Eco-activism in Vietnam

By: Leroy Nguyen & Rastian Gauna

The Current State of Vietnam

What is Vietnam doing about this problem?

What Can We Do As Individuals?

Waste Management Practices Around the World

In recent years environmental awareness has risen globally, especially among the younger generations of today. A global movement is in play, for our growing population to stop the use of single use plastics, be more ecologically aware and aspire towards a zero waste lifestyle. Vietnam is no exception to this ecologically conscious development as we strive to play our part in the global mission to save our planet. 

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: water-pollution.org.uk

The Current State of Vietnam

Vietnam is one of the fastest developing countries in Southeast Asia. With rapid growth comes urbanization, increased population and growing tourism. While modernization is great for the economy, it has heightened Vietnam’s waste production.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: npr.org

Ho Chi Minh is the largest city in Vietnam and the country’s biggest contributor to the single use plastic problem. In fact, Ho Chi Minh City is ranked 9th in the world pollution index (2019). The city generates around 6,000 to 8,000 tons of solid waste per day and only less than 15% of this waste is recycled. Currently, Saigon’s main solid waste management is landfilling and this is where almost 85% of the entire city’s waste ends up.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Most of the plastic trash currently found in our oceans comes from Asia. Unfortunately, Vietnam is one of the top six biggest contributors to ocean garbage. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of five ocean garbage patches currently in the world and is the largest ocean patch among the five. This floating island of plastic trash is where most of Vietnam’s improperly disposed of plastics end up.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: thenational.ae

What is Vietnam doing about this problem?

We are beginning to realise the urgent need to stop the use of single use plastics and disposables. Many local businesses are now making moves towards practicing zero-waste and advocating towards others the benefits of an eco-friendly lifestyle, striving to build and support a less wasteful community.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: tinhte.vn

Hotels, restaurants and cafes in Vietnam are finding ways to be more ecologically sustainable. It is commonplace these days to find that your local coffee shop has switched over to providing bamboo or metal straws. Even local markets in Vietnam are doing their part by going back to old school methods, using banana leaves to wrap food to go. A number of schools in Vietnam are also taking action by pledging to become plastic free by 2020, with a strong focus on educating their students on eco-responsibility.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: slatic.net

The Organik House in Saigon’s District 1 is an eco-conscious company that encourages the community to minimize our negative footprint. They offer both businesses and end users eco-friendly alternatives to plastic that are 100% biodegradable and chemical free. The Organik House currently supplies many local businesses with 100% biodegradable delivery containers, plates, bowls and cups as well as eco-friendly single use and reusable straws.

The Vietnamese government are also dedicated to reducing waste in Vietnam and are working on finding innovative ways to recycle solid wastes. A good example is the plan to build the first ever recycled plastic roads in Hai Phong, as well as the plan to ban all plastic scrap imports into the country by 2025.

What Can We Do As Individuals?

Most of us are probably familiar with the eco-conscious mantra of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’, but there is another crucial ‘R’ word, which we all need to enlighten ourselves and our children on. That word is REFUSE.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: wearesalt.org

REFUSE single use plastics and go for reusables instead. REFUSE plastic spoons and forks when ordering takeout and use your own reusable cutlery. Go one step further and bring your own reusable containers to pack leftovers when dining out. REFUSE plastic bags and packaging - on your next grocery run, practice bringing your own reusable containers and bags when buying meat, vegetables and other produce. We need to understand that as our demand for disposables decrease, there will be less need to manufacture these single use products. 

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: cebupacificair.com

Refilling your household and food items is another great zero-waste tip. Simply bring your own containers and refill your supplies from a zero waste shop. Tap Hoa La Xanh in District 1, Lai Day Refill Station in Thao Dien and Green Around the Corner in District 2, are some notable refilling stations right here in Saigon. You can stock up on rice, pasta, nuts, tea, coffee, salt, pepper, vinegar, oils, and much more. Besides dried foods and condiments, you can also refill your laundry detergent, soap, bamboo straws, toothpaste and so on.

