MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2009 – 67/77 – HANOI, VIETNAM
Once again, we enjoy the luxury of a morning at the Intercontinental Hotel – Kowloon – Hong Kong and sleep until nearly 09:00AM behind our electrically operated blackout drapes. However, all good things must end and we roll out and partake of the wonderful breakfast offered to us on the Club Floor for the last time. We also avail ourselves of their complimentary internet printing service to replace some documents lost when the computer was stolen in Sydney.
Carolyn takes advantage of the shipping service offered by the hotel and we mail packages containing gifts to all the grandchildren plus a box home containing souvenirs, gifts and some items we have decided we do not need or are not using. The total for all that service, including postage was $588HKD or $76US; what a deal especially when compared to some of the other shipping charges!
At noon, we take a taxi to the airport. It is a 30 minute ride and costs $250HKD or $33US. We have economy class reservations for the two-hour flight to Hanoi and the line to check in is huge and moving at glacial speed. There is no one at the business class counter so Carolyn walks over and asks if there is availability for us to upgrade our tickets to business class. The person behind the counter takes our passports and other information, then determines that business class is full but she completes the check in process for us, and arranges to have a wheel chair and an attendant come at 2:00PM to assist us through security and immigration. Carolyn rode through crew security while they patted Dick down and then we went through crew immigration. Overall, this was not a bad way to go through all those hassles. Our attendant waits with us until the flight starts boarding and pushes Carolyn all the way to the plane’s door.
We fly Vietnam Air and we both expect to board a plane held together with bailing wire and chewing gum. To our pleasant surprise, we board an Airbus A321 that is clean and neat on the inside with a Caucasian pilot from Denver. (We met him going through immigration in Hanoi.) The flight attendants are dressed in traditional Vietnamese dresses and very pretty. They serve, even in economy and on a two-hour flight, a nice hot lunch.
Upon arrival in Hanoi we are met by another wheelchair and attendant, who takes us through the crew immigration line. This is where we met the pilot. The immigration officer takes a long time with our documents but never asks any questions and finally stamps our papers and sends us on our way. After clearing customs, a car from the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel meets us and drives us to the hotel through rush hour traffic. There are at least ten motorbikes or scooters for every car and there do not appear to be any traffic rules that are obeyed!
Our first impression of the city is one of rural agriculture jammed up against slums and nice houses; all in the same small area. People are eating at small tables set up on the side of the road where the proprietor is cooking food over a brassier. The temperature is in the low 70s and life is conducted out of doors.
The hotel has a private check in desk for the “Executive Floors” on the top floor of the hotel. A glass of fruit juice awaits us at this desk and check in only takes a few minutes. We are pleased to find or confirm that we have free internet access, included breakfast and included cocktails and bar food in the evenings.
After enjoying a drink and some light food, we adjourn to the lobby to explore a little and find a string quartette playing classical music in the lobby. We listen to them play and then walk outside before heading back to our room for a shower and a good night’s sleep. We will begin our exploration of Hanoi tomorrow.