Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Update on Brandon in Vietnam!

Hey, Guess what!? Brandon is in Vietnam! I know most of you reading this already know that, but just in case you didn't, there you go. ;)

For any of you that didn't hear about the fiasco that occurred last Thursday, here's the run down on that:

Brandon went to the airport on time with the other four guys in his group, got through security and everything just fine. However, at the last minute they wouldn't let him on the 4:45 (mountain time) flight to San Francisco (connecting to the flight to Vietnam) because his passport expires April 22nd and to get into Vietnam you need a passport that doesn't expire for at least six months.

This stipulation is buried in the details when you book the flights, but Peter didn't notice when he booked the flight and Brandon didn't notice when he looked over the confirmation. So, Brandon was stranded in SLC and had until about 10:30 (pacific time) to be at the San Francisco airport to make the 12:05 flight with his group. And in the mean time figure out how to get them to let him on that one. He called the Vietnamese consulate (I'm pretty sure the phone numbers for that came from his parents! Woo! Shauna and Duane!) and the man he worked with finally agreed to try and help him (said no at first and then finally called him back randomly and said yes) by sending him an exemption email, but told him it would take a few hours.

Brandon scrambled to find a flight to SFO but couldn't find one. He eventually found one (had to buy a new ticket for that leg) to Oakland and then took a pricey cab across the bay to SFO and met up with his group. The official email exemption came through and though I don't know the details of his interactions with the airport employees at that point, it got him on the flight. I worried for the rest of the day (while he flew across the Pacific to Taiwan and then to Ho Chi Minh City) whether or not it would get him through customs and everything when he finally got to Vietnam, but all of that went smoothly.

"We've only been on this trip for 6 hours, but in those few hours Brandon was blocked from boarding our plane in SLC for a silly reason which resulted in tense phone calls to the emergency line at the Vietnamese consulate, a mad dash in a taxi from Oakland to SFO, and a last minute letter from the Vietnamese minister in DC. But miracle of miracles, this guy is still coming with us! - Grant"

So they left SLC on the 26th and after a layover in Taiwan arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the early evening of the 28th and made their way to Hanoi from there. I'm not entirely sure what happened to the remainder of the 28th and 29th as far as their travel to Hanoi was concerned.

Taiwan International Airport layover (from Grant). Brandon said, "I took a nap on the floor behind a bench in front of the homee kitchen. Yes. I spelled that right. God bless Asia. We are going to try boarding in the next hour. Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I will be in Vietnam and through customs."

Hotel in Hanoi (finally some sleep!) "It took 40 hours, but we made it!" - Grant

View from the Hanoi hotel balcony (from Brandon)

Morning of the the 30th and they set off for Vu Linh where they had a home stay for the evening (a house on stilts next to a rice paddy)! I don't think I heard from them that day, but somewhere along the way this picture was taken.

Proof that they're stopping for food!

Morning of the 31st they set off for Ha Giang. It sounds like somewhere during the 30th Grant had a brief interaction with a water buffalo that resulted in him hurting his arm. Brandon said he headed back to Hanoi the morning of the 31st but I don't know what the plan is as far as he's concerned. Hopefully he rejoins them soon!

Brandon sent me these photos from the 31st,

Lunch in Yen The.

Really nice bungalow with a sit down toilet. ;)
And this one from Clay,

I like this one. :) 
For those of you on facebook, there is also a little tour of the bungalow they're staying in. Beautiful view. They seem to be doing well! Grant also posted a little video from midnight in Hanoi so it seems like he's doing alright.  Brandon said their plan for the evening was to take baths in wooden tubs and get massages. Not a bad way to bring in the new year!

They're approximately 14 hours ahead of me here in Utah (Mountain time) so they should be heading out soon towards Dong Van. More updates to come later!

Note: If you send him facebook messages or emails, try to send them in short snippets (a few sentences). Any more than that and he's not able to see all of them!

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