9W748Capt From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 469 posts, RR: 1 Posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 10410 times:
Well heck, after trolling around this site for a few years, I figured why not plump the cash down for a membership - and start off with a TR to boot!
Background: Near the end of our first year of medical school, I was out to lunch with a few classmates (at an Asian buffet, no less). One of them was going back to Vietnam for the summer, which intrigued us greatly. He'd grown up there, living there until he was 12 or so (unlike most Vietnamese-Americans my age). A side note: many of you might not know, but OKC has a significant Vietnamese community - dating back to the 70s when many of them had just arrived to the US. A few churches here sponsored the first families, and now we've got a nice little community here. They've even established an "Asian District" and "Little Saigon" - kind of cool. Finally I suggested that it was our last real summer ever, so why not make the trip ourselves! The other Vietnamese friends I was with had never been back themselves and seemed quite receptive to the idea. And I looked at it as a once-in-a-lifetime type of trip. Things worked themselves out and a month later, we had purchased our tickets. My friend who was going for the whole summer (and our "host") would be flying UA on their direct service, but the agent he used suggested AA/JL for us, connecting through NRT. One guy would be returning home to LA for the summer, so he would be flying out of LAX while the other two of us would leave from here. Let me say that while I've always been an aviation enthusiast of sorts, I was only an "occasional" A.net surfer back then; namely I had no intention of joining this site, much less doing a TR almost two years later! Suffice it to say that in hindsight I would have taken many more (and better) pictures. Ah well, what's done is done. But I looked forward to this trip for too many reasons to count - first time to SE Asia, first time on a 777 and 767, first time flying Transpacific, first time flying JL...Really, it couldn't come fast enough. However, the one blemish was that before purchasing the ticket, I didn't do my homework and realized too late that AA flights sold under VN codes are not eligible for AAdvantage miles. I was seriously bummed about this, as the miles on this trip would have been a nice bonus to my account, especially for someone who doesn't fly international too often. I would have definitely forked over an extra $100-200 and earned some miles. But oh well, lesson learned.
After a weekend of frantically packing and running around to several banks looking for some crisp cash, the morning of departure finally came - I got my things together and drove to my friend's house with who I'd be flying to NRT with. Her mom dropped us off at the airport around 9 AM - plenty of time at OKC. I wish I had some pics of the terminal, but OKC has improved by leaps and bounds from a decade ago. The renovations are mostly complete, and OKC has to have one of the nicest terminals for an airport our size.
Among her checked luggage was 2 boxes of goods she was taking for distant relatives she'd never met. More on that later. But anyway, we checked in without difficulty, bags tagged all the way to SGN. Everything looked good until we passed through security, checked the departure/arrival boards, and noticed that the inbound from DFW was due to arrive at 1026! That wasnt good, not with our layover being short enough as it was. In fact, I had thought of going early and trying to standby on the 9AM to DFW, but with my friend being a rather inexperienced flyer, I figured why not just stay with our ticketed itinerary. As it is, the aircraft showed up right at 1030 or so, Boarding commenced soonafter, and we departed the gate around 1100. Here's the one shot I was able to get out of OKC:
Right away I knew it would be a close call. Flight proceeded smoothly and we touched down at DFW around 1145, and by then was I sweating bullets. Fortunately we wouldn't have the problem getting stuck at the back of a larger plane! We pulled up to our gate in Terminal D (which I thought was unusual for an RJ). We quickly checked the monitors for the departure gate, realized OH $HIT, it was on the clear other side of Concourse D, and made a mad dash to the Skylink. Got off, ran to the gate, where thankfully the agents were waiting and called out our names as we were literally running to the gate. "We're glad you made it!," one of them remarked. Yeah tell me about it! So we board quickly, no time for photos of course, lol. Kind of a weird feeling, being the stragglers on a nearly full widebody, trying to walk through J class while the attendants have already begun their pre-flight service. And I kid you not, hardly 2 minutes passed from the time we stowed our carry-ons and sat in our seats until the beast pushed back. Unbelievable.
STD/ATD: 1205 (ontime)
STA/ATA: 1630 (ontime) + 1 day
Equip: 777-222ER (N758AN)
Duration: 12 hours 36 minutes
Load: Approx 80-85% in Y
Of course, once we recovered from realizing how close we were to missing our flight - and probably a whole day of our trip - my friend's thoughts turned to the boxes she'd checked. Together, we simultaneously cringed and laughed sarcastically about what we might encounter 20 hours later in SGN - distant family she's never met who had come from who-knows-where Vietnam, and her arriving empty-handed. She asked one of the attendants in the back shortly after take-off if there was any way she could find out, and the FA did tell us that a few bags were loaded right before we left the gate, so that gave us some hope.
