Ok, if you know me even the slightest bit you knew that would be the title of my first blog from Vietnam.
But I’m getting ahead of myself…
I still had a full day in the Philippines ahead of me first.
After a drunken night and a reconnection with my Filipino “girlfriend” it was a late wakeup today. I had to check out of my room by noon and I waited until the last possible moment to do that.
After making sure I had everything packed, we left the room at precisely 12:00pm to go out for a farewell lunch.
I dropped my backpack at the front desk for a few hours storage and we headed out the door to Phillies.
I had a nice big breakfast and Methzie had chicken curry (of course). I helped her set up her email account as, after today. my Filipino phone number would be no more.
She was quiet and obviously sad but she took it quite well. I think she was happy to just have the one day surprise visit that she wasn’t expecting.
I told her I might, might, be back in May at the end of my trip and it’s true – I might. Although, to be honest, I probably won’t. I’ve spent alot of time in the Philippines and I’m ready for something new.
We said our goodbyes around 2pm and I headed back to the hotel to sit in their lobby as I had a couple of hours to kill before I had to catch a bus to Manila to start my travels to Vietnam.
At 4:30 I hopped on a trike to the bus station and by 5pm I was aboard a Five Star bus heading to the Pasay area in Manila.
It was actually 5 1/2 hours before my flight was to leave but with a 2 hour bus ride, a half hour taxi ride and then having to checkin three hours before my international flight – it adds up.
The bus ride into Manila was non eventful. This was actually my fifth time arriving into Manila since I arrived 25 days ago but I only actually spent one night there. Right there, that should tell you alot about this city.
Of course the bus trip took an hour longer than it should have because of the always ridiculous congestion in Manila.
When I finally disembarked from the bus to catch a taxi to the airport it was already 8pm. My routine for taxis is to put my bags in the back seat and before I close the door, I ask them a simple question: Do you have a meter?
I haven’t actually had an issue with that in the cabs I’ve taken here but I had heard about people not checking and ending up paying a vastly overpriced “flat” fare.
Sure enough, the first taxi I hopped into had no meter and instead just kept repeating “flat rate, flat rate”. He even showed me a flat rate card with all the pricing and there it was – Pasay to Airport for 350 pesos ($9).
Now, I’m sure this works on a lot of suckers out there who have no idea how much it should cost. I, however, was not one of them. I’ve been back and forth in cabs here in Manila a bit over the last few weeks and I knew full well the cab ride should only cost about 100 pesos ($2.50).
I laughed incredulously in the guy’s face and hopped out of the cab. His price immediately dropped to 200 pesos but I just told him no – I wanted a meter.
Another cabbie was more than happy to guide me to his cab right behind that one and the same conversation ensued as he, too, had no meter.
Now I was getting pissed. I hopped out and just started walking up the street figuring if I could just flag down a cab that they would have a meter.
My attempts were in vain though as the traffic was ridiculous so I walked a little further to a hotel. After yet another cab without a meter I finally found one that had one and we were off.
Sure enough – 20 minute ride to the airport – 92.75 pesos. I gave the guy 100 and popped into the International Departure terminal.
The checkin this time was a bit longer probably due to the fact that it was an international flight but once done I had a good hour before boarding would begin and I had one mission for that hour…
Go to Burger King and get a 3 Meat Burger!
I had previously seen billboards and ads for the Pepperoni, Bacon and Beef Burger but Burger Kings here in the Philippines are just not that prevalent.
I was going to stop at one in Angeles but it was so far out of town and then, on a whim, I google searched whether there was one at the Manila Airport and, ta da, there was!
Not only that… it was actually in the terminal I was flying out of!
So, instead of going through to security and the boarding gates, I headed downstairs to the arrivals area where across the way I saw it…
I went in, plopped down my money and grabbed me a nice combo meal for 220 pesos ($6).
Yum! That burger was huge!
Yes, this was the last thing I would eat in the Philippines. Seems kinda wrong but at the same time it was soooooo right!
I had the rest all figured all out – buy a bottled water for the flight, count out 550 pesos ($15) for the international departure tax/terminal fee, and then sell off the rest of my pesos at the money exchange.
All figured out…
Until security made me dump my, still unopened, bottled water! Argh! I had been used to that flying in Europe last year but they hadn’t been making me do that here in the Philippines so I figured I was good with it.
I’m guessing it was because this was an international flight or maybe they just decided to change the rules on a whim cause I know they do that too.
Either way, I had no water and no pesos. But, I did have one US dollar and a store around the departure lounge was more than happy to take it from me in exchange for some water.
At 10:30pm, our flight boarded – on time – unlike the other Cebu airlines flight I took last week.
The flight was a little over 3 hours long and I was extremely lucky to be sat next to another travelling Canadian (from Winnipeg) who was just on the tail end of her months long journey down here.
Eve for some reason was not seated with her travel companions, Sarah, Matt and Rachel. Worked out for me as we ended up chatting for the entire flight.
It sure made time fly as before we knew it we were landing in Hanoi in the dead of night. After a one hour time change we arrived at about 1am.
We deplaned and then had to go through the systematic routine of getting our VOA (Visa on Arrival). For Vietnam you actually have to acquire a letter from one of dozens of online companies out there ahead of time. The letter basically tells your intent of travel and has your travel document info on it.
I got the letter before I left for my trip paying $20 or so.
I handed that in, along with my passport, an extra passport photo and a visa application form and then waited to the side while they looked it over.
About 10 minutes later they held my passport up to the glass and I came over, paid my $45 USD (they only accept US dollars) and collected my passport with visa attached inside.
I was now good to go for 30 days here in Vietnam!
After a quick customs check where the guy eyeballed me up and down, I collected my backpack off the carousel and headed out to the Vietnam night sky.
The hostel I had booked had a driver pickup service for $15US which I opted for and my man was waiting out there with a little sign with my name on it.
Such a great sight to see when you’re arriving in a new country in the dead of night. No need to worry about communicating with taxis and hoping they find your hostel. My guy was dropping me off right in front of the door.
The ride took about a half hour and I dozed off a couple times in the back seat.
The reception here at Little Hanoi Diamond hostel was advertised as 24 hours but when I arrived on the dark, deserted street the entrance was closed with a roll down door. The driver rang the bell and a few minutes later a man inside rolled up the door and let me in.
Yes it was 24 hour reception but really it was two men sleeping on the floor in front of the reception desk basically on call if anyone, like me, should ring the bell at 2 in the morning.
After a quick checkin (the guy was half asleep), he gave me the key to room 601 and told me to go up the stairs and I was bed number 8.
Hmmm… 601… that’s an awfully big number. Sure enough, I had to climb 5 flights of stairs with my heavy backpack at 2 in the morning.
I tried to enter the room quietly but, of course, the door gave up a thunderous squeak as I went in.
After fumbling in my bag to find my flashlight I then did some more fumbling around the room looking at the little numbers on the base of the beds to find mine.
Let me tell you – checking in to a hostel in the dead of night trying to find your way around in the pitch dark is one of those little travelling “joys” all backpackers have to go through at some point.
I tried my damnest to be quiet and couldn’t really do anything but use the bathroom and head straight to bed.
By 3am I was tucked away. It was another long day but I was here!