Traveling is an emotional journey. When you travel to a foreign country, it requires you to be a little more patient, more alert, more disciplined, understanding, and compassionate. I’ve had many situations where my patience and ability to be (even more) compassionate were put to the test, and I’m going to share with you how I handled this stressful situation when I first arrived to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. What happened was stressful and slightly sketchy (it could have been so much worse) but by keeping my cool and trying to step into the other person’s shoes, the situation came and went. It all worked out in the end.
So I arrived in Saigon on a Thursday night. I got my luggage from baggage claim, turned on my wifi, and opened up the Grab App to request my ride. My friendly and polite Grab driver picked me up and made his way over to the address for my homestay (like an Airbnb type of place). As we approached what we thought was the address of the place, the driver, with a confused look, pointed to the right of us where a hotel building was.
“Is this the place, mam?” I figured it was, the little car on the app showed we were right at the location, so I said yes, thanked the driver, and left the car. I walked up to the building, a lady helped me in and gave her my name and asked her if this was the right homestay (I showed them a picture of the name and address from my booking on Agoda). The lady said this was the wrong place and said that it was just down the street. So I walked down the street, while also using Google Maps to guide me. The place I arrived to was an internet cafe. I zoomed in on the map again, and then looked and walked up and down the street. The place was literally no where to be found! An elderly Vietnamese man came up to me and tried to help. He asked the nearby businesses if they knew where this was and no one seemed to know.
I messaged the homestay through Agoda messaging and told the person that I had “arrived” but I couldn’t find the place. After sending the message, a Vietnamese couple came up to me and asked if I needed help (in English). I told them that I was trying to look for my homestay and how I was at the given address but the physical place was no where to be found. The woman asked if the homestay had a number so that she could call and ask. I gave her the number and she proceeded to call. While she dialed, her husband was telling me that they are both originally from Vietnam, but were only there for holidays, and that they currently live in the USA.
The woman got off the call and said that a lady answered and mentioned that the address listed on Google and Agoda had not been updated so it was wrong, and that she would soon come and get me. The woman offered to stay with me until I got picked up. I got a very mama bear vibe from her, which was nice because it was already nighttime, I had all my stuff with me and apparently not sure of where to go. So I accepted and we chatted while we waited for the homestay lady to pick me up. Minutes went by, and the homestay lady still had not shown up. The woman decided to call again. After she called, she was upset that the homestay lady told her that she had already picked me up, to which of course the woman said she replied to her, of course not, she’s right here still! She concluded that the homestay lady would be here soon.
So what was I thinking and feeling while all of this was going on? I hope this gets figured out soon. I’m sure there must be some sort of customer protection of some sort since I booked through Agoda… Worst case scenario, I can find some last minute hostel or hotel for the night if this ends up being a scam. Is this a scam? This has never happened to me before, but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Maybe the Vietnamese couple will ask me to stay with them? I get the vibe that she might ask me to. But what if this is all part of the plan… what if they kidnap me? Nah, I’m probably overreacting.
The woman was telling me that she has seen this happen with homestays before, that sometimes the host arrived 2 of 3 hours late to let in the guests. She went on to ask if I had heard of Airbnb and that she recommended that I should use Airbnb instead because it’s safer. Then, with her mama bear senses kicking in, she decided to call again for the third time. I could tell she was upset at this lady. The lady again just said she would be there soon.
Then just as I had predicted, the woman said “well worst case scenario, stay the night with us and we can help you book something the following day. I don’t want to leave you here all alone in the night, especially a young lady. Let’s see if she actually comes if not you can come with us.”
I politely thanked them and said that I was hopeful that the homestay lady would come soon. And just as I said that, she FINALLY did show up! She was in a scooter. The minute she arrived she was very apologetic, constantly saying sorry and I could tell she was a bit stressed out. I immensely thanked the Vietnamese couple for helping me out and keeping me company while this got sorted out.
I can’t believe that I got in the scooter with the tiny homestay lady with my suitcase, giant backpack and my tote bag! Luckily it was only a 3 minute drive up the street. She was super apologetic about everything and seemed to be in distress, exhausted and just like things were out of control. I felt for her because I know that feeling. I said it was ok and proceeded to settle into my room.
20 minutes later, I decided to look for some food. On my way out, I saw there were other lost travelers that had barely made it to the homestay after searching for it. They were very unhappy because apparently the homestay lady informed them that there was no more available rooms even though they had booked it already (yikes!). That could have been me.
So you see, it all worked out in the end, I found my way to the correct place with the help of some lovely strangers. It was a stressful situation for all, even if I was the foreigner in the situation, but I think A TON of patience and compassion goes a long way in a situation like this. Yes, this could have turned out to be a horror story and I could have been scammed or worse. Luckily for me and those other lost travelers, it was just a poorly managed homestay. And the homestay lady, she is definitely not terrible or the villain of the story. She probably needs help managing the place and some time to reconnect and refocus her energy! I’m sending her good vibes her way.
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