Like anything else, good photography needs sustained effort and concentration. For once in my career, I was really able to work at my photography. And I had a wonderful subject to inspire me. I was amazed to discover a city with a thousand years of history; a rich architectural heritage; temples and religious festivals. It was very exciting to have the chance to explore in depth a place that was so little known and yet so talked about in the West. There were no neon lights and in the evening, people sat on their front doorsteps, drinking tea around tiny paraffin lamps.
All you could hear was the murmur of voices and the occasional bike going by. There were only a couple of places to go for a meal. There was one tennis court in Lenin Park. Contact with Hanoians was also very limited. People were always friendly. You could talk to people in the markets or shops. But more sustained contact was very difficult. Clearly, it was a difficult time. Economic recovery had barely begun. Daily life for the Hanoians was a constant struggle.
However, his exhibition this month is mainly about Hanoi. He hopes one day to do something with his other photos. I had a few prints made back in London to show friends, but for many years they remained a. I made contact prints and had a few printed when I got back to London. I always felt that some of the very special atmosphere of the time had found its way into the photos. But my career took me away from Asia — the negatives lay in a cupboard for 30 years. There had been floods of books about the war period from the American perspective. Now, for the first time, readers in the West had access to an individual voice from the North — a magnificent book that has won worldwide respect.
I especially recall sitting in a London cafe in the early s next to four men who had just returned from a business trip to Hanoi — clearly something was happening. Fast Forward In , after Sir John left the diplomatic service, he held a small photographic exhibition to mark the 1,th anniversary of Hanoi at the Museum of East Asian Arts in Bath. The photos are his, but the words, the design; everything else comes from his partners, who have also enlisted the help of historians, writers and artists from Hanoi. Hanoi had an austere, rather melancholy beauty; a poetry so well captured in the paintings of Bui Xuan Phai.
I was transfixed. For young people, my photos help to visualise the very different life led by their parents and grandparents — the generations that lived through the war and then laid the foundation for the country we know today. For older people, the photos seem to bring back strong memories of a time that now seems very distant. The exhibition is part of the celebrations for the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UK and Vietnam. Image 3: Crowds at the Dong Ky festival. After electrifying the afternoons of five continents in the last six years, Les Siestes Electroniques is spreading its utopian moods to the better parks of Vietnam.
Ed Weinberg gives peace a chance. Sure, there will be a non-stop parade of beautiful people, sporting ultratrendy looks. Sure, the music is the cream of the Pitchfork-vetted crop actually, even a bit more select. Sure, the occasional hipster will trickle in. We love to dance too! These are really enriching experiences! Les Siestes relies on its unpredictable moving parts to give it its evolving identity, and Vincent is definitely one of the more important ones.
Everyone on the slate is a researcher, a digger, a listener. And they want to know what Vietnam has to say. I think this music sounds foreign… to people who live in big towns, who are usually not very interested in ancient music. Laurent agrees, and sees this as a good thing. The films of Vincent Moon are screening on Oct. For more information on all of this, go to lessiestes-electroniques.
All events besides the Vincent Moon workshop are free. So, you arrive at a show, restaurant or even a business operation. You expect the very best without really wondering or caring about the creation process. But what happens behind the scenes? What does it require to really make something happen? How much needs to be done to make the finished product good enough for public consumption? With this in mind we decided to look at the process of making something happen. From the process of growing, baking and packaging tea through to the vigorous rehearsals required to put on a dance show for both a Vietnamese and international audience.
Nothing is quite as simple as it seems. So next time you go for that hotel buffet, buy some silk, take in a water-puppet show or peruse a fashion shoot in the pages of a magazine, you might take a minute to appreciate the hard work put in to make it all happen. Without the dedication of all those people working in the background, this world could be a very different place.
The Tea Plantation Driving the five hours from Hanoi to Moc Chau, Nick Ross went in search of that most ancient and beloved of Vietnamese products — tea — and what lies behind it. Best if you go yourself. I had a couple of contacts in the area, and I knew I could also visit the Moc Suong Tea Plantation as part of a tour, but the original idea was to do this blind, to turn up and work it out for myself. That was what I wanted a guide for. But the receptionist was correct. It was unnecessary. While Thai Nguyen Province is often cited as the home of tea production,.
At least it is in my book. Unfortunately in Moc Chau the two are never mixed, possibly a good thing considering that the tea grown in the area is almost uniquely green. The Taiwanese are there, however, bringing with them their own version of crop circles and rice field art. Rocking up to my first plantation, as I rode up the hill a sea of green emerged, with conical hats peeking out at isolated spots.
Here the hills, the reflection of light on the tea leaves, the cool air and the atmosphere of peace but abundance creates an overwhelming effect. It was no less awe-inspiring than the first. Having tried my hand at farm work as a student, I have only one way to describe the ladies working on the plantations — superhuman.
They are humourous, too. They pick the ripe leaves at breakneck speed, using a mixture of their bare hands and a small scythe. It must be backbreaking work, but they are never out of breath and — despite the monotony — they still seem to have fun. When I turned up they were joking and laughing, their pace plucking away at the tea leaves never letting up. They played games with me, one woman removing my messenger bag from its perch on my bike seat, before bursting into hysterics. Leaving the women to their tea-picking antics, down the track I spied a man with a fertiliser backpack, readying it for the spray.
As he mixed water with an array. I asked him if it was possible to get into the processing factory at the bottom of the hill, Cong Ty Che Moc Chau. Go and ask their permission, he replied. So hoping for my first modicum of success I went up to the security gate. The security guards were helpful.
He was correct. After a couple of false starts I finally stumbled on the Son Ha tea processing plant, with its signage boasting tea from Chieng Yen, a town in the same province on the road back to the capital. Except for one face-mask protected worker manning the baking machines and constantly checking to make sure the leaves. Everyone it seemed was asleep. While I was allowed to wander around the plant, as a foreigner wielding a camera I was partly ignored, partly stared at, but just generally regarded as a nuisance.
I wanted to ask about the process, but my questions were largely ignored.
And a lot of them had problems with my southern Vietnamese. So isolated is this part of Vietnam, that many of the people have never heard the accent of a Southerner, even on television. Eventually I figured some of the process out. In one room was a pile of tea, left there to oxidate or ferment, while the charcoal piled up outside the plant was used to fuel the baking machines. Elsewhere were some scales and a pile of freshly picked leaves, awaiting the disruption process to enable faster fermentation.
By the time I left I had yet to witness the. I had already found what I had been looking for. Back in the hotel the receptionist was busy with some embroidery. I stood in front of the counter, quietly waiting for her to look up. Eventually she saw me. I nodded in response. It was a 15km drive out of town on a potholed road frequented by flailing trucks, but the destination made the journey worthwhile. Here was tea growing taken to another level. Photos by Francis Roux.
Translation by Tran Phuong Dung. Long gone are the days when silk was only worn by royalty and aristocrats. The extravagant luxury that could once only be afforded by the wealthy few can now be enjoyed by the masses. But you might be wondering where it comes from.
A brief stop on a tour to the Perfume Pagoda and just 30 minutes from Hanoi, Van Phuc is enjoying a foreign and domestic demand revival for its silk, where prices are as little as half those of the shops in the Old Quarter. Located in the now defunct province of Ha Tay — it merged with Hanoi in — the area is known for its abundance of craft villages. I wanted to see the production process, but in reality there is only one shop which still has a sizeable manufacturing area attached. Production in Van Phuc, according to some sources, dates back as far as 2, years, but there are conflicting views on how and why Van Phuc became famous for its silk production.
Proximity to the capital; a weaver from Cao Bang who brought the skill from China; a descendent of Hung Vuong teaching local residents — the list goes on, but trade is stronger than ever with around homes here weaving silk. What was once a just a production centre to supply shops around Vietnam, has changed since the Doi Moi reforms in the late s — these days, Van Phuc producers are allowed to trade to the general public. Before we just made the fabric, now we are making the garments as well.
We used to have to go to the Old Quarter to sell our goods, now they and the tourists come directly to us. Much of the process used to be done by hand, a skilled individual making up to five metres of fabric per day. Today, ageing wooden and archaic looking machines remain. The clickety-clunk of the shuttle as it goes back and forth weaving the fabric results in a decibel level that would break most western health and safety regulations.
Some of the material is dyed on-site or later, after the fabric has been made. There are no computers or expensive-looking metal machinery, yet Van Phuc silk is exported all over the world and the products you buy in Hoi An, Hue and Saigon are most likely produced there. The village also has several tailors who are then able to turn the metres of fabric into various garments, decorations, pieces of artwork and accessories.
Taken to Europe by the Crusades in the 14th century, the Industrial Revolution a few hundred years later led to more efficient manufacturing techniques and costs being brought down, especially with man-made materials gaining in popularity. About 3. Look out for the arch on your right about m after the turn.
