Arrival into Ho Chi Minh City

“I am sorry Sir we cannot allow you on this flight, you’re papers are not in order”
Oh how I dislike hearing those words, could be a very bad start to the day!
Back up a bit or even a lot. Way back in October 2010 I booked this Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City flight, so I certainly am not winging it, yet. In November of 2011 I started the micro planning, visas, hotels, airport pickups and the like. Vietnam is special as one has to tell the immigration office exactly what flight # one is arriving on and where. Not a problem. Filled in all the correct forms online, received an Application for Entry and Exit on the email to duplicate with a space for my photo and blank questions for me to answer etc etc. Also another form that told me all the other people arriving that day in HCMC plus a letter from the Immigration Department of The Socialist Republic of Vietnam specifying me by name, Nationality, Port and Date of Entry inviting me to collect my Visa at my arrival airport.
In the boarding line and pounced upon by official, escorted to the desk which is where I heard the heart stopping words above. Hmm, be courteous, keep smiling, don’t lose it. Apparently most people have a visa stamped into their passports but these days, with the advent of the Internet, the opportunity to apply in advance and have the Visa issued at the port of entry has been instituted. Eventually, after the desk crew scrutinized the five pages issued to me by the Vietnamese Immigration Service I got my boarding pass stamped and here I am, 63A. CX767.
Surely I cannot be the first person to show up for a flight to Vietnam Nam with these e-forms. Baffling. But I am sure I shall encounter further interesting situations….
Time to listen to The Boards of Canada and chill a bit at 39,000 feet over the South China Sea. Oh, the thrill of it all.
So now here I be, downtown Ho Chi Minh City. Let’s start with “it’s different”.
Though maybe that is an understatement. Leaving the comparative peace of the Arrivals area and going outside is entering mayhem, hundreds and hundreds of people waiting for loved ones to arrive from all over the world, complete pandemonium. Plus of course the temperature is about 40 degrees warmer than HK. I was quickly reduced to a perspiring wreck. Searched and searched for my hotel’s ride into town, difficult to say the least with all those people in the way. Eventually found car and driver and let me tell you, a bottle of cold water and an iced towel have rarely been so welcome.
Checked into hotel, had a quick Skype ,back home to California, that was great, and set out to explore…and explore….and explore. First, the motor scooters, there are 3.5 million people in HCMC and it looks like each one owns a motor scooter and each of the 3.5 million were all out on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon. Someone (thanks George) advised me to just step off the sidewalk and walk across the street, the scooters will avoid you, hmm, well, so far so good. !
I do have a method for the said exploring, walk out of hotel, walk round block back to hotel, then expand to two blocks, then three etc. it seems to work. HCMC has a lot in common with many other cities I have visited, ie, two to three hustlers on each street. I have been offered everything from a shoe shine, a scooter tour, money exchange to, well, this is a family blog, but you can imagine ! Over and over again. Ha.
After I had got about five blocks out from the hotel the 5.00am started to take its toll, so here I am in the Saigon Saigon bar at the Caravelle. I’m sure I read somewhere that it, the bar, was featured in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American and now I have lost the reference. Many references to the Majestic by the river so will check that out tomorrow maybe, after going to the tunnels. What tunnels? The Viet Kong complex at Cu Chi which apparently extends all the way to the Laotian border.
We shall see.
PS. Sorry about the lack of captions on the Photos of Hong Kong page. Next lesson for me.

5 responses to “Arrival into Ho Chi Minh City

  1. Very nasty moment, thankfully never experienced (wish I hadn’t said that with an African trip on the horizon!!).
    Think you’re maybe mistaking the refernce in the novel for:
    ‘In 2001, Caravelle Hotel hosted the cast and crew filming Graham Greene epic novel “The Quiet American”, starring Sir Michael Caine.’
    George will be pleased his tip was useful, hopefully he is reading these!!
    love from cold edinburgh

  2. Glad to hear that you made it safe and sound! Reading about your travels has kept me occupied while I wait for this baby to come… can’t wait to hear about what lies ahead…

  3. You’re not in Kansas any more…!

  4. Sounds like you are traveling like a pro, after only several days abroad! Since I got dreadfully lost in Sao Paulo, Brazil (with the “runs”), I like your methodology of exploring the city by broadening your perimeter, block by block. I’m wondering how your equipment such as your, backpack, travel clothing are working out? I can report nothing new around the “hood” except the camelias are starting to bloom. I saw a California grey fox on my paved driveway late one night. It was a vision that made time stand still.

  5. Sorry about your difficulties over the flight.Hope you are Ok. Waiting to get your first Blog from Viet Nam.
    Good luck.
    Maurice very interested with Hong Kong photos.

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