Vietnam provided me with incentives to visit as the country hosts a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s my dream to visit as many of these sites as possible during my life time and i must declare, I love Vietnam (with a big red heart!). The weather in November is cool, the food fabulous and cheap, and the people friendly. Even the infamous traffic was tolerable after a few days.
My 11-day itinerary included a cruise at Ha Long Bay and a night-train ride to Sapa. To make the experience more complete, I had contemplated motorbike tour to Hai Van Pass and bicycle tour in Hoi An, but decided the motorbike ride too dangerous and bicycle tour too arduous for my photographer husband with his heavy back pack.
There are many flights from Singapore to Hanoi, ranging from budget airlines to national airlines. Many Singaporeans I spoke to chose to go via budget, and it makes sense since the flight time is short (three hours). But I decided to fly Vietnam Airlines as it would make our domestic transfer to Hoi An easier. Mike was a little apprehensive. Really, how can a national airline be worse than budget air? He relented after we compared the price and the ease of transfer. There wasn’t much difference in price (S$381 full fare per pax including domestic flight to Da Nang) but more importantly, our flight included full meal and 20kg luggage, a plus since we will be in Vietnam for so long without laundry.
Booking online was a breeze with the website easy to navigate. We could choose our seats and check in online, which made the arrangement very convenient.
Our aeroplane was an Airbus A321 Jet which is rather small, with an aisle separating rows of three seats. Majority of the travelers were Vietnamese. Granted, there was no individual entertainment system but the in-flight magazine Heritage provided good reading materials for me.
Warm food was served consisting of either rice or noodles. Regardless of what my sister says about the horrors of airline food, I enjoy eating airline food and this was no exceptions.
Service staff, with stewardess dressed in traditional áo dài, looks charming but they could do better with more smiles. They were a discerning lot and could recognise the fact that we were not Vietnamese by speaking to us in English and reverting to Vietnamese to our neighbours, sometimes exasperated by their demands.
We arrived in Hanoi but before the plane could stop taxiing, everyone got up and started removing their overhead luggage, disregarding the announcement to remain seated. I squeezed my way out into the aisle while I looked in front for any sign of disembarkation, since we had entered from the front. An elderly woman spoke and gestured wildly at me. I thought she wanted me to move so she could come out of her seat. I remained stubbornly stationary until Aaron gave me a nudge – we were to exit via the back.
On the whole, after travelling on three flights on Vietnam Airlines, I am all praise for it and would not hesitate to do so again given the chance. It’s a great way of slowly immersing yourself into the country you are visiting. On the plane, we witnessed a man, probably from the countryside, eating butter out of the box with his teaspoon on one hand, and taking a bite of his bun in another. Finally, he stirred his coffee with his knife, which was the only clean utensil. My thought? I was so happy to be going to a country where they eat with chopsticks.