Around The World In 21 Days: Vietnam Airlines Economy BKK-HAN-NRT


  1. Introduction
  2. Delta Comfort+ ECP-ATL-JNB
  3. Hilton Sandton
  4. British Airways Economy JNB-PLZ
  5. Conrad Pezula
  6. Knysna and the Garden Route
  7. Westin Cape Town
  8. Exploring Cape Town + Penguins!
  9. British Airways Economy CPT-JNB
  10. Protea Hotel OR Tambo Airport
  11. Kenya Airways Economy JNB-NBO-DXB
  12. DoubleTree Hotel Jumeirah Beach
  13. Exploring Dubai
  14. Kenya Airways Economy DXB-NBO-SEZ
  15. Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort
  16. Exploring Mahe Island
  17. Kenya Airways Economy SEZ-NBO-BKK
  18. W Bangkok Hotel
  19. Exploring Bangkok
  20. Vietnam Airlines Economy BKK-HAN-NRT
  21. Back In Tokyo!
  22. Delta Air Lines Main Cabin NRT-DTW-ATL
  23. DoubleTree Atlanta Airport
  24. Delta Air Lines Comfort+ ATL-ECP
  25. Conclusion

Vietnam Airlines.

Who would have thought that I would be taking a couple of flights on the national airline of Vietnam? Well, much like Kenya Airways, they are one of the newer SkyTeam airlines that joined in the earlier part of this decade. As such that made them an easy target for trying to piece my itinerary together from Bangkok to Tokyo. Although Delta flies that route direct, as always when booking on Delta flights (or at least it seems), it’s difficult to get award availability. On the other hand, partner flights tend to be much easier. So instead of taking a relatively quick non-stop I found myself with only one apparent option: flying to Tokyo with a stop in Hanoi, Vietnam.

I did not set out to specifically fly on Vietnam Airlines; in searching for award availability it really came down to my only option. In theory there should have been many opportunities in Asia thanks to SkyTeam members China Southern, China Eastern, China Airlines, Korean Air, and Xiamen Air in addition to Vietnam Airlines, but surprisingly they were the only ones with availability on flights that were on that day. Well, without having to leave early in the morning, which would have given me even less time in Bangkok! I think that made the decision an easy one!

I didn’t know fully what to expect of my flights, as there wasn’t many people who had written about flying on Vietnam Airlines. The only things that I did see didn’t get my hopes up and when I saw pictures of what was the terminal in Hanoi, all I could think is that I could be making a connection in an airport that looked like a 1980s shopping mall and hardly a major hub of a growing regional international airline. Some things, would not be what I expected…

Bangkok Departure
After cramming as much as I could into the final bit of my third day of being in Bangkok, it was back to the W Bangkok to take a quick shower, throw my luggage back together and make my way to the airport. This time, my taxi cost nowhere near what the ride into the city cost thanks to the meter being used and not falling to easy tourist/visitor trap of agreeing to a higher non-metered fixed price. It was easily half the cost of what I paid just a few days prior!

The day was definitely wearing down with my arrival on the curb of the terminal at just a few minutes past 17:00. The good news? It meant that I had maximized my time in this city!

Both Familiar and Unfamiliar Airines

I quickly made my way into the large terminal and not after long found the Vietnam Airlines counter. I headed to the Sky Priority line which had no one in it, but then the Economy Class line only had a few people waiting, so it wasn’t going to be bad either way. They quickly tagged my bag and issued me boarding passes, but there was some confusion when i had asked about lounge access. “You want to buy access to the lounge?” After some back and forth it appeared my Delta SkyMiles number hadn’t carried through to their reservation, so I had to show them my Gold Medallion card to secure a lounge invitation (also, one of the reasons, I don’t like that Delta has discontinued physical cards for Gold Medallions).

Finding My Way Within The Airport

The Entrance To The Sky Priority Line Was Very Well Signed

With the lounge invitation in hand, I made my way through exit immigration, security and into the airside of the terminal.

Louis Tavern CIP Lounge
Vietnam Airlines had contracted with the generic ‘Louis Tavern CIP Lounge’ to be it’s Business Class / SkyTeam Elite Plus lounge in Bangkok. I wish I knew what CIP stood for, but it was a perfectly decent lounge. Nothing super fancy, but also not a dingy dark closet like some third party (or even a few airline-run) lounges that I have encountered in my travels.

I Probably Could Have Tried Some Other Lounges…

One thing that I had wish I had done was to go and try to check out a few other lounges operated by SkyTeam airlines. Both China Airlines and Air France have lounges at Bangkok, and being an Elite Plus passenger, I would have been able to go into either if they were open. However, the Louis Tavern CIP Lounge that Vietnam Airlines sent me to was much closer to the gate than any of the others would have been.

The Lounge Is Located In The Glass “Building Within A Building” Across From The Gates (To The Right)

It was easy enough getting into the lounge, I handed my invitation over and proceeded to find a nice quiet spot to sit. The lounge had plenty of seating areas broken up into multiple spaces giving plenty of opportunities to spread out and be alone or to sit with a large group. There is also an upper level that has seating as well.

