Monday, 30 August 2010

My favourite quote

"One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies."

 (C. A. R. Hoare)

I wonder which end of the continuum Bill Gates subscribes to.

What a parcel of rouges in a nation

I visited Hanoi and Ha Long bay in northern Vietnam a few years ago. The holiday was eye-opening to say the least. Vietnam is a beautiful country and full of interesting places to visit. The scenery is really quite stunning. It is with a small section of the Vitenamese population I take issue, though I wonder if it is quite as small a section as I would like to think. I have visited more than 60 countries and consider I have a traveller's radar for trouble such as pickpockets, scams, and cheats. Vietnam, however, takes dishonesty to a new plane, I was cheated and scammed by consummate professionals. I had put the annoyance of this to the back of my mind, but was reminded of the plethora of lies, cheating and all round scoundrelry of some Vietnamese during my departure from France. France was, of course, the colonial power in Vietnam or French Indochina as they called it. Many Vietnamese have dual nationality or have adopted full French citizenship.

It is therefore no surprise that our mini-bus driver from our hotel, in the 7th arrondissement, to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was Vietnamese. He was an oily individual, reminiscent of Ugatti in 'Casablanca'. He had been pre-booked for us by the charming receptionist at our hotel. We clearly stated that we had a party of 3 adults and 2 children of 3 and 8 years old. The receptionist said the 3 year old could travel free and I heard him confirming this with the transport company on the phone. On arrival 'uncle Ho' started complaining that there were 5 people, but we had only booked 4 seats. I told him (in French for the removal of doubt) that it was not our problem and that he should speak to the hotel. He was so disconsolate about not getting any extra from me that he drove away from the hotel without shutting the rear door of the mini-bus. He kept grumbling about losing 12 Euros for the seat. He then picked up 3 more passengers (A Belgian husband and wife plus teenage son) from another hotel and off we set for the airport, with 2 seats still spare. After a few kilometres he had thought of another way to cheat us. He tried to extract 2 Euros per head from his passengers, which he said was payable to the airport authority to enter the terminal area and drop people off. Both the Belgian man and myself told him in French that he could forget it and I was impolite in Vietnamese to him. He then resigned himself to finishing the journey and we heard no more from him. Needless to say, he got no tip from either party.

I would like to think that this was a one off but I fear it was not. Has anyone else had similar experience with Vietnamese people?

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Why oh why won't the UK adopt the Euro?

I have just returned from a short trip to Paris. Apart from the fact that it rained for the first few days; not just showers - real torrential, monsoon-like, rain for 3 days non-stop, it was quite an enjoyable trip.

The main annoyance was the extortionate rate of exchange and commission charge to rub salt into the wound. I had to laugh when I saw a poster inviting me to change back my costly Euros to Sterling. No thanks, I'll be keeping them in a shoebox until next time. What about the lost interest? I hear you cry. Not worth bothering about these days, but that's another story.