While planning this quite long and busy trip it was obvious we will need a place and time to have some rest. Phu Quoc Island was recommended both by my parents and our friends as a very quiet and authentic place where you can enjoy the beach, sun and do nothing more. In this case there were many options of getting to the island that is a very popular destination for Vietnamese and tourists from all around the globe. I wanted to fly Vietnam Airlines but the ticket was expensive, so was the Jet Star Pacific so the choice was only one: Viet Jet Air - a totally low cost private airline that grows very fast and is widely known for cancelling the flights and changing passenger's reservation without letting them know about it. Anyway, no risk, no fun :)
HO CHI MINH CITY (SAIGON)
My tradition is to post first some bonus pics from the place I have been before describing the flight. I think it's better to show things in their chronological order. This time I would like to share some photos from the Ho Chi Minh City commonly known as Saigon (the name has been changed by the communists to commemorate Vietnam's most important communist leader Mr Ho Chi Minh. It's so funny that communist regimes all over the world act according to the same pattern - w've already had Sankt Petersburg in Russia changed to Leningrad and the capital of the Upper Silesia in my country, known as Katowice, changed to Stalinogrod - the city of Stalin, for a very short time in the 50-ties). Talking about city names it is also funny that in Polish the word "Saigon" means a big mess, a total chaos. We say often "what a Saigon" or "I have Saigon today at work". I always thought that this meaning appeared after the Vietnamese war but it's enough to come to this city to see it needs no war to be the most chaotic place on the planet. By the way, is the word "Saigon" used in the same idiomatic way in other languages too?
The oldest part of the city is the so called French District (Vietnam used to be French colony for quite a long time). It has some very European style monuments such as:
Notre Dame cathedral
Post office building designed by Mr Eiffel (it's not his portrait inside by the way, it's Mr Ho Chi Minh of course)
Uncle Ho (as Vietnamese call him) is everywhere here, inluding statutes, banknotes, stamps…
Despite the fact that Vietnam is developing very fast it still is a communist country. You can feel in many places as if you were almost in North Korea.
Chinese New Year's preparations were in progress and you could tell that by the number of flowers, small trees and different creatures trying to pretend they are dogs (it's dog's year in Chinese calendar).
Some of the new Year's trees were taken home in traditional Vietnamese way - on motorbike
We've been to the War Museum that I would not reccomend to anyone. I wanted to see old planes and helicopters but it ended up in seeing endless photos showing all the cruelty of war. The most fameous picture called "The napalm girl" was also there.
The city has also a modern face with skyscrapers and a skydeck with great panoramic view of this 10 milion chaos
Saigon means also a lot of food, good Vietnamese food with my favourite Pho soup, spring rolls (known in my country as "sajgonki" - Saigon pancakes), and a lot of very strong coffee usually served here with ice and condensed milk.
If you want to quit Saigon you can take one of numerous one day trips. We decided to see Mekong delta and it was a good choice even though the whole place is very commercial.
Getting to Mekong delta you may see that people here use motorbikes as family cars. We stuck in a giant traffic jam surrounded by thousands of motorbikes, each carrying even 4 people.
The river itself is huge, rather grey and muddy
We visited a bee farm, a crocodile farm, a coconut candy factory and in the very end had a short trip with traditional boat. Everything for 10 USD with lunch included (!!!).
Two days in Ho Chi Minh city and one day in Mekong delta was enough, we were ready for the lazy part of the trip. To our astonishment Viet Jet Air has only slightly changed the hour of our departure (from 11:40 to 11:50) and the aircraft type form A320 to A321. Lucky we. We took a taxi to the airport that has separate domestic and international terminals. I don't know how and if they are connected if you have a combined domestic/international flight. Domestic terminals are usually small but not here. It's not only huge but also divided into separate sectors that look like smaller terminals so we had an impression that Viet Jet has it's own terminal here. Air travels are very popular in Vietnam simply because the country is very big, it has more than 90 milion ihnabitants, terrible roads and the distance between the two main cities Hanoi and Saigon is 1137 km. Viet Jet Air flies between the capital and Saigon even three times per hour, the flights are always full, so are the other domestic flights.
We needed just to drop the luggage as the check in could be done online.
The airside part of the terminal had at least one positive thing - huge windows with good spotting facilities.
Vietnam Airlines 787 and A321
Viet Jet Air A321
Very crowded gates area
Our gate has been changed in the very last moment so we could see once more how big is the terminal. Waiting for boarding.
After a short bus ride we reached our A321 that seemed rather fresh and new judging by the sharklets. I like this intense red colour combined with yellow and white. I think this livery is more Virtnamese than the very calm Vietnam Airlines livery.
The cabin is very fresh too with typical low cost style seats
I like the funny crew uniforms even though they look somehow military
Decent pitch for a low cost airline, the seat is not too comfortable but ok for a 35 minute hop to the island.
Safety card and air sickness bag
Many food and purchase options in the BOB magazine. You can even buy a child CC uniform!
Boarding lasts ages, the plane is full of foreign tourists and Vietnamese families with children travelling to the island for the New Year's celebrations. I have a very good window view so I spend my time observing the airport's trafic and spotting.
Taxi is very slow as the traffic here is very intense. We pass by many Viet Jet aircrafts and some nice foreigners
ATR of a local company called Vasco
Viet Jet A320 in special livery
Small Planet flying for one of Cambodian carriers
Time to go up and see the city of chaos from above
It seems endless first but finally it ends
Rural countryside with rice fields and the Mekong delta
As the distance is quite short we shortly leave the land and fly towards Phu Quoc island passing by some small islands. We didn't order anthing from the BOB but some people managed to order and eat hot meals during this 35 minutes flight!
As we arrive from the south east and will be landing from the west we overfly the island and make a deep turn right to come back
Landing (almost) like in Sint Marteen ;)
Phu Quoc seems to have a brand new terminal still incomplete
We stop on a remote stand and wait for the stairs and bus
Cabin view during deboarding
And our A321 from outside
The airport seems almost finished. A couple of years ago Phu Quoc was hardly known to foreigners, now it's fighting to become Vietnamese Phuket with some direct charter flights to Russia, London and Scandinavia. A funny thing is that before we leave the terminal our baggage is checked with our boarding pass and the identification sticker is taken by a special and very serious worker. Anyway you may be sure someone won't walk away with your precious bag…
To be continued soon. Many thanks for reading.
Ho Chi Minh City - SGN
Duong Dong - PQC
I never expect much from a LCC but the flight was OK, the equipment was new and the crew young, fast and very polite. We didn't suffer from Viet Jet's rescheduling policy so I can really recommend the airline. As far as SGN is concerned, it requires as much patience as the city but the terminal is modern and even despite the crowds you may always find some space for yourself.
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