Anyway back to the flight - this was my first time on a 777 - and I don't need to say how stunned I was. What a beautiful bird, inside and out. Nice and spacious, airy yet cozy at the same time. AA might fall short on many other things, but I thought their Y class was plenty comfortable. From the minute we pushed back I could sense the sophistication of this machine - so smooth, quiet, and impressive for a bird this size. A different feeling than I'd gotten from the A330, DC-10, or 747. Taxi was short, we got on the runway, came to a full stop, and then I heard that roar, a roar that I had never heard before. Just Incredible. Takeoff was smooth and we settled in for the flight. I played a bit with AA's IFE - as you guys know, their PTVs are not yet AVOD in Y, something I found pretty shocking. I'd gone to India on NW a few years ago and even their A330s were AVOD. As much crap as NW takes (much of it deservedly so), they quickly earned several points with me over this. Browsing through the AAtractions, I found a decent mix of TV Shows and Movies (American and Japanese). Now if only I could set my in-flight alarm for 108 minutes or 121 minutes or whatever, I might be able to catch something from start-to-finish!
IIRC, the usual senior crew began their service approx 45 min into the flight, coming through with beverages, and then the "International Flagship Lunch." As I've warned, I had no idea I'd be doing a TR on this, so no pics of the meals, sorry but I do remember that it was decidedly the WORST airline meal I had EVER had. Hands down. It was chicken-and-rice dish (I think? It sure didn't taste like anything). Good thing it came with an edible salad and decent dessert that I forgot what it was, otherwise I would have been even more disappointed (and hungry!). A crappy meal, however, couldn't deter me from comfortably settling into the flight with only 10 or so hours to go. I killed the next few hours by doing some reading and watching what I could on the PTV - IIRC no trivia or games were available either! (But my memory's fuzzy on this so do remind me if they are). I did manage to catch an episode or two of "Eye on American" though. Here are some shots of the cabin:
I was very enthralled by the Japanese signage
About 4-5 hours later, the crew came through with a small snack service; a beef sandwich and grapes. I don't eat beef (for religious reasons) so I politely asked the Japanese FA if there was any alternative snack, to which she quickly snapped "no!", and moved on; no mention of leftover rolls or anything. I wasn't too happy about this, but by this point I was sure as hell tired of sitting, so I ventured to the aft galley area to stretch my legs and walk around a bit. Found a couple of guys there, one headed to SGN on our flight, and another headed to ICN. Had an interesting conversation for a bit about the changes taking place in Vietnam, what we should expect, etc. He warned me that "Vietnam is very poor and dirty!" I assured him that I had been to India several times, so nothing could shock me too much On the way back to my seat, I grabbed some leftover packaged rolls that have been discussed so thoroughly on a.net - if they harbored any vicious pathogens, they spared me that day. And so I was content for a few more hours.
About 8 hours in, we pass the date line - something I HAD to catch on camera (again, profuse apologies for the crappy pictures):
A few hours later, the crew comes through with the final meal service, with the choice of a Beef dish (I think it was Japanese), or a cheese pizza. The choice was easy for me, and my friend let me have half of her pizza, so I was definitely a bit more satisfied towards the end of the flight. Somehow, 10 or 11 hours or so had passed, and I wasn't feeling too badly. Longest flights I'd been on to this point were LHR-BOM, so I wasn't sure how I'd hold up on this long of a flight but it was quite tolerable.
I snapped a few more shots as we edged closer to Japan, learning some geography in the process:
Oh man, I was excited to land in this exotic country - a place we hear so much about but I'd seen only in pictures. Japan just has so much mystique about her. Even if I'd never leave the confines of NRT, I looked forward eagerly to the new sights and sounds of the place. We landed close to on time and the FAs came on and announced that we would be deplaning by stairs! How often does this happen at NRT? Very strange, but I didnt mind much at all. How could I mind a few more photo ops! And how tempted was I to bolt from the orderly line to the buses and just take a victory lap of sorts around the jumbo, snapping whatever pics I could! But I refrained.
We calmly boarded the buses while I tried to take it all in. My friend not having any interest in aviation, of course, probably wondering what I was doing trying to take all these random pictures - they're just airplanes, for god's sake! But for a time, I was in my own heaven.
