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Expatriates living in Hanoi now have the opportunity to learn to cook Vietnamese dishes for free. The brand new Ajinomoto Cooking Studio has been up and running since June 2017 on the south side of Hanoi, providing free cooking classes every week from Tuesday to Sunday, for different age groups.

Here is how it went last Saturday afternoon, when a group of 25 Japanese women mingled with Vietnamese families in a session of mooncake baking, just in time for the coming Mid-Autumn Festival.

The session started with demonstrations from chef Le Thi Hong Diep, who teaches at the Hanoi College of Tourism. The friendly chef showed her professional and elegant ways of shaping and decorating a mooncake using plastic molds, and gave clear step-by-step instructions. The whole process was shown on three large screens around the room as well, so participants could easily follow the lesson from the screen.

The real deal, however, was when everybody started making their own mooncake from ingredients readily prepared on the tables. It was a bit chaotic at first, and the Japanese expats were still somewhat confused but eager to learn. The chef and sous chef went to each table to give assistance, and after a while, the participants started to catch on.


Everyone was happily immersed in what they were doing, especially the children. They might be creating quirky shapes from the flour and then proudly showing them to their parents, or playing with the plastic molds unnoticed. The young women had fun creating different patterns for decoration, and some of them were really artistic.


With nine tables arranged in two circles, each family or group of friends had their own creative space. There was also a sense of competition as some groups tried to finish as quickly as they could, while other groups took their time. Surprisingly, it was the groups with young children that finished faster—perhaps they are used to the pressure of games and contests.


When everyone had been satisfied with their artwork, the mooncakes were put into the three ovens at the back of the class for 10 minutes. This was to be repeated three times before they were finally baked. Meanwhile, refreshments were served, and the chef demonstrated how to make the matcha and green bean fillings that had just been used to make the mooncakes.


As the fillings were being cooked in a pan, the kids gathered around to watch and smell the aroma, and even got to taste the hot fillings after that. Masumi, one of the Japanese ladies, happily explained, “We joined this class because we wanted to experience Mid-Autumn Festival in a different way. We also have mooncakes in Japan, but this is the first time I have ever tried making Vietnamese mooncakes!”

After the mooncakes were done, the participants went home with their own handmade mooncakes and a gift bag from Ajinomoto with the recipe inside. They took photos with each other and for each other, and even exchanged emails. The smiles on their faces showed how much fun they had. It was really a good chance for the ex-pats to immerse in local culture and get to know local people.

Those interested in learning more about culinary arts, especially Vietnamese cuisine, are welcome to join similar free sessions at Ajinomoto Cooking Studio. Class schedules can be found on its Facebook page. To register, you can either send an email with the code number of the class you want to join, your name, date of birth, and phone number to, or call during office hours, and the staff who can speak English will gladly assist you.

Address: Ajinomoto Cooking Studio, Level 1, Artemis Mall, 3 Le Trong Tan, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi.




Phone: +84 243 640 6688 adv


For quite a while now, Lune Production’s internationally acclaimed A O Show is no insider tip, and instead one of Vietnam’s most famous entertainments. This cultural show combines an authentic Vietnamese experience with acrobatics, dance, music, and a visit to Saigon’s and Hanoi’s opera houses, making for a constant crowd puller.

Established in 2012, Lune Production has come up with three different versions of the show in Ho Chi Minh City: the original AO Show, The Village, and The Mist. Since August 2016, a fourth show has been added to the program: The Teh Dar Show.

Distinctly different from the productions that have come before, this show displays the life and customs of the ethnic tribes in Vietnam’s central highlands. Two thousand people tried out for the show, but only 15 circus artists and 5 musicians from various ethnicities were chosen.

Elephant Trousers and White Socks

Teh Dar comes with the usual AO Show amenities designed to provide a great experience for its guests from start to finish: a highly professional service staff as well as free-flowing peach and lemongrass ice tea and candied ginger before the performance.


The Teh Dar audience, however, is quite different from the average opera crowd: elephant trousers, white socks, and flip-flops abound. This is an event catered not only to residents but also – and above all – to Ho Chi Minh City’s many tourists. Besides the show, there’s another draw to this Teh Dar: the Saigon Opera House is open to the public only on the occasion of an event, so in addition to an entertaining performance, a trip to Teh Dar will also complete your city sightseeing tour.


Enjoy the Show at the Opera House in Saigon

When the light goes out, the artists enter the room in a procession that immediately immerses the audience in the show’s theme. The ethnic clothes, tribal sounds, and minimalist-yet-metaphoric stage design outline the setting of the upcoming 60 minutes. “Teh Dar” itself is roughly translated as “going in a circle”, and the circle is indeed the all-dominant symbol throughout the show.


The opening scene alone is worth the money: an action-packed acrobatic hunting scene paired with thundering drum rhythms. From there, the show alternates between atmospheric scenes, romantic and spiritual interludes, funny vignettes, incredible stunts, and daring feats. However, throughout these various elements, there’s no forgetting what this show is all about: displaying the tribal life in the southwestern highlands of Vietnam.


