Friday, May 9, 2014


I'm beginning to think that stretching (stressing) my nervous system has created a withdrawal or dependency response.  Now that I've "recovered" from my latest trip, I find my mind drifting, almost wanting to be thrust into chaos again, like it is calling at me.  Strange.  I can sort of understand better, people who crave adrenaline rushes. 

Here are some tips that may be helpful for your next trip to Hanoi:
  • If you have status with Skyteam, bring your card!  That saved me from hours of waiting to check in at Hanoi airport.  There were 2 people ahead of me in the "Priority" line and it took 45 min!  People just stand there and chat with the agents!  Those poor people in the regular line with 50 people (no joke) ahead of them...The lines extended out to the entrance doors.
  • Hanoi airport is not as bad as you read.  It is "modern".  There Are seats and if you search a little online, you'll even get the free wifi codes.  Washrooms are clean!  Don't know what people are complaining about.  If you believe everything you read on the Internet, you'd never leave home.
  • To my surprise, I wasn't issued boarding passes "all the way through" like I was told by Air Canada.  Was not impressed especially when I had asked 3 different agents and had a choice of another flight that would have eliminated all the mad running I had to do.  On the way there, I connected in Narita (Tokyo) and to my surprise, there was a board with my name on it at the end of the jet way.  After some questioning and shuffling, they ran me through x- ray and gave me instructions to go down  2 (3? blame it on 18 hours of travel with no sleep at that point) flights of the escalator, across 3 (4?) lengths of people movers, up another escalator, across the "way" to catch a bus to the other terminal, which leaves in 6 minutes so I have to move fast...(And once I got there, go somewhere up somewhere else and get my boarding pass)... I did make it to the bus with the doors closing right after me.  The driver was so polite and well dressed (white gloves!) and it was to his credit he didn't bat an eye at my red face (12 lb pack + coat) nor my subsequent frantic removal of clothing.  Had the same type of fun on the return leg via Hong Kong.  Made it to my gate with 10 min to spare.  The good thing about being 12 - 13 hours ahead is that D would have gotten lots of notice had I missed my flight.  There are worse places to be stranded for 24 hr. 
  • The above wasn't because I picked silly flights with little transit time like 45 min.  I had 2 hr 10 min and 1 hr 45 min respectively.  Having to get another set of boarding passes is a totally different ball game.
  • Getting hit/nudged/grazed/violently bounced around by motorized and non motorized vehicles is just part of life in Hanoi.  I already mentioned 2 boating incidences in the last posts.  The 3rd was by a motorcycle on my leg as I was traveling by moped (passenger).  The 4th was on a train.  The 5th was on a bus.  The 6th ,7th, 8th etc. times on the street as you are not going to be walking on sidewalks much.  You get used to it and people have quick instincts and reactions.  Concept of personal space is closer to what I imagine India to be. 
  • The tourist infrastructure is actually quite developed.  Hotels all seem equipped to sell you packages or day trips.  Often that will include extra services free of charge, like drop off and pick up at train stations (at odd hours like 8 pm and 5:30 am) and letting you use a room until yours is ready.   
  • Remember that travel distances will be deceiving -- 145 km will take 4 1/2 hours by van, 300 km will take up to 10 - 12 hr by train.  Make the best of it.  You made it this far.  What's another 12 hours?
  • Change lines if yours is slow.  Don't stick it out stubbornly like I did and end up getting unnecessarily angry.  I'm thinking of You, First Passport Guy.  There is actually a Skyteam priority line for passport check when leaving Hanoi.  He was just fine.  Actually smiled at me.
  • I don't know why I thought I'd find coconut water in Vietnam but I actually only had one.  Iced tea is more popular.  Also didn't find as many fruit drinks as I was expecting.  I used more of my re-hydrating tablets on this trip versus Cambodia.
  • Don't have much advice for you if you are sensitive to MSG, like I am, outside of eat more Western foods.  I didn't really do that outside of bacon and eggs for breakfast.  Just avoided soups which for me was the worst culprit.  FYI: The baguettes are the lightest I've ever tasted!
  • Ear Plugs, noise cancelling headset, music.  That's all I'm going to say about that.


  1. When I saw the photos, one of my first thoughts was actually that one might quickly get accustomed to the traffic, the noise, the chaos, and to wish for it when it's taken away. People seem to have a tendency to adapt to most anything, so that surroundings that initially seem almost intolerable are actually missed when removed.

    1. I understand it from an physiological and chemical perspective but I was honestly surprised when I felt it this time because of my strong aversion to the chaos and noise while there. Whereas in Phnom Penh, I quite enjoyed it (was different) so ended up truly missing it. It's scary how easily one can become "warped" neurologically.