Hanoi has always been an attractive destination for both local and foreign tourists. But cheats and rip-off scams are becoming too common these days.
Recently, my friend and I strolled around the Old Quarter taking photographs when we saw the ugly side of the capital that tourists should never see.
Two vendors selling pineapples invited foreign tourists to carry their shoulder pole, which was carrying a heavy load of fruit, to pose for photos. The tourists were scared because they did not understand what was happening. One tourist eventually agreed to use the pole. Afterwards, the tourist was forced to buy two pineapples at a price of VND50,000 (US$2.5). When it looked like he didn't want to do it, several vendors surrounded him and demanded that he pay. The tourist bought the fruit reluctantly and left in annoyance. A pineapple normally costs a few thousand dong.
A shop owner in Ma May Street told us, "It's unacceptable that many vendors keep hawking tourists to use their shoulder poles to pose for photos and then force them to buy their goods at exorbitant prices."
"I have seen some travelers that had to pay up to VND500,000 (around $25) for several pineapples," he said.
You can see other rip-offs in the area as well.
In the morning when tourists get on buses to sightsee around the Old Quarter, some vendors gather around to sell bread. In some cases, when tourists give them a VND100,000 note, they pretend to go somewhere to exchange for change and return with a thick wad of low-denomination notes which tourists later find out are only papers in the wad. A loaf of bread normally costs a few thousand dong.
Many tourists were also charged up to VND500,000 for a shoeshine.
As the capital heads for its millennial celebrations, which will surely attract many tourists, local authorities should do something to protect tourists from rip-offs and cheats. This is a simple way to protect the country's image.