Saturday, March 08, 2008

Return to Vietnormalcy

Less than 12 hours after landing, it's back to 'Vietnormalcy.' In time order, the following occurred:

1. immigration/customs: I knew-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who was going to help grease my way through customs. No, I wasn't bringing any incendiary pamphlets in tow with my overweight luggage.

Rather, I was bring in a suitcase of IT equipment to outfit a small office. I wasn't about to sell the equipment, so I don't think I should be taxed on it, but who knows what the customs guy would think and how would I explain it to them. It would be the same as me bringing cash into the country to start a business - I shouldn't (and don't) get taxed on that. So I was (morally) comfortable with trying to slip through. This was my version of FDI (foreign direct investment), as I am adding capital assets to this country.

Bypassing (or at least quickly being processed) by immigration and customs is definitely a Vietnam thing. I got escorted through the diplomatic line and got out of the airport pretty darn quickly.

2. highway accident: so the off-duty customs guys drove me back into town. On the highway back - the Thang Long bridge - we crossed the scene of a deadly accident. Some person was evacuated 20+ meters from their motorbike. Luckily for me, it was dark and I didn't have good visibility out - it's sad but true, I can't bear to look at the bodies on the ground. In the year or so, I'm up to about half a dozen now. And folks wonder why I don't own a motorbike.

3. ripped off by customs: so I got back to town and the customs guy demands payment. I figure we sorta split the difference or something, but nope. Full payment. For every single computer. Normally, you would get credit for at least one computer as personal use or something (I've brought in two, went through legit channels and no tax or duties).

So, basically I'm getting ripped. It's past midnight, there are two guys, I have 150+ kgs of luggage, I'm a bit hung over from the flight and my local contact is fast asleep. God dammit. So I paid up.

Lesson learned - getting reamed by the government is less painful than getting reamed by crooked government employees on the take.

4. pho breakfast: next morning, jet lagged and pissed as heck for getting separated from my VND, I attended a pho breakfast. Not a big deal, but this was with a group of shareholders of a publicly listed company. We were eating at a local joint that is popular with the local business crowd, enjoying their 20k bowls of noodle. I can't imagine going to a NYSE-listed shareholders' breakfast in a local diner or something back in the States. Certain things are a bit different 'round these parts.

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