Ghosts (And Other Weird Tales) From Vietnam

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Everyone loves a good spooky story every now and then to satiate our universal and unexplainable thirst to scare ourselves silly. In every country in the world, there’s bound to be a creepy and unexplainable story or two, and Vietnam is no different. This is a country with a strong traditional culture, a strong belief in feng shui and a very deep history, some of which was traumatic; it’s no surprise that the stories here range from the absurd to the downright spooky.

ghost vietnamImage source: pixabay.com

Here you’ll find a collection of stories featuring urban legends along with an extraterrestrial story that took place during the war, told from a foreigner’s perspective. Nobody can really ascertain if any of these things actually happened, so take them with a grain of salt. Try not to read these at night, but then again, you clicked on this after seeing the title, so nevermind, go ahead and enjoy.

Let’s start with a tale almost every Saigonese may have heard of...

The Daughter of Hui Bi Hua

Location: Saigon

One of the best-known stories in Saigon is the ghost who roams the corridors of what is now the Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Art at Pho Duc Chinh Street in District 1.

Back in 1934, when the trio of buildings was first completed, it housed the family and business of Hui Bi Hua, a real estate magnate who was reputed to own about 20,000 properties in the city. Basically, he was a very rich guy.

The main building used to be the family mansion and it’s apparently haunted by the ghost of Hui’s daughter.

ghost vietnamImage source: cinet.vn

The story goes that she contracted leprosy during a city-wide epidemic and was confined to a bedroom on the upper floor. Back then, leprosy was viewed as more of a curse than what it really is: a disease. So maybe it was due to the family trying to protect their status and reputation that they made an announcement that the girl suddenly died from a “mysterious illness”; they quickly arranged a public funeral to put the matter to rest.

However, in truth, Hua’s daughter was locked away in her room, with her meals slid through a slot at the bottom of the door. This went on for years until it eventually drove her insane and she took her own life. Multiple versions of this story have claimed that she hanged herself, while an alternate story claims it was self-immolation (she burned herself alive).

Since then, many people have reported seeing the ghostly figure of a woman roaming the halls of the building and, in more extreme cases, the sound of someone crying in the dead of the night.

The Black Sphere

Location: Cao Bang

This story was set in August 12-13, 1968 and was an account compiled by Solomon Naffert, titled “Black sphere in the jungles of Vietnam” NLO May 17, 2004.

During the war, a group of Soviet engineers working on a hydroelectric power plant suddenly heard a rumble of engines overhead. Thinking it was American B-52 bombers, they all ran out of their tents but were surprised to see a black, angular, diamond-shaped object emitting a greenish-blue light instead.

Moments later, a fiery comet-shaped object emerged out of nowhere and struck the floating object, resulting in a bright flash that temporarily blinded everyone in the group and sent out a powerful shockwave. The force of the shockwave knocked the Russian hydrologists down and tore their tents apart, sweeping their equipment away. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, although there were concerns that the explosion might’ve been radioactive.

Over the next few hours, none of their communication systems worked and instead, only produced severe static. It was only in the next morning when it was finally possible to establish contact with their central base, where the men reported the incident. The scientists in their team promised a full report of the event and visited the nearest village where, strangely, there was no sign of destruction or evidence of an explosion; the inhabitants only reported hearing a very “loud thunderstorm” the night before.

It took two days before the scientists finally found, about one kilometre away from their base camp, a black half-sphere shaped object about three metres in diameter. It was completely black with a non-reflective surface and didn’t cast a shadow as the rays of the sun seemed to go around the object instead, falling on the grass around it. By touch, the object seemed cool and slippery, like it was doused in soapy water; one of the men tried to scratch the surface of the sphere with a sharp knife, but it had no effect.

The central base gave the men instructions to set up a protective perimeter around the object and guard it until a “special group” arrived at the site. They were also strictly warned not to approach within 20 metres of the sphere. So, the men built the perimeter and camped right outside it, still wondering what this object was and where it came from.

