The Friendly Woman sitting in front of me on the bus motions to get my attention. She indicates in the direction of the ticket inspector and makes a sign. She spreads her fingers wide and taps her palm against her first curled in a circle - 50 thousand dong, about $2.50.
The ticket collector comes around as the bus is pulling out. "150 thousand dong," he tells me. I tell him the price is 50 thousand and we start to haggle. "I paid 50 thousand to come here," I lie, not wanting to implicate my undercover accomplice, Friendly Woman.
The bus is stopped and the collector calls over the motorcycle driver who had brought me to the (slightly dodgy) bus station. Since he had already ripped me off for the taxi, I guess they figured I would be gullible enough to trust him for the bus fare. They come down to 80 thousand and I give up by offering 70 thousand. Friendly Woman glances at me when the inspector leaves. I show her 7 fingers and she raises her eyebrows. I guess being overcharged 20% is a lot for her. For me, I avoided the original "200% gullible foreigner surcharge" and I ended up being taken for around $1.
Friendly Woman offers me further advice. She points at my shoulder bag and mimes pulling her own close to her. She indicates in the direction of the Sleazy Guy who is sitting across the aisle from me. The warning wasn't really necessary. When the bus was still in the station, Sleazy Guy had shifted across to sit next to me. With a serpentine smile and tobacco breathe he nattered at me in Vietnamese. "Fine," I thought when he touched my arm, "the Vietnamese are open and tactile people. My pale skin and hairy arms must be a curiosity." When he put his hand on the inside of my knee, I thought that was a bit too open. A stern frown and a firm shove sent him scurrying back to his side of the aisle. "Great," i thought, "now I know what solo female travellers have to put up with." So, no, I didn't need further warnings to be careful around Sleazy Guy.