After a four-hour movie-less Vietnam Airlines flight from Incheon, I now have a three-hour layover in Hanoi before heading on to Vientiane. 

It all sounds a bit exotic—Incheon, Hanoi, and Vientiane—destinations you might come across in a Graham Greene or Paul Theroux novel or a Pico Iyer travel piece. Well, maybe not so much Incheon (though residents of Incheon would beg to differ) but definitely Hanoi and Vientiane. 

I might not have been able to go home for Christmas but at least I will be able to be somewhere special to ring in the New Year. 

It’s my first time to fly Vietnam Airlines and the flight and the service was okay. Don’t know what was up with the in-flight entertainment though. One of the cabin attendants explained that the system was not working. Fair enough. 

Not too sure about this three-hour layover (I have a five-hour one on my return trip to Incheon next week) here at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport. First, there’s a bit of immigration, albeit transit immigration formalities—showing your passport and boarding pass—before you are allowed to proceed upstairs to the cavernous and dimly lit departure area.  

Once upstairs, there’s really nothing for a person to do other than sit or wander through some of the duty free shops. You know, I have never really understood the concept behind duty free. After all, if you are able to afford a ticket to fly overseas where you are most likely going to spend more money, does one really save that much more on duty free items? Does one really come out ahead or does one end up spending more money just because everything is a bit cheaper? 

Okay, so I am not too keen on duty free shopping, but if one is still looking for something to do to pass away the time, there are four television sets if you want to watch some Vietnamese television (and playing one of them is a badly dubbed American movie: there’s a Vietnamese voice over dub with the original dialogue still quite noticeable in the background). 

There’s just one restaurant with a fairly limited, pricey menu: a hamburger will set you back $5.50 and a Coke $2.00. There was a sign advertising Internet service, but I didn’t see any computers when I was wandering around upstairs (after paying the $7.50 for a burger and a coke). If you really want a Coke though, you are better off buying one from one of the vendors downstairs for just a buck. 

I wandered around a few times, tempted to buy some Vietnamese souvenirs but opting to wait for my return trip to Incheon. Three hours is not that long after you’ve filled your belly with some expensive airport food and then walked some of it off. 

Thank God for my iPod Nano.