Votive Paper The burning of lifelike paper items in memory of ancestors is a tradition strong in the hearts, souls and minds of Vietnam. Hoa Le and Thiep Nguyen visit the village where all votive paper is made. It seems the rain has put everyone to work inside their houses. So we go first into a house on the corner, and see Huong painting paper plates on the floor with a bowl of blue glue.
Facial features such as black eyes and red lips will be added later by her husband and herself. Huong is busy today as her family has started stocking goods to prepare for Tet, which is coming in about four months. Huong says from now until Tet, her family will sell several hundred thousand items. The streets are quiet, few people are out walking and only the occasional motorbike, loaded with plastic bags of colourful paper products, passes us by. According to Professor Ngo Duc Thinh from the Vietnam Heritage Association, this tradition goes together with the belief that death is not an end, but just the start of a new journey into another world.
Therefore, the relatives of those who have passed on have made it a custom to share their property with the dead. Later on, the real property is replaced by paper products — it is believed that in order for the dead to receive the offerings, these items have to be blessed and burnt completely. Wealthy families sometimes order fancy products including giant paper elephants, and horses to offer to the female gods that they believe in.
The other occasion where vang ma is burnt, a ritual that is common at the beginning of the year, is called dang sao giai han. Ha, the father of the family, says he works with a printing workshop in the village to print and cut these designs. Then his family including his wife and two teenage kids fold and glue them to assemble the paper villas. It was also about the time when industrial-sized paper cutting machines started coming to the village. We have more designs and the work is less labour-intensive. These include sewing machines, tanks, airplanes, cameras and even a set of automobile mechanic tools.
Manh makes them from the old Canon boxes that he buys from the Canon factory nearby. He designs the models, cuts the paper, decorates and paints it so that the final products are as realistic as possible. While the financial rewards are not high — VND60, for a sewing machine and VND, for the airplane, Manh considers this a creative job that requires good observation, trial and error, and patience. The custom of making and burning vang ma has always been controversial.
Although there is no such activity mentioned in Buddhist teaching in Vietnam, where Buddhism is the dominant religion, tradition plays a crucial role here. The custom has been passed from one generation to another, and many believe that the ritual of burning votive paper has its own intrinsic value. However, in a decree banning the practice of burning massive amounts of vang ma in temples and public spaces was implemented.
Yet the phenomenon continues. But when I create them, I want them to look nice and beautiful. That gives me inner peace. WORD: What character do you play? LTL: Many different ones. In each story I do a different character. I do the voiceover, too. WORD: What do you mean? LTL: This is a hard job. The actor has to be able to transfer the feeling to his puppets. Besides, the puppets are very heavy in the water. Some can get to nearly kg and need a few people to carry together, like this angel here. In the winter it was freezing. But I love challenges. And this job also brings me many rewards and joy.
WORD: What is the best thing about this job? LTL: I like it best when I start acting. I feel so pure, innocent — just like a kid. I love. Do you feel the excitement and creativity at each show? LTL: Definitely yes. You can add on feeling or changes to every show you do.
So you can learn and discover new things in every show. I love doing the voice of the puppet, too. WORD: Is the water puppet theatre a good performance space for musicians like yourself? TN: I think so. Most of the puppet shows originate from folktales, so they go very well together. In fact, now we have many applicants for a position in the band to perform at the theatre. It seems many young cheo artists find an interest in this stage.
WORD: When playing, do you form a strong attachment to the puppets that are also performing? TN: Oh yes. The music goes very closely with the movement of the puppet. We often joke that when the music turns on, the puppet already knows what to do and vice versa. The puppet only needs to put one hand up, and the musician already knows what to expect. WORD: There is also a cheo singer in your band. Is language a barrier for the international audience to enjoy these shows? We discussed the music, too, and it was interesting for me to see that they understood the show very well.
I think many people in the audience are very sensitive to music. WORD: Why did you choose roi nuoc water puppetry in the first place? So I used to hang out at the theatre every day with other kids in the neighbourhood. I remembered all the shows at the theatre. I first started my career as an actor onstage. I was too short and skinny. But I have a good sense of humour. So I found that water puppetry was a great place for me.
HT: In the art of puppetry, exaggeration is the key. And that makes the puppet always look funny, pure and careless. WORD: How difficult is it to be a water puppet director and choreographer? You have so many things to take care of before the show. Creativity on the spot only works for about 20 percent [of the time] while the other 80 percent of it has to be overseen during the choreography process.
WORD: How do you come up with so many ideas for shows? The stories are often based on folktales. WORD: Which play do you like the most? In this play, the puppets can dance, speak and communicate with the audience and the puppeteer. So it requires a lot of thought in shaping the puppets so their motions are smooth and gentle, and the dialogue is funny. HT: Generally no. But recently we had a play which received a lot of awards internationally and nationally.
Is that true? CL: Yes. WORD: Is the process of making puppets very different now compared to the past? The artists have more options of materials to decorate them. Like these fish — I use eggshells and paint to create colourful fins. In the past, the designs were very basic and lacked decoration. The puppets are made from sung wood,. WORD: What makes a good puppet? And water puppetry is all about the folktales, the life in the paddy fields. WORD: Did you grow up in the countryside?
And I grew up with the puppetry team in the village because both my. What was the message behind it? CL: Every artist has to find a unique way to develop. I wanted to give a different life to those puppets — the life of the land. Photos by Francis Xavier 64 Word October A few pat their thighs like runners at the starting line, others are already shuffling in place, preparing.
One of them — a younger one with sweetheart hair and a round, baby-cheeked face — puts a hand up and calls across the empty expanse of the matte black stage floor. He pauses, breathes and counts: five, six, seven, eight. Before he even claps his hands over it and screeches to a halt, another hovers high speed from the other direction, pounding feet sprinting after it. Before long, a frenzy of limbs is weaving across the stage, their chins up and aimed at the beige flying saucers. Hands clap over them with whoops and hollers, elation with every one caught, until one is flung too low and too early, and grinds to a stop on the stage.
The auditorium echoes with sighs and exhausted laughs. The cast of the AO Show is in the final hour of a rehearsal day that started in the early morning. Their training begins at 9. Of his 17 artists, all of them are between the ages of 19 and 31, while most are still barely out of their teens.
Consequently, he admits to coming down hard on them to support their seemingly flawless physiques with stretching, rest and care. Although young, the cast is a collection of the brightest, most talented artists and athletes in Vietnam. The group is a smorgasbord of backgrounds: from acrobats, contortionists and free-runners to divers and dancers. The mosaic of talent is the backbone of a show that relies heavily on ensemble work, with every performer putting life and limb in the hands of their onstage counterparts.
His cast mates agree, although all of them are tight-lipped about how quarrels affect the team dynamic. Creating the show from the ground up demanded a painstaking process of auditions and cuts of over 30 hopefuls down to the remaining 17 over a period of several months. With the shift came a completely revamped show and an even more careful rotation of performers to safeguard their bodies from injuries. Slowly, Tuan aims to have the team performing internationally, but knows the stakes are high.
Regardless, AO Show has a unique way of showcasing Vietnamese talent in collaborative art with culture at its core. Find out more about tickets and dates by visiting aoshowsaigon. Saigon production company Fact and Fiction Films and Oxford University are helping change the face of health research and community engagement in Vietnam, one shutter click at a time. Karen Hewell goes behind the scenes with producer Linh Hong Phan and director Nicholas Fernandez to see how these digital stories are breaking the mould. Just a simple point-and-shoot, it spends a week in the hands of an ordinary person documenting what seems like a perfectly ordinary life.
Those seven days can produce anywhere from a few dozen to hundreds of photographs that capture a family around a dinner table, a few evening drinks with friends or a moment of downtime at work. Then comes a story. Their recorded voices describe everything from childhood experiences to a day in their working life, with each story as distinct and varied as the people that share them.
Finally, it all comes together into a simple film with only a single voice and a handful of rolling images. Each film is a window into the life of a single ordinary person, but when alongside the voices and images of the other ordinary people in their community, these simple films become a mosaic of stories, weaving together the lives of a community in a tapestry of experience. Suddenly, these simple films of ordinary lives speak volumes. The funding for the project was won by the public engagement department of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit through the Wellcome Trust, and became a central project for FFF when they were hired on as collaborators and media specialists.
Their most recent work focuses on rural inhabitants of Vietnam — farmers, butchers, traders of pigs and poultry, rat catchers and retailers. While the project utilises the medium of digital storytelling to provide a platform for individuals to describe their experiences in their own words and through their own points of view, the films do more than just illuminate the lives of people in these rural communities.
The media format is also becoming an integral part of research into health and disease, and is fast becoming a new and different way for scientists, researchers and government personnel in Vietnam to learn about the way that these communities live. It was a scientist laugh. He was finally getting to hear what the community was saying.
