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Saigon

Written on: Friday April 6th, 2012

A journal entry from: November 2011 until...

Finally said goodbye to Japan after 4 months that flew by. But I almost didn't.

I booked a flight on Saturday for the Tuesday and arranged my visa to be collected at the airport at Ho Chi Minh City. I needed to have a visa arranged before I left Japan, or I wouldn't be allowed to board my aircraft. According to the website that I used, visas should take 2-3 days, discounting weekends, but 'urgent' requests could be made for an extra fee. Just to be on the safe side I went for a 'super urgent' half day request - meaning that I should have had my visa approved in 4 working hours. THEN I realised that Monday was a public holiday in Vietnam, so I wouldn't get my visa until midday on Tuesday, Vietnam time. My flight was at 3:45PM, but with the 2 hour time difference between Japan and Vietnam, I thought there wouldn't be a problem. Then I did my maths again and realised that the time difference was not in my favour - and that midday Vietnam time was 2:00PM in Japan - so even assuming there were no delays, my flight would be boarding before then.

So... I got to the airport by around 12 - with no sign of the approval letter in my inbox... Then all of the flights from Narita started to get cancelled because of an expected storm with very strong winds. First all the flights leaving after 5:00, then after 4:00... I really didn't know if I was coming or going.

At 1:30 I rang the number in Vietnam to ask about the approval letter - all seemed to be in order - and in fact it was and they sent me the letter at about 1:55 (11:55 local time, just as they said they would). My flight was not cancelled - it was one of the last to leave Narita before all flights were grounded. Phew.

So... Saigon. I was here briefly about 9 years ago, but I spent almost all of that trip in the north of the country. My initial impressions were that the place is now more on-edge. So many people warned me about getting stuff stolen while walking around, taxi-ripoffs etc. I don't know if things are any worse. Having a GPS on one's phone makes it easier to check that a driver is going the right way - and makes it easier to take back alleys with confidence (that's confidence about where you are rather than confidence that you won't get mugged).

I saw a couple of the sites and met up with some Couchsurfers for an iced tea, but was keen to get down to the Mekong Delta, which was the motivation for coming to Vietnam this time. 

 

From A on Apr 7th, 2012

Fantastic Liam - what an adventure!