formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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January 16, 2018 To Saigon (part I in a series)

The Liberty Gazette
January 16, 2018
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: My favorite adage comes through again: “A mile of highway can take you a mile. But a mile of runway can take you anywhere.” This time, we boarded EVA Airlines for a sixteen day adventure through Southeast Asia.

From Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport we’d stop first in Taipei, Taiwan before continuing to Saigon (the North Vietnamese won the war so it’s officially Ho Chi Minh City now, but the folks living there love you more if you call it My Saigon or just Saigon, which was their city).

Mike: Near midnight, we departed in a Boeing 777. Our track was north of what would have been the most direct route between Houston and Taipei, probably to avoid strong headwinds. While everyone slept, I watched our progress on the seat back monitor map.

We flew northwest, crossed the Rockies over Idaho then British Columbia and on to Alaska. I opened the shade over Fairbanks. We crossed the Bearing Straits and overflew Russia along the eastern part of Siberia. Outside, all was black. Suddenly, over the Sea of Okhotsk which separates mainland Russia from the volcanic Kamchatka Peninsula, our flight made a forty-five degree diversion toward the west coast of Japan and into a one hundred seventy-five knot headwind—away from the Korean Peninsula and North Korea’s lunatic dictator. Obviously we didn’t need to be over the Sea of Japan when he threw a tantrum.

As the sun rose, we approached Taipei. Breaks in the clouds allowed me to look down upon houses and buildings, and for the first time in my life, set my eyes upon an Asian city.

Linda: I call Taipei’s airport “the Hello Kitty airport” for its abundant portrayal of the little cartoon cat—a playground, a lounge, wall paper, life-sized stand-ups, wall hangings, statues, pay phone, and retail store with everything HK. Pink is everywhere.

The sixteen and a half hour flight to Taipei was too much. I wouldn’t recommend such a long flight. But we had over three hours to move about Hello Kitty airport before re-boarding for Saigon. We walked, browsed the many shops, and had our first bowl of Asian noodle soup in an Asian country.

Mike: We landed in Saigon at the same airport where U.S. troops arrived over 40 years ago. A few buildings at Tân Sơn Nhất airport remain from that era. Most have been replaced with airport expansion.

Customs in Vietnam was straightforward and reasonably quick. Outside, I guess they’re used to it, but passenger pick-up was like the trading floor of Wall Street. We located our driver and I soon realized my mistake in sitting in the front seat. I was introduced to Saigon traffic mere millimeters from vehicles in front of and next to us. Traffic rules are only a suggestion.

In the coming weeks we’ll share more about our visit to Southeast Asia. We opted for airline travel between cities to leave more time for experiences. The places the airplanes took us provided for truly amazing experiences. Stay tuned. 

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