Over the years we have come to the conclusion that our holiday starts as soon as we leave the house on the day of the flight. Although for recent holidays we’ve enjoyed the planning discussions (usually over a meal with a good wine and a magnificent Malt to complete the evening), the research and the anticipation of countless new experiences to follow.
This year our holiday started in earnest around three weeks before we were due to fly as we settled down for our final "planning meeting". Our friends had invited to discuss the "added extras" and she’d thrown herself in to the spirit of the holiday by cooking a Vietnamese meal for us. It smelt and tasted delicious and we’re just hoping that we could find that kind of food when we’re in Indo China.
Certainly my wife, who is not overly courageous when it comes to food, had been somewhat spooked about food in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos when she watched a recent TV programme on the culinary delights of those three countries. It had been introduced by Gordon Ramsey and some of the food in the programme looked "less than tasty". However, I was excited about the chance to try deep fried insects, something I’d chickened out of trying when we visited China. My wife is consoling herself with the fact that she likes rice!!
One of the Sunday papers had run an article on a very similar trip and our reading was getting us in the mood for our vacation. Checking the itinerary I noticed that we’d be checking out the "brewing" of rice whiskey and momentarily I saw an opportunity to bring some back home. However, I was quickly reminded of the "Black Cat" I’d brought back from Thailand. I think the expression is that "it doesn’t travel well" and it is certainly no competition for fine Scottish malt. I asked all three of my fellow travellers to mention "Black Cat" to me if I seemed to be tempted!
On the day of our flight we left home nice and early so that we could enjoy a decent pub meal on route to the airport (see separate review) and of course this relaxed stop off at a mid-point between home and the airport meant that we’d arrive refreshed at the airport and not have to run through the ordeal of airport food. I know airport restaurants have improved over the years, but it’s always a struggle to get a decent table and we always feel a bit under pressure to move on once we’ve finished our meal. Certainly they don’t have the relaxed ambience that we enjoy at The Fox at Souldern.
After our leisurely late lunch we headed off to the airport were at a previously arranged point in terminal 3 we meet the chauffeured collection for our car. We’ve only done this once before, but when there are 4 of you the extra cost of the chauffeur service seems worth the effort. For an extra £20 (that’s only a fiver each) our car is collected from us close by the departure entrance and on our return we don’t have the hassle of having to wait for the shuttle bus as our car is waiting for us just outside the arrivals block. The company keep a watch on the arrivals time and it’s their responsibility to ensure they’re waiting for us and not vice-versa. Beats having to wait for the next shuttle bus in the cold.
Our next touch of luxury is the extravagant booking of the Airport’s executive Lounge. It costs around £17 a head but for that we get to sit in comfort, have access to all the day’s papers, enjoy unlimited drinks (tea, coffee, beer, wine and spirits) and nibble on the wide range of snacks that are available. It doesn’t take long to work out that the lounge is pretty good value for money and the comfort is inestimably better than that in the main airport.
Finally we decided to upgrade on seats from economy to the seats in premium economy. The seats offer a 38 inch pitch are wider and have adjustable headrest and, more importantly, leg and foot rests. This upgrade worked out to be just less than £200 for the return journey and the cost of that was off set against some savings that we’d managed by being flexible with our flight time and travel date (no real hardship there) and opting for a downgrade on our first overnight stay. The latter was insignificant (according to the travel agents) who said that the hotel was still a quality hotel but there was no spa or gym. Well I was gutted at that news!! Especially was I would have used neither!
I know that these add-ons result in the price of the holiday increasing but by careful negotiation with the travel agents we" lessened the blow". In reality we were already spending a fair bit on our holiday so these extras seemed a small percentage in the overall value of the holiday.
Added to which you can’t beat a bit of pampering!!