March 5th 2018 1:30am – The alarm goes off and it seems like we did not sleep. It was only a couple hours ago I was sitting on the couch with Andy, our oldest, watching TV. It was on but it was unspoken that we were just hanging out, getting in the last moments for who knows how long. Earlier in the day we treated the family to one last family dinner. The kids were all there as well as Amy’s parents and we just seemed to hang on to every moment. After 2 ½ years of planning it has come to this. We gather up our gear deflate our air mattress and Cort, our 21 year old son arrives from his last evening with his friends. They are laughing about something something obviously hysterical in the driveway and I am forced to give them the dad shoosh. If they wake the babies there will be hell to pay for sure. Andy and Emily come out of the bedroom and hang out for a few minutes offering final goodbyes before the car arrives to take us to the airport for a full day of travel.
2:30am – The driver shows up right on time and we are pleasantly surprised that the car we ordered, had in fact turned out to be a limousine. I mean if you are gonna go, why not in style? Hugs were given, I love yous were said and pictures were taken. The three of us with everything we own on our backs, got into our limo for a great adventure. The irony of us leaving in a limousine was not lost on us. We laughed about it the entire hour long ride to the airport. I mean honestly, this is not the way to start off a frugal adventure in exploring, but we will take it.
4:30am – After checking our backpacks we are boarding the first of three flights. The lady at the Alaska counter making conversation asks us where we are going and how long we will be gone. She seems confused when we say Vietnam as our tickets are just for Los Angeles. Our answer to her question about our return was equally confusing. She offered to see if she could make sure our bags could go directly to Vietnam, but since they are all we own, we declined her kind offer. We boarded our plane for the first 2 ½ hours of what would be 23 hours in the air.
8:45am – Having landed in LAX at Terminal 6, we made our way to Luggage claim to get our bags. We booked the flight to LAX separately from the deal we found to Vietnam as it would have increased the cost by a couple hundred dollars each. I simply used accrued Alaska Airline points to get to LAX. After miles the flight only cost $16 and some change for the three tickets! The Tickets to Vietnam were $340 a piece bought about 3 months prior. We found a map of the airport and began the journey to the International Terminal. We made our way to Our airline, checked our bags and we were on our way! Inside the terminal, past security we found something to eat. We left before restaurants were open at SeaTac so we were hungry! Remember we had been up since 1:30 at this point.
10:40 am – Food in our bellies, a bathroom break and a stop for water and we were boarding. We were doing it! We were getting nestled in our seats for a 18 ½ hour, one-way flight to Taipei. Ultimate destination – Ho Chi Minh City! Amy and Cort can literally sleep anywhere given the opportunity. I can also, save one place. Yup, an airplane! For whatever the reason I just cannot do it. Come to think of it I have a problem sleeping in almost any mode of transportation that I cannot get undressed. I mean I could I suppose but I think there may be an issue. Do not get me wrong, I try. Man do I try! Sleeping aids, mask and earplugs only let me sleep about 20 minutes out of every hour. Amy and Cort are off in blissful sleep of course. Luckily I have downloaded several shows for the trip so I managed okay. We had a couple good meals also so that helped.
March 6, 2018 6:20pm – We have crossed the international Date Line and are officially a day ahead now. We have about a 1 ½ hour layover in Taipei before the last leg of our flight to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam. We do not have to do anything with our bags (at least we hope) and so we make our way through the airport. We are not officially in Taiwan so we do not have to go through any immigration. We simply follow the signs out for transfers and after a minor screening of our carry on bags, we are back in the International Terminal for Departures. We found some food and a couple beers and we were treated to our first inexpensive Southeast Asian meal. Even at the airport it was considerably less than we were accustomed to. A meal for three and beverages came to about $25 in the airport!!
7:40pm – We wearily board the last leg of our flight from Taipei to Ho Chi Minh City. There was beverage service but no food and we were okay with that as we just ate. Amy and I watched a couple shows together and the time passed pretty quickly. The plane was as comfortable as it could be after so long in a plane.
10:10pm – One more time change and we were here! We had made arrangements for our AirBnb to pick us up from the airport and they had our flight details, so we were set. I had watched a video on YouTube of what to expect when we got to the airport, so we were not completely lost. Immigration was the first stop. We had spent the extra money to get our Visas from the Embassy before we left. Many people flying into Vietnam opt for the Visa on Arrival, but I just wanted to be sure. I had heard of many scams and delays so I figured dealing directly with the Embassy had to better than some faceless online Visa Broker. The lines we not bad and it took us about 20 minutes to que. Passports stamped without a hitch and now it was on to collect our bags.
10:50pm – Waiting for our bags was one of the most entertaining parts of our trip. It could have been the fact that we were exhausted and had been traveling now for over 28 hours, but it was entertaining. When you go to any baggage claim carousel you see a vast variety of luggage. Bright colors and unique identifiers to mark luggage are the norm. An occasional Styrofoam cooler or Rubbermaid container dot the belt rotating around waiting to be claimed. In Vietnam . . . not so much. I would say that more than half of everything we saw were cardboard boxes with enough packing tape to hold King Kong to the Empire States Building! It looked more like a FedEx plant than an airport baggage claim for sure. People were loading a ridiculous amount of boxes on a cart. A talent that seemed to be a part of who they are as we would later find out seeing how they transport about anything on a motorbike. We finally founds our bags and were on our way out.
11:10pm – There is only one way out of the airport in Ho Chi Minh City and it was crowded! We were looking for a guy holding a sign that would take us to our AirBnb. Cort Spotted him almost right away and he led us away to the curb and instructed us to wait while he fetched the van. Our driver was friendly, but spoke almost no English. The AirBnb was highly rated and had great reviews. The transportation from the airport was a part of the room and we appreciated it as we had heard of many scams. Lots of taxi drivers in any country love to take advantage of tired unsuspecting tourists at the airports, so this was just a little piece of mind. I had done some research online and thought I had a pretty good idea where the apartment was in relationship to the airport. I was wrong! What I thought was going to be about a 15 minute trip turned out to be perhaps the most sketchy 45 minutes of our lives. Besides the fact that it took longer than expected, we were driven away from the main part of the city, through alleys and construction sites. There was actually a moment when I wondered if we had travelled all this way only to be left for dead in a construction site and stripped of our backpacks and the little cash we had on us. After one such alley construction section we were all of the sudden at the base of a 5 tower apartment complex and in the parking garage. Our driver parked and hopped out grunting for us to follow.
March 7, 2018 12:05am – We were lead up to the 8th floor and into our amazing 3 bedroom apartment. Before we knew it the driver was gone! Calculating the time we discovered we had been on the road for about 30 hours and sleep was just what we needed! We did not have to be anywhere until 2pm the next day so we hit the rack excited but even more exhausted.
Keep following for more of the adventure!