Apart from staying in luxury resorts or conventional hotels, tourists on a limited budget to Ho Chi Minh City, particularly backpackers, can now choose to stay in capsule hotels, which are affordable and feature all the comforts such facilities have to offer.
A capsule hotel is a type of hotel developed in Japan that features a large number of extremely small ‘rooms’ (capsules) intended to provide affordable, basic accommodation for guests who do not require the services offered by more conventional hotels.
Though such hotels have thrived in densely populated countries and territories such as Japan and Hong Kong, they remain new in Vietnam, but are gaining in appeal among tourists on a shoestring budget.
Shawn Tan, a Singaporean tourist, has stayed in such a hotel on Bui Vien Street in the ‘backpacker area’ in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
Accommodation for one month costs him a mere US$200.
The six-floor Kaiteki hotel measures only 60 square meters in area, with its ground floor serving as a reception lounge.
The top three floors can comfortably accommodate around 100 guests, who spend their nights in 60 “beehive” capsules.
A Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporter spent three nights in the hotel in both regular and VIP capsules to get a taste of what it is like in such compact cells.
As the hotel invariably operates to full capacity, its Hong Kong owner does not feel the need for advertisements.
The Tuoi Tre reporter had to book one week in advance.
As he observed, the capsules are stacked onto one another to form two decks. A four-square-meter space can thus snugly hold four people.
Despite their limited space, the imported “sleeping bags” are all equipped with a television set, Wi-Fi, an air-conditioner and headphones so that guests can enjoy their TV programs or music without disturbing their neighbors.
Guests are also entitled to the use of a code-operated locker which is wide enough for a large suitcase.
Harris Nordin, a Malaysian tourist, finds his capsule an excellent choice.
“I have all that I need here. All we tourists who are constantly on the move need is a small, clean resting place where we also have access to the Internet,” he commented.
“We are also assured that our luggage is in a safe place. I find the spacious and clean restrooms most satisfactory, though people on the same floor have to share them,” Nordin added.
The greatest appeal about such capsule hotels is their low room rates.
A regular capsule at Kaiteki Hotel costs only $6 a night, and guests spend only $7 for one night in a luxury one, which boasts the same comforts but a nicer position.
Tan, the Singaporean tenant who has stayed at the hotel for the past one month, currently works for a Singaporean tourism website.
He has done extensive globetrotting to many countries for a long time as part of his job requirements.
Capsule hotels have thus become his optimum choice in those countries.
“I need accommodation which is cheaper than conventional hotels during my lengthy stay in Vietnam. Before staying here, I spent time in different hotels, and this capsule hotel saves me between 200 and 300 dollars a month,” Tan revealed.
He finds staying in a capsule more convenient than renting his own room, as room cleaning service is available.
“Apart from a comfy resting place, all I need is a place to work. The capsule here is wide enough to allow me to work comfortably on the computer and the Internet is also excellent,” he noted.
Several other foreign tourists find such capsules most desirable as a resting place.
John Hayes, an American tourist, returned to his capsule at Kaiteki Hotel in the late hours and continued to explore the city around nine or 10 o’clock the following morning.
“I came to Vietnam mainly to go sightseeing, not to indulge in the comforts which conventional hotels or resorts offer. So I don’t want to spend too much money on accommodation. I would make another choice if I were with my family,” he explained.
Hayes added that before arriving in Vietnam, he had traveled to Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
“Capsule hotel” was always his first search phrase on tourism websites.
Female guests also make up a substantial part of the clientele at Kaiteki Hotel.
An attendant said one floor is dedicated to female holidaymakers and is always packed.
“A number of Vietnamese guests who stayed here expressed concerns that such capsules cost them their privacy. However, most of the guests here are foreigners, who always make it a point to avoid perturbing their neighbors,” the attendant added.
The emergence of such capsule hotels has helped further diversify tourism products in Vietnam and such hotels target mainly backpackers who take more delight in exploring than resorting.
Nordin, a seasoned traveler to Southeast Asian countries, observed that capsule hotels in Vietnam cost the least and are of equal quality to those in other regional countries.
A capsule rate in Malaysia and Thailand varies between $10 and $20, while such hotels in Japan, where the hotels were invented, charge around $20 to $25 a night.
The rates in Indonesia are more or less the same as those in Vietnam, Nordin added.