The Trip Begins
4:25 pm 5/9/2004 Reagan Airport ~ Denver Steiner
Well the trip begineth. I’m sitting at Reagan Airport in Washington DC waiting two more hours for my plane to board. The others have already abandoned me and I’ll meet up with them at JFK International Airport to board the plane on the way to Vietnam.
This is probably tops the list of impulsive decisions I have made in my life only rivaled my decision to join LEAP on a trip to Zimbabwe last summer (2003). Exactly twelve days ago I was busy rushing my visa application off priority mail so that I could join Dung and Hanh Nguyen on a trip to their home in Vietnam along with Abe Kaufman and Holly Showalter. So here I am, $1000 poorer, but on my way.
Yes I am a little nervous… the impending culture shock; being totally immersed in a new culture and not speaking the language, but it will be good; an invaluable experience that may help me later in life.
Expectations… I’m not sure if I have much. Maybe I’m over confident. I’ve traveled the world before. I’ve been in strange places. This is a little different. I’ve never been to Asia. Never been an area that I didn’t know some of the language.
Let the journey begin!
Beginning our flight from JFK to Taipei
Wow, what an overwhelming feeling… sitting on the airplane surrounded primarily by people of a different race than I, and about ten babies sobbing all within a few rows of me. Talk about being overwhelmed. This day has proven to be very interesting – exciting at most times but all filled with the anticipation of entering a completely different culture in a short matter of time. Right now I guess it’s about 8:00 am EST, I’m sitting here on a short layover in Anchorage, Alaska as our plane gets refueled for our next 10 hour leg of the journey to Taipei, Taiwan. Its pretty exciting to be in Alaska even though I’m only in the airport, we did see some pretty cool snow-covered mountain peaks as our plane descended to land. I wonder if I will ever see this area again. Well I guess it is time to board the plane again so I suppose I should get going.
The flight from Taipei to Hanoi
Whew… that was exhilarating. After sitting for another 10 or so hours on China Airlines Flight 011, we embarked on our sprint through the Taipei airport trying to find the elusive gate B1R where our flight for Hanoi was soon leaving from. Our flight from Alaska was late by about half an hour so it did not give us much time at all to get to our next flight. It was a dramatic change as soon as we landed the last flight, we had been sitting nearly nonstop for almost 17 hours surrounded by the smell of some funky kind of ramen noodles and innumerable crying babies. The minute I stepped off the plane I knew I was in a new culture. As Hahn kept reminding me on the way over I would now be the “exotic” one – which is entirely true. I see a few scattered non-Asians on the plane I am definitely in the minority. Our plane again is about to take off, Hanoi is now only 3 hours away so that is good news to hear.
Jet Lag - day 1
5.11.2005 ~ Denver Steiner
We arrived in Hanoi, Vietnam this morning at 10:00am, which was 11pm Eastern Standard Time (5/10). What a crazy trip that started Sunday morning at 10am when we left Harrisonburg headed to the airport and ended 35 hours later when we met Dung’s dad at the airport.
The longest flight took us from JFK in NY to Taipei, Taiwan with a short stop in Anchorage, Alaska. Boarding that flight we were a little nervous after passing ten rows full of infants screaming. It ended up being fine, despite cramped leg room. I had a seat behind, Abe, Holly, Dung, and Hanh who were in the middle isle. Fortunately we each had our own TV set for the 18 hours flight. The Anchorage terminal was interesting highlighted by the 9ft grizzly bear. As we flew out of Anchorage, we could see the beautiful snowcapped mountain horizon as the sky began to light up. The sunrise chased us for the remainer of the flight as we flew west to Taipei.
Arriving in Taipei, we had to run across the airport to our plane’s gate since our JFK flight was slightly late. We were happy to see an almost empty airplane for our last trip with Vietnamese Airlines. I had three seats to stretch out on and slept most of the three hour trip.
At Dung’s house we could really feel the Jet Lag. After a wonderful meal prepared by Dung’s father, aunt, and cousin we decided to crash for a few hours, which ended up being a five hour nap.
This evening we walked around Hanoi. We saw the nearby lake and walked through a park. Before returning home, we stopped for ice cream at place. I ordered coconut, which ended up being a coconut filled with vanilla ice-cream and toppings.
It was a good first day. I’m tired, and feeling the stages of culture shock, but I’m glad to be here and looking forward to a wonderful time.
First impressions of Vietnam:
(1) Traffic and parks are comparable to many Latin American Countries that I’ve visited
(2) Mopeds - Traffic is as crazy as let's say Guatemala City, however mopeds and bicycles replace most cars.
(3) Vendors – I’ve seen several vendors, however there are no high pressured sales such as in Latin America or Zimbabwe.