The anticipation woke me up at 4:30am on that Wednesday morning for my 11 am flight. I abide by the notion that if I am flying internationally I want to be 4-5 hrs beforehand. I don’t mind waiting in the airport, it is much better than rushing around with a timeline around your neck. And if you hit traffic on NJ turnpike, well good luck.
My oldest brother, Dave, drove me to Newark Liberty Airport, EWR is its code name, since my parents were in Georgia. Dave was the first of us four who went back to Vietnam in 2006. But he went with my parents. I learned a lot from my previous flight to Thailand, know who to travel with and don’t travel with parents.
When I checked in, they had to check my visa for Vietnam. Aye, let this not be a repeat of what happened before I landed in Isla Mujeres. After checking my passport, we were hit with major fake delays leaving us to finally arrive at midnight, not 1 pm as scheduled. By fake, I mean that no one was told the exact reason. They also checked to confirm that I didn’t need a visa for my layover in ShangHai.
Surprisingly security was a breeze! The joy of flying on a Wednesday and early.
Even with plenty of time on my hands, I went straight to my gate. EWR is not a very pretty airport. Its layout was pretty straightforward and lacked a good coffeeshop. The most important thing an airport has to have is a coffeeshop. At least to me…
10:30 AM we started to board Continental Flight 87. I know we are fling international, but is there really a reason why a family of three carrying 2 carry ons each? Which were pretty heavy according to the flight attendant.
I bet they have 8 check in luggages too.
This plane was pretty nice. A Boeing 777 spacious, comfy, and the menu looked enticing. Only that I forgot to request a vegetarian meal. Oops!
I picked an aisle seat for my seating, but I didn’t think I would be seated next to the bathrooms. That wouldn’t be a problem if people didn’t decide to hang out there, do their calisthenics and hitting both my head and chair! AND stop watching over my shoulder! Both the flight attendants and I exclaimed to them to stop and go back to their seats.
But, they did not listen for 14 hours.
This flight was a direct flight to Shanghai. Over the course of the flight, I finished reading a book, wrote in my journal, and watched several movies. One movie in particular was interesting, “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Its summary said it was a comedy, but, it was, to me, a more serious movie. It pretty much summed up America’s consumer culture where each one of us are trying to one up each other in terms of gadgets, items, things to make us look cool or wealthy.
There were some nude scenes which caught the eyes of the hangout people.
We landed in Shanghai at 1:46 pm. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but customs was a breeze. Waiting for bag, though, wasn’t.
According to my itinerary, I had to go to the third floor in terminal two to Shanghai Airlines. When I went to the counter to ask when I could check in, since I was pretty early, I was told all Shanghai Airline flights were cancelled.
Noooooooo! Wait… was this a joke?
She was serious.
She put me in with China Eastern Airlines, which I think is partnered with Shanghai Airlines, with the same time and date of my original departure. Thank goodness!
Since I had to wait till 5pm to check in, I went to terminal 1, where East China Airlines would depart from, to look for a coffee shop with internet. There was no global wifi access, so at the coffee shop I ordered a cappuccino. I know that I need to pay for it, but they walked away with my debit card and another one came back with a card reader. Perturbed I got up and requested my card back.
When I got online, I realized the three main things I use the internet for was being blocked by the great firewall of China- gmail, facebook, and twitter. Yup I am big fan of email and social media!
Crap! I wanted to see if Aileen responded to my email. Angie, a fellow photographer and friend, told me that if she doesn’t respond then it is her loss.
5 pm rolled around and after I checked in, I found myself at a bar drinking a $7 Guinness. Which is about right. It would have roughly been the same price of a flying dog at National Mechanics in Philadelphia.
Now the epic wait for my last flight to Ho Chi Minh City! When I wake up tomorrow morning I can say “Good Morning, Vietnam!”
But first my flight.
While I was waiting, I saw this three or four year old walk off from her family. Her family were dozing off, so I walked up to one of them to let them know. One of them said that she was going to her mom, and I let a sigh of relief out. Imagine your child just walking off in any location!
When we boarded, we first boarded onto shuttle buses only to cram our way into the airplane. I was lucky to sit in the aisle again, but next to these super rude Vietnamese ladies who kept on elbowing me. Until I let out a loud “for fuck’s sake.” did they stop.
We landed in HCMC at 1:35 am and I went through customs really fast. It helped that there wasn’t anyone there. Next was the issue of getting my cell and sim chip working as well as looking for Vinasun taxi to take me to my hotel.
But unlucky for me the fake taxi services were waiting to pounce! So I did a round looking for a vinasun taxi, which I found an attendant who didn’t seem at all interested in calling in a taxi for me. That made an opening for one of the fakes to hook me.
“We are the same company.”
Looking at him with a crooked look, but acknowledging that it was 2 am, I said, “Will you take me for a flat rate of $7 or 140.000 dong?”
And I loaded into his taxi. I showed him the address of Vuc Duong. He then asked how much was it per night, I knew where this was going so I just just drive me there.
Thirty minutes later he told me that I had to pay for the 210.000 ride, 5.000 toll, and 500.000 parking ticket. Wait what? So I just paid him the 170.000 dong for the agreed price and for the toll and walked off to my hotel. Which he casually drove past.
Walking into the hotel I went to my room and sent Eric an email that I got there and then clocked out.