The films, though, are produced without any direct input from scientists, and rely instead on a handful of dedicated facilitators who work hand-in-hand with participants in developing a story and photographs that will eventually be used in the films. New facilitators go through a three-day crash course in building narrative, communication strategies and project goals. After a week, the facilitators work closely with the participants while sifting through their photographs and developing a story from what they see. Facilitators have to strike a difficult balance between guiding and controlling, making decisions with the participants rather than for them.
The task is an ominous one, often proving the most difficult part of the entire project. One participant in a previous project working with intravenous drug users in urban Ho Chi Minh City went from notable indifference to writing unaided for over half an hour — nothing short of a small miracle given the limited time that participants are even in contact with facilitators.
After the films are finished, they enjoy humble movie debuts, usually in community screenings with mediated discussion or for collections of researchers. The ultimate goal, though, is to use the films as an even bigger form of community engagement. Media is a tool that can engage much, much larger sectors of the community.
Photos by Francis Xavier. They come with iPhones and iPads, but few have the gear to get the most out of these weird scenes. And we were some of the few. It was a rushed decision — the fashion shoot needed to be done before Alex, our photographer, could go back to Paris. But the crew got quite a gift on the shooting day — a rare day of sunshine in the endless rainy season. Our group of seven — Alex, Francis our behind-the-scenes photographer , the three models, myself and another assistant — headed to the Ton That Dam Apartments. Crawling on the floor, jumping from one place to another, hanging on the edge of the.
With empathy in their eyes, they nodded at us in passing. And we raised a toast, to the end of a fivehour, hectic but effective shoot. To see the resultant fashion shoot, please turn to page Five things you always wanted to know about buffets but were afraid to ask. Words by Elisabeth Rosen. Photos by Thiep Nguyen. In the vast kitchen behind the Hotel Nikko lobby, the chef, 40, watches prep cooks hack giant fish torsos into manageable slices and toss eel with egg and flour in preparation for the deep fryer.
A roundfaced man impales strips of bacon and ghostly pale sausages on wooden skewers. The name is deceptive: in this Japanese-run hotel, the only French item on the menu is red wine. Still, Vinh seems pretty relaxed for a guy who has to turn 60kg of raw ingredients into a gourmet meal three times a day. He gives me the inside scoop on what goes on in the kitchen:.
But most people clean their plates, especially at breakfast. Everything is made from scratch. I spot baskets of eggs, potatoes, broccoli. A mixer whips almond cream at frantic speed; one. The ice cream is homemade, as are all the desserts. To make fresh bread for breakfast, the bakers come to work at 3am.
Around 5. Chefs have secret creative sides, too. Not many people liked them. The food is so fresh While cold items like salad are prepared the day before, hot food is made an hour before opening, sometimes less. It might not be true for all hotel kitchens, but at Hotel Nikko, there are no microwaves. About 60 items are served at every meal, so at 5am, the kitchen fills with the aroma of bacon, grilled Japanese fish, miso soup and fried rice.
Everyone is wearing. Boxes of extras are everywhere. In the special cold room, a woman dumps the contents of a bin of lettuce into a Goliath-sized plastic colander and heads towards the sink. Uh, is she going to use Hanoi tap water for that? A PR rep later explains to me that the water is filtered — so the only thing guests have to worry about is eating too much. UK Now! The reason? One country that has only just started to see the point of all this merry-making is the UK. Bwani Junction mix afrobeat rhythms with the kind of infectious, feelgood anthems and grubby lyricism that make British guitar music so popular all over the world.
The duo won more than a few new fans, and their unique blend of sinister production and beat-box flute improvisations has yet to be knocked out of the competition. Both events are free. Bwani Junction W hen : Saturday Nov. Tickets will be available from Oct. Inspired by a simple style, Minh Minh picked a U-neck cotton dress with long sleeves. Perfect for wearing on rainy and windy days in Vietnam. Dress, VND, An active person, Hang Phuong shows her taste with khaki black shorts and an elegant layered sheer blouse. Phuong Thao looks trendy and stylish with a high-waisted cotton skirt and black crop top.
Great for work or just chilling out. With a floral peplum frill playsuit and a red blazer, Hang Phuong stands out of the crowd as a serious business type. Job Search The Heart Surgeon For over 20 years, Alain Carpentier and his colleagues have been saving the lives of impoverished kids in Vietnam — in the thousands so far. But Vietnam seems to have been the main focus of your efforts. Can you explain why?
And why is medical philanthropy such an important part of your life? Philanthropy cannot be done alone. Vietnam was and is aware of what it needs. It has been deeply involved in the project with me, from the beginning and up to now. This is the key. Sometimes you cannot treat them either because of a lack of available treatment or because of a lack of funds. For me, it is physically and morally intolerable to abandon a patient for those reasons. This is what has given me the motivation to develop projects like the Heart Institute in Vietnam. Since then over 20, Vietnamese — mainly children, of whom 30 percent are from poor backgrounds — have been given life-saving surgery.
How difficult was it to set up the institute and how difficult is it to maintain? In early , the main difficulty was the very credibility of our project. There was no heart surgery in Vietnam and the building of the Heart Institute was brand new. The general economy of this country was also not what it is now.
Objectively it was hard to believe that this highly technological life-saving heart surgery could be offered to any sick child, whatever their economic resources. It took us some time to overcome this difficulty and demonstrate that the Heart Institute actually was a philanthropic contribution to the improvement of the health system in Vietnam. I am very proud that we succeeded in demonstrating the long-lasting capacity of an autonomous hospital that is financially self-supporting, and that we have managed to treat patients, educate doctors and.
Today, around 12 public hospitals perform cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology in Vietnam. Decentralising responsibility for this was the inspiration of the Ministry of Health. Why is it so important to you to help people who are impoverished or from non-affluent backgrounds? Not an easy question! As a French-born cardiac surgeon, I bear two things at my fingertips — the technical ability to perform life-saving gestures and at the bottom of my heart, a real comfort with the idea that talent is there to be shared.
How does it work together with the Foundation Alain Carpentier? The International Medical Centre is hugely important. First, from a central location in Ho Chi Minh City it offers a large span of medical services to everyone who feels comfortable with international standards of general medical practice, family practice or specialised services.
And second, it generates revenue that, once all costs are covered, is totally dedicated to funding operations for children from poor financial backgrounds. It exemplifies what today is termed a social enterprise — a centre that is professionally run but whose exclusive purpose is to benefit its patients and the patients of the Heart Institute. Two bodies, one programme. You have been called the father of modern mitral valve repair. Could you describe what this means? The starting point is. To overcome this you have to conduct research and make innovations, otherwise you have to abandon the patient.
Innovation is characterised by curiosity. Throughout your career, you have received a number of awards for your work in the field of cardiovascular surgery. How does it feel each time you receive an award? Which one is most important for you? Throughout my career I have encountered difficulties daily, and each time, solutions have emerged. This is the life of a researcher.
If you do not face problems and try to overcome them, you will never do anything with your life. It means you have followed the right path and have followed it well. On Nov. What are your hopes for the event? Will you be attending? I am most thankful for every guest who will attend this event. What we need is support. Yes, we do need money to fund the surgery of impoverished children — the contribution of the International Medical Centre has to be complemented. That was great but we want to raise more.
And beyond money, we also need to increase general knowledge and awareness of our programmes, and build trust within the community. The event includes a four-course dinner, a live auction and entertainment. For more information and to book your place, email gala cmi-vietnam.
The cost of the gala is VND2. Ten Years and Counting Community theatre troupe The Saigon Players are turning 10 this year, and are celebrating in style. Karen Hewell takes a look at what theatrics the company got up to in the past decade, and what big things are coming next. Photos provided by The Saigon Players. No Exit 2. A Bedfull of Foreigners 3. Trouble at the Tropicabana 4. The House of Bernada Alba 5. Donating proceeds from a show to Helping Hand 6. I'm Getting Murdered in The Morning.
That was 10 years ago, and since then, the company has staged no less than 20 performances. Some have been original comedy sketches, others well-known, fulllength plays. Instead they have taken it one step further by dedicating all performance proceeds directly to charity. Over their year career, The Players have changed the lives of countless individuals with donations to 15 different causes. A member of the team that draws in audiences with increasingly stellar stage productions, Jennifer Dizon Turner remembers audience members gushing about their impressions.
A Decade of Success The troupe is certainly not ready to slow down. To celebrate their first decade of success — and to christen yet another 10 years of creative philanthropy — the company is soon presenting two year. The first is just in time for the Halloween bashes sure to take over the city at the end of this month — the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Nov. The second comes later in the month, and switches gears to celebrate the very city in which Saigon Players was born, with The Life Cycle of Saigon.
The cabaret-style comedy sketch show explores the small and big ways that the motorbike exerts itself on the city of Saigon, featuring multi-talented xe om drivers, competitive delivery guys and some unflappable men dressed in beige. An integral part of the culture in the buzzing city, the company continues to work their way into the hearts of Saigonites with every new production. With the passion, integrity and talent that The Players possess, winning over a few more hearts in the next decade is inevitable. The upcoming 10th anniversary of the Saigon Players is celebrated with two special performances.
