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How to travel for 30 hours straight and not go completly insane.

September 12, 2011

There’s something about flying that I hate.

Specifically, it’s everything.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not afraid to fly, and I rather enjoy the sights and sounds of being in the air inside of a plane. It’s just that all of the stuff involved around flying is a big ‘ole pain in my butt. Getting to the airport hours early. Checking in. Going through security. Waiting, waiting, waiting, and standing in line. Cramming myself into seats that are obviously built for an average heighted person. Everything involved in flying is a huge, stressful, hassle.

So, I decided to go to Vietnam. Which, of course, you have to fly to.

I’m not going to pretend to be naïve enough to wonder why I couldn’t fly directly from Pittsburgh to Vietnam, but I’m going to complain about it anyways. After saying goodbye to everybody I had ever known or cared about, I subjected myself to my first airport security screening and boarded a flight to LAX, that, at the time, I thought was pretty long, clocking in at five and a half hours.

I wasn’t concerned about flying or trying to figure things out; I’ve flown by myself before, and consider myself a relatively experienced flier.

Queue problems.

When I hopped off the plane at LAX, I figured I’d just transfer onto my flight for Hong Kong, you know, walk to the next gate like a domestic transfer flight and everything would be hunky-dory. Can you tell that I’ve never flown internationally by myself before?

LAX, of course, is a terribly designed airport, where none of the terminals are connected. So I discovered that I had to leave the Continental terminal, get on the bus to go to the international terminal, and check in with Cathay Pacific in order to get my next two boarding passes. And I had to go through security again, which makes sense. I did, after all, step outside of the airport and enter a new terminal.

After waiting 4ish hours, I got onto my flight for Hong Kong, which was fourteen hours. That was alright, I thought, because I needed to sleep and I had my iPod loaded with podcasts to keep me entertained. Besides, the in-flight movie and tv selection was excellent.

And, you know, for a fourteen hour flight it… wasn’t terrible. Of course, my packing situation left a lot of things to be desired as I had to bring two carryons, including my book bag which was slightly overpacked and didn’t fit well below the seat in front of me, which meant that I had even less leg room than a 6 foot 2 person usually has in economy class.

And, of course, you’d expect a flight from LAX to Hong Kong leaving at 1:50 AM would not be completely full. I certainly did. Then again, I am an idiot. So the entire flight I was wedged between two older men who I didn’t really want to disturb or otherwise anger, because the only thing more fun than a 14 hour flight is a 14 hour flight stuck next to people who don’t like you.

And so… 14 hour later, two or three of which I slept through, we landed in Hong Kong.

And immediately went through security.

Seriously, China, we went through security to get on the plane? What do you think happened in the 14 hours between then and now? What happened to you, China? You used to be cool.

Each step of my trip got more and more surreal: LAX’s international terminal had some recognizable US brand names, but getting out into Hong Kong’s international terminal was some different stuff. I’m not so uncultured that seeing things that aren’t 100% like the way they are in the US scares me, but it’s still a little… different. All those brands, every single piece of US society is like a friendly reminder that things are the same. And they’re gone, and things aren’t.

Anyways, I flew to Saigon/Ho Chi Min City (I’ll try to have a blog post up detailing the differences between the two names), and had to go through customs. My visa checked out, and customs itself was far easier than any of the security screenings I had gone through up until that point. But I had to travel to the domestic terminal in order to board my flight to Da Lat, which meant taking all four of my bags to the next building by myself. Not terrible, but after 20-some hours of traveling I was understandably worn out.

The flight to Da Lat was interesting, as it was on a smaller, prop-engine plane. When we went down the boarding gate we actually got on a bus over to the plane waiting on the tarmac.

Sadly, the weather on Thursday was cloudy (which I would later learn is a trend), so I didn’t get to see much of Vietnam below me as we flew.

So it was a 30 hour trip. But I got here.

And what is ‘here’ like? Well, that’s a story for another day.

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