Waste Management Around the World

As a developing country, Vietnam has huge potential for growth and improvement when it comes to how we deal with our waste. We can learn a thing or two from other countries when it comes to finding the ‘pollution solution’. Here are some of the best waste management practices from around the world.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: cleantechloops.com

Deposit-Refund Scheme - A very simple and replicable way to reduce waste and encourage recycling. This scheme exists in Europe, the UK and Australia, where you can be compensated in cash for empty cans and bottles.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: portalgeek.co

Eco-vending machines - Colombia has an interesting way of encouraging locals to actively take part in reducing landfill. Ecobot is a vending machine that gives you movie tickets, vouchers and monetary compensation every time you deposit plastic bottles or bottle caps. It's very similar to the Deposit-Refund Scheme but cleverly utilises technology and accessibility to encourage participation. Ecobot vending machines are placed in an extensive number of universities, shopping malls and office buildings, successfully targeting many of Colombia’s population.

Waste Management in VietnamImage source: chinadaily.com.cn

Recycling - Recycling is still one of the most common ways to reduce solid waste and Japan is well regarded as the world leader in recycling. Kamikatsu, a village in regional Japan, enforces a zero waste policy and has its residents segregating trash into 41 types, in 13 categories. In 2016, they managed to recycle 81% of all their refuse.

Trash for Healthcare - Dr. Gamala Albinsaid, a healthcare entrepreneur in Indonesia, founded Garbage Clinical Insurance, which gives people access to medical services and medications by trading in their recyclables. The clinic takes in solid waste and sells them to recyclers. The money earned is then used to buy medical supplies and the like.

Banner Image source: waycarbon.com


Special Flowers for Tet 2019

By: Robert Fouldes

Every Tet holiday we also celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring. Everyone looks for the best flowers and ornamental plants to decorate their homes, to provide a striking visual effect and to create a feeling of freshness, helping us to look forward to a new year filled with luck, happiness and good fortune. Some of the popular flowers for this occasion are yellow apricot blossom, cherry blossom, kumquat, chrysanthemum, orchid, and narcissus. We find great joy in decorating our homes with flowers for Tet, raising our feelings as well as beautifying our homes, we also find ourselves expressing ourselves through personal tastes and communicating something of ourselves through the aesthetic of our style and decoration, in some cases hoping to mark ourselves as a connoisseur or arbiter of taste.

Let us consider what flower varieties are the hottest choices in this New Year / Tet 2019?

1. Chaenomeles japonica

This is a kind of flowering shrub that visually combines the cherry blossom of northern Japan and the southern yellow apricot blossom. Chaenomeles japonica is also known as Maule’s quince, belonging to the rose family with a short woody bush growing to about 100 – 200 cm. The shrub is slender and graceful, rich in colour, the flowers have broad petals, grow to be evenly sized, with cleverly arranged petals 3 - 5 cm diameter. The petals open by day and close at night and can be expected to be in flower for up to 2 months. The flower shows a diverse range of colour, bright red, crimson, red-orange, red rose. When in bloom, this flowering shrub is like a red fire, symbolizing wealth, peace, virtue and the common good. It is usually cultivated as a bonsai, and will also bear fruit. The shrub produces apple-like fruit, green until turning yellow when ripe, it appears quite like a pear, is fragrant, hard and usually sour, but it can be used to make preserves.

The price of Chaenomeles japonica varies from 1 to 10 million VND depending on the shape and size of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: giahuygarden.vn

2. Prunus mume Sieb

Prunus mume Sieb is a kind of white apricot blossom. It is a woody species, belonging to the rose family. The more rough and hardy the tree trunk is, the more beautiful it is considered. The flower buds are pink, but when blooming they gradually become white with very tight layers of petals. When the petals are shed, the remaining calyx (that protected the flower bud) gradually changes to red looking like a new flower, then this too falls away after a period of time, because of this, the flower has another name “twice apricot blossom” meaning that the flower blooms two times. Prunus mume Sieb symbolically represents the honourable man, for principles and values of virtue. The three most favoured silhouettes of the Prunus mume Sieb are the triangle, the straight and the slantwise. The triangle is also known as 3 elements: sky – earth – human with a large root and three branches forming the tree trunk. The straight upright appearance is straightforward, honest and strong. The slantwise is also known as the silhouette of a waterfall, leaning to one side, the shape often bending as would a tree growing on a steep mountain slope, which means reverence to the superior, the master.

