This is the return flight from this SGN-DAD, on VN too because all my flights of these series were FB award tickets, due to the attractiveness of VN and CI award ticket rates compared to that of AF. In short, my wife cumulated FB airmiles on roundtrips paid by my company, which I used for award tickets to join her in a place other than Taipei where I was then on assignment.
Since HUI (Hue International) was closed for a complete overhaul, a chauffeured car drove us to DAD, a rather amusing trip because the Vietnamese drivers strictly respect boringly low speed limits, while disregarding any notion of safety distances in both axes.
The Vietnamese do pay attention to pedestrians though, and their cars have operational safety belts: it is a far cry from the full scale video game played on the roads of Mainland China.
Precisely two hours and a half later, as predicted, we were only 10,000 VND (0.30 EUR) away from DAD's terminal.
Nearly so, actually, because we had a free tour of the parking lot, because our chauffeur initially drove to the Arrival level, which is seldom described since FReporters fly, they don't welcome flyers.
We were eventually dropped at Departures level:
The hall inside is wide, sunny and spotless clean.
There were quite a lot people waiting the Vietnamese way, on the low-cost end (Vietjet and Jeststar). The total absence of any semblance of queue is disconcerting from the Taiwanese point of view, and the total absence of any semblance of invective or overcrowding is disconcerting from the French point of view.
On the Vietnam Airlines side, there are ten times as many counters and ten times fewer passengers.
It was not even worth trying to use one of the Skypriority counters (Mrs. Marathon is FB-Gold), with the privilege of a blue carpet, of VN's favorite color.
A window seat? You will be in the far rear of the aircraft! The priorities of a Flight-Reporter are not those of a FB Elite card holder, I chose the window seat.
I had asked for a window on the left (to avoid the direct sunlight), but I have problems communicating in countries which do not use ideograms. We'll see that it was a good seat too.
I was unsure of the driving talents of the unknown driver who would take us to DAD, and we left half an hour earlier than recommended by the hotel, which gave me a lot of time to explore the photographic potential of DAD.
This is again the Departures level, from the sidewalk.
And a view of the Arrival level, from the stairs in between.
With regards to plane spotting, the harvest is meager: it is not crowded on the tarmac and the lighting is wrong in the middle of the afternoon. On the north end, a VN A321 and a Gulfstream G200 (HS-LEE) parked away.
And a VN ATR72
I do not know why the Vietnamese made no effort to enhance the plane spotter friendliness of the south end.
Back to the Departures hall, with this departing flights hall, nearly all towards HAN and SGN, the two main cities of the north and the south of the country, respectively. There are only two international flights to SIN and ICN, respectively.
An ordinary security check, with a queue which is much more orderly than usual.
Airside is just as wide and well lit as landside, with enough seats for a wide-body traffic.
A wing appears to have been added with two extra gates, and light colored seats, slightly more comfortable than the others.
You can see them on the right: the wide windows on the whole length of the terminal make DAD's airside zone an ideally spotter-friendly area. The terminal is parallel to runway 35R/27L, the view is due west, against the sun in the end of the afternoon. Runway 35L/27R appears to be closed).
The lighting of the ATR72 seen from the outside is therefore unfavorable.
It is not better for that A321 departing to SGN
It is hardly better at the end of pushback
Later, when the clouds masked the sun, it was slightly better for this one which had just landed.
On the other hand, I missed the arrival of that A320 Vietjet, which parked alongside a jetbridge at the southern end of the terminal, where the right side of the planes are not visible.
The shops are more affordable than the average luxury duty-free shops of major international airports (25,000 VND for a bag of cheese flavored crackers would not have ruined us).
This 787 VN was grounded, although it had no battery problems. If you were interested, you could have it for 430,000 VND, in metal, but poorly finished. The A321 is cheaper, because it is smaller.
The toilets are clean. Some water has been splashed on the sinks, but this was not a big deal.
The access to Gate 8 is here. You guessed immediately that it means bus boarding.
The lighting of the ATR72 is better here
… as well as for the A321 parked pierside.
The ground staff in contact to the passengers wears the traditional and becoming long tunic slit two centimeters above the trousers.
I do not know if the golden trousers are the sign of a higher position.
For the corporate screenshot, it will be another time
It is 16:43, and I suspect that the 16:50 flight is not going to be on time.
We are boarding, with the same peaceful absence of queue, which is completely useless when there is a bus.
This is the first bus (there will be two of them), a standard Cobus 3000.
… registered DAD-10702, in white of a blue background because it is a governmental vehicle.
The bus does not go very far between the A321 and the Gulfstream seen earlier
Reaching this A321 which is much more standard as the one of the way in
We board using both front and rear doors, without direction according to the row number
Row 37 was obviously in the rear of the aircraft, but this pretty employee does not check the BPs. She appears to be for decoration only, a task to which she is well suited.
I was last to enter the board (you know how it is, you always have one more picture to take for your FR…); I did not see if this absence of filtering at the bottom of the stairs resulted in passengers crossing each other inside the plane.
VN-A397 is brand new: first flight on 1st December 2012 according to Airfleets, and I discover a beautiful orange mood lighting orange in the cabin.