Louis Tavern CIP Lounge

Looking Towards The Buffet Area And Entrance

Speaking of food…they had a decent spread out of both hot and cold options as well as drinks, all self-serve. It wasn’t necessarily gourmet food, but it did the trick of being a snack to hold one over until they got on the plane. I sat down to have a mix of rice, mini-sandwiches, and other things.

Food Spread


But soon enough, my time in the lounge would be over and I would head to the gate. Not trusting that they would make an announcement (or that I would hear it), I headed down a little bit early to wait it out with the other passengers.

Vietnam Airlines #612
Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) to Hanoi, Vietnam (HAN)
Friday, June 19, 2015
Depart: 7:05PM Arrive: 8:54PM
Aircraft: Airbus A321 Seat: 28C (Economy Class)

To The Gate…And Hanoi

The Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 Was Ready And Waiting

Boarding more or less commenced on-time. It was a bit of a mad rush when they did announce boarding, but luckily they had used two separate doors from the boarding area for Economy Class and Sky Priority, so most of the crowd was at the other door. Plus I had positioned myself next to the Sky Priority door, so it was an easy move to make it on to the plane first.

Waiting For Boarding To Commence

Once onboard the aircraft, I found that I had managed to be seated in the emergency row. Huzzah! I hadn’t even asked, nor had I been able to select seats in advance, so this was a nice welcome surprise.

Looking Forward On The A321

More Legroom Than I Knew What To Do With!

With one of the flight attendant seats being right across the aisle from me and facing back, I felt like I had a fair amount of attention during the flight. Service onboard was fairly decent with all of the flight attendants coming across as friendly and wanting to provide a good service. This even made up for the fact that their English language skills were not the best, but they definitely tried. When you fly on some of these more regional airlines or routes, it’s definitely important to remember that the flight attendants may not have the best command of English and may only know simple phrases. My experience is that if you understand this and don’t become a “Why don’t you speak English, because I speak English” type of traveler, you get pretty good service. And that is exactly what happened…the service received was good.

Onboard this flight, Vietnam Airlines offered a dinner service to Economy Class passengers. There was a choice, of which I do not remember what the two options were, but I did go with the beef and noodle dish. It was served with vegetables, glass noodles and chicken (as the starter), a roll, and a gelatin-desert that I couldn’t figure out. It was surprisingly edible.

Dinner Onboard Vietnam Airlines

While cruising over Southeast Asia, I also managed to try my first Vietnamese Beer. It unfortunately may take the spot of the worst beer that I have had, unfortunately.

Hanoi Beer

Soon enough the Airbus touched down on one of Hanoi’s runways.

Hanoi Arrival
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect upon landing in Hanoi. Most of the very little information about the Hanoi airport was about the previous international terminal that looked very much like a shopping mall designed in the 1980s and featured less-than-stellar looking amenities. However, I kept reading about a brand new international terminal that had opened in late 2014, but there wasn’t really any information on it! Nothing about lounges or experiences or anything.

The first thing I noted upon entering the terminal was noticing how modern it was. It still had the feel of a new space and hadn’t looked the slightest bit worn down yet.

As a transfer passenger, the process was remarkably easy as well with clearly posted signs for the transit exit right before passport control to go back into the terminal. Of course there was a security re-screen, but it was extremely painless with hardly a line to wait in. In fact from the time I got off the plane to being back airside in the terminal had to take 15 minutes…at worst.

Once in the terminal, I decided that I had more than enough to try to spend in the lounge, so I opted to walk the terminal and see what exactly was in a Vietnamese airport.

Noi Bai International Airport’s Modern Terminal

I first stumbled on a coffee shop after having cleared security that looked a bit like Starbucks, called Star Cafe featuring a prominent red star, and I assumed that this would be indicative of many of the other shops within the terminal. Something that looked almost like a globalized western brand, but something home-grown. And largely that was true.

Until that is until I saw the Popeyes Chicken (Express).

I Didn’t Believe it At First…

My first thought was, man this must be a knock-off! But no, it was a no kidding legitimately franchised Popeyes restaurant, located in the heart of the international airport in Hanoi, Vietnam. I found it very interesting that given the history of our two nations and with diplomatic relations only having been restored 20 years prior in 1995, that you would find a Popeyes of all things. It turned out doing some research that there are actually a number across Vietnam. Perhaps the Vietnamese like that Cajun fried chicken and biscuits?

For the record however, I did not grab anything to eat there, as much as a novelty as it would have been. I decided instead to browse the duty free shops (where everything was priced in US Dollars), and while I didn’t buy anything, I probably should have since I was on the tail end of my trip. Oh well.

Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge
The theme for this layover, was not knowing what to expect. I literally could not find anything about the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge online in advance of my travel, except for about the lounges in the former International Terminal.

Follow The Cardboard Cutouts Towards The Lounge Entrance

Up a set of escalators from the main terminal, you’ll find the entrance to the Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge.

