We have started our multi-month trip across southeast Asia 2.5 weeks ago and have traveled to Hong Kong then to northern Vietnam where we got the chance to explore Hanoi, Sapa then Ha long Bay. On Thursday night, we decided to take an overnight train from Hanoi to the imperial city of Hue in central Vietnam.
It is not until we arrived to Hue Friday morning, turned on CNN/BBC and got online that we found out about super typhoon Haiyan devastating the Philippines and heading towards coastal Vietnam, more specifically to the Da Nong/Hue area where we happen to be at the moment.
After cross checking multiple sources of weather news across different countries, the consensus was that the typhoon was indeed coming here and that it is expected to be here by Sunday, early morning. We were planning in spending at least a couple of days here before starting to slowly head further south. We quickly got online and booked a flight for the following morning from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) which is expected to be out of the way of the typhoon. We are currently at the airport and our flight is about an hour away from departing.
Over the last 24 hours, we have talked to dozens of people, both locals and tourists and we were quite surprised by the lack of awareness, fear and urgency expressed by almost everyone. When we started asking people about it on Friday afternoon, nobody seemed aware of it. By the evening, it seemed that more tourists knew about it but only a few were doing anything about it. Most were more concerned about making reservations for touristic tours for the following day.
It is Saturday morning now, it seems like the level of awareness of the Typhoon has increased. However, over half of the local Vietnamese we have talked to did not even know about the typhoon and the rest of them seemed skeptical about it with responses such as: “Not coming here”, “in Philippines, not Vietnam” or “no problem, they say the Typhoon is coming and it does not come ”. Most tourists were aware of the Typhoon but very few were concerned for their safety, they did not seem alarmed with the size of the typhoon and were hopeful that it would not come here.
I have lived in Louisiana for a few years and made it through a few hurricanes. As the hurricane got closer each time, I remember the long lines in front of gas stations as everyone filled up their tank, supermarkets across town running out of water and food and all the TV channels talking about it most of the day.
The situation here with the Typhoon less than 24 hours away is very different. People are just going on with their day. I zapped through the local vietnamese TV channels and I could not find any of them talking about the Typhoon (CNN and BBC were continuously talking about it). I checked out the local newspapers for today being sold at the corner shop and none of them had any front page story about it.
We are at the Hue airport now and we are catching our flight to Ho Chi Minh City at 11h20am. Flights are operating normally today but are planned to be canceled tomorrow. I was expecting to find a busy airport with a lot of travelers, especially a lot of tourists trying to get out. To my surprise, there must be at most 20 or 30 tourists here, I have seen dozens of them in the city center when we left out hotel. I just checked the Vietnamese Airlines website and the flights are not sold out.
I hope that the Typhoon ends up changing path and not making landfall here in the Hue/Da Nong area. If it does, then I am worried about all the people here because they are either not aware of it or if they are, they are not prepared for it: both tourists and locals.
We are boarding soon, gotta go!