From Shanghai I booked a flight to Hanoi via Hong Kong. I know I said I was going to New Zealand, but the funds are a little tight this year, so I ended up cancelling that flight and heading to the last Southeast Asian country I hadn’t been to: Vietnam. Now Vietnam doesn’t make getting a visa as easy as the rest of SE Asia. You need to apply online for a pre-approved visa on arrival letter. Once you have this stamped letter you then give it to the visa office at the airport and then they will issue you your visa. I was stuck behind a bunch of tour groups in this process, so it took about two hours waiting at the airport to finally get my passport with my 30 day visa back.
After that I finally made it down to baggage claim only to discover my bag wasn’t there. I checked to see if they maybe picked it up and stashed it somewhere, but nope. Not this again! In my small experience these Chinese airlines suck with transferring luggage. I filed a report with the lost luggage desk, gave them my email, my hotel’s phone number and address and headed on my way. My flight was two different airlines (China Eastern + Jetstar) and the only number they gave me was the Hanoi airport’s lost and found department. I also didn’t have a working phone number, so all contact would have to be through my hotel. It was not very reassuring.
I hopped on the bus to the city center and found my way to the hotel during a slight drizzle. It turns out this drizzle would not stop for the next three days I was there! So needless to say, I didn’t enjoy Hanoi very much. It literally did not stop raining/drizzling the entire time I was there. The weird thing is January is supposed to have the least precipitation out of any month in Vietnam. In the north it’s supposed to be kind of cold, and maybe cloudy or foggy, but not rainy! So under normal circumstances I would have left as soon as possible, as Hanoi isn’t really that interesting of place. But given my current predicament I was basically trapped! After more than 48 hours I had heard absolutely nothing from anyone. No emails, no phone calls the hotel, no nothing. I was able to call Jetstar’s Vietnam office and they just told me to call China Eastern! The lost and found department at the airport also had nothing, or at least that’s what I thought they were telling me in very broken English. Hmm.
Finally in the afternoon of the third day the hotel reception told me my backpack had showed up. What?! No phone calls or emails or anything? But okay! I couldn’t really complain, I was just glad to be able to get the hell out of this city. I was starting to go a little bit nuts. Originally I had planned on seeing some other famous sights in the North (Halong Bay, Sapa), but this weather was so unseasonably rainy and miserable that I couldn’t deal with it any longer. I had also considered buying/renting a motorbike and driving it all the way down to Ho Chi Minh City. But driving in a cold drizzle for the first week of the trip sounded awful, so screw that too. I took a local bus to a place called Ninh Binh, 100km south of Hanoi, in a fruitless search for greener pastures.