Making our way up into the Terminal 2 (I think - I know airlines have moved around a bit since then, but I don't think we switched terminals), I noticed the transfer boards, to which handwritten signs had been thumbtacked. Incredulous, I took another look. Did Japan, one of the most advanced countries in the world, really have signs for us written with Sharpies at their international gateway? I guess so! We followed the arrow for "Viet Nam" that led us to the transfer desk, where we checked in with JL for the flight to SGN. At the desk, my friend made a last ditch effort to find out if our bags had made it. The agent's english wasn't the best, but she made a few calls in Japanese anyway, but unfortunately wasn't able to tell us for sure. A nice gesture though.
With a couple of hours to kill, we made our way to the gate for our last flight. My friend took this chance to grab some zzz's while I explored a little bit, taking random pictures, reminding myself again that, yes, I was in Japan
A 747 headed to KHH:
A couple of hours came and went - I helped myself to some sushi and a cold Kirin, which I'd never had before, but it was pretty damn good! Our friend who had arrived from LAX met us at our departure gate, and we boarded on time, around 1745 Japan time. I quickly noticed that I was one of the very few non-Vietnamese on this flight!
Date: July 25, 2006
STD/ATD: 1815 (ontime)
STA/ATA: 2030 (ontime)
Duration: 5 hours 45 minutes
Load: Approx 70-80% in Y
And our 763 that would take us to SGN - sorry for the quality - there was no place I could get a better shot from - and I couldn't get the reg either
Boarding proceeded smoothly, and right away I could sense that Asian approach to service. A FA was at the gate, greeting each passenger as we approached - something I'd never seen. While passing through the J cabin, I jokingly asked one of the FA's if we could upgrade. She could sense that we'd come from a long way away so we had a short friendly conversation with her. So far JL was 2 for 2. We took our seats, and right away I was impressed by how immaculate the cabin looked. This obviously was an older plane than the 777 but I sure couldn't tell. Only complaint was the seat pitch was just a wee tight, but this was an Asian airline so that wasn't too unexpected. A cabin shot:
(that's my left eye in the far left of the frame)
Some snaps while taxiing - A Qantas 767 headed to BNE I believe:
An EVA Air A330:
And of course, what would a trip to NRT be without the red tail:
I quickly tuned in to the nosewheel cam - not that we had a choice!
Took off after a quick taxi, and we are on our way to Vietnam!
Service began shortly after, and the incredibly friendly FA in our area helped me pick out a Japanese snack and lemon drink which I have no idea what the names of were. But they were freaking delicious and hit the spot Dinner was served after a little while; I had the teriyaki chicken option, and oh man was it good. Sorry, no pics I just couldn't believe the difference in service level to this point. After that I played around with MAGIC for a bit, and yes, AVOD! I treated myself to an Asahi with dinner and took in Mission Impossible 2. What a treat, being able to choose your movie and start and stop it at will. And free alcohol in Y! First time I'd had a drink in flight! Are you listening, AA? Oh and I also noticed that when you reclined the seat, it slid forward slightly so as to marginally increase the recline. Every little bit makes a difference in Y - Japanese ingenuity strikes again!
By about 4 hours into this flight, the fatigue of this long journey began to set in, so I tried to take a quick nap before arrival. Before I knew it, we had begun our descent into SGN:
Right after touchdown:
SGN's terminal in the background:
The only american carrier serving Vietnam - kudos to UA!
We were fortunate enough to use a jetbridge, as SGN's older international terminal had become inadequate due to the rapid increase in flights (they have since opened a new one I believe). Right away the airport signage reminded me of BOM, with the yellow background, black lettering, and to-the-point English. Except SGN didn't smell like sewage and had clean toilets! Didn't take any photos right away - figured I didn't want to begin my first trip to a communist country the wrong way! First off was customs, which I passed through without any trouble, however my friends got hassled a bit - the agents asked why they were coming back after so long, what their purpose was, what their families do in the USA, etc. But they made it through as well. Now came the nerve-wracking part- the trek to baggage claim. We went down the stairs, found the right carousel and looked around anxiously and there - we saw them! Our suitcases and the two boxes! Somehow, miraculously (THANKS TO AA!!!), our bags had made it. I'd never felt more relieved in my life - and they weren't even my bags at stake! We then passed through customs and into the sea of humanity that was the arrivals hall at SGN. Fortunately my friend had fought his way to the front so we saw him pretty quickly. He took this pic of us while passing through (that's me with the red suitcase):
Here we are with my friend's cousins who had come to greet us:
and SGN from the outside:
So that's it - we were finally in SGN! Of course it was nighttime so I'd have to wait until the next day to really see what the city looked like, but my first impression fit what I'd expected pretty well - that of a developing country. The rapid growth is apparent everywhere with the cranes dominating the skyline. And what a city - so vibrant and full of energy. And of course, a few pics to finish off:
A cyclo tour on our first day:
Memorial for the Buddhist monk who self-immolated in protest of the War:
Typical Saigon street:
War Remnants Museum:
I got a kick out of the communist propaganda everywhere:
A beautiful temple in Chinatown:
And some other souvenirs, of course:
We stayed for a just over two weeks. It was quite a whirlwind tour - we stayed in Saigon for about 2 days, then went up north to Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, and Sapa, then snuck in a 3 day trip to Cambodia as well! I'll try to post TR's of those too - not so much of the flights, but of the destinations.
