Is arriving always more satisfying than leaving? I suppose so. No difference in our case here
The departure on Wednesday was a bit stressful. Because I was going to the Munich airport by tube and train. And, somehow, there were more last minute tasks left than foreseen In the end I huffed and puffed to the Metro station two heavy pieces of luggage. Well, the main thing is that I made it to the plane as everything was quiet at the airport and there were no queues – only very thorough customs and security people that checked passports with a special magnifying glass (and not only mine) and had their hangups with the electronic cigarette in my trolley
To choose Qatar Airlines was a good choice. For the first time in decades I saw champagne in economy! Thank you Even, though, they had only two bottles on board (one on display, the other in the fridge) nobody else showed interest and by the time I had finished the first bottle, the second was already cold. That was on the first leg to Doha. They also have the best on-board entertainment system on the market. With internet access, USB-docking station and so on. Unfortunately that requires a lot of cabling (not foreseen in the Boeing 787 Dreamliners) and in every seat row you had two boxes attached to the seat-legs – which dramatically diminished legroom!. But the plane to Doha was not full and I could spread out, nonetheless.
The stopover in Doha lasted two-and-a-half-hours…and I bought some Persian saffron (disputably the best on our lonely planet) and some Omani dates in chocolate for my Vietnamese friends. And a wee bottle of Guerlain’s “Homme”, Eau de Parfum, for myself (these stop-over flights have a tendencey to cost more than the direct flights in the end!)…
The next leg took longer, of course, the plane was only a 777 with an older entertainment system, no internet etc. – but still with enough cable boxes under the seats. I was lucky to have booked a seat that had enough leg-pace. Out of Muslim Doha, of course, they did not volunteer any champagne. So I had to take one of the stewardesses aside to where our conversation could not be overheard by the plebs in the cabin – and wield my refined Bansko charme. Well, that got the champagne flowing…I had, however, to go to the galley once to remind the ladies of their duties to serve me. During that visit we found out that we were practically all relatives: one lady from Macedonia, another one from Romania and the third from Marocco – but having lived in Germany for a long time. If Qatar would fly to Hanoi instead of Ho Chi Minh City I would expect some surprise visitors soon
So, I arrive in Bangkok at 7.40am local time – 18 hours after leaving my apartment. In good spirits (carrying at least 4 bottles of the bubbly in my veins). Only to realise that some moron had booked my connecting flight to Vietnam for 1.40pm …some six hours later!
That, somehow, wrecked the trip. There is nothing you can do at the Bangkok airport for 6 hours when you are tired and have all your luggage around you! Well, OK, somehow I survived (with a small bonus of 2 bottles Havana Club bought at the BKK duty free for less than what it costs in Hanoi) – I survived even the flight with VietJetAir (with my knees pressed into the seat in front of me) . The visa on arrival was a song (as I knew exactly how it worked from last year and had pre-organised everything) but nowadays costs twice as much as last year (for a three months visa with unlimited entries into the country – 95$). The luggage took much longer to appear on the belt and the taxi ride to Ha Noi was as bumpy, noisy and stressful as ever – which somehow gave me the felling that I had arrived “back home” – Obviously it does not take that much to make a guy happy.
A decent soul had “organised” my apartment, not only with all kinds of fruit, food and drinks – but also with towels, linen, crockery and cutlery and other such things that Vietnamese landlords don’t find necessary. Vietnamese priorities are slightly different - but that’s part of the charm. Tomorrow I have to organise glasses, so I want have to drink my cuba libre out of a coffee mug .
Dinner was a pho bo noodlesoop, partly pre-prepared (the broth) and delivered by my local friend, the chef. My, oh My! How good was this!
In fact, I am already completely set up for the whole day tomorrow with breakfast, lunch and a proposal for dinner…but we will see. I need to scout the area on my own tomorrow to get a feel for the place – and to establish contact with the shops and stuff around here. They will have to “endure” me for the next months and it will be better (for me) to become accepted and a local as quickly as possible
33 hours after leaving my apartment in Munich I am a little tired now, finally. Tomorrow I will shoot some pics of the hood for you.