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RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

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Old May 2, 15, 1:14 pm
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RTW#3: Vietnam, Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

RTW#3: Tasty Vietnam, Sunny Maldives, and Tackling India’s Golden Triangle. (AC/OZ/SQ/AI/TK)

YVR-ICN-SGN-SIN-MLE-TRV-MAA-DEL-IST-YUL-YVR (Air Canada Aeroplan Award)
MLE-GKK-MLE (arranged by hotel)
DEL-JAI-DEL (paid)





In this Report


Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - Vancouver International
Air Canada Business Class (787): Vancouver International - Seoul Incheon
Nest Hotel: Seoul, Incheon
Asiana Business Class Lounge: Seoul, Incheon
Asiana Business Class: Seoul Incheon - Ho Chi Minh City
Sheraton Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh City Airport Lounge - Fin Bar
Singapore Airlines Business Class: Ho Chi Minh City - Singapore
Westin Singapore
Singapore
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris Lounge: Changi Airport Terminal 2
Singapore Airlines Business Class: Singapore - Male
Hotel Jen (Traders Hotel), Male
Male, Maldives
Park Hyatt Maldives
Leeli Lounge - Male Airport (contract)
Air India: Male Thiruvananthapuram
Air India: Thiruvananthapuram - Chennai
Air India Maharajah International Lounge: Chennai
Air India Business Class: Chennai - New Delhi
The Leela Palace, New Delhi
New Delhi
The Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Air India Maharajah Lounge, New Delhi
Air India: New Delhi - Jaipur
Rambagh Palace, Jaipur
Jaipur
Amber Fort, Jaipur
Air India: Jaipur - New Delhi
ITC Muraya Hotel, New Delhi
Plaza Premium Lounge, New Delhi
Turkish Airlines Business Class: New Delhi - Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Istanbul Business Lounge
Turkish Airlines Business Class: Istanbul - Montreal
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - Montreal Domestic
Air Canada Business Class: Montreal - Vancouver
Conclusion

Links to my previous trip reports:

Experiencing flying as a "Non-Rev", Australia Wine and Beaches, (AC J/Y, QF J) November 2014
Alaska Airlines First Class to Las Vegas, and a stay in the Aria Sky Suites “Penthouse” (AS F), August 2014
Family trip to Kenora Lake of the Woods Ontario via Air Canada Business Class (AC J). August 2014
Cathay Pacific First Class to New York, a sombre visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum & 4 days of eating in NYC. (CX F) May 2014
RTW #2 (J) The Khors of Oman - via Japan, Poland, & the UAE. RTW in Biz (NH J 787, OZ J, TG J, EY J, TK J, LH J). April 2014
South Africa, Safari in Maasai Mara Kenya, & Mauritius (UA J, SA J, XAK, LX J, AC J) Nov 2013
A family trip to Westin Playa Conchal, Liberia Costa Rica, (UA Y) Aug 2013
Buried Treasure: UAE Empty Quarter and Beyond to Huvadhoo Atoll, Maldives (UA Y, EY J/Y, Q2 Y), Nov 2012
RTW #1 (F): The Time Share Presentation, Spain, China, Thailand, (AC J, OZ F, TG F, LH J, LH F, AC Y) May 2012.
A visit to Macchu Picchu and Valle Nevado, Peru and Chile. (AC J, LA Y) Sept 2011
Travel after the Revolution of January 25, 2011. Egypt. (MS Y) May 2011
A Step Back in Time: The Twilight of Burma, a visit to Myanmar (MI Y) Sept 2010

Background


All these stories seem to start the same for us. With another year of Aeroplan devaluations, it came time to burn more miles. Thanks to the One Mile at a Time blog, I learned in October that Aeroplan was switching to an automated Maximum Permitted Mileage routing calculation versus their old manual calculation within the week. It was cited as an improvement, but I was highly skeptical. I was worried about the mini-RTW disappearing forever since Aeroplan had been pretty relaxed with its routing rules.

