Sunday, April 30, 2006

The art and pleasure of bargaining in Vietnam

I want one million dollars!

When they go shopping in Vietnam or in other Third World countries, most Western tourists don't like to have to bargain. They think that each object has a price and that's the price every one should pay. It is neither logical nor fair that the price of an object should depend on who's doing the buying or on the bargaining skills of the buyer. And they are right, of course, in their rational Western way of thinking.

But if you look at it from the seller's point of view, it would be just as absurd, when dealing with a customer that won't bargain, not to ask for an inflated price, cause the sucker is willing to pay that price anyway, if not more.

My personal policy is: When in Rome... Of course, if you are visibly different from the rest of the population (i.e. if you have blond hair, blue eyes, red face, etc), it will be practically impossible for you to get to pay the same price as a local would. Even the Vietnamese living abroad (known in Vietnam as the «Viet Kieu») will get a different price rate from the locals, because we are supposed to be richer.

The point of bargaining however is not simply economical. It also has a social purpose: it is a mean of communication and a connection between buyer and seller. Sometimes, it is a struggle, to see who can outwit the opponent. Sometimes, if you're lucky, it can be a pleasant banter where you tease and get teased in a gentle, good-humored way. Some of my friends told me of nightmarish experiences where they ended up practically running away from vendors heaping insults on them. But all my bargaining experiences have been pleasant: like flirting without the sexual pressure. Usually however, the dialogue will enfold as follows:

Seller: Sir/Madam, please buy my doodads![Buy my stuff!]

Buyer: They look stale/wilted/past their expiration date. [Convince me. Why should I buy from you?]

Seller: Stale! I just cut them down myself this morning! Look, Sir/Madam, there's still some dew on them [I just sprayed some water on them]. They're only 10 dinars a kilo, but since you're my first customer, I can let you have them for 8 dinars. [All right, you're not as dumb as you look, so I'll just give you a token discount to get the ball rolling]

Buyer: I don't know. Are they sweet? [They do look good, but I'm not just going to take the first discount you give. Talk me into it]

Seller: Sweet as sugar, Sir/Madam [What did you expect me to say?]. Here, try one [I'm throwing you a bone here. Buy now!].

Buyer: They're okay, I guess. [I'm a sucker for freebies. But I still have some fight left in me]. How about 3 dinars a kilo?

Seller: Version A: You know what, you're obviously a connoisseur. I'll let you have them for 5 dinars a kilo if you take 2 kilos. [I'll still make money from you].

Buyer: [tired but satisfied] Oh, all right, give me 2 kilos then. [I can't spend more time and effort on this]

Everybody's happy.

Seller: Version B: I'm sorry, Sir/Madam. These are of a superior quality. If you want cheaper ones, I think they have them at 4 dinars a kilo at the other end of the market. I cannot sell mine for less than 6 dinars and you have to take 2 kilos. [You're a cheap loser and I get to insult you while pretending to care]

Buyer: [humiliated but too afraid to just walk away] Oh, all right, give me 2 kilos then. [I can't spend more time and effort on this].

The seller is happy, the buyer is ill at ease and senses that he/she has been bested.

I won!

Monday, April 24, 2006

More leaks

And I hear her swimsuit size is XXXXXXL...

Picture taken from:

Sunday, April 23, 2006

«Ao Dai» Fashion Show

Warning: Narration in Vietnamese

Simply beautiful.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

More Death Wish

It was 21 degrees Celsius today, so at lunchtime, I decided to go look for swimsuits for my impending trip to Vietnam.

I know, I know, you laugh now, but at the time, it seemed like a good idea.

The saleslady seemed competent enough: one look at me and she pulled out a couple of what looked like jumbo garbage bags in dark colours. She explained that I was a pear: flat chest and huge hips. The best type of swimsuits for me would be two pieces of different sizes (she didn't say: S for the top and XXXXXL for the bottom, but I can read it in her eyes).

So I went inside the changing room with the garbage bags, removed my clothes, vomited a bit in my mouth and had a good cry. Then I got dressed again and left.

«I want to look around some more» I told the saleslady.

She didn't say: «Sure, good luck, tub o'lard!», but I can read it in her eyes.

Here's me at work, in front of my computer. Do I look like a pear to you? Also, did I mention that it was 21 degrees Celsius and the office air conditioner was not working?

Ha!Ha! Gotcha! Those are not my real legs, I photoshopped in Angelina Jolie's legs!

Non-cat picture from:

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Daffodils or death

I've been thinking more often about death lately, not in a morbid, fearful way, but more in a distracted «Oh yeah, I'm gonna die» way, and the reason is probably cause I've been feeling so crappy, because of my allergy.

Now that the weather is getting milder, Mother Nature is bursting out with buds and sprouts and fibers and hairs: allergy season is here. For the next couple of months, I will go through life leaking fom my nose and eyes, unless I stuff myself with pills and eye drops, which I do. So for the next couple of months, I will go through life as if I were dying a v-e-r-y s-l-o-w death. I'm tired and sleepy all the time, every step is so much effort and I can barely think. Because I constantly feel weak and lethargic, I feel like eating all the time, but everthing tastes bland and unsatisfying. I'm surviving more on coffee than anything else.

So, death... Of course, I'm not ready. I walk (slowly) around the house, thinking: my Kwanyin collection should go to this friend, my rabbit furcoat is for that friend, the house is for Asparagus, etc.. and then I crawl to bed, running (slowly) from the burden of writing my will. I wish for a quick death, cause I can't bear the tedium of writing a detailed list of all my belongings. As I sink into a slumber, I have one last thought: I hope my dog dies before me, cause who will take care of her? I'm starting to blubber at the idea of her death. No, wait a minute, I'm only crying from the left eye, it's just the goddamn allergy...

I guess I can't just end this post with gloom and doom, even though death right now is preferable to allergy symptoms. So here's some cheery picture for you. Me, I'm busy dying.

Monday, April 17, 2006


I'm back, not quite from the dead but almost. I took advantage of the four-day holidays to catch up on my sleep schedule and now I'm feeling super, thanks for asking.

During the hiatus, I jotted down a few notes for posting, but you know how fast things go stale if you don't post them as the inspiration hits you.

So my apologies to anyone who comes here, hoping to read something new. All I have to offer you is this octopus video.

Or may be you'd prefer this wonderful cello piece by Ethan Winer:

See you tomorrow.

Friday, April 07, 2006


At work, they are reformatting my hard disk, changing my monitor for a bigger one, installing new software, etc.. I have to take a one day training class, and after that, lose at least another day cause nothing's working, of course. Not to mention the fact that they lost all my contacts in Outlook. Oh, and we're not allowed to install our personal wallpaper or screensaver.

So no posting for a while.

I'm not happy.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dr Tran

While you're at YouTube [], also search for and watch the Lenovo series, then read

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Foshata 4 Ever Forshizzle!

I'm addicted to Foshata []. I can't help going there to click on «Random foshata», watching them until 2 a.m. in the morning.

The concept is simple, explains the Reverend Mykeru []:

«Take obscure Japanese television commercials, add English subtitles. Stupid, juvenile, scatological stuff. You will laugh and hate yourself for it, but in the good way that makes you feel all dirty.»

fshNTZ My scrotum is...
fshNT9 The train is ...
fshNPJ Are you sure ...
fshNPE Found your nu...
fshNPB You pissed in...
fshNOX Why do I smel...
fshNKJ I've got to d...

I've added a few subtittles myself, but they're not terribly funny. But hey, I'm just a Foshatard.