Another bad flight experience, but loads of fun in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi

A short break in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, was just what the doctor ordered. Instead of the usual hustle and bustle of Saigon, I would have a couple of days in the quaint streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter. Of course, I should have known better. Man City were in town and that meant many friends from my home town and plenty of late night drinking. The type of fans who make these trips are the real hard core diehard followers that every club has of course. I met up with a group of guys, many come from within a small area to the east of Manchester, where I was born. The rest are scattered across all parts of this great northern city. It is generally the same group that I have met on previous trips to Germany, Denmark, Thailand, Scotland, China, Poland and of course just about every town in England.

Always great to meet up with old friends

The first big difference one notices when arriving at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport is that the new highway and impressive Nhat Tan Bridge has now been completed and has cut the journey time into the city centre, almost by half. The bridge is a huge structure with five inverted V shaped towers hold the vast array of cables that keep the bridge suspended high over the Red River.

The new Nhat Tan Bridge

This was my first trip in just about a year to Vietnam’s capital. Hanoi was busier than I have it. The street markets were jammed with backpackers, tourists, football fans and locals. There were plenty of street performers keeping everyone entertained and the whole atmosphere was happy and exciting. Street vendors sold their stuff, amid the cacophony of sound and blaze of colour. It was a sight to behold. I found a bar and immediately walked into the first group of old friends that I had not seen for a while. Except one pal, Mike, who I had caught up with back in April at Manchester City’s brand new academy when City youth entertained Chelsea youth in the first leg of their cup final. That one went Chelsea’s way, but it was nevertheless great to see where the money has been spent.

We had a few beers and in true City fan style, they had already sussed out a bar that would stay open late. Prague Bar was a small place that serves good food and drinks and were prepared to let us stay late. They were rewarded with some of the biggest bills they have probably ever had!

I really enjoyed the trip out to the stadium. We got settled outside a bar on the street leading up to the stadium itself. The traffic was insanely busy and we were advised to leave early, which we had. We sat drinking beers and watching as fans arrived on motorbikes, trikes, cars buses and just about every other mode off road transport. It was a wonderful atmosphere as street vendors sold Vietnam and City shirts at amazingly low prices.

The game was great and the after party, again at Prague, began in earnest, only to be interrupted when the plod arrived. Three officious looking guys in ridiculously large hats and epaulettes. The owners advised us to walk round the block and come back. We strolled down the street and got some cans from the local store, stood drinking in the street and watched as the cops disappeared. Going back to the bar we were followed in immediately by the hats and epaulettes who kicked us out for the second time. It was a real shame that a quiet happy party of old friends was broken up by people with nothing better to do. Hanoi really does need to learn from Saigon. Why anyone would invest in a bar there is beyond me.

In one way the visit was all over far too quickly in another not quickly enough. All too soon I found myself at Noi Bai Domestic Air terminal writing this.

Hip Hop inspired signage at Noi Bai Airport

I had plenty of time of course as my Vietjet flight was, as usual, delayed. In actual fact I don’t think it was delayed. I left ninety minutes minutes later on a flight with a different number, which would suggest that my original flight was either under-subscribed and they had simply cancelled it, or over-subscribed and they had bumped me off it. More than a dozen flights now with Vietjet and I have departed on schedule, once.

The airport is fine but wears a bit thin after two hours

The lateness of this was exacerbated by the rain storm that had moved over Saigon. So instead of taking off at 2.40 and landing at 4.20. We took off of 4.10pm Circled over Saigon for what seemed like an eternity and finally got the wheels down at 7.30pm; only to find out that we had landed at Na Trang. We sat on the ground for an hour, then got the go ahead to continue. 15 minutes into the flight and the stewardess asked me if I wanted to buy anything from the trolley; BUY! EIGHT AND A HALF hours in the company of Vietjet and I didn’t even get a free drink.

Budget airlines are fine, but when they are run as badly as Vietjet it’s time to start thinking about alternatives.