This trip was hosted (what does this mean?)
I recently went on a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam courtesy of Vietnam Airlines, the lone blogger with a group of travel writers/journalists.
As Vietnam Airlines only offers flights out of Sydney and Melbourne, I chose to fly Perth to Sydney at my own expense and stay overnight so I wouldn’t be travelling for 15+ consecutive hours. But there’s always so much to be done in Sydney, and in less than 24 hours I managed to squeeze in lunch at The Milk Bar by Cafe Ish, a drink with my sister who lives in Sydney and a catch-up with friends over dinner at Xanthi Bar and Restaurant at Westfield Sydney. The next day, I made my way to the airport, arriving a little after 8am where I met our chaperone for the trip, Burt of Vietnam Airlines, and the rest of my travelling companions. In addition to Burt, there were five other people in our little group – all guys, plus me.
This was my first time flying business class, and it proved thrilling and an eye-opener. I can’t imagine flying like this all the time…
There’s so much leg room my (admittedly short) legs don’t even touch the seat in front of me!
The seats are wide and adjustable so you can relax and sleep at more reclined positions than in economy. The foot rest is automated and extends flat in the “bed” setting so you can lie down. It’s not a full lie-flat bed but this is the best seat on a plane I’ve ever been in – no complaints here!
As soon as we’re seated, we’re given refreshing cool towelettes and offered orange juice, apple juice or champagne. We’re given a Clarins amenities pack containing a toothbrush and toothpaste, earplugs, comb, a tiny tube of Clarins moisturiser, shaving set, blindfold, shoe horn and shoe-shine kit (do people really use these?). Next, we are presented with the menu so we can choose our hors d’oeuvre and main course and my eyes open wide when I see the feast that awaits. Looks like business class and gluttony go hand in hand.
Cabin crew come round with a rack of magazines and a selection of Australian and Vietnamese newspapers.
The in-flight entertainment is via a touch screen console, with over 20 Hollywood movies, plus sports documentaries and episodes of Just for Laughs. I realised recently that the only time I watch movies these days is while I’m flying – I’ve watched the last couple of Harry Potter and Twilight films on planes.
The music selection includes lots of best of albums (I set up a playlist with the greatest hits of Eurythmics and Kylie Minogue) but if you’re really into your music, you’d be best off taking your iPod along. In your seat there’s a power point and USB port which works for keeping your iPod/iPhone charged up. I see others around me whip out their iPads and laptop computers as we get settled into the flight.
When lunch service begins, my table is gently folded out for me (the crew have spotted a clueless business class newbie a mile away!) and a tablecloth is laid upon it. Then a tray is placed before me, with salt and pepper shakers and metal cutlery and toothpick in a rolled cloth napkin. I don’t have long to wait before the amuse bouche appears. Actually, it’s a trio of amuse bouches.
Next course is the hors d’oeuvre: smoked duck breast, Hungarian salami and two very plump grilled prawns, served with salad. Just as I’m wondering what the butter in the little dish is for, I am offered a selection of breads which includes white and wholemeal rolls and garlic bread. As I pick up my bread roll to butter it, I realise with surprise that it’s warm.
Next, zucchini parmesan soup, a creamy, well-seasoned soup topped with chopped chives and gooey parmesan cheese.
For my main course, I’ve chosen the wok-fried snapper in black bean sauce with fried rice with egg. The vegies are a little too floppy for my liking but the rice is very good and I’m impressed with the snapper – two thick fillets in a sticky dark sauce.
The main course dishes are cleared away, and we are presented with fruit, cheese and crackers, free to select whatever we like.
I’m getting full by now, so I choose a wedge of Brie with crackers, a little watermelon and a couple of strawberries.
Last of all is a dessert tray with chocolates, cakes and black forest ice cream with raspberry coulis. Once again, I’m restrained in my selection, choosing just one of the chocolates to finish my meal. Coffee and tea are offered.
Once we’re all done, the dishes and trays cleared and our tables folded away, the lights are switched off. It’s time to relax, watch a movie, or set your seat to “sleep”, which is what most of us do to pass the time.
After all that eating, it may seem crazy that another meal is served two and half hours before landing, but the flight is almost 9 hours after all! Out comes the fold-out table again (I’m prepared this time and have managed it myself) and another crisp, fresh tablecloth. I’ve chosen the stir-fried chicken with shiitake spring onion, egg noodles with oyster sauce. It’s served with salad, fruit salad and more warm bread. The chicken thigh pieces are succulent, the mushrooms juicy. Like the vegetables in my earlier meal, the Asian greens are a bit overdone but I enjoy the salty springy noodles.
More drinks, tea and coffee are offered, and a final round of the moist towelettes to freshen us up.
The service was fantastic. The main meal was a banquet! I suppose there isn’t much else to do up there! I felt utterly pampered and other than eventual boredom and wishing we’d hurry up and get there already, the almost 9-hour journey was travelled in comfort. Now that I know what I’m missing out on, every time I fly economy in future I will remember the luxury of business class and think of the passengers in the front of the aircraft with envy. Have you travelled business class before?
Flying Vietnam Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines offers daily direct flights out of Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City (flight time approximately 9 hours) and onwards to Hanoi
- Airbus A330-200 aircraft
- Baggage allowance: economy class 30kg ; business class 40kg
- Visit Vietnam Airlines for more info
Business lounge, Ho Chi Minh City International Airport
Having left chilly wintery Sydney and the air-conditioned plane, the humidity hits us as soon as we step out and walk into Ho Chi Minh City International Airport, where our group meets with the last member of our party, who’s flown via Melbourne. Now that we’re all together, we head for the air-conditioned comfort of the Vietnam Airlines business lounge where we’ll hang out until our next flight (approximately 1 hour) with Cambodia Angkor Air to Siem Reap, Cambodia. There’s wi-fi available in the lounge, so I spend a few minutes emailing Jac to tell her I’ve arrived safely in Vietnam. I also can’t resist sending her photos of my business class meal. She replies: “So jealous!”
Our group are still getting to know one another, so it’s nice to sit, relax and chat. We’ll be together for the next 10 days.
Inexplicably, despite feeling like we’ve done nothing but eat since departing Sydney, we’re ready to eat again. Just a light meal, of course. My eyes light up when I see the plate of bananas among the other tropical fruits. There’s nothing like the sweet, stumpy plump bananas of South East Asia. I ate more bananas than any other food item while in Cambodia and Vietnam.
I’m most interested in the hot dish selection and don’t hesitate to lift lids to check out what’s inside. The braised pork with quail eggs looks interesting, as do the fried pork noodles.
But my choice is pork mince porridge, which turns out to be gloriously good. I spoon over some of the braised chicken and ginger with plenty of gingery sauce. I could easily eat multiple bowls of this but seeing as we’re about to get on another smaller plane, it’s probably not a good idea.
When I was younger, I never had the slightest desire to travel. Just wasn’t interested. I think the opportunities my blog has given me to visit new places has awakened the latent traveller in me. I love it! Whether travelling with alone, with Jac or with a group of friendly strangers, I’m always excited about the photographic and culinary opportunities that await, and the chance to experience something new. Taking photos of my food on the plane and in the business lounge was fun, but there was so much more to come as the adventure unfolded…
Next in this series: Day 1 in Cambodia, staying at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa.
TFP travelled as a guest of Vietnam Airlines