Although we had two flights today, we expected a fairly short 11 hour transit; however, twas not to be. More than twenty four hours later, we finally arrived in Sydney. Fortunately our schedule had planned slippage at all critical points, so we went with the flow, completely stress free.
Our final day in Saigon was rather pleasant, especially for Judi, who joined our niece Gretchen in heading to the spa, where Judi enjoyed a relaxing 90 minute massage ($10), and replenishing the war paint on her toes. Meanwhile, I completed packing the few things we unpacked and completed my world cruise research.
Once the boys returned from school, we said our goodbyes and off to the airport, driven by Gretchen’s driver. Even I wouldn’t hire a car and drive in Saigon. The bikes are even crazier than Koh Samui. Rules of the road, or Highway Regulation simply don’t exist. However, I did note everybody is very respectful and never saw road rage or accidents.
At the airport, we waltzed through check-in, immigration and security, and went straight to the recommended business lounge in the vicinity of the departure gate. Although only a small lounge, the chairs were reasonably comfortable and they had the usual amenities. I got Judi some spaghetti & sauce, and a glass of wine, while there was absolutely nothing I found appetising, so I stuck to beer. The spaghetti was revolting and wine undrinkable, so Judi made do with a coke. No problem, we will enjoy dinner on the plane in little over an hour.
Well, we could enjoy dinner aboard the plane, but not in an hour, try closer to three hours. I checked Flight Tracker for the status of the inbound flight and found it had barely left Hong Kong, it was still climbing to cruising altitude. It left Hong Kong 90 minutes late. Darn, we have only about 65 mins in Hong Kong to make the Sydney flight. It made good time coming South, but was further delayed by Saigon air traffic control, arriving about 19:00, which was the scheduled departure time.
Ground crews worked wonders, as we were aboard by 19:50 and pushed back from the gate at 20:15. That’s a quick turn around for a large A-330, hope they didn’t forget the fuel. The flight up was standard Cathay, which we are quickly learning is hit and miss, while my meal was good, Judi’s was terrible.
In Hong Kong, we parked at the gate at 23:51, which is a scant 4 minutes prior to the Sydney flight’s departure time. No information was available whether they would, or wouldn’t hold the flight. Check with ground staff ashore, was the only response. Arriving ashore they had numerous flight numbers, but no CX101 to Sydney. Eventually we found a young man who confirmed what we expected, handing us new boarding passes and a voucher for a room at the luxurious Regal Airport Hotel.
Fortunately, I had researched arrival/departure times for the flights for the previous 3 days and noted they were all delayed. I had also checked seats the following day and noted the 09:00 flight had lots available and that the airport had a connected hotel. Anticipating a possible overnight in Hong Kong we packed our hand luggage with the required overnight essentials.
Expecting the equivalent of the Sofitel at LHR T5 or the Fairmont in Vancouver, we really weren’t concerned with the delay, since I built 2 spare days pre-cruise, into the schedule. It was a decent walk, but on arrival the lobby is impressive. No queue at check-in, so that was completed quickly, then into the lift and up to the room.
As soon as we opened the room door, all positive impressions evapourated. This didn’t resemble the Sofitel or Fairmont, this looked like a prison. Tiny room with stained stucco style wallpaper, that was peeling off. The bed was rather small. I’m now a shade under 6 feet, but my feet were at the end of the bed. The best description of the bed was cozy. Comfort was about the equivalent of sleeping on a concrete mattress. The carpeted airport lounge would have been more comfortable.
I needed email access to send a note to the limo company advising them of the delay, but found the rooms do not have Wi-Fi access, unless you pay an exorbitant fee. Free access is only available in the lobby. So, at 01:00 I returned to the lobby and signed up for their 1/2 hour free internet access to send my 1 email.
After virtually no sleep we headed down to the restaurant at 06:00 for breakfast. Surely this has to be better than the room – nope. On walking in we found cheap, tacky plastic chairs, which they covered by shiny silver material, which was in various stages of disrepair. The selection of food was extensive, but most of it wasn’t what we prefer at breakfast. I enjoy fried rice, steamed dumplings and spicy needles, etc. just don’t consider it breakfast food. Basically, I had fried tomatoes, baked beans and a stale croissant. Yummy!!!
Heading to the plane we experienced another first, a physical search of our hand baggage, which has only a few minutes previously been through x-ray at security. They had tables set up and they opened and inspected every bag. Needless to say it was a painfully slow embarkation.
The flight to Sydney was average, which unfortunately is the best rating I can give to Cathay. The meals were again inconsistent and the flight attendants dimmed the cabin lights after serving breakfast and disappeared until 2 hours before Sydney. In our opinion Qatar are vastly superior to Cathay and other than the pods, British Airways are superior to them as well. Our experiences put Cathay in the basement, about consistent with Air Canada.
Arrival Sydney was amazing, as less than 30 minutes after touch down we were meeting our limo driver for the drive into town. A 20 min drive and we were checking into the condo. We used Omnicar Australia for the limo service and are extremely pleased with the service and not too much more expensive than local cabs. The convenience is worth the few extra dollars.
As I write this, we are a mere 24 hours away from boarding Sea Princess.
Flight completed – 16
Distance today – 5,518 miles
Total Distance flown – 30,929
Flights remaining – 5