Bag snatchings, motorbike accidents and corrupt police. Three of the main downsides of this city. Seeing as I have directly and indirectly experienced the first two, twas about time I experienced the latter.
The majority of the police here are corrupt. That’s not a generalisation, it’s just how it works here apparently. You are especially at risk of getting stopped by the police if you’re a foreigner, presumably because they expect you to have more money, be ignorant of the actual law and also your lack of language skills immediately gives them the upper hand.
So, what happened? Pray tell? My housemate and I were on our way to work on his bike, 6.45am yesterday morning, the roads were as quiet as they get in Saigon (so, say an English city in rush hour). We were driving down a one way street with two big lanes. One lane for motorbikes, one lane for cars. But, everybody just uses both and most of the time people don’t even go the right way. Two police pulled up next to us on motorbikes, and waved with some very big batons to the side of the road. We got off, they asked my housemate for his license. Like a lot of people I know, he doesn’t actually have one. The cost and time it takes to get one here outweighs the chance of having to bribe the occasional policeman.
Anyway, they demanded 200,000 dong, which we didn’t have, between us we had 140,000 dong so the guy smugly took that and handed it to his equally smug looking friend. They then wrote us an offence ticket, an official printed one which said ‘50,000 dong’ on it. So, they made a nice profit. I really, really wanted to argue, but it wasn’t my bike and I didn’t want to get Alex in trouble. They can impound your bike and it’ll cost you a lot more to get it back! The amount they demand varies, I’ve heard it’s usually around 500,000 but sometimes it can be 1 million.
In the grand scheme of things 140,000 dong is around £4.50, so not very much. But that’s not the point really, is it?