I wake at 2:58AM and turn off the 3:00AM alarm. The kids are pros now and only a few words are spoken to get everyone up and out of our bungalow. We wait outside under the coconut trees to see if the taxi we arranged for last night will show. Headlights appear and we are off. At the airline ticket counter we are told that we must have a visa for Vietnam BEFORE arrival and not upon arrival as I had thought. I am permitted to crawl behind the counter and use one of the airline computers to find a fast visa service online. $850 later we wait for email from the visa bureau while the clock ticks away towards boarding time. The email arrives and I climb back over the baggage conveyer belt to rejoin the line with waiting customers – many of whom have wide eyes and mouths agape at what they’ve witnessed.
After getting through security, we begin our dash to gate 84. Signs show gates increasing to the left and counting down from 13 to the right. We head left and find ourselves quickly facing a dead end. We head the other direction past gate 13, 12, 11, … and then the answer is revealed. Excellent design.
Upon arrival in Danang, we are met by a member from the visa bureau and asked to pay an extra visa processing fee (all part of the normal process), but we hadn’t had time or opportunity to get cash yet. Only cash is accepted of course. I leave behind one of our passports and escort all family members and bags out of the airport, then go in search of an ATM. Trying to withdraw the required 2.8 million Vietnam dong (bucks) was not stress free, but I manage to discern the various limits of cards and extract the required sum. Returning to the airport exit, I lean over the security line and, under the concerned eye of airport security, exchange the cash for my passport. Welcome to Vietnam!
PS: Google maps doesn’t understand Vietnam addresses.