Wed, Apr 10 2013 10:20 PM
Spotting in Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City
For those that have never been to Vietnam and fancy a trip here a visa is required. You can get your visa prior to departure by sending off your passport to the Vietnamese Embassy, or do what I did and arrange your visa on arrival which was cheaper and worked out very well.
I chose http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/ to arrange my visa. Basically you fill out an application form on their website, with details such as your name, passport number and expiry date and your intended date you plan to arrive in Vietnam, and 2 days later you will receive in your inbox an invitation letter with your name on it as well as your passport number and your date of birth. The charge for the Invitation letter is £11, and this paid directly on their secure website after you've completed your application form. Once you've received your letter in your inbox print this off and take it with you as you'll be asked by your airline at check-in if you have a visa? you then show them the invitation letter which is suffice to allow you to board for Vietnam.
Prior to departure you will need as well as your invitation letter two passport size photographs. On arrival in Ho Chi Minh proceed to passport control as normal. Once at passport control there is an office which is signed 'visa on arrival' You will need to queue here at this office for your final documentation which is in fact your visa stamp in your passport. This is charged at $25 for a single-entry trip. Prior to getting your stamp in your passport you'll be asked to fill out a small form, once you've completed it hand it back in at the same office then you'll be asked to take a seat while they process your visa. I was sat down less than 5 minutes before my name was called back to office where my passport was handed back to me with a rather nice looking Vietnam sticker stamp inside it, at this point you pay the $25, and then you can proceed through passport control.
The total cost for arranging the visa this was was less than £30, compared to the £50+ the embassy charge, and I have to be honest it was all hassle free. All the details mentioned above can be found on http://www.myvietnamvisa.com/ on their FAQ page.
Before booking to come to Vietnam I checked the various groups homepages I was on for hotel info etc looking for other trip reports and there weren't that many, and none of them mentioned which hotels they used and whether or not the hotels were at the airport so I relied on Google maps. I came across a few hotels which were just over a mile from the airport, and I emailed everyone of them asking if the airport could be seen from their higher floor rooms, and all the hotels replied back saying the airport could not be seen due to the hotel not facing that direction etc apart from one hotel which did reply back with a very possitive response being the http://www.starcitysaigon.com/vn/index.html basically saying I have been up to the highest floor and had a look for you and can confirm you can see the planes taking off, but not from the runway. The email was addressed from the manager who offered me a free upgrade to the 11th floor which is their executive floor should I wish to choose them over the others which I had mentioned I had previously emailed. I would have been daft not to take him up on his offer as it looked that I wasn't going to get any better offers of any other hotels closer offering a view of the action.
After I got my passport stamped and after collecting my luggage I was greeted by a very nice Vietnamese lady holding a board with my name on it. She took me to my driver who was waiting for me to take me to the Starcity Saigon hotel. At check-in I was given the promised upgrade to the executive floor in room 1120 on the 11th floor. From the room you have an amazing view of the busy business district below as well as downtown. Also in view is the airport control tower and I only had to wait less than 2 minutes before I could see a plane taking off and much to my surprise part of the runway and taxiway could also be seen so I knew I had made the right choice in the end. As the distance looking out towards the airport is just over a mile away, the traffic is a little too far away to actually read off easily, so if you plan on staying here you will need your SBS. Between the hotel and the airport there are numerous buildings in the way, however you can clearly see the control tower, and part of the runway and taxiway in between the buildings so if your happy using your SBS you can easily
make out all the traffic once landed or on departure. Included in the room rate is free breakfast and free wireless internet.
Starcity Saigon - Prices range between £60 - £110 per night.
As mentioned above the Starcity Hotel isn't classed an Airport Hotel However I took the following photo to give you an idea of the views available from room 1120.
Spotting at SGN is done from the CT Plaza Shopping Centre. On the 11th floor of the shopping plaza is the Moonlight Coffee Lounge.
I took a taxi from the hotel to the CT Plaza shopping centre which is located overlooking the airport. The journey from the hotel took less than 5 minutes and cost 50,000 VND which is around £1.50. Once inside the CT Plaza take the elevator up to the 11th floor which is where the Moonlight coffee lounge is located. This open air cafe overlooks the whole airport and everything that moves can be seen and read off. I arrived here at 11am and left at just after 4.30pm and I enjoyed every minute of just chilling in the hot sunshine spotting and photographing while enjoying some cold beers priced at 33,000 VND each which was around 96p each!
Here's the views available,
To view the rest of my photos from my trip to SGN click here http://www.flickr.com/photos/worldwide-spotter-pm/sets/72157632149932463/