As we started our takeoff roll, I realized that today, January 7, for the first time in 37 days, I would travel at over 100 kph. I was on a VietJet flight (with a bank logo on both sides of the front of the fuselage) from Hà Nội to Ho Chi Minh City. Two hours later, I beat my previous best time of 19 days between the two major cities in Việt Nam. I think it's time to slow down...
Upon my return from Sa Pa, I went to the Thai embassy to get a visa and couldn't because there is no same-day service and I was leaving the next morning. I can get it either at the Consolute in HCMC or queue up at the border. Will most likely opt for the former.
Took it easy on my last full day in Hà Nội, did a little shopping; wandered the streets a bit; picked up my Reisse maps that I'd lent to Hung and Chris at Flamingo Travel while I was in Sa Pa; indulged myself with my first ever street shave (also the first time someone else shaved my face);
ate too many snails and clams (at the street restauant at #1A Linh Dieh); and bought a second round of over-the-counter cold remedies. The day we returned from Ha Long Bay, it was sore throat, runny nose, and an overall lousy feeling. It seems to be clearing up, though not soon enough. Went to bed early and slept pretty well, so at least the OTC stuff did that for me.
Didn't do a head count, but if think I was the only person of European ancestry on the flight, and I had gobs of knee room:
I'm getting used to being the only Westerner... As I was again indulging in too many snails and clams, a number of Westerners looked in, but kept walking. Too bad, they missed some good eatin'! I'm very much enjoying my daily Vietnamese version of a Western breakfast, but feel I would miss an important part of the travel experience If I were eating only familiar foods... though I would probably have lost 20 lbs during the riding phase of the trip.
I am apparently pretty good at scaring small children. Today in the departure gate area I was sitting across from a young woman and her toddler. When the little girl looked at me, I smiled--and she burst into tears. As I looked away, she stopped crying. A minute later, when I looked up again, she started wailing and crying. Most females have to know me a bit longer before they cry at the sight of me, so I guess she's an early learner. The same thing happened on the plane with the same little girl, only this time from 12 rows away. I kept my head down for the rest of the flight.
Had a hot lunch, a 333 beer (served room temperature with a side cup of ice), and desert on the plane for 100,000 VND (US$5). The hot crab and shrimp with noodles came with two side sauces:
Fish sauce NOT ketchup
Although I don't have a hotel pre-booked in HCMC, I know I'll be staying within a block to two of where I stayed before. It's a safe, comfortable, area and centrally located. I was going to stay only a day or two before heading to Thailand, Cambodia, and Lao, and go to the Mekong Delta area upon my return at the end of the trip. Now, instead, I will most likely head to the Mekong first, since the end of my trip is Tét (Chinese New Year). This is noteworthy because most Vietnamese go to their home village for Tét and the cities are all but deserted. Using my time wisely (don't say it), I may still get to all of the major destinations in my original plan--and maybe not. Either way, it's one helluva trip!
And 39 days since I last drove a car...