Most of the Prunus mume Sieb cost from 2 to 15 million VND depending on the shape, silhouette and age.

special flowers for tetImage source: sohanews.com

3. Camelliathea amplexicaulis

Also known as Japanese Red Camellia (and has been called the Japan Rose), the flowers possess a conspicuous beauty and exude a beautiful, elegant and gentle scent (tea being a variety of Camellia). Camellia can be considered a gourmet plant with an added reward of flowers. Wherever you place the tea flower, the whole area will benefit and become refreshed and brightened as the flowers exude their wonderful aroma. Tea flowers come in many different colours such as reddish brown (deep tea), dark pink (pomegranate tea), pink rose (royal tea), white (white tea), yellow (gold flower tea) and sometimes hybrid combinations of white and pink stripes, red stripes, speckled (octagonal tea). The flowers are large and conspicuous usually with 5 to 9 petals. The Tea flowers will bloom for 5-15 days. The flowers symbolically represent perfection, loyalty, humility, dignity and grace.

Flowers cost from 500 thousand to 120 million, depending on the colour of the flower and the age of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: blogspot.com

4. Camellia sasanqua

The flowers are fresh and vibrant, but they do not overpower us with a dazzling feeling, but radiate our senses with a feeling of warmth. The petals are broad, curved, and gently embrace the yellow stamens, the fragrance is very light. These flowers include two varieties, one with single petals and one with dual petals. The colours are quite diverse with white, pink, dark pink, yellow, with the most popular being crimson. Blooms can last up to 20 days; the flowers are often very thick and cover trees with a high density. Camellia sasanqua represents harmony, joyful life and friendship of the family (in Chinese, the name of the flower is synonymous with the big house, the main house).

Flowers cost from 500 thousand VND to 100 million VND, depending on the shape, age and age of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: kenhhomestay.com

5. Hibernation Rhododendron

According to the ancients, the rhododendron flower is a symbol of gentleness, peace, prosperity and reunion. For some European countries, this flower is considered a symbol of glory and pride. Rhododendrons can also have another name: Azalea. Possessing a brilliant beauty with warm colours, azaleas are commonly dark red, dark pink, pink, purple, orange, white. Every time the flower blooms, it fills the space around it with vitality. An interesting aspect of the rhododendron is its hibernation, in cold dry periods the plant will reduce its water content, but the cells will remain alive, in Autumn / Fall, the tree will slowly fall into hibernation with the appearance of dry branches. When the water supply at the roots resumes, after 2 days the tree will wake and on the third day will bud and the flowers will begin to sprout. On the 7th day, the flowers will begin to bloom, and after 15 days the buds will fully bloom with brilliance.

The price of hibernation rhododendron is quite low, from 150-500 thousand VND / bunch of 30-50 branches.

special flowers for tetImage source: kenh14cdn.com

6. Classic Rose

Classic Roses are always loved for their beauty, romantic association, elegance and luxurious appearance. In addition, the number of blooms on each bush/tree is usually quite large. The rose bush also radiates a broad gentle fragrance that adds to its attraction. Classic Roses are a diverse and widely cultivated species. The flowers have many varieties such as Van Khoi Rose, Sapa Rose, Lipstick Rose, Bach Xep Rose or imported pink called Tree Rose, all with various colours: white, pink, dark pink, yellow, red, purple or veined stripes. Rose blooms usually last for 7-10 days, with some types of super long lasting blooms persisting for a whole month.

Classic roses are priced at VND 1.5 - 250 million depending on the origin and freshness.

special flowers for tetImage source: vuonhongvanloan.com

7. Peony

Peony was dubbed the king of flowers with a beautiful, noble and gorgeous bloom. Charming and delicate as roses, the petals are narrow, smooth, layered from the centre to the outside, giving a full shape, but the size is much larger (20-30cm) than a rose, making it stand out in every space. It also possesses a passionate and charming scent along with various striking colours such as pure white fawn, a noble and fresh pink, an attractive bright red, a charming high purple, a warm golden shine, a keen purple, and a charming pink colour to a unique reddish purple. The flower symbolises wealth, prosperity, beauty and wisdom and is a popular gift all around the world. The Peony will bloom for 7-10 weeks in suitable conditions.

