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Vietnam and USA; what could possibly go wrong?

k_sheep

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Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
Hadn't considered doing a TR for this one but what the heck, I have time to spare!

New Years Day 2019. I'm part of the "NYE is the same as any night" team so was up at a normal time. Lucky for me because the biggest mistake fare of recent times cracked, and I managed to score return tickets HAN-xHKG-SFO on CX for $1200 (short VN flight in J, long in CX F). Not the most optimal route or price, but the best I could manage.

This was unique in that the airline almost immediately notified that they were honouring fares! Still I waited a couple weeks to be sure before booking anything else. I had to faff about with leave at work, so ended up with leave straddling the F flights (rather than having it at the start or end). So the itinerary is / was:

SQ BNE-xSIN-HAN (J)
1 night HAN Hilton Garden Inn
2 night Ha long bay cruise
1 night HAN Hilton Garden Inn
VN HAN-HKG (J) with 13 hour layover (helloooooo Pier F lounge!)
CX HKG-SFO (F)
2 night Hilton SFO Union Square
1 night Yosemite national park
2 nights Mammoth Mountain Inn
2 nights Hilton Garden Inn City Centre, Las Vegas
UA LAS-SFO (Y)
CX SFO-HKG (F) - 8 hour layover
VN HKG-HAN (J)
VN HAN-VDH (Y)
2 nights Phong Nha
1 night, 2 day trek to Hang En cave
1 night Dong Hoi
1 night Da Nang
VN DAD-HAN (Y)
SQ HAN-xSIN-BNE

What could possibly go wrong?
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
SQ246 BNE-SIN (J) A350-900
- booked with Krisflyer points transferred from AMEX pre devaluation. No Oneworld option I could find for my dates. Prices weren't worth paying $$ for, even in economy.

Living at MCY now, we debated going via SYD or MEL but Mr k_sheep is somewhat against the idea of heading south before going north. But apparently that doesn't extend to driving, so we hopped in the car for the 1.5hr trip down to my brothers' place in BNE. Quick hop to the airport. I was quietly confident I had Mr k_sheep beat for bag weight (I normally do!) but I was quite wrong, 9kg to his 7.1kg! Of course, he was wearing his hiking boots whereas mine were checked. Plus I had the shared toiletries like sunscreen, bug spray and shampoo ... can I claim a moral victory?

TRS was pretty painless for once, only 2 in front of us in line. Mr k_sheep had bought some friends (climbing equipment) which we were slightly concerned wouldn't be allowed through security but no problems. We had my brother staying close airside just in case we needed to palm them off.

Up to the lounge. BNE SQ lounge is small but with a good selection of food and drinks. More importantly, they turned the TV over to Day 1 of the Ashes when requested! We had a small crowd who joined us so it was a popular choice. Pity about the batting display! We sampled several dishes, a favourite being the truffled mac and cheese. Great comfort food. Had a single glass of wine early on.

Boarding was called ridiculously early! 50 mins ahead of scheduled departure. I managed to wolf down the rest of a mini chocolate mousse then we left. Walking from the lounge to gate I started feeling a little 'off' but carried on and attributed it to being cold. Priority boarding was strictly adhered to and we sailed right on. We quickly settled into 15K and 16K; but I had not even managed to stow my carry on before I was clutching for the airsickness bag. I managed to fill that and several others in quick succession! Staff kept coming and giving more bags, offering towels, and annoying, kept offering sweet drinks. No, go away, stop talking about food and drink!

In the chaos, no one notified the captain and the final doors were closed (more than 30 min prior to estimated departure) and started pulling out from the gate. We quickly made the call I was in no state to travel, and they notified the captain who moved us back to the airbridge. So, very sorry everyone else on the flights, I was "that person!". But I was not drunk and had felt zero ill effects until 1 min before boarding. I've never gotten so ill, so quickly. As it turns out they got us off and offloaded bags pretty quickly; they were 9mins late arriving into SIN.
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
BNE unexpected overnight.

Off the plane, the gate staff arranged for quarantine officials to come interview me (pretty short, given I hadn't even left yet!) and for border control to open back up to get me back through immigration. Amazing service from SQ gate staff though; the GA was on the phone to her duty manager while we were walking, and when the manager met up with us a couple minutes later, she had already rebooked our flight for 2 days later (no availability next day). I was so embarrassed and kept apologising but they said this was just a normal day for them! We got an uber to the local 24 hour medical centre (figured I'd need a medical certificate to claim on travel insurance) but doh, it is no longer 24 hour, damn home doctor services killing it! So another uber up to the local ED.

Seen fairly quickly, dosed up on ondansetron and released to the world. Being after midnight we phoned several of the local motels but no answer at any, so we ended up ubering (again!) into Fortitude Valley Rydges for $115. Great value, very nice room.

A few hours sleep, then a call to my brother to come grab us, back to his place to pick up my car then back up to the sunshine coast! Then all the emails to change plans which I have scored (based on my own personal circumstances!):
SQ, 5 stars. Immediately rebooked without charge, they offered to change the return as well.
Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi, 5 stars. Changed our non refundable, non changeable booking for 2 nights later.
Sapphire Cruises (Ha long bay cruise), 4 stars. Offered to change dates but sadly we didn't have time. So forfeit.
Viator street food tour: 1 star. No refund. No ability to change date.
Edit: forgot one! Splurged on hanoitransferservice pickup from airport: 5 stars, immediately changed date free of charge.

