Our long journey home began in Hanoi’s incredibly crowded and chaotic International Airport around midnight. We checked our bags, cleared customs and boarded our Japanese Airlines flight – which turned out to be oh so comfortable.
We got what little sleep we could, but were fully awake when the sun began to rise over the land of the rising sun. We landed at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, disembarked and promptly fell asleep on the first comfortable surface we could find. For the next 9 hours we tried to get some sleep and poked around the fancy airport when we couldn’t. We hate layovers, but we saved buckets of money by doing it this way.
After a few naps and a massive Japanese McDonalds meal, we began boarding for the next leg of our journey home – over the Pacific to Los Angeles. We watched the sun set and rise again from window seat while trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to catch a few Zzz’s.
We touched down on American soil after the second longest flight of the trip. Immediately, culture shock set in. After months of general not-giving-a-shit, The Land of the Free’s Customs agents rooted through my backpack. They grilled me on why I didn’t have a perfect itemized list of what I was bringing back from Asia, but even more shocking than that was the price of a sandwich at LAX. Thankfully, we made our connecting flight bound for home.
The sun disappeared once again as we touched down in Atlanta. It was strange walking down the same terminal as we’d walked up so many months ago. Were we even the same people? Amanda’s parents were waiting for us at baggage claim and we stopped by The Varsity for a greasy-delicious burger and a frosted orange on the way home. Our epic journey was over. For the moment, our futures remain uncharted – but not for a second do either of us regret having A Bad Idea.
What to do on our last day in Asia? We pondered the question over a breakfast of bacon and eggs, with a brief interlude to discuss politics with an American, an Australian and a Dutchman. We ultimately settled on spending the afternoon exploring Van Mieu – Hanoi’s ancient Temple of Literature. We climbed back up to our room on the top floor, packed our bags for the final time and hit the busy streets.
We hailed a cab and hopped out at the front gate of the temple, whose inscription asked us to kindly dismount from our horses before entering. Van Mieu was built in 1070 and has been well preserved even through regime changes, natural disasters and wars. It’s dedicated to Confucius and is home to Vietnam’s oldest university. Apparently the King posed the questions to the national exam himself, and graded each student on his answer.
We strolled the grounds, admiring the incredible architecture in the classic Vietnamese style. The impeccably tended gardens and each gorgeous red and gold detail made this one of the most beautiful and interesting temples of our entire trip. It’s absolutely worth a visit if you’re ever in this neck of the woods.