Peony flowers cost between VND 500,000 and VND 8 million.

special flowers for tetImage source: tronghoa.vn

8. Winterberry

Winterberry is a shrub that grows wild in many countries such as the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States. The tree is tall, beautiful, with slender glossy green leaves, it produces small white flowers, then clusters of berries along its branches, appearing as yellow then ripening to a striking red; these berries are also a favourite food of birds. The tree is at its most beautiful in the late winter and early spring, a clear sign of the New Year. Europeans have long used the Winterberry along with other flowers to decorate and bring a feeling of warmth to the home in the middle of the cold winter season. In the climate of southern Vietnam, fruiting branches can be kept fresh for 7-10 days. If the climate is as cold as in the north, they can be kept for months.

Winterberry prices are quite expensive because of their origin, incurring import and storage fees. Each branch will cost around 200-400 thousand VND, a large collection for about 5 - 50 million VND.

special flowers for tetImage source: wikimedia.org

9. Forsythi

This flower blooms in early spring; the blooms are a bright yellow colour, like the apricot blossom in southern Vietnam. However, Forsythi blooms in clusters, with the flowers clinging along the length of its long slim branches. The flowers have 4 long petals stretching out to hug the pistil. The Forsythi grows as a wild-flower in many European and American countries. They also have the name "Easter Tree " or "Golden Rain", and are often grown as fences/hedges or in parks. The plants often shed their leaves before flowering. Each flower cluster appears to possess great intricate beauty, but close observation reveals quite a simple structure, but it remains visually dominating. The yellow colour always raises one's spirits, inspiring and bringing joy wherever they are found. The flowers can stay fresh for about 15-20 days.

The prices range from 300-500 VND / branch, depending on the height. A large plant is available for about VND 4 - 15 million.

special flowers for tetImage source: amazonaws.com

10. Hybrid Orchid

The Orchid is still the first choice for many flower lovers, but the type of orchid most sought after recently is the Hybrid Orchid, even though their prices are quite high, from several million to nearly ten billion VND. The Flowers have a very distinctive appearance with different colours, diverse shapes and width of petals. There are many types of orchids such as Rhynchostylis gigantea, Dendrobium anosmum, White Dendrobium Nestor… each species having a unique appearance, in fact, all are unique. For example the Paphiopedilum parishii orchid or “mutant beard”, originated from Germany, its shape is intriguing as it appears to be adorned by two long beards, it holds the price of 4.6 million VND / plant. Dendrobium anosmum orchid is marked by broad, thick, firm but not too long petals, costing from 5 million VND / plant. Rothschild: an almost extinct orchid species with only a small number remaining in the Kinabalu region of Malaysia - dubbed the "gold of Kinabalu", blooms only once every 15 years, the flowers costing upwards from 110 million VND. To get these orchids, collectors must order a long time in advance, and sometimes there will be no guarantee that they will receive them at a given time, such are their rarity, but for many flower lovers and collectors, the investment is worth both the time and money, for them to attain the object of their passionate desire.

special flowers for tetImage source: ytimg.com

Banner Image source: ynghiahoa.net


Nui Tuong Project

By: Zornitza Natcheva

Create sustainable change in a safe and supportive environment.

The importance of community.

Everyone is welcome to visit!

Global support towards an inspiring cause..

A remarkable story about a small rural Vietnamese community and its heartwarming transformation.

Nui Tuong is one of the poorest communities in the Dong Nai province where the main source of living is farming. Unlike some other provinces in Vietnam, Dong Nai has limited resources and English is not taught at primary school level. The Nui Tuong Project began in May 2016 when Hang Le returned back to her place of birth. 

