Another early start, but I'm getting used to it now. Before I would stumble about in the dark, trying not to disturb my wife. Tripping over pillows and discarded clothes trying to get ready in the dark. Now I'm a well oiled machine, all packed the night before, travelling clothes left in the office, all ready to go and bags by the front door. I reckon I need only 15 minutes from waking up to in the car!! So I set the alarm for 4.00am. Even when you are ready for it, I still struggle for the first few minutes. I blearily say goodbye to my wife, and youngest daughter and slip out of the house.
This trip is a special one, we are off to Vietnam to make a couple of films all on the back of the current rise of this wonderful food here in the UK. We are flying to Ha Noi in the north, then down to Hoi An then onto the Mekong Delta in the south.
There is no daily direct flight to Vietnam from the UK (There is now) So we check into terminal 4 for the short Paris flight, then onto the Vietnamese flight for 10 hours. There is the usual scrum at the airport, miserable people, up too early, not reading the airport blurb on bag weights and size, all kicking off. Things weren't helped by the fact French airport workers are on strike either. We eventually get through and wait patiently for our flight, after the obligatory Costa coffee, or in JD's case a beer, well you can't keep an Aussie down can you.
We arrive in Paris, the place is deserted and quickly collect all the bags and join another long queue to check in for the Ha Noi flight. We were to meet a Mr Nam, yes real name, to check in all the camera and sound kit. He turns up eventually and we head off to gate 8, business class check in. We all check in no problem, apart from Steve soundman who is bumped down to premium economy. He's not happy, but hey ho we are at work and the upgrade was only a plus as we were going to be filming on the way back. But I can say that as I was still in business class. I offer my seat to him, he politely declines, what a nice chap.
We arrive at Ha Noi airport and wait to meet our fixers Tuong and Khanh. Whilst waiting we have a very sweet, strong coffee and try to work out how the local currency equates to the pound. Its all a bit confusing especially when jet lagged, but in the end we settle on 30,000 Dong to the pound.
We pile into a large mini bus and set off on the 40 minute trip to the hotel in the old quarter of Ha Noi.
Tuong is engaging, polite and funny. He explains to us a brief history of Vietnam and its culture. Khanh is slightly more reserved, a slight lady and seems quite shy. We drive past the Red river and finally into downtown Ha Noi to our hotel for the next 2 days.
We plan to hook up with Tuong later at 2pm, so check in, and head for a good breakfast. I was not really sure what to expect from a large worldwide hotel chain here in Ha Noi, but the experience was very good.
I ate steamed buns, some filled with sweet chestnut, others light and really soft. Sushi, with fresh tuna and salmon. Next tasted egg fried rice, and finished with chicken congee, a sort of rice porridge topped with peanuts, crisp fried onions and powerful chilli sauce. All very nice indeed, fresh, clean and not what I was expecting if I'm being honest. On offer also was chicken korma, curried vegetables and teriyaki chicken. On the cold table cheeses, biscuits and a lovely selection of breads and cakes. I went back to the room and dropped into bed after a hot shower and a shave. I had a couple of hours sleep and felt a lot better when I surfaced.