Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The flight to Vietnam

January 13th and 14th 2009

The day before and first day

I traveled to New York in the late afternoon to avoid any delays in the morning. After checking in, I took the rental back to the airport so all I had to do was grab the shuttle to the airport -- great planning

Spent an hour or so and met a Merchant Marine who also served during Vietnam. We talked a lot, discussed the war and politics and before I left, he handed me his card and asked for an update on the trip.

Wednesday January 14th

After 5 hours of sleep, it was off to the airport to meet my daughter. I am still grateful that she decided to join me on this trip. It would have been very dull and lonely without her.

The check-in line for Economy at the Cathay Pacific area was a bit long, even at this early hour, but it was so worth it. We were surprisingly upgraded to Business Class – what a great way to start our trip.

I had flown first class once on a trip to Arizona, but for a flight of 15 plus hours, this upgrade was more than welcome. It also included access to the Business Class Lounge, so we took advantage of that, as well, and enjoyed some coffee and free internet.

We boarded early and found a seat that turned into a bed, walls for privacy and a medium size TV screen. Before the economy class boarded, we were served a great Mango drink. This is really the life.

We lifted off around 930 or so and after a few hours of flight, took advantage of the bed feature and took a short nap. Still 12 hours from our connector city of Hong Kong, we could see that we were near Godthab on the GPS. We were nearing the North Pole, the top of the world. The outside temperature was minus 77 degrees and we still had over 6000 miles to travel.

Looking at the outside camera, I could see where darkness met the light. It would be dark when we reached the North Pole – what a bummer. Negative 79 degrees as we approached the top of the world.

We crossed the International Date Line and it is now Thursday at 5 AM. The GPS shows that we will be entering daylight soon. We are above the Arctic Ocean as we near the upper part of the continent of Asia.

With seven hours to go, it is time for lunch, or so the menu says. Roasted duck appetizer with an entrée of Prawns and conch with French wine of course. I could grow to like this business class flying.

I wake up after a nap with 846 miles to go; it is 11:14 PM at home on Wednesday.
We land in Hong Kong around 2 PM and head to the next gate - at the other end of the airport of course – for our connecting flight to Saigon – Ho Chi Minh City. No business class, just tight economy for our two hour flight.

As we finally land in Vietnam, my heart races and tension mounts. I didn’t think this would happen since I have left no ghosts behind in Vietnam and was looking forward to meeting people I have talked with over the past two years and attend a wedding. The feeling soon passed and I was fine as we left the aircraft.

After customs and immigration - another rush as the uniform of the agent reminded me of a North Vietnamese Army officer from the war – we were off to a taxi. We were pleasantly intercepted by An and Doug, the bride and groom who rode with us to the hotel – Palace Hotel in Saigon – to ensure we made it OK. Although I had never met these two, I had been working with An for two years and talking with Doug for about six months – we talked like old friends.

Once we were safely at the Palace Hotel , An and Doug left us. The wedding was tomorrow so they had a lot to do.

We checked into what would be a 3 or 4 star hotel at home and went up to the top floor bar to get a great view of the city. Drinks, appetizers and tip for about $18.00, I am going to like this country.

We went for a walk and as a newcomer to Saigon; it was difficult at first to cross the street. Few stop lights, no yields as cars and motor bikes sped by. To add to the confusion, people were getting ready for Tet (New Year’s Day) and traffic was even worse than usual. We did finally find a way to cross and we explored the city for a bit before retiring. It had been a 30 hour run from the time we got up the previous morning, so it was off to bed. It would be up at 6 AM to prepare to go to the first part of the wedding, the ceremony at the home of the bride.

No comments:

Post a Comment