I’ve known for awhile that I was going to go to Vietnam. I’ve always been more drawn to Europe but Vietnam is the motherland. I was born there but moved to the states when I was a year and a half. My brother Adam and I have been talking about going for the last few years. I decided that it was time to really make a commitment to going, I wanted to go while my mom and grandmother were still alive.
When I originally brought up Vietnam to Su and Nancy, Su was all over it. While Nancy was much more hesitant. I said ok, Su and I will go without you (Adam was a maybe). You know Nancy can’t miss out on the fun and by the time we actually decided to go she was in a hundred percent and super excited.
Unfortunately, after we booked our tickets we found out Tet, the Vietnamese New Year was going on while we were there. Most of the country shuts down (for up to a month in some places), everyone travels home so all of the prices of tickets within the country were higher than normal. Last year Tet was in January, we didn’t even think of the fact it could be later in the year. If you ever travel to an Asian country, find out when the Lunar New Year is.
We flew All Nippon Air. At first we were disappointed we were flying a different airline than the one we booked but they were amazing and I would fly them every time if I could. Nancy almost missed the flight. Good thing we got to the airport in plenty of time. Nancy’s name was wrong on her ticket. I thought the airline had messed up because we booked our tickets at different times, how could her name be intertwined with mine, they had her ticket as Nancy Leiha Mann Buchanan, but I called in to make sure our seats were together so thought somehow they merged us. I just knew it was their fault. That is until I had Nancy pull up her email confirmation. Normally I book for her but since the passport info had to be put in I made her book her own ticket. Big mistake. She used my computer to book her ticket and didn’t realize she had autofilled some of my info, like my name. I felt bad for blaming them when I should be blaming Nancy! We booked our flights thru United so she had to go thru them. At first they said they wouldn’t be able to get her out until the next day which would throw our whole schedule off since we were flying out hours after we landed in Vietnam but a half an hour later they were able to get her on the flight. The ladies and gent at ANA were wonderful when we went back. I told them I wasn’t coming back with Nancy, going to sell her while in the Nam. I think some of them might have believed me.
Oh, another duh moment by us. We were each bringing suitcases of candy and homemade chocolate chip cookies. My mom brought some cookies I made home last time and they went crazy so I spent the night baking like a fiend (nothing like waiting until the last-minute). We weighed our bags and were like shoot, that’s a lot less than we thought so we piled everything into one suitcase. Turns out they were using kilos not lbs. We were then overweight so had to toss half the goodies into the second suitcase frantically, so much for a well packed suitcase. The stupid thing is, it wasn’t even about saving money, we just wanted to consolidate and carry one less bag. Who wants to travel with us?
I have to take a moment to was poetic about All Nippon Air. The staff was amazing, from the ticket counter (where Nancy and I were probably the biggest goobs they’ve ever met) to the flight attendants. The plane was clean and new. Lots of movie choices and I always love a flight that has a USB connection so I can land with all of my devices charged. With food, we had a choice between Asian or Western style food, I went Asian of course. If you ever fly them, you have to order the apple juice! Nancy ordered it and was like, order this apple juice! OMG, I dream about this juice (have been trying to find it in the states to no avail). You can smell the fresh apples and the taste is life changing. The most impressive thing about our flight was the bathroom! The middle bathroom was HUGE! It also had a bidet but really, in the case of bathrooms on a plane, size matters. It was as wide as the middle rows of seats and super clean. I wish I had taken a picture of it to share with you.
Our layover was in Tokyo and we decided we had to have sushi since we were in Japan, the land of sushi. If I was in Hamburg, Germany I would have a hamburger. 🙂 Once we figured out the yen to dollar conversion, we decided instead of a sushi platter we would have the sushi bowl. I didn’t want to spend my entire vacation fund before we got to Vietnam.
The sushi was pretty amazing. I stuck to the tried and true salmon sushi over seasoned rice, it was like butter, just the way I love it. Nancy had the chirashi bowl which had a little of everything. It was a fun way to experience lots of different kinds of sushi and it was just as delicious.
After 9 hours to Japan and another 6 hour flight to Vietnam we finally landed. We got there a half an hour before Su and just hung out waiting. After about 20 minutes we decided to start working on our Visa on arrival once Nancy told me they don’t go in order we figured it will help make things go faster once Su got there. Well, turns out we had to fill out a paper and by the time Su got there and thru the line she was ahead of us because she had her form already filled out, oops! In order to get our Visa before we left we would have had to mail our passports to DC so that is why we did the Visa on arrival and an hour later we were ready to go thru customs! And by customs, I mean, we get our passports and visa checked. There was no customs forms or customs to go thru when arriving in Vietnam. Guess I won’t have to declare all of the candy we brought for family (that’s what my mom told us to bring).
We left the US at noon on the 19th and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at 10pm on the 20th. By the time we left the airport it was after midnight. My mom was there just to say hi to us and give us food and water, how exciting! I gave her cookies and she was happy (the hard part is getting her to share them.) People who are waiting for flights to arrive in HCMC aren’t allowed to wait inside the airport, there’s a holding area outside that was full of people waiting.
Since it was Tet, our plan was to get out of town ASAP so we checked into an airport hotel for $24 since we had to catch a 5am flight to Nha Trang, a beach town. We asked the receptionist what time we should leave to catch our flight. She said 4:15-4:45am. Wow, they airport is super casual if you can just show up for your flight. We decided to leave at 4:15, 4:45 sounded way too late.
Su and I decided to stay up all night instead of sleeping for a couple of hours. I figured it would hurt more to wake up after a couple of hours, plus we had a lot of catching up to do, we hadn’t seen each other in a whole month. That’s a lot of catching up to do. I also took a shower then realized my plan to never wash my own hair during the drip was already ruined, damn, I didn’t make it past day 1!
It’s a good thing we stayed up, we never got a wake up call. Because we were up and ready we headed down at 4 to catch a cab. Thank goodness we did because the airport was a madhouse. It’s Tet, everyone was flying out. Don’t wait until the last-minute like the receptionist said. We were freaking out. We were flying out of Vietnam Air, too bad there were no signs that said that. We had to ask someone where to go. The sign did not say Vietnam Air, it was written in a different language (uhhh Vietnamese). Then we get there and the line is huge! We start freaking out worried about missing our flight. We showed the lady at the beginning of the line and she didn’t seem worried but the longer we waited the more worried we got so the girls made me go up to the guy who was managing the line at the front. At first he brushed me off but a minute later he called us forward and got us to a ticket counter. The funny thing was, we weren’t the last people on the flight, not anywhere close. They are definitely blasé about getting to the airport on time.
The flight was only an hour. There was a little boy, probably around 1 in the row ahead of us. He was fussy but curious about us. I wanted to pick him up to calm him down and give the parents a break so Su asked them if I could hold him for me, LOL. They said yes and held him and he calmed down, until he realized I was trying to put him to sleep. He was having none of that, lol. Guess the baby whisperer’s reputation is international.