Friday, October 28, 2016

Tôi Yêu Việt Nam

Sometimes we all need reminders.

Vadim turns 30 this year and we knew we wanted to go somewhere special to celebrate. Vadim deliberated for months. It's a big world and there are so many places we haven't seen. A combination of cheap ticket prices and a timely recommendation from Olga encouraged us to choose Vietnam.

Because we're preoccupied with finances, we'll likely use this blog to describe what and how we spend in addition to our impressions of the country. We enjoyed documenting our experiences in India and it's a nice way for us to look back on our memories. We've felt lackluster about social media and even picture taking since about 2013 and want to remedy that.

Last winter, we bought a house and with that came plenty of opportunities for spending. It was the perfect time to open a new credit card and meet the usually inaccessible three month spending minimums to accrue maximum rewards. We opened the Chase Sapphire Preferred and used it almost exclusively for remodeling expenses. The card netted us about $630 in travel funds and paid for one of our round trip tickets to Vietnam.
Vadim getting his Dong.
Although we're currently living in Omaha, international tickets are cheaper out of Chicago or Denver, each about a day's drive. Flying out of Chicago also gave us a chance to visit friends and family. We purchased two tickets about 5 weeks in advance of our trip for $1200. Again, one ticket was covered by the credit card rewards.

In terms of paperwork preparation, we had to renew Vadim's expiring passport. Jordan still has a year left on hers, but it's under her old name, so we were careful to book all tickets and visas under that name. As of 2016, U.S. citizens traveling to Vietnam require a one year visa. It was simple to apply for a visa on arrival through the internet. For $18, we were emailed an attachment that entitled us to a visa once we arrived in the country. We paid an additional $270 cash as soon as our flight arrived. It was a simple process.

We left O'Hare on 10/26 and flew on Japanese airline ANA with a four hour layover in Tokyo. Vadim's spent a good amount of time in Japan over the last year, so it was nice for him to show Jordan an airport version of the country. We walked through an origami museum, drank canned coffee, and ate tonkatsu ramen. We also spoke to a pharmacist about travel related indigestion and she happily sold us some probiotics which fixed the situation and will likely assist our guts as we consume too much over the coming weeks.
A neat oragami display inside the international terminal.

I don't think we'll see any of this soon.

Look at that, it's Nina!

After another 6 hour flight, we arrived to Ho Chi Minh City. We had no issues finding our way to the visa on arrival station. Since we arrived late at night, there was no wait for the visa, though we read it's possible during peak times to wait several hours. Customs, too, were a breeze. We used an Uber for the first time and snagged a ride to the hotel for around $3. Our hotel was booked online a few days before arrival for $18 through Agoda, a Malaysian travel site. It's quite incredible how technology has altered travel, even since our last voyage in 2015 to Costa Rica.

Vadim stepped in dogshit on the way to getting late dinner. It's supposed to be lucky, he said.
0100 Dinner, courtesy of minshop. Total cost: $4.89. The pickled fruits (?) were sweet, salty, spicy, and savory with the included powdered seasoning.

Anyhow, we've been here about 16 hours and will update with our latest news soon.