Friday, September 18, 2009

Chronicles of the Nolen's in Vietnam '08 Part 1

Our adventure to Vietnam started when we left for the airport Saturday, September 13th, 2008 around 2:30pm. Our flight out of Minneapolis to LA was leaving around 5pm. We arrived in LA at 7pm (9pm MSP time) only to find out that a typhoon had hit Vietnam earlier and that our flight from LA to Taipei was cancelled. This was actually found out about 4 hrs later, after the EVA airlines desk opened up. It was almost 11pm, we had eaten a nice dinner, Parker was being a trooper and we were about to find out what our options were!

...Just so you guys know, Parker was our golden ticket on this trip...the crowds and workers parted the water to see this precious blonde hair, blue-eyed wonder! Because we had the only infant on the international flight, they moved us to the front of the line (even in front of the Executive Business Class) to get us taken care of. By midnight, poor Parker was sleepy and getting a little irritated; he fell asleep just before everything was finalized at the airport. EVA airlines was putting everyone up in a hotel for the night and we were scheduled to fly out the next day (Sunday). The service from EVA air was incredible; they walked us to the bus that was going to take us to the hotel, gave us food vouchers, and made sure that we knew our times and details for the next day. We arrived at the Radisson around 12:30am and were passed out in the bed by 1:15am. Up at 6am for a big delicious breakfast...their buffet spread was amazing! There were over 40 different breakfast choices on their buffet! Fruits, keishes, meats, cereals, hot dishes, bagels, croissants, muffins, pancakes, donuts...the list was never-ending! We really enjoyed that part of our day! :)

Grabbed the 8:20am bus to the airport so that we could check in and be ready for our 11:15am flight. The 11:15 flight was delayed for a few hrs so we had plenty of time to sit in that airport. :) Did I mention that in LA he did several photo shoots with some of the Taiwan ladies. They all wanted to have their picture made with him! It was really funny! Of course, Parker just smiled at them and gave them his killer laugh that just bowled them over! He really was great though...never fussed when someone got up in his face or played with his feet. The flight to Taipai left around 2:30 that afternoon...13hrs later we were in Taipei. It was a great flight and went by fairly quickly.

We had bulk head seats so that Parker could lay in the little bin and sleep right in front of us and we had Economy Plus seats (I would definitely recommend this as the way to go!!!); these seats are basically the same as Business Class, you just get the economy food. Anyway, Parker only cried one time on the flight for about 5 min; the rest of the time he looked around at everybody, played with some fun gadgets and toys, slept and ate. It was grand!

We're ready to fly!

This was what our bulk-head seats looked like...Parker's little bassinet went up on the wall in front of our seats. For those of you who have children under the age of 1, the "baby carrier seats" were about half the price of our adult tickets. Check with the airline though to see the age & weight limit of this option. At 8 mos. Parker had almost met the length & weight maximums for Eva Air.

Our little baby, sleeping soundly! :)
One thing we will do differently next time: We didn't think about the dye's from the fabric/blankets upsetting Parker's delicate skin. You'll notice on almost all the pictures from the trip that Parker's cheeks look flushed & his skin isn't baby smooth clear. It was from the detergent the airlines use..very strong stuff! It took awhile for his complexion to clear up just from the 2 days of traveling!
On each of the international flights, they give out these sweet little baby kits for the infants. Included is a diaper, wipes, some juice & a little book!

When we arrived in Taipai I was in awe over how nice the airport was and how sweet the Taiwan people were. It was the cleanest airport I have ever been to. And once again, those Asians parted the way for sweet Parker.

Obviously, we had missed our connecting flight from Taipei to Ho Chi Minh since our original flight had been cancelled, but we were taking it one flight at a time.

When we arrived in Taiwan, there was someone standing at the gate waiting on the people going to Ho Chi Minh; she directed us which way to go to get reassigned on a flight. Once again, the people issued us to the front of the line and they put us on a flight leaving for Hong Kong in a half an hour from that time. So, we immediately headed for our gate (no tea or postcards for me this time!) and got on the 2 hour flight. Parker did great once again...much smaller seats but still nice. The two hours went by fast which was good because we were getting sleepy!

At Hong Kong they lost our "gate check" stroller (they didn't know whether or not it had gotten on the last flight.) I wasn't too happy about that. Nana and Poppie had bought us this stroller from Sky Mall (the catalogs in the airplanes) that you could use in airports and as a car seat in cars and airplanes. It's the next best thing since disposable diapers (for people who travel a lot anyway)!! Everyone gets a kick out of it because it's definitely the cadillac style of strollers. So as you can see, I was sad when I thought it was gone forever!

Anyway, we boarded a flight to Ho Chi Minh with the help of some of the customer service representatives. We would not have made the flight had it not been for their help...they actually held the flight for us, helped us carry our bags to the airplane and pushed us to the front of security. The people in Hong Kong weren't as friendly as the people in Taiwan but VERY efficient...I was impressed. By the time we sat down in the airplane headed to Ho chi Minh we were exhausted. All 3 of us passed out in our seats; it was dark outside...I don't even know what time...but we all slept for the 2 hr flight.

Happy to be on the final stretch! We're almost there!

