Choco Pies, socks and sandals, and Spam sandwiches: random scenes from Hanoi International Airport
I should have known that something was bound to go wrong; my travel plans had been moving along all too perfectly ’til this point! Which is when I found myself stuck at Hanoi International Airport for a solid seven hours. Not quite a catastrophe, but sometimes when you’re tired and lonely, it sure seems like one!
But let me rewind. Since I set foot in Colombia months earlier, I had been planning the trip as I went, one leg at a time. So it was a combination of indecisiveness and being “in the moment” that lead to me not having a post-Vietnam game plan. I considered meeting a friend in Japan, but couldn’t justify the expenses for a short trip. There were several cheap flight options to China, but I didn’t have a Visa. Jenn had made prior arrangements to travel to Hong Kong, so I figured I’d tag along. Luckily, I was able to book a reasonably priced last minute flight (the day before… I have definitely become more laid back and go-with-the-flow over the last few months!).
We left Hanoi via taxi, about three hours before our flights left (different airlines, but similar departure times), giving ourselves enough time for the forty five minute ride, plus rush hour traffic. Smooth sailing! But I knew something was amiss when I saw the line snaking around the ticket counter. Sure enough, my flight was delayed by five hours. No further information was given, which was rather frustrating. Unlike my awesome layover in Auckland, New Zealand, it didn’t make sense to leave the HAN airport; it was too late in the evening, it was too far from the city center, and it would have been too expensive. So I resigned myself for a long stay at the airport. HAN is rather small for an international airport, with just one two-storied terminal building. Oddly enough, (and despite the crowds near check-in) the place was completely deserted! It was almost a little spooky!
Jenn kept me company until her flight, and we passed the time snacking on Choco Pies, the Korean version of the Little Debbie snack cakes that were a lunch box staple back in the day. But soon it was time for Jenn to leave (sad face) and I was on my own. All of a sudden, the previously empty terminal started filling with passengers… to the point where all the seats in the waiting area were full!
I spent some time people watching. Socks and sandals sighting! This has always been one of my fashion pet peeves, perhaps because the first blind date I ever went out with showed up wearing socks and sandals…with shorts!
I still had about five hours (!) left to go. I was really regretting the decision not to bring a book with me, and the absence of wifi didn’t help either. So I took a spin around the shops. To say that the selection was very limited is an understatement. And a random combination at that! There were extremely high end stories, such as Ferragamo, interspersed between approximately 20 shops selling the exact same candy, drinks, and Pringles. So, needless to say, the shopping was a bust.
When I walked back to my gate, I noticed that the airline was giving out some free food and beverages to the delayed passengers. By the time I got to the front of the line, the only beverage left was warm soda. Blech. But I took the sandwich, thinking that it was probably for the best to eat some real food. Unfortunately, the sandwich turned out to be the Spam & Mayo special, which I found totally repulsive. I felt terrible wasting food (or should I say “food”), but there are some things I just can’t stomach!
By this point I was getting a little cranky, my back was hurting from carrying my backpack, and I started to feel a little loopy. So loopy, that I started wondering if I had contracted Malaria in Halong Bay. (See, this is when it’s dangerous to be a scientist… you think you’ve contracted all those things you learned about back in Immunology class!). After all the go-go-go of an exciting trip, there comes a time when you just can’t push yourself any more. So I managed to find a seat, and I spent the next two hours in a near catatonic state, watching the clock tick slowly until it was time to board. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in my life!
Needless to say, I was extremely relieved to be onboard that plane after spending seven hours at the airport! Next up, Hong Kong!