Now to see if travel insurance will cover any of it. Unfortunately my policy recently changed its policy from 100km to 250km being enough 'distance from home' so I suspect they won't pay for any of the BNE transport or accommodation costs :(

Feeling utterly fine now, and sort of kicking myself for not continuing. But who is to know. Also, no clue what caused it! I have an iron gut when it comes to food and Mr k_sheep is precisely the opposite - we ate the same foods, except the mousse. But I'd be surprised if it could cause that much of a violent reaction so quickly. The worlds shortest virus? Who knows.

So now to replace my fluids, and hope to heck it doesn't happen again tomorrow night!
 
Last edited:

k_sheep

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Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
I refuse to blame the mousse! I love the mousse!

..... but yes, am not eating in the lounge tomorrow night just in case!
 

VPS

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Apr 2, 2011
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Great with the mistake fares but being sick on holidays is the worst. Hope it gets better
 

k_sheep

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Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
So good news! We have arrived in Hanoi.

Better news! I am eating ALL the things.

Bad news - Mr k_sheep has man flu. He's lost his voice and is just making old man gurgling noises.

Backing up. So we rinsed and repeated our trip down to BNE, to my brothers and to the airport. But not before picking up some metoclopramide (Maxalon) and ondansetron (Zofran) from the pharmacy. My goodness, I remember when the latter cost about $30 a tablet. Private script now is like $9 for a pack of 10. Maybe I don't need to carry IV metoclopramide for mr k_sheep anymore!

As luck would have it, we were checked in by the marvelously kind duty manager who had looked after me 2 days prior. I took the opportunity to ask for a letter for travel insurance, which she had emailed to me before we landed in SIN. We were also in the next lane to the lady who had checked us in previously - I think we were memorable due to our arguing about bag weights at check in! She had actually checked our carry ons last time (both <4kg) but this time didn't bother - she had obviously figured out we were traveling light all around. Online we could only select 11K and 14F; they moved us to 11F and K at check in. 11F is a better seat than most, because the footwell is larger.

Back to the lounge where I had some soda water only. No repeat business for me! The Ashes had even improved. Walking to the plane I actually got psychosomatic nauseous but managed to convince my brain it was just being stupid. Like the worlds shortest PTSD. At the gate, again, several people recognised us and the duty manager wagged her finger at me and said get on that plane and don't let me see you again! Settled into our seats (I had made sure the sick bag was in my seat pocket!); and that's when mr k_sheep mentioned he was feeling like he was getting a cold. Uh oh.

We both just slept for the flight - well attempted to anyway. It was the worst turbulence I've had on that route for an awfully long time. So no food shots for us. Also I don't really rate the offset seats in the SQ J beds; note for future, the "K" seats are pretty good for a left side sleeper but I'm a back or right hand and found it hard to get comfortable.
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
Now please bear with me while I attempt photos for the first time since the forum platform changed!

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Menu from SQ246 overnight flight ... did not partake

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SilverKris lounge in SIN.

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Big fella on landing in HAN!

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Menu from SQ176 SIN-HAN. This flight was on one of the more elderly A332s but still very comfortable with plenty of stowage. The champagne was Charles Heidsieck. Chicken was bland but tasty enough (I probably needed bland for my stomach!). Pork a little dry but again very tasty.

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drron

AFF Supporter
Joined
Jul 4, 2002
Messages
19,653
Thank goodness I was getting a little worried by the delay.
Well hope themanflu fizzles out and you can really enjoy Vietnam.
 

luxury-lizard

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Sep 25, 2013
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I'll stay tuned too - we are doing a similar trip starting Sept 6 on the CX mistake fare - one week Hanoi and Sapa, 3+ weeks touring Yellowstone and Utah national parks. Will do my first ever trip report unless I get around to doing one post-facto for our recent Croatia and Zermatt trip.
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
Sapa is great, went there with my Mum a few years back. Lovely countryside.

Craven, should be safe now, can keep the bag in the pocket :D

Nice work earlyriser - living up to your name! All the ex-DAD seemed to be dead by the time I managed, and nothing through to JFK.
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
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Out and about Hanoi.
So we decided to go out for a stroll to see how mr k_sheep would hold up.

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The Garden Inn is just down the road from the opera house.

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Some lovely tree-lined streets about.

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Ho Hoan Kiem lake

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Fruit sellers at the old quarter, citadel wall

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Dinner at Pho Thin. 60,000VND. Tasty!

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Next day lunch. I know it's not local or authentic, but I just love the BreadTop-type places.

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We wandered around trying to find a restaurant that was near our hotel, couldn't find it despite going up and down the street a few times. Mr k_sheep chose a place, but once we were in there we realised it was totally touristy because Barack Obama had eaten there once! Bún Chả Hương Liên. Sigh. Not bad though - 90,000VND for beer, pho and bun cha. The pho was sweetened with what looked like starfruit which was an odd thing but tasty enough.
 

k_sheep

AFF Supporter
Joined
Apr 2, 2009
Messages
1,515
20190805_071715.jpg
Bland breakfast at the Garden Inn!

We decided to hit up the aquarium. 39,000VND Grab fare to Times City Aquarium which is located in a shopping mall (Vincom mega mall). 170,000VND entry.

I saw some reviews which said the tanks were small and the animals are suffering which normally puts me right off. However in this case I was totally happy with the animal treatment. Some of the tanks may have looked small, but in aquatics it's all about the water quality, and there was massive water turnover we could see.
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Mr k_sheep desperately wishing this were a 'choose your own dinner' tank!

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Then back to hotel for the important stuff :)
 

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