5 photo tips for travelers in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

How to capture and keep the Vietnamese breathtaking moment?

For shutterbugs, Vietnam is a paradise full of photographic opportunities. Whether you are into landscapes, street or even food photography, Vietnam has it all. We have put together five tips for taking photos in this picturesque country.

1. Be respectful. When taking photos of people, take the slow approach. Usually a smile or a gesture to your camera is all it takes for someone to allow you to take their photo.

Local insight: Monks and nuns make for great portraiture subjects.

2. Wake up early. When the first rays of sunlight head across the horizon, the light created is softer and colours are warmer and more saturated. Though this effect lasts usually lasts longer than one hour, photographers call this the Golden Hour.

Local insight: The Golden Hour is a great opportunity to snap some images of Hanoians exercising around Hoan Kiem Lake.

3. Take a tripod. This is a must for taking landscape photos and when the light is fading when shutter speeds are slower.

Local insight: Light streaks from the manic traffic in Saigon’s District 1 will create an ethereal feel to any image.

4. Read up about your destination. Finding a relevant tidbit where you are shooting can make the difference of turning a great shot into something stunning.

Local insight: The best time to take photos in Sapa is before the harvest from mid-September to early October when the rice fields are a bright yellow.

5. Use your camera strap. Sling the strap around your neck or across your shoulder to prevent an opportunistic thief from nicking your camera.

Local insight: When walking around in major cities, this is a must as motorbike thieves are drawn to cameras like moths to a flame.


Other articles:

Top 5 tips for crossing the street in Vietnam

Top 5 photo tips for travelers in Vietnam

Top 5 tips to rent a motorbike in Vietnam

5 tips to manage your online reputation on Tripadvisor

5 tips of preparation for better score at golf

5 tips to take pictures of fireworks in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi

Top 5 tips for preventing theft in Vietnam

The art of bargaining in Vietnam

Tips to spot and avoid scam and pick pocket


Facebook redesigns business pages with new look

By: Emilio Piriz

Facebook redesigns business pages with new look

After redesigning its news feed personal accounts last week, Facebook announced that it will roll out a new look and feel for business pages. This affects the Online Reputation Management (ORM) service that we at City Pass provide to premium clients in the Travel and Hospitality sector in Vietnam; therefore we should take these changes into consideration to get the best out of the new features.

The remake means good news to all users of this platform. Even Facebook calls this new appearance a more ‘streamlined’ look. The new design includes two columns similar to the old version, but the right column is now the Page’s timeline while the left includes information about the brand or business (e.g., map, business hours, phone number and website URL). Previously, both left and right columns used to display posts as users would scroll down the page.


Facebook New
Two distinct columns in new design

This major rearrangement makes Facebook Business Pages look a lot more like a personal profile. In a post on the official Facebook for Business blog, the company explained, “We’ll begin rolling out a streamlined look for Pages on desktop that will make it easier for people to find the information they want and help Page admins find the tools they use most.”

The redesigned layout comes with several changes for City Pass's Social Media management services – part of our ORM package – as Page admins. Stats such as page likes, the number of ad campaigns, post reach impressions, and notifications will appear in a tool bar in the right column. Therefore, administrators now have this information readily available in one place without having to navigate through numerous menus.

The new appearance actually makes the desktop version look more like the mobile version. This offers a more unified experience for your visitors no matter what device they’re using to follow your feed. Additionally, the ‘face makeover’ comes less than a week after Facebook updated the look for news feeds. This is a fairly minor change that includes larger photos and new icons and fonts.

How do you like Facebook’s latest redesigns? Do you think they will achieve their primary goal in improving the user’s experience?



Posts run on both left and right side in old design

Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research

By: Emilio Piriz

By Emilio Piriz

The rapid move to mobile research and bookings means travelers require easier ways to access content. In 2014, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 35% of business travelers will use mobile search engines to find hotels, and this number will only grow, with 72% of travelers worldwide saying that the ability to book via mobile device is useful.

Gone are the days when travel guides were the go-to resource that adventurers would carry in their backpacks before embarking on any trip. Printed maps have given way to their digital version through the use of a smartphone or tablet to search for shops, restaurants and tours once travelers reach their destination. Therefore, main travel brands need to adapt to this change in behavior if they aspire to capture the business of vacationing spenders and don’t ‘miss’ their flight.

