North Vietnam with Cathay Pacific

Bart Lapers at Mua Caves Ninh Binh Vietnam 2019

Last year, I flew the inaugural flight from Brussels to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific in Business Class. This year, I decided to give Premium Economy a try. As I had already explored Hong Kong before, I added a connecting flight to Hanoi with Cathay Dragon in Business Class.

Brussels to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy Brussels Airport check in with Bart Lapers
Pic: Cathay Pacific Premium Economy check-in (May 2019)
The check-in at Brussels Airport had a dedicated lane for Premium Economy passengers, however it also allowed Bag Drop for all classes. This meant I still had to queue for a bit, as Economy Class passengers were dropping off their bags in front of me. Later on, I realised I could have used the Business Class check-in as I’m a OneWorld Sapphire member. The luggage allowance for Premium Economy was 2 pieces with a combined weight of 35KG. Again, as OneWold Sapphire member I could check-in an extra 15KG of luggage. In case you’re wondering, my big suitcase in the picture is the Samsonite Lite-Shock Spinner 81cm Black.
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Hong Kong Airport
Pic: Cathay Pacific A350-900
The direct flights between Brussels and Hong Kong are operated by an Airbus A350-900XWB. A state of the art aircraft which Cathay Pacific started operating in 2016.

Pic: Cathay Pacific A350 Premium Economy seat 31K
Thanks to the priority boarding perk included in our Premium Economy ticket, myself and a friend were the first passengers to board. We were seated in row 31 of the Premium Economy class cabin which featured 28 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Tip: Make sure to select your seats at the time of booking. The twin seats are great for couples, the middle row seats for families. You might want to avoid row 33, as the C and H seats are exposed to the economy class cabin.
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy row 31
Pic: View from Cathay Pacific Premium Economy seats 31H and 31K
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy welcome drink
Pic: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy welcome drink
After boarding, menus (cover, lunch, drinks) were distributed and welcome drinks served.
An amenity kit was also provided featuring socks, an eyeshade, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste. The welcome drinks, Champagne in our case, were the only drinks served in glass. All other drinks later in the flight were served in plastic cups, which I found rather cheap and didn’t reflect the ‘Premium’ you would expect from Premium Economy.
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy lunch
Pic: Cathay Pacific A350-900 Premium Economy lunch
For lunch, I had the beef tenderloin with black pepper sauce, broccoli and steamed jasmine rice which tasted good. The little Neuhaus chocolate and Movenpick Icecream for dessert were a nice extra. However, I did notice the meals served in economy class were almost the same as in Premium Economy, which made me wonder why Cathay Pacific doesn’t focus more on providing a premium food & beverage experience in the Premium Economy cabin.
Cathay Pacific A350-900 Brussels to Hong Kong Airport sunrise
Pic: Sunrise before arrival in Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific A350 Premium Economy verdict: I found the hard product to be excellent, with large inflight entertainment touch screen and wide reclining seat. I also loved the big windows of the A350 which were perfect to gaze at the scenery while cruising 40000 feet up in the air. The food & service were a bit lacking compared to what I experienced at other airlines in Premium Economy. Overall, I would recommend Cathay Pacific Premium Economy for those who are looking for a superior seating experience with excellent inflight entertainment on a modern new plane. Extra: watch my Instagram Stories of my Cathay Pacific Premium Economy flight.

Hong Kong to Hanoi

Cathay Dragon Business Class A320 Hong Kong Hanoi Bart Lapers
Pic: Cathay Dragon A320 Business Class Hong Kong to Hanoi
After a refreshing shower at Cathay Pacific’s The Wing lounge in Hong Kong, we continued our journey to Hanoi with Cathay Dragon in Business Class.

