As much as the SUNGRL loves NZ the SUNGRL does not love NZ winters! The warm climes and golf courses in Asia beckoned so on Friday the 10th July we departed Napier for Auckland and then Auckland for Singapore. From Singapore we had a direct flight booked to DaNang in central Vietnam.
The ash cloud hanging over Indonesia as a result of Mount Raung erupting on the 2nd July had other ideas for our travel plans though. Mount Raung had sent ash and debris 2,000 meters into the air meaning flights were cancelled or re routed. Thankfully we were re routed but that added two hours to our travel time to Singapore meaning we missed our direct connection.
The Air NZ staff on our flight were fantastic in terms of working through connecting passengers options and by the end of our twelve hour flight we had been handed a slip of paper with our new flights. Unfortunately things didn’t run quite so smoothly once we were airside in Singapore. After wasting 20 minutes at the wrong transfer desk we were sent to another transfer desk where there were a lot of people trying to sort their new connections. The speed at which the staff were dealing with individual cases meant we were not likely to make our new flight. We got moved to the front of the queue due to the looming flight time only to discover that there wasn’t actually room on the flight that had been organised for us.
Our new options were waiting for the next direct flight to DaNang which was some 28 hours later or switching to Vietnam Air and flying through Ho Chi Min – this was our preferred option. At least we would arrive on the day we were supposed to. The next problem was that there was no one on the transfer desk that could authorise a change in airline. We had to wait an hour for someone in authority to come and give the nod to the transfer staff. In the meantime we were given a food voucher for Burger King – happy, happy, joy, joy – NOT! A trip to the butterfly sanctuary at Singapore Airport provided a nice distraction though.
During all this waiting we met some nice people who were in similar positions so stories were shared. We were fairly relaxed given the fact that we were coming over to Asia for a couple of months but for those travellers who were on tight schedules or had pressing family emergencies it wasn’t much fun. Unfortunately Air NZ got a bit of a bad rap as it appeared the air stewards had organised our alternative arrangements but some of the flights didn’t have capacity and then the staff on the transfer desks had no authority to offer alternatives. As much as I love Air NZ I will be writing to them to offer some suggestions for better handling of these unfortunate incidents in the future.
Our next concern of course was our luggage – it had been tagged all the way through to DaNang on Air NZ and then Silk Air. We were now on Vietnam Air going through Ho Chi Min City. The transfer staff assured us that our bags would be re tagged and put on our flight.
As we were entering Vietnam in Ho Chi Min City we had to get our Visas and clear customs there. This process was fairly smooth given we had pre approval and had completed all the correct documentation. We went to the baggage belt and what do you know – no bags! Off to Lost and Found and a trace on our bag tags confirmed the bags were still in Singapore – fantastic! They said they would put the bags on the next flight to Ho Chi Min City and then send them onto DaNang that evening or early the next morning. That was better than nothing so we walked over to the domestic terminal to catch our flight to DaNang.
We arrived into DaNang at 7.30pm – our original arrival time had been 9.40am. Another trip to Lost and Found at DaNang to tell them to expect our bags and to send them onto where we were staying. No bags arrived that night so a phone call Sunday morning found the bags were still in Singapore but would arrive in Danang Sunday afternoon. By this stage we had got the reception staff here involved so they could call Lost and Found and speak the lingo. A few more phone calls Sunday afternoon and lots of conflicting information and Sunday night rolled round – still no bags. We had now been wearing the same clothes for 48 hours – remembering we left NZ and the temperature was 8 degrees – we were now enduring temperatures of 36 degrees. Thank goodness I put a singlet on under all my layers when we left NZ. I didn’t have an answer for the tracksuit pants though. Thank goodness for air conditioning and the ability to at least have a shower.
Monday morning arrived as did some good news – our bags were now in DaNang and were enroute to our apartment. All’s well that ends well. As the saying goes in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie – it will be alright in the end and if it is not alright it is not the end : )
PS – we love our digs at the Montgomerie Links Villas – our home for the next two months.