Welcome to Hanoi

It is safe to say that Hanoi is not yet a tourist mecca, much less a commercial city. The people here are almost unbearably friendly, especially considering our little dustup 30-some years ago, and this makes it hard to treat tourists in the customary manner.

I had to get a photo taken yesterday for my Cambodian visa, which brought me to a tiny camera store located behind my hotel. The place was perhaps eight feet wide, and stocked largely with rolls of film, plus about eight Vietnamese people waiting on me. They offered me tea and a cigarette, and charged me $1.50 for the photo. Given the price of photo paper and color ink, if they do this for all of their customers, their profit margin must be a few cents.

The taxi drivers, too, have not yet got the hang of tourism. They take a deep breath and quote a price twice the going rate, which works out to perhaps an extra dollar.

I'm told Saigon is more what I'm used to in the way of tourist traps. I find out on Tuesday.