Nui Tuong

Hang was born into a family of accomplished farmers. Having graduated with an English degree, life took Hang to the city where she spent years in Saigon working on a variety of projects and teaching Vietnamese to foreigners. Over time, Hang found her life to be unfulfilling and empty. She was always drawn to her roots and wanted to find a way to give back to her people. Upon returning to Nui Tuong, Hang immediately saw that little had changed for most families in her community since her childhood years. The severe poverty weighed on the community, they had low self-esteem and small hopes for a better future.

Finding Opportunity in the Darkest of Places...

With a passion to lead her community towards a brighter future, Hang realised the huge potential in sustainable agriculture and eco-tourism, as Nui Tuong is mere walking distance from Cat Tien National Park. Not long after she returned back to her village, the head of the ward asked her to teach the local children English in one of the small community houses available. She accepted enthusiastically and quickly saw how smart and inquisitive children of the community were. Hang recognized that in order to continue their development and create sustainable change, she needed to foster an environment where local children could learn, conduct experiments and share knowledge, in a safe and supportive environment.

Nui Tuong

With her own money, Hang founded Nui Tuong Project which is now a social enterprise. It presently sits on a 2000 square metre plot of land, nestled along Dong Nai River and has grown to have four large wooden bungalows for accommodation, additional dormitory for volunteers, a spacious and open dining and kitchen area and a library where children gather for their lessons and study activities. Nui Tuong project is unique as it blends agriculture, eco-tourism and education in a creative and innovative way and Hang strives to expand each area to its full potential. 

Cultivating Community...

At present, there is one permanent staff, Ms. Celine – a French national – who plans to remain at Nui Tuong for two years and is in charge of agricultural development. Her expertise and passion lie in permaculture, organic produce and sustainability and she has devoted her time to both managing the farm as well as creating workshops for the children. The long term goal is to have plants, fruits and vegetables all year round and to entrust the farm operations to the local children. Celine and the children learn about how to create small and large scale farms and about the local challenges in their production processes. The children are encouraged to develop solutions, experiment with new and more suitable crops for the climate, make organic fertilizer, teach farmers not to use pesticides and learn about current methods and machinery used in modern farming. 

Nui Tuong

Hang dedicates most of her time to engaging with the parents in the village. She organises music nights and other events to bring the community closer and build trust in her teaching methods. During community nights, Hang encourages the parents to have trust in their children and to allow them the independence to develop new skill sets and build their confidence. She also guides children on how to develop an open communication with their families about their hopes and dreams. 

Hang emphasizes the importance of having practical skills in addition to just good grades in school, which is what most parents usually focus on and what is promoted in traditional education systems. By promoting “learning by doing” Hang aims to strengthen the childrens’ abilities in performing independent research and having a solution driven, proactive mindset.

Nui Tuong Village Welcomes Everyone!

Of course, Nui Tuong Project would have never been possible without the help of international volunteers and visitors, which Hang has been actively engaging with in the last two years. In Nui Tuong village, eco-tourism is suitable to be experienced by anyone who loves nature, especially families that live and work in big cities. As a guest you pay a small fee for accommodation in one of the bungalows and you can use the bicycles from the farm to explore the nearby surroundings as well as tour Cat Tien National Park. One can enjoy the rice fields, the farm, eat and live like locals within the commune, learn about country life and experience its simplicity while feeling part of a big family. 

Nui Tuong

Additionally, the project organises Summer Camps where children from local schools and English centers in Ho Chi Minh City can join local kids on the farm and stay between 1 - 4 weeks. Most of the activities are determined by the volunteers and a typical weekly program includes: playing the guitar, practicing martial arts, and drawing. The program also covers subjects such as English, Science, History and Regional Geography. Children attending the camp are involved in weekly workshops on farming and nutrition, making jam and wine, planting flowers and fruits and even yoga! Children are taught how to run projects, manage finances and how to utilise social media for promotion and marketing. Hang loves to observe and discover the potential of each child through these activities and once she recognises certain talent within each child, she will change their role in order to fit their skills and personality, which in turn gives them the courage to develop in the right direction. Hang shares as her personal motivation for this project...

“To see a positive change in a human, to see them understand and trust themselves more and more every day, to have the opportunity to inspire them to be leaders.”

Global Support Towards an Inspiring Cause...