One of the specialists, Boris Ivanov, wrote in his diary that the men rested while staring with unease at the object in the light of their bonfire. They had their carbines ready, just in case, as they waited for the special forces to show up.

ghost vietnamImage source: wordpress.com

Soon, one of the men, Viacheslav G., suddenly rose and walked towards the woods behind the object without much fuss. The rest barely noticed him and thought that he had probably just gone to answer nature’s call. After five minutes, he still hadn’t returned and the men were starting to worry. They called out his name, but there was no sign of him. They started to search for him with their flashlights but he was nowhere to be found. Concerned and afraid, the rest of the men retreated to their bonfire (although it’s not clear why they didn’t radio for help).

About an hour later, another man, Peter K., silently rose and walked in exactly the same direction that Viacheslav had taken. He seemed to move uncomfortably, in almost a drunken stagger, and a sense of anxiety started to pour over the men. However, they just could not seem to intervene. He too, never returned.

One by one, each man started walking away towards the sphere and never returned.

Now it was just Sergey T. and Boris left. Both of them huddled together in fear, and suddenly Sergey’s face started to appear distorted; he rose and wandered away into the dark and disappeared, leaving Boris alone.

Moments later, Boris found himself able to move again and, in his terrified state, grabbed his carbine and shot himself in the leg to purposefully disable himself. Now, he reasoned, he wouldn’t be able to walk to an uncertain fate. He passed out from the pain.

That action may have just saved his life because he woke up the next morning having lost a lot of blood but still alive. The specialists had already arrived and found him semi-conscious beside the already-extinguished bonfire and evacuated him. The sphere and his comrades were no longer there and Boris could only convince himself that the mysterious object was an extraterrestrial probe that had taken his friends away to an unknown place.

From an extraterrestrial incident in the 1960s to something closer to home...

President’s Building

Location: Saigon

Some of you may have seen this forlorn but creepy-looking abandoned building located at 727 Tran Hung Dao in District 5.

Commissioned by millionnaire Nguyen Tan Doi, it was once known as President Building and was built in 1960, divided into six blocks with 13 floors each. At one point during the American War it housed hundreds of U.S. soldiers.

ghost vietnamImage source: baomoi.com

The 530-room building was a pretty big deal during its time but, as most people know, 13 isn’t a very lucky number. This was brought up by the building’s French architect, who warned Doi about the inauspicious number. Doi didn’t listen, and it was only until the 13th floor was completed when deadly accidents started to happen. One such case was of a worker who fell down the supporting columns to his death.

This started to frighten the workers, so to boost their morale, Doi enlisted the help of a shaman to figure out what was going on and in one of the most extreme examples of getting something done “one way or another”, they secretly bought the corpses of four virgins from a hospital to be buried at the four corners of the building, for good fengshui and to protect it from any negative energy.

This seemed to work – the building was finished with no further incidents and Doi was delighted when the US Army chose to rent the entire building to house its soldiers.

But as time passed, the building’s glory started to fade and after reunification, local families started to move into the building. And that’s when strange things began to happen.

Residents have reported experiencing unexplainable incidents such as odd whispers, sudden screams and even the sound of a military parade. One of the most common sightings was of an American soldier walking hand-in-hand with a young Vietnamese woman down the halls.

There’s also a story from the coffee vendor at the entrance of the apartment who claimed to sometimes find a piece of joss paper (something locals usually burn as offerings to the dead) amongst her earnings, even when she carefully inspected the money given to her by her customers.

Initially, she figured it may have been a prank by a really determined kid but she started to notice that this only happened on full moon days, when a particular young woman would buy orange juice from her. The vendor decided to try and find out who this young woman was, only to learn that years earlier the young woman committed suicide after being sexually assaulted...on a full moon night.

Thuan Kieu Plaza

Location: Saigon

Still on the topic of cursed buildings, one of the most notable ones, which also happens to be in District 5 (are you seeing a pattern here?), is Thuan Kieu Plaza.

Located in the busiest part of Chinatown, It is made up of three towers, 33-storeys high, atop a three-storey mall. Completed in 1998, Thuan Kieu Plaza was one of the first apartment buildings in the city.