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at 10pm (Vietnam time)...did the Visa's, passports (all of which took about an hr)...then went down to get our luggage. No luggage and no stroller. After talking to one of the Lost Baggage people for about an hr we walked outside to be picked up by Poppie and his driver, Mr. Nam. Mr. Nam handed me a beautiful assortment of flowers to welcome me to his sweet. We headed for the Nolen's house tired but very was around midnight their time. Everyone slept well that night...

Tuesday, Nana and Poppie had to go to work so Clay and Parker and I hung out at the house and rested until about 3:30. Then we picked up Nana from school and went shopping! That was fun! We looked at coats and jewelry! I walked in this nice little Vietnamese store and was custom fitted for 3 coats in under 15 minutes!!!! Tuesday night our bags and STROLLER were delivered! Yes! ...I was up all night with Parker...that boy was wide awake ready to play! I was one tired mama the next morning. Once again, Clay, Parker and I just hung out at the house...I was out of it...until time to pick up Nana. Mrs. Nga fixed us a delicious lunch...fresh fruits of all sorts and a turkey, cucumber and tomato sandwich.
Pictures from Tuesday:

Blurry photo of a man working on the telephone you see all the wires?!

One of the first realizations how people drive in Vietnam...everywhere & very close to each other! So glad Mr. Nam knew what he was doing! :)

Favorite place to stop after getting Nana from school each day...Gloria Jean's was such a treat!

Shopping for coats & favorite dress shop that we visited. They custom fit items in the store for you as well as offer you nice custom-made suits, shirts, coats, etc. for reasonable prices.
Poppie & Parker having playtime in the evening

Wednesday, relaxing morning...Clay & I went to the spa for a back massage...ahhhhh... Parker stayed with Mrs. Nga....Parker LOVED Mrs. Nga! We picked up Nana from school, went to the Saigon Market to see what fun things they had and then went back home for a delicious supper prepared by Mrs. Nga.
Pictures from Wednesday:
What we saw everyday on the way to get Nana from school. Busy, busy place! Mostly motorcycles...some vehicles. I always laughed because we would joke how if we rolled our window down & turned our head towards the outside, we'd be kissing the person next to us we were so close!
Having some fun shopping time at one of the markets!

Saigon Square Market was quite an experience. This was the first Market in Ho Chi Minh that we visited. To sum it up in one word: CRAZY! The place goes on & on & on...multiple floors, around-the-next corners that are never-ending, every kind of product imaginable you can get here (except for a lot of foods...there was another market for this!)

I was amazed watching the motorcycles come & go from where we were standing at the entrance of Saigon Market.

Mrs. Nga spoiled us so...every meal time was prepared for us lovingly & was absolutely scrumptious. She knew how to make it so special for us too...just by the little things she added to each meal! One of the things I miss the most is the fresh fruit that she prepared for us each day!

Early to bed Wednesday night.

Thursday: Parker woke up at 3:30am and Clay and I woke up wide awake with him. We went swimming in the Nolen's pool around 7am and then I got ready for my hair appt at YKC. I was soooo excited to get my haircut! Arrived at the salon and they handed me a cup of hot tea and started their magic. They dry cut my hair then washed it with a special treatment, put me under a dryer for a steam treatment and started to give me a deep tissue massage! Forget the magazine that I brought with me to read while I waited!!!! After 20 minutes, they rinsed my hair and proceeded to massage my head for another 20 minutes. Incredible! After rinsing and fixing my hair, Ky came back over to do a last check on things and then put this smoother on my hair.... Anyway, LOVED the time at the salon. We then met Poppie for lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant; so good! Showed Parker off at Poppie's office, picked up Nana from school, enjoyed tea and dessert at the Caravelle hotel (gorgeous place) and home for dinner. Early to tired...Parker slept through the night.
Pictures from Thursday:
Ky can work some magic, let me tell ya'! He was also very fun to talk to; he & his wife just recently had their first baby! (I tried convincing him that MN was THE place to be & that if he moved, I would bring him a LOT of business! It didn't work though!) :)
This was what I did everytime I stepped into the salon...was handed a menu & chose a warm of my favorite simple indulgences on the trip! The drinks were a courtesy to each of the clients during their services

A man & his magazine stand along the sidewalk

Lunch at Co Ngu with Poppie...really good food & great service

The waiters doted on Parker...they were very entertained by him!

While we finished up eating, one of the waiters asked if he could hold Parker & walk him around the restaurant. We agreed & within minutes, Parker was konked out in his arms. So sweet...

More food...

Parker helping Poppie in his office

One of the views of downtown Ho Chi Minh from Poppie's office

Parker loved riding in our car in Vietnam... He didn't have to sit in his carseat & could see everything that we could see!
This sweet blue outfit & bib came from Vietnam. Clay & I love dressing him in these short & cool onesies! It was perfect for the warm weather there! One problem: the Vietnamese kept thinking he was a girl because they only dress their girls in cute outfits such as this. Boys do not wear anything this nice.

After picking up Nana from school, we enjoyed tea at the Caravelle hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh..ahhhh, the sweet taste of pure luxury. When you step foot in this hotel, you feel like a million bucks. I would highly suggest adding this place to one of your spots to visit if you ever go to Ho Chi Minh. Tea time here is spectacular & it offers a great view of the downtown area if you can manage getting a window seat!

The dessert menu goes on forever & offers a variety of sweets & pastries.
Note: Many of my pictures were slightly blurry from the trip because most were taken from a moving don't stop leisurely on the side of the road here...believe you me, I asked! So, just in case you wondered, now you know! :)

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