I eat breakfast. My mother cooks a righteous potato latke. My old roommate Elisa pulls greens from her garden, and eggs from her chicken coop. John likes to experiment — his last try was a bacon grease-soaked French toast challah slice, filled up egg-in-the-hole style. That was when we were on holiday in Sri Lanka. And that was the first time I remember really voicing it. The combination of steel, wood, concrete — black, red and white.
To see it finally created is really quite a strange feeling, to see your thoughts, and the reality. People have said it looks very English, but I think it looks far more Sri Lankan. The Sri Lankans have got a really quirky style, creating neat but simple interior design. And it would have been far too much of a risk if it had not worked.
There was no attention to detail or design inside, there was no branding or quirky touches or funny jokes or anything. It was just really, really simple. And I think for the most part, people will like it. I hate eggs. I haaaaate eggs! And you just order condiments and the food comes out with it. At some point I catch Charlie out, putting his elbow on the table. He runs to the end of the alley and back. But, as it should be, the emphasis is on food, and on the laid-back environment that Charlie thinks is lacking in Ho Chi Minh City. Game of Thrones is on the flat-screen, and some familiar faces are nonchalantly taking it all in as they would on a lazy Sunday in their own living rooms.
To be real, I only cook to see people smile. I taught a class on how to butcher the pigs and make their own charcuterie. This lady, she was almost like a mom aside from my mom, taking care of me. I could not believe how incredible it was. So if I ever do a breakfast out here, that will be it. And it was really delicious. And I did that for about two years. But he thinks Ho Chi Minh City is ready for some of the experimental playfulness that makes up the food culture of the place he once called home. Founded in , their immediate mission is to implement a rescue, foster care and adoption programme for stray dogs and cats in urgent need of care and protection.
I was in the middle of the second month of my volunteer project. So far, finding orphanages to work at had been less difficult than at first glance, but finding an NGO to volunteer at had proved to be much more complex. I had been searching different organisations for the past month, but none of them included any information for volunteers. It sounded interesting, but I was hesitant. If I were to own a pet, though, it would definitely be a dog. They give you attention. Cats do not. But I was running out of options. So I asked my friend to hook me up with the.
Before this, they were based in one room above the office of a District 2 veterinarian. Since Vietnam has laws against having more than four dogs in a house at once, all dogs the ARC receives are placed in foster homes right away. And at the ARC, cats are everywhere. On my first day, Christa showed me around. Past the kitchen at the end of the hall, the cat playroom. Inside are cat beds, a scratching post, toys and cardboard boxes. Six litter boxes are lined up in the back.
I noticed that one cat was sitting by herself underneath a plastic table covered by a blanket. In a bedroom off the hall, a cat and a kitten cuddled together in a cat bed. A family is picking up the last kitten next week, then the mother will be neutered. They also work to prevent animal cruelty and abuse, and provide education on animal welfare. I twirl a butterfly on a pole around, taunting the cats. Their eyes follow it like a tennis ball as I whip it back and forth, waiting for one of them to pounce.
After tiring out the cats I get tired myself, plopping down onto an off-white beanbag chair in the kitchen. Out of nowhere Jeff, an orange-haired cat, slowly climbs onto my lap. I pull back a bit in surprise. I do the same. For more information on ARC, go to arcpets. Playtime And Catnaps There are two daily shifts at the ARC: mornings from 9am to 11am, and afternoons from 3pm to 5pm.
Volunteer duties include. Karen Hewell catches a glimpse of a history often forgotten by time. Hugging most of the walls are wobbly tables littered with rusty coins, old spoons, ageing jewellery and faded crockery. From the walls hang lumpy curtains of old hats, boots, canteens and medals. Clocks whose hands stopped ticking decades ago collect dust alongside metal fans on shelving units balanced precariously on the tabletops. Most of the passers-by become amateur antiquarians; inspecting objects while speculating about how old each is, bargaining with the shop owners half-heartedly.
But hidden in the mountains of fading wares, there are a few piles of lonely photos. They are pictures of complete strangers — snapshots of unfamiliar faces on vacation or in a photo booth, posing happily for the camera or caught unsuspecting by a rogue shutter click. Now they are smiling up at nothing except for a few curious glances.
Some even have carefully penned letters written on the back, the fading scratches promising to stay friends forever, or wishing their sister a happy Tet holiday. Strangely, the deeply personal sentiments find themselves passing between unintended hands decades later, every new person an accidental voyeur. They are found photos — lost, unclaimed, and discarded photographs from decades ago, stacked one hundred high in boxes and baskets. Most of the shops in this part of the market have their own collection, and almost all of them are black and white, faded from years in storage and in photo albums.
The shop owners are tight-lipped about where they come from — whether they even know is hard to say — but most will tell you that they come from old and abandoned collections, either from the dusty attics of derelict homes or from people who pawn the old albums left behind by deceased relatives. Most have sharply dressed young men in them — some with perfectly pressed military uniforms — sitting proudly on their shiny two-wheelers.
They are mostly from the s and s, and document a time that feels like more than just a few decades ago. The women in the photos don fluttering ao dai, while the men wear tidy sport coats and drive spotless American and Italian cars. For a country so dominated by kitsch souvenirs and shiny postcards, the story told through the lens of an amateur photographer offers a certain.
The scribbling on the back of family photos — now sold for a few thousand VND a piece — tells a story about the people behind the forgotten mementos. Even in the hands of complete strangers who can only guess at the stories and the people that smile back at them in the photos, these abandoned pieces of history become a different kind of souvenir.
Found Photography as Art Found photography is a genre of visual art that is based on the recovery — and possible exhibition — of old, forgotten, or discarded photographs. Found photography is usually from an amateur photographer whose subjects are everyday people. It draws its appeal from the mystery behind the original photographer and the subject matter of the images.
Unlike antiques, found photos are not collected in the hopes of making a profit, but instead as a hobby. How can we do a Mystery Diner on a kitchen that does delivery only? I started to laugh. And what about service? Is it what I hear on the phone? Is it the smile or the lack thereof of the delivery drivers when they reach my door?
But then it occurred to me that this was more like an anti-Mystery Diner, the opposite of the standard food review. The fingers on my scratching hand started to wiggle with pleasure, and my creative juices started to buzz. This could be fun. This is food for health nuts, cuisine designed to keep the fat off the waist, the protein building in the muscles, and all those nice little nutritional goodies circulating themselves around the body. I placed my order and marveled at how nice that sweetly singing female voice was on the end of the phone, and how attractively packaged it all is.
Each dish is calorie counted — its ingredients, fat content and carbs clearly marked. Ben, the man whose name and lifestyle is behind the whole project, is a former Mr. You can tell. Low Fat Fun Waiting half an hour for my manna from a nutrition-conscious heaven, I commenced my plunge into healthy eating with the smoked beef sandwich VND70, Served inside toasted, whole-grain bread, the lean beef is accompanied by lettuce, tomato and cucumber and a spread, which is something like low-fat cream cheese.
This hearty little meal weighs in at a mere kcal, and thanks to the smokiness and salt of the beef, has a kick, too. Seems pretty wholesome on the whole. Although that healthy lack of flavoursome flavour is ever evident. The shwarma wrap VND55, is equally free of fat, so welcome on the palate but not on the stomach. Far healthier, too. The kcal also only adds up to an eighth of the recommended daily calorie intake, making this a perfect little nugget for anyone looking to refrain from cholesterol-heavy delights, lose weight or just swap those unwanted fat globules for muscle.
In Style with Ben Our undercover reporter gets lazy this month and reviews a delivery-only restaurant from the comfort of the armchair. Photos by Dave Smith out on that part and you may not quite get the results you so desire. The concept is worthy, but it reminds me of when I tried to make hummus at home without using heaps of olive oil, and without the creamy tahini added in at the end for texture and consistency. The tofu meatballs went the same way.
My final eating experiment was with the chicken curry VND50, , a dish made up of chicken breast, sweet potatoes, onions, Asian basil on top and brown rice. Traffic is intense and chaotic, with a long list of unwritten rules that don't resemble traffic laws anywhere else. Riding in HCMC is like finding yourself in the middle of a 3-D video game where anything can come at you from any direction, and you only have one life.
Expats who brave the traffic at all typically have an apprenticeship of a few weeks or months riding on the back of others' motorbikes to learn the ways of the traffic, before attempting to ride themselves. Extreme caution is advised for short-term visitors. Riding long distance in the countryside can also be harrowing depending on the route you take.
Major roads between cities tend to be narrow despite being major, and full of tour buses hell-bent on speed, passing slow trucks where maybe they shouldn't have tried, and leaving not much room at the edge for motorbikes. Two main categories of motorbike are available to rent: scooters automatic transmission ; and four-speed motorbikes, the gears of which you shift with your left foot. The ubiquitous Honda Super Cub is a common 4-speed bike that has a semi-automatic gearbox ie no clutch so is relatively easy to ride.