Lounge Entrance

Past the sliding glass doors, I handed over my boarding pass and Gold Medallion card to gain entrance since my connecting boarding pass didn’t reflect my Delta status. Either they didn’t reprint my connecting boarding pass in Bangkok or there was yet another disconnect in the systems.

Once inside, I found a very open and large lounge that looked over the rest of the terminal below. There were plenty of chairs, couches, and tables available and the lounge never really got that crowded, despite all the middle of the night regional flights heading off all over Asia.

Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge

Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge

There was a small buffet area in the corner which offered a fairly simple selection of snacks, although there were plenty of noodles available. I settled down with a bowl myself to go with another Vietnamese beer, in my quest to sample as much as I could.

Noodles And Beer

There were a few side rooms off from the main lounge area that seemed to be quiet rooms and a massage chair room. I did not utilize either as the main lounge space worked pretty well for me. It didn’t get very loud and there wasn’t much noise from the terminal below either. All around, while there wasn’t anything unique really about the lounge, it really was a solid lounge. I could imagine however, if you were here during a busier time, it might not be quite as quiet, but in the middle of the night, it was perfect.

Of The Three Vietnamese Beers I Tried, This One Was The Best

After finishing up, I decided to leave the lounge a little early to walk the terminal again in anticipation of my next flight. Had to stretch those legs before the overnight flight to Tokyo!

Hanoi Departures

Vietnam Airlines #310
Hanoi, Vietnam (HAN) to Tokyo-Narita, Japan (NRT)
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Depart: 12:45AM Arrive: 7:25AM
Aircraft: Airbus A330 Seat: 21C (Economy Class)

Waiting At The Gate

Anticipating that there would be another mad rush to the gate, much like in Bangkok I staged myself near the gate for boarding so I could get on when they actually called for Sky Priority boarding. I don’t like to crowd the gate, but then again, I also don’t like being the last one on. Again, I found myself as one of the first ones onboard the aircraft.

Vietnam Airlines A330

As I made my way through the plane to row 21, I quickly found out I was not going to be as lucky on this flight as I had been on the Bangkok-Hanoi flight earlier in the day. There was no exit row seating for me this time, instead I would be getting the normal Vietnam Airlines Economy Class experience. Although I had seen online that the seat pitch was fairly normal, I don’t know why, but it seemed much narrower than I thought. My knees for the most part were pressed into the seat in front of me for the entire flight. Perhaps it was because I was trying to sleep on this flight a little bit and I was slid a bit forward. Either way, I felt it.

Looking Out The Window, Waiting For Boarding To Finish

Don’t Expect Much Leg Room

I did have only one seat mate on the flight, in the window seat next to me. Upon spying his passport, I found it somewhat interesting that at least two of the Americans on this plane were seated next to one another. Coincidence?

After changing into more comfortable clothing, I tried to get a little bit of sleep while watching some of the available inflight entertainment, but didn’t really have much success. I think I may have managed to get 2-2.5 hours of “sleep”.

As soon as the flight attendants came through the cabin to start the breakfast service, I knew it was time to give up on trying to get anymore sleep, as we were likely just over an hour out of Tokyo-Narita. They had offered two options on this flight for a meal: Western or Japanese. I decided to go with the Western option as I was thinking that it would probably be some sort of egg-based something or another, but I was rather surprised when I had a beef and noodles entry placed in front of me instead. Sure there was fruit on the side, and a roll that looked like a croissant (but had the texture of a dinner roll), but there wasn’t really anything about this that said “breakfast” or “western”. But, hey food is food, right? Well the noodles and beef were both overcooked, making this meal not exactly the most edible.


Tokyo Arrival
The Vietnam Airlines A330 touched down on a sunny Saturday morning at Tokyo-Narita International Airport; I was back in Japan! This was my first time visiting Japan via Narita Airport versus the much-closer-to-the-city Haneda Airport, but the immigration and customs process was just as straight forward and with minimal delay found myself standing there with my bags and the little sticker they put in your passport. Now, I had a few choices that I could make for getting into the city and my hotel.

Vietnam Airlines A330 On The Ground In Tokyo

There are two easy ways to get into Tokyo from Narita, taking either a Limousine Bus or the Narita Express train. In the arrivals hall, I thought about it for a bit and although the Limousine Bus would take me straight to the Sheraton, I decided on the Narita Express train. I wasn’t sure what morning traffic in Tokyo would be like, so in the interest of getting to the hotel in the hopes that I would be able to check in right away, I opted for the faster Narita Express.

Narita Express Train

After pulling out some Yen from the ATM, I bought my ticket, and wandered down to the train platform. There was a little bit of a wait for the train, but once onboard with my bags stowed, we sped across the Japanese country side and then eventually through the heart of Tokyo. At Shinagawa Station, which was not far from my hotel, I would disembark the train. I was now in the middle of Tokyo. Exiting the station, I stood there for a moment before walking up to the Taxi stand. Trying, as much as I could, to take it all in and not let the excitement show that I was back in this amazing city, even if it would be for a few short days.

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