Friday, 23 November 2012

Living Moderately in Ho Chi Minh City

Not everybody comes to this country and is employed with multi-millions of Vietnamese Dong monthly. Some foreigners come to this country for some volunteer jobs in English schools or houses of orphanage[Like SOS Childrens Village] and some others are into freelancer or own a small business. Many says that the cost of living here is cheaper than their home country, but many foreign workers here still need to control their daily budget in order to avoid any money shortage before the next pay-check comes.

Moderate Daily Expenses

Start your day by having banh mi for breakfast which is available for you to grab at every corner in town. You can order the banh mi with its filling such as two fried eggs, vegetables, chilli and soy sauce with the price is in between VND12,000 to VND15,000 for one serving.
During lunch time, you may spend a little bit more as you need to consume more food to continue the rest of your day. You are expected to spend around VND30,000 for rice and a side dish such as chicken, beef or pork. Your lunch normally will be complemented by a small bowl of vegetable soup, banana and ice tea or locally called “Tra Da”. Next, on the way back to your office, drop by a street seller and get a cup of “Caphe Sua Da”, coffee with condensed milk in order to avoid from feeling sleepy after lunch. The price for this sweet and strong coffee is around VND7000 to VND10,000 depends on the location.
Out for dinner; choose varieties of Vietnamese noodles nearby your housing area. Banh Canh, Hu Tieu and Bun Bo are good and healthy choices. One serving normally will cost you VND25,000 to VND30,000 and some places will charge you VND1000 for a glass of ice tea.
You are expected to spend around VND100,000 daily including your motorbike petrol if you choose to have a moderate living in Vietnam. But sometimes, you need to allocate extra budget when you need to go out for coffee with your Vietnamese friends and other entertainment needs. If you don’t have a motorbike, you need to double up your budget as you will definitely rely on public transport such as Taxi and Xe Om, a motorbike taxi.


Staying at home everyday after work while watching repeat shows of America’s Next Top Model and How I Met Your Mother Season 3 is kind of a boring activity. There are many local coffee shops come with unique concept and theme song in town. Having a glass of coffee with condensed milk in Highland Coffee will cost you VND29,000 and you can enjoy the free WiFi here to read your e-book or news.
Optionally, you may go out for movie with your friends. Megastar Cinema maybe a little bit expensive but always a premium choice among Vietnamese. Go to Galaxy Cinema for a cheaper ticket and 2D movie normally will cost you around VND65,000 to VND80,000 each.

Shop your Shirts

Go to Nguyen Trai street of District 1 and District 5 for a value for money shopping. A t-shirt will cost you around VND100,000 to VND200,000 and you will get good quality pants by paying VND300,000. There are many imitations of international brands for you to choose as well. Just ask yourself about what your desire is.

House Rental and Transportation

Fancy houses in central area will cost you between VND10,000,000 and above every month. You may ask your local friends if you are looking for a better deal. Renting a 30sqm room in alleyway area will cost you around VND3,000,000 to VND5,000,000 monthly. Some owners will offer you thrice housekeeping service and laundry facility as well.

A motorbike is a need if you choose to have a moderate living in this country. Normally, you are expected to spend around VND20,000 for 3 kilometres journey by xe om and it can rise higher if you are unable to speak Vietnamese. You are expected to spend between VND50,000 to VND100,000 if you are actively going out and renting a motorbike as an option. Renting a Honda wave will cost you around VND1,000,000 a month and your house owner normally can help you to get this price from the vendors.
Overall, you are expected to spend around VND7,000,000 a month for a moderate living in this country. This is equal to the living of Vietnamese graduate from a good university and just started up their independent living.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 23, 2012

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Vung Tau Beach – Saigonese Weekend Escape

The beach along Thuy Van Street, Vung Tau
Vung Tau is one of the nearest beach cities in Vietnam which is located about 120 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. If you feel stuck over the weekend and looking for a quick escape, Vung Tau Beach is a good option. This city was also considered as a French preferred holiday destination during their era. Besides, there are a group of expatriate communities, especially Russian who are working at petroleum drilling platform.

Get Set & Go!

The boat and hydrofoil jetty to Vung Tau city
Going to Vung Tau is very easy. You can take a bus from Mien Dong Bus Station in Binh Thanh District with two hours journey. Optionally, you can go to Vung Tau by using hydrofoil which is a little bit pricey, around VND 200,000 but your journey only will take around 1 hour and 15 minute. Good reputation hydrofoil operators such as Petro Express and Vina Express fo have daily services from Saigon’s Bach Dang Jetty at Ton Duc Thang street to Vung Tau. The boats leave every hour from Ho Chi Minh City starting from 6.30am and you must know, they are really on time!
Travelling around Vung Tau should be very easy for first timers. Taxi services are always available especially at tourist attraction areas. If you can ride a bike, you can ask help from your guesthouse or mini hotel staff about motorbike for rent. Optionally, there are motorbike drivers or locally called “xe om” are always ready at tourist areas. All you need to do is making an eye contact with them and do not forget to negotiate the price before departing to any places

Where to Check in?

