Amazingly I was able to figure out how to get my Visa at the airport and then waited for the hotel shuttle (a car) to pick me up. Visa process seemed rather random and I just walked up to someone behind a desk and said I wasn't sure what to do and in a flash, my passport, letter from the embassy and other documents were taken and I was told to go sit. For a moment, I thought, "Oh no I have just given away my passport and important documents!" After a fairly short time, my passport photo was shown on a screen and I went up to paid the $50. Then with a flurry of stamps, I was directed on to customs. Again, it was a fairly quick process and I was on my way.
After retrieving my bags - actually the only bags riding on the enormous conveyor belt line. I was out in the street, surrounded by noise, horns blaring, people with signs and several times was waved over to get into a cab. One time a man said something like, "Come, come lady. Here's your ride." As another fellow down the street waived his arms to me. But I was told that the hotel driver would have a sign with my name, so I held firm.
Hotel in Hanoi, The Rising Dragon, was tucked on a back alley row in between stores and other businesses. The room was pleasant and had air con (A/C) thank goodness.
In the morning I took a taxi to the US Embassy and since I hadn't converted any money into the Vietnamese dong yet, over paid the taxi driver by like 400%. Actually gave him $63 dollars and he returned all but a $20. That seemed like a deal to me and I thanked him for his honesty. Little did I know, he had just pocketed $17 extra!
Lots of security and checkpoints at the Embassy. Met Diu Vu, the very fashionably dressed Fulbright liaison. After my hour long security meeting with Embassy Staff, I learned that the number one cause of death in Vietnam is motorbike accidents. They have had to medivac several people out due to collisions. So, number one note to self - Do Not Get On A MotorBike!
Also must remember you are in a communist country! Otherwise, enjoy yourself because the people, the food and some of the sites are marvelous. But just in case, keep this card with direct numbers to the Embassy Emergency Contacts.
Back at Diu's (sounds like Ziu) Fulbright office I was given some cool Fulbright gear: hat, teeshirt, luggage tags etc... And then had a delightful lunch with Diu and her most wonderful colleague (don't remember her name but she was just lovely) where we shared lunches and a most delicious tea from some mountaintop leaves that reduce cholesterol. We talked about children, the colleague having two living in the States: Texas and Ohio. And our guilt at spending time away from husbands due to business travel. This soon ended as I needed to return to the Rising Dragon to meet with Dr. Nga and begin my journey to HaiPhong City.