We’re here. Another long, exhausting day of doing nothing, travelling halfway across the world in one fell swoop.
Left the house at 5:15 Sunday morning with a driver who thought she was trying out for a NASCAR race–we were doing 89 on the freeway as we passed Candlestick. We were early for the plane.
Although there are good flights from SFO to Tokyo, I couldn’t get one. We fly on frequent flier miles; the airlines open up reservations 335 days in advance. 335 days ago, there were no available flights, so we flew to LAX, waited 90 minutes,, then flew right past San Francisco on our way to NRT (Narita airport, which is how you get to Tokyo. All the cool guys identify cities by their airport identifier, so I will too.)
We were seated next to one of the stranger guys I’ve seen. He apparently travels to Vietnam frequently, so he can’t be a total idiot, but he was one of those guy who wants to talk to everybody all the time. “how old were you the first time you flew business class?” is a strange damn question, but that didn’t stop him. Then I notice that he had moved his seat as close as possible to the one in front of him so he could practically put his nose on the screen as he watched the movie. Long flights are boring; having a strange doofus to observe makes the time pass, so I guess it was a good thing.
Landing at NRT at about 4 pm Monday (crossed the date line), Gail looked at our next ticket and said we had until 7:30 for our next, and last, flight. So we went to the Admirals Club to wait (the Admirals club is great, and free if you are travelling first or business class. $500/year if you are not.) We got a drink of water, passed on the free sushi and sandwiches, and fired up the computers (free wi-fi) to play a tournament on Bridge Base.
Just as we were playing the last board, at about 5:55, I heard that we were being page–final boarding for our flight!! We played the last few cards as we unplugged and packed up, grabbed Gail’s cell phone and charger out of the plug and raced for the gate.
JAL had a woman searching for us in the Admirals Club (they knew where we were because you have to check in), two women at the top of the escalator on the way shuttle train to the secondary terminal where our plane was, two more women where the shuttle came to a stop, radios chattering, gate agents ready to take out boarding passes, we made world record time. Got on the plane, threw our bags in the overhead and they buttoned up the doors and off we went.
Why? you are asking. Because this was our boarding pass:
What looks like 7:30 is really 1730–5;30 pm on a 24 hour clock. We were a mere two hours off in our idea of when the plane boarded.
I guess I have to chalk one up for the benefits of security–in the old days they would have just left us, but now they would have to unload all the luggage, find ours, take it off and test it to see if we had planted a bomb. So they held the plane and found us instead.
After the exciting start, the flight from NRT to HAN (Hanoi) was a very uneventful 6 hours. We had a fine meal, with our choice of western casual, French or Asian. Gail had the French, which was a very good steak destroyed with mushroom sauce, I had the western casual, which was an excellent hamburger patty on a beautiful plate with many appetizers and a salad. I’ll get the nerve to try the Asian on this trip, no need to jump right in early.
Clearing customs, we came out into a sea of drivers picking people up and managed to find ours. We collected the two other couple who were on our flight and took the 45 minute drive to the Sofitel Metropole in downtown Hanoi, where we popped half a sleeping pill and fell into bed.
And here we are. The tour starts tomorrow; we have the day to get un-jetlagged, walk around the neighborhood and get, you should pardon the expression, oriented.
More to come.