There are selections of hotels for you to choose in Vung Tau. The Imperial Hotel Vung Tau which is located at Thuy Van Street is one of the five star hotels and one of the best choices if you are looking for a luxury holiday.
Optionally, there are also numbers of three star hotels such as Rex Hotel at Le Quy Don Street, Valley Mountain Hotel at Tran Phu Street and Buffalo Inn at Ba Cu Street which comes with economy prices between VND800,000 up to VND1,500,00 per night
If you think that you will spend most of your time outdoors and just need a room for sleep and get changed, budget hotel at Thuy Van Street area is just perfect for your needs This street is opposite to the beach and very busy with hundreds of tourists especially on weekends. From the Vung Tau Jetty, you just need to take a taxi and ask them to bring you to Thuy Van Street. The room rate here can be as low as VND200,000 per night and it is depends on the season as well. This area is also very good for first timers in Vung Tau as there are so many food stalls, seafood hawkers and souvenir sellers around the area.

Exploring Vung Tau

If you are staying in the Thuy Van area, you can do many activities starting from morning until evening. At the beach site, you can see some Vietnamese ladies sitting under umbrellas with some blue colour basins. Come closer and you will find out that they are selling crab which is very juicy and fresh. The price is vary between VND100,000 to VND200,000 per kilo, depends on size and season. Walking along the seaside should be safe as long as there are people around. At evening, you may come again to seaside and you will see many seafood hawkers busy grilling clams, squids and crab spikes for their customers. The price is relativly very cheap, but as usual, it is advisable to ask for the price first upon ordering.

View from the Lighthouse. 15 minutes by cab from Thuy Van Beach area
If you do not want to spend your whole day by lazing on the beach, there are some local attractions that you should not miss. Grab a xe om driver to Nui Nho (Small Mountain) where the Giant Statue is located or go to visit a lighthouse at another hill area which you can see a vast view of Vung Tau beach.

Scams in Vung Tau

Fried lobster with garlic in a local restaurant. Taste good, but its overpriced

Scams in Vung Tau Beach 225x300 Vung Tau Beach   Saigonese Weekend Escape
My receipt which is stated my
lobster is VND1,750,000 which
is double priced
If you had booked your hotel, stick with your reservation and do not easily accept any offers from you taxi driver to bring you to a cheaper hotel. Normally hotel and restaurant owners are offering commission to the taxi driver as if they bring customer for them. The same thing will happen when you go to seafood restaurants in Vung Tau. It is advisable to enjoy seafood at local choice’s restaurant or hawkers at the seaside instead of tourist bug’s restaurant as the price is relatively two or three times higher than what you are expected to pay.
There are some astrological palm readers that say they can see your future. You need to ask for the price first before agrees for anything. In another scenario, if you do not have a camera, there are freelance photographers who are normally mingling around the seaside for photography services. Normally they will offer to deliver the photos to your hotel. Upon receiving the photos, check one by one before doing any payment. You need to remember that you only need to pay for a good quality of photos instead of doing charity by paying unnecessarily.
Now, with numbers of attractive holiday packages provided by hotel and travel agencies, there are more people choosing to spend their time in Vung Tau for a quick weekend escape. Hopefully, the increasing numbers of tourist to Vung Tau, hotel providers and restaurant should provide a better service which match with their price tag.

This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on July 15, 2012

Backpacking in Vietnam: How much do you need to bring for your 10 Days trip?

Sometimes you are not sure about how much you should bring for your Vietnam backpacking trip. You might think that everything is cheap in Vietnam, but since the petrol rise and positive economy, everything is no more as cheap as your imagination. If you choose a medium range of backpacking trip, you are expected to spend around USD 50 to USD 70 per day. This is including your accommodations, food and other tour needs. However, you may squeeze your budget to USD 25 per day and it’s still reliable for budget concerned travelers. Travelers also need to remember that things might be more expensive in north cities of Vietnam.


The most popular budget accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City is at Pham Ngu Lao Street, along the way to Bui Vien and De Tham Street. A one night deluxe room will cost around USD 15 to USD 25 per night. If you are seeking for a medium range of accommodation, you may search for hotel nearby the famous Ben Thanh Market with price around USD 35 to USD 60 for one night. Optionally, you may browse for hostels at backpacker area with starting price around USD 5 per bed. When choosing to stay in hostel, you need to be extra careful with your personal belonging and do not leave your valuable items unattended.

