08.12.2008 25 °C
When we arrived in Hanoi yesterday it was pure Bedlam, (although today it is merely mayhem). Hanoi's traffic makes Bangkok look like a Gabriola Sunday, and, in the midst of the frenzy we wuz hijacked.
We had paid a deposit, and had a booking & written confirmation for the Hotel Elegance. How could anything go wrong? Jim was almost collared by a shady taxi tout at the airport, but Sheila put her foot down. However, the "Official Taxi" driver turned out to be a front-man for the fake hotel he drove us to.
The hijackers were slick. In a cramped, dismal back-street horns blared as we blocked the traffic and, amid the chaos, a slick young fraudster leaped into our cab apologizing for the hotel being full. But he insisted on escorting us, at absolutely no charge, to a superior partner hotel - Hotel Elegance 2.
Inspector Bliss smelled a rat - two rats - and they wuz both sitting in our taxi's front seats. Fifteen minutes later several more rats greeted us at the doors of a sleazy joint - clearly not the Elegance 2, (or even 3 or 4).
They were very persistent - showing us to our room and giving us Hotel Elegance cards - but Bliss wasn't fooled. The detective pulled up the real Hotel Elegance website and said, "This ain't no Elegant Hotel - The scam's up - call the cops."
"Oh. Velly solly - Big mistake. We velly, velly solly," the chief villain spluttered, "We get you taxi - take you to Hotel Elegance."
The genuine Hotel Elegance lived up to our expectations and when we told them how Inspector Bliss had saved the day they weren't suprised - they'd heard it all before, often from travellers who had been duped and defrauded of large sums by the unscrupulous vermin of Hanoi's underworld.
WARNING to fellow travellers - this scam is very common and starts with the "official" taxi drivers at Hanoi's Noi Boi Airport.