2 October 2017 – Melbourne
Three years ago to the day, on our very first trip to Vietnam, we were in Hue. We’d spent time in HCMC, the Mekong, Nha Trang, and we’d just come up from Hoi An.
And at that point, we still hadn’t seen Hanoi. Along with a few other places.
Three years later, along with a second Vietnam trip under the belt, I’m now getting ready to head to the airport later tonight.
How did we end up here? How did it get to the point where the third trip in three years is about to begin? And how is it that I’m heading there on my own, ten days before Lisa will join me in HCMC?
I’m not really sure.
I suspect the ‘journey’ began on the last night of our first trip. Sitting at beer corner in Hanoi, texting my Auntie back in Australia.
I think she sensed, after some of my texts, that I’d fallen in love with Vietnam before I’d even realised that I actually had.
She was probably the one that planted the seed that we would return at some point. Up till that stage, I’d never considered that there’d be a subsequent trip. Let alone, two.
The friendships I’d also made on Trip Advisor, along with the friendships that had yet to be made, also played a part.
A little over 18 months later, we were again on a plane heading to Vietnam. This time without the kids, and this time doing a few things, and staying in a few places, that we would never have done, or had the opportunity to do, the first time.
We also met some people that could, and would, change the way we go about seeing Vietnam. Opportunities that just wouldn’t have been possible without them.
That second trip also included three days on motorbikes, including two nights in homestays, around the Pu Luong Nature Reserve area.
And it was that portion of the trip that ultimately leads me to Vietnam ten days earlier than Lisa. She was able to ‘cope’ with those three days, but also found that three days is probably her limit.
A desire of mine was to see the Northern area of Vietnam. The mountainous region up towards the Chinese border. It’s not an area that you can just wizz up to for a couple of days. A week, at a minimum, is required. And if you’re going to do it, then as far as I was concerned, it was going to be done on the back of a bike.
And because of that, and because it was going to be eight days, Lisa was never going to be a starter. And anyway, because the kids weren’t invited again, she could stay back and do a little extra parenting. As well as look after the house for a little longer.
So, that day had arrived. The flight wasn’t until 1.00am the next day, but today was the day I’d be leaving.
Even though I was pretty organised, I still had so much to do. Mowing lawns, printing last minute things, tidying up various bits and pieces, last minute packing….
I can’t remember all the stuff I did, and even sitting at the airport I couldn’t remember what I’d done, but whatever it was, it did take up the whole day.
Finally done just before dinner, and just as Lisa came home from work, I finally had some time to think.
That, as it turned out, wasn’t such a good thing.
A realisation suddenly came across me.
I was nervous!
As well as a little scared.
And I’m not really sure why.
Travelling on my own? Not having Lisa with me for the next week and a half? Facing everything that Vietnam can throw at you, without any support?
Probably all those things.
It was silly, and I didn’t understand it, but I was a little worried.
And that annoyed me.
Anyway, I put on my big boy brave face, and pushed on.
Got through my last ‘western’ meal, eventually…., of spaghetti, for a month, and said goodbye to the kids.
They actually seemed genuinely sorry to see me go.
Perhaps they do love me….???
Or maybe they’re just very good actors…..
Into the car by 8.00pm for the drive out to the airport.
A small detour past the long term carpark where Lisa will leave the car next week; just so she knows where it is, making it less likely she’ll get herself all worked up if she can’t find it; and then on to the quick drop off point for our final goodbye.
A quick kiss and a hug, and we both head our separate ways.
I suspect neither of us really enjoyed that moment.
I know I certainly didn’t.
But, we had now passed the point of no return. It was now happening.
So, with an hour or so to wait before check in, a way to pass the time was required.
Ooooh, there’s a bar.
A beer, as well as a couple of phone calls to say goodbye; including one to Dad, as well as one to that Auntie that is partly responsible for my Vietnam addiction.
Beer done, good son and good nephew duties complete, and it’s off to check in for my Air Asia flight. It’s not quite open yet, but already I’m a little down the queue.
A quick scan of what’s in front of me, and it looks like it may be a slightly slow process.
Not helping that thought is the fact that there seems to be far more bags than people, actually checking in. And that doesn’t include the carefully taped up cardboard boxes.
Well, I am heading to Asia, I suppose….
As it turns out, it’s all rather painless. Even had my VOA (visa on arrival) documents ready, just in case they wanted to see them. They didn’t last year, which surprised us, but this year they didn’t let me down. Feeling rather chuffed with my impeccable organisation, I promptly handed them over when asked.
So, fifteen minutes after check in opened, I’m on my way.
I then get a text from my phone provider. Something along the lines of, ‘Planning on using your mobile overseas….?’. Is there nothing technology cannot do!?
Off to immigration, and as I turn the corner, it’s all rather empty.
Ha!, this is going to be quick!
Well, it would have been, had the guy waving the bomb residue stick not stepped in and pulled me aside to ‘test’ me.
Fortunately, having not played with any bombs that day, I was waved through.
Off to the automatic passport machine thing, and I’m through in seconds.
Kind of a bit disappointed with that part. I always so look forward to meeting a lovely, smiling immigration official, who always adds some excitement and joy to my day.
Now through to the other side. Still have a couple of hours. Mmmm, how to fill the time….
Ahh, there’s a bar! Problem solved again.
Like I’d be doing anything else…..
That, as it turned out, ended up being the most painful thing of the night. Well, apart from saying goodbye to Lisa. But don’t tell her that….
Well, first off, it wasn’t great beer. But second, was the amount I had to pay for it.
Geez, talk about being bent over and….
Beers consumed, wallet somewhat emptied, Trip Advisor duties fulfilled, it was almost time for boarding.
But first, a bottle of water was needed for the flight.
See a sign in the distance advertising water for $2. That’ll do.
Grabbed one and handed it to the girl. She asked for my boarding pass.
“Really?”, I thought, thinking I may have had too many beers.
Turns out it was a duty free shop.
So, first ever duty free purchase ticked off. And it was water! Who would have thought….
Off to the gate, and as it turned out there was a Travelex exchange counter right next to it. So, taking the opportunity to do a little more research for future travellers, particularly on Trip Advisor; I checked what they were offering for Vietnamese Dong.
13 000 Dong for one Australian Dollar!
The current rate was around 17 500 Dong.
So when you start considering whether you should change in Australia, or wait till you’re in Vietnam, there’s a bit of a guide to what you’re likely to get.
In a day or two, I’ll have an update to what you can get in Vietnam.
So, time to sit and wait for a bit while boarding gets underway.
And as usual, as soon as it’s called, everyone rushes to line up.
Well, most of them.
Some of the smarter ones sit back and wait for a while…..
Eventually the smarter ones make their move, and I’m soon in my seat.
Well, it did take a while to get there. Being in row 40 will do that.
Got an aisle seat; which is nowhere near as good as my preferred window seat; but seeing as it’s 1.00am, along with the fact that I’m planning on sleeping, I probably don’t require a window.
Plane leaves on time; next stop Kuala Lumpur for a few hours.