Got up about 05:30 and began working on the trip. About 10:00 I stopped and began my usual Sunday cleaning/washing routine. By the time I finished it was too hot to walk the 20 blocks to Starbucks, so I went back to trip planning.
I found the flights I wanted and tried to book the tickets online. Naturally my credit card didn’t go through. The computer generated message said the name on my passport did not match the name on my credit card. My middle name is spelled out on the passport, but only an initial appears on my credit card. I tried using my debit card and tried again. Another “no.”
Then I fudged my information and tried again. Still no luck. But this time there was no reason given, just a generic “please try again later” message.
Against my better judgment and years of experience, I called Vietnam Airlines customer service. I gave them all the information about my flights and my credit card info. They told me Visa had rejected the charge. I knew better than this, but made an expensive 1-800 call to Visa where I was told no charge had been put through by Vietnam Airlines, much less rejected.
I had a similar experience booking a ticket with Air Asia last year. The reason for the problem was they would not accept credit cards drawn on out of the country banks for international flights. But Air Asia has a Shenzhen office where I could go and buy the tickets for cash. Vietnam Airlines has no such facility.
So I called up Vivian and asked her to put the tickets on her credit card. She came over and after a couple of hours of messing around online in both English and Chinese we gave up and called a nearby travel agent.
They said they could take care of things so the three of us walked the 5 blocks to the office. Even though we had an appointment and there was on one in line ahead of us, it took nearly 3 hours to buy the tickets. After about an hour and a half of waiting, I returned home, leaving the girls to deal with things.
It is now 16:30. The girls just walked in with the tickets. The entire process of buying 3 tickets to and from Vietnam took more than 8 hours. Nothing is easy in China.
But there was a slightly brighter side to the story. The travel agent found us a direct flight to Hanoi from Guangzhou at about $100. less per ticket than the Hong Kong flight. Guangzhou is about 2 hours from Shenzhen and Martin agreed to drive us there, and pick us up when we return. Martin is a saint.