In short, Vietnam is just an incredible place to visit. The people are (for the most part) very friendly and welcoming to foreigners. You can just sense the energy everywhere you go. And I haven't even mentioned the numerous attractions - Vietnam is as gorgeous a place as I've ever seen. As far as the flying, AA was exceedingly mediocre as expected (but they did get our bags there - mad props for that!), and JL was just awesome - a real treat to have tried them out. I probably won't post a return trip - didn't take too many pictures, and the only difference was that we flew VN from SGN to NRT but it was an o/n flight with not much to see anyways.
Well, I'll wrap it up with that. Hope you guys enjoy my first pass at a TR! Next time I'll be sure to get pictures of the meals All comments and feedback appreciated!
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 2, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 20 hours ago) and read 10276 times:
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): We landed close to on time and the FAs came on and announced that we would be deplaning by stairs! How often does this happen at NRT?
This happens pretty often actually! I have done so a few times with NWA disembarking and boarding.
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): A FA was at the gate, greeting each passenger as we approached - something I'd never seen.
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): And free alcohol in Y! First time I'd had a drink in flight! Are you listening, AA?
Dude... You need to get out more. It is the norm! Hahahaha... This reaction is very common for someone who is so used to American-carriers-style service but little do they know that an airline service mecca lies outside of this realm. Which is why when I read trip reports of people "raving" about how awesome service was in First Class from DEN-SFO, no offence but I take that with a pinch of salt.
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): We were fortunate enough to use a jetbridge, as SGN's older international terminal had become inadequate due to the rapid increase in flights (they have since opened a new one I believe).
That is true and this new terminal you arrived in was opened in Sept 2007. A new airport is being planned some 30 miles outside the city.
Not true... This mentioned monk was Thich Quang Duc who was really protesting against the South Vietnamese President Ngo Din Diem for his attempt to crush Buddhist related activities. This was rumoured to be as the President himself was Roman Catholic.
I became very much interested in the history of Vietnam a few years back and everything I found out about the country spurred me to read on some more and I finally made several trips there myself. Looking at your photos in Saigon, it seems as if I could picture where you were standing when you hit the shutter button, because I took the same pictures as you did.
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 711 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 10164 times:
Since you made this trip, AA has moved over to Terminal 2 at NRT. That means no more parking at remote stands. (Although I kind of liked it when we did, because you could get close to the 777's. JL has since joined the Oneworld Alliance, so most of those airlines are at Terminal 2 except BA.
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): so I politely asked the Japanese FA if there was any alternative snack, to which she quickly snapped "no!", and moved on;
I have made this flight many times (I'm usually in first class), but I think I know who this is. Most of the Japanese f/a's are wonderful
Jsnww81 From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 1942 posts, RR: 16 Reply 4, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 9937 times:
Nice report! I actually just got back from a similar trip (ORD-NRT-SGN) and posted my trip report here. I just went last month, so I flew into NRT's Terminal 2 and the new international terminal at SGN.
Sounds like our itineraries were pretty similar - we also flew up to Hanoi and went to Ha Long Bay. We weren't able to make it to Sapa, sadly, although I really wanted to go. From there we flew down to Cambodia, so I bet I was on several of the same flights you were.
DFW-NRT is a flight Ive done more that a few times (the only flight ive done more is LAX-NRT) and I always enjoy hearing what others think.
Thanks! I'd love to try JL's service on that route if they ever start it, or maybe out of ORD.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 2): Dude... You need to get out more. It is the norm! Hahahaha...
Dude trust me - if there wasn't this thing called medical school, and if I had a little more of those couple things called time and money, I'd be "getting out" a lot more! Thanks for clarifying the history behind the memorial - I just went with what our tour guides said and didn't look into it further. I did hear about the South Vietnamese President being a staunch Catholic though so what you said makes sense.
Quoting Ryanair!!! (Reply 2): Looking at your photos in Saigon, it seems as if I could picture where you were standing when you hit the shutter button, because I took the same pictures as you did.
Indeed - I've looked at your TR's and thought the same thing.
Quoting Jsnww81 (Reply 4): Nice report! I actually just got back from a similar trip (ORD-NRT-SGN) and posted my trip report here. I just went last month, so I flew into NRT's Terminal 2 and the new international terminal at SGN.