I’ve always wanted to see the Taj Mahal in India. MrsWT73 wasn’t easily convinced. When I suggested that we could return to our honeymoon spot at the Park Hyatt Maldives for a 5 day beach holiday, coupled with first class hotels within India, private hotel car tours, a handler, and airport transfers, and after probably too many vodka tonics after a gourmet dinner, she agreed. With that endorsement, I set off to plan a trip that fit this criteria.

With forty eight hours notice from the Aeroplan program rule change, we quickly put together a routing, called in and had our flights and ticketing within the hour. This was a wise move on our part as forum reports after the automated MPM calculation appeared to have been much more restrictive and limiting on reward routings.

I hope you enjoy our next adventure; cities, sights, lounges and hotels, our third trip around the world!!

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Jul 21, 15 at 7:36 am
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Old May 2, 15, 1:55 pm
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Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge - International
Vancouver International Airport


We left the house on a grey Vancouver day and took the always-convenient Aerocar to the airport. Today’s ride was a Lincoln Town Car.

The Air Canada priority check in desks for Vancouver International has now moved all together to the domestic terminal (with the sole exception of Transborder flights that require US Customs Pre-Clearance). We were checked in quickly with boarding passes issued on AC card stock all the way to Saigon.







We were issued YVR Fast Track stickers on our boarding cards. A leisurely walk today past the regular international departures check in desks, filled today with Asian flights. Although we qualified for the Fast Track line, the Nexus line was actually quicker and was absent of any airport staff actually checking to see if we were cardholders.



We headed to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge International, which was Immediately after the security screening checkpoint. I’ve been through there several times over the years. Initially, I was expecting great things but I fear that over time, this place has been outclassed and out done by its competition.







There were small seating areas that have recently been modernized with slightly newer chairs. The nicest feature here were the natural daylight windows and a great view of the apron.













A light flightboard of Star Alliance flights departing from this lounge. Only the Star Alliance flights were listed today.



A small selection of small man sandwiches available at the food island, along with the usual Maple Leaf Lounge contemporary salads.







I’ll give Air Canada some credit here for offering a Pho soup station within the lounge. It’s been marketed as innovative food concepts within their lounges. This was more like a grade school attempt since the products weren’t super fresh. Thumbs up anyway for offerings something different. Thumbs down for the small cup-o-soup containers that the Pho is supposed to go into. I could barely fit two pieces of chicken and a small thimbleful of noodles in mine before it started overflowing.



They have shrunk the wine glasses here in that they are so small, I thought they had put out liqueur glasses instead of the actually wine glasses. Another example of cost control going overboard… The boarding cards now have classy markings that indicate that you are on a “Business Reward” and an AC Credit Card Holder.





All in all, this place is slightly past its prime. There even exist much nicer Maple Leaf Lounges within the system (Toronto Domestic / International). I preferred the Plaza Premium International Lounge for nicer furnishings up the way but Mrs WT73 preferred this location. Indeed, it’s a bit of a toss between the two. The Plaza Premium Lounge has the advantage of being brand new with higher quality and clean furnishings, where as the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge has much better food and beverage. Maple Leaf Lounge regulars will note that the product in these lounges aren’t outstanding or world class my any means – easily trounced by any Amex Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas or San Franciso or even the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge lounge next door.
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Old May 2, 15, 2:44 pm
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Air Canada
Business Class
YVR-ICN (Vancouver International Airport – Seoul Incheon Airport)
AC 63 – Business Class (I)
1:35 PM – 4:20 PM
April 2, 2015
Booked: Boeing 787-800
Flown: Boeing 787-800


We headed down to the gate through the beautiful Vancouver International Departure concourse. It’s always been one of my favorites in the world. It just looks so fresh as far as airport spaces go.







The boarding area was a slight mess. The gate agents did their best at managing to keep a priority boarding zone. This meant that they flipped around the priority boarding Zone 1-2 sign to the empty side away from all the gate lice that was blocking the entrance.





