Today the mission was to travel from Chiang Rai (Thailand) to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).
It was a (relatively) shorter flight for us today – Chiang Rai to Ho Chi Minh City was ‘only’ about 3.6 hours in total.
The Chiang Rai airport was interesting for two things (a) that it was a modern, well set up airport, and that (b) our plane was the only one there this morning!
Chiang Rai is still (relatively) less explored in a tourism sense compared to larger cities in Thailand, and I’m sure we only barely scratched the surface there in the few short hours we had.
After takeoff, we got above the cloud layers (and started working around a few storm cells again – though less than the day before). Much of the trip was conducted without visibility to the ground, but the further we flew, the more it cleared up.
After having flown some longer (6-7 hour) sectors on previous days, we both found the ‘shorter’ one today a bit tough, somehow!
Cue the unavoidable rendition of ‘Are we there yet?…’ !!
After departing Thailand, we flew over Laos and Cambodia before crossing into Vietnam.
Over Cambodia, we saw Lake Tonle Sap, at first on the weather radar as a clear dark area, and then out of the window as we passed by. Its an unusual lake system, whose direction of flow changes with the seasons! Its a fascinating story, and its worth reading about it.
After flying another ILS approach, where Pete obligingly made me fly this exacting procedure by hand again (without using the autopilot) so he could make sweat a bit harder, we landed at Ho Chi Minh around midday local time.
After refuelling and securing the aircraft, we went through the process of getting ourselves cleared and out of the airport (which included the issuing of an on the spot visa in this case). We made it to the hotel by around 1.30pm.
We’ll be heading out tonight to look around a bit, and we need to figure out what we’re going to do on our rest day (tomorrow) – there seems no shortage of options in this large, sprawling, vibrant city.
The first impression of this city is that it the roads are like flowing rivers… of motor scooters!
They are everywhere, and it seems like half the population ( at least ) is concurrently out on these devices. There are so many that the roads have lane arrangements intended to (roughly) contain that river of bikes to the outer edge of the road and leave the centre-most lanes for larger vehicles. I can already see that the process of crossing one of these streets will take some mental strength.
The crossing process looks to be somewhat like a game of “Frogger” (for those old enough to have heard of that video game)… where the bikes move around fluidly (you hope!) as you move across the road at 90 degrees to them 🙂
The other impression that struck me, as someone with a history in networking, is the way in which the ‘wiring’ of the city is absolutely on display, up on the street poles.
Masses of cables of all sorts (power, HFC, telephone, you name it) are stuck up in huge bunches along the streets, and at distribution points (often near intersections) are where these cables come together in massive knots.
It looks very much like the telecommunications equivalent of wild-growing jungle vines. Fixing things up if one of these poles gets knocked over must be… ‘entertaining’.
Ho Chi Minh city has clearly got an interesting (wartime) past, and as a city it is visibly one that has multiple layers of that history, with the newer having growing up and above the older.
A stark feature here compared to Chiang Rai is those skyscrapers, structures that would not look out of place in any modern city, and yet quite different to any city we have seen on the trip so far.
I’d not consciously realised the absence of skyscrapers elsewhere in this entire trip, until their presence here reminded me of that.
Well, its great to be here, somewhere neither Pete or I have been before, and we look forward to exploring it a little over the next two nights, before heading onward to Bali.