Pic: Cathay Dragon Regional Business Class Breakfast
Both the service and food & beverage offered on this regional 2 hour flight were excellent. Here’s the breakfast menu:

Weekend in Hanoi

Pic: Morning shave at street barber in Hanoi
Weekends are the best time to visit Hanoi as many streets are closed for traffic and the city becomes a family oriented hotspot. We used Hilton Hanoi Opera as our base in the capital of Vietnam. The hotel could use a renovation but its central location right next to the Opera was hard to beat. The outdoor barber at the nearby corner of Hai Bà Trưng and Phan Chu Trinh street took care of my morning shave.
Bart Lapers at Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
Pic: Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi
The Grand Hotel Métropole turned out to be a great venue to travel back to the era when Vietnam was ruled by the French as part of their Indochina colonial territories. We had drinks at the Bamboo Pool bar with views on the courtyard and pool. Our predecessors included Charlie Chaplin, Jane Fonda, George H. W. Bush, François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac. In more recent history, the hotel was used as a venue for the second meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un in February 2019.

Pic: Drinks at Train Street in Hanoi
Probably the most spectacular attraction of Hanoi was train street where several times a day a speeding train passes only inches from the houses. As it became popular with tourist, locals are now running little bars and cafes next to the tracks despite the prominent warning signs.

Pic: Train Street Warning Sign

Pic: Train Street Hanoi Schedule

Ninh Binh

Lying Dragon Mountain Mua Caves Ninh Binh Bart Lapers
Pic: Lying Dragon Mountain at Mua Caves Ninh Binh
Before heading to Halong Bay, we made a day trip Ninh Binh. A small city in the Red River Delta featuring similar lime stone formations as in Halong Bay but surrounded by rice fields. Enjoy my Hanoi and Ninh Binh Instagram Stories.

Pic: Refreshing tropical rain at Mua Caves, Ninh Binh

Halong Bay

Bart Lapers at Bai Tho Mountain Halong Bay 2019
Pic: Bai Tho Mountain at Halong Bay
Guys, this was quite a sketchy hike to get the shot above. First we had to pay off an old lady to enter the trail via her house, then had to climb a 90 degree wall and sneak under a fence. Check the video below to see what it looked like, more details here.

Halong Bay Cruise

Alisa Premier Cruise Ship Halong Bay 2019
Pic: Alisa Premier Cruise Ship Halong Bay
After extensive research by my travel buddy, we decided to book a 2 days 1 night Halong Bay cruise with Alisa Premier Cruise. This turned out to be the right choice for a relaxing 24-hours. Check my Halong Bay Instagram Stories.

Pic: Halong Bay seen from Titop Island

Conclusion: Flights  –  If you’re looking for a more comfortable way to fly to Asia and Business Class doesn’t fit your budget, Premium Economy is nice and affordable alternative. The fact that Cathay Pacific operates a new airplane (A350) from Brussels Airport guarantees you can experience the latest cabin technology.
Destination – Compared to my previous visit to South Vietnam in 2010, I could appreciate North Vietnam a lot more. I look forward to visit Vietnam again, maybe Da Nang is next! Have you been to Vietnam before? Please share your experiences with us in the comment section. Thanks for reading.

Full disclosure: I was a guest of Cathay Pacific on the Premium Economy flight from Brussels to Hong Kong and Cathay Dragon Business Class flight from Hong Kong to Hanoi. I covered all other expenses myself. Roundtrip Premium Economy flights from Brussels to Hong Kong start at 1146 EUR all-in. More info at http://www.cathaypacific.be

5 Comments on “North Vietnam with Cathay Pacific

  1. Which section of “Train Street” did you visit ? I understand there is section North of the main train station and a section to the South.

  2. What did you think of Ninh Binh? Worthwhile? How much time did the trip take and which transportation would you advise?

    • Hi Juul, thanks for your comment. Ninh Binh was lovely, we did it as a day trip from Hanoi which was too short to really explore the whole area. I would recommend to stay at least one night. As trains aren’t frequent from Hanoi, taking a bus to Ninh Binh is the better option. See https://vexere.com/en-us We were lazy and missed our bus. 😅 Grab saved our day, which was 80EUR round trip so 40EUR per person.

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