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Once on board, a left turn from the boarding door and a clean and fresh looking cabin in the reverse herringbone seats. A little more compact than the past AC Extreme Makeover (XM) herringbone pods. Many spots to stow articles like phones, and plugs in’s, USB chargers available, although this time there are compartments to actually put them in, as opposed to having the skid all over the countertop. Overall, the layout appears much fresher than the older blue pods.





















Center seats feature a similar inward glance.





The hand controller for the movies features a plug in nearby, along with a touch screen to control the seat movements. I see this as an improvement over the old blue lights.







The television monitor is much larger, permanently mounted (no swivel) and now features your seat number.





For those looking to chat with your partner, the best seats are probably across aisle. That is, unless you like looking back 270 degrees over a wall to talk to your partner. Due to the angle of the seats, you don’t actually see much of the other people on the flight. Fortunately, I didn’t have look at this guy in 1D all to long… Classy.



There was a load of 10 / 20 today. Dinner orders were taken at seat prior to departure. Today’s dinner menus and bar menus…







Ken Chase was killing me softly again today, advertising wines that were “not available locally”. Unfortunately, nothing over the top on the menu today, but I was surprised to see some British Columbian Okanagan White Wine on the menu from a winery about 500 kilometers from the house.







A Pre Departure Beverage of “Italian sparkling” was offered. This was topped up with Drappier Champagne about 10 seconds after the door was closed.



Not the best performance from Air Canada today. We were a bit late pushing back at about T + 30. We taxied out to the immediate apron and sat there for about 30 minutes. At about T+ 60 minutes, the captain came on and announced:

“There’s a problem with the air conditioning unit. We will have to return to the gate for a hard re-boot of the Avionics.”

Seemed fine to me based on the air nozzles but probably different at 40,000 feet.

“We’re going to have to return to the gate to get it sorted out.”

Yeah right. We’ve all heard this one before, and it never turns out well.

We returned to the gate and jet way was put back pp to the aircraft. An army of “ACM” vested Air Canada Maintenance Crew boarded the aircraft (6 plus). One person appeared to doing most of the work, with the others standing around. It was sort of like the union break situation at the construction sites I pass by on my drive to work (laughing).

The Captain was out and about during the maintenance process, doing his best to assure passengers of the sustainability of this particular flight. “Looking good” he said with a wink and a smile.

While this was happening, I took a look at the amenity kit. It’s been re-designed to match the new interior. It’s a pretty middle of the road kit. Slippers were also offered (not pictured).





Another announcement at T+80 that the re-boot has been solved and now a pre-flight check needs to be completed. All the maintenance people deplaned. The reboot took much longer than my Windows terminals in my office, lasting about 30 minutes. . .

Finally underway on 26 L at T+120. A quick clear climb to altitude.

Meal services started with a pre-meal cocktail of Drappier Champagne along with mixed nuts.



Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, marinated shrimp and sautéed scallop on tepanade with cucumber, mango salsa and yellow pepper sauce paired with Quails Gate Chardonnay.



Mixed greens, grape tomatoes, and parmesan served with Balsamic Vinnegratte.

Stir fried pork and mushroom with Korean chili paste, presented with steamed rice, and bok choy. It was surprisingly tasty with a bit of a zip. I congratulate Air Canada for getting away from the usual offerings that they’ve had year after year. It was satisfying to try something different on Air Canada for a change.



Assorted cheeses. Oka, camembert and medium cheddar with crackers, served onto the tablecloth no less



Chocolate marble cheesecake and Bailey’s liqueur.



Partway through the flight, an announcement that they had to re-boot the IFE as it was crashing. This wasn’t so bad, except that every announcement was repeated in French and Korean. Those that fly Air Canada regularly will know that every announcement is repeated in several languages. When you start traveling, it’s a bit of a thrill, but after a while, I find it gets pretty old quickly!

Some great photos of the Alaskan handle after lunch.





Cabin down for rest 4 hrs into flight, or at about 6:30 PM Vancouver time.