Other models may be fully manual and therefore you must also operate the clutch using your left hand - this takes a lot of skill and it's all too easy to over-rev and pull a wheelie or stall the engine - if you end up with such a bike then practice releasing the clutch gently before hitting the roads! Dirt bikes are becoming popular for rent in Hanoi, other cities are not yet ready for these beasts. Rental agents tend to steer foreigners toward scooters if available, on the plausible assumption that they don't know how to ride motorbikes that require shifting gears.
Motorcycles of cc and above are only legal to ride if you make a connection with a Vietnamese motorcycle club. They give out great advise to help you on your journey by motorbike. Most places you would want to stop have parking attendants who will issue you a numbered tag and watch over your bike. Sometimes these parking operations are overseen by the establishment you are visiting, and sometimes they are free-lance operations set up in places where a lot of people go.
You will usually see rows of bikes lined up parked. Depending on circumstance, you might park the bike yourself, or just put it in neutral and let the staff position it. In all but rare cases you keep the key. Parking is sometimes free at restaurants and cafes look for "giu xe mien phi". Elsewhere, fees range from 2, to 5, dong. Traffic police in the cities pull over lots of locals often for reasons that are hard to discern , but conventional wisdom has it that they rarely bother foreigners due to the language barrier.
Obeying the traffic laws is nevertheless advisable, especially if you have failed to obtain a Vietnamese licence. Cities like Ho Chi Minh have several one way street, and it is too easy to just steer into them unknowingly as there are limited signs warning you. BE SURE that if you break law, the police who are sneaking just at the right spot, will ask you to pull over and will fine you.
They will also threaten to confiscate your bike. The quoted price for the fine may be negotiable, and being apologetic and friendly can get you back on road quickly, with a few dollars less in your pockets. Helmets have also been required by law since December , so if you don't have one already ask your rental agent to provide you with one.
If buying a bike from a dealer, do not believe any "buy-back" guarantee. They are invariably a lie to encourage you to buy. While slowly being supplanted by motorbikes, cyclo pedicabs still roam the streets of Vietnam's cities and towns. They are especially common in scenic smaller, less busy cities like Hue, where it's pleasant to cruise slowly along taking in the sights.
Though the ride will be slow, hot and sometimes dangerous, you'll generally need to pay more than for a motorbike for the equivalent distance. On the plus side, some drivers particularly in the South are very friendly and happy to give you a running commentary on the sights.
Cyclo drivers are notoriously mercenary and will always ask for a high price to start with. Sometimes they will also demand more than the agreed price at the end. Japanese tourists, especially women, are most often targeted with this scam since they are more responsive to the threat that the driver will call the police and make trouble for them if they don't pay as demanded. A reasonable price is about 20, dong for up to 2 km 1. You won't get far before that driver or another takes your offer.
Prices for a sight-seeing circuit with intermediate stops are more complex to negotiate and more subject to conflict at the end. If you plan to stop somewhere for any length of time, it's best to settle up with the driver, make no promises, and start fresh later. Some drivers start with a very low rate to get you into their cycle and then if required to wait for you or otherwise vary the agreed price, bring out a typed up price list of their "standard rates" which are inflated beyond belief.
If even slightly unsure ask the driver show you his list of charges. Then negotiate from that point or walk away. To avoid trouble, it's also best to have exact change for the amount you agreed to pay, so if the driver tries to revise the deal, you can just lay your cash on the seat and leave. You will be missing a big part of Vietnamese life if you do not spend some time on a boat. Do be careful though because many boats, although seaworthy, are not designed to first world standards. An example is the ferry from Phu Quoc to the mainland.
This ferry has one tiny entrance for all passengers to board. When full, which it usually is, there are approximately people on board. In the event of an accident, the chance of everyone getting out of the boat fast enough would be very small. The idea of an emergency exit does not exist.
Make sure the boat is registered for carrying Tourists and has enough life jackets and other safety equipment on board. Ha Long Bay is a famous destination for day boat trips among its scenic limestone islands. Problem is that all the boats seem to visit the same places - and with high prices and poor quality boats and service real value is hard to come by! If there is rain, mist or low cloud, you may not see much.
Try to pick a clear day. Dozens of small family-operated boats ply the river in Hue taking visitors to the imperial tombs southwest of the city. This journey is long because the boats are slow, taking about 4 hours or so to make the journey in one direction. In Central Vietnam, the North East monsoon season limits many sea boat tours during the months Sep-Feb; other parts of Vietnam seem less affected. A minute hydrofoil boat operates from Saigon to the seaside resort of Vung Tau for about , dong each way -- the fastest way to reach the beach from the city.
River tours are perhaps the most interesting. A day-long boat trip forms the core of almost any tour of the Mekong region. The official language of Vietnam is Vietnamese. Like Thai and Mandarin, Vietnamese is a tonal language that uses a change in pitch to inflect different meanings, and this can make it difficult for Westerners to master. While it is very different from Western languages, a traveler may be surprised to learn that the basic grammar is pretty simple.
Verbs are static regardless of the past or future and parts of speech are pretty straightforward. The major difficulties lay on tones and certain sounds. Vietnamese consists of 4 main dialects: the northern dialect spoken around Hanoi, the north-central dialect spoken around Vinh, the central dialect spoken around Hue, and the southern dialect spoken around Ho Chi Minh City.
While the Hanoi dialect is taken as the 'standard' and widely used in broadcasting, there is no de facto standard in the education system. Northerners naturally think that southern accent is for 'hai lua' countrymen and will always recommend you to be stick to the northern accent, but the choice of accents should depend on where you plan to live. If you are working in Ho Chi Minh City, the main economic centre of Vietnam, the southern accent is what you will hear every day.
For learners, the Latin alphabet is a relief. Unlike English, Vietnamese orthography reflects pronunciation closely, although using certain letters to represent different sounds and containing sounds not found in English. The Vietnamese lexicon has been heavily influenced by Chinese languages. Knowledge of the Chinese language will make it much easier to learn Vietnamese.
Vietnamese is also full of loanwords from French and English from more recent times. Although the Vietnamese people do appreciate any effort to learn their language, most seldom experience foreign accents. Learners may find it frustrating that no one can understand what they try to say.
Staff in hotel and kids tend to have a more tolerant ear for foreign accents and it is not unheard of for a kid to effectively help translate your 'Vietnamese' into authentic Vietnamese for adults. Google translate now supports Vietnamese and this can be downloaded to supported devices to work in "off-line" mode.
The Vietnamese certainly appreciate the attempt to communicate, albeit non-verbally, in their own language. Be aware that not all can read though. The more remote parts of the country are also home to many ethnic minorities who speak various languages belonging to the Mon-Khmer, Tai-Kadai and Austronesian language families.
Most Vietnamese youths learn English in school, so many young people have a basic grasp of English, but proficiency is generally poor. However, most hotel and airline staff will know enough English to communicate. Directional signs are generally bilingual in both Vietnamese and English.
Despite Indochina's colonial history in which French was the medium of education, French is no longer widely taught in Vietnamese schools and aside from a few educated elite among the elderly, is much less useful than English when trying to communicate with locals. However in recent years, there has been a revival of the language in both the government and educated elite. In the big cities, some of the big international luxury hotel chains will have staff who are able to speak French and other foreign languages such as Mandarin, Japanese or Korean.
Download google translate to your phone or tablet. You can download a language pack so that it works offline. Note, whilst the majority albeit not all - many cannot read Vietnamese will understand what you type in, they often can't type a reply that Google understands Motorbiking is popular with locals and tourists alike. Given that motorbikes are the main mode of transport in Vietnam, they can give a particularly authentic view of travelling through the country. Renting or buying a bike is possible in many cities.
Also consider Motorbike adventure tours , which involve being guided on multi-day drives to remote regions of the country. Most tours include accommodation, petrol, helmets, drivers and entry tickets to local places of interest. Guides usually speak good English or French and offer customised tours if desired. Motorbike Sightseeing Tours are similar but have a more local range specific to one city or area and can focus on food, shopping or sightseeing. As mentioned in the work section below, many travelers like to spend some time working with the local community as a volunteer.
Most of these programs require the volunteer to pay fees which cover meals, accommodation and which also allow the local organisations to fund social programs. These fees can vary from a hundred dollars a week to several thousand so it is a good idea to research thoroughly. First: Take a cruise trip to visit Halong Bay. You can spend 1 day of Hanoi - Halong Bay cruise - Hanoi, or 2 days with 1 night over on cruise, or 3 days with 2 nights over on cruise. The transfer by road from Hanoi to Halong Bay takes about 4 hours.
