I wished Duy goodbye before he went to work. I would be gone before he returned from work. After some back and forth texting with Phuong, I arranged my schedule to meet her at 3 in the afternoon. I departed Duy’s apartment around noon. As I did, the lunchtime rush to afternoon classes at the University of Economics was in full swing. I had to wait in line to get a banh mi sandwich from a street vendor.
Duy’s place is not the best located place. It is in the city, but whether I wanted to go to the beach or downtown, I would need to either grab a taxi or walk for 30 minutes. I chose to walk, because, at this point, the sun was shining and I thought it would be cool to cross the Han River on foot. While I was in the center of the bridge, I attempted to take a photo of the dragon bridge. Remember, I warned you that I was a terrible photographer.
My alarm went off at 6:15 am. All of VASCO’s flights back to the mainland were scheduled for the morning, and I had selected one of the earlier options. The early departure (8:10 am) would provide me ample time to transfer to the train station to grab my ticket and board my 12:05 depature for Nha Trang.
I hit snooze and woke up 10 minutes later. Thus began the most needlessly expensive day of my trip.
My flight to Con Dao was supposed to depart shortly before 10 am. I checked out of the Mi Linh hotel with more than ample time. As I walked to the airport, a man with a motorbike — I don’t even think he was a Xe Om driver by trade, just an opportunist — asked me where I was going and said he could get me to the domestic terminal for only 20,000 dong. I felt that was fair and agreed. He practiced his English asking me the typical questions and said “I hope to see you again” as I got off the motorbike in front of the terminal.
The domestic terminal at Tan Son Nhat was undergoing some significant construction, so the Vietnam Airlines check-in counters were separated from the budget airlines check-in counters, and it requires a walk outside on the side of the drop-off zone off the sidewalk in order to walk from one to the other. I had booked my flight through Vietnam Airlines’ web portal, so I started there, but was directed to the other domestic check-in area when they learned of my destination.
In a repeat of the previous morning, Kalaya woke up late and was in a rush. She said goodbye to me in the guest bedroom and we hugged. I had given her a Washington DC shot glass as a gift the previous night.
There was much I wanted to talk to her about, but her rush, reminding me of so much of my own typical morning routine when at home, did not allow the time. So, I wrote it in couchsurfing.org’s messaging system.
Really, it is better that way. I’m far more thorough when writing than I am when discussing things in person. First, I thanked her for opening her home to me and apologized for the phone situation that did not allow us to connect on Sunday. Then, I moved onto the meat.
4 October through 8pm
Shuttle > Bus > Shuttle > Taxi > Airplane > Rail > Foot. That was the plan that would take me from the Mekong Delta to my hotel in Thailand’s capital city. And, for the most part, I stuck to it.
On Friday night, I asked the concierge in the hotel to schedule a shuttle and bus ticket for me back to Saigon. I had told him I preferred at 9am departure, but what he managed was a ticket on the 7am bus to Ho Chi Minh City. That meant I had to be ready for the shuttle at 6am. Once again, I was taking the marvelous Futabus. While Futabus is not the cheapest, it is not substantially more expensive either (you can find Vietnamese intercity bus schedules and prices on vexere.com), and it seems to be the locals’ go-to bus for intercity service. Neither the concierge nor Binh’s family in Ca Mau ever asked me whether I wanted a cheaper carrier. They knew to get me Futabus, due to its reliability and shuttle service.
25 & 26 September
I had never taken the 5A bus to Dulles. The only other time I’d even been to Washington’s major international airport was to pick someone up, and for that I drove out. I suspect the 5A is usually a large bus with a rack for luggage like what I’d seen on the B30 to BWI, the bus to Laguardia in New York, and between the parking lot and terminals at Dulles. But today something was off. When I reached L’enfant Plaza, an older couple was complaining that the previously scheduled bus never arrived and that they were in danger of missing their flight. A bus driver on the 14th Street route guessed that it broke down. When the bus arrived, it was actually two smaller, standard WMATA sized buses instead of the large luggage-oriented bus I had anticipated. We all filed on and I sat in the back.
And then there was the traffic. I-66 was unexpectedly slow moving for 2pm on a Thursday. I never did figure out what caused the mess. And, of course, once the bus got past the Rosslyn stop something in the engine went haywire. It didn’t affect the driving, but it created a very loud pounding sound right behind where I had sat. I now worried that I might miss the flight. Fortunately, once we got onto the Dulles toll road, the traffic disappeared and I arrived with–not plenty– but a safe amount of time to spare. Enough time to snap this photo that is supposed to have the moon in it: Continue Reading