Transportation in Vietnam

Taxi is the most convenient transportation when traveling in Vietnam. You are expected to pay around VND 11,000 per km and remember to use taxi from legitimate taxi provider such as Vinasun, Mai Linh taxi and Saigon Tourist taxi to avoid any scam. Optionally, you may use motorbike taxi or locally called as “Xe Om” Using “Xe Om” is relatively 50% cheaper than using a taxi. You are expected to pay about VND 5000 per km and this is solely depends on your negotiation skill as well. If you did not get your desired price, go ahead to another driver for a better deal.
If you are doing inter province traveling, you may choose either bus or train with price starts from USD 5 to USD 60 depending on the location you are heading to. You also can book a domestic flight to a major tourism city with price around USD60 up to USD150. Local providers such as Vietnam Airlines, Mekong Air and Vietjet Air always offer a good deal for travelers.

Food Expenses

Local food in Vietnam will cost between USD1 to USD5 each. You are expected to spend around USD10 to USD20 for lunch and dinner and breakfast will cost around USD5 for coffee and American breakfast. You will be lucky if your hotel does provide complimentary breakfast during your stay.

Local Tour Expenses

Most of local attractions will require you to pay for a ticket. The entrance fees can start from USD 0.50 (Zoo in Ho Chi Minh City) up to USD 5 for other places. When you are buying souvenirs, you are expected to spend around USD2 to USD10 per merchandise and do not forget to bargain for a better deal.

Result: How much do you need to bring?

You are expected to spend at least USD700 for your 10 days trip in Vietnam exclude your flight ticket and over shopping. Bargaining is fun while shopping here and be extra careful with tourist scams.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 12, 2012

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

International Landing in Vietnam 2012/2013

1992, the first year Singapore Air landing to Vietnam. Photo by
If you want to confess about the numbers of international tourists in and out from Vietnam, you can count on how many daily takeoffs and landings from Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi.

The earliest international airlines that flying directly to Vietnam were Singapore Airlines, Air France, Thai Airways and Lufthansa from Germany. In 2004, United Airlines came to Vietnam and making the trip from Vietnam to America easier. Every year, there are millions of overseas Vietnamese coming to Vietnam to visit family, business and also leisure.
Out from 6,000,000 international tourists that came to Vietnam last year, 80% of them arrived by air transportation. The opening of Danang International Airport had encouraged international landings from Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and even Russia. From June this year, Emirates has been officially landing at Ho Chi Minh City with a group of foreign journalists to celebrate their first non-stop flight to Vietnam. This is really a good chance for our Vietnamese economy to be exposed with investors from the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Soon in 2013, Etihad will be officially land in Vietnam with a nonstop flight from Vietnam to Abu Dhabi and there are some rumors say that Saudi Arabia Airlines will follow the Etihad line. Besides, there are many other international airlines still under queue such as Jeju Air from South Korea, Air Hong Kong., Kazakhstan’s Air Astana, Air China and Finland’s Finnair. Qatar Airways currently flying to Vietnam with four times weekly with transit in Bangkok, Thailand. This year also had welcomed Turkish Airlines with a direct flight from Vietnam to Turkey.

The future is Here

The Vietnamese aviation industry had grown around 14 percent in 2011 and according to International the Air Transport Association; Vietnam will be in 3rd place after China and Brazil as the fastest growing commercial aviation market. The Civil Administration of Vietnam had estimated around 34 to 36 million passengers will come to Vietnam in 2013 and the number will increase between 52 to 59 million passengers by 2019.
Besides, the joint venture between giant airline companies, United Continental Holding with All Nippon Airways (ANA) had given more option for Vietnamese, tourist and business travelers to travel from South East Asia to America. Now, passengers can choose to fly to America from either from Hong Kong, Tokyo or by transfer from both carriers.
With more collaboration and positive economic stability in this country, international investors will feel confident to invest in this country and creating more job opportunities to the citizens of Vietnam. In the meantime, it will be an effect to the positive aviation business and creating more demand in future.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on September 13, 2012

Understanding The Concept of Saving Face in Vietnamese Culture

Asian were born with a very unique culture called as “Saving Face culture”. From typical Japanese business etiquette to wet market transaction in the smallest village in central Vietnam, this social culture is still applied in everybody’s daily life. If you make someone losing face even not on purpose, this infraction is rarely forgiven.