You may select seat in coach bus, or private transfer. Also, you may choose joining cruise, or private charter. There are hundreds of cruises in Halong Bay with wide range of standard from budget to luxury. Second: Take a trip to Sapa. There are two ways: Sapa by train, and Sapa by road.
For Sapa by train, take overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, you will arrive Sapa in early morning, then ideally spend 2 days in Sapa, and take overnight train back to Hanoi when you will reach Hanoi in early morning in the following day. Please note that there is not day train between Hanoi and Lao Cai. For Sapa by road, it takes about 4 hours to transfer between Hanoi and Sapa town. Third: Take a cooking class. Vietnamese cuisine is diverse and tasty and one of the many highlights of a visit to the country.
You may take half day or full day cooking class. However, please select the class with market-visit arrangement so that you can experience the local market. Forth: Take a river cruise trip in Mekong. Fifth: Just relax and chill out wonderful beachside in Vietnam. Crawling through the Cu Chi Tunnels is a unique experience of your Vietnam trip. Seventh: It's an off-the-beaten-track when you take a home-stay trip.
Continuing inflation and a series of devaluations continues to steadily push down the value of the dong, with USD1 worth over 23, dong in October Banknotes are available in denominations of , , , , 10,, 20,, 50,, ,, , and , dong. In , coins were also introduced in denominations of , , , and dong, although they have been discontinued since and are currently no longer accepted in transactions. Exchanging dong According to Vietnamese laws, foreign currency can be easily changed into dong but not vice versa.
Exchanging dong is quite a complicated procedure requiring some time and patience. In order to change dong into another currency one should show one's ticket as a confirmation of leaving Vietnam and one's ID. These documents will be photocopied by the bank employees. Then, one fills out a special form stating the sum, purpose of the exchange and destination country.
Not all Vietnamese banks perform exchange of dong, but Vietcombank is one that does. However, it is easy and fast to change dongs to major foreign currencies with reasonable rates at Vietnam's main international airports such as Tan Son Nhat at the international airside. Prices are widely advertised in US dollars , namely because of the unstable currency valuation of the dong, but unlike neighbouring Cambodia, for instance, payment is often expected in dong only , especially outside major tourist destinations. Travel-related establishments guesthouses, travel agencies, etc.
Dollar bills in less than perfect condition may be rejected. Most visitors opt to keep the bulk of their cash in US dollars and exchange or withdraw dong as needed. In addition to banks and official exchange counters, you can exchange most hard currencies Sterling, Yen, Swiss Francs, Euro etc. This is technically illegal, but enforcement is minimal. Hotels and travel agencies can also exchange money with differing exchange rates so look for the best rate. Traveller cheques of well known companies are widely accepted, but usually a small fee is charged.
Fees might also be the only thing that would keep you from getting cash advances on Visa- or MasterCard at most banks. Through both ways you can also get hold of US dollars, though there will be even higher fees. There are mentions in some popular travel books about Vietcombank not charging any commission fees to cash AMEX travellers cheques. However, this is not true any more.
ATMs are becoming more and more common and can be found in most bigger cities and every tourist destination. They will accept a selection of credit and bank-cards, including Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or Cirrus and several other systems. Typically withdrawals are limited to 2,, dong per transaction, and will incur a 20, dong service fee. There are branches of money transfer companies like Western Union, but this is always one of the more expensive ways to get money.
On most land borders connecting to Cambodia, China, and Laos there are freelance moneychangers to take care of your financial leftovers, but be assured they'll get the better of you if you don't know the going rate. Note for travellers departing from Hanoi airport: There are no money exchange establishments once you finish your immigration, so exchange your dong before you enter the departure hall unless you plan to shop.
Overcharging has long been an issue in Vietnam tourism. It can happen anywhere on anything from an hotel room, a ride on taxi, coffee, meal, clothing, basic grocery stuff. A friendly local who spent 30 minutes talking with you may also feel like overcharging you on anything. In many places overcharging happens through non-obvious means. A typical example would be to negotiate a room price in US dollars, but upon checkout a payment is demanded in dongs, using a very unfavorable conversion rate.
Don't discuss payment in currency other than dong without confirming first that this currency would be accepted. Note that in almost every case it is cheaper to negotiate in dong and then change your hard currency into dong. Vietnamese hold a diverse view on overcharging but in general it is more common in Vietnam than other neighboring countries to see it socially acceptable to overcharge foreigners.
They may argue inflated prices are still cheap and they may blame on the cheap cost of living which attracts a lot of backpackers with barebone budgets. According to this school of thought, if tourists complain about it, it's because they're stingy. Rich tourists should not have a problem being overcharged. It is the same mindset as "stealing a little from wealthy is okay" and is even seen as a form of social justice. Keep in mind that in Vietnam "wealthy" is defined as "has more money than me", and is not limited to tourists, or to whites - for example, the people in Northern Vietnam routinely overcharge Vietnamese visiting from Southern Vietnam.
The good news is that standard price is much more common than early 90s. You will absolutely spoil your travel if you assume that everyone is cheating you, just try to be smart. In a restaurant, learn some common dish names in Vietnamese, insist that you need to read Vietnamese menu, and compare it.
Festival ghe ngo tai soc trang :: pranobag
If owners argue that the portion of dishes in the English menu is different, it's definitely a scam and move to other places. Learn some Vietnamese numbers and try to see how much a local pays a vendor. Also try basic bargaining tactics: Think how much it is back home, ask for big discount and walk away, pretending that the price isn't right.
Many products tend to be standardized and compare more. Try to be as clear as possible on the agreed price. You may agree 20, dong with a "Xe Om" driver for a specific trip, but at the end he may claim you are due 40, dong. Then you pay 20, dong, smile and say goodbye, because you have a good memory. Vietnam is still cheap by most standards: a month's stay can start from USD using basic rooms, local food and open bus transportation. Tipping is not expected in Vietnam, with the exception of bellhops in high end hotels.
In any case, the price quoted to you is often many times what locals will pay, so tipping can be considered unnecessary in most circumstances. To avoid paying a tip when a taxi driver, for example, claims they don't have small change, always try to have various denominations available. With unbelievable abundance of fresh vegetables, herbs, fish and seafood, Vietnam has a lot to offer. It can be mentioned here a range of widely- admired dishes such as noodle served with beef or chicken pho , spring roll, eel or snail vermicelli, crab fried with tamarind, crab sour soup, rice spaghetti, steamed rolls made of rice-flour, rice pancake folded in half and filled with a shrimp, meat and soya bean sprouts.
Food sits at the very centre of Vietnamese culture: every significant holiday on the Vietnamese cultural calendar, all the important milestones in a Vietnamese person's life, and indeed, most of the important day-to-day social events and interactions - food plays a central role in each. Special dishes are prepared and served with great care for every birth, marriage and death, and the anniversaries of ancestors' deaths. More business deals are struck over dinner tables than over boardroom tables, and when friends get together, they eat together.
Preparing food and eating together remains the focus of family life.
Vietnamese cuisine varies slightly from region to region, with many regions having their own specialties. Generally, northern Vietnamese cuisine is known for being bland while southern Vietnamese cuisine is known for being spicy. At the same time, the Vietnamese are surprisingly modest about their cuisine. High-end restaurants may serve "Asian-fusion" cuisine, with elements of Thai, Japanese, and Chinese mixed in. The most authentic Vietnamese food is found at street side "restaurants" A collection of plastic outdoor furniture placed on the footpath , with most walk-in restaurants being mainly for tourists.
Definite regional styles exist -- northern, central, and southern, each with unique dishes. Central style is perhaps the most celebrated, with dishes such as mi quang wheat noodles with herbs, pork, and shrimp , banh canh cua crab soup with thick rice noodles and bun bo Hue beef soup with herbs and noodles. Try taking home a bottle of fish sauce, and using it instead of salt in almost any savory dish -- you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. It's available at any time of the day, but locals eat it most often for breakfast.
Though they may look filthy, street side eateries are generally safe so long as you avoid undercooked food. In rural and regional areas it is usually safest to eat the locally grown types of food as these are usually bought each day from the market. It is not uncommon, that after you have ordered your meal a young child of the family will be seen running out the back towards the nearest market to purchase the items. It is very common for menus to be up to pages. These will include all types of Vietnamese food, plus some token western food, possibly some Chinese and maybe a pad thai as well.
It is generally best to stick with the specialty of the area as this food will be the freshest and also the best prepared. Be advised that when dining in a restaurant, it is common practice for the wait staff to place a plastic packet stamped with the restaurant's name containing a moist towelette on your table. They are not free; they cost between 2, - 4, VND. If you open it, you will be charged for it. Also, peanuts or other nuts will be offered to you while you are browsing the menu. Those are not free, either. If you eat any, you will be charged.
Vegetarian food is quite easy to find anywhere in Vietnam due in large part to the Buddhist influence. These restaurants will run from upscale to street stall. Basically any Vietnamese dish with meat can be made vegetarian with the abundance of fake meats. Besides the Buddhist influence of two vegetarian days a month, Cao Dai people eat vegetarian 16 days, and followers of the Quan Yin method eat vegan daily. Look for any sign that says Com Chay or simply remember the phrase An Chay.
