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Vietnam Airlines gets go-ahead for direct US flights

The Thaiger

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Vietnam Airlines gets go-ahead for direct US flights | The Thaiger

Vietnam Airlines is the first carrier in the country to secure a coveted license to fly direct to the US, according to the Vietnamese national carrier. The approval has for months been sought by Vietnamese carriers eager to exploit a fast-growing market for air travel among Vietnam’s booming middle class.

Domestic and regional air travel has mushroomed among Vietnamese travellers, and carriers are hoping the market will extend to US travel too.

Vietnam Airlines has been licensed to fly from Hanoi and the southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City to Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Seattle and Dallas, according to a regulatory filing from the US Department of Transportation.

The carrier will also be able to connect to Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto in Canada, according to AFP.

The terms, which came into effect on August 26, cover “air transportation of persons, property and mail” between the Vietnamese and North American cities. It was not immediately clear if the flights would be non-stop or would transit through Taipei, Osaka and Nagoya, which were listed as approved intermediate hubs in the filing.

The national carrier confirmed the approval today, calling it “an important move by Vietnam Airlines in preparing its plan to fly to the US in the coming time”.

It did not say when the first flight could take to the skies.

The regulations were announced after the US Federal Aviation Administration in February awarded Vietnam a “category 1” rating, meaning airlines from the country can fly to the United States.

Vietnam’s newest airline Bamboo Airways has also said it plans to fly to the US by the end of this year, with budget carrier VietJet expressing interest as well.

Vietnam’s aviation sector has soared in recent years, with passenger numbers jumping from 25 million in 2012 to 62 million last year.

Tourist visits from the US have also climbed, jumping nearly 60 percent in the past five years.

Aviation analyst Greg Waldron said a move into the US market is a big bet for Vietnam Airlines, which will face tough competition from established hub carriers in Taiwan, South Korea and China.

Visa issues could also create obstacles – both US and Vietnamese travellers require entry permits for travel – along with the steep costs required to run long-haul routes.

“There are some serious competitive and practical restraints facing (Vietnam Airlines),” said Waldron, Asia managing editor at Flightglobal.

Last year Singapore Airlines launched the world’s longest direct flight with its route to Newark, New Jersey, topping out at 19 hours and 15,290 kilometres (9,500 miles).

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Phuket

Vietnam Airlines opening direct Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City flights

Bill Barnett

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Vietnam Airlines opening direct Phuket to Ho Chi Minh City flights | The Thaiger

by Bill Barnett c9hotelworks.com

Vietnam Airlines will commence direct flights between Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Phuket on October 27.

Flights will operate three days a week, on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The airline is also launching direct Ho Chi Minh City to Denpasar (Bali) service.

Vietjet Air, the popular new low-coast airline out of Vietnam, is currently servicing the increasingly popular route.

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Tourism

Sampling Saigon street food with XO Tours

The Thaiger

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Sampling Saigon street food with XO Tours | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: XO Tours

Find yourself in Saigon and looking to learn more about the local street food scene? Well, if your sense of adventure is in intact and you prefer to receive your knowledge first hand, then XO Tours can provide you with a fascinating and insightful trip through the streets of Saigon.

Sitting on the back of a moped and driven by charming ladies dressed in the traditional Ao Dai outfits, this is truly a unique perspective in which to experience the Saigon food scene. The ladies look splendid when wearing the Vietnamese national garment which is a tight-fitting silk tunic worn over trousers, the sight is quite something to behold as a legion of elegantly dressed women ferry their hungry tour guests throughout the city, descending on each local food stop and enjoying whatever is offered up.

Itʼs worth mentioning that these professional and licensed tour guides are also well trained and have a high level of competence in regards to driving, if anything, their cautious nature of females is your ally in regards to taking on the Saigon traffic.

Saigon is a vibrant and exciting city, replete with charming parks, wide boulevards and glorious tree- lined avenues and streets. It’s a destination that invites exploration, which is what makes this tour a fitting approach. The open air nature of a bike tour allows you the freedom to really feel the city, to partake of its smells, its sounds and to really feel its energy. If you are truly looking to know Saigon, this could be one of the better ways to understand its nuances.

XO stands for Xe Om, which are motorbike taxis in Vietnam. The concept was bought about by Mr Tung who is a native to the area but moved back from USA, XO Tours was the first motorbike tour company in Vietnam to hire female tour guides, and very much pioneered the concept, even though there are many copies of the format to this day.

The whole tour is really quite comprehensive, with careful attention given by the hosts to your needs as well as accurate descriptions of the food and their backstories. As you buzz through the many districts you will notice how each area carries a certain style and approach to their food, a localisation of the food contained within the environs that make up this fabulous city. Neither is there is any chance of going hungry on this tour, indeed we suggest that you do arrive famished, so you have an opportunity to experience all the gastronomic grandeur of the entirety of this tour.