The 787 Pod takes a bit of getting used to. It has some unusual ergonomic features – arm rests that raise on levers, tables that extend after some fiddling. The on screen seat computer is much darker than the classic pod which has annoying bright blue lights, making it easier overall to get some rest. The large screen monitor is also a nice feature.

After the meal service, my pod decided to quit and freeze in a partially reclined state. I had cabin staff restart the software, which took a few minutes and a small commotion as the in-charge figured out who knew how to open the under seat aisle compartment to complete this process.

I crashed out for about 5 hours. The size of the pod is smaller. As a side sleeper that likes to bend his knees, I found the leg cavity to be a bit tighter than I would like. I had my laptop charging throughout the flight but somewhere along the way the Empower in seat plug decided to quit and cease to work. It’s strange as MrsWT73 power was working throughout the flight without any issues meaning that it was a localized problem specific to my seat.

I am sad to report that the service on today’s flight was much like Thai Airways. Food was dropped off and the crew pretty much disappeared for the rest of the flight. I never got a single beverage re-fill offered or even the attendants coming through with water. Drop and go was pretty much the set up. This isn’t a direct criticism, but it is in some ways.

On approach to Incheon, we had a second meal service; peppers with korean glass noodles. . .









To sum up the whole experience, Air Canada is offering a slightly better product than the legacy North American carriers. Despite massive investments in new hard product, the 787 suite, although clean and well appointed, it wasn’t comfortable for a tall person side sleeper like myself.

The food was slightly above average, and the wines were just okay. The service levels were nowhere near the Asian carriers or the Middle Eastern Three. Add large fuel surcharge reward fees along to the above and there’s a clear reason why there are less trip reports being featured around here with the Air Canada product. I won't even mention the 2 hour delay on arrival, but them's the brakes.
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Old May 3, 15, 11:10 am
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Nest Hotel.
A member of Design hotels.
Seoul Incheon.

On arrival at Seoul Incheon, we landed two hours and 10 minutes late. After we deplaned, we looked for a golf cart or a limo transfer to our next flight, which was departing in 40 minutes. Just kidding.

Asiana had a suited representative waiting for us at the top of the jet bridge with our names on a sign along with our flight number. We had about 40 minutes to make our connection and at that time, with the handler, and a small army of Asiana representatives handling the mis-connects, I was feeling pretty confident about the whole thing.

He assisted with getting us to the front of the train lines, and the security lines and through the maze over to the international transfer area of Incheon gate 47. Of course, this international transfer couldn’t have been any worse as it was from one end of the outer terminal concourse, to the other end of the main terminal concourse. It was a mess and maze of people as we, with his help, expedited us through the masses.







We bypassed security with an express cut to the front, and transferred by train between the outer concourse to the main concourse. This was another full out race through the departure hall. I thought I was done running through airports after my spastic Sydney Australia departure experience 5 months ago but here I was again, tearing down moving sidewalks toward the next chapter in this story.

Unfortunately, his magic was limited. I also happened to notice on the trot (with his running like a suited ballet dancer) that our handler didn’t seem to have a two way radio with him. As we arrived at Gate 47, at T-10 minutes to spare, we presented our already printed boarding cards to the gate agent and were told to “please wait to the side”. The gate signs were showing in “final call” Some frantic phone calling, radio squawking in Korean and we were ultimately politely informed that we weren’t able to board us and to “please wait for the Air Canada manager”.





Likely, it seems that our seats were given away to other travelers, operational upgrades or contingent travelers. I did happen to notice two other travelers (traveling separately), with boarding cards on Asiana stock in economy class, successfully board the flight after us. It was a bit useless having run all the way over from the other concourse since Asiana could have confirmed that we were coming by radio or phone call. Despite Star Alliance’s claims of “the way the earth connects”, it certainly didn’t work in our favor today.

To make first world problems worse, we had pre-selected seats in the first class cabin (Asiana operated a three class cabin with two class service on this route), meaning that we missed out on a very comfortable ride down to Ho Chi Minh City. I had thought about asking them to off load the other contingent travelers (if they were of a lower status) but I thought that it was a bit of a cheek.