Placeable, a company that loves location data and uses it to help brands power their local market, has recently conducted a survey where they surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out about how they research and find businesses before and during their travels.

The following are the research’s key findings:

  • Discovery: Search engines are undoubtedly the number one tool for travelers – more than four in five consumers use them for research when planning a vacation.
  • Proximity: A nearby location wins over well-established brands for many types of purchases on vacation
  • Mobile: Travelers do much of their online research once they reach their destinations.
  • Loyalty: Consumers aren’t loyal to a particular brand if they find a better offer or have trouble finding a certain location.
  • Trust: Difficulty finding a store or restaurant location when travelling negatively affects consumers’ impression of a brand even once they return home.

Check this infographic for additional figures that support the above findings:
Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research

 

Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research
 
Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research
 
Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research
 
Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research
 
Mobile Usage Changes Traveler Behavior – Placeable Research

You can download the full report here.

Now over to you: Do you think these behavioral patterns are present among visitors in Vietnam? How profoundly will mobile usage reshape the Travel industry and travelers’ experiences?


Keeping your digital camera clean

By: Vinh Dao

Destinations to clean your digital camera

If you are traveling throughout Vietnam, you’ve probably brought your camera along. If you didn’t, I would be shocked as this country is picture perfect for shutterbugs. Other than the obvious problem of dropping your camera, there is another less obvious problem that can arise with camera gear.

Lens fungus is the bane of camera lenses and occurs quite often in Southeast Asia due to the high humidity and oppressive heat. Lens fungus is caused by moisture trapped inside or on the surface of the lens and looks like a small spider web on the surface. Caught early enough, it can be cheap to fix and won’t affect the image quality of the lens. If you leave it for a few weeks, you might have a serious problem on your hands.

The best way to avoid lens fungus is to keep your camera and lenses cleaned and in airtight containers with bags of silica gel, which helps absorb moisture. Also, another preventative measure is to place your camera in a sealed ziplock bag when going to and from areas with vastly different temperatures. This prevents condensation from building up.

If you’ve happened to drop your camera or it just stops working, there are a plethora of shops around the Dong Khoi area that offer camera repair but aren’t authorised camera repair shops. Canon and Nikon owners are in luck as there are authorised repair centres in Hanoi and HCMC. These shops are the recommended fix but will be pricier than other repair shops.

However, if you have an older out of warranty camera and just want to extend the life of it until you get back home, we have located a couple of places in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City that have English-speaking technicians.

But when you go to these non-certified camera shops, just remember the adage: Caveat Emptor!

 Canon Hanoi

No.130A, Giang Vo, Ba Dinh District
Phone: 04 3771 1966

Canon HCMC

No. 10A, Tran Hung Dao, District 1
Phone: 08 3838 9383

 Non-certified repair shop in HCMC - Huy Camera

No. 29 Huynh Thuc Khang, District 1
Phone: 09 0927 2818

 Nikon Hanoi - Viet Hong Building

2nd Floor 58 Tran Nhan Tong, Hai Ba Trung District
Phone: 04 3909 3843

 Nikon HCMC - Vietnam Business Center

No. 57 – 59 Ho Tung Mau, District 1
Phone: 08 3422 4883

 Non-certified repair shop in HCMC - Pham The

No. 11 Le Cong Kieu, District 1
Phone: 08 829 5888

 Non-certified repair shop in HCMC - Cuong Thinh

No. 145 Cao Thang, District 10

 Non-certified repair shop in Hanoi - Vu Nhat

No. 20 Thang Thi, Hoan Kiem District
Phone: 04 826 5161

 Non-certified repair shop in Hanoi - Nguyen Long

No. 17 Ba Trieu, Hoan Kiem District
Phone: 09 1260 6066

Advantages of train travel in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

The trains in Vietnam are relatively cheap, comfortable and scenic. Train travel is Vietnam is underutilised by visitors to the country and is a great mode of transportation for those looking to see a bit more of the country while relaxing in leisurely surroundings. As you plan your journey around the country, read on to find out other advantages of using trains when you travel.

1. Easy and Relaxing

If you haven’t really come to grips with the manic road traffic in Vietnam, taking a train to your destination can save you heaps of stress. No beeping, near misses and traffic jams to worry about here!

2. Practical

You don’t have to worry about getting to the train station hours early to jump on. You can also bring on your own food onboard unlike having the dreaded airline food as your only option in a plane.

