Friday, October 26, 2012

The twenty-seven deadly Sinhs

As a child, I remember eating Asda Take A Break and Puffin chocolate bars, their cheeky own-brand knock-offs of Kit Kat and Penguin respectively, and wondering how they were getting away with that. It turns out they didn't get away with the second one after all, because there are rules to stop opportunists cutting in on someone's market niche when they've built a solid reputation over many years.

Those laws don't exist in Vietnam though, and when one particular Hanoi-based travel agent called Sinh Cafe was singled out for its good value deals and relative lack of scamming by the writers of those bulky Lonely Planet books that so many people insist on carting around even though it's 2012, it didn't take long for every other travel agent in the city's Old Quarter to steal its name and branding in a successful bid to trick gullible tourists into thinking they were dealing with a credible business.

I was looking for a good travel agent to book a tour of Ha Long Bay, and because it's 2012 I got some help from the internet. This is apparently the real Sinh Cafe website (now rebranded as The Sinh Tourist to set itself apart from the imitations), and I was told there were at least 15 dodgy knock-offs in the Hoan Kiem district alone. Walking around that area in search of a book shop, I counted at least 27 Sinh Cafes, and I wasn't even really looking.

Here's a needlessly thorough gallery. (Note: Does not include real Sinh Cafe).

Incomplete fake Sinh Cafe compilation

25 Hang Trong Street

Prince Hotel

Eclipse Hotel

Ocean Hotel

New Century Hotel

19 and 21 Bat Dan Street. That's not one extended premises, it's two hotels trying to pass themselves off as a different place RIGHT NEXT TO EACH OTHER

A Long P Tour. We've all been on tours like that.
Or are you called Sinh Cafe? Make your mind up

Oscar Hotel. This was just three doors down from the previous one

Start of Tham Thuong Street, which had four in close proximity, as if we wouldn't notice

Fortuner Hotel (Tham Thuong Street)

Thu Giang Guest House (5a Tham Thuong Street)

Hotel Tung Trang (13 Tham Thuong Street)

Hang Manh Street had five

Another one on Hang Manh Street

Two more on Hang Manh Street, right bloody next to each other again

Golden Land Hotel (Hang Manh Street)

One opposite St Joseph's Cathedral

5 Ngo Huyen Street. This street had six. I hope this relentless repetition has started to get funny by now, or you're not going to enjoy the rest

14 Ngo Huyen Street. Seriously, if you're not enjoying this, it's not going to improve

21 Ngo Huyen Street

50 Ngo Huyen Street

51 Ngo Huyen Street. There's no punchline coming, I am actually wasting your time and mine with this pedantry

56 Ngo Huyen Street. As well as six more fake Sinh Cafes than you'd ever need, this narrow street also had a book shop, so my wandering could cease.

I've read that there are about 100 of these fake Sinh cafes in Hanoi - why not try collecting them all? Because you have a life or something?

I think this one's actually a cafe

Looks like these guys had the same problem

I was happy to come across the genuine, re-branded Sinh Tourist, but later learned that this isn't even the proper address! The imitators have inevitably started re-branding themselves to keep up. So much for being the smart-arse.

Good luck finding a travel agent that won't cheat you out of too much money in Hanoi. I'd recommend doing your research on this thing called The Internet rather than filling your bag with out-of-date guidebooks. Especially my ace website - who else would go to the effort of tediously cataloguing some places with the same sign and then have the audacity to present them to you unedited when three or four would have sufficed? To the extent that he feels the need to include an apology at the end? Exactly, no one else! With good reason.

Nice Ha Long Bay pictures coming soon, I promise.


  1. You nerdy geek! Look at you! Cataloguing places and everything! Well, your last sentence was premature, I suppose.

    Maybe together we caught all Sinh Cafe's (-;

  2. Thinking of the fact that Diablo three is without having a question celebrity dresses discharged, you acquired a number of help. Pertaining to each individual suits for women Blizzard persons, We could primarily suggest which we treasure that romance and wedding dresses 2013 in some cases take care of a rising number .

    1. You've given me a real dilemma. On the one hand, I want to delete your terrible spam from my website, but it's also amusing because it's so awful.

      Still, go away and die please.