So it has been ages since I last wrote a blog post and I am blaming moving house (and not getting internet there for 3 months almost), 2 trips and a busy schedule over Christmas. The plus side of 2 trips means I now have plenty to catch up on and write about starting with a trip Fraser and I took in November to Vietnam.
After a mad dash through rush hour traffic to get to Manchester airport we did eventually make it with a bit of time to spare. There were only 3 flights left to depart that evening so all the shops except Boots and WHSmith in the main concourse were closed but thankfully the Escape plus lounge was open so we were able to chill in there until boarding. The herby chicken on offer there was delicious.
Our flight was with Qatar Airways and the business class section of the plane was really nice and spacious compared to some other airlines. The amenities were cute and there was a decent choice of entertainment even though the system was a little slow. I managed to stay awake for one film before passing out all the way to our final descent into Doha.
Doha is Qatar Airways hub airport and we had a layover of 19.5 hours!!! Transfer security was efficient so we were in departures in no time at all. For anyone flying with Qatar Airways with a stop of 5 hours or more can take advantage of their arranged city tours so we were keen to try this out. It turned out unless you had pre-booked online the time of the tour you could go on depended upon the time of your flight and as ours wasn’t until the middle of the next night we had to wait until the evening to go on a night tour. This was slightly frustrating as we hadn’t factored this in when planning our day but apparently there was no swaying them on this so we ended up having to wait.
To pass the time until then we had a quick wander around the shops which featured all the usual high end stores found in posher airports and I booked myself a cheeky manicure and then we set off to find the Al Mourjan lounge for Qatar Airways business passengers. This is supposedly one of the top business lounges in the world and it certainly lived up to the hype. It is extremely spacious so even when it got busier it never felt crowded. There is a main restaurant that does buffet meals throughout the day and a sandwich restaurant which didn’t open until 5pm however if you did want one of their sandwiches earlier in the day you could just go to the buffet place and request they bring one up to you. The first facility we used in the lounge was the shower rooms which had an area to hang your clothes, a private toilet, a large washbasin equipped with rituals hand wash and moisturiser and a large waterfall shower; it was just so luxurious. Dotted throughout the lounge were drinks and pastry stations and other rooms included a games room, business centre, prayer rooms, a family room, and a quiet room. My favourite part had to be the sleep pods though where we could chill out, have a lie down (and a snooze in my case) and it meant that I almost regretted having to leave even after such a long time there.
When our time came we went to meet up with the city tour. Although it did not start officially until 9pm we were told we had to get there at 7.45pm. It turns out this is because everyone had to get out through security which took an hour. We, along with another couple who were flying business, were able to use the business immigration lounge which meant we could sit and have a drink for half an hour or so and then go through our own line consisting of the 4 of us to find the rest of the group through at baggage reclaim.
The drive to the city is fairly short and the road to get there is flanked with brightly lit, colourful lampposts all carved with the city’s motto on them in Arabic. This extravagance continued all through the city itself.
Our first stop was a lookout point across the harbour towards the “new city” where we could get a glimpse of the bright skyline. There were also lots of traditional boats in front of us covered in fairy lights.
We then drove around the new city and out to one of the manmade islands where there were apartments that foreigners are allowed to buy were being constructed. Only Qatari nationals are permitted to buy property anywhere else in the country and no one can gain citizenship. This area was clean and contained so many extremely high end products on sale.
Our last stop was definitely my favourite as it was the Souq Waqif (local market). The white washed buildings and stalls created a maze of narrow alleyways that had trinkets, clothes, spices, jewellery and even birds around every turn. It was an assault on the senses and although we didn’t buy anything it was enjoyable to soak in the atmosphere and nice that we weren’t harassed by anyone to come and look in the shops, we were free to just browse for our half hour there. Then it was time to set off back to the airport for a bit more time chilling in the lounge before our onward journey.
Our next flight was to Ho Chi Minh City and the business area of the plane was set out differently on this flight. We had the 2 seats by the window which was great for us but if you were sat next to someone you didn’t know it may be more awkward as the person in the window seat had to climb over the other person to get out for the toilet etc. This leg we went straight to sleep but asked the cabin attendant to wake us an hour before landing for breakfast. I chose the continental which consisted of a selection of pastries and a fruit platter that was delicious.
I would highly recommend Qatar Airways business class (it was our first time with the airline so I can’t compare to their economy or first class- I wish). The service is excellent and everything is so comfortable, even just things like the separate security line just make the whole chore of travel days that much more bearable. The lounge is dreamy and just screams luxury. The city tour was fairly short and not the most exciting but is a great way to spend the time if your layover is a bit longer and the Souq alone is worth making the effort to go out for. I would happily fly with them again.
Have you had any experiences with Qatar Airways? Is there anywhere in Doha you would recommend visiting if we ever make it there again?
Qatar is our # 1 airline, having flown in Business Class with them twice – B-787 & A-380. We only had about 6 hrs in Doha and agree the lounge is one of the best in the world. Still remember the exceptional Port they served after dinner.
You’ll find the lounges in Saigon Airport are not so comfortable, as we spent 5 hrs there, as our flight to Hong Kong was delayed.
Enjoy your time in Vietnam.