Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Vietnam in 2005 & 2013

In 2005, I was sent by my company to Ho Chi Minh City several times. Then, in 2006, I quit the company. After an 8-year hiatus, I finally decided to return to Vietnam, though this time for vacation.
What have changed in Vietnam in these 8 years? And what have not?

What have not changed

The Notre Dame Cathedral, Central Post Office, Opera House and People’s Committee Building in Saigon all have retained their charm. And the traffic in Saigon is as scary as ever…

Notre Dame Cathedral

What have changed

Vietnam’s Highway 1A runs from China-Vietnam border in the north to the Mekong Delta in the south. But make no mistake, this so-called highway is similar to Malaysia’s national trunk roads, where drivers share road with motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.

In 2010, Vietnam finally had a ‘real’ expressway – the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway. The expressway connects HCMC with the Mekong Delta region, shortening the travelling time by about 30 minutes. The expressway still had not been extended to Can Tho, the largest city in the Delta. But I am sure eventually it will.

HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway

Between the 40s and 80s of the last century, economy of Vietnam stagnated because of war and communist policies. It is catching up now…

By the way, I saw more pretty women in Saigon than there were 8 years ago. I guess this was because Vietnamese women could afford to spend more on cosmetics and skincare products, yet another sign of the nation’s rising income.

Saigon at night

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Vietnam Airlines

I am back from my vacation in Vietnam! And, as promised, I will tell you more about Vietnam Airlines…

One thing which bugs me, and many other passengers, is that Vietnam Airlines like to re-schedule its flights. To its credit, VA does inform the passengers through email a few weeks in advance. In my case, the KUL to SGN flight was re-scheduled from 2:00pm to 12:30pm. This was actually a boon for me as I had more time on Vietnam soil. But be careful if you have connecting flight. A change in flight schedule could potentially turn your plan upside down.

Having flown mostly with budget airlines in the last few years, the first thing I noticed, in fact expected, upon entering the cabin was the much larger legroom. I no longer had to press my knees on the seat in front of me, LOL…

During take-off and landing, the cabin crew sat near the emergency exits. In doing so, Vietnam Airlines sacrificed two seats which would otherwise be sold to the passengers. I am sure the kiamsiap (stingy) Tony Fernandes would never do this.

The food served during the flights was just normal, certainly no match to the food I tasted in Saigon. But at least it was complementary.

As a conclusion, Vietnam Airlines is far from perfect. (I have already mentioned, in my previous post, that its online booking mechanism is not user-friendly.) But if the price is right, I would certainly recommend it.

Flying over Mekong Delta