“Travel is not all romantic; in fact that’s fairly rare. Travel is hard and occasionally rewarding. It’s those rewarding occasions that make it romantic; it’s those hard days that teach things about yourself and the world.
A really hard day would have involved missing trains or botched reservations. It could have been much worse.”
Those are the opening and closing remarks of a wise man’s most recent account of his travel excursion around Europe – where there are peaceful sidewalks, friendly cabbies and scheduled destinations are actually reached. Ahh, the good life.
Meanwhile, two young women found themselves patiently and excitedly waiting to get their boarding tickets in the Hong Kong airport when they first heard those three menacing words; “Ho Chi Minh?” No, that’s not Chinese slang for some insult against travelers, rather, it was the first clue that maybe, just possibly, our travel agent had screwed up. But, with only 40 minutes to literally run to our gate (which, by the way, was at the absolute furthermost possible gate from where we were) Kate and I decided to just figure it all out when we got there. “Hey, its an adventure! Let’s go!” we exclaimed as we raced down the airport corridors, knocking down the slow paced travelers and trying to avoid small children.
Two hours later we land in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I had spent my 1 hour and 25 minute plane ride in the very last seat next to Chatty Rodger the Oil Man, while Kate was stuck in the middle row, middle seat, where at least she caught a few Zzzs. As we stepped out of the airport we were hit with the humidity like a brick in the face. Even at night, the humidity wasn’t kidding around. Neither were the hundreds of people lined up, or seated, right outside the doors, waiting for either their loved ones or the show to start, not really sure which. While we were trying to figure out how to get to our hotel, which was at least in the same city as where we had been sent (our agent may be a screw up, but at least he’s consistent!), we had about 4 taxi drivers surround us, forcing their ID badges in our face to prove their legitimacy and bargain for fares. We finally picked a driver and though we had agreed on 300 Dong, we got stopped at the outside gate where a women, I swear in retrospect she was probably our driver’s sister, wouldn’t let us through without paying another 100 Dong. Great, 20 minutes in the (wrong) city and we were already being ripped off!!
We finally pulled up to our hotel, complete with a gold Christmas tree glittering in the lobby, checked in, flopped down, a little too hard, our of mightaswellhavebeenapieceofwood beds and tried to make a plan. All of our excitement for Hanoi, the fantasy destination, had to be put on a back burner. We only had 3 days in Vietnam, and we were determined to make the best of the batch of lemons we were given…..