Coffee , baguettes , and pastries were originally introduced by the French colonials, but all three have been localized and remain popular contemporary aspects of Vietnamese cuisine. Most pastry shops serve a variety of sweets and quick foods, and are now owned by Vietnamese. If you like seafood , you may find heaven in Vietnam. The ultimate seafood experience is traveling to a seaside village or beach resort area in the south to try the local seafood restaurants that often serve shrimp, crab, and locally-caught fish.
Follow the locals to a good restaurant: the food will still be swimming when you order it, it will be well-prepared, very affordable by Western standards, and often served in friendly surroundings with spectacular views. All Vietnamese restaurants are controlled by government, and some are fully owned by government.
Most restaurants' opening times are to , some open at and some at or In hour restaurants, there will be two prices, the price is normal from to , and doubled from to For example, rice com usually costs 10, dong, but if you order after , the price will be 20, dong. This project is made by government to discourage people from eating late. Some dishes are not served after In many restaurants, you will usually get "errored cuisine" translated dishes, such as fried fish with lemon sauce instead of fish sauce, or rice with tea instead of chili, and some dishes are not available for one month long without any announcement.
To know which restaurants and dishes are highly rated by locals, try downloading popular food apps among locals such as MenuX, Foody, or Lozi on app stores. Be aware that using this incurs an extra charge on your bill. The legal purchasing age of alcoholic beverages is However, there is no legal drinking age.
Do not drink tap water, it's a game of Russian Roulette. Drink only bottled water. Watch out for ice in drinks. Factory-made ice is generally safe, but anything else can be suspect. Drinking in a Vietnamese bar is a great experience. One of the interesting things is that during the day, it is almost impossible to see a bar anywhere. Once the sun goes down though, dozens seem to appear out of nowhere on the streets. It's available throughout Vietnam, mostly from small bars on street corners. Bia hoi bars will give you the opportunity to relax drinking in a typical Vietnamese bar surrounded by the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Every traveler can easily find these bars to experience what the locals are enjoying. The beer is brewed daily and each bar gets a fresh batch delivered every day in plastic jugs. Bia hoi is not always made in sanitary conditions and its making is not monitored by any health agency. Though fun for the novelty factor, this beer may produce awful hangovers for some. For those people, sticking with bia chai bottled beer might be more advisable. Bia Saigon is also available as little stronger export version. It's regular practise for beer in Vietnam to be drunk over ice.
This means that the cans or bottles need not be chilled. It is also considered necessary to drink when a toast is proposed Tram phan tram hundred percent is the Vietnamese equivalent of "bottoms up". Beer consumption is dominated by bottled beers and bia hoi but there are also plenty of microbreweries in Vietnam. Most of them make Czech styled beers with imported malt and hops. The marketing of these breweries is more or less non-existent so they can be hard to find, but the full list can be found online. The price of a mL glass of beer is normally VND30, Most of the breweries serve one black and one blond beer, are small and produce about thousand litres a month.
There are more than thirty microbreweries in Vietnam which is more than in many other countries in the region. They serve great American style microbrews with a local ingredients adding a nice twist. Vietnamese "ruou de" or rice alcohol ruou means alcohol is the Vietnamese version of vodka, served in tiny porcelain cups often with candied fruit or pickles. It's commonly served to male guests and visitors. Vietnamese women don't drink much alcohol, well at least in public. Dating back to French colonial times, Vietnam adopted a tradition of viticulture.
Dalat is the center of the winelands, and you can get extremely good red and white wine for about USD Wine can be purchased at shops at the vineyards, or at local markets. Most wine served in restaurants is foreign imported and you will be charged foreign prices as well making wine comparatively quite expensive compared to drinking beer or spirits. It makes an attractive drink because it is served in the whole coconut and sipped through an aluminum tube. It is made by placing traditional ingredients such as sticky rice and pure sap into a whole coconut to ferment.
It is believed the copra the white meat of the coconut can purify aldehydes that are typically found in rice wine which can cause hangover symptoms such as headaches and tiredness when consumed in excess. So you can feel more free to drink to your drinking partners health! Rice spirit and local Vodka is incredibly cheap in Vietnam by western standards. Russian Champagne is also quite available.
Coconut water is a favourite in the hot southern part of the country. You can also have it blended in a mixer. Juices are usually without condensed milk or coconut milk. The coffee then takes it time slowly releasing drops of hot coffee into a cup filled up with tablespoons of creamy thick sweetened condensed milk.
Once the brewing is done the metal lid is removed from the filter, poured over ice and mixed with the condensed milk. Do be careful when drinking locally prepared coffee as the locals tend to drink it incredibly strong with about 4 teaspoons of sugar per cup. Lodging is not an issue in Vietnam, even if you're travelling on a pretty tight budget. As with hotels elsewhere in the world, mini-refrigerators in Vietnamese hotels are often stocked with drinks and snacks, but these can be horribly overpriced and you would be much better off buying such items on the street.
Adequate plumbing can be a problem in some hotels but the standard is constantly improving. It is a legal requirement for all hotels to register the details of foreign guests with the local police. For this reason they will always ask for your passport when you check in. The process usually only takes a few minutes, after which they will return your passport. However, because non-payment by guests is by no means unknown, some hotels retain passports until check-out. If a place looks dodgy then ask that they register you while you wait and take your passport with you afterwards.
It is helpful to carry some photocopies of your passport as well as Vietnam visa, which you can then hand over to the hotel, insisting if necessary that your actual passport is not in your possession but rather at a travel agency for purpose of visa extension which is a legitimate situation. Alternatively, you can try to extend an advance payment rather than allow them to keep your passport. Most hotels throughout Vietnam now have high-speed Internet access. Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks are blocked but a quick google search can explain how to easily bypass this ban; a useful hotel booking engine hotels-in-vietnam , too.
The use of computers is generally free, although some hotels levy a small charge. The more high-end hotels offer a multitude of amenities; such as elaborate buffets with local cuisine, spa treatments, local sightseeing packages, etc. Hanoi now has some hostels for families called Hanoi Family Hostels. Rooms here are large and with more beds for children. Homestay accommodation is easily booked through travel agents.
However, some tourists are disappointed to learn that the "homestay" they booked is really a commercial hotel or the accommodation is situated in a separate building from the family home. Responsible hotels, green hotels or claimed to be so hotels are increasing in Vietnam. There is no standard or accreditation scheme but this is a positive sign that Vietnamese people are paying more attention to the impact of tourism on environment. By saying "yes" to responsible accommodation, you can help protect the local nature, environment and community without without sacrificing your enjoyment. Eco-friendly hotels can be found in northern mountainous areas as well as some Lodges in Mekong Delta , a Vietnam that many dream about with lush rice paddies, endless waterways and laid back villages.
If you want to meet local people, stop by a school. In Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon , visit the American Language School, where you'll be welcomed enthusiastically and invited to go into a class and say hello. You'll feel like a rock star. The Vietnamese love to meet new people, and teachers welcome the opportunity for their students to meet foreigners. Dragon House is the story of two Americans who travel to Vietnam to open a centre to house and educate Vietnamese street children.
Former BBC reporter in Hanoi, Bill Hayton, has written a good introduction to most aspects of life in Vietnam - the economy, politics, social life, etc. It's called Vietnam: rising dragon and was published in May of You can volunteer as an English teacher through many volunteer organisations. Without qualifications it's also possible to find work, but it takes more patience to find a job, and often there are concessions to make with payment, school location and working hours weekends.
Coastal Vietnam Guidebook & Maps, 2nd edition, 2014
There are also many paid volunteering organisations which allow you to help local communities, such as:. If you don't have a TESOL or TEFL certificate yet, you can join an in-class training center in Vietnam and then start working as a teacher once you've completed the course, for example:. Rural Vietnam is a relatively safer place for tourists than urban Vietnam.
Low level street crimes like bag snatching regularly occur in major cities like Hanoi and Saigon. Few instances of knife attacks during robberies have been reported. Avoid fights and arguments with locals especially groups. Keep in mind that yelling is highly insulting to Vietnamese, so the reaction of a Vietnamese in such a situation may be unexpected.
As a foreigner, Vietnamese expect you to act a certain way in their country. You should respect the general law of the land. Most of these arguments can be avoided easily by showing general courtesy, and tolerating cultural differences that may seem rude to you. Touristy areas and high population cities in Vietnam are areas to watch for thieves, pickpockets, and scammers. They especially target foreigners. Thieves on motorbikes will snatch bags, mobile phones, cameras, and jewelery off pedestrians and other motorbike drivers, and it is a crime committed so regularly that even local Vietnamese are common victims.
