Tag Archives: Vietnam

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.

Nightmares, Hallucinations and Fainting.

One week to go and things seem to be falling into place.

I went to a Travel Clinic last week to check what I needed in the way of shots and meds. Very pleasant and knowledgeable nurse advised me that I really only needed a Hep’ A shot so we did that and then got to talking about anti Malaria pills. The first ones she offered boasted the side effects of nightmares, hallucinations and fainting. I did not feel quite up to all that! The second batch apparently had the same side effects but without the fainting, another no. We eventually settled on Malarone, with the warning that I might suffer headaches. At $12.00 per pill I have a week’s worth and will replenish the supply before heading to Laos on February 11th.

I have read that this last week is the time of the most intense and frenetic activities with a million and one things to do and, yes, I second that. So many little details to take care of. For instance, did you know that tickets for trains in India go on sale three months before the departure date ? So, yes, I have booked my ticket from Kochi to Goa. Will I get to (Snooty) Ooty? yes, but only if there are tickets available when I am ready to go. Same situation with Jaisalmer, but I really hope to get to both, amongst others. It is also the most exciting time. As my fictional friend, Dr Maturin, would say “I am with child” to see Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights, The Mekong Delta, The Cu Chi Tunnels, the rooftop bar at the Caravelle Hotel and HaLong Bay. And that is only the first week!

Cambodian Visa

The Visas are coming through successfully after all my angst. I like how Cambodia issues Visas electronically, simply fill in the online form, attach a photo.jpg, upload the lot and three days later the Visa appears in inbox to print and staple into passport. Keep it simple.

A note here to the handful of you who may be reading this. I am in a kind of test phase here with this blog and really would be interested in any feedback you may have. Are the posts too long, too short, gibberish, dull or what ? Do feel free to use the comment box and don’w worry your email address remains confidential. If it looks alright I will push it out to the rest of the World next week before I leave so comment comment comment. Also of course feel free to use the “follow” button. If you were to do this you will be informed via email of any new posts from me.Thanks.

The more eagle eyed of you will have noticed a reference above to the novels of Patrick O’Brian. Yes, I am reading the “Aubreyad” again. I feel that the 20 book series is just right to take on a long trip and I am already up to book #7. Of course I am reading them on the Kindle App’ on my tablet, otherwise I would have to take an extra suitcase. Never thought I would make the switch to digital books , but when I saw my Sister with her Kindle I was amazed. During the early days of e-readers she evinced a slightly Luddite view of the devices. But now she is a firm fan and is, I am sure, already loading up her device for her trip to the Ngorongoro Crater next month.