The show ends as it started: with a procession, although this time it’s more joyful. The whole crew, singing and playing music, gather in the lobby and invites people to take pictures with them. It’s the perfect ending to an hour of spectacle, suspense, wit, beauty, authenticity, romance, spirituality, and, above all, genuine Vietnamese character.


The Fine Art of Entertainment

The show’s creators Tuan Le, Nguyen Nhat Ly, Nguyen Lan Maurice, and Ngo Thanh Phuong are veterans in producing top-notch entertainment. The mere attendance figures prove this each and every night. And how often does it happen that a show not once bores you?


Traditional depictions never become stereotypical, modern elements are implemented without spoiling the show’s authenticity, and most of all: they know how to keep the balance between fast-paced and slow-paced scenes, individual and group performances, spectacle, and artistic value.


Teh Dar might be the most mature among the four AO Shows. The quality of the musical performance is beyond a reasonable doubt. Traditional instruments like steel-drums gongs, a sitar-like instrument called Goong, buffalo horns, and massive elephant drums meet a modern arrangement that at times reminds one of a street jazz combo.


Anything to Moan About?

If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s the fact that the show doesn’t provide the audience with a booklet that gives credit to the artists and creators. It would have been nice to get concise information on the cultural foundations of what I had seen. But really, stop moaning, you!


What Do People Say?

Saigon’s A O Show is ranked first in the category Concerts & Shows on TripAdvisor with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 points. A 27 out of 30 reviews of the Teh Dar Show give it full marks, and I honestly haven’t met a person who was disappointed by any of Lune Production’s events. Depending on the schedule, you might not be able to go to see the Teh Dar Show. Pick any of the others then – you won’t regret it. These shows are simply the best in town. advertisement


There are so many opportunities to learn something new in good ol’ Vietnam. Here are some of the top activities offered in HCMC that will let you have fun while gaining new skills.

Learn How to Play in a Rock Band


274 Võ Thị Sáu, Phường 7, D3, HCMC, Vietnam / 919 522 593 +84 938 188 309

Learning a musical instrument always seems to be one of those things that everyone wants to do but rarely has the initiative to stick with. One problem is that in the early stages it’s a solitary experience: practicing on your own is nothing like the fun of playing with a full band. It’s no wonder people get disillusioned.

So, why not get your band together first and learn as you go? Maximus offers group deals for exactly that reason. With a full band setup and expert tuition, you can get together, learn together, and rock together.

Master the Art of Storytelling

Join the group at

You tell stories every day, whether you’re recounting the day’s events to your friends or explaining a situation to a stranger. To take this one step further, a storytelling class can help you hone your skills and learn the fundamentals of structure, narrative, and character development. Storytelling Saigon gives you and your friends the opportunity to develop your raconteur skills in a safe, easy environment, tailored to nurture your inner narrator and bring out the best you have to say.


Tell a Joke

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Stand-up comedy is a strange business. You never know what an audience is going to like until you try it, and the people who are funniest in social situations aren’t necessarily going to succeed on stage. But it’s something that anyone with an inclination towards telling jokes should try, and it’s something that almost everyone has considered at one point or another. So, think you’re funny? Now you can find out with the help of Comedy Saigon. Founder Ben Betterby organizes free workshops and shows across the city every week.


Get your foot on the bottom rung and try out your inner genius. Regular competitions, workshops, and prizes will keep you motivated, and expert tutors will guide you through the process with skill and compassion. You’ll be working the circuit in no time.


Align Your Chakras (TBC)

Yoga Shala

+84 888 031 323 / Facebook

Số 10 Đường số 1 Cư Xá Đô Thành, Phường 4, D3, HCMC, Vietnam

An Gia Riverside, Số 25 Đào Trí, Phú Mỹ, D7, HCMC Vietnam

Số 1738 Đ. Võ Văn Kiệt, An Lạc, Bình Tân, HCMC, Vietnam

25 Bàu Cát 2, Phường 14, Tân Bình, HCMC, Vietnam

Yoga has been one of the fastest-growing physical activities of the last decade, and for good reason. It’s fantastic for your body, it’s low impact (so anyone can do it), and it teaches you about your body, mind, and soul. A good instructor is a key to your success, though, and Yoga Shala centers provide it. Advanced yoga practices are thought by master Master Himanshu Gairola. A fitness guru and health specialist. He has been teaching yoga in HCMC for the last six years. As a certified personal trainer, he uses yoga as one modality to keep both the body and mind balanced and flexible. Group sessions must be booked privately, so get in touch and make it happen; your body will thank you.


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Learn About Latte Art

Barista School

Hem 354 Ly Thuong Kiet, D10, HCMC, Vietnam / +84 902 906 246 /

38/13 Nguyễn Văn Trỗi, Phường 15, Phú Nhuận, HCMC, Vietnam / +84 1900 636 246 /

Let’s face it: artisanal coffee isn’t going away anytime soon. The difference between a cup of Nescafé and a properly brewed flat white made with well-sourced, roasted, and ground beans is huge. And what’s more, the skill and craft that goes into a perfectly poured cappuccino is truly a work of art. At the Barista School, you and your friends can learn the secrets behind a well-crafted macchiato. Contact the school to discuss group packages – you’ll never taste coffee the same way again.

