Greetings from the Sydney airport, where the time is 6:48am (Wednesday) and my flight to Hanoi is apparently now at 2:15pm (Wednesday). I'm here 8 hours early.
I was originally booked on flight departing Sydney on Tuesday at 10:10pm. My itinerary was booked as: SYD --> 3 hour layover in TAIPEI (TAIWAN) --> HANOI (VIETNAM).
Some of you may have heard that Typhoon Maria is hitting Taiwan at the moment. I've learned a decent amount about climate and natural weather phenomena from traveling. For example, I learned the actual definition of a monsoon while in India. Did you know the only thing that distinguishes a typhoon from a hurricane is the region in the world in which it occurs? But yeah, Typhoon Maria is supposed to be pretty bad.
So I wake up Tuesday morning at like 6am – the day of my flight – to an email notification. Email subject line: "Flight Alert." In quotations. I'm like hmm okay, what is this "flight alert" we speak of. I learn the first leg of my flight was rescheduled from 22:10 (10:10pm) Tuesday night to 07:00 Wednesday morning. I check the rest of the itinerary, and the second leg from Taipei to Hanoi has not been re-booked. I jump on China Airlines' website and alerts are popping up in my face like "Hey! Your second leg takes off before your first leg lands! Modify your itinerary ASAP!" and yet zero buttons to modify said itinerary. I download the China Airlines app. It redirects me to the website where there are again zero buttons to rebook my itinerary and I continue to be targeted with pop-up alerts like "Warning! You have -7.45 hours between your flights!" So I call China Airlines. I am greeted by a recording that says "Thank you for calling China Airlines. To speak with a representative, please call back during our convenient business hours of 9am-5pm." Like, wuuuuut??? You're an AIRLINE! I can't wait until 9am to call you, I gotta re-book this shit ASAP!
I had wanted to spend the day in Surry Hills, a neighborhood of Sydney I hadn't yet explored. I headed there and by the time I did, it was 9am. I posted up on a stoop to make a quick call to China Airlines.
"Thank you for calling China Airlines. All our representatives are busy helping other customers. Please wait on the line and we will be with you shortly."
And then, the same message repeated in Chinese: "感谢您致电中国航空公司。 我们所有的代表都在忙着帮助其他客户。 请稍等，我们会尽快与您联系。" // "Gǎnxiè nín zhìdiàn zhōngguó hángkōng gōngsī. Wǒmen suǒyǒu de dàibiǎo dōu zài mángzhe bāngzhù qítā kèhù. Qǐng shāo děng, wǒmen huì jǐnkuài yǔ nín liánxì."
Over, and over, and over, and over.
Guys. Still on hold two hours later, I know how to say "Please wait on the line" in Chinese.
It's now close to noon. I know I have a flight to Taipei, but I don't know how I'm getting out of Taipei once I land there. I'm sitting on this stoop, wasting the day, with 8% phone battery, feeling like I have no resources to get this sorted. I begin to get frustrated to the point of near-tears. Something I've learned about myself: I don't cry often, but almost always when I do it's a result of frustration. I'm just about to hang up when a human picks up. He tells me my second leg has not been re-booked yet, but it totally will be, I just need to go to the airport at 4am before Leg 1 of my flight and sort it out at the China Airlines counter. This is absolutely in no way ideal, but I can live with this.
I set my alarm for 3am this morning. I'm fully packed so I'll be out the door at 3:15 and at the airport by 4.
I wake up. It's 5:16am. I'm like fuuuuuuck. I slept through my alarm. I'll get to the airport 6:30 AT BEST and will not make my 7am flight. This is going to make things harder, since now I'm the one at fault.
I arrive at the airport. China Airlines counter lady tells me "sorry, we've just closed the flight." I explain that I don't even know what the second leg of my itinerary is, I've been calling and searching for non-existent "modify your flight" website buttons, and as of ten minutes ago I got an alert that this leg of flight was delayed again by an hour so I should be able to get on, yeah? But that if I can't get on this one, and I need to be re-booked at my own expense, I'd prefer not to fly through Taipei given the typhoon. But of course, I'll be happy to just get on a flight, seeing as I've just missed the one I was scheduled for. So she's like, okay, let's take a look.