Ultimately, Asiana passed the mis-connect buck to Air Canada and asked us to wait while they pulled back the jetway. We waited for the Air Canada manager whom arrived to the gate on foot and bid farewell to the Asiana handler. I later learned from Flight Track Pro the next morning that the plane actually didn’t depart for another 45 minutes AFTER we had left the gate with the Air Canada Manager. Groan.



The Air Canada Manager had re-booked us on the next OZ flight the next morning. She escorted us back downstairs through Immigration and Security, indicating she would get our bags re-tagged for the new flight. I’d heard that one before! Thankfully we had carry on’s with us since I’ve lost my bags about 50% of the overseas trips that I have taken lately.

We met up with the other Air Canada mis-connects in the arrivals hall on the public side. It turns out there was 22 of them from our flight. Wow – AC lost some money on that one! We got an old fashioned ticket voucher with red carbon for our flight the next day, where we were thankfully confirmed on the next non stop Asiana flight in business. There were others in our group headed to Denpasar, Bali on Korean airline who were waitlisted for seats. Aside from the disappointment of missing out on our connecting flight, we came out of it ahead. I asked the Air Canada manager what hotel we were headed to and got a very vague comment

“The Nest Hotel. I think you will like it”.


Gosh - wonder what that means ? It's either really good, or really bad!!



We bid farewell to our Air Canada manager. We were transferred as a group to the Nest Hotel by motor coach. It was about 10 minutes away by bus.



We arrived to a very modern looking and sleek hotel. We had a prompt check in and were given a dinner and breakfast voucher for the next morning. This is one of those places that you never expect to end up in, and never happened to see in day light, but I figured that this review might be of help to someone. . . Some photos after our arrival.













We received a comfortable base level room, with attached balcony. There was free wifi throughout the hotel, without the need for any code or password. I used the wifi to get in touch with the Sheraton Saigon and to change the time our driver was scheduled to picking us up.











The room included a very neat cargo flight information display on the television.



We had dinner in the Platz restaurant. The food was European styled – chicken with bread crumbs and balsamic vinegrette. The voucher menu was a set offering. I did happen to notice the complete absence of any Korean dishes from the room service and dinner menus, which I found to be a bit strange as I was half hoping to get some Korean food in thanks to this unexpected stopover.

There was also a hotel lounge called The Kunst Lounge, but given we had a 5 AM wake up, we didn’t partake in any libations tonight. The lounge had a European contemporary feel to it, much like other areas of the hotel. Books anyone?





Overall, better than expected for an unexpected hotel stay. I doubt I would stay here again, but perhaps this information is worthwhile to those that are considering a stay here, or wanting to experience once of their other hotels. Based on my experience here, I’d easily consider a Design Hotel if no other options were available.
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Old May 3, 15, 11:16 am
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Asiana Business Class Lounge
Main Concourse
Seoul Incheon International Airport

We woke up at 4:45 AM to catch the first shuttle bus back to the airport. The buses were on an hourly schedule and we didn’t want to get left behind by Asiana again. I was up and awake at three in the morning anyway thanks to the effects of jet lag.

We arrived to the opening of the Asiana First and Business class counters with the Asian morning ceremony, featuring a brief welcome bow. We were checked in. We had a visa check conducted for Vietnam. I asked about our bags, not expecting a real answer, but more to make a note of it on file that we had bags and that they weren’t currently with us. After a few phone calls, we were assured that they would be checked in on our flight today.







Incheon Airport proudly advertises that they are the world’s best airport ten years running through prominent advertising. It’s a nice place, within a beautiful building, but every time I come through here the place is chock full of lines and crowds. Making matters worse is that there are limited priority services for premium travelers. This means that you have to line up with everyone else taking a low cost carrier services. Normally, this isn’t a bit deal, but when there are over 500 people in line a head of you for security screening, it’s a bit of a let down. Thankfully, as in the past, both security and passport screening were relatively quick. Incheon appears to be at or near capacity during the busy hours.