However, multiple sources claim that the building was riddled with bad feng shui right from the beginning. Some unverified accounts claim that a mysterious fire during the construction led to a few deaths and the remaining workers then put an evil curse on the place.

A slightly less superstitious version claims that the building’s management were cutting corners, resulting in safety breaches which led to accidents.

However, the most believable reason was that many residents who moved in disliked the interior architecture of the building, with its small rooms, low ceilings and bad ventilation. Many complained about constantly feeling uncomfortable and falling sick often. In 2004 and 2009, fires ravaged the third floor where many restaurants were located. Due to the declining number of customers and the global financial crisis of 1997, many shop owners suffered huge losses and decided to close down. And with the lack of amenities available, one by one, the residents left.

ghost vietnamImage source: sangiaodich.vn

Like with all doomed buildings, there was a fair share of stories from residents: one former tenant described a murder-suicide of a couple at one of the restaurants in the building and, like the result of all unplanned deaths, the couple still lurk around the complex. Another story reports a Chinese lady who is often sighted floating around in a cheongsam, and many residents have also claimed that they dreamt of fires and ghosts disturbing them every night, eventually driving them to leave.

The common explanation behind the building’s fate in most accounts however, is bad feng shui. It is said the building was meant to look like a grand sailing ship with three tall steampipes. However, the government unwittingly “wrecked” this ship by building Pham Ngoc Thanh Street, which ran across the building, and, according to feng shui practitioners, bisected this ship, making it sink.

And finally, something from up north.

To Lich River

Location: Hanoi

The To Lich river is widely known by Hanoians as a narrow and not a very clean river, but it also has its tales that border on the supernatural. The following incident, popular among the locals, can only be found in Vietnamese, so here’s our attempt at translating it to English.

On September 27, 2001, a construction team was dredging the river near An Phu Village when they discovered some strange, ancient relics. They saw seven wooden panels buried under the river, positioned so it resembled a polygon from above. There were bones nailed to them and between the wooden piles they also discovered gold-plated objects, some pottery, elephant bones, knives and copper, all of which the crew pulled up.

Since then, plenty of strange things happened to the members of the construction crew.

First, the construction work was affected when one of the excavators mysteriously plunged into the river. After this, some of the workers present suddenly fell to the ground and remained unconscious for hours.

A week after the incident, a series of catastrophic events started to happen to the core 12 members of the construction team and their families which ranged from accidents to illnesses and even to death. This scared off the remaining 43 workers, who decided to walk away from the project altogether.

ghost vietnamImage source: mapio.net

On October 9, the construction company invited a four-member panel of spiritual experts to the site to get to the bottom of this, and it was revealed that the items they pulled out were part of a long-buried ancient structure guarding the area. They then invited a Venerable monk to perform a ceremony to try and solve the issue. The monk died over a month later from an illness.

Scientists got involved in the case too, making preliminary assessments. Unfortunately, they were unable to come to any conclusions on what exactly was causing all these incidents and how they could be solved.

According to a Professor Tran Quoc Vuong, the structures were traced back to the Ly Dynasty somewhere between the 11th and 14th centuries. He reasoned that the random items that were found, such as human skeletons and artifacts, were most likely offerings which had now been disturbed, resulting in a very powerful curse. Another theory traces the structures back to Cao Bien, a Chinese General with supernatural abilities during China’s porcelain epoch in the 8th century, 200 years before the Ly Dynasty.

The villagers and many other residents managed to restore the relics back to their original positions and pray for forgiveness to end the curse and it is unclear what has happened since then.

The river is still around, though.

Banner image source: pixabay.com

 


Maximise your travel business potential in Vietnam

By: City Pass Guide

Creative tourism platforms. Online and in Print

INNOVO JSC

THE COMPANY BEHIND THE BRAND CITY PASS GUIDE
 
Patrick Gaveau, CEO of Innovo JSC, reveals the core values and mission of Innovo JSC, the company behind the leