Friday, 10 June 2005

Flight to Hanoi, 10 June 2005

The day was very long and tiring. Woke about 6:15am. From the Sydney Airport International Inn, a basic and noisy place, caught shuttle ($2) to the airport, arriving at 7:50am. Had no trouble with the weight of the bike: I just advised the Qantas counter woman that it was 17kg (about 1.2kg less than it weighed in at Canberra) and she accepted my small pannier. Was given a window seat and was ready to go with 2 hours 20 mins to wait. Had a coffee with my muesli/prunes/soy, bought the SMH. My cold was troubling me a lot, with a blocked nose, headache and tiredness.

The flight to Ho Chi Minh City passed slowly. Was lucky that the seat beside me was empty, and the aisle seat was occupied by Phuong, a young Vietnamese from Haiphong who has been an Australian resident for 6 years. He was very friendly and we chatted a lot. Only one movie was shown and as usual I fell asleep before it finished. Felt worse and worse through the day. The personal headphones worked superbly and helped me relax.

The airport at Ho Chi Minh City is basic and there's no transit lounge. So the staff pasted a 'Transit" sticker on my shirt and I went through customs and collected my luggage. Then had to load it on the flight to Hanoi. I sat with Phuong in a small cafe in the departure lounge for the 2 hour wait. Phuong shouted me a coconut juice (I had no dong): a coconut with the bottom cut flat to rest on the table, and a small hole cut in it with a straw. It was delicious.

The flight to Hanoi was on a smaller plane, with no music or movies, and ordinary service. The airport here has few lights, although the terminal is new and air conditioned. We arrived on time at 8pm and my luggage came through okay. The minibus I ordered was waiting for me and I was driven the 30k to the hotel, taking 40 minutes.

The traffic became heavier with more bikes as we came closer to the city. The locals are amazing on their motor bikes: none wear helmets and many bikes have 2 people, although I saw a family of 4 on one. All the bikes pack together and don't stop for anything. They ride relatively slowly, maybe 30-40kph, but it is hair-raising to watch.

Was greeted warmly at the hotel and was given Room 205, at the back and with no traffic noise. There are two 3/4 beds, a fair sized fridge, a wardrobe, high ceilings, a small TV and air conditioning. Although the rooms are air-conditioned, the rest of the hotel - hallways, stairs, dining room and lobby - are not. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got my gear into my room (the bike case is in a baggage room). All I could do was have a quick shower and fall into bed.


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