After a failed strike at duty free shopping for some BB Cream for MrsWT73, we headed to the Asiana Business Lounge. I got a bit turned around as I seem to recall that the entrance used to be adjacent to the First Class Lounge. The lounge appeared to be expanded with the old entrance blocked. We were admitted access with a light bow and welcome at the top of the escalators.





Unless it has changed since our last visit in 2011, the Asiana Business Class lounge appears to be a complete copy of the Asiana First Class Lounge. The main terminal business class lounge is a much nicer place than the outer concourse lounge. The two couldn’t be more different, as the main concourse lounge offers wonderful views over the apron, and excellent natural light. The Asiana Business Lounge outer concourse is a bit of a dungeon with no windows.















We settled in with a view over the apron and had a great breakfast. Salads, eggs and sausage / Sauerkraut, along with espressos, lattes, toasts / croissants and stir fried glass noodles topped us up.







The grand piano was still here. I didn’t play it. It would have likely resulted in a stampede towards the door.



Although lacking any one standout feature (aside from the cool piano), the Asiana Business Lounge is a comfortable place to exist prior to your flight. It offered a decent amount of food and beverage, lots of space, comfortable seating along with decent aircraft views. That’s sometimes more than you can ask for when you travel.

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Old May 3, 15, 1:20 pm
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Great TR so far -- looks like you took the delay in stride. Nice to see people willing to make the best of things.
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Old May 4, 15, 10:24 am
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Looking forward to the rest. The Nest hotel does not look too bad.
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Old May 4, 15, 1:10 pm
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Enjoyable writing and a trip I will follow till the end.
IMHO the average Asian J lounges are the best compromise between the cheapness of the western and the bling of the middle eastern ones.
Truly relaxing spots.
That Nest hotel seems excellent. ICN is a place where an airport hotel is worthwhile given the distance from Seoul.
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Old May 5, 15, 9:22 pm
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Asiana Airlines
Business Class
ICN-SGN (Seoul Incheon Airport – Tan Son Nhat International Airport)
OZ 735 – rebooked onto OZ 731 – Business Class (J) Involuntary Reschedule
7:10 PM – 10:25 PM – rebooked onto 8:50 AM – 11:30 AM
April 3 – rebooked onto April 4, 2015
Originally Booked: Boeing 777-200
Flown: Airbus 321-200


At about T-45, we headed down towards the gate. Despite the lines and the people, Incheon is an impressive facility all up and we wandered through a crowded concourse down to Gate 34.





Operating with efficiency, we arrived at the appointed boarding time of 8:15 and they were about ready to let us on board. A quick document check and we were on quickly.



We had originally booked on a Boeing 777-200 in a three class configuration in the first class cabin (with business class service). We had done this trick before flying Asiana between Narita and Incheon and it was a really comfortable way to go. Our missed connection left us on the Airbus 321 configuration which offered the barca-lounger recliner seats; a definite “lunch bag let down” from our earlier planned flight.

We settled in on board into a typical A321 configuration of 2-2. The load was 6/12 today. There isn’t much that can be said about these seating arrangements; they are pretty standard business class set ups offering better, but not excellent room. It’s almost borderline flying this equipment type over 5 hours, but indeed we did.









On the seat were headphones, slippers, and a blanket. Eye shades and ear plugs were also offered at a later time during the flight. There was no physical amenity kit offered. Instead, comfort items as above were offered individually.



We were offered a pre-flight beverage of orange or water.



We were also immediately offered a hot towel service.

After a 15 minute wait for another mis-connect passenger, we were underway without any wait. Today’s departure was on Runway 16L.





A printed menu and wine list were offered. The wine list was substantial, in that they offered Cattier Champagne, two whites, two reds, port and in the Asiana tradition, Canadian ice wine. I have to say that catering and food and beverage is where Asiana makes up ground for the somewhat boring but functional hard product.













