The thing about Vietnam, and we probably should have considered this before we decided to go live there for the next little bit, is that it’s not really easy to get to. Vietnam is pretty much the other side of the world. Not a lot of direct flights from Atlanta to Hanoi. And, the options are even fewer when you’re trying very hard to save money and you need to buy the cheapest flight available. That’s how you end up on a 35 hour, 5 city, 3 continent epic journey from Georgia to south east Asia.
Things began well. Andy’s parents dropped us off at Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta at 11.12am on Tuesday, 7 Feb. Our first flight, from Atlanta to NY’s JFK airport, left Atlanta on time at 1.40pm. Andy napped for almost the whole flight. I started the first Harry Potter book (no, I haven’t read them yet… let the mocking ensue!) We landed at JFK early and found our way to our next gate.
Now, here’s the thing about long, multiple-leg trips. It isn’t necessarily the flying that gets you. When you’re actually on the plane there are movies to watch and music to listen to and you can pull a blanket over your head and try to sleep. The flying is fine. It’s the layovers that make you want to cry. We were in JFK for more than four hours. That’s a long-ass time to sit on a hard plastic modular seat and sip water. We took turns walking around the terminal, but there are only so many times you can read the headlines on People and US Weekly (is Demi Moore ok? Everyone seems really concerned about her.) before retreating back to your bum-numbing seat.
On this particular occasion, the Gods of Flight were looking after us. We boarded our Singapore Airlines flight bound for Frankfurt, Germany… on an Airbus A380.
Now, I know this next bit will make me sound like a geek, but I don’t care. We fly a lot and we know the differences between flying on a Boeing 747 and on an Airbus A380. You want the A380. It’s quiet and the movie screens are huge and the seats are way more comfortable. In fact, Andy and I had booked this flight with Singapore Airlines specifically because we knew we’d be on the A380. It’s a little piece of paradise in the sky.
And what made the flight from JFK to Frankfurt even MORE dreamy??? The flight was practically empty! Like, there were rows and rows and rows of empty seats. Andy stretched out across a row of 4 empty seats and I stretched out across a row of 3 seats and we slept for 4 hours on our way across the Atlantic. Bliss.
We landed in snowy and grey Frankfurt and endured another layover. I finished the first Harry Potter book and started on the second. Back home in Georgia we’d managed to scrape together about 7 Euros from our boxes and money my parents had leftover after their vacation in Europe. Just enough to buy us each an espresso. In hindsight, this may have been a mistake. We were tired and preparing for the next, and longest, leg of our trip, and now we were shaky and hyped up on caffeine.
We were not so lucky on the flight from Frankfurt to Singapore. We re-boarded our blessed A380, but this time 200 people joined us. I was in the middle seat with Andy on the aisle and a middle aged German woman by the window. She spoke no English at all, which was kind of nice, actually. I hate chatty seat-mates.
At one point during the completely packed 11 1/2 hour flight I stood up in the aisle to stretch my legs. Whilst I stood there I was rubbing and scratching Andy’s back. The German lady by the window saw me doing this, reached behind her and pulled out a small plastic disc with little raised plastic fingers all over it and indicated that I should use this to rub Andy’s back. I did so, and he smiled at her and said “Thank you.” She said, “Ok. Good! For feet!” I was standing in the aisle at 40,000 feet rubbing my husband’s back with a German woman’s foot massager.
We finally touched down in Singapore, which has maybe the nicest airport I’ve ever been in. We had another layover, 2 1/2 hours this time, before our final flight from Singapore to Hanoi. Exhausted and truly smelly, we found a bench of seats that I stretched out on and read more Harry Potter. I ate a few handful of Craisins, drank a bottle of water and tried my best to ignore the arm rests poking me in the back. The glamour of international travel.
We finally boarded our final flight from Singapore to Hanoi. At this point, the three hour flight felt like nothing! We didn’t sleep at all on the flight. So, that’s approximately 5 hours of sleep in the past 35 hours. I have a great deal of sympathy for new parents. We felt like zombies.
We landed in Hanoi! Finally! Hurrah! Go us! Go us! The visa and immigration process was simple. Our credit cards immediately worked in the ATM’s. We found a taxi and got into town quickly. Then we promptly entered a coma and didn’t wake up for 27 days. Well, maybe not. We did sleep for a long time. Then we awoke, fresh as daisies, and we were in Vietnam! It’s amazing, really. The absolute miraculous magic of flight!