3. Environmentally Friendly

Vietnam has some of the highest rates of personal transportation in the world at 92 percent. So if you are looking to cut down on your environmental impact, take a train.

4. Freedom

Unlike air travel, you can actually get out of your seat whenever you want. It’s a great opportunity to meet some Vietnamese people and get to know a bit more about their country. Take a walk around, grab a cafe sua da at the canteen carriage, or catch up on that reading you’ve been putting off.

5. Centrally Located Stops

Most major tourist destinations have a train station with several daily arrival and departure times. Also most train stations are located only a few minutes travel to major tourist destinations in towns.

6. Fascinating Views

Vietnam has over 3,260 kilometres of stunningly beautiful coastline, most of it can be viewed from the comfort of a train carriage. If you wish to experience the beauty of Vietnam, take a train trip up the coast. Make sure to pay attention during the Hue to Danang leg of the trip. Possibly one of the most scenic views in the country.

Overall, train travel in Vietnam is a good choice for those who are looking for an affordable and comfortable trip around the country. Whether you wish to move from one city to another or just to tour the country, train travel will provide you with the perfect transportation.

For more information about trains in Vietnam, click here to check out this excellent website.

If you are a big fan of train travel and are in the UK, take a look at this website for some information about their excellent railway service.


Four Female Chefs You Should Know About in Vietnam

By: Lucie Sherwood

Most of us have an image of professional kitchens as being something of a male-dominated boy's club, despite women traditionally doing most of the cooking in private homes for centuries. Whilst women still account for a relatively low portion of professional chefs globally, there are more women enrolling for training and a number of female chefs rank among the best in the world, earning major accolades and awards.

As Vietnam’s foodie landscape grows and evolves, more international and Vietnamese restaurants are opening and drawing in big talents, both local and foreign. Among these rising stars are several talented female chefs who are shaking up Vietnam’s culinary scene with their unique take on Vietnamese and international cuisines, often drawing influence from their diverse geographical backgrounds.

Here are four of the best female chefs in Vietnam right now, and where to eat their food.

Tam Le - Saigonita Concept Rebstaurant in Saigon

Tam Le’s Saigonita is a concept restaurant that reinterprets Mexican cuisine through the lens of Vietnamese ingredients and dishes. The creator and chef hosts her intimate pop-up dinners on select evenings every month. Already, Saigonita is storming the foodie scene in Saigon, with Tam’s dinners booked-out two months in advance.

Tam has had an unconventional route to Saigonita. She was raised in Texas before leaving to work in branding in New York, where she recalls beginning to make her own tortillas after discovering that she could only buy them imported and mass-produced in New York, unlike the fresh tortillas available in grocery stores across Texas. As an Texas-born Vietnamese, she grew up eating both Mexican and Vietnamese cuisines and says, “to combine them was only natural to me”.

Female ChefsImage source: Tam Le

After moving to Vietnam, Tam started to make the Saigonita vision a reality, creating her exciting Vietnamese-Mexican food with encouragement from her friends. As the concept was being developed, Tam Le spent her evenings and weekends experimenting to bring her new dishes to life. Now that her dinners have gained momentum, she is dedicating herself to Saigonita full-time.

The Saigonita menu changes depending on what’s in season and the chef’s mood. Tam describes her Huế-vos Rancheros as a current crowd favourite; a tostada with a fried home-made tortilla base, a layer of refried black beans, beef braised in the style of bún bò Huế, a fried quail egg, finely chopped shallots and herbs, and finished off with a squeeze of calamansi.

Tam doesn’t consider her gender to be challenge in Vietnam’s culinary world. She explains, “I see so many opportunities in Vietnam”, although she acknowledges that the industry is very male-dominated. As her unique concept becomes increasingly popular, she describes her goal as, “to figure out how to allow everyone who wants to try Saigonita to be able to experience it”.

Nikki Tran - Cau Ba Quan and Cau Ba Noodles Restaurants in Saigon

Famous for her appearance on the Netflix hit series Ugly Delicious, Nikki Tran is dishing up her brand of ‘Viejun’ (Vietnamese-Cajun) food in her two modern Vietnamese seafood restaurants; Cau Ba Quan and Cau Ba Noodles in Ho Chi Minh City.