The Concept of saving Face

First of all, let’s describe the concept of “face” in Vietnam. It’s a combination of reputation, social standing, dignity and individual honors. “Losing face” is an action to cause someone look down in front of their friends or community and “building face” is the process of making someone feel good in front of others. This is totally different compared to Western cultures which is very outspoken towards any matters. However, in Vietnam, building face will come first during early stage of business meeting before proceeding to the real deal.

Making Noise

Shouting or arguing in public is strictly prohibited. This scene will actually make the person lose face toward bystanders through embarrassment. Even when you feel frustrated, it is better for you to calm down and be patient until both parties get a solution. For Vietnamese, at least a small compromise can be considered as a solution.
By understanding the concept of saving face, it will give you an advantage when traveling and doing business in Vietnam. Example, when you buy something in market and negotiating price with the merchant, you remember that you cannot make the merchant lose face by making them desperate to sell. It is normally happened in Ben Thanh market and you will see some seller just ignore you when asking for an unreasonable price. You can strongly bargain, but it is advisable to give a little from your price or optionally, you may offer to buy something else smaller and you already save their face among their peers.

Tips for Saving Face

There are several tips for saving face in your daily life.
  • You need to avoid pointing out someone’s mistake in public.
  • Always give a sincere complimen when necessary.
  • If offered, just let your host to pay for your dinner or drink. In many business meeting, most of my Vietnamese partners offer to pay for the drink and you will do the same at other meeting.
  • If your Vietnamese partner is offering any gift, you need to refuse at first, but eventually you may receive it in both hands.
  • Bending the truth is common in Vietnam, but pointing out that someone is actually lying is totally making them lose face.
As saving face is taken into account during daily life in Vietnam, you should watch your mouth and have a self-respect and sensitivity when communicating with your colleagues, friends, neighbours or family members.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 6, 2012

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Get to Know the Door of Mekong Region – My Tho City

My Tho city is a provincial province of Tien Giang province. The city is categorized under Grade II in Tien Giang province by the Prime Minister on 7th October 2005. Located at the lower north shore of Tien River, eastern and northern of Cho Gao district, west side of Chau Thanh district and Ben Tre Island at the south part, this city consisted of 11 wards and 4 communes with population of 220,000 people.

History of My Tho

The city was founded on early 1680s by Chinese refugees from Taiwan and rapidly grew from a traditional gateway for people to Mekong delta to an economic hub-city. In the 17th century, My Tho city is very popular in the south besides the port city of Bien Hoa. The city became more prosperous during French colonization supported by the increasing numbers of immigrants from Teochew and Minnan.

Economy Activities in My Tho

Since the early era of My Tho until now, core economic activities in My Tho are tourism products, fishing and agricultural products. Bananas, coconut and longan are easily can be found in the city. Besides that, My Tho city is the biggest producer of dried fish and other seafood products from Mekong region. On year 2010, there are 17 markets located in wards and commune in My Tho.
Besides agriculture, other industries such as construction and trading had contributed more than 50% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of My Tho City.

How to Get Here?

You may take 2 hours bus journey from Cho Lon Bus Station or Mien Tay Bus Station and the bus will stop at My Tho Bus Station, which is located few kilometres from the central of My Tho. You also may take a motorbike ride from Ho Chi Minh City and you will have chance to enjoy the beautiful sceneries or rivers and paddy field all the way from Long An province to My Tho City.
The easiest, take a daily trip organized by travel agencies such as The Sinh Tourist and enjoy their full board tour package.

