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In Hanoi

I arrived in Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport with nothing extremely noteworthy happening on the flight here. Viet Nam Airlines still leaves a lot to be desired–just so-so food and absolutely no in-flight entertainment. (They said that the system had a mechanical/electrical failure of some sort.) Mostly the cabin attendants were polite and attentive, but one guy was having a bad day. A couple of older Korean guys sat in the seats in front of me, and they seemed a bit goofy to begin with. The attendants handed out Viet Nam immigration forms to fill out at the beginning of the flight and, a bit later, one of the Korean guys tried to hand his passport and form to the aforementioned attendant, for what purpose–who knows? The attendant waved him off and went about his duties. About ten minutes later, the fellow again tried to give his papers to the attendant, who got a bit perturbed and told him (if hes gestures and tone of voice were any indication) that “I don’t do this–You
do it! Don’t ask again.” The Korean guy didn’t.

Then, one of the female attendants handed out lunch menus and about 30 minutes later our previous male attendants came along with the meals. Only then did the two Korean gents open their menus and proceed to discuss the choices with each other. I imagine the conversation was something like:

“How about the fish?”
“I don’t know. You hungry for fish? The beef might be ok?”
“Maybe. What does the beef come with. Let’s see . . . hmmmm.”

The attendant was really getting impatient by this time.

“C’mon fellas. Order already. Why didn’t you look at the menu before? I only got about 150 other passenger to serve. And look, the bald-headed guy behind you is laughing at ya.”

It was humorous, I thought, but I wasn’t laughing out loud. Really.

The Koreans finally ordered their meals and even managed to choose what they wanted to drink after only a little hemming and hawing. The attendant was surly the rest of the flight.

The Sky Cafe in Noi Bai looked the same as last Christmas. See the post below. (I wonder if they keep the decorations up all year round.) However, the rest of the transit area has changed.

I posted previously about the construction at Noi Bai. It’s finished and they opened up some of the usual duty-free shops–Tobacco/Liquor, Confections, Watches–and the rest of the ample concourse went to souvenir shops. But, every . . . single . . one . . . of them is selling the exact same stuff at the exact same over-pricing. What a waste. Another restaurant or two would have been nice; perhaps an Internet Cafe, bar or whatever would have upped the interest factor, but as it is, nobody used any imagination. Ah, well–on to Vientiane.

In Transit

It’s now 2 p.m., Vietnam time, and I’m sitting in a restaurant/internet cafe, one of two in the transit area of the Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. Incongruously, for this Communist country, it would seem, Christmas decorations abound in the restaurant–tinsel, fake candy canes, a plastic tree with blinking lights, and Santas and other decorations attached to the walls. It’s a fairly festive atmosphere, especially with Christmas songs playing in the background–Jingle Bells, Here Comes Santa Claus, Rudolph the RNR and others, but nothing overtly religious. I wonder how much Christmas atmosphere there is in Hanoi itself. In this restaurant in the transit lounge, it’s probably not that surprising since a number of Westerners must wait here for their flights departing out of the country. There were quite a few of us about half an hour ago, but now I’m alone in the place, which is kind of a cross between art-deco and neo-communist chic. As if I would know. (I took a photo and I’ll post it in this entry when I return to Korea.)

Hanoi-Restaurant-w

The flight here was uneventful, though I wouldn’t give Vietnam Airlines the same lofty status I give to Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airlines or Thai Orchid, for example. (No, I’m not name-dropping.) The food was mediocre, the cabin staff kind of stand-offish, and there was no video-on-demand (individual video choice) despite the presence of individual screens in the seatback in front of me. The screens didn’t work and neither did the sound over the headphones, so we were stuck watching “Get Smart” on the overheads without sound. I give them 2 stars out of 5. Maybe I’m getting jaded.

The only interesting things so far have been the restaurant and the immense emptiness of Incheon International Airport at 4:30 in the morning, the time I arrived there. What few people were there at that time were swallowed up by the cavernous departure hall. It seemed like I had the whole place to myself. Next stop, Vientiane. More later.