I don’t actually plan on writing a full journal for this trip, at least in the same way I did for my 2005 round the world trip that is still in tact on this site. My plan this time is to move slowly rather than keep up a blistering pace of seeing all the main tourist sites in each city. So instead of listing all the things I’ve done and giving my impressions of them, I’m thinking I’ll just write about the highlights and the things that strike me as interesting.

Still, just to get things started, I want to file this report from Hanoi – my first stop – so those interested can get a sense for where I am beginning this trek.

Arriving in a time warp

I had a 5:15am wake-up call at the airport Ramada hotel in Portland on the Tuesday morning I left. By 6am I was at the airport, and I discovered that AT&T had already disconnected my mobile phone service, per my request. My flight to San Francisco was an uneventful 2 hours, followed by a 3-hour layover as I waited for my Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo.

We left San Francisco around noon on Wednesday, flying into the sun, and landed in Tokyo on time at sunset on Thursday. The flight was 11 hours, and thanks to a surprisingly comfortable seat (and an empty seat next to me) plus a good selection of on-demand movies that I’d never seen, I arrived feeling pretty good.

The most common anti-jetlag tip I’ve heard is to set your watch to your destination time as you are leaving, and mentally get used to it ASAP. That was really no help in this case, since there seemed to be no relation at all between where I started and where I was heading. But thanks to sunlight the whole way across the Pacific, at least I was still wide-awake.

I only had about an hour until my final flight in the series, and this was definitely going to be the tough one. It’s a surprising 6 hours from Tokyo to Hanoi (basically flying completely across China), and then 2 more time zones to the west. My knees were jammed into the seatback in front of me the whole time, and the fact that I could shift around by an inch or two once in a while was the only thing that kept any blood circulating at all.

Though we left on time, the flight actually took around 7 hours, and I don’t remember ever being quite that uncomfortable on a plane. We all filed into the arrival hall around 11pm (about 25 hours after I left Portland), and the immigration process took a full hour more, thanks to long lines and careful scrutiny even of residents.

I was tired but thrilled to be through customs, and quite happy that my hotel had indeed sent a driver who was waiting for me with a sign with my name on it. My research had told me that taxi and hotel scams at the airport are the single biggest complaint from visitors to Vietnam, and I’ve seen plenty of these elsewhere so I knew I didn’t want to have to run that gauntlet after that series of flights.

About 40 minutes (and US$15 later) I was at the Especen Hotel in central Hanoi, where I had a reservation for at least a week if I wanted. I checked into a basic-but-clean room and then slept for around 4 hours.

Next up, first impressions of Hanoi…

3 thoughts on “Portland to Hanoi in 3 easy steps

  1. With our experience, we sntrogly suggest you to visit the embassy to extend the visa for three months. In this case you are not required to leave the passport with any travel agency in Hanoi.

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