• Hien Le

My quarantine diary in Vietnam - part 1

Ok, it's probably weird to start off a travel blog with a post about quarantine. But with harsh lockdown measures in place in Hanoi for now, it kinda hurts me seeing old travel pics of myself without being able to step outside just for a walk. Also I've wanted to share my quarantine stories a while ago, but I was in a cast back then, so it makes sense to share it now I guess.


Long story short, as some of you might already know, I went back to Vietnam on a repatriate flight organized by the Vietnamese government in late March because of the accident that resulted in my right hand being in a cast for 2 months, followed by more months of physiotherapy (I originally had plans to apply for the post-study work visa). It was actually difficult to get on a repat flight, coz the waiting list was super long. I also had a wrist surgery on March 12, and the flight was on March 28, so by the time I boarded the flight I could only use my left hand. Luckily my two besties Zina & Uyen were there to help (Idk how I'd survive the flight and quarantine time without them, honestly).


So here comes my quarantine story, divided into 3 posts (because I don't want y'all to read a long, long one).


Pre-flight preparation

Welcome to my flight survival package. So I heard returnees from other flights said there'll be no food or water provided on the entire flight (mine would be 9 hours) to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, and it could take up to 12 hours of waiting to be assigned into a quarantine camp, so I decided to prepare for the worst case scenario that I might have no access to any food or water for 24 hours. I got some of the food from Asian grocery stores & some from my friends, most are dried/packaged and can last for a long time. I also prepped 3 blank 500ml bottles, so when I go past the security checkpoints I could eventually fill them with water.


You may be wondering about the mini fan? The answer: The flight will limit AC operation for air circulation purposes only, and I'll have to wear a PPE set for the entire 9 hours. This means I'd need an extra fan to cool myself down, otherwise I can't stand the heat.


The flight

Since it was a repatriate flight, it was organized by Vietnam's national carrier Vietnam Airlines.

The departure time was 3:30 pm, but we were told to be at the airport 3 hours prior. And thankfully we listened to that - it was already this crowded when Uyen & I reached the airport (Zina departed from Sydney, the flight stopped in two cities before heading to VN):

Uyen had some troubles with her luggages, but thankfully we got them solved. When I walked past the security checkpoint it beeped, but the guard couldn't find any metal so she asked me where I hid it.

"In my wrist", I jokingly replied, referring to the titan plate implanted in my wrist during the surgery 2 weeks prior.

We eventually made it to the waiting gate, where the flight attendants brought us the PPE equipment to wear on the flight. It includes 1 overall, protective glasses, masks, shoe covers and rubber gloves, which I gave up wearing coz it became too inconvenient using just my left hand. Most people pulled down the hood and glasses at some point on the flight, but we had to wear the masks at all times except for eating and drinking.

Me in my PPE set. Apparently Uyen & some other kids had to help me put it on properly.

I got an aisle seat right across the toilet (thankfully the booking lady was nice enough to notice I was in a sling, so she tried to organize the most convenient seat for me). Uyen sat next to me as she's accompanying, but Zina sat in a separate seat since she boarded the flight from Sydney.


Contrary to my thought, we got a total of 4 food bags and 4 bottles of water during the flight, probably because flights from Australia were mostly considered safe as we haven't got any community cases for a long while. Now I got too much food and water around *insert the crying laugh emoji*.

Each food bag consists of 2 buns, 2 fruits, 1 sausage, 1 milk carton and a mini alcohol bottle, because alcohols were considered essentials in Australia even in a lockdown (yes, bottle shops were allowed to open in Melbourne during stage 4 lockdown). Jokes aside, I believe they are normally served to business class passengers, but now there are just repat flights so the airline repurposed them.


Arrival

The flight landed in Hanoi 9:30 pm local time. Upon completing the health declaration, we were led to the immigration gates, where after confirming our identity the authorities confiscated our passports instead of returning them. We'd get our passports back when we complete quarantine.


After fetching our luggages, we were directed to the waiting line and assigned on two buses that took us to the quarantine camps. There was no way to know where we'd be quarantined until that moment, when I learned I'll be going to Quoc Oai with Zina & Uyen. The flight has over 350 people so we were separated into 2 camps, I have no idea where the other batch went (some said Thai Nguyen, but that's all I know). Anyway thank goodness the camp is just in the outskirts of Hanoi and I didn't have to split up with my two friends, otherwise I couldn't imagine how I'd deal with the quarantine alone with just 1 hand (a friend of mine was returning from the UK with her boyfriend, and they were sent to 2 different camps).

Me waiting to be assigned to a quarantine camp

After 2 hours of waiting (that was quick compared to my cousin's mother-in-law who had to wait almost 12 hours), we eventually got on the bus and arrived at the camp midnight. Our bus & luggages got disinfected while we were directed to our rooms. All 3 of us got placed into one room, sharing with only one other lady. This was when we eventually got rid of the PPE suits and unpacked our luggages.

Out of my 2 suitcases, I only opened the one I had put everything I need for my 14 days quarantine. While Zina & Uyen went for a short shower, I was exhausted and couldn't tolerate cold water so I fell straight asleep.


Overall the flight wasn't too bad. Stay tune for my second part of the quarantine stories.



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