Monday, October 16, 2006

Hong Kong to Saigon

Monday was the first day we had where all we had to do was travel. No meetings, no fairs, no need to get dressed up, no need to rush around like crazy people. We spent the morning packing our many bags of luggage and boxes of fair materials, but were able to take our time doing it since we weren’t leaving for the airport until about 1:15 PM.

We had a nice bus ride to the airport with plenty of room to stretch out for the 45-minute trek from the hotel. It would have been a good day to stay in Hong Kong since it was a bit more sunny and clear than the past few days. The air was pretty decent on the day we arrived from Guangzhou, but has been extremely smoggy and murky ever since.

Getting through the Hong Kong airport was pretty much a breeze. Security is not very tight at all. No need to get undressed, no need to remove all forms of metal or fake metal from your person before walking through the scanner, bags are given the most cursory look on a video monitor (no opening and searching), and the employees are actually polite and friendly. In other words, it’s nothing like trying to get on a plane in the U.S.

The flight to Saigon was very nice aboard Cathay Pacific Airways. They are a top-ranked company in all of Asia. Not just a top-ranked airline, but a top-ranked company. This flight was only two hours long but they still served a full meal, with complementary beverages (all types), and a very friendly manner of dealing with you. Again, why is this so hard.

BTW, you can Ho Chi Minh City me all you want, but many people here still call it Saigon and many places still include Saigon in the name including the Saigon Airport and the Legend Hotel Saigon where we are staying. Besides, Charlie Daniels has never re-recorded his song to sing about being “Still in Ho Chi Minh City.”

It was dark when we arrived so we really didn’t get to see much of the city on the ride to the hotel from the airport. We got a large van-type taxi/limo to take us to the hotel. There were three of us and 12 bags and boxes. It took about 35-40 minutes to get from point A to point B. Cost? Exactly $12 American. The driver was happy with his VN$50,000 tip (about 3 bucks). Yes, the exchange rate is over 16,000 Vietnam dollars to one U.S. dollar. At the hotel desk I exchanged some money and walked away with a cool $3.2 million in my pocket.

Rita went shopping first thing with some of her new AACC friends. She has a real hard time joining a group activity … NOT. All of the days here in Saigon are scheduled very tightly. We are going to make an executive decision to skip the least important event in order to get to see some of the sights of the city. We will still be at all of the most important functions, but I really don’t want to spend all day and all night of each day in meeting rooms or at other official functions. Gee whiz, there needs to be a little bit of personal time allowed.

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