What’s it like to be traveling in South East Asia during the Corona Virus outbreak? Somehow, when we left our jobs for a life of “travel and adventure” our dream didn’t include a worldwide pandemic!
We’ve been in Hanoi Vietnam for seven days. During those seven days we’ve watched as a huge percentage of the downtown area has closed up shop. Each day there have been fewer and fewer shops open. Each day there have been fewer and fewer people on the streets.
Today, as we write this, about two hours shy of publication, we’ve not been outside our hotel. We sent messages back and forth with assorted family members early this morning. (Trying to assure them that we’re OK, while trying to collect assurances from them that they’re OK.) This afternoon, as I’ve been writing this blog post, Noelle has been working on website stuff. It’s not really how we expected to spend our time in Hanoi.
Soon we’ll shut the laptops and head out the door for the first time today.
Corona Virus: Information or lack thereof
It’s difficult to find accurate information about what’s happening in Vietnam with the virus. The information we do find can change at the drop of a hat. It’s challenging to discern between the official and the scuttlebutt. What’s real and what’s inaccurate?
Corona Virus: Should we just go somewhere else?
We’re thinking that we need to view ourselves as potential virus carriers. What if we’re part of the problem? (Gasp!) As Americans, it’s drilled into us that we ARE the solution (to whatever ails the entire world). Yet, what if we’re part of the problem? What’s the safest action we can take for those around us?
We can find another location to travel to right now, one that’s still open. There are still locations in Vietnam that we’d love to visit…but that isn’t necessarily the most responsible action we can take for our fellow travelers or for the residents of Vietnam.
Corona Virus: So long…suckers!
We had just finished eating our breakfast two days ago when the hotel concierge asked to speak with us briefly. “Sure…” we said.
The concierge spoke in a calm, level voice. “We are closing this hotel. You need to leave this morning. We will transfer you to our sister hotel.” That’s quite unexpected! Does one of the guests have the Corona Virus? “No.” Why are you closing the hotel? “To clean it and allow our staff to go home to their families. Only preventative.” Seemed reasonable.
We went back to our room and looked up long-stay apartments and found one that we liked. We returned to the front desk and asked for them to call the apartment and check if they’ll rent to Americans. Long story cut short, no, they wouldn’t rent to Americans. We made our case, we’ve been in Thailand for two months, not America. No dice.
Corona Virus: Wait!! What?!? No Americans!?!
I don’t take it too personally. The Vietnamese are frightened and the media is pointing at tourists as the “seed” that began the virus. It’s not just the Americans that some Vietnamese are avoiding, it’s also pretty much anyone who isn’t Vietnamese. God forbid you’re here from Europe. You, my friend, are shit out of luck!
Corona Virus: Everyone lies
I spent the bulk of my career working with internal and/or external clients and I had a phrase that I used often, “Everyone lies”. I keep forgetting that little tidbit in our “new life”. It’s not only applicable in business. As Noelle found out from a little research, the Vietnamese government has a public website that lists the travel history of travelers that have been infected with the Corona Virus.
Speaking of lies…Someone convinced about twenty cotton headed tourists that taking a Cyclo ride would be “fun”. They looked bored silly. I think my taking pictures added to their sense of enjoyment. Or not….
I just couldn’t stop laughing at them. Yes, not with them, at them.
It reminds me of watching the nursing staff at Noelle’s dads retirement home take the residents from their rooms to the dining area for meals. It was exactly the same looks on the residents and passengers faces..
Corona Virus: Survey Says!
The hotel concierge lied to us. Someone had been in our hotel with the Corna Virus. They checked out the day we checked in. I’m disappointed that the concierge lied. I’d prefer the truth, even if it’s difficult to deliver.
We also found a website that shows the exact location/residence of each of the current Corona patients. It’s crazy to have access to this kind of information!
…and then we found another website that’s tracking the Corona patients by flight number. We’re watching that website with a keen eye in case our flight appears on the list.
I really like how these two websites challenged my own pre-conceived notion of technology in Vietnam.
How about another health survey?
The hotel called us in our room last night at 9:30 and invited us to come back to the lobby and fill out another health questionnaire. Yes, we’re healthy. No we don’t have any symptoms. Here’s our passport information, our incoming flight paths, dates, cities visited, flight number, seat number. We know big brother is watching. If someone on one of our flights becomes ill, we’ll see what happens.
Corona Virus: Should we just return to the United States?
We’re discussing this option in great depth. Frankly, watching the American news media, it sure looks like a complete shit show in the Unites States! What’s real, imagined or exaggerated? It’s hard to discern fact from fiction. Perhaps it’s not all that different than trying to sort through the information we’re finding here in Vietnam!
Side note: I laughed really, really hard at a news report about Norway calling their students home and their direct references to the US health care system.
We arranged lodging in Colorado should we choose to return to the US. There’s also the camper van to consider. We have a great deal of backpacking supplies both in the van and more stuff residing at my sister’s house. We’re looking at self quarantining for a few weeks if we choose to return. Not a big deal.
When I looked at tickets back to the US over the weekend I was shocked at the prices, they were almost triple what we paid to fly over here. The ticket price has decreased dramatically in the past couple days, but using frequent filer miles is no longer an option.
Returning to the US increases our cost of living expenses rather dramatically; transportation, car insurance, internet, cell phones.
We’ll need to stock up on some basic food items if we return to the US and park ourselves in a residence for a month or so. We walked into a food market yesterday. Maybe there were fifteen customers. No yelling, no fighting, no knives being brandished. Pretty dang relaxed.
So when we see the news from America about the run on toilet paper, the empty shelves, the unhappy lines of humanity at the stores, I’m asking myself if that’s really necessary. Sorry America, you don’t look so great right now from our viewpoint in Vietnam.
Corona Virus: Chatting with the American Embassy
The folks at the Hanoi Vietnam American Embassy sent us an auto generated response to our queries seeking an appointment. Their website was very explicit to not just “stop by” without having an appointment. Don’t call unless it’s an emergency. Don’t stop by without an appointment, you won’t be admitted past the front gates.
We’re really looking for their input on what they expect to happen in Hanoi, Vietnam. In our research we’ve already looked at most of the websites they sent us. We’ll look at the other websites shortly.
So I’ll chalk up the US Embassy as not so helpful in this situation.
We’ve not made a firm decision on how to proceed. Rushing back to the US seems like a waste of time and resources, unless this truly is the zombie apocalypse.
Chilling in Hanoi seems a little boring with all the tourist sites closed. It may come down to making our own prediction about how long this will last in Vietnam and then looking at when we want to resume life in the US. We already have scheduled events in the summer in America: PCT, a wedding and a memorial service for Noelle’s dad.
It’s interesting to even begin considering anything on our schedule further out than a few days. Each morning when we wake up it seems as if something else major has happened while we slept.