Visiting My Tho

There are some activities that you can do while visiting My Tho City. Most of visitors come to My Tho to take a riverboat tour across to Ben Tre Island. You may book your river-boat tour at Tien Giang Tourist at No.8 Street 30/4, My Tho City. There are many packages available with great activities such as visiting coconut candy factory, visiting honey bee farm, enjoying local fruits in the orchid, dining authentic Vietnamese cuisine while listening to Vietnamese folk songs and many more. For easy visitors from Ho Chi Minh City, they may book their trip from travel agencies in Ho Chi Minh City with price between VND 190,000 to VND 220,000 per person which normally consisted of entrance ticket, boat tickets, lunch, and tour guide services.
My Tho 7 Get to Know the Door of Mekong Region – My Tho City
If you plan to stay overnight in My Tho City, that is mean you will have more time to explore the city. This city is walk able for visitors. Many years ago, there are many trees along the streets in My Tho, but because of modernization needs, the government need to widen up the streets and all big trees were chopped down. Walking trip in My Tho is a very interesting moment when you can see how local people enjoy their daily life with their business activities, enjoying local food such as Hu Tieu My Tho and incredible Hu Tieu Sate (which is only available in My Tho City) and many more authentic local dishes. In your walking trip, don’t forget to drop by to My Tho Central Market at Trang Trac Street and Nguyen Hue Street. Mostly they sell everything here from foods, fruits, and poultries to clothing. Some merchants sell their products on the street which sometimes will make the traffic at this area congested. Even the government had developed a three storey market to relocate those merchants, high taxes and rental makes them feel more affordable to continue their business on the street. As a result, the second and third floor of the new market is remaining empty until now.
Wake up early in the morning and walk around the lake at Tet Mau Nhan Street and Yersin Street will let you enjoying the fresh air and next you can enjoy coffees on the sidewalk coffee shop facing to the lake too.
While leaving My Tho City back to Ho Chi Minh City, you may stop at Mekong Rest Stop which is located 8 kilometres from the city. There is a comfortable toilet here, in case u didn’t get a good one in My Tho for your “natures call”, Vietnamese Restaurant, art gallery and snack shops. If you love to take photos, this place is so charming with lotus in the pond, beautiful garden, and the build up or highland style and communal houses of Vietnamese people.
Overall, visiting My Tho is another great escape over the weekend if you already get bored with Vung Tau or other districts. It is very cheap to spend time in here. Mostly for food and travelling in this city is very convenient with numbers of cabs and motorbike taxi “Xe Om” is everywhere.
Huge thanks to people at for great photos of My Tho City.
“This article is dedicated to someone who are a real friend, brother and a lover. Thank you for sharing your life with me and I will remember you forever – M.R.Danial.”
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 3, 2012 

Monday, 19 November 2012

Dating Spot in Vietnam: This is where the “Intimidating” starts

Vietnamese dating scene can be easily seen in Ho Chi Minh City especially at every evening and week night. Sometimes you will observe a little bit too much here and there, but as a responsible traveler, it is advisable for you not to stare at them to show your respect. There are some places which you can see more Vietnamese teenagers out for a date.

“Lovey Dovey” in the Park

Coffee Shop 225x300 Dating Spot in Vietnam: This is where the “Intimidating” startsSpend your evening by walking at 23/9 Park at Pham Ngu Lau backpacker area or nearby Notre Dame Cathedral in District 1, you will see many young couples sitting on bench or motorbike, hugging and playing with each other. This scene maybe awkward for some conservative Asians, but you have to admit that this is the cheapest dating ever. Many young Vietnamese are still pursuing their study or just started working, going to coffee shop might be very costly for them. There are some vendors who are selling soft drink and junk food such as Banh Trang Nuong or “Grilled Rice Paper with Scallion and Quail Egg) with price around VND 10,000 each.

“River Pavement” Cruise

Since the Government had spent billions to build a pedestrian walk along a canal in District 1 and District 3, now is the time for their young citizens to take benefit from it. The most popular dating spot is a pedestrian walk along Ben Chuong Duong street until Ton Duc Thang exit which you can see dating couples spending their evening by facing the Saigon River and scenic view of the tallest building in town, Bitexco Financial Tower. The same scene can be seen at riverside pavement at Saigon Pearl Apartment at Binh Thanh district and at the middle of Thu Thiem Bridge. The view at Thu Thiem Bridge is very nice for dating couple as they can see view Saigon at night with lighting and Saigon Pearl at another side or the bridge.

Zoo Dating

In some countries, going to a Zoo is very awkward for a dating couple. But there is a different scene in Vietnam when young couple really enjoying dating while visiting Zoo. With entrance ticket at VND 10,000 for one person and you can buy food in the Zoo area, they can spend a whole day with their love one at the Zoo area. The dating couple can sit on the grass or go around to see animals in the Zoo besides making their relationship closer.

Shopping Mall & Movies

The increasing numbers of shopping malls such as The Crescent, Vincom Centre and Park which attach with entertainment centres turn to be a favorite among Vietnamese couples. While waiting for the movie screening time, the couple can mingle around the shopping mall and of course enjoying the air-conditioned mall instead of getting sweaty in the hot weather outside.

Coffee Shop & Bar Entertainment

This type of dating is popular among professional and graduates in Vietnam. Expected the boyfriend will pay on behalf of girlfriend and drinks for two person normally will cost around VND 100,000 in coffee shop. Coffee garden is a favorite among mature couples and modern coffee shop such as Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf is teenager’s choice. Besides that, modern couples love to hang out for a date in luxury bar or club while sipping their favorite cocktail and of course, dress the best to show off.

