There is no quick way to reach Saigon from the United States, but certainly United Airlines knows how to make it take even longer. After delays and cancellations in Salt Lake, an emergency Delta flight which required an all out sprint to the adjoining terminal which sent us to San Francisco, and a long “middle of the row” flight to Hong Kong, the day had already been very long. A little peeved at fist since our original seats were awesome, we were grateful that we’d had such friendly, gracious people sitting at either end of our row. The woman next to Ben – a native of Singapore with Irish descent and living in Seattle – shared her snacks with him all the while as we flew half way around the world (who can resist sour patch kids, anyway?). In exchange, he helped her open her liquor and complimentary pretzels which she had trouble with due to arthritic hands.
From Hong Kong, it was simply one more long delay before we touched down in Saigon at 2:00 AM local time where we than joined the visa on arrival line. We had done our homework and knew just what to expect, and easily received our visa. We watched many of our fellow Americans coming undone as they confusedly tried to avoid the mandatory visa fee. It was a good reminder for us that freaking out when travel gets tough absolutely never does you any good.
Visas in hand, we quietly ducked out of the airport onto Saigon’s deserted streets to walk toward our hotel. We hadn’t been sure if walking around in the middle of the night in Vietnam’s largest city was such a good idea, but we needn’t have been concerned. With almost no one out, we had the streets of Saigon to ourselves and we wandered through the drizzle waving at the few night owls that were still out on the street. Most people we saw, however, were asleep on their chairs in front of their businesses. Our short walk turned out to be so enjoyable that I was almost disappointed when we found the hotel and woke up the man sleeping at the reception desk to check in.
Despite the late hour, we got checked in, touched base with home, and then crawled into bed in our tiny but more than adequate room. Unfortunately, by this point we were both wide awake, so we laid inside our humid room waiting for our alarm to go off.