Internal flight: Hanoi ➡️ Dong Hoi
I think the experience of internally flying in Vietnam sums up Vietnamese travel systems quite well.
Before even getting to the airport - flight time changes
In the week leading up to the flight we got several emails indicating time changes for our flight to about an hour prior to the original time.
Firstly - Queuing
In typical English style we started queuing in the longest most immediate queue we came across at the airport. I went to work out whether we were in the correct line. This was pretty tricky but using the process of elimination, the queue we were in appeared to be our best bet. After a while waiting Charlotte decided to double check. She found there was now another aisle open that indicated our flight number so we moved there. We stood in a much shorter queue. However the queue was static, the woman on check in seemed to be stressed and she was moving between different check in desks. Other passengers edged closer and closer to the desk as she side stepped her way along check in. One woman in particular was on a mission to get passed us. She was edging closer behind us with a large trolley. In this moment of madness we decided to laugh it off and stay relaxed.
Secondly - check in.
Once the woman on check in finally settled on one desk she started checking people in quite quickly. When it was our turn I was asked to go through a door with only my ticket in my possession. I left my sister at the desk and wandered through to find some security guards with my bag. I was asked to get the spare phone I had with me out of my large bag and keep it on me for the flight. The next thing was I had to do was sign my name in a book that contained only Vietnamese writing. The security man then proceeded to ask my age and laughed at my answer of 23. Only then was I allowed back to the check in desk.
Thirdly - the delay
Ironically the plane was delayed and the new time was back to the original flight time. As we boarded the flight attendant changed our seat numbers by writing on our tickets. By this point we had become aware of how few people were on the same flight as us. So we thought that the last minute seat change must be the result of this.
Fourthly - the flight
We were directed along the runway toward a small propeller plane. This was probably the moment where we felt least confident in the whole experience of flying in Vietnam. We were rushed onto the plane and we had the quickest turn around from boarding to take off. Before we knew it we were speeding down the runway. The interior of the plane was also very different to planes we were used to. The furnishings seemed smaller and less secure. During the flight the turbulence was quite aggressive but being in such a humid environment we weren’t too worried.
Finally - the flight transfer
As we left the plane we realised that the airport itself was also very small. There was only one baggage belt and when we left the baggage area the lights turned off behind us. It seemed like the airport was shutting after our flight. We found our driver straight away but he seemed to be waiting for something or someone else before taking us. He rushed off to the toilet and on returning still seemed to be on edge. We waited and then he went off to the toilet again. This time he came back with what appeared to be the rest of his family. He introduced us, and his wife was very smiley and friendly despite not speaking English. On the drive to the hostel he dropped his wife and daughter at their house enroute.
All in all, not the most relaxing and efficient trip. But we tried to keep the journey light hearted and not worry too much as things changed. As we spend more and more time in Vietnam we realise that you often just have to go along with the systems and directions you are presented with. Most of the time it all comes together in a sort of organised madness.