Casual Dining Restaurant

This is another dating place for Vietnamese professionals and foreigners in Vietnam. Restaurants in District 1 are very famous for a dating couple to enjoy their evening with their lovers for a romantic dinner before spending time to walk around the city for shopping or sightseeing.
After understanding about where are the dating scenes in town, you may ask yourself about what is your preferable activity for your date. You may choose an economic dating in the park with a lot of fun and enjoying streets food or spending in a luxury places to show your unlimited love to your partner. The most important is, showing your respect towards others and living here peacefully.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on June 19, 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012

Expatriate Eyes: The best way to treat local Vietnamese Women and be local

Year by year, we can observe increasing numbers of foreigners coming to this country for business and leisure. Despite economic difficulties, the local tourism business has still maintained an increase in numbers of tourists with 2.5million which is 22.9 percent from the same month last year. For people who are living here, you have to remember that Vietnamese women and youngsters are mostly enjoying the freedom to talk and have a relationship with foreigners. When you are in a relationship with Vietnamese women, you must be more sensitive, especially for those who are having a strong family ties and traditionally religious.

Full of Respect

As a foreigner, you must respect any religious requirement while treating women in Vietnam. Most of Vietnamese are Buddhist and some of them are no religion. You have to be cautious when trying to get close with them and advisable for you to wait until the women make their first move on greeting and any other general conversation.

Don’t Stare

No one in this world likes to be stared at. Same goes to Vietnamese men and women. By staring, you just create an attention because you are a foreigner. You may be sending a message to them that you are sexually interested with them and they can claim it as a sexual harassment. If you are women and staring at Vietnamese women, you will be interpreted as looking down to them.

Clean & Clean

When you are visiting Vietnamese women’s house or family, you have to be more aware about cleanliness and sanitary. Vietnamese house relatively are clean and tidy. Making mess and being careless in their house will show that you are not respecting them and hurting their feelings. Do not forget to flush your toilet after using it and be more light-handed by offering to wash the dishes after eating.

Watch & Learn

As a foreigner, you maybe will have some distinctive thinking about how some Vietnamese men treat women. It’s been said that, some Vietnamese man in rural area and parts of northern Vietnam did not treat women equally. You will think this is very offensive but advisable for you to keep it by yourself as rising up this issue will be considered as rude.

Good Girl vs Bad Girl

If you are visiting some clubs or bars in town, be calm as hot girls are everywhere. Please remember that some of the women are prostitutes and prostitution is illegal in Vietnam. There will be some women who try to seduce you and saying that the law does not work. In general, what you need to do is be respectful in Vietnam no matter if they are your friend, lover or new family members.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on June 11, 2012

Memorable Kisses in Vietnam

When you go for a date with someone, the first kiss is always an important matter and we always want to remember it. It can be teenagers who will experience their first ever kiss in their life or for someone who had seen somebody and looking forward for first kiss in the relationship.
Every first kiss will give an impact to the individual. If you are a good kisser, it will always be in the couple’s memory. If it is badly done, emotionally you will turn down your sweetheart. All you need to do is calm down and look for less crowded places for your first kiss. At least, the crowd won’t make you nervous and your first kiss may be more memorable.
Where you should go for your first kiss? Here are some places which can very spontaneous but mesmerizing.
Blanchy's Tash, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo:

In a party with dimmed light, R&B Music and both of you dancing

Going to Blanchy’s Tash at Hai Ba Trung street and get some cocktails to start your night. Blanchy’s is very classy and such a perfect place if you are seeking for a memorable place for your first kiss. Most of the crowd are professional Vietnamese and expatriates and everybody are just minding their own business. You won’t get nervous with your first kiss here.

After a romantic dinner, in the restaurant, yard or parking area

The environment at Monsoon Bar & Restaurant in Cao Ba Nha, District 1 is very suitable if you are looking for a romantic ambiance. After having authentic Asian cuisine combined with your wine of choice, take a slow walk at the front yard with your love or maybe you can sit together on the bench provided. Express your love and your first kiss can start from there.

Sunset walk on the beach

Nha Trang beach is always a top choice for honeymoon makers. The same thing is applied for lovers; you may arrange a romantic trip to this beach city and spend a lovely evening by walking on the beach side. Hand in hand and enjoying the sea breeze, your first kiss will be meaningful combined with the beautiful evening silhouette.

By a campfire

Organize a trip to Madagui Forest at Lamdong Province. This forest resort is located 4 hours from Ho Chi Minh City or halfway before Dalat City. The resort is popular during summer in , and it has all your needs such as chalet, tent renting, campfire and restaurant. Night time in the forestry can be very chilly. You may sit together with your love, talking and get to know each other. Share a blanket together and let the love sparks fly!

Empty Stage after Concert or Theater play

This might be very thrilling for you, but very mesmerizing. Be the last to leave the theater hall and do your first kiss in this memorial place. Hanoi Opera House and HCMC Opera House will be your prime selection for your memorable kiss.

