As aerial as it gets in Southern Vietnam. A view from the highest building in the country: the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City.

03-06-2011, Ho Chi Minh City.

‘Go to the airport’, had the travel agent told us. But before going on a wild goose chase that would not get us a decent price I first spent a few more hours researching the internet, phone in hand. Even a close study of the airport in Google Earth didn’t reveal the presence of any small airplanes.

An airline broker recently set up business in Hanoi, perhaps they could be of assistance. The chase for the parachute club didn’t turn up anything. The address turned out to be a mailing address and they hadn’t had any traceable activities organized since 2010.

In the mean time Ms. Kim had returned my mail where I tried to bargain a more reasonable price. 12.000 UD$ was a little over our budget for a two-hour flight. She answered she could go down to the ‘very reasonable price’ (her words) of $ 5800 per hour.  Not long after that the airline broker replied and offered a much better deal for a small jet costing not more than 4500 $ per hour, but not before July, the plane was booked full until that time. (There’s a business opportunity here!).

My last straw was ‘Helicopter Vietnam’ a recently opened service that provides scenic flights from Hanoi to Halong Bay and some other tourist attractions in the north of the country (more than 1000km away). After some inquiries it turned out that they do not have a license yet to fly in the south of the country. (It would have been a little pricey anyway to have a helicopter come down to the south). They want to start operations from Ho Chi Minh City in the near future, but for now. No luck. Perhaps when we come back to South East Asia in the fall things will have changed. One thing is clear in Vietnam. Things are changing rapidly.

After a 3-day terrestrial tour of the delta, I left Vietnam by airplane to Bangkok. Despite a thick blanket of grey clouds and a departure time close to dusk I had my camera ready during takeoff when the purser asked attention for a special announcement: “Due to official regulations it is not allowed to take any aerial photos above Vietnam. Please refrain from taking any pictures from the plane.”

Published by Ronald de Hommel

Ronald de Hommel is a Dutch freelance photojournalist based in Paris, France. He specialises in global social subjects relating to environment, development aid and conflict. He is one of the initiators of Disputed Waters. He works for a wide variety of Dutch and international publications and NGO’s. His work is represented by ANP Photo (Netherlands), Babel-Photo (France, Lightmediation (France) and Nazca Pictures (Italy). Website: www.ronalddehommel.com

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