The appetizer, bread and main course service was presented all at once promptly after take off (within 30 minutes). This was served with a separate condiment tray service offering many spices (Heinz Chili Sauce, Tabasco Sauce, and Korean Chili Paste). I enjoyed the beef tenderloin with steamed rice along with Cattier Champagne.







The service execution was excellent as usual from Asiana; offering regular and repeated top ups of water, wine and prompt removal of unwanted items. Each of the wine offerings were poured at the seat, with an offer to taste prior to start, with a visual presentation of the bottle. It was, as always, a marked improvement from the usual North American carriers we typically fly.



Dinner was followed up with Jason Californian Pinot Noir along with the cheese plate.



Finished off with Sawmill Creek Ice Wine for the dessert. I don’t usually have Sawmill Creek at home, but I applaud Asiana for carrying something different (and more expensive) in their premium cabins.

The in flight entertainment was a little weak. It is apparent that the Airbus 321 served their shorter flights. There were only 4 Hollywood movies on offer. I ended up settling for the air show while I updated the trip report. Somehow the guy behind us in 3B decided to set his watch alarm on 45 minute intervals and it kept going off regularly through the flight. Another classy move. . .





A great approach into Ho Chi Minh City today with some neat city views.





On arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, it was pretty quiet. The Eva Airways Hello Kitty plane happened to be on the apron here, which was always funny to see. It was neat to land at an airport that was part of history. During the Vietnam war, the North Vietnamese bombed the airport making it impossible for planes to depart. This led to a helicopter escape rescue of many American citizens from parts of Saigon and, in part, the fall of Saigon.





Despite some talk of the airport being busy, it was pretty deserted and bribe free as we arrived. Our bags turned up, thankfully, so kudos to Asiana Ground handling for actually locating them and getting them on the right flight within 12 hours.



Asiana Business Class was far ahead of the soft product of Air Canada. This should come as no surprise to readers, their service levels have always been high and you’re always treated respectfully and like royalty whenever you fly with them. Today’s flight was no exception. It was a very comfortable way to travel around Asia.
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Old May 5, 15, 9:34 pm
  #10  
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Sheraton Hotel Saigon
Club King Room
April 4 – 8, 2015.

I had initially wanted to stay at the Park Hyatt Saigon. It has a great view situated immediately across from the Opera House. Unfortunately, after I had booked the air ticket, I learned that the property was to be fully closed for a major refurbishment. We ended up at the Sheraton Saigon, which is situated about two blocks away and around the corner.

We met our driver by the posted Sheraton Saigon stand in the outdoor arrivals area and transferred over to the Sheraton Saigon in a beautiful black Mercedes. Part of the appeal of travel is figuring out of the local culture. But the older I get, admittedly, the less interested I am in figuring out this culture immediately after stepping off an international flight in a jet lagged condition. At the time of writing, the hotel car is contracted by Bali Limousines, in the event that you want to book direct. On the drive over, we were surrounded by motor cycles as we crawled slowly along the streets.







On arrival, unlike most of my other Starwood stays, we were immediately escorted to our room direct from the curb, bypassing the front counter in the lobby, and completed “check in” in our suite. The hotel was quite pro-active in dealing with personalized service with the VIP members, including a personalized outreach by email prior to the stay for any additional requests. Our check in host indicated to us that the hotel had adjusted our stay and waived any cancellation charge as a result of missing our connecting flight. This meant that we were not charged for yesterdays cancelled hotel car transfer or the first night’s room rate. It was a very nice gesture on the part of the hotel as we were probably an hour after the cancellation deadline by the time we notified the Sheraton Saigon with our new flight information. It also avoided the complication of making a travel interruption claim with our credit card company. A major thumbs up for Sheraton Saigon here.









The lobby also often featured live, local, music.



We had booked a Club Studio, which was a standard hotel room that was about 30% larger than a regular traditional hotel room. It was quite comfortable, and well equipped with a mini bar, view and double sinked bathroom. The room actually looks smaller in the photographs here, but we could have done cartwheels in it, it was that spacious.















A welcome amenity of fruits were also available, in addition to welcome messages.



