Yesterday I was able to scratch off another item on my life bucket list: buying technology in Asia. I went to Phi Long in Da Nang, which is a six story tall Best Buy-esque tech store offering mobile devices, laptops, projectors, cameras, and more. No one spoke English, which was great fun. I needed a laptop for my upcoming future in Cambodia, since I’ll be taking courses at UW while there, and everything we heard about Southeast Asia technology being fake and sketchy was essentially true: stores throughout Cambodia and Malaysia and Vietnam advertise themselves as the most authoritative, but the merchandise looks as far from legitimate as possible. After passing by a gazillion computer stores in Da Nang, though, with the idea of heading back to Singapore after Saigon to get a computer fresh in my mind, I felt like this was the place to get a PC if anywhere. There are hardly any sites optimized to show up in Google when you search for “best computer store in Da Nang” (maybe this small post will change that), but the one I did find directed me to the Phi Long megaplex.
The entire experience, I should start off by saying, was better than most retail experiences in the United States (and I say this in an age where I’m used to having things shipped to me promptly and the exact way I want them a la Amazon and Newegg). After finding the laptop I wanted, a $600 ASUS, I pointed at it and nodded to one of the countless sales girls (a common sight in any Vietnamese venture). Using hand gestures and having the growing band of sales girls collectively communicate with me, we got it that I would have to return an hour after paying (which happened at this discreet desk in the back–nothing glamorous about it, and actually quite an intimate experience). I paid with a credit card and didn’t need to show any identification. Then I was given two free coffee coupons to enjoy at the sixth floor cyber cafe, a perfect space to enjoy an hour. First I took a look at all the other floors and enjoyed seeing legitimate iPhones and iPads at comparable prices (to the USA). Jason and I then climbed through some sketchy stairways past the Server floor (spooky) and got to the cafe.
The cafe is actually more like a movie theater, but actually more like a living room. For 200-300 people. Darkly lit, there is no counter or place to order. You find a seat and the waiter finds you. Most of the people were young Vietnamese chain-smoking (common throughout Southeast Asia) and drinking their coffees. Half maybe had computers. A quarter looked semiconscious. There were thirty screens in the place showing the very grotesque American movie remake of Last House on the Left. With Vietnamese subtitles. If you haven’t seen it, or don’t know what it is, you’re probably better off. Jason and I, disturbed, did end up watching a good amount of it while waiting for the computer to be readied.
While we watched the movie, which includes many murders and much worse, they were playing a Best of Britney Spears album, which was made the 60 minutes some of the most absurd in our travels. We drank our coffee with condensed milk, complimentary, and then I went back to pick up the laptop. I was wonderfully surprised that they included a carrying case (fake leather, but functional) and a mouse. I was allowed to test the laptop before leaving. You might be wondering why I had to wait for an hour… They probably had to install all the software (Windows 8, ugh!) and make sure the hardware was intact.
All in all, Phi Long is the best computer shop in Da Nang, even if it’s the only one I have experience with. It’s professional and fun and affordable. I still haven’t had any issues with the laptop, though I’m still updating the OS and preparing to use it for school for the next six months (or more). It’s also my first lightweight laptop, and my first computer lacking any disc drive (aside from my tablet and phone of course).
Now we have arrived on Hoi An after a lovely afternoon at Marble Mountain. It’s time to see if all the things they say about it are true.