Jan Leow's Press Blog

An unfortunate vacation to Hanoi

What was it with Hanoi, Vietnam that makes even planning a trip there perilous? If there was some kind of jinx set upon a place I would most certainly say there was something about that holiday destination that didn’t seem to welcome us.

My company tried to organize a company trip to Hanoi last year, and it didn’t come to pass because of overbooking and the trip was canceled about one week before departure despite having booked in advance. In the end we had to change to Saigon (Ho Chin Minh) instead due to this last minute cancellation. Saigon wasn’t so interesting and in fact, I can’t quite recall what we did there as it didn’t give any memorable lasting impression.

And earlier this year, one of my colleague who was suppose to go to Hanoi for her honeymoon trip was most abruptly canceled because just the night before their departure, her husband was robbed and his most important travel document was taken away. Without his passport, there was no way he could get pass the immigration process. There goes their honeymoon bliss and they ended up in Cameron Highlands instead for their sojourn.

And finally, for this Hari Raya, my dear wife arranged for a family of seven comprising her mom, three aunties, her sister, herself and me. She booked the trip during the MATTA travel fair and she went to quite a trouble searching for the right travel agent for this trip. After settling the details, we were to depart on Hari Raya day itself in the afternoon.

Nearing the date of departure, already there was the incident of miscommunication by the travel agent who did not inform us of the change of flight departure. It was fortunate that we checked about our flight details only to find out with a big surprise that the flight was changed from the afternoon flight to that of an early morning flight! If we didn’t check we would have just gone to the airport at the wrong time and missed the tour altogether.

The morning flight was early, and we had to wake up at an ungodly hour of half past 3 o’clock in the morning, driving down to my in-laws’ house to pick up my wife’s mom and her sister, and aunties and proceeded to the airport with Kenny and his fiancé, Rebecca to accompany us along for the 50km ride to the LCCT terminal.

The flight to Hanoi was smooth and touching down, we met our petite Mandarin speaking Vietnamese “dau you” (tour guide). She had a sad looking expression and had a gentle demeanor. Later we learned that her personal life was not a very joyful one as her military husband was always womanizing around. There was no love in the marriage as it was an arranged marriage that was fixed while she was still attending school. Her parents and her husband’s parents were good friends and neighbour and thus it was decided early on that she would marry her parent’s friend son.

Filial piety and obedience to parents are very much a culture of Vietnamese as do Chinese who practice it. Sometimes the matchmaking works sometimes it doesn’t. In this case it didn’t.

The five days four nights tour went pretty well like clockwork, visiting Ho Chin Minh mausoleum with its grand house and beautiful gardens, traveling to Halong Bay and taking the boat ride and enjoying the picturesque scenery and cool breeze air, watching their famous water puppet show and with the final day going for a small boat ride to the inland version of “Halong Bay” with the steep jagged hills traversed via an inland river network.

The tour was rather tiring with long bus rides traveling from one location to another. The bus driver could not drive very fast sticking to about 40 to 60 kph because of the numerous motorcycles. The motorcycles are one of Vietnam main mode of transportation. Lena said I was like a curious cat staring out the coach window looking at the non-stop traffic of Hanoi’s street watching the bikes buzzed on by.

It was not unlike Malaysia nor was it like Jakarta. They didn’t travel very fast, the streets were thronged with them, and it was much worse during rush hour. And if you were daring enough you might try crossing the busy road with the bikes honking and whizzing around you as you made your way across the road.

And the unhappy part about blogging about this trip was that I was unable to show the various photos and video clip about Hanoi because of my most unfortunate incident on the final day of the tour.

I shouldn’t be crying over spilt milk, what’s done was done. Still there was regret that I should have at least listen to my instinct, the soft whisper of the Holy Spirit who gently, maybe too gently nudged me three times not to go out that night. It was the final day of the tour; I was feeling rather tired and wanted to retire for the night. Lena, her mom, her sister and some members of the tour were still raring to go to make a final bid to maximize their vacation. They wanted to look around the bazaar and do some last minute shopping. My wife asked me to accompany them, sort of like escorting them on this excursion and sort of like a courtesy. However, I should have listened to the spiritual nudge more than I should have listened to my wife and made a fateful lapse of judgment. There was also a nudge to me to change the camera’s memory card and replace it with an empty one and put the SD Card away in the small pocket of the waist pouch which I was wearing. All I did not do and did not listen very well.

After hiring a cab to take us to the Puppet Theater area where we watched the show the day before. The moment we got off the taxi, and off we go trudging the streets of Hanoi. I saw a pretty scene with the bright neon lights and wanted to take shot, and that’s when I realized my waist bag was open and my wallet and digital camera was gone!

“Oh, no! It’s gone!” I cried out loud. The whole group stopped at their tracks and came back to look at my waist bag. But there was nothing that could be done. It all happened in that short 10 minutes walk from the taxi. The perps were so fast, so skilled in their pick pocket technique that even while I was walking they could pick my bag. My mind raced through at the thought of all the effort to capture the scenery and photos, all the memories of the trip was just a wasted effort. I was more upset at losing my photos than my wallet with its contents and digital camera.

It was too late now. The only thing left was to make a police report in Hanoi for the purpose of re-applying for my identity card and driving license. The chances of recovery would be near impossible. There was no need to spoil everyone’s trip, so the ladies went ahead with their shopping spree while the two tour leaders from Malaysia and a local Vietnamese tour guide accompanied to the police station.

After making the report, I waited for the ladies return and switched on my Holy Bible in my handphone and there it was staring straight in my face was this verse: “… and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. – Hebrew 10:34 NIV”

Though this was an unhappy occasion, but there was a lesson learned. I should resolve to train my spiritual ear to listen more carefully because when God speaks, you should very well listen. His wisdom surpasses all of our understanding and our obedience would take us on a better path rather than get mired in the traps of the world.

Sigh. A lesson learned and it was learned in the hard way would serve a lasting impression in my memory. Lots of what if…? But we are not seers, though we should listen when He speaks. You never know when you take a turn at the next corner what will confront you.

Sad thought the trip was, perhaps in all its trouble, it could serve a purpose. Just like Joseph whose calamity was much worse off than mine, he said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)

And so it was, some good would come out of this even though I was not sure what kind of good outcome would happen.

1 thought on “An unfortunate vacation to Hanoi”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blue Captcha Image


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.