Some plane spotting, with the arrival of a Vietjet Air A320
And pushback of the one which will operate flight VJ8383, departing at 16h50 to SGN, i.e. the same time as our own flight.
It will take off way before us
Arrival of an A321, which like the one we took on the way in, is still in Cambodia Angkor Air livery
We taxi along nearly the entire length of the runway, passing by several booths like this one
The safety demonstration is entirely on the IFE. I like this alignment of screens from the rear.
The seat pitch is obviously the same as on the other flight, therefore satisfactory.
The plane taxies by the firemen's truck, and what I guess to be a training tower.
The A321 stops at the runway threshold, providing enough stability in the waning light to take the picture of these hangars sheltering two MiG-21 fighters.
I saw more during take-off in some of the dozens of shelters of the airbase, like these seen while taxiing, but masked by planking's.
Takeoff from runway 35R, 34 minutes late
The cloud ceiling was so low that I had time for two pictures only of the airport…
…. and one of the city, before climbing in the clouds
The peninsula at the east end of the bay of Da Nang, through a hole in the clouds
A word of warning: if you are allergic to winglets and/or clouds in the setting sun, better choose a fast setting of your mouse scrolling. You should be able to survive.
Climb to the north, with the sun on the left, for a golden winglet effect.
The registration number on the wing
The background is perfectly neutral there, in order to cater to all tastes.
It did not last, after turning south, it is a succession of lighting effects
Service in economy on a VN domestic flight is limited to a 350 ml bottle of water. Mrs. Marathon realized the severity of my FR addiction when she saw me take seventeen pictures of the same bottle of water.
Since the meal is not going to fill this FR, I have to revert to sunset shots.
There was no geovision to show it, but the plane will turn 360 degrees, maybe on a waiting circuit, above the coordinates (10.765858,106.83918) (thank you, Saraoutou).
On the other hand, we are descending here above Ho Chi Minh City (or Saigon, as it is still called by the Vietnamese themselves)
Touchdown at 18:28, i.e. 28 minutes late, both very soft and very zigzagging. My row, after the cabin had emptied.
And a view of the galley in the rear
A last look at the mood lighting in Y
And the four rows of J in 2+2 seating
Like in Da Nang, our luggage is delivered precisely one minute after we had reached the delivery room.
You can now go directly to the conclusion, if you do not care for the tourist bonus.
Hue is roughly one hundred kilometers south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) of the 17th parallel, which untrue to its name was the location of intense fighting during the Vietnam War. The Americans had installed a major air base in Khe Sanh, which they stubbornly defended so that it would not become another Dien Bien Phu, likewise surrounded by hills held by their enemies. The battle of Khe Sanh, possibly a diversion of the Tet Offensive, has been its most famous episode.
Only the site remains, because the Americans destroyed all they could not take away when they eventually abandoned the base after six months of fighting. Two helicopters – a UH-1 and a Chinook – and a C130 are exposed on the steel plates that the runway was made of.
Vinh Moc is a village located on the coast next to the DMZ, in an area undergoing heavy bombings. The inhabitants digged with hand tools down to thirty meters deep a network of two kilometers of tunnels to shelter the entire village. The tunnels are 1.70m high: not for amateurs of wide seat pitches!
Vietnam is also a long and narrow country which shares a very long border with Laos. The border area market contains incredibly heterogeneous piles of goods of all kinds, which is ordered in a manner which must be natural for locals.
Bras are next to shampoo, and male underwear next to washing powder. There must be an underlying message there.
There are hundreds of Omega, Rado, and other major brands of watches, all as authentic as this Hello Kitty T-shirt which was missing in my FR.
How can you summarize the Citadel of Hue, the only Vauban type fortress in South-east Asia, surrounded by ten kilometers of walls?
The Purple Forbidden City is located inside a second quadrangle of walls, and was similar in principle to its much more famous homonym in Beijing, but suffered considerably during the successive wars. It will probably take over a century to rebuild its buildings.
The Vietnamese go to great lengths to respect the overall aesthetics, and even camouflaged these manholes in the grass.
Hue is also the fabulously rich mausoleums of the Nguyen dynasty, which emerged from the war unscathed. Building the tomb of Emperor Khai Dinh absorbed 30% of the whole country's income tax receipts during the eleven years it took to build.
How can you forget the charms of Hue's night life, like here in Thon Duc Thang Street?
No, this is not at all what you think! This young girl does not sell herself, but rents a parking space for scooters on the sidewalk, stools or cardboard to sit on the grass,….
…and soft drinks to have a pleasant evening together around this small lake at the time when the temperature dropped to comfortable levels. This place is an active meeting place for the young and not so young each evening.
This FR is at long last finished; thank you for reading it all. The next flight is here : SGN-NGO
Da Nang - DAD
Ho Chi Minh City - SGN
Over half an hour delay, compensated (in comparison with some European airports) by the quasi-instantaneous delivery of the luggage: this had no consequence, apart from degrading plane spotting in DAD. No comment on the FA; the comfort and service was unchanged.
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