I made it. Alive in well in my hotel room right now. Longest journey of my life but it also feels like it went by so quickly. My flight to Chicago felt like it did not even exist. I think I fell asleep before we even took off. However, I had a 4 hour layover in O'Hare so I had some time to kill. To all you people whom I have been trying to convince that a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant exists because I ate there once and it was the best breakfast I ever had but have never been able to find it again: it does exist. Because my gate was right next to it :) :) It is in the C concourse of O'Hare which is very far away from the other concourses so I guess if you never have a flight out of it you will never see it. So I was very happy to say that my last meal in America was a veggie omelet and delicious hashbrowns and toast.
The plane to Hong Kong was massive. Definitely the biggest plane I have ever been on. I can't believe we were able to get that thing in the air. Also made a mental note to never sit on the inside row of a 15 hour flight. I thought I was going to be able to look out the window the whole time, but no. The shade is down for the entire time anyways. And the people next to you will fall asleep and it makes it impossible to be able to get up when you want to. To pass the time I watched the first two movies that played. They were two I have been dying to see anyways: Water for Elephants and Rio. Both as wonderful as I had expected. But even after watching those there was still over 10 hours of flight left. I did a lot of reading and talked to the two people sitting next to me for a little bit who were also going to Saigon. The one guy really helped me by giving me a map of the city and drew a map for me from the airport to the hotel so I could help convince the cab driver that I knew where I was going so he wouldn't rip me off. I unfortunately only slept for a total of 2 hours on the flight. Our row was probably the tiniest one on the whole plane, with no leg room whatsoever and I could tell my pillow had been used before me. Blah.
The food was absolutely disgusting. I probably only consumed a total of 300 calories that whole day. All parts of all dishes were virtually inedible. I pretty much only ate the pretzels they gave us every once in a while. Probably the best part of the flight was that we got complimentary alcoholic beverages. So I, of course, took advantage of the extremely adorable tiny bottles of red wine.
We took an interesting flight pattern. Despite what everyone was thinking, I did not fly over the Pacific Ocean at all. Instead, from Chicago we flew northwest over Canada, over Alaska, almost up to the North Pole until we started heading south over Russia, through China, and then landed in Hong Kong. You would think that on a 15h flight that left at 1PM from Chicago would experience some sort of darkness. But none at all. Every time I opened up the shade at any point, it blinded the whole plane because it was so bright outside. So weird. I am so glad it was light out when we landed in Hong Kong though. We circled the city a few times and it looks absolutely incredible. I really hope I can get over there while I am here. There are hundreds and hundreds of skyscrapers all nestled in the mountains along the the coast. It looked amazing.
I had about 3 hours to kill in the Hong Kong airport. And considering I love airports, I was super excited. The only thing I don't like about airports is hauling luggage around. Thankfully the Hong Kong airport had these wonderful little contraptions that they called trolleys that you put your luggage on and push around. Absolutely no one in the airport carried their luggage. Every airport should have these little things. Going through security at the Hong Kong airport was slightly frightening. I felt like I was on locked up abroad. The line was terribly long, mainly because they were taking apart everyone's bag. They tore apart mine to get a better look at a pair of tweezers. After that, I walked around for a little bit and exchanged my $148 for over 2 million Vietnamese dong. I then went to a little cafe and got a wrap for only $96.6. ( Okay that is Hong Kong dollars. It was only 10 US dollars. ) Then I finally boarded my last flight. It only an hour and a half.
Upon arrival, I was nervous about checking in through customs but it was a breeze. They just stamped my passport and I went on my merry way. This airport also had those little trolley things so I got one of those and went to wait for my luggage. It was very stressful because I was nervous about it making it through 3 flight transfers all the way from Dayton, OH. But there it was. So I loaded up my cart and went to find a cab. When walking out of the airport I felt like I was on the red carpet. Hundreds and hundreds of people waiting outside to pick people up. Nothing like an airport in the US where everyone yells at you for waiting. I managed my way into a cab. Only about $7. I was willing to pay anything just to get to my hotel.
My room is pretty nice. I was pleasantly surprised. It is actually bigger than the ones I stayed in when I was in France. Very clean and the staff is friendly. The TV is in the room gets about 30% of the channels in English. The only American channels it appears to get are Discovery, Animal Planet, and National Geo. The picture quality of them is much less than mediocre. I slept very well though. I was still pretty tired when I woke up this morning but I wanted to make it to the free continental breakfast.
Breakfast was strange yet amazing. I had these yellow noodles and ate them with these bizarre looking scrambled eggs. They had delicious watermelon and pineapple all sliced up and then I had my first taste of Vietnamese coffee. Delicious. They had strange looking meats but I stayed far away from those (don't want to find myself eating Jade).
Then I came back and slept for a little bit longer. It's nice not being in a rush on a vacation. Usually your day is packed with activities but I have 10 months to see everything so I took the time to adjust to the jetlag. After I woke up, it was time to venture outside. And boy is it an adventure out there. The streets are indescribable in words. I am proud to say that I successfully crossed the insane streets several times. Once you do it the first time you aren't as nervous anymore. I have never seen so many motorbikes in all of my life. They are going every different direction and parked all over the place. I explored around for a little bit and found a pho place where I got a giant bowl of noodles and vegetables and a bottle of water for about $1.25. It was incredible. After, I walked around and found a little bakery where I bought a cinnamon bun-like thing for about a quarter. It was incredible and I am mad I didn't get more than 1. I am definitely getting another one before I check out tomorrow.
Now I am relaxing and about to fall asleep soon. Tomorrow I will check out of my hotel and and move into the place I am permanently living. I am excited to meet everyone I am working with as well. I will try to post some pictures some time soon. From what I can tell right now Facebook is blocked so I am probably going to be posting pictures to Picasa, which I like better anyways. I already miss everyone back at home. It is weird to be on a trip by yourself. But tomorrow should be exciting and I will update this again as soon as I can.