IESC: Day 1 in Vietnam

After a long day spent traveling, I am writing this from my hotel room in Saigon, before trying to get some sleep. I took the Super Shuttle from my home in San Jose to SFO around 9AM Monday, with one stop to pick up a couple in Los Altos. A quick trip up 101 and I was at SFO by 10:30. I had plenty of time to make it through a light holiday version of TSA security, buy a book, and meet the rest of my team.

Todd Carroll and I met at the gate, and he told me that Sovinti Johnson wasn’t on his flight from Phoenix. We tried calling his cell phone, but his voicemail picked up, a good sign that he was on a later flight. The gate agent confirmed his seat on the SFO to Hong Kong flight had not been cancelled, so we hoped he would make it. After taking our seats, when it looked like the doors were about to close, I asked a flight attendant to page him, and there he was, walking down the narrow airplane aisle. Now that we were ready to go, they closed the doors and pushed back the plane, and then we sat.

Sitting on the tarmac at any airport has become one of those things that you sort of get used to. It is helpful when they tell you why you aren’t moving. After 45 minutes or so, we were told that one of the 747’s four engines wouldn’t start. More sitting, and then they said we are going back to the gate to get the engine starter valve replaced. No estimate, but people reached to get their phones for updating loved ones, and the three of us had our first team meeting away from Intel. Beating all estimates, we were ready to leave shortly after the return to the gate, and we were all thankful that no plane change would be needed. No one seemed to mind that they found engine trouble before leaving, which certainly is better than the alternatives!

Thirteen plus hours, 2 meals, a snack, 5 movies, and several cat naps later, we were ready to see the sunset over China. We landed in Hong Kong at about 7:30 PM local time, some 19 or 20 hours after leaving home, The passport control and transfer went fairly smoothly, and the connecting flight was ready to leave on time, so we were back on schedule.

After arriving in Ho Chi Minh CIty, we learned that not all airport baggage claims are the same. They had more bags than would fit on the conveyor belt, so the airport people kept pulling them off to the side. The area was jammed with luggage carts and passengers trying to navigate the tight area. With some patience, everyone got their bags, with the exception of Sovinti, whose bag we learned was still in San Francisco. A few minutes making arrangements to get the two together again, and we were off in our 20 minute taxi ride to the hotel.

Riding in taxis is always an adventure, and in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh CIty, we were not disappointed. Horns are used a lot, especially with slow motorbikes in front. The horn is basically a warning: “Hey! I am over here!”. Most of the other drivers were unphased by the cacophony, and whether or not it was effective is unclear. I figure it is one of the local customs, like turning on your headlights when it rains. Our driver quickly got us to the hotel safely, and the day was soon coming to an end.

A few minutes later, and we were all checked into the Hotel Oscar Saigon. A complimentary bottled water, and some fresh fruit awaited me. (I peeled the fruit for safety.) After a few minutes checking emails and writing this blog, I think I am ready to get some real sleep, but it is almost noon at home, so who knows how well that will go. Later today, we fly to Hue, where there has been quite a bit of rain and flooding! More on that later.

2 Responses to IESC: Day 1 in Vietnam