Schools which have joined in helping the project are Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP). Students and staff from FPT University in Vietnam visited and prepared dinner for over 100 community members. Even visitors from Hong Kong are making their way to Nui Tuong village, where 30 students from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology built a soccer field for the whole community to enjoy and taught the children experiments about aerodynamics and engineering. Students from National University of Singapore have also visited for two consecutive years to build additional classrooms and facilities and implement solar lights for the amenities on the farm. 

Nui Tuong

Hang feels happy now, even though her life and community responsibilities have become increasingly demanding and complex. She aims to continue to expand and accommodate more children from her community, nurturing and improving each of their native talents and strengths. Hang sees Nui Tuong Project becoming the perfect social enterprise model for anyone to pick up as a valuable case study and implement in their home towns and communities.

Within the next five years, most of the current children will leave to study abroad, the farm will grow to cover five hectares of land and there will be a small factory to produce wine. There will be additional housing for guests and volunteers, as well as housing for lecturers and scientists, with a fully equipped lab for them to conduct experiments. This is how Hang envisions the development of her project, as she believes her efforts will bring continuous change in the local community, for a better living environment and a stronger local economy. 

Now Hang is focused on the actual day to day work with the children, which she considers the most rewarding human experience. Her most substantial need is to bring more awareness to Nui Tuong Project, and to inspire organisations and companies to support with donations and volunteers. 

Nui Tuong

As Nui Tuong Project grows, it will soon need four additional interns and an education coordinator, as well as volunteers in the fields of Technology, English and Farming.

How can you and your organisation support Nui Tuong Project?
Contact Hang Le directly: +84 978 888 185
nuituongedu@gmail.com

Image source: Nui Tuong


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

Survey about foreigners returning to Vietnam. Are they jumping to conclusion using bad data?

By: Mark Gwyther

The headline seemed to say it all; “Only 6 percent of foreign visitors return to Vietnam”.

The impressively named Environmentally and Socially Responsible Tourism Capacity Development Program announced their survey results in early November which was quickly followed by numerous newspaper/website critiques about the reason why the figure was so low. Teeth gnashing and the blame game commenced immediately, with comparisons to Thailand and Singapore’s official return rate being used as a benchmark. In all the coverage though, no one mentioned just how flawed the survey was and how it would be impossible to compare it with official numbers in other countries.

asian-tourists-travel-by-cyclo-in-vietnam

Of course Vietnam does have problems with its tourism industry. I don’t mean to sound like Vietnam is a traveler’s paradise. The reasons reported such as lack of basic facilities and transportation continue to be major hindrances for the industry. But to cite a market research study that uses samples from the top tourist destinations of Sapa, Halong Bay, Hue, and Hoi An when looking for repeat visitors is like going to the Ho Chi Minh City McDonalds and Starbucks outlets and asking international patrons if they love Vietnam street food. The sample of tourists questioned was heavily biased towards first time visitors because the survey was taken where people go on their first trip to Vietnam. If the survey was conducted on the beaches of Mui Ne, District 1 in Saigon, and the border town of Mong Cai, then the survey would have been skewed very much in the opposite direction. The purchase considerations of a traveler returning to a country are often very different than the reasons a person visits a country for the first time. In Vietnam this would very much be reflected in where that traveler visits.

MuiNe-SandDunes-wonderful-destination-in-vietnam

First time visitors (typically tourists) are looking to explore a new culture, geography, and scenery that they cannot find at home. Once seen, it is stored in both memory and photographs. Then it is on to the next adventure. The survey says visitors only stay in Sapa for two days. How long do they expect people to look at tiered fields and indigenous people? How many times do you need to see it? Adding an amusement park or other typical tourist facilities designed to keep visitors longer would only take away from the reason they go there to begin with. Sometimes it is alright to be a “once in a lifetime” destination. If you try to “fix” it you may break it instead.

couples-enjoy-honeymoon-when-travelling-in-vietnam

On the other hand, tourism authorities must understand what makes people come back.

