Rona & Aaron’s Excellent Adventure, Part 2

So we were airborne. Of course the luggage could not have made the flight. We had run over, under, around, and through and the baggage simply could not have been identified and transported that fast. It was all right. There would be another flight that night? the next morning? We’d be fine.

And after about two hours, we landed in Hanoi. We walked to the waiting area where we were met by our local guide. I gave the guide all of our passports, the visa application forms with photos attached, and the visa approval form we had received from the government of Vietnam. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. We could see the office where the visas were being given, see passports opened and visas affixed, but our guide was elusive. So we waited. Did I mention we waited?

After about an hour, she finally came back and we distributed the passports into which had been pasted the visas. Then everyone went through passport control and we met on the other side.

Our guide said we had to go to the lost luggage desk. Reminding her that our luggage was not lost, but tardy, she explained that unless we filed a claim for lost luggage, the luggage would not be transferred to Hanoi. I was to gather up all of the baggage claim checks which they then pasted onto a sheet of paper. Some of my people were hesitant to give up their only proof of every having had a bag, but were reassured when they were told that I would get a copy of the baggage tag page. We were missing 14 pieces of luggage. We had found only 11 baggage claim checks. No one would own up as to having additional ones. They filled out the paperwork only identifying 11 pieces of luggage. As they handed me the paperwork, I opened my ticket holder and found that I was the hold-out. There were the three baggage claim tags. I gave them to the people behind the counter and they copied the sheet for me.

Now about two hours later than we had anticipated, it was time for dinner and everyone was hungry and tired and so we decided to go directly to the restaurant where we would eat rather than to the hotel. We called and made sure that the four Swiss travelers and the one British traveler were brought to the restaurant to meet us.

Finally on the bus, we made our acquaintance with the Hanoi traffic jam– the type that puts everything at a standstill. The major bridge across the Red River was being repaired and construction materials and dug up road surface narrowed it to one lane. But we told people about Vietnam and about Hanoi and most of them were just happy to be finally out of the airport and on our way.

We arrived at the restaurant. It is the “forest” restaurant and it is beautifully decorated with objects that represent the history and folklore of Vietnam. Set in a garden, the wooden building was adorned with cloth and metal and wood wall hangings. The wait staff was dressed in native garb of one of Vietnam’s 54 ethnic minorities. It was beautiful.

What was not beautiful was the fact that our knives, cutting boards, and cooking utensils were in our baggage which was currently homeless in Hong Kong. So there we were with our Hanoi equipment (dishes, silverware, one large pot, and a wooden spatula) unable to prepare dinner.

We sent the local guide out to buy a knife. She had to take a motorcycle ride to get it and meanwhile, the chef was bristling as he wanted to kill the fish already so that he could cook them. Yes, you see when we cook in Vietnam, we need to see the fish whole and intact. So, often the fish are still alive when we meet them. These fish had something of a reprieve as we waited for the knife to appear.

In the end, we ate dinner, enjoyed getting to know each other, and although our luggage was still not with us, we all settled into our hotel that night for some much needed sleep.

Tomorrow: Hanoi as most people never imagined it and what ever happened to the luggage…

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