Six days before leaving Portland, an unwelcome visitor took up residence in my upper respiratory system. Departure eve my phlegmatic hacking was so intense Conde’ suggested cancelling the trip. “Absolutely not!” I declared, sheepishly remembering all the barb filled vibes I’d launched toward fellow sniffling plane travelers exposing me to unwanted germs. Another life lesson in tolerance learned.
Cheapo Air business class tickets turned out to be a really good deal. No snafus on our way out. Air Canada was the carrier on the first two legs of the trip. From Vancouver to Seoul we enjoyed a brand new 787 Dreamliner with 4 primo pods per row. Perfect for bunking down for a long satisfying sleep and watching the latest release of Beauty and The Beast.
In stark contrast, the last leg of the journey was on a relic from the past. Remember the humpback whale Boeing 747-200 with access to “upstairs?” We are talking 70s retro on steroids. That was our ride from Seoul to Saigon. The multi-tiered seat adjustment switches were located on top of the armrest. Any inadvertent elbow movement would suddenly launch the seat into mechanical moaning with uninvited adjustments. Kept us giggling. True Geezer on the Go memories from days of yore.
When we deplaned in Ho Chi Minh (interchangeably – Saigon) we encountered a man holding a large placard with both our full names displayed in large bold letters. It’s good to recognized?? “Come with me!” he declared before turning and scurrying off towards the entrance to immigration. We obediently followed, speculating over who he was. My gut told me this guy was there to help I just didn’t know why.
With authority, he led us to the official Vietnam Visa area. Following a language barrier-filled exchange, we learned he was from the “Visa Company.” Remember Vietnam Visa Choice from my original Southeast Asia post? We’re still not sure, but apparently the $33 US per person we paid online was for the luxury of a fancy letter and of having an agent meet us upon flight arrival and oil the system, not for the actual Visa itself. Our guide told us we owed an extra $50 per person Multiple Visa application fee to be paid to the man behind window #2. After a short wait, our names were called. We went to window #2 and paid $50 per person to the Vietnamese official. Our passports were returned to us graced with a lovely Vietnam Visa. And we were steered us toward the correct line to pass through Immigration.
Here’s what I think. If traveling by air, you don’t need to do anything in advance for obtaining your Vietnam Visa. Just know you must find the Visa area prior to going through Immigration. Otherwise you will be sent back. Not a disaster but very time consuming. The location of the Visa area in the SGN airport is not obvious. It’s off to the the side. Your Visa applications can be filled out there but there did not appear to be much, if any, customer service. You’ll need one or two (depending upon source) passport photos. We only needed one and the standard US sized passport photos we brought were fine. You will need to be patient. The process is confusing and involves waiting. In retrospect, I’m not at all sorry we spent the extra money to Vietnam Visa Choice for being guided through the system. We were exhausted when we arrived, would probably have missed the Visa issuance area and likely would have proceeded directly to Immigration only to be sent back.
Save your used boarding passes! It is not uncommon for me to toss my used boarding pass after I’m finished with a flight. Don’t do it!!!! Twice we were asked to produce our boarding passes from completed legs of our trip. When we passed through Vietnamese immigration they required our boarding pass from the arrival flight. I had to dig through multiple pockets to find mine.
Hotel Recommendation: I highly recommend the Myst Dong Khoi Hotel in Saigon. It is in a great District 1 location. Staff is extremely accommodating and key staff members are fluent in English. There is a lovely roof top pool and a decent work-out area. It is a quiet and comfortable oasis to recuperate from a long trip and establish your travel sea legs. And, the breakfast buffet is to die for. Make sure you negotiate breakfast included in your room rate.