It as this point that I learn I have been re-booked entirely, courtesy of the airline, on a direct flight from SYD to Hanoi. My new flight departs in 8 hours.
Do I need to kill 8 hours at the airport? Yes. Thank G-d I have a BLOG! Or should I say STORY WEBSITE, per this text brought to you by one of my best friends, Lisa:
I know you're all like, why does your phone screen look so weird, right, because it's not an iPhone, it's a Google Pixel, and I LOVE IT, #teampixel, MOLLY SIMON I'm looking at you.
I'm in blogging denial!!! But also kinda in blogging heaven. And I could not be happier about this new flight scenario. And I could not be luckier.
I have this feeling frequently: I am so lucky.
As in, I feel as though the universe conspires in my favor.
Not all the time. I mean, yesterday when I learned I was scheduled to layover in a typhoon-impacted city I was definitely not thinking "wow, how exciting." And yes, I endured a few hours of may-jah frustration waiting for the universe to align. But I directed all my positive energy (<-- LOLLL UGHH SORRYYYY) toward hoping that it would... and it did. I swear the optimism actually matters. And that kindness really does win. I can have a mean ass attitude and it does come out sometimes (hi Mom) but my default mode is assuming positive intent and I swear to G it works. And importantly, it feels better. In the rare instances where an attitude-y approach has worked to achieve the desired outcome, I've still been left feeling like I lost. It's like, cool, I got what I wanted, but why am I THE WORST? So particularly in environments when lots can go wrong (#backpacking)... optimism. Everybody wins.
AnywayzZz, now the real backpacking begins! I hope to see lots of Vietnam, but with only ~3.5 weeks (I'm meeting my family in Portugal on August 9) I'm not sure how much I'll cover. Here's a high level map of the country:
Hanoi, where I'm flying into, is the main city in the north. From what I understand it's really more of a hub for exploring other places in the north. A few hours northwest of Hanoi we have the Sa Pa region... something tells me I'm gonna get stuck there. :) And then a few hours east of Hanoi we have Halong Bay. About half way down the eastern coast of Vietnam we have Hoi An, which is supposed to be a lively little city with an abundance of tailors who can construct absolutely anything. Near Hoi An there is a lesser-traveled-to city called Da Nang. A Vietnamese woman who gave me a manicure in Melbourne told me this is where I should go if I want to see a part of Vietnam with fewer tourists. As we make our way south we have Ho Chi Minh City (aka HCMC, formerly Saigon) and then just south of that, the Mekong Delta which is a region of Vietnam permeated by endless canals and the villages that rest on their banks.
I'm hoping to make my way from all the way North to all the way South, but that's a lot to cover! I don't want to rush. Wanna sink in and get under the skin of these places. I thought about starting in HCMC (since it's closer to Sydney and I'll pass it on the way to Hanoi) but then I recalled something from a past journey. At some point a few years ago, someone told me that whenever traveling it's best to start in the north and move south. Something along the lines of starting at the head, and moving down to the feet – not vice versa. I don't know why this makes sense to me, but it does.
“When traveling to a new country, always start at the head and move down to the feet – not vice versa.”
- A fellow traveler whom I cannot remember, in a place I cannot remember, but whose very sage advice I follow to this day
So as of now, the plan is to end up in the South and fly out of HCMC to meet my family in Portugal. But, we all know how plans go :)
Okay, I'm gonna hit "post" on this one. In between posts I'm trying to be active on Insta with pics and stories. And I'm gonna spend the next few hours on another post with stories about Australia. I'm gonna write that one in an Australian accent. The accent will definitely not be as good as my sister Danielle's Australian accent but will definitely be better than my sister Lizzie's because hers is awful.
I've sort of been thinking of these posts as chapters. Which got me thinking, are there other examples of written content that gets released episodically? Magazines are a relatively analogous example but I think that distribution model only applies to the print versions (correct me if I'm wrong). Also, magazines are self-contained volumes and don't really build on each other. Are there books that get released chapter by chapter? Would that be cool? I'm thinking something like, each post is a chapter or 'episode' and is released at a scheduled time each week. Could that work? Yes? No? I don't even know if I'm into that... thinking on it. Hit me with your thoughts!? Maybe like, in the comments section here or on Facebook. I hated typing that :)