Vietnam Hanoi: Day 1 Flight and Arrival

With a sense of uneasiness, I boarded our Silkair flight (though we would be flying on a Singapore Airlines plane) at Changi Airport Terminal 2, heading to Hanoi, Vietnam.

We were to take the Morning flight from Singapore and arrive in the afternoon in Hanoi, in time for our check-in at the hotel.

For SIA Flights, we had to check in early with baggage, 2.5 hours, before departure. Hence, we headed there very early and had a little breakfast plus some playtime for Dar in Terminal 2’s family zone.

Timings:

Depart Singapore to Hanoi : 0920 hrs (Singapore time)
Arrive Hanoi: 1140 hrs (Hanoi time which is 1 hour behind)
Airport Transfer to Hotel (Old Quarter) : 45 mins to 1 hour

So why the ‘uneasiness’?

While researching on Hanoi, we read so much negativity about it from travelers (scams, unfriendly locals, terrifying traffic) that we started having an unfavorable impression of the city even before we had set foot on it. Our main aim was to visit the UNESCO site, Ha Long Bay, but we would like to tour some parts of the city too since we had already spent time traveling there.

Will it be really as bad as what others have mentioned? Or were many of their experiences a result of their recklessness?

With sufficient preparations and knowledge acquired before we left Singapore (see “Tips and Experiences in Hanoi” post), we hoped we were well-prepared for the culture shock.

I hope everything will be fine. Really. Especially with our 6 year old boy.

The last thing I want, is a bad accident from the countless number of motorcyclists roaming along the streets. *rapidly shakes head to clear away the clouds of pessimism from my head* “Take a deep breath!” I told myself. “With our experiences, I’m sure everything will go just fine and I will be laughing at myself for all the worrisome thoughts at the end of our trip!”

SIA Flight

Our short 3.5 hour flight was smooth and I managed to finish watching the gruesome ‘300: Rise of an Empire’ movie on board the SIA plane. It has been a while since we have taken a full-fledged flight so that inflight movie has become a fresh experience for us.

Our boy was served the kid’s meal first which was great as he needed more time to finish his food.

While on board, we flipped through the inflight shopping catalog, looking for a plane model as memento for our SIA flight (as Dar loves transport). I found it but thinking that it would be more convenient to buy it on our flight back (so that we won’t have to carry it around during our trip), I decided to buy it later. It turned out to be a bad decision when the air stewardesses informed us that it was sold out during our return flight -_- “.

Arrival at Hanoi Airport

Upon touchdown at Hanoi Airport (Noi Bai), we headed out to the immigration area and queued up for our passport check. The surrounding air was a little humid and I wondered if the air-conditioning was functioning well. Fortunately, the processing was prompt (as Singaporeans did not need a Visa to enter) and we moved over to the baggage collection conveyer belt in a short while.

Luggage Collection

This was when we had our first minor scare, when our necks had been stretching long for tens of minutes with no sign of our checked-in luggage.

“Has it gone to the wrong airport?” “Had someone else taken our luggage before we arrived at the belt?” These were our sub-optimistic thoughts as we began to worry that our 1-week holiday would be ruined here right at the start of our trip. Finally, a glimpse of our yellow luggage (the first time I was so happy to see our beloved luggage!) knocked all our negative thoughts away as we quickly lifted it up and headed towards the Arrivals hall.

Our flight had already been delayed and after waiting for so long for our luggage, we wondered if our arranged driver would still be there waiting for us patiently?

Taxi Transport 

A large crowd stood before us as we walked into the Arrivals hall, with many holding placards of the names of people whom they were waiting for. With rapidly moving eyes, we scanned through the placards for my name. “Uh-ah!” I exclaimed softly to Cat as I spotted ‘my’ placard, held up by a middle-aged man standing right in the middle.

We went up to him and when I was just about to introduce myself, I noticed that our hotel’s name was not indicated on his placard. “What if this is for another person with the same name?” I thought. “Or worse, what if this is a scam?” I have read about scams where victims were taken away by a complete stranger and money was extorted.