The most obvious reason is cross-border trading. Vietnam shares a border with Cambodia, Laos, and China. In fact, one out every five international arrivals to Vietnam is made by road. Some are tourists, but many are just doing business. The same applies to business travelers-who often return to a country multiple times. About 17% of all international arrivals to Vietnam are made for business purposes. Very few of them are traveling to Sapa, Hoi An, Hue, or Halong Bay. Comparing a survey taken in these spots to official numbers from other countries is ridicules.

family-on-the-trip-in-vietnam

But let’s forget about those types of travelers and just focus on tourists. What purchase considerations are fulfilled when a tourist visit a country multiple time. In general, there are two reasons:

    1. A need that cannot be fulfilled in the person’s home country.The obvious example of this is hot weather in the winter time. Casino gambling and other vices are also reasons people leave their country for a trip abroad. Activities and events can be included in this category as well.
    2. More purchasing power in the visiting country than at home. This includes upgrading or extending a vacation because it is less expensive in a foreign country. Cheaper shopping and golf excursions are also examples.

Of course when considering an international vacation, travelers will weigh the cost versus vacationing domestically. Transportation expenses and travel time are usually important when deciding.

Vietnam-Bike-Tours-over-greeen-field-in-vietnam

So getting back to the survey; Sapa, Halong Bay, Hoi An, and Hue are great destinations for visitors to experience on their first trip to Vietnam. Seeing those locations are once in life-time trips and fulfill the person’s purchase consideration of adventure and new experiences. Going a second time no longer does that and it never will. People coming back for a second time are going to the beaches of south central Vietnam, playing golf in Danang, and shopping in Hanoi and Saigon. Making conclusions from a survey which does not understand the reasons why people come back to Vietnam is not productive.


How To Get Married in Vietnam

By: Lucie Sherwood

With over 80,000 foreigners living and working in Vietnam, as well as increasing numbers of Vietnamese working and studying abroad, more mixed-nationality and expat couples are opting to tie the knot on Vietnamese soil.

In addition to the local wedding market, the growing trend for ‘destination weddings’ means that plenty of international couples who are not resident in Vietnam are also choosing to celebrate their special day in the country. Vietnam offers beautiful landscapes at a relatively affordable price—whether it’s a beach, mountain, city or rural backdrop, considering the escalating costs of weddings globally.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: thoughtcatalog.files.wordpress.com

The Legalities of getting married in Vietnam

If a foreigner is getting married to a Vietnamese national, there is quite a bit of documentation to prepare for legal marriage registration. Unfortunately, this paperwork is not as straightforward as it could be, with all documents needing to be translated into Vietnamese and certified, before being submitted to the Department of Justice in Vietnam. There may be slight variations depending on the nationality of the foreigner so it’s best to check the exact requirements with the Vietnamese embassy or consulate in your home country.

For two non-Vietnamese people considering getting married in Vietnam, this is only possible if at least one of the couple has either a permanent or temporary residency permit in Vietnam. If neither person has a residency permit, then they will need to marry in their home country or in a nearby country with more relaxed rules such as Malaysia or Thailand. If you are living in Vietnam, you can always have a blessing, ceremony or celebration locally after you’ve married elsewhere.

Once the documentation is arranged, it is then possible to have both a religious or civil wedding ceremony in Vietnam. A civil ceremony takes place at the local Department of Justice, whereas a religious marriage can take place in a church, temple or other venues such as a hotel.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: trangtritieccuoinhatrang.com

Mixed-Nationality Weddings in Vietnam; a Blend Of Customs

According to The Planners, a premium wedding planners and consultancy in Vietnam, mixed-nationality couples tend to plan smaller celebrations than their local counterparts. An average Vietnamese wedding hosts more than 400 guests, whereas mixed couples often prefer around 100 guests.

This difference in customs relates back to the cultural values attached to weddings: in Vietnam weddings are seen are large extended-family affairs, with the parents’ guests often dominating half the list, in contrast to the typically Western preference for a more private, intimate celebration with closest friends and family. To address this difference, many mixed-nationality couples choose to have two separate weddings, one adhering to Vietnamese customs and one more traditionally ‘Western’ in style.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: theplannersvn.com

The Planners also disclose that mixed-nationality or international couples are more inclined towards the ‘destination wedding’ trend, with al fresco beach ceremonies in Danang, Nha Trang and Mui Ne proving popular. Other Western wedding customs have now become the norm, such as exchanging vows—which was not traditionally part of a Vietnamese wedding before.

