In previous years we’ve flown from Tulsa to DFW to California to Taipei to Hanoi in our humanitarian aid efforts. This year we saved both money and time by flying from Tulsa to Chicago to Seoul to Hanoi. We cut out a flight and a layover which decreased our overall travel time from about 36 to just under 30 hours. It also cut our costs by about $300 per person.
After arriving in Hanoi about 10:00 pm on Saturday evening (9:00 am Saturday morning in Tulsa), we had to pick up our visas on arrival at a special desk. Typically, we would have had our visas already, but the Tet celebration in Asia bogged down the process and resulted in our heading for the “Visas on Arrival” desk.
I think that this procedure is typically smoother than it was for us, but a group from a country in western Europe was in front of us and had bogged everything down. They couldn’t communicate with the officials and weren’t being very cooperative so everyone paid the price.
Finally we received our visas, passed through immigration, tracked down our luggage on the other side of the airport and walked through an empty customs desk. Our good friend Tim delivered us to the Bao Kahn hotel in Hanoi just after midnight.
You might say that we were exhausted and if you did say that, you would be right. Sleeping on planes is difficult and sleeping in beds is a welcome respite.
We were boarding the night train to Lao Cai/Sapa/San Sa Ho that night so we had the day to kick around the Hoa Kiem Lake area – a popular place for tourists and locals alike. We met up with one of our interpreters from last year, Long, who was excited to see us and we felt the same way.
We took some pictures, ate at a couple of local restaurants, Jerry and I got moderately lost and found our way back again. We avoided fruit from the street vendors.
We got foot massages. All of us. No, check that. Selena went for the full body massage.
At 8:00 pm we gathered in the hotel and headed for the night train. I’m writing this on my bunk at 4:00 am with jet lag having woken me up in the middle of the night. When we arrive, we will clean up and then head to San Sa Ho to begin our preparation.
It is very important to them to have a formal meeting with us when we arrive and we can, hopefully, get this done today so we can start work right away tomorrow morning. We also hope to organize this afternoon toward that same end.