KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We flew with David and Jeong Ae back to Bangkok just ahead of the arrival of Bush, Putin and Hu Jingtao in Hanoi. The leaders are due to come for an APEC meeting on Nov 15th. We flew on Vietnam Airlines and the Lalondes had a flight on Thai Airways. We all travelled to the airport in Hanoi together, we left first and then waited for them at the airport in Bangkok.
We had a real adventure checking out of the hotel in Hanoi. We had not really left enough time for an unhurried checkout and when Anil was going over the bill with the reception staff, he found that they had made a math error when adding the service charge that is applied when someone pays with a credit card. Instead of charging 3%, the fellow had multiplied by 0.30 instead of 0.03. This meant that he had added a 30% service charge to our bill. Thank goodness for math teachers! Once the bill was recalculated, the total was about 2 million dong. That seems like a really large amount but it really is only about $150.00 CAD.
The poor fellow at the desk was really rattled by this mistake and then when he tried to process the charge on the bank machine, the card didn't work. He tried several times and then Anil realized that it was my card and we had been having trouble with it swiping at several places that we had used it. Anil had to quickly get his card out of his security pack around his waist under his clothes. With his card, the chap was finally able to complete the payment and all seemed well. Anil had a quick look at David's bill and it appeared to be about the same amount and his card was accepted properly. While all this was going on, Jeong Ae discovered that she had given David the wrong plane tickets (ones that were for their trip back to Canada) and she was hurriedly opening their suitcases in the lobby and frantically rifled through all their clothes looking for the correct tickets.
We were really beginning to worry about getting to the airport on time, as it was the morning rush hour and traffic can be quite crazy in the capital. We finally had the bills settled, Jeong Ae found the tickets and we loaded all our luggage into the taxi and set off for the airport. We ploughed through the heavy traffic around Hoam Kiem Lake and then just as we were about to enter the expressway, the driver's cellphone rang and he had a heated discussion with someone on the line. He then took a hard turn to avoid the expressway and headed back into the dense traffic near the Old Quarter. We figured that someone had called to say that there was an accident on the expressway and that he should take another route. As he drove on, I realized that he was heading back right near our hotel and we were all puzzled when he pulled up in front of the hotel again and the receptionist ran out to talk to us.
It turned out that when David's bill was processed, the man had entered 200,000 dong instead of 2,000,000 dong and he needed David's card and signature in order to correct the mistake. He was pretty lucky that the taxi had a cellphone, or he would have lost his job for sure. We would have been long gone out of the country and they would only have 10% of the actual bill paid. We sat in the car while David went in to fix things up. When he didn't come out for some time, Jeong Ae went in to see what was holding things up. It was good that she did, because David had just signed a receipt for two million dong without realizing that they had already paid two hundred thousand dong on the previous receipt. Jeong Ae had to go through a long explanation that they should void the receipt and just charge one million eight hundred thousand dong! When at last that was all done, they jumped into the taxi and we sped off for the expressway hoping that we would make it to the airport in time for our flight. David and Jeong Ae had plenty of time as they were leaving on a flight one hour later.
Now for the final act in this comedy of errors. Just as we were about to enter the expressway, a motorbike cut sharply in front our taxi. The driver braked suddenly to avoid hitting the bike, when we noticed that the rider was waving a credit card in his hand, trying to get our attention. It was David's credit card - in all the confusion at the hotel, they had not returned his card to him! What a relief, if they had realized that their card was missing, they would have had to cancel it immediately and then go through the hassle of getting a new one sent to them in Bangkok.
Just when we finished celebrating our good luck that all things had worked out in the end, Jeong Ae realized that she had forgotten her favorite sunglasses at the hotel. She had taken them off when she went back in to help David sort out the bill. They were an unusual shape and she was really unhappy to lose them - she has been wearing them for over 10 years. (When I got to Bangkok, I emailed the hotel about them and they replied that they had found them - their unusual shape helped them assure us they had the right ones - and that they would keep them until we returned in several month’s time. Jeong Ae was really relieved).
We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare. I had awoken that morning with a splitting migraine, the gong show at the hotel hadn't helped at all, so I lay down on the seats in the waiting lounge and covered my head till our flight was announced. The rest of the journey to Bangkok was uneventful - thank goodness - we met up with the Lalondes at the airport after a one hour wait and we took a taxi to the Lamphu House where our old rooms were waiting for us. I spent the next two days at the internet cafe updating the journal while Anil relaxed in the room and ventured out only to join me for meals. David and Jeong Ae went to the Weekend Market to make some major purchases for their Artifacts store in Edmonton - all was right with the world again.
November 13th dawned bright and beautiful. Anil and I said a fond farewell to David and Jeong Ae outside the Lamphu House. It had been a wonderful four weeks together through Cambodia and Vietnam and it was now time for us to go our separate ways. We were heading to India for the family wedding and an extended journey through the country and David and Jeong Ae were returning to Canada in a week's time to ramp up for the busy Christmas season. I am really pleased with the picture the taxi driver took of the four of us just before our departure. I have posted it on this site for you to view - maybe we can convince you to join us somewhere on our travels.