It was only just Tuesday 5th July, as I stood at a phone charging station in Changi airport, Singapore, at 12.05am. I’d found a currency exchange shop where the woman was finishing her shift and she swapped me five $20 notes for one of my $100s. She also told me that all the places to get food and drink will close and not open until morning so to stock up on anything I needed. She was helpful and it was nice. There is so much to do in Changi airport, but not after 10pm at night.
I was eating plain crisps and dairy milk chocolate while trying to ignore the ignoramus next to me. He was watching very loud and violent clips on his phone while laughing. I’d not been able to have any sleep yet so I’d decided to come to make sure my phone battery was at 100% before my attempt to check-in. Given that my ticket had my surname spelled incorrectly, and I couldn’t change it, I was genuinely worried. All helpful posts on the internet gave the same answer that I wouldn’t be allowed to travel with it. I was situated right next to the Scoot automatic check-in machines which were open for flights to Australia, South Korea and Indonesia but there seemed to be a bottle neck of customers. This proved to be very useful as I overheard a member of staff who had come to help people get through quicker. It seemed that the Australians had more discrepancies than the South Koreans, who still needed PCR tests to enter their country. I decided I would try my luck and wandered slowly towards the queue. On the way there, I bumped in to a lovely older Australian lady, heading for Sydney, and we got chatting in the queue. She couldn’t work the machine and I noticed her passport was upside down and I copied her. Because we were causing a jam, the Scoot staff member sent both of us over to the in-person check-in, giving us both a slip of paper to say we required manual check-in due to a fault! That was the first hurdle. I let the Aussie lady go first and I waited behind a large South Korean family who were half way through repacking their bags and arguing at being denied check-in. This Scoot staff member looked stressed so when it was my turn I smiled and tried a bit of sympathy. As she was checking my passport and printing the ticket I asked if she needed to weigh my hand luggage (I knew it was under) then proceeded to pop it on the scales. I was through to departures just before 1am!!! I had just 8 hours to kill before boarding my flight so I was heading straight to do some damage in a lounge for 3 of them!
Once through security at Changi airport, I trotted off to the SATS Premier Lounge, Terminal 1, and I was so excited. It had 24hr food and booze and should have been even better than the one I was in last month, at Terminal 3. The guy on the reception desk was super friendly and informative and told me that he would remind me when my 3 hours was up but if I wanted to do another 3 hours after that, I could! This would mean paying on my Priority Pass for an extra visit but if the food and drink selection was good and it was a nice place to relax I would do that. I didn’t even sit down first, I went straight to the booze selection and poured myself a prosecco in a wine glass, who cares if they had no flutes!
I took a couple of selfies so I could ‘brag off’ to Kate and Mark, who also have a Priority Pass, that I was in a lounge and then I went to check out the food options. There were some delicious looking curries with hardly any left but the staff seemed to be replenishing the containers. I grabbed a pumpkin and spinach sandwich, some cheese and turkey ham and another prosecco. I told one of the staff that I would need another bottle of prosecco and handed him the empty bottle. Despite the sandwich selection being the only choice available I had 2, they weren’t too bad and I poured myself a third glass of fizz. There was still no hot food left so I asked the bloke who was in the kitchen area if I could get some chicken curry and rice, he said yes. It never appeared and so I asked the reception staff why there was still no hot food. They said they would find out what was happening but after twice of me checking nothing appeared. By now, all that was left of the cold food was a bowl of cucumber and tomatoes (which I don’t eat) and I was very hungry. I got some nuts but they had wasabi peas in them and I didn’t chance eating any more than the first mouthful. I got out my own crisps at one point and told the staff this was not acceptable. I was now quite tiddly but soldiered on with more prosecco and kept asking how long the food would be. After another 2 hours of waiting and asking I was told my time in the lounge was up and there was still no food, I was flabbergasted. I complained, asked the reception guy for a solution and he told me they were changing from dinner to breakfast food hence the delay. I could not believe my ears when he suggested I go to find the 7-Eleven shop to buy some food in the airport. Outrageous! Incidentally, it was closed.
I spent the next 3 hours just wandering around the airport, drunk, looking for snacks/food (in shops, not in bins) but had to eat the rest of my crisps. I found an empty seating area and made a bed from my travel pillow and towel, took my Volleys off and tried for a nap. It was still only 5am!
By the time I was boarding my flight from Singapore to Hanoi, I was exhausted and pretty hungry. Although not hungry enough to have eaten the Bounty and a Dairy Milk fruit and nut bar, which I was saving as a treat for Kat. Between us, we had completely got the details of when I was staying at her place, in Hanoi, confused. She had thought it was yesterday and I’d obviously known it was today but may have not corrected her on our messages. This meant she was busy when I intended on arriving but was still happy for me to stay over and sent me a video of where she lived in Hanoi. The least I could do is take her some chocolate!
I was nervous because I still had to show my boarding pass and passport to the staff at the gate – what if they noticed the name error? I got to the front of the queue to board and, as the staff checked my documents, I asked if the plane was full. She looked up and told me it was, but if I needed to request a seat change I should ask once I got on the plane. And, just like that, I was through! We waited on the air bridge for quite a while and when I got on I was feeling hot and a bit jittery. I put it down to having been wearing a mask and my eczema flaring up, a lot.
I sat down in row 7, in the window seat allocated to me, but I really wanted an aisle seat. I started to feel unwell so I asked the guy in my row to swap. As luck would have it his wife was in an aisle seat 5 rows back so I then swapped with her and I was very grateful of their help. I was lucky to not have anyone sitting next to me and we took off on time.
On Scoot airlines they have free WiFi and you have to order any food or drinks online. At first it didn’t work but eventually I ordered a red wine and some fried rice! It cost 19 Singaporean dollars, which was good as I had 20 left, about £11.50. I was so hungry I would have eaten anything, despite any allergy warnings and I expected the worst!
The mixed fried rice was great (I left the crab claw) and I enjoyed the appropriately named wine before we landed at Hanoi. It was not long after midday when I got into the lengthy immigration queue to re-enter Vietnam.
I was very tired as I waited, then got moved to another queue. After what seemed like too long I was allowed back in to Vietnam! It was 24 hours since I’d taken off in Danang, but 35 hours since I had left Phong Nha. I felt it was a bit of a chore for a visa run and wouldn’t choose to do this journey again in a hurry.
I was meant to get the number 86 bus to Hanoi train station, where Kat would send a taxi for me. Considering I was knackered, and I’d not spent hotel or extra lounge money, I splashed out on a taxi to Ba Dinh. It cost 400,000vnd (£14.40) and took less than an hour to get there. I got out of the taxi at the WinMart, Kat came to meet me and I bought a couple of cold beers to celebrate being back in Vietnam. Kat was very welcoming and her studio apartment was a delight – I loved it. She told me to help myself to anything I wanted as she had an appointment she needed to get to. I unpacked, had a shower and then tried to sleep. I woke up a few hours later to a horrendous noise. It was a monsoon style storm and the thunder and lightening was right above me. It went on for several hours and when Kat eventually got home, she’d had to push her broken down motorbike through thigh deep water to get to her place. I was so lucky to not have had to leave the room and we planned to get a takeaway for a late dinner. It was around 10pm and we struggled to get a delivery with the flooded streets. Our burgers arrived at 11.30pm and we were so hungry that mine was snaffled quickly. I was so excited to be safely back in Hanoi and was grateful to have a safe, dry, friendly place to relax after a very long day.