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Vietnam In Seven Days: Journey To Hanoi

August 13th, 2010 by

The day that I have been looking forward to for the past three months has arrived.  With all bags properly packed, I rode a taxi to the airport.  It had been raining heavily for days so I figured it was better to start the trip as early as possible in order for us to get to the airport at least three hours before our scheduled flight.

Cebu Pacific Airbus A320 Photo by: georgeparrilla

It is important to remember that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the Philippines has three airport terminals. Terminal 1, the old airport, handles all international flights except those under Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.  Terminal 2 is allocated for the exclusive use of Philippine Airlines, serving both international and domestic flights.  The newest terminal, Terminal 3, operates flights under Cebu Pacific as well as several subsidiaries of Philippine Airlines. There is also a terminal fee of PhP 750 for international flights which must be paid before going through Immigration.

After a quick stop at the airport restaurant for dinner, it was time to head to the boarding gate to catch the 11:00 p.m. Cebu Pacific flight to Ho Chi Minh City.  As the plane sashayed along the runway, my head felt as if it would burst from the anticipation of all the wonderful things in store..

The flight lasted for about two hours and touched down on the runway of Tan Son Nhat International Airport a little past midnight. I made a conscious effort to adjust my watch as Vietnam was an hour earlier compared to Manila time.

Arrival procedures were over and done with in an uneventful manner.  After going through customs, I proceeded to the currency exchange counter to convert my US dollars to some Vietnam Dong.  I got the thrill of the moment when I realized that a mere US$ 100 were enough to instantly turn me into millionaire in Vietnam.  With an exchange rate of VND 19, 300 to a US$ 1, I was handed over a total of VND 1, 930, 000!

Dead tired and looking forward to a comfortable bench to park myself for the night while waiting for the connecting flight, I looked for directions that would lead me to the Domestic Terminal. Apparently, the domestic terminal was located right beside the international terminal and I simply had to walk about two hundred metres to get there.  Upon reaching the domestic terminal, I was stunned to discover that all the lights were turned off and the doors were closed.  Since there were no domestic flights scheduled until 6:00am, the entire place was shut down.

The comfortable bench that I was so looking forward to turned into a cold and small metal stool.  Left with no choice, I lied on my back in the hope of catching some sleep as it was only 1:00 a.m.  I did not get to sleep even a wink because the air was a bit humid and there were a lot of mosquitoes. Great thing I remembered to pack some insect repellent.

Tan Son Nhat International Airport Photo by: midorisyu

After waiting for four hours, the lights were turned on and doors of the domestic terminal opened to anxious passengers.  I got to finish check-in formalities for my flight to Hanoi in no time at all.  I proceeded to the boarding gate and there was no need for me to pay any terminal fees for this domestic flight.  Great thing there was free WiFi at the boarding gate so I proceeded to update my online accounts while waiting for my 6:30 a.m. boarding time.  In a couple of minutes, we were given the go signal to board our plane.

The flight to Hanoi from Ho Chi Minh City lasted for two hours.  Even if sleep deprived, I could not help but feel excitement run through my veins the moment we landed in Hanoi.  My hotel, Hanoi Capital Hotel, sent their driver to meet us at the airport to make sure that we didn’t encounter any problems finding our way.  We were charged US$ 16 by the hotel – pretty reasonable considering travel time from the airport to the city took about an hour.

So after traveling for ten straight hours, we finally reached our hotel in Hanoi.  The adventure continues…

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