It doesn’t matter how often we travel or how prepared we are for any adventure. We always end up with at least one Amazing Race style story. This time it happened during our move from Bangkok to Vietnam.
Our mission: to catch a flight via the budget airline Air Asia from Bangkok to Hanoi departing at 6:30 am.
Our first challenge, was figuring out how to find a taxi to take us from our condo to the airport. We were in a neighborhood where you couldn’t always find a taxi. We couldn’t take the metro system because it was closed that early in the morning. We ended up having to pantomime (act it out) “call a taxi” with the security guards of the condo. We used a piece of paper to write down the time we wanted a taxi (4:15 am) and I pretended to be an airplane using my arms and making sounds with my mouth to indicate where we wanted to go-it worked!
When our alarm went off at 4:00am, we were half asleep and zombie walked downstairs to meet our taxi. We were pretty surprised to find out it was raining-very, very hard. I know, I know-you’re thinking that since I’m from San Diego I think it’s pouring when it’s sprinkling outside. Trust me, I’ve seen crazy storms. This blew them all away. It was as if every single drop of water in the ocean was falling from the sky at that minute. It was the epitome of the words “torrential downpour.” The doorman had a giant table umbrella he was using and helped us get into the taxi so we weren’t completely soaked.
The drive to the airport was short but it was terrifying. The water had filled the streets and since it was dark outside it made it hard for the driver to see the flooded areas. When we arrived at the airport in one piece I thought for sure the worst was over.
I was wrong. Air Asia is a budget airline for Asia which is comparable to Ryan Air and Easy Jet in Europe. We had arrived more than two hours early since it was our first time with this airline. When we walked into the airport it was complete pandemonium. Envision hundreds of people packed into every part of the airport and every single one is yelling or talking as loud as they can. The areas for Air Asia were the most crowded. Every line had more than a hundred people in each of them. Each line winded around the area like a giant snake. It was impossible to find the end of any line. We normally would proceed to the gate because we checked in online, but Air Asia specifically said online that we had to stop by the reservations desk to have our passport scanned. So we kept asking different Air Asia staff which line we should be in to travel to Hanoi. Each staff person sent to a different line. After waiting more than an hour in a line and battling with line-cutters (not on my watch!) we had barely moved up a few feet. It was less than an hour to our flight, we were no closer to having our documents scanned and we still had to get through customs and security before finding our gate!
By 5:50am I couldn’t take the line anymore. I knew we wouldn’t make our flight if we stayed in that line. So again I walked up to an Air Asia employee, I told them our flight was leaving in fourty minutes and we were in a huge line. This employee looked at our tickets and points to a line with only EIGHT people in it. She says that’s the line we should be in.
After getting our documents scanned we run to customs where there is another huge line. We are almost at the front of the customs line when a bunch of people start crowding the line. We are talking major pushing, shoving and trying to cut ahead. I pretty much lost all patience at this point. We had twenty minutes until our flight departs and we still have to finish in customs and get through security. If anyone thought they were going to get ahead of me they were going to have to pry my cold dead body out of their way. I was seeing red and snarling-this seemed to work because no one tried to bump ahead of me anymore.
The security line was the shortest line to get through and didn’t even require removing our liquids from inside the bag. We ran full sprint to our gate which was boarding and somehow made it on board.
The flight was a little over an hour and when we arrived at the Hanoi airport is was the complete opposite of Bangkok. It was as quiet as a library. I could literally hear the stamping sounds from the customs agents. No one was talking loud or making any noise.
We had made it to Vietnam! Read about our night food tour and impressions of Vietnam next.