As we embarked on our holiday to Vietnam and Cambodia earlier today, we couldn’t shake the feeling that something was not quite right. Skipping the lengthy check-in process at Sydney International Airport and heading straight through security and customs seemed too easy. It’s six years for me, and four years since my friends have had an overseas holiday, mostly due to COVID-19. Armed with only our hand luggage and digital boarding passes, we thought something was not “quite right”.
Our smooth progress was momentarily interrupted when I was “randomly chosen” for an explosives check during security. Although it was a minor inconvenience, we accepted it as part of the routine.
Despite booking through TripADeal and anticipating access to the QANTAS lounge, we learned that the arrangement didn’t apply to these flights. The helpful staff at the QANTAS lounge explained the situation, and suggested an alternative lounge, which turned out to be fantastic. With excellent coffee, great food, a pleasant atmosphere, and friendly staff, the Sky Team Lounge meant we were well taken care of.
As we prepared to board the plane, we encountered another hurdle: our digital boarding passes on our phones weren’t sufficient; we needed printed passes. Thankfully, the airline assured us that it wouldn’t be a problem. Luck was on our side, and we quickly obtained the necessary printed passes, and were actually sent straight to the front of the business queue.
Flying with Vietnam Airlines, we had opted for bulkhead seats at an additional cost of $90 each. These seats offered ample legroom and the convenience of being close to the toilets.
However, proximity to the toilets also brought unexpected laughs, as we witnessed the occasional struggle of fellow passengers with opening and closing the doors. We were also pretty grossed out by the large number of Australians walking around barefoot, in and out of the toilets. At least wear socks!!
Before our trip, I dedicated time to learning a few useful Vietnamese phrases using Duolingo. Although my vocabulary remained limited, I managed to impress a flight attendant with my attempt at saying “thank you.”
Leading up to our adventure, we also sought travel tips from platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Tripadvisor.
The opinions about Vietnam Airlines varied greatly, with some praising it as the best airline in the world while others criticized it as the worst. It appeared that many people expected first-class service at budget prices—a pretty unrealistic expectation.
On a lighter note, one pretty amusing anecdote emerged from a Vietnam travel group on Facebook. A fellow traveler asked for recommendations on a Vietnamese beer that most resembled “Great Northern,” an Australian beer with divided opinions. The responses ranged from practical suggestions to hilarious jokes. While some advised embracing new and interesting flavors, one bold commenter suggested the traveler should “just drink dog’s piss” if they sought a similar taste.
Our ninety-minute layover in Ho Chi Minh City passed swiftly as we navigated the bustling customs hall. We seized the opportunity to purchase Vietnamese SIM cards offering unlimited data, thanks to the efficient assistance of a remarkable saleswoman. While the security check took a bit longer, causing a minor delay, we still managed to board our connecting flight with time to spare.
And so we’re here, in our hotel rooms in Hanoi. I’m looking forward to sharing pics and stories from this long overdue holiday.