flight to HCMC with Vietjet Air

A few hours in Saigon

Motivated by our recent stay, my friend offers me to go to HCMC again.I can’t withdraw cash because my card has been ate by a Krungsri ATM. As this bank made me waste 5 days for nothing, i had to order a new one in France. It’s on the way, but i still wait for it. So I entrust my friend to book my plane ticket and the Airbnb. We opt for the Millenium where we reserve 3 nights. We feel like home in this condo. On the program, a party to the Lighthouse, a street tour of bars for farangs, good Vietnamese food and a lot of idleness around the saltwater pool of our modest home.

First signs of dysfunction

Chiang Mai region view by planeFrom Chiang Mai, to get to the airport, I avoid waiting for a hypothetical city bus which will never pass on time and i take a red cab directly. On the road we obviously cross a bus and a second arrives 5 minutes after my arrival at the airport.
At check-in the hostess explains to me that I can not benefit from a new visa exemption because it takes at least 15 days difference between two stays. I answer that it’s perfect because my last trip was exactly 17 days ago. After checking by counting on her 17 fingers she gives me my boarding pass. As in my previous flight, the gate is not the right and it is reported only on a small paper taped to the counter. This first obstacle foiled here I am installed next to the porthole. The plane takes off and immediately the fat English who is installed behind me starts to cough. During the two-hour flight she will cough about 200 times. I suspect she does not put her hand in front of her miasma and notes internally to equip me with a mask for my next trips.

Banged Up Abroad (light version)

At Ho Chi Minh Airport, I quickly head for immigration control and opt for a queue that is very fast. In less than five minutes I am at the ticket office and there the official quickly inspects my passport and gives me a negative sign of the head. He calls one of his colleagues in uniform who accompanies me to the visa office. There, the agent behind the ticket office takes my passport and sends me to sit in the waiting room. An hour or so later, an officer in plain clothes explains to me that the delay between two visits is one month to benefit from a visa exemption. He offers me to pay 130usd to leave the next day or to wait. Curious choice, I offer to buy a visa but he explains that it is not possible. He makes me sit, wait a few minutes and then returns with an officer in uniform. Both guide me to a door, then a long corridor and finally a room in which are placed 5 beds. The agent explains to me that I’m leaving for Chiang Mai the next day by the first flight. I try to reach my friend but the 4g Vietnamese SIM bought during my previous stay no longer works. I manage to connect to the free wifi of the airport but it is unstable and I can only exchange a few messages before my friend embarks. On his side he takes off from Singapore, where he has been properly informed about the visa problem. He managed to buy an emergency one for $ 250. He offers me this solution and puts me in contact with the operator who can solve this problem. But the wifi does not stop cutting, we can communicate only by message and I do not have a credit card. In the end I find myself in the “room of the deportees” with my suitcase and a wifi signal too weak to be able to connect. The air conditioning is strong, it’s cold and I want to smoke. A uniformed guard is sitting at a desk at the entrance of the room, watching football on his smartphone. I ask him if I can smoke, he says ok. I light a cigarette, counting those that remain. I had planned to buy some on arrival at the airport, as a recharge of data…

The trap closes

Control tower HCMC airportAn hour later the plainclothes official comes back and shows me a picture of my passport and a ticket for Chiang Mai the next morning at 10:30. He asks me if I want a Burger King. I choose a menu on his smartphone, leave him cash and ask him to take me also a pack of cigarettes and a data SIM. The SIM it is no and it comes back half an hour later with only a Burger King pocket. This is my first junkfood meal since the first of the year in Berlin. Sustent I try a connection from my tablet. I manage to reach my friend but his attempts to locate me in the airport have been unsuccessful and he is now outside. I tell him to give up.

Companions of misfortune

A little later a black arrives, like me, with his suitcase. He will be sent back to Hong Kong, his passport does not seem “original”. He’s asking me for a cigarette. With a slight pinch to the heart I offer it without letting me see my hesitation of addicted to nicotine and especially in stressful conditions. In the meantime the room was filled with guards. They are now half a dozen and I am reassured not to be the only “guest”. A little later a new deported of African origin joins us. Neither hello nor shit, he moved directly to an electrical outlet to recharge his smartphone. I stuff my cash in my pockets, cover myself with a dubious blanket and protect my eyes from the gaudy glow of neon lights with a scarf. I fall asleep in the sound of machine guns emitted by the smartphone of one of the guards. I programmed my alarm clock around 8:30 am but woke up around 7am by the unpolite black who obviously did not lower the sound of his smartphone. My first idea is to ask him to lower his volume and / or avoid breaking my balls early in the morning. I finally opt for indifference to avoid aggravating a situation that is already not very good. I get up, do some warm-ups, some push-ups, stretch out, and here I am, ready to have a pleasant cup of water with one of my last cigarettes. I really feel like I’m in prison. The guards office is now installed across the door and two guards are sitting face to face, each one staring at their small screens. I smile thinking of my friend who is comfortably seated in our luxury Airbnb.

Back to the starting point

Around 9 am an officer in plain clothes informs me that my flight is at 11:25. He asks me what I want for lunch. I leave him money for a carton of cigarettes, a coffee and a croissant. 30 minutes later he is back with my cigarettes, a coffee full of ice (sic I did not specify that I wanted a hot coffee!) and a croissant stuffed with ham and cheese. I hate cheese, I manage to extract it and swallow this disgusting breakfast before I enjoy a nice cigarette. At around 10:30 the plainclothes officer drove me to my gate. We are accompanied by an armed guard but they have the courtesy of not handcuffing me. I am entitled to a search of luggage before finally being abandoned in the departure lounge. Finally I managed to board and I am informed that I will get my passport back upon my arrival in Chiang Mai. This is indeed the case and a hostess tells me that I have to wait a month to travel to Vietnam again and that next time, it would be nice for me to have a Visa. It is intact, I breathe and breathe again when i  cross the immigration of the airport that greets me with a smile and renews my visa exemption until early October.

The moral of this story is that you always have to check Visa’s stories before taking a plane!

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