Despite some differences in customs, most mixed-nationality couples do want to maintain certain important Vietnamese wedding traditions in dedication and respect to their spouse’s Vietnamese family and culture—particularly the ceremonies involving collecting the bride from her family home.

Wedding Dresses and Suits Tailor-made in Saigon

Ho Chi Minh City provides good options for couples looking for the perfect wedding outfits, particularly for those wanting something tailored from scratch. If you’re looking for something unique, Danish designer Elisabeth Rolskov offers bespoke couture bridal gowns. ER Couture does not copy existing designs, but Elisabeth will work with her clients to conceive their dream wedding dress, adding little details that reflect the personality of the bride.

If you are in need of some inspiration or are looking for existing designs, Sue Ann Bridal in District 1 sells the collections of high-end international designers such as Ronald Joyce, Mori Lee and MGNY, as well as bridesmaids’ dresses and bridal accessories. You can also browse the overwhelming number of bridal shops lining Ho Van Hue in Phu Nhuan district, where hundreds of extravagant gowns are available to buy or rent. For a mid-range option, Cee’s Bridal is a local contemporary bridal-wear brand selling and leasing its beautiful collection as well as offering custom dress designs.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: sueannbridal.vn

For grooms, Dung Tailors in District 1 can create a wide range of tailored suits and offer plenty of choice in terms of fabrics, linings and cut. The best way to scope this tailor is to visit the shop for a consultation and to review fabrics. The tailor will need to take measurements and perform several fittings, but a suit can be made from scratch in around four weeks.

Bridal hair and makeup is also very affordable in Ho Chi Minh City: Trang Phan’s team of hair stylists and makeup artists will work with clients to get the perfect look on their wedding day.

Wedding Planners in Saigon

For couples opting to hold their celebration at a hotel or restaurant, normally there will be an in-house events team to take care of the planning, concept and execution of your wedding day. If you are looking for some additional support or plan to hold your wedding in a less conventional venue, you may want to hire a wedding planner. There are several good Saigon-based events and production companies, including The Planners and Bliss.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: theplannersvn.com

Finding the Right Venue

There are countless beautiful spots across Vietnam to hold a wedding, from luxury beach resorts to mountain retreats. If you’re getting married in Ho Chi Minh City the options may be a little more limited, but there are a number of interesting wedding venues in Saigon. The first place to start may be some of Saigon’s major hotels with large event spaces.

Larger weddings are regularly held at Lotte Legend, InterContinental, The ReverieLe Meridien, PARKROYAL, Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers or Pullman Saigon Center, while for a more private affair we would suggest The Myst Dong Khoi or New World Saigon Hotel.

If you are looking for a convention center rather than a hotel, try The Adora Dong Phuong Group. They have reception rooms all over Saigon, which can accommodate even the largest of celebrations.

Those who seek a peaceful, rural setting close to the city centre should check Binh An Village, which hosts events in its 12,000sqm of garden space. An Lam Retreats Saigon River is another al fresco riverside setting with plenty of space and a professional team to support the celebrations.

Another unique wedding venue can be found at Villa Song, a French colonial-style villa and luxury boutique hotel in Thao Dien. There are several restaurants that would also work well for a wedding, such as The Deck in District 2, a large, stylish space overlooking the river.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: villasong.com

Capture the Moment: Wedding Photographers in Saigon

If you’re looking to embrace Vietnamese customs, then you will want to do the ubiquitous pre-wedding photo shoot. Many couples choose to have their photos taken before the actual wedding day, posing against a scenic backdrop and dressed in their full wedding gear. There is plenty of choice when it comes to wedding photographers in Saigon: Khoi Le Studios is a boutique company of four wedding photographers, based in Ho Chi Minh City and available to shoot weddings across Vietnam. Mervin Lee is an independent photographer from Singapore with years of experience shooting both Asian and western weddings and also one of City Pass Guide’s favourite contributors.

Vietnamese WeddingImage source: surrephoto.com

Banner Image source: kenhcuoi.com.vn

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