The room featured a nice city view.





And it wouldn’t be Asia without the banned durian fruits sign in the room



The club lounge on the 21st floor was open from 6 – 10 PM. It offered club guets a continental breakfast between 0630 - 10 AM and free flow happy hour drinks between 5 - 730 pm. We spent a few nights up here watching the sunset. Of course, there were a few people feeding their families appetizers for dinner. They usually didn't stay all to long.













The hotel is well situated in the Dong Khoi area of Ho Chi Minh City and is walking distance from most major tourist attractions across the broken Saigon sidewalks.

A 5 PM late check out was also granted as a gold member. For those that want the local information sheet, this was what was on offer for club level rooms:



Although the property was not the newest, or the most swish or contemporary hotel, the staff treated us like gold. Based on the hotel waiving our cancellation fee as a result of the missed flight, we would easily stay with them again. The service levels were strong, in fact likely the highest service levels that I've experienced at a Sheraton branded property. For those that are looking for a place where service is the key, this property will easily fit your needs.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; May 6, 15 at 10:14 pm
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Old May 5, 15, 9:44 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by Eric Westby View Post
Great TR so far -- looks like you took the delay in stride. Nice to see people willing to make the best of things.
Thanks Eric Westby. Yes - we' ve learned not to get too excited about missed flights (as long as they aren't our fault ) We've always been fortunate to be re-protected in our originally booked class of service and we always try to book slack time into our trip schedules since this almost always happens.

Originally Posted by roadwarrier View Post
Looking forward to the rest. The Nest hotel does not look too bad.
The Nest Hotel was a bit of a surprise roadwarrier. I was expecting a dump, or a run down worn hotel in all honestly, but the facility was contemporary, nice and clean, and perfectly functional for our brief stay.

Originally Posted by Forrest Bump View Post
Enjoyable writing and a trip I will follow till the end.
IMHO the average Asian J lounges are the best compromise between the cheapness of the western and the bling of the middle eastern ones.
Truly relaxing spots.
That Nest hotel seems excellent. ICN is a place where an airport hotel is worthwhile given the distance from Seoul.
Thanks Forrest Bump. I agree. The Asiana Business Lounge was a good spot. I find the outer concourse Asiana Business Lounge a bit dark, but the main one is a comfortable spot to hang out in if you wife happens to want to do a little extra duty free shopping.
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Old May 6, 15, 3:39 am
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Informative TR, enjoying it so far. One question - did you book the ride from Saigon airport to the Sheraton separately?
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Old May 6, 15, 3:40 am
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Excellent start as always, unfortunate about the involuntary misconnect. Definitely a part of the world I want to travel to in the not to distant future. Look forward to the rest!
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Old May 6, 15, 9:56 pm
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Great report and pictures so far. Really hope to visit Vietnam soon.

Also, just a heads up, there is a name on the sheet of Club benefits that hasn't been grayed out.
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Old May 9, 15, 11:09 am
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Originally Posted by agp423 View Post
Informative TR, enjoying it so far. One question - did you book the ride from Saigon airport to the Sheraton separately?
Thanks agp423. We booked what we thought was the hotel car from the airport to the hotel. It turned out it was contracted to Bali Limosines. It was a seemless service as there was a Sheraton Staff member at the airport who arranged to get the driver.

We used Uber on the return to the airport and it also worked out well.

Originally Posted by Digital01 View Post
Excellent start as always, unfortunate about the involuntary misconnect. Definitely a part of the world I want to travel to in the not to distant future. Look forward to the rest!
Thanks for your support Digital01 - the mis connects aren't so bad as long as you dont have things immediately planned on arrival or have kids that need taking care of to worry about.

Originally Posted by flyingeph12 View Post
Great report and pictures so far. Really hope to visit Vietnam soon.

Also, just a heads up, there is a name on the sheet of Club benefits that hasn't been grayed out.
Thanks Flyinggeph12 - I've taken care of that small issue. I appreciate you and a7800 for pointing it out.
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