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The Liar Paradox and a Saigon Taxi

By: Casey Nelson Posted: November-11-2012 in
Casey Nelson

The Cretin said, "The Cretans are always liars." - The Liar Paradox

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City by plane, checked through immigration and customs and walked out of the terminal to the taxi stand to get a cab to my hotel (the Trang Long Hotel on Mac Thi Buoi Street, a tourist hotel in the heart of a tourist district.) I had reservations and know the place well as I have stayed there several times. The taxis in Ho Chi Minh City are equipped with meters, but at the airport the drivers refused to use them, instead demanding a flat rate of US$10 into town. A rip-off price, but so it goes at airports and bus stations the world over where they have you over a barrel. Tired and anxious to get to my hotel, I argued only weakly, then agreed to the $10.

I handed the taxi driver a slip of paper I had prepared beforehand with the name, address and directions to the hotel written in Vietnamese. He glanced at the paper and told me that there was no such hotel or street of that name in Saigon, though he knew of a good hotel in a different part of town. (I didn't bother to ask how his hotel could be in a different part of town from a place that doesn't exist.) So I dug through my stuff, found a business card for the hotel and handed it to him. He looked and responded "only Vietnam people stay at that hotel," and added that he had a much better place for foreigners like me. I told him that I had reservations at that hotel and had to go there. With that he seemed to relent and ushered me to his cab. I got in, keeping my one bag in hand.

As we were leaving the airport he slowed the car, glanced back over the seat and told me that my hotel had "closed a long time ago" and that it would be a waste of time for us to go there. He warned that driving all over town could get very expensive. I said again that I had reservations at the Trang Long, that I had just spoken to them yesterday and that I was certain that they were not closed. Without missing a beat, he shot back that the hotel was both dirty and dangerous, and that several tourists had been robbed and there had even been a murder in the previous weeks, but that his hotel was "very clean, safe and famous with tourists." I told him that I was meeting people at my hotel and that I really had no choice but to go there. He asked if I was meeting Vietnamese people, and when I responded in the affirmative he warned me not to believe anything they said because "Vietnamese people will just lie to you just to get your money."

We met eyes in the rear view mirror. He looked like he just bit into a chili. I smiled slyly and assured him that I would be "very careful of Vietnamese people." He looked away quickly. I think he realized his fallacy, him being Vietnamese and all. He went quiet and we continued on to the Trang Long Hotel.

As we pulled up in front of the hotel he pointed at the closed doors and said excitedly "see, closed!" just as the door opened and the doorman came out to welcome us. He instructed me, "stay here in the taxi, I'll check for you" and then hopped out, grabbed the doorman by the arm and leaned into him talking quickly. While he was distracted with the doorman I got out of the taxi and walked into the hotel before he noticed me. He tried to follow but the doorman stopped him from entering the hotel. I walked to the reception desk well away from the door and called over the bellhop, handed him the taxi fare (including a tip) and asked him to go pay the driver for me, which he did. As the bellhop returned I could see the driver through the glass doors wave for me to come out. Concerned there was some sort of problem I walked to the door and pressed it open slightly. He stuck his head in and whispered, "You need lady? Vietnam lady very good. Do everything..." I just dropped the door on him and walked away. The last I saw of him was just before I went to my room, still out front talking in an animated fashion to the doorman, no doubt trying to extract some sort of commission from this dirty, dangerous, non-existent, all-Vietnamese hotel.

Of all the things he said to me that day I think he may have come closest to the truth when he invoked the Liar's Paradox. At least then he was half right.

Casey Nelson a.k.a. LTO Cambodia


Based on my experience after

Based on my experience after 3 months living here, only just two taxi companies can be trusted, Mai Linh and Vinasun. Why I put Mai Linh first, most of their driver are quite friendly even though not much of them understand english but at least trying to open communication. Vinasun I never got any bad experience, but once my wife going alone and the driver pick up the longer road than usually taken.


Hi everybody!!!If you want to

Hi everybody!!!If you want to avoid scams in Vietnam we have developed Tappxi. Tappxi helps people taking a taxi by allowing them to see the route the taxi driver is following and compare it with an estimated route.

It also displays an estimation of the price based on the distance which is very helpful to avoid being charged $30 for a ride from the airport to District 1.

Tappxi can manage your complains and also translate your instructions into vietnamese. Try it 4 free:

(Also in another countries like Thailand, Korea, China, HK, UK,...)


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