“Are you Vin?” The man spoke first, as he noticed us walking towards him. “Um… Which hotel are you from?” I quickly replied, without answering his question. I need to be assertive too so that I would not get led by him in this conversation, in case he’s a highly trained scam specialist. He has limited knowledge of English however, as he fumbled over my question. Fortunately, some local bystanders were helpful and translated my question to him. “Ca… Calypso…” He then quickly replied with the ‘correct answer’.

Satisfied, I nodded, acknowledged our identities and started following him towards his vehicle. He offered to carry our luggage but we preferred to do it ourselves, for safety reasons (well, just to be doubly safe).

“Please wait for a while.” I raised my palm and stopped him, remembering that we needed to get some local currency from the airport first.Despite our language barrier, he easily understood my universally accepted ‘STOP’ hand signal and waited in the Arrivals hall with Cat and Dar, while I scouted the several money changers in the hall.

I soon found one that offered the best rates (their rates were all competitive though) and got ourselves 1.648 million VND (Yeah! I have just become a millionaire!) for our SGD100. That should be sufficient for our initial expenses.

I then returned to my family and we followed the driver. His vehicle was parked outside across the Hanoi Airport in a car park and we had to take care to cross the road, pulling our luggage and our boy.

The journey took about 45 minutes and although it was our first visit to Vietnam, we felt that it somehow resembles our neighbouring country.

[Cat] First Impressions:

// Hanoi’s local time is 1 hour behind Singapore’s. We had to change the timing on our watches and handphones.

// It was 12:30pm when we started the taxi transfer journey. We were surprised by the sight of the bare muddy roads and construction works along the stretch right out of the airport. I took out my little black journal and started writing about the things I saw. Even though we were in a nice comfy MPV car with a higher view than normal sedans, the entire ride was bumpy due to the road and I struggled to write, resulting in squiggly handwriting.

// There were endless padi fields at the sides of the road and I could see farmers working in it.

// The weather was cloudy and along the way, it gave me the impression of traveling in the rural areas of Malaysia with big billboards signs and large farming areas.

// The driver is sounding his horns every few minutes to warn the cars in front of him. He also drives very slowly at maximum 40km/hr and had to give way constantly to motorcycles. Motorcycles rule the roads here as they are the main transport vehicles.

// The buildings here are interesting. Majority of them are at least three storey tall and narrow in width.

// We noted that many Vietnamese women were covered up on their motorbikes – with jackets for sun protection and face masks from the air pollution.  Though there were also some that didn’t and wore dresses or high heels on motorbikes. Vietnamese men didn’t bother as much about sun protection or pollution. Some didn’t even wear a safety helmet.

// We reached the hotel at 1.30pm. Check-in time is at 2pm.

Scenes along the way:

We had seen pictures of the Old Quarter and knew we were nearing our destination when we started entering into an area with narrower roads. Plenty of motorcycles seemed to be moving in all directions, many shops lined the streets and people were walking about on the road. We were also seeing cyclos, motorcycles, taxis and cars sharing the same narrow space.

True enough, our driver took out his phone and although I do not understand Vietnamese, I could tell he was informing our hotel that we were arriving.

Few minutes later, the car stopped along a busy road and we knew we had arrived, with a hotel staff standing outside the vehicle to welcome us and help us with our luggage. Since our hotel, Calypso Suites Hotel, is situated in a narrow alley where cars are not allowed to pass, we had to navigate across the road and walk through the alley. A small inconvenience for a quieter hotel room with good service.

Once at the hotel lobby, we were warmly welcomed by the staff and attended to personally by a hotel manager. We sat on the sofa with mango juice served to us while the manager oriented us to Hanoi Old Quarter. She presented a nicely printed coloured map and went through a list of DOs and DON’Ts (see Tips and Experiences in Hanoi post). This would really be very helpful to most of the tourists in this part of Hanoi.

We were then brought up to our room at Level 5, where we could finally rest our tired bodies and take a short rest before we proceed with our exploration of the Old Quarter and get our first taste of Vietnamese food.

( Read more about our review of the hotel in “Hotel Review – Hanoi Calypso Suites” )

{ Next: Watch a Water Puppet Show in Hanoi } 

  1. Tommy October 16, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    Hi Vin and Cat,

    Will be following your Hanoi adventures.. 🙂

    Brings back memories of our Hanoi trip last year.. 🙂

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