Sunday, April 17, 2011

Asking Directions

Let me say this: I have no shame in asking directions. In fact, perhaps I ask for directions too often on this trip. Huyen and I are using an extremely detailed Vietnamese book of maps this is put out every 10 years. The version we have is already seven years old though which means there are a lot of new roads that aren't on the map.

One of the things I wrote about at the beginning of this blog is how people in China would point you in a direction even if they were clueless as to where you wanted to go. It's all about saving face there. In Vietnam, they don't seem to care about not having a clue where you want to go. Whenever we ask for directions we usually get one of these responses:
1. Why do you want to go there?
2. I don't know how to get there.
3. Oh, you shouldn't take a back road. Stick to the big road and go that way.
4. Where are you from and what do you do? (seriously, they just start asking us questions)

My favorite response though came about a week ago when we were on some very back roads near the border with China. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and asked an old man who was sitting under a shack with his grandchildren near a fork in the road. Turning left at the fork looked pretty perilous and turning right looked like a nice smooth road. Here's how the conversation went:
HUYEN: Excuse me, which way should we turn to see Ho Chi Minh's cave?
OLD MAN: Why are you going this way?
HUYEN: We wanted to take a back road.
OLD MAN: This is very out of the way.
HUYEN: Okay, which way should we turn.
OLD MAN: Go left, right goes to the shit.
HUYEN: What is the shit.
OLD MAN: China.

We turned left.