XO Tours take guests practically through all the districts, and they have security backing things up, so there is never any need for concern, and you can feel assured of your safety during the entire time. The tour lasts for a good four and a half hours, but when you do arrive at the end, it will feel as barely any time as passed at all.

The food and drinks is virtually unlimited, with the time on the bikes between the food stops a great opportunity to take “digestion breaks”. The tour is conducted at night, when most of the street food is available.

The writer travelled as guests of XO Tours To learn more, visit xotours.vn

WRITER: Shannon Green

Sampling Saigon street food with XO Tours | News by The Thaiger Sampling Saigon street food with XO Tours | News by The Thaiger

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Tourism

Build it and they will come – the Phu Quoc cable car experience

Tim Newton

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Build it and they will come – the Phu Quoc cable car experience | The Thaiger

PHOTO: templesandtreehouses.com

“It’s the best value tourist attraction you’ll find almost anywhere in the world!”

The cable-car ride from Vietnam’s Phu Quoc island to Hon Thom, aka. Pineapple Island, is a breathtaking experience. It’s an astonishing tourist attraction on an island that has ambitions to be one of south east Asia’s most popular tourist attractions.

The actual cable car ride, the longest in the world, soars over the sea, coral reefs, fishing villages and Phi Quoc’s southern islands, with amazing views all along the way. You get 360 degree vistas of the An Thoi Archipelago.

As a quick mood killer, if you’re afraid of heights, this experience may not be for you. Flying above the views below is breathtaking but you are flying a long way above the ground. Despite the windy day I travelled, the ride was very stable and you didn’t get a sense that you were wobbling around in the air.

Build it and they will come - the Phu Quoc cable car experience | News by The Thaiger

The cable car travels from a purpose-built faux-Italian ‘ruins’ hub to Hon Thom Nature Park. From the moment you arrive, and the staff greet you as you get out of your taxi/bus/motorbike, there’s plenty of wow factor. For a small, relatively unknown Gulf of Thailand island, this is a grand experience and an enormous investment as Phu Quoc’s newest and most substantial tourist attraction.

Once you arrive at Pineapple Island, after hopping over three other islands on the way, you are greeted by a man-made beach, water park and substantial infrastructure – much of it still being constructed. Everything on the island has been constructed to serve the arrivals from the cable car, there’s no other way of getting to this remote island.

Open-air shuttles take you around the various attraction on the island, or you can just wander. There are restaurants and shops and cafés, but they’re all owned by the Sun Resorts company that has made the substantial investment. The entire project won’t be finished until 2021 but there’s already plenty to see – the cable car ride itself is spectacular enough.

The cable-car ride from Phu Quoc island to Pineapple Island takes about 25 minutes each way. The cable cars are quite substantial and can hold 20 or so people and there’s views everywhere you look.
As of 2019, the price for the Phu Quoc cable car is 150,000 Vietnamese dong, about 200 baht (cheaper than a cinema ticket these days), or US$6.40 (September 2019). Prices for children are currently set at 100,000 dong. The prices have been lowered since the attraction opened and perhaps will rise again once the construction is all complete around Pineapple Island. But even at double the price, it’s still excellent value.

It’s the best value tourist attraction you’ll find almost anywhere in the world!

You can find more information at the attraction’s website… Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park.

Build it and they will come - the Phu Quoc cable car experience | News by The Thaiger

Getting to the An Thoi cable car terminal for now, you’ll need to take a taxi or hire a motorbike from the tourist areas in the middle of the island. A taxi ride from the tourist hub to An Thoi was about 350,000 dong. There’s apparently a shuttle bus to the south of the island but we didn’t see it during our visit.

About Phu Quoc, it clearly has ambitions to be the next ‘go to’ destination in south east Asia with an incredible amount of investment being poured into the island – I counted about 80 new hotels being constructed along the main beach which covers about 15 kilometres of coastline. About the same size as Phuket, but 30 years behind the Thai island, development-wise, it is a curious combination of old Vietnamese fishing villages, tropical rainforests, beaches and potential.

The island is situated off the southern Cambodian coast but is controlled by Vietnam. Phu Quoc’s sovereignty has been contested in the past, as recently as fall-out from the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia. Currently, most nationalities get a free 30 day visa-on-arrival.

The new airport is world-class and you will have no problem getting around the island with Grab, local taxis and easy motorbike rentals (they didn’t even want to see my passport). Vietnam drivers drive on the right, so be ready for that if you’ve arrived from Thailand.

Build it and they will come - the Phu Quoc cable car experience | News by The Thaiger

PS. From the windows of the mock-romanesque main building where you alight the cable-car for your journey, you can see this Portofina, Italy look-alike being constructed, complete with Mediterannean harbour.

Build it and they will come - the Phu Quoc cable car experience | News by The Thaiger
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