Get into Character

Saigon Players  /  +84 907 954 093

There may be no better way to learn about oneself than to learn how to act like someone else. Saigon Players, the city’s premier community theater, is always looking for new members, and consistently put on high-quality productions. Join the group and you’ll receive peer-based coaching, instruction, and feedback, helping you to realize your dreams of becoming Vietnam’s next Al Pacino or Meryl Streep. You’ll also get the chance to perform live, meet new people and explore the rich world of the thespian.

Arrange Some Natural Beauty

Padma de Fleur

89/12 Hàm Nghi, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, D1, Vietnam / Facebook  / +84 90 300 9873 /

Anyone who’s walked around Vietnam long enough will have noticed the dazzling array of beautiful flora throughout the country. Even if you haven’t seen the wild lotus, lilies, or trees around the countryside, the markets of HCMC are often full of the colors and smells of one of the richest ranges of flowers in the world. So, what better place to learn flower arranging? Get your friends together and arrange a class at Padma de Fleur to learn a skill that will provide you with a lifetime of beauty.

Learn to Paint, Get Tipsy

Tipsy Art

68 Nguyen Trung Ngan, D1, HCMC, Vietnam / / +84 914 328 844  /

The creation and appreciation of art awaken something profound in the soul, leaving you intoxicated by life’s majesty and wonder – much like how you probably feel after a bottle of wine. So, what better way to celebrate two of life’s wonders than by getting sloshed and attempting to paint something? If that sounds like something you’d like (and it certainly should be), Tipsy Art is the group for you. Reasonably priced and – obviously – for adults only, Tipsy Art provides all the booze, paint, and canvas you need to un-tap your inner Vincent Van Gogh, minus the absinthe.

Tipsy Art -
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There are so many bars and pubs in Ho Chi Minh City that feature pub games, but which are the best places to play pool and darts in the city? Darts has a long history here as the league has been established for over five years, while the pool league only started in 2014. Most venues are spread across Districts 1, 7, and in Thu Duc City for both sports, and in many cases, the same pubs offer the best facilities for both. It is worth noting that if you are serious about pool, the pool tables in bars rather than the pool halls will be of international standard and well maintained. The pool halls tend to be a mishmash of dimensions and poorly maintained. While they mainly have Carom Billiards, there are of course exceptions. The new electronic dart boards (“soft darts”) are growing in popularity as well.

Pool and Darts


192 Đ. Võ Văn Kiệt, Phường Cầu Ông Lãnh, D1, HCMC, Vietnam / +84 28 3823 6999 / Facebook

Dailo’s is located on the main stretch of Tran Hung Dao near the infamous backpacker street, Bui Vien, and Ben Thanh Market. This is a well-established bar that has moved locations and changed names several times in its storied tenure as a Saigon sports hub, but it’s a great place to play pool and darts, as well as rotating DJ nights and live bands.

Buddha Bar

7 Thao Dien, Thao Dien Ward, Thu Duc City, Vietnam+84 28 3744 2080 / Facebook 

The oldest established bar in D2, Buddha Bar has been around for as long as the ex-pat scene. Two pool tables (though only one worth playing on) and a designated darts area mark this out as a reliable venue for both darts and pool. The league teams in both sports are well established.


Dtwo Sports Pub

55-57 Thao Dien, Thao Dien, Thu Duc City, Vietnam / +84 28 3519 4139 / Facebook

A popular contender in the Saigon pool and darts scene, this Al Fresco Group bar is a real beauty. Dtwo Sports Pub is laid out well with plenty of space around the pool table. The dart boards fold away behind cupboard doors for when the big sporting events are on TV. It’s an excellent space offering roomy surroundings in which to play.

The Tavern

R2-24 Hung Gia 3, Bui Bang Doan, Phu My Hung, D7, HCMC, Vietnam /+84 707 634 855 / Facebook

The Tavern is a popular sports bar and restaurant in the area of Phu My Hung. The food and drinks menus are typical and it has a strongly committed ex-pat clientele. The bar has a modern and well-maintained pool and darts equipment, it sometimes feels a bit smoky inside.

Darts Only


46-48 Ton That Thiep, D1, HCMC, Vietnam / +84 28 3821 0796 / Facebook

An Australian-style sports bar, Phatty’s is one of the more established and certainly most well-known bars in town. It’s a bustling noisy place, particularly when any the Australian sports are on TV. It has a very nice dedicated area for darts and a thriving dart community.

Pool Only

Snap Café

32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien Ward, Thu Duc City, Vietnam +84 28 3519 4532 /

Snap Café is a super venue in Thao Dien. It is almost like two completely different bars in one. By day a family fun pub and café, by night a bar and restaurant. The pool table is in a covered outdoor area and is one of the nicest settings in which to play, until the really hot season kicks in.


Whether you are a serious player or just enjoy a game for the fun of it, these bars will fulfill your requirements. If you want to take things more seriously, ask in any of the bars and they will point you in the direction of the relevant league organizers.