Friday, November 6, 2009

Good Morning Viet Nam

I am of the age when no one much wanted to come to Viet Nam and yet a handful of us girls began our milegae run on United with flights from SFO to SGN. Sure, they may have renamed it Ho Chi Minh City, but to airport people and most of us, this will always be Saigon.

It fell, but it's back...and how.

The trip seemed longer than ever before; I must be getting old. One ambien later, they were just serving the noodles and there were six hours to Hong Kong. Once in Hong Kong we had two and a half hours in the airport, thankfully in a portion of the airport we know so well that we were already dreaming of more noodles at the Taiwan Beef Noodle Company.

Our companion Karen Fawcett, hereafter known as KVF, insisted we go to the Untied Lounge where we got free noodles. I nonetheless insisted on my bubble tea from the Taiwan Noodle Company and ordered warm almond. I was not pleased to instead get the half and half combo of hot tea and coffee and the reminder that when in a foreign country, always point to the carte. Even when people say they understand you; they don't.

I read the new Peter Mayle book on the flight from HKG to SGN. Naturally, or un-naturally as it seems with my Kindle, the Kindle died enroute from SFO to HKG and while I had charged it totally before leaving town, these little suckers do not hold the charge that is advertised. Maybe it burns at a different rate at 39,000 feet. I was reading a fascinating book about the American wine industry after Prohibition and World War II as background for Born to Shop California Wine Country but was happy enough that Sarah finished her book enroute to HKG and then lent it to me. It's also about wine-- The Vintage Caper-- and as a French resident. I find it is especially fun to read.

We arrived in HCMC, did the formalities and went to the luggage carrousels-- there being two different bins, one for premier travellers and one for hoi poloi. I would have thought us in the second category but there was a print out attached to a Unied Airline sign with the names of all the premier/ priority guests listed on it. We were named to Bin 5. Talk about your basic security leak. Needless to day, our luggage-- and everyone e;se's-- came to the other bin, #6. Mine was the last to arrive.

Watching the arrangment of 1/2 suitcases and 1/2 cartons made you wonder just what people were bringing back home...some boxes were marked Dell; others said Home Depot. I was certain I saw my manicurist with a box filled with acrylic nail powder.

Yet the team that really caught my interest was the group of monks, or monkettes, or whatever one calls a female monk. They had shorn heads, wore long brown robes and Eileen Fisher coats that were most chic. They went through the CREW priority lanes and claimed heaps of brown cartons at the airport. Possibly they are manicurists in disquise.

We were smart enough to ask the new InterContinental Asiana Hotel to send a van for us, since the arrival onto the street was much like that in Delhi. Midnight madness...with smoke. Half and hour later we were meeting Georg, the new General Manager and ooohing and aahing over the gorgeous new hotel, in a high rise downtown.

Sarah and I consumed everything in the minibar and then fell into our beds. Visions of tailors all over town danced in my head.

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