In the rain, anywhere easy for you to remember the place

When its raining and you are somewhere nearby Dong Khoi and Le Loi of District 1, take your lover’s hand to this corner. You are standing in front of Louis Vuitton boutique at Opera View Building, with Caravelle Hotel opposite and significant Opera House at another corner, your first kiss will be very unique because you are standing on one of the famous streets in Ho Chi Minh City. If you are in Hanoi, go around Metropole Hotel for the same feel.
Chill Skybar, AB Tower, Ho Chi Minh City

Balcony of your house or rooftop bar

They are many rooftop bars in town and Chill Bar on top of AB Tower which you can consider to have your first kiss. The bar was designed by the same designer of Scirocco Sky bar in Thailand and the open bar concept will let you enjoy the music, feel the windy atmosphere and observing the terrific view of Saigon from this skyscraper. Your first kiss here will be very memorable at one of the highest bars in town.

In the woods or trails

If both of you are adventure seekers, go for a nature trail trip. Arrange a short trip to Dalat City and take a private nature walk to LangBiang Mountain. Along the trail side, you can observe birds, and also old trees. You may have a tour guide to assist you, or optionally, you can trail by yourself. While resting in the middle of your walk, the first kiss can naturally spark in nature.

On the deck or bridge

One of the most spectacular views of Ho Chi Minh City is when you are standing on Thu Thiem Bridge which is next to Saigon Pearl Apartment. Take a ride with your love to this bridge during a lovely evening and stop at the centre of this bridge. There are many Vietnamese young couples who go to this bridge in the evening to enjoy the cool breeze from the river and spend time with their loved one.

Thu Thiem bridge with Saigon's spectacular view. Photo by Panda Ngo on Flickr
Wherever your first kiss is, always remember to control your hormones and make sure your first kiss did not bring you into a make out. It is far too easy to let things get out of control.By controlling yourself, your first kiss will be continued to another spark in near future.
How about your first kiss? Please share with us.
This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 22, 2012

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Prostitution Scene in the Backpacker's Area of Saigon, Vietnam

Prostitution is a never-ending story in a tourism city such as Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok and Singapore. Even if your travel intention is just for sightseeing and visiting tourist attraction places, single or group male travelers normally cannot avoid from being approached by sexual offers from male or female prostitutes in town. Even, the industry is not as open as in Bangkok or Phuket, the scene in Ho Chi Minh is on the rise especially at the backpacker area, Pham Ngu Lao.

In this article, we describe female prostitutes as “Night Butterflies” which to portray their image who are flying around the city seeking for customers.

“Night Butterflies” on the Bike

Motorbike is a means of transportation in Vietnam. These “Night Butterflies” are very mobile when they are moving around by motorbike. They can ride on streets, alleyways and even in the pedestrian walks. When you walk alone from Ben Thanh Market heading to Pham Ngu Lao across 23/9 Park, do not be surprised when there are beautiful girls on bikes nicely say “Hello” to you and offering sex service. Its can be 1 girl and sometimes they come with another friend. The best way is, just smile and go without looking at their eyes. If you be chattier, they will think that is your “buying signal” and they will bother your way

“Night Butterflies” on the Pavement

Some of these girls are working together with other teams who are finding customers by using motorbikes. When you out for drinks with travel buddies and walk to your hotel a bit later around 10pm, some girls on the walking side sometimes daringly will ask if you are looking for prostitute and they are very open talking about their services. Not only that, some motorbike taxi or locally called “xe om” driver also play a role as an agent for this prostitution business in backpacker area. With coffee-dirt teeth smiling faces, they will repeatedly asking every male tourist if they are looking for “massage” or pretty women.

“Sexy Shampoo Girls” in Saloon

There are some Hair Saloons or massage centres with half dozen of beautiful girls with a very short mini skirt sitting in front of their saloon premises. It is fine if you just want to cut your hair, but you have be careful whenever the girls are trying to do something weird to you as normally it will come with different price. Some say, it’s kind of weird when it is hard to see a scissors in a hair saloon. The best way is, avoid these places and Google for places that tourists always go.

Mid Age Women at Bar

There are many bars in the backpacker area with American-Vietnamese interior design which are always welcoming American veterans as their customer. The best part is, the waitresses in the bar are just their type which is middle age Vietnamese women with sexy low-cut dress. Not all of them are prostitutes as many say so. It will be best for you to be gentle towards those women and politely say no if you are not interested in other intimidation movements.

