So I wrote the last post about 10 days ago when I was still pretty fired up about the whole thing. I’ve totally calmed down now and am now more amazed at the whole situation than I am annoyed or frustrated. Not that I was that much of either of those things in the first place. If I’ve learnt anything from my time on this earth and my travel opportunities, it’s that there’s really no point in expending energy getting angry and frustrated when there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about something. Obviously this is easier said then done and I definitely don’t always keep my cool but I think in this situation I did.
We FINALLY arrived in Hong Kong, after a 13 and some change hour flight (change because, as we were so heavily delayed, we couldn’t land straight away when we got there and were put into a holding pattern for another half an hour or so before we could actually get onto the ground). It wasn’t a good flight for me. I didn’t sleep well – I think I got about 4 hours just after dinner and then I flipped between wide awake and totally exhausted for the next however many hours. Also, the guy beside me had exceptionally bad breath and I spent most of the rest of the flight trying to breathe through the sleeve of my hoodie. It was very unpleasant. The only slight relief from this was when he spent half an hour away from his seat, I assume ‘freshening up’. He didn’t brush his teeth at this point by the way. He just sprayed half a can of deo so that when he came back that was all I could smell for half an hour. And then the breath returned in a wafty haze of browny green (in my head anyway).
We got off the plane and everything seemed incredibly organised. There must have been about 30 odd connecting flights off that SAA flight from Hong Kong. And I think that’s even a conservative guess. The ground crew (NOT SAA) at this point did an epic job of wrangling everyone off the flight into sections/areas and leading them off in different directions. For some reason our group (of 9 different connections, being managed by two ground crew) were the last to head out from our landing spot. They lead us all through the airport, down a seemingly endless passage of travelators (WordPress is telling me that’s not a word but the moving walkway things) which we got on an off like lemmings until we finally reached a new area. At this point here were airport staff approaching people with what looked like radar guns to their heads. Turns out it was just a temperature check point. And then on to the next area which had counters with airline staff. At this point I had thought, oh good, they had all of our names and which flights we were meant to be on. We’re flying through this airport like we’re about to be late for our new flights so they must be organised and we’ll be on our way shortly. I need to teach myself not to think such things it seems.
We got there and then we stood. Some people from other connections filled out forms, and got ferried off somewhere else. And we stood. I ran to the bathroom making everyone else who was supposed to be going to Hanoi (there were 6 of us) swear that they wouldn’t let them leave without me. I ran back. And we stood. And then I sat on the floor because it didn’t seem like anything was happening for our group. One couple got annoyed, angry, irate. We were told there were no more flights leaving tonight for Hanoi. Everyone got out their phones to check. Everyone could see that there were other flights leaving for Hanoi. Not flights operated by Vietnam Airways unfortunately. Nobody cares, get us on other flights. Nope, everything’s full. Fill out these immigration forms because you don’t need visas so you can stay the night here and we’ll get you on a flight tomorrow. When tomorrow? Some people have work starting in the morning. They’re not impressed. There’s a flight that goes direct to Hanoi at 7.55am. Ok, cool that sounds good.
Fine, so we fill out our forms, go through immigration and head off to get our luggage. At this point everyone realises their luggage was overweight on the way here and while it would have just been checked through, they’re now going to have to have the fight in another airport and potentially have to pay in forex. The joy extends. We all find our luggage looking abandoned next to the carousel. One girl’s suitcase is now missing a wheel. We stand and wait for the ground crew staff. Who is now a different person because the original person palmed us off on someone else. I think she might have had a small cry. And we stand and wait. And some people sit down. And eventually she comes through and finds us. And she has hotel vouchers and new flights in her hand.She starts running through the hotel details and then she gets to the flights. So you’ll be flying out of Hong Kong at (whatever time it was) in the morning and land in Ho Chi Minh… Fireworks. WHAT? The angry couple are angrier. At this point I could honestly not care less. I actually just want to take my stinky wrinkly clothes off and have a shower, put my feet up, wash my hair and sleep in a real bed, which has already been promised.
Nope, we’re not flying via Ho Chi Minh. No, they can’t get us on the early flight tomorrow morning, it’s fully booked. You can come and wait on standby but there’s no guarantee. Or, we can book you for sure on the morning flight to Ho Chi Minh and then you can change and leave for Hanoi at midday. Ooooor, we can book you to Hanoi via Bangkok tonight but it leaves at 2am (at this point it’s about 7pm and we’ve been sitting in airports or on planes since 2pm the previous day. Everyone’s exhausted and no one even contemplates that option). So now that they’ve booked us all on the wrong flights, they must wait for the supervisor before they can change the bookings. We sit down on the benches. I put my flight induced cankles up on my suitcase. And we wait some more. At 9.30 we finally have confirmation from the ladies that they’ve changed our bookings. We can take our hotel accommodation vouchers and just make sure we’re back here in time for our 2.30pm direct flight to Hanoi. That’s the best they can do. I’m not phased anymore I just want some water, something to eat and preferably glass or three of wine.
So we found our way to the bus stops. Waited for about 20 minutes. Hopped in a bus which took us to the Auberge Discovery Bay Hotel. The dinner buffet is still up and running. Water is being poured at regular intervals. I stuff my face without remorse. Dessert is even better. The bar is closed 😦 It’s probably a sign. The rooms are amazing, the bed even better. I set my alarm thinking I’ll be awake way before then but the combination of a comfy bed, a long trip and block out curtains means I slept till my alarm went off. It was obviously much needed! I also checked the room service menu just out of curiosity to see what wine they had. Expensive. They had expensive wine.
We realised in the morning that the whole hotel was actually really nice. And the weather outside really wasn’t. We got up and went for breakfast at about 10.30. Hopped on the shuttle to the airport at 11.15. Got there without any tickets or proof that we were even booked on the flight but thank goodness that part went smoothly. They didn’t even question the overweight baggage. We think they put something in the system not to mess with us after the previous night and the angry couple. We went straight through security, which made all of us unpack our hand luggage basically down to the last bit and put it out into separate containers so that they could scan it again and go through everything in minute detail. Trying to get that lot back into my backpack was fun and games.
We went straight to our gate and waited for our flight. It boarded late and took off late. They had the smallest wine “glasses” you’ve ever seen.
We landed on time though so that was something. Then we headed through to the Visa queue as we had to do our visas on arrival and lo and behold there were about 200 people sitting on the floor waiting for their visas. We went and handed in our forms and photos (and passports) and then we sat. One guy came back from picking up his visa and said it had only taken two hours… There were two of us waiting at this point. The visas took an hour and a half. We got through immigration easily enough (although the woman who was doing mine was so busy texting someone that she took twice as long as anyone else) and then had to locate our once again abandoned luggage.
We got through, found the poor person who had been waiting for us since our landing time, got in a taxi and headed to the hotel. By the time we reached our final destination it was 6.30pm Vietnam time (which GMT +7, 5 hours ahead of SA). So it was 1.30pm in South Africa and I had been essentially “travelling” for 47 hours (starting from the time we left home to head to the airport).
Suffice it to say that I was very glad to finally be there and that I will probably never fly South African Airways again if I can do anything whatsoever to avoid it!