Sounds like our itineraries were pretty similar - we also flew up to Hanoi and went to Ha Long Bay. We weren't able to make it to Sapa, sadly, although I really wanted to go. From there we flew down to Cambodia, so I bet I was on several of the same flights you were.
Thanks! I took a look at your reports before I posted mine - actually I even considered not posting because yours are so much better, haha, but hey what's the harm. Have you posted TRs of your flights to Cambodia yet? I'll put mine up sometime soon - I dont have a lot of pics of the flights themselves so unfortunately, they'll be fairly short. Sapa was beautiful - too bad you didn't make it there. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Another highlight was we got to experience Vietnam Railways on that part of our trip - I'd put up pictures of the train trip if I had it but my friend who took most of them had his camera stolen at Lao Cai, the last station on the line to Sapa (you catch a bus from Lao Cai to Sapa, approx a 30 km ride).
UAL747 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 7, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 9150 times:
Awesome trip report! I'm from OKC as well and have a few friends in their last year of Medical School at OU. You might even know them. I went to Casady, so I know pretty much everyone there.
My favorite Vietnamese food is Pho...the restaurant i always go to is Pho Hoa on 23rd street. SOOOO good.
Anyway, great trip report. I've done the OKC-DFW-NRT flight quite a few times and always enjoy it. Though, I've also taken UA to HKG and Korean Air DFW-ICN-PEK. There's nothing like a long long long transpacific flight is there?!
My last flight to NRT was in 2006, in March and we had a huge ice storm here in OKC and my OKC-DFW flight was delayed two hours which meant that I would miss my connection in DFW, but since all the flights in OKC were delayed because of the need to de-ice the planes, the flight to DFW that was to leave before mine still had not left the gate when I checked in, so they bumped me up to that flight (had 4 seats available and I was a priority because I was travelling to NRT). So I arrived in DFW about 30 min before the NRT flight took off. I arrived at terminal A and got on the skylink train to terminal D and walked right off the train onto the aircraft. I had hoped to spend some time in DFW and admire the new International Terminal D, but alas, I didn't get a chance to.
My flight to NRT was about 13h30m. We took a more northerly path than what I see on your pictures.
Cheers from OKC! And yes, our new airport is great! One of the best smaller airports. Though, it's not "technically" finished. There is a planned wing that will run to the east of the airport that will be as long as the wing that runs westerly, but I think they are waiting for traffic to pick up before they complete the new wing. If you search for my OKC-SFO trip report, I have pics of the new OKC airport. You might also check out my trip report that I have up currently OKC-DEN-LAX-HKG.
9W748Capt From United States of America, joined Feb 2008, 469 posts, RR: 1 Reply 9, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 2 days 5 hours ago) and read 8857 times:
Quoting Phileet92 (Reply 6): I also noticed that there was an Untitled Aircraft at the satellite in the pic of the NW 752. any idea what that was about?
No idea - hadn't noticed until you pointed it out!
Quoting UAL747 (Reply 7): Awesome trip report! I'm from OKC as well and have a few friends in their last year of Medical School at OU. You might even know them. I went to Casady, so I know pretty much everyone there.
Small world! I'm currently a 3rd year so I'm sure there are people we both know.
Quoting UAL747 (Reply 7): My favorite Vietnamese food is Pho...the restaurant i always go to is Pho Hoa on 23rd street. SOOOO good.
Amen to that! I'm partial to Thai food though so I don't go too often, but Pho Hoa is delicious
Quoting UAL747 (Reply 7): So are you still in Vietnam or back in OKC?
Back in OKC - this was just a 2 week trip back in 2006, so had to come back to start school again
Vio From Canada, joined Feb 2004, 1353 posts, RR: 9 Reply 10, posted (5 years 6 months 1 week 2 days 1 hour ago) and read 8762 times:
Great trip report. Very well written and the pictures complimented that.
Quoting 9W748Capt (Thread starter): As I've warned, I had no idea I'd be doing a TR on this, so no pics of the meals, sorry
Don't worry... People take WAY TOO MANY photos with food, as if this was an "Airline Food Forum". This is supposed to be about the flight, the planes, the serivces (yes, a bit of food is good), but come on...
Okay my ranting will stop. You did a fine job and "mad props" to you for going to a "random" place like Vietnam. (What I mean by that is that very few people will go to a totally new place that has very little to do with their lives, such as background, family, job etc) I went "randomly" to Estonia last year and it was one of the coolest trips I've ever done.
Thanks again for a good report.
Superior decisions reduce the need for superior skills.