A Saigon native who has spent time in Houston, Texas - where the Viet-Cajun trend began - Nikki describes her cooking as a collaboration between Vietnamese culture and other cultures, but is adamant that her food isn’t branded as ‘fusion’.

Nikki never trained as a professional chef, nor did she have any aspirations to cook, but she was thrown into the kitchen when the chef didn’t show up on the opening night. Now she loves to create new dishes and her aspiration is to bring modern Vietnamese food to the mainstream, showing the cuisine from a different angle.

Female ChefsImage source: Nikki Tran

Nikki acknowledges the challenges of working in a male-dominated industry, describing how gaining authority in the kitchen can be difficult for women working in a traditionally patriarchal society such as Vietnam. She added that even in the US, it isn’t easy to command respect from the other chefs in a professional kitchen. She also expressed her belief that the conventional female roles within a family in Vietnam can limit their ability to work long hours.

Nevertheless, Nikki feels that there are a lot of opportunities out there for aspiring female chefs to be noticed, stating, “the creativity brought by women is highly anticipated and appreciated”. She advises women to be tough in the kitchen and to have confidence that female chefs can do whatever male chefs can do, whether its scaling a fish or butchering a whole cow.

Nguyễn Thị Hồng Huệ - Stoker Restaurant in Saigon

Stoker has been making waves in Saigon’s culinary scene for some time now, and its Junior Sous Chef, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Huệ, is one of the restaurant’s rising stars. Stoker’s speciality is cooking meats using various techniques involving fire, perhaps making the presence of a strong female chef even more unusual.

Female ChefsImage source: Hue Nguyen

After studying finance, Hue embarked on her chef’s training and gained experience in a number of professional kitchens before joining Stoker in May 2017. She worked in the cold kitchen and In pastry before being promoted to Junior Sous Chef.

Working with Stoker’s Executive Chef, George Bloomfield, Hue has created new signature dishes for the popular steakhouse, including Smoked Milk Panna Cotta and Woodfired Basque Cheesecake.

Hue explains that she finds Ho Chi Minh City “one of the best places to explore local and international food”, with its eclectic range of restaurants and diverse food scene. Hue highlighted that this environment creates lots of opportunities for female chefs to develop their careers. She says that, “women in general are well-known for being careful, resourceful and tidy; which are good values for a chef”.

Her advice to aspiring female chefs is to “follow your passion”, acknowledging that things can be difficult at the beginning but these challenges can be overcome. Hue's goal is to eventually gain experience and learn about Northern Vietnamese cuisine by spending time working in Hanoi.

Summer Le - Nen Restaurant in Danang

Now an unofficial global ambassador for Central Vietnamese cuisine, Chef Summer Le has been expressing her passion for the food of her home-region at her acclaimed restaurant, Nen, since August 2017. The ethos of Nen - a spice specific to Central Vietnam - is to push the boundaries of Vietnamese cuisine whilst retaining its core values.

Female ChefsImage source: Summer Le

Before opening her Danang restaurant, she was a food blogger and has been featured on several cooking shows including the Asia Food Channel’s 'Home-cooked Vietnam'. Despite Nen being a reasonably young restaurant, it has received wide attention, being visited by the Prime Minister of New Zealand and three Michelin star Chef Dominique Crenn from the US.

Summer Le explains her food philosophy as, “utilising local ingredients and making them the star of the dishes” in order to create her modern Vietnamese dishes. She aims to keep the taste profiles essentially Vietnamese, while using some foreign techniques and presentation. She describes her food as, “a reflection of myself” creative, intellectual, with great attention to detail”. She explains that she especially loves to experiment with elevating often overlooked ingredients in Vietnamese cuisine, such as duck, certain fruits and fermented sauces.

Nen’s New Vietnamese multi-course tasting menu is a collection of Summer Le’s signature dishes, including a pan-seared duck breast with mango gel and Viet satay chili paste with cashew nuts and dried mango.

Summer Le feels Vietnam is open-minded when it comes to women in the workplace in comparison with some of its neighbouring countries. She points out that the industry is heavily male-dominated, but cites the physical requirements of the job as one of the reasons for this. At Nen, she hires both male and female chefs on her team, explaining that, “they have their own strengths”. She details, “attention to detail, deftness and discipline” as qualities she often finds in her female chefs and which are particularly relevant in a fine-dining restaurant. Her advice to aspiring female chefs is to, “find your unique strength as a chef and pursue it”.

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