Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Honeymoon in Vietnam: Jet Lag and Extreme Humidity in Hanoi

Our trip from Rio de Janeiro to Hanoi was long, though not entirely unpleasant. We took South African Airways from Rio to São Paulo, then overnight to Johannesburg. Rico and I spent the night in Joburg and met up with friends Marcia and Dion, who kindly let us dump our giant green suitcase at their house for 16 days so that we wouldn't have to haul it all the way to Vietnam. We ate shwarmas at the Eastgate mall, then went back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep, exhausted from the trip and all of the excitement of the previous weeks.

Despite being super tired, both Rico and I were unfortunately wide awake around midnight. Damn jet-lag. Thankfully there was a good movie on tv, Seven Years in Tibet, and we watched it until the wee hours of the morning. We snacked on cheetos and chocolate from the vending machine, and struggled to get back to sleep.

The following afternoon we headed to the airport to check in for the next stage of our trip. We were flying Malaysia Airlines to Hanoi, via Kuala Lumpur. Rico and I asked for an upgrade at the ticket counter, and the smart manager behind the desk negotiated an extremely reasonable price for both of us to travel business class, as apparently Malaysia Airlines doesn't offer free upgrades, not even to honeymooners.

Rico and I decided to pay the modest fee, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions of our entire trip. Business class was fabulous! Yummy food (I had satay and shrimp curry), endless entertainment (I watched 10 episodes of Ugly Betty), and seats that reclined nearly to a horizontal position.

It was a good thing we traveled in comfort, because Rico was getting a bit of a cold, and I came down with an unfortunate stomach bug. I won't go into too much detail, but I had what my mom and I fondly refer to as 'fart burps'. It's like belching rotten eggs every five minutes for an entire 24-hour period, and is usually accompanied by other, more severe gastro-intestinal symptoms. It is true misery, not only for the person tormented by such noxious gases, but for everyone around them as well.

To illustrate: About an hour before arriving in Kuala Lumpur, Rico woke up and was stretching a bit when I let out one of my silent but rotten burps. Rico turned around and said, with a disgusted look on his face, "Algum filho da puta acaba de peidar muito mal!" Essentially, some asshole just let out a nasty old fart. He looked suspiciously at the slightly overweight gentleman in the row behind us. Unable to hide the truth, I confessed it was my burp that smelled so bad. "Porrrrraaaa!!" Was Rico's response. "Você está podre mesmo!" Good thing we were already married, because I think these burps could have seriously made Rico change his mind!!

Unfortunately, my sick state lasted well through our long layover in Kuala Lumpur and our nearly 3-hour flight to Hanoi. At this point we were both exhausted, I was feeling ill and running to the toilet every 8 minutes or so, and we had massive jet-lag. All we wanted to do was arrive in Vietnam, get some rest, and start to feel like true honeymooners.

When we finally got to Hanoi, we were in for a shock. I used to think Mozambique was the hottest, most miserable and humid place I'd ever experienced. It's much hotter and stickier here than it is on the most scorching summer day in Rio, the previous hot-weather title holder in my experience. Hanoi was on another level. It was like being in an oven, literally. We both gasped for air when we walked out of the airport - not exactly the weather we'd been hoping for, although I can't say we weren't forewarned by fellow travelers who had experienced Vietnam in July.

The air conditioning of the Sofitel was a relief, as was the beautiful marble shower. We were both finally feeling human again, and it was time for our first outing in Hanoi. Our guide, Phong, took us out to dinner at a very beautiful restaurant in the district where all the embassies are. It was in an old French building, and I fell in love with the decor. I believe the name was Studio 51. Even better than the chic decorating scheme was the food. We had a multiple-course meal including banana flower salad, fresh spring rolls with shrimp and pork, stir-friend vegetables, rice with lotus seeds, and soup with cabbage and chicken dumplings. For dessert we had fresh fruit, and a cup of the strongest, sweetest coffee I've had in quite a while.

We went back to the hotel and collapsed into bed, sadly only to wake up at 1am with good old jet-lag. Rico and I were both starving, so we ordered big bowls of pho through room service. We waited patiently until 6am, when the hotel gym opened, and went for an early morning workout. I never would have believed it had someone told me that on my honeymoon I'd be waking up in the pre-dawn hours and working out every morning!

Those first couple of days were difficult, between the jet-lag, the excruciatingly hot weather, and the general exhaustion we had accumulated from the weeks prior to the wedding. We were happy to be in Vietam, though, and had to keep pinching each other to believe that we were actually there, traveling in such luxury, so lucky to be on honeymoon!

Club 51 in Hanoi. I fell in love with the warm color scheme and the black and white photos on the walls.

Dinner was delicious, but I was sooooo tired, and a bit worried about the state of my stomach after being ill on the trip over. Turns out it was all okay, and I was able to enjoy the meal without a problem.

Rico looking tired after a long trip, but definitely satisfied after a good meal.

Our first 4am bowl of pho. I became addicted to that noodle soup! Especially delicious when eaten in the middle of a king-sized bed in a fluffy hotel bathrobe!


NOLAGringa said...

Hmm ... extremely unpleasant humidity? Yup, you're definitely convincing me to buy that ticket to Vietnam. :)

El Erik said...

I laughed very much at this story of the burping, specially because I think I slightly remember talking w Rico and Chocolat about something similar while drinking the night before you guys left on the honeymoon!
Btw, great pics, as always!

Ali la Loca said...

~Nolagringa - Ah, my dear, never fear...July is over!!! Apparently it is the worst month by far. In the spring and fall, weather - especially in the north - is supposed to be quite pleasant. It also gets reeeeeeally cold in Hanoi and the areas near the Chinese border in the winter. I would do it all over again, even if it were another trip in July! Totally worth just have to change clothes about 3x a day!

~El Erik - It was terrible, podre mesmo. Although Rico didn't start out in very good shape, either, after your fabulous last night of saideiras!

Guilherme said...

"Algum filho da puta acaba de peidar muito mal!"

HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! H! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA! HA!