Fly Me to Uncle Ho, Again

December 27th, 2010

Air Asia web checking in LCCT, Kuala Lumpur, didn't do any good for me. First, I had to stand in line for my turn on the touch screen for check in. Second, I was told to stand in line to verify my documents. (This part should have been eliminated.) Third, I went to the Baggage Drop Counter. Two three groups of a father, mother, uncle, auntie, son, daughter, nephew, niece, nanny... where standing in front of me. They were all people from my country. All of them presented the same problem: baggage overweight. To make matters worse, they weren't prepared at all. They looked surprised, dug their purses, took out one bill after another, to pay their overweight charge. The last group in front of me seemed not to have enough cash. One of them went out the line and returned with someone else who brought a big handbag. Now they dug their suitcase, pulled out several sheets of clothes, passed them to the one with a big handbag, close the suitcase, and examine the scale number.

And now, the lady officer asked for their passports. One of the group member turned his head around and shouted. Then some more members came half running with passports in their hands. This scene happened with all the groups standing in front of me. Actually, I thought that passport verification isn't needed anymore at the Baggage Drop Counter.

My turn came. I laid my backpack and tripod on the conveyor belt. 15.3 kilos! Oh, no! I said to myself. I had been despising those in front of me, and now I'm actually doing the same thing?!

"You don't have a visa?" asked the lady officer while turning the pages in my passport. "Where's your visa?"

"Visa?" I asked back. Paused. How can I tell this lady that this is my fifth time to Vietnam and I have never needed a visa before?

"Are you coming back here?" asked the lady officer.

"Of course!" I forgot I was standing in Kuala Lumpur. Having had so many Indonesians queuing in front of me, I thought I was checking in Soekarno Hatta Airport.

"Do you have a return ticket?"

"Yes, I do."

"Can I see it?"

Aaargh. I lowered down my camera backpack, pulled out my laptop bag, pulled the zipper, snatched the papers from inside. While doing that, I mumbled,

"I've never been asked for a return ticket before. No wonder the queue takes so long!"

She examined my e-Air Asia-ticket. "Okay," she said.

I was about to return the ticket back into my laptop bag, because that's where I keep all my paper documents.

"No, no!" said the officer, again. She pointed at my handbag. "Put it here!"

What a nuisance! How ridiculous! Why should I keep an e-ticket in my handbag when it's only due a week later? Wiwik's comment was, "Why does she have to bother where you want to keep your ticket?"

On the contrary, that Air Asia lady officer asked me whether I was coming back 'there', and I said, yes. She should have understood that ny answering yes to her meant I was coming back to Kuala Lumpur. When she examined my ticket, why didn't she asked why it was a ticket to Jakarta, instead of Kuala Lumpur? Aaargh. This Air Asia lady officer must have been having a bad day. Poor madam.

Anyway, I was happy enough that she didn't charge me for the 0.3 overweight baggage. But most of all, I should be grateful because this Air Asia flight wasn't delayed, again.

In Ho Chi Minh City a.k.a. Saigon we arrived safe and sound. What a big contrast with Kuala Lumpur, the city we had just left. The roaring motorcycles in front of my eyes and the honk in my ears convinced me that I was in Vietnam. Here I am, again.

Our hotel, Thanh Binh, was only 10 minutes away from Tan Son Nhat Airport. This was my only reason for choosing this hotel, because there was only one flight from Kuala Lumpur to Saigon which is at night and I wanted to catch the first flight to Dalat the next morning in order to have as plenty of time in Dalat.

The room was clean and comfortable. Noise from the street did not enter the room.

Thanh Binh Hotel in Saigon had  two different sides. One side facing the hustle and bustle of Saigon, another side facing an alley of Vietnamese peaceful life. People sitting on short stools under the night breeze enjoying a bowl of hot pho, children playing with dad in front of their shop, women chatting loudly with a neighbor from next door... what a different scene from just 20 years ago.

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