Avoid dangling your bags along traffic roads. Talking on your mobile phone next to cars on the road and putting your bag on the front basket of a motorbike will tempt a robber. It could happen day or night, in a crowded road with hundreds of drivers. Pickpockets are well organized and operate in groups. If you travel by motorbike, be aware that crooks can cause serious security issues.
Reports of people claiming that "your motorcycle is on fire" and offering to repair it or passers-by that throw nails at foreigners on motorcycles are frequent. Also infamously common are thefts on popular beaches. Never leave your bag unattended on beaches. In hotel rooms, including five star ones, reports that belongings are stolen have been heard regularly by hotel staff, especially when it comes to small personal items of high value cash, digital cameras, etc , so take your cash or put it in a security deposit box, and the same with small digital equipment.
There are many places where leaving larger electronics like laptops in the room is perfectly fine. The most effective preventative step is to only book hotel rooms at places that have a good reputation and reviews. One of the tricks employed by con men is targeting tourists traveling on bikes by deliberately crashing into tourists bikes to blame them to extort money. Vietnam probably has the most scams per square foot, and significantly more than in surrounding countries.
One certain trait of Vietnamese scams is that there seems to be no limit to what people would try to overcharge you. It is pretty common for the scammers to attempt to overcharge you by ten or fifty times and sometimes even more. A very common one is when the organizers claim that the bus broke down and the tour operators force people to pay huge amounts for crummy hotels "while the bus is repaired".
Be careful when going to a shop or restaurant that doesn't have prices written down. Before eating a meal, ask for the price or you may be in for a surprising bill. When you embark on a tourist tour, be independent: know where you are at all times and be aware of alternatives; the tour might suddenly fall apart. The police are probably the worst crooks of them all. They are known to steal items from people both locals and tourists and ask for a steep bribe to get the item in return.
Also, don't count on them for any help if you are victim of crime. Most scams in Vietnam are in transport, hotel prices and the two-menus system practiced by some restaurants. Hotel owners may tell you that the room price is , dong. However, when checking out, they may insist that the price is USD20, charging you almost a double. Another trick is to tell customers that a "room" is a few dollars, but following day they'll say that price was for a fan room only and it's another price for an air-con room.
These days, legitimate hotel owners seem to be aware of these scams and are usually willing to help by writing down how much the room is per person per day in US dollars or dong , if it has air con or not. Staff of legitimate hotels also never ask for payment from a guest when they check in. Watch out if they insist that you should pay when you check out but refuse to write down the price on paper. Some restaurants are known to have two menus, one for local people and another one for foreigners. The only way to deal with it is to learn a few Vietnamese phrases and insist that you should be shown only the Vietnamese menu.
If they hesitate to show you the local menu, you better walk away. On rare occasions restaurants have two English menus with different prices. Taking pictures of all menus might be excessive, but if you suspect that the food had a different price when ordered, stand your ground.
We usually memorize the prices of what we order and pay exactly that. The owners rarely make a big deal out of it because they know they cheated. Otherwise ask for the police. Many taxi drivers in Saigon and Hanoi install rigged meters, charging up to 2 to 8 times more. If you don't know what a reasonable fare is, it is generally a bad idea to agree on a price in advance.
Spoken for Saigon, the two recommended companies have quite reliable meters. Vinasun taxis usually have notices explaining that the meter value should be multiplied by to obtain the fare. Some drivers will take advantage of the ambiguity, and tourists' lack of knowledge about what the fare should be, so it is best to have things clearly written out. Taxis are abundant in Saigon - and you can get a taxi at any time of the day or night. You can also call a Taxi, and usually people at call centers will be able to either converse in English, or will pass on the phone to someone who can.
Rule of thumb to detect scammers: if the taxi doesn't have the fare charges written, or drivers name and photo on the dashboard, immediately ask the taxi to stop and get out. It's a definite scam. When leaving the airport, the taxi driver may insist that you pay the airport toll. He might not be very forthcoming about the price and, if you give him cash, he will pay the toll and pocket the rest.
Many taxi drivers in Sai Gon and Ha Noi try to overcharge thin faced, just arrived, and gullible travelers. You should consult some guidebooks and travel forums to prepare yourself for those petty scams and to learn more about how to avoid them. The airport toll fee in Saigon is 10, dong as of July - this is also written, along with the fare, on the dashboard of the taxi. You can confidently say "airport toll only 10," and refuse to pay anything else such as parking etc. Usually, the driver will not argue it out.
In Saigon, a trip to Backpackers Street should not cost more than , dong from the airport in any case. The airports are as far as km from these places and meter will cost you from , to , dong. However, you can either take a bus from the Airport to the city center, or pre-negotiate rates with taxis from ,, dong. Refer to individual sections for details. Pay attention to sides of taxi - usually a rate for Airport drop is written on the door itself. Taxi and cyclo drivers may claim that they don't have change when accepting payment for an agreed-upon fare.
The best way to handle this is to either carry smaller bills or be ready to stand your ground. Generally the driver is only trying to get an extra dollar or so by rounding the fare up, but to prevent this scam from becoming more popular it is advised to stay calm and firm about the price. When you meet an over friendly cyclo driver who says, "never mind how much you would pay" or "you can pay whatever you like at the end of the trip". He even tries to show you his book of comments from international tourists. This kind of driver has to be a scammer. If you still want to use his service you should make it clear about the agreed price and don't pay more than that.
Just be clear what you are willing to pay; the cyclo drivers are just trying to make a living. Another very infamous scam in Vietnam includes the tons of copycat tour companies which pop up after any tour company gets famous in Vietnam. One such example is the many Sinh Cafes you may find across the country.
The original has since changed its name to TheSinhTourist. Corruption is a big problem in Vietnam and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted. Remember to stand your ground and all officers are required to write all traffic violations in their notebook and give you a receipt with directions to pay to the station not the officer. If you have a cell phone, threaten to call your embassy and he may back down.
However, you might just find it easier to pay the fine and get on your way. Immigration officers are known to take bribes.
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During the early Doi Moi the reform in the 90s , bribes could be a few US dollars or a few packs of cigarettes. Today, although some officers still seem to feel okay at taking bribes, it is absolutely risk-free and acceptable if you don't bribe. The international monitoring group Transparency International has rated Vietnam as one of the most corrupt nations in Asia. Prostitution is illegal in Vietnam, but it is nevertheless widespread.
Due to conservative culture it is less visible; there is no street prostitution or go-go clubs. However it thrives both in traditional establishments massage parlors and spas, nightclubs, hourly rentals and in some places you would never expect, such as hair salons. Rickshaw drivers also offer prostitutes to tourists at every tourist destination, and in less reputable hotels the staff may offer them as well. Pay special attention if you want a massage in a tourist area.
In legitimate massage establishments, a man is typically massaged by a male masseur. You can ask for a male masseur, and while most tourist-serving establishments won't have one, it will inform them that you're really looking for a massage and not for other activities. The age of consent is Vietnam has laws on the books with penalties up to years in prison for sexually exploiting women and children, and in the case of underage prostitution, those laws are indeed enforced.
Also, several nations have laws that allow them to prosecute their own citizens who travel abroad and engage in intercourse with minors. The first discovery for many tourists who just arrive in Vietnam is that they need to learn how to cross a road all over again. You may see a tourist standing on the road for 5 minutes without knowing how to cross it. Traffic in Vietnam is a nightmare. Back home, you may never witness the moment of crash, seeing injured victims lying on the road, or hearing the BANG sound. Staying in Vietnam for more than a month, you will have fair chance of experiencing all these.
Roads are packed. To cross the road, don't try to avoid the cars, let them avoid you. Step confidently forward, a little more, and you will see motorcycle drivers to slow down a bit, or go to another way. Make your pace and path predictable and obvious to other drivers. Don't change your speed or direction suddenly. Then move forward until you hit your destination. The best strategy is just to keep walking forward at a comfortable pace.
The simplest way, if available, is to follow a local, stand next to them in the opposite side of the traffic if you get hit, he will get it first and he will give you the best chance of crossing a road. If you are injured, don't expect that local people are willing to help for even calling an ambulance because it is not free.
Make sure you tell local clearly that you will pay the ambulance fee. Hospitals will also not accept your admission unless you prove that you can pay the bill. Highways are also risky with an average of 30 deaths a day and some locals will not even venture on them if not in a big vehicle car or bus. Taking a bicycle or motorcycle on highways is an adventure for risk takers, definitely not for a family with children. Petty crime in night clubs can happen.
Avoid quarreling with local people because drunken Vietnamese can be violent. Clubs are full of prostitutes looking for their admirers but be aware that they may also steal your wallet and mobile phone, etc. Walking very late by yourself on the streets in the tourist area is often unsafe. Avoid asking the cab drivers for recommended nightspots. Most cab drivers are paid by KTVs and lounges to bring in foreign tourists.
Usually when you walk in they will tell you a set of pricing which seems reasonable; but when you check out the bill will include a number of extravagant charges.