Our two weeks in Koh Samui, which included our son’s wedding is over and the next phase of our grand adventure takes us to Saigon, Vietnam. This is our final week before the world cruise, so we plan on having a quiet week, visiting with family.
As the crow flies, Koh Samui to Saigon is only 459 miles, but on a Oneworld Alliance ticket it took over 12 hours and almost 2,400 miles. Yes, it would be nice if a direct flight was available, but two benefits, make the circuitous travel more palatable. During layovers we use the comfortable business lounges and we rapidly accrue air miles with the business class bonus and a further 50% bonus, as BA Silver members.
Although we departed at 07:45, one of Iain’s friends was on the 06:00, so we agreed to share a taxi, departing the villa at 04:30. Tyler had a tough couple of weeks, writing off a scooter on day 1, severe sunburn which Judi treated and failing at the burger challenge, so we took care of the taxi.
Bangkok Airways aren’t a member of Oneworld Alliance, so couldn’t be included on the round the world flight schedule. Therefore, the return to Bangkok was a separate domestic flight. We hoped our bags could be sent through to Saigon, as it would save lots of time in Bangkok, collecting bags, getting up to the arrivals level, checking-in and passing through security. The young lady required our RTW flights and exclaimed, “Madam you fly business and lots”. Success, the young lady at check-in was brilliant, being able to check us in for the Cathay flights, sending the bags through to Saigon and as an additional bonus, we departed Thailand immigration at Koh Samui. She didn’t even charge for the 60 or 70 lbs of excess baggage on the domestic flight.
Koh Samui airport is a pleasant change from the hustle and bustle of other major international airports. Life is very laid back and Bangkok Airways provide a very comfortable air conditioned departure lounge, with courtesy tea, coffee, fruit juices and snacks. This airline treats economy passengers better than some others treat business class.
In Bangkok we arrived at a remote stand and at the bottom of the stairs we were directed to a mini van, rather than the bus for the other passengers. We were whisked to an employee entrance and escorted directly to the Cathay Pacific lounge. Unbelievably exceptional service, thank you Bangkok Airlines.
Next up on our round the world flights is Cathay Pacific, renowned as the world’s # 1 airline. Our remaining two flights today and the two to Sydney next week are with Cathay Pacific, so this is our chance to compare Cathay & Qatar, the world’s two leading airlines.
The business lounge in Bangkok is very small, but comfortable and it has all the usual amenities. Judi took it easy with tea and croissants, but I tried the chicken curry and beer. Yes, this was breakfast. Verdict – Cathay win on the food, but Qatar win on beer, as Cathay only had yellow beers and Qatar had Guinness.
Boarding the first flight, a B-777 we were surprised to find regular seats in a 2/3/2 layout, however they did have ample leg room, and it was only a short 2h30m flight.
Although these were the worst business seats since I flew with Air Canada many years ago, I will hold off on the verdict until we complete the long haul to Sydney.
For meals, I had the prawn appy followed by steamed cod and Judi had chicken. The appy was excellent and the cod was delicious and cooked to perfection, but Judi’s chicken was terrible. Not ready for a verdict, but definitely leaning towards Qatar. Although Cathay have a pleasant 2012 Australia Shiraz, they only have yellow beer. When it comes to port, Qatar win hands down with a very smooth 41 year old port, Cathay’s is way too young at only 7 years old.
Hong Kong’s new airport is huge, but fortunately our flights arrived and departed from the same terminal, in fact the gates were adjacent. With only just over an hour between flights, we skipped the lounge and headed straight to the gate. After a short delay we boarded the aircraft, a Airbus A-330.
Ah, much happier to find pods in a 1/2/1 configuration, which are fairly similar to Qatar, in that each pod is an aisle seat. Cathay has much better storage around the seat, but Qatar has a vastly superior table.
Meals on this flight were again inconsistent, with Judi selecting an excellent sliced beef in black bean sauce, with me again having cod. Unfortunately this time it was terrible, cod grossly overcooked and dried out, potatoes raw and the entire meal wasn’t hot. If only for consistency, we are definitely leaning towards Qatar, for meal quality.
Arriving in Saigon, we required a Visa on Arrival, which is a passport stamp costing USD 45 each, cash only. No credit cards or even local currency accepted. On picking up the bags and heading to the exit, we were surprised at having to have all suitcases and carry-on bags x-rayed.
Met at the airport by our niece Gretchen and her driver, we got the car loaded and set off on the almost 1 hour drive to their house. We are spending a week with Gretchen, husband Jon and their two young boys. Jon is a consular officer at the Canadian Embassy, and it is becoming a tradition that we visit just before they move to a new posting. We visited them a month before leaving Kenya for Vietnam and in a couple of months Jon is moving to Bangkok. Therefore, to keep the tradition alive, sounds like we will be in Bangkok in 3 or 4 years.
Flights completed – 14
Distance today – 2,314 miles
Total distance – 25,411 miles
Flights remaining – 7