“Massage Boy” on Bicycle

If you are staying along Bui Vien or De Tham Street, you will definitely see this “Massage Boy” on bicycles. The age of these massage boys are around 17 years old to 25 years old and they are riding bicycles to make hundreds of rounds at backpacker areas to find customers. They come with a unique tool to attract tourist attention by putting some steel bottle covers together and make it as a signal ringer. Their target customers are mostly gay tourist or some gay friendly straight men that are curious about their services. They normally offer massage services in customer’s hotel room besides offering sex services. The price for this service can starts from VND200,000 up to VND1,000,000 depends on type of services. There are some robbery cases reported by tourist who are using this services which end up with loosing money, camera, Ipad and many other valuable items.

“Male Prostitute & Money Boy” at 23/9 Park

Do not simply talk with stranger when you walk passing by 23/9 Park after 9pm onwards. There are numbers of cute and attractive young Vietnamese man who are always seeking for a hunk American boyfriend here. A walking westerner can be considered as a “walking dollar” for them. Most of them are sitting on their bike with group of friends in between 9pm to midnight to try their luck to catch a boyfriend for money. You might be melted with their soft-spoken poor English and bringing them to your hotel room and it may end up with money stealing and more tragic incident if you refuse to give what they are asking from you.

This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on June 25, 2012

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Gordon's Great Escape Season 2 Episode 2 - Vietnam

Gordon Ramsay was born on 1966, November 8 and he is a successful British businessman, television personality, celebrity chef and a restaurateur. He is currently present in numbers of well-known TV programmes such as Ramsay's Best Restaurant, Masterchef US, Hell's Kitchen and many more. 

Last year, one of his TV programme, Gordon's Great Escape was took part in South East Asia and Vietnam was one of his stopover. Check out the below clips for the full episodes of Ramsay in Vietnam which was airred in ABC Television last year.

Source: ABC Television

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Attending Vietnamese Wedding at Countryside

Vietnamese Broom & Bride. Photo
by trungkien0324 on
 Flickr -CC BY NC-SA 2.0
As a foreigner, it is a delightful experience when you are invited to attend a Vietnamese wedding ceremony. In Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the wedding ceremony normally will be held in fine restaurants, wedding halls or hotel grand ballrooms to show their wealth and appreciation to their guests. How about at the countryside? It is totally a different experience starting from crossing province area, overnight at your friend’s house and of course, unlimited supply of foods.
Just forget all the champagne, big fresh flower bouquets, red carpet, popular MC or Vietnamese celebrities’ appearance. Not even air-conditioned hall and bride-groom photo slideshow on giant white screen, the wedding in countryside is more rural and traditional. The ceremony normally held in front of their house or at big street areas. Days before the ceremony, people will set up some tents with plastic chairs and table and the tent will be decorated with pink or purple colour curtains and fake flowers for decoration.

Night before Ceremony

The night before ceremony, the bride and the broom normally will spend time with their guests, mostly close friends and relatives. They drink beer, soft drinks, eat Vietnamese food and dance all night long. There are unlimited supplies of beer and food during the night and this is how the bride and groom show their appreciation to their guest for making their big day more meaningful. Even the ceremony is in the countryside; the concept of saving face still exists. They are willing to spend money as to show others about one’s honour or prestige in order to be outstanding among others.
To be the only foreigner in the event can be overwhelming. You will be a centre of attraction during the occasion and everybody will over care about you. You are expected to be served with a lot of food in your bowl, such as noodles, porridge, grilled pork and many other traditional dishes. Everybody will be eager to feed you and don’t want to let your bowl empty. What you need to do, is accept what they gave you or politely refuse if you really can’t take it. At every single time of sipping beer, you are expected to say “Mot, hai, ba, Yo!” (One, two, three, Yo!) which is Vietnamese style of “Cheers”.
On that night also, your ears will be blocked with “super-cracky” sound system from open karaoke-ing system as entertainment during the occasion. The fellow older guests will choose to sing Vietnamese folk song (which some foreigners cannot take) and the youth will sing a song from their era. It does not a matter if your voice is not beautiful as Mariah Carey or Ruben Studdard, because beer, food and karaoke are such a great match during the night.
Vietnamese Wedding in Cat Ba Island. Photo by filipappeldorni
(33575168@N07) on Flickr - CC BY-NC SA 2.0

Wedding Ceremony Day

The next day, when you are still hungover from last nights party, this is the important moment for the bride and the groom in their life. This marriage ceremony normally is only for family members and close friends as witnesses of the wedding ceremony. As a foreign guest, what you need to do is just observing and following what others did and again, there will be more food served at the wedding reception.

This is such a great experience for you to enjoy traditional wedding ceremony in the countryside. Before you leave, do not forget to put some money amounted between VND 200,000 to VND 1,000,000 in your invitation envelope and hand it over to the bride as a gift and “good luck” for their marriage.
Phuc and Vy's wedding. Photo by Don Fulano (ultimateslug) on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

This articles was published in The Vietnam Guide on August 14, 2012