December 1 somewhere over the Pacific
After all of the efforts to protect myself with the means, medications, injections and hand cleanser that we have assembled for whatever contingencies we may encounter we are on our way to this strange, faraway land, about to put ourselves into the hands of complete strangers. We will sleep walk through the familiar rituals of airport immigration into an unfamiliar beyond, hopeful that our hotel and taxi arrangements have held firm and that these people will be as courteous as we anticipate.
December 10:30pm Hong Kong Airport
A few hours ago I mused to Nadine about leaving first thing Monday morning and getting to bed in the wee hours of Wednesday. At first it was a calculation that took into account immigration, and the taxi ride but now we have to add in United Airlines delays. We have spent about 24 hours within the surreal confines of that netherland beyond the airport security check point. We've actually been through three and have obediently and patiently gone through the rituals despite the decreased necessity. We took off our shoes without being asked in San Francisco and smirked to one another as we dumped our "secure" Vancouver water in San Francisco and San Francisco's in Hong Kong, where we needed to be inspected before we could enter the airport's arrival area.
The 4 hour delay from Hong Kong to Saigon has left us tired and vulnerable to the uncertainties of finding or getting to our hotel at 2:30 am instead of 10pm. Will our arranged taxi wait the 4 hours we have been delayed? Will our email update to the hotel have reached them in time? Will they be familiar and patient with the vagaries of United Airlines insolvency-inducing scheduling policies? Will they greet us with a welcome and compassion for weary travelers or will their be a put-upon forbearance reserved for the wealthy white traveler who must be carefully harvested to ensure the profitability of the relationship? I dread arriving in Saigon to the challenge of knitting a route to our hotel with my phrasebook, map and travel-addled mind.
December 3 Ho Chi Minh City 2:30am
Upon clearing immigration, I promptly dug out my phrasebook and gratuitously issued "cam on" to all I could thank. Our cab driver was there and we got to the hotel quite easily. By streetlight we could see ther promise of vibrant colours of the store shutters, the typical airport sprawl of DHL, KFC, Qantas and Pizza Hut. There were a few homeless making do in the forgiving tropical night and cleaners sweeping the streets by hand with straw brooms. Traffic even at this hour was dodgy, leading me to answer the age-old "What side of the road.." question with "the top." Intersections were preluded by a fanfare of honking from the ailing horn of the cabbie's Kia, and it was largely ignored whether by cyclist or semi. We arrived at the hotel to rouse our hosts into a groggy stride to the door and through the check-in procedure. We crashed into bed after welcome showers.
I'm sure I'd miss most of the trip if I went into as much detail as this. Suffice to say we're here and okay.