Finally, it came the day where I had to leave the country and set off on a new adventure.
I remember as I was finishing packing and weighing my bags how nervous I was to be leaving the country (again) for such an extended time. To be quite frank, I knew very little of Vietnam and how to live there. All I knew is that Vietnam is different. It’s a developing country meaning there will be a stark contrast to what I am used to in America.
My journey began with a trek from Portland to the Seattle airport (flights were cheaper there). A 3 hour train ride to Tukwila was actually pleasant, a pretty easy and comfortable ride. After arriving at the station, I met up with a fellow traveler/co-teacher to Vietnam. We are both doing the same program and happened to live in the area so it worked out great to travel together. It was another 10 minute drive to the airport where TSA and airport security took especially long. Apparently I couldn’t have a aerosols, even in my checked in… “flight hazard.” There goes my shaving cream and bug spray. Cue sadness.
Thirty more minutes of shuffling through security and over two hours of waiting later, we were off to South Korea for our first layover. The planes were decent and I managed, as well as I could for being on a flight for 12 hours. One the plane, I was surprised because our meals were served with real silverware – Korean Bipbimbop!
We arrived and had a long, overnight layover in Seoul. But I lie, because the layover is actually in the Incheon, which was about 30 minutes from Downtown Seoul. I wanted to head out into the city but after some recommendations to stay inside by airport staff, Raychel and I decided to give ourselves a tour of the area. Surprisingly, there are “cultural centers” at the airport specifically designed for foreigners to experience Korean culture. We painted whats called a “Dancheong,” roof tiling that provide symbolic meaning for preventing fires and pests.
Incheon Airport is renouned as one of the best airports in the world. There were free showers to use, tons of food places, even a Taco Bell! We stumble around a bit longer passing time and head to the designated “Nap Area” to crash for the night. In the morning, we board the final flight to Hanoi. A quick five hour flight, and off for another mini adventure. Eight hours wandering in Hanoi, a mango smoothie, some Asian chicken, a sweaty walk around the lake and we were finally headed on yet another six hour transit to the final destination, this time by train.
A total of 51 hours to get from Portland to Vietnam, 23 of which were in transit. I made it. Traveling for me always feels surreal. It never feels like the day has come even while on the plane. It only feels like I have moved to a new country when I have been living there a while. This time, it felt real after just a short few days. I think the extreme humidity and the complete change in culture may have some thing to do with it.
More updates soon,