Monday, February 05, 2007

One Week In

It's been about one week in on our grand Vina adventure. We stopped over for a few days in HCMC (our first time) before heading to Hanoi. Our HCMC hotel wasn't five bucks as I said in an earlier post - there are too many zeros when calculating VND currency, I misplaced one - but rather, fifty bucks. Pretty nice place, and I would stay there again; minibar beer was like $2, but we didn't have any.

So what are some initial impressions?
  • United Airlines doesn't use skycaps when going internationally, so no tip for you;
  • a 50lb baggage limit is woefully inadequate when one is moving clear across the world; overweight baggage fees are still lower than air freight shipping, however;
  • a 15 hour flight without in-seat video monitors is ridiculous for 1997, not to mention 2007 - no wonder UA is having financial issues;
  • without fail, the entire plane is quiet except for the row directly behind us; child under five? Check. Kicking your seat? Check. Loud conversation? Check. Pesky father who at every opportunity attempts to double up on the items ladled out by the flight staff? Check. All that noise in Vietnamese? Priceless.
  • HCMC just seemed a bit bigger than HAN, without the geographical interest;
  • Vietnam Airlines' baggage limits are even lower, at 20kg (44 lbs for those not metrically inclined), but the overage fees were really reasonable, something like $5 for 10kgs;
  • it's nice and temperate this time of year in HAN; the locals were moto'ing around in wool caps and scarfs, we were walking around peeled down to polo shirts. A few days later, we were glad we brought some light sweaters. Hmm.. turning local already?
  • the toilets have two flush buttons, one for a full flush and one for a half flush; a good compromise between conservation and effectiveness, a better balance than those 1.7gal toilets mandated in new Stateside construction;
  • the toilet paper is roughly 75% as wide;
  • the serving sizes are appropriate, which is to say they are small; maybe I just like the food here or something, but I haven't left things on the plate like I usually do; the serving sizes might explain the toilet paper issue;
  • Went to MegaStar Cinema - I could get used to being ushered to assigned seating in a movie theatre - after all, it is a theatre;
  • I didn't notice the air pollution this past summer, but after a few days walking around, I'm breathing heavily through congested lungs; the city provides a electronically updated air quality billboard at a major intersection we pass by almost daily - so far, it's only displayed big green smiley emoticons for good air quality. Uh-oh.
  • found the Lang Ha golf driving range; it looked like something out of Van Cortland park in the Bronx, which is to say bare, ugly and grotty. Rates were like the DC area, unfortunately. I'm sure there are nicer joints in town;
We met some new acquaintances who gave us advice about working and living here, and they noted with admiration how calm we were about the whole thing. I hope our calmness is predicated on an open, easy going attitude, and not naviete. We'll see, I guess.

1 comment:

thong said...

D - Please do hit me up when you both arrive in Hanoi. And yes, my lungs could not handle HCMC. Hanoi, lakes and all, will suit you well.