An Unexpected Delay in Hanoi

Trip Start Jul 30, 2011
Trip End Aug 17, 2011

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Where I stayed
Noi Bai Airport Hotel Hanoi
Read my review - 3/5 stars

Flag of Vietnam  ,
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

    Today I was supposed to continue on my journey and fly into Vientiane, Laos.  That did not happen as I wanted though. 

    At 9:30am, I left the hostel and luckily it is located literally across the street from the bus station.  When I first arrived in Taipei, I arrived at the hostel via a car service.  This time, I cancelled the reservation I had made for this day and took the bus from the hostel to the airport.  The bus took one hour and was pretty uneventful.

    When I arrived at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport, I headed to the Vietnam Airlines counter since I would be using them to get to Laos.  It was then that I had my first near panic.  The lady said I needed a visa to enter Vietnam.  Now, I already knew I needed a visa to enter the country but I was simply connecting in Hanoi and never planned on leaving the airport.  As I explained the situation, I began to worry.  If indeed I needed to have set up a transit visa prior, I was in serious trouble.  Luckily, the lady understood and after that, I was on my way through security and immigration.

    The flight to Hanoi from Taipei was scheduled to take two hours.  It was then going to take another hour from Hanoi to Vientiane.  When we got on the plane, I was one of only three westerners on the flight.  The other two westerners was a couple who taught English in Japan.  Overall though, the flight itself was not particularly full but only about half full.

    Unfortunately, we didn't leave Taipei on time.  Instead, we ended up sitting on the tarmac due to a host of technical problems.  The crew didn't go into details but apparently the air conditioning kept going on and off and that seemingly led to additional issues.  By this time I'm a little worried since I have a rather tight connection in Hanoi but there is nothing I can do.  Eventually it got to a point where everyone had to leave the plane and sit back in the airport.

    Things went from bad to worse.  The technical problem was worse than expected and we ended up being grounded for four hours.  During that time, I talked to the ticket agent about my connecting flight and inability to enter Vietnam without a visa.  The agent said he would look into it.  He got back to me and said Hanoi was informed of my situation and they would let me stay overnight in the city and then fly to Laos in the morning.  This threw a wrench in my plans.  That would only give me a day and a half in Laos but I couldn't do anything about it.  My next order of business was to contact the hotel in Laos to alert them of the situation.  The last thing I wanted was to have them cancel my reservation or charge me.  Of course, since I didn't have my computer, that couldn't happen until I landed in Vietnam and got to a hotel.
    During our grounding in Taipei, we actually got served our meals in the airport.  Eventually, the flight left at 5:30pm and arrived in Hanoi at 7:30pm.  Myself and six Taiwanese nationals all missed the connecting flight to Laos but we were met by a Vietnam Airlines representative and skipped past immigration.  Unfortunately, I had to forfeit my passport and leave it with immigration at the airport for the night.  We were then taken to a nearby hotel which Vietnam Airlines said they would pay for.  It was less than stellar.  The walls were dirty, the bathroom was dingy, and the whole place looked rather substandard but since Vietnam is a Communist country I couldn't expect it to be like the Hilton or anything like that.

    Overall, today was a harrowing, annoying, and unusual day.  On the upside though, if I want to be really technical, I can now add Vietnam to my "countries list."  I was one of the few westerners who probably got into Vietnam without a visa.  Even though I was quite annoyed with Vietnam Airlines for this, I saw little point in complaining to them.  They already had Chinese and Vietnamese nationals yell at them back in Taiwan in two languages.  No point in adding a third language to the mix.

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