28.08.2008 - 01.09.2008
I left Atlanta on 8/28 traveling 15 hours to Seoul, S. Korea, changing planes for a 5 hour flight to Saigon arriving at 10:30PM on Friday 8/29. The airport in Seoul, S. Korean was very impressive. The nicest airport I have ever seen. Upscales shops like Dior and US fast food restaurants. I had a couple of hours in the airport and visited a Korean Cultural exhibit that allowed foreigners to decorate a box with rice paper and also get instructions on playing a traditional instrument, similar to a flute. I never mastered making any sound from the flute!
I met an interesting German on the flight to Saigon. He is now living in DC, but has worked all his life abroad spending 18 months in Vietnam in the 1970's in a humanitarian role. He had some interesting stories to tell. He was in Vietnam to moderate a scientific conference and was to be in Saigon as well as Hanoi for a couple of weeks. He was interested in how IBM could assist him in creating an online archive of historical information that the Vietnam government was making public. We arrived on schedule in Saigon and immigration was quick. My visa was for the 30th and I was an 1 1/2 hours early before the 30th. My immigration agent was not inclined to let me in. Not sure what he would do with me. But after some wait and repeated discussion on it not being the 30th, he decided to stamp my passport and let me through. I had arranged a pick up at the airport for the hotel which went smoothly. There were not a lot of horns or noise even though it was a Friday night. It was quieter than I would have expected.
I did not sleep on the plane, but found myself to be very alert. One of my IBM colleagues knocked on my door as soon as I was in the room and we talked for 45 minutes (Peter from Budapest). The next morning I discovered that I had a wonderful balcony with lounge chair and lots of plans. A sauna and an outdoor shower! The view of the city was great and I liked all the tropical plants. I met three of my IBM team for breakfast the next morning. Two were headed for the airport for their flights to Da Nang and Peter and I set out to explore the city. We navigated the streets with the throngs of motor bikes and cars. I learned how to cross the street without being hit, by keeping a steady pace and the vehicles going around you. Visited the market and the Reunification Palace, seat of the S. Vietnamese government.
There are many fake items in the market..North Face backpacks as well as clothing items. The tour of the Reunification Palace included the conference rooms and meeting halls on the first floor as well as the basement which had a war room with maps covering all the walls. They said they were the best maps of Vietnam. A lot of old telecom and office equipment from the 1970's as well as desks. The Presidents war time bedroom was in the basement also.
The weather was very hot in the afternoon and very humid. In the middle of the day there was a shower. The streets are very clean with people sweeping all the time, even in the rain they put on ponchos and continued to sweep. I would like to know if they are hired by the businesses or work for the city government. People greet you as madam.
I left the hotel for my 4PM flight to Da Nang. The taxi left me at the International Terminal instead of the domestic and after some confusion found my way to the correct terminal. On the plane, the lack of sleep hit me and I passed out for the short 1 1/2 hour flight. It is Independence Day (liberation from the French) on Tuesday and many Vietnamese were traveling for the long weekend. The plane was full. I was picked up at the airport by our local contact and taken to our hotel. All the team arrived safely and our accommodations are very nice in a typical Vietnamese business hotel. ($20 a night) with AC, internet and TV. Not a typical hotel for IBM business travelers. We all had a wonderful dinner in the hotel and an opportunity to visit and know each other. Julie Coyne, IBM Australia, responsible for the Corporate Service Corp in SE Asia including the teams in Vietnam and Phillipines was here as well as David Hill from the Australian Business Volunteers.
Sunday - August 31, 2008
We had a breakfast of traditional noodle soup with Vietnamese coffee and tea. Very good. Then we went to the supermarket located in upscale shopping mall a short distance from the hotel. You check your backpacks at a desk before entering. New vegetables and fruits I am not familiar with and lots of fish and items from the sea, squid, sting rays, eels, ducks, frogs are some of the items I recognized.
Back for lunch at the hotel. Rest and then to the local beach for a swim and dinner. Hyatt is building a resort on the beach as well as two other companies. A golf course is also being build. We went to the Furama Resort. A first class luxury holiday hotel. Several of the team were anxious to ride a motor bike and experience the open road and rented bikes for the ride to the beach. I chose the safe route via car. The motor bikes arrived safely and after a swim in the waters of China Beach, we went and had dinner at an open air restaurant. We ate several seafood dishes, as well as rice and french fries.
Our first day in Da Nang comes to an end.
above site for pictures