up to park but when I got to the attendant, he waved me away and called the young Vietnamese person behind me through. Now, I had parked here previously on other visits to the clinic, although I realised that the last two times he had refused me and I had to park over the road. I could see that there were parking spots available and for a while I refused to budge enquiring all the time as to why he was allowing others in and not me. This guys initial response was to wave his hands at me and indicate that I should go elsewhere even though I pointed at the clinic indicating that I wanted to go in there. Eventually, he just ignored me.

I found this situation extremely frustrating and I told the attendant so in no uncertain terms. The volume with which I was telling him created a fair amount of attention and before I knew it there was a crowd gathered around watching the show. One of the students who had gone past me and parked in there apologised to me in English and explained that it was the different shape and size of my bike that was the problem. You see it was a busy day for these guys what with the parade and all happening and they wanted to pack as many bikes in as possible. My Vespa was “too short”.

Now you may have read the preceding paragraph and find it a bit hard to believe the rational behind this, but it was true. Eventually I gave up on trying to park here and went up and down the street trying to find a park without any luck. At every other spot I went to I was waved away even though spaces were available and others on more “normal” Honda’s etc. were being accepted.

One thing that I have observed here is that in bike parking areas the attendants spend a lot of time and go to a lot of effort to park similar bikes alongside each other. So they will take bikes out and move them around to reorganise so the there is a neat and inline appearance that develops. Of course my Vespa just doesn’t fit. It is different and I am different and the whole time I’m trying to find a park I’m feeling more and more discriminated against and becoming more and more pissed off.

Eventually, one attendant took pity on me. His partner waved me away, but this guy allowed me to park, possibly because by this stage I was voicing my opinion of the “system” loud and clear. However, he would not park the Vespa next to any of the Honda’s, rather he found a sad little space next to a light pole where my poor bike sat isolated from the others. A sorry sight.

Needless to say the owner of the clinic was enraged when I told him of the incident. You see, he owns part of the space of the first bike park I tried to get into. He allows the park to use it but customers of the clinic are supposed to get preference. He went out and read the riot act to the attendant and the owner of the park in fluent Vietnamese. There were much apologies and bowing and scraping and after, I asked him what reason the attendant had given when asked why he wouldn’t allow me to park. The attendant had answered that he really had no answer.

Perhaps some kind person will put this into perspective for me one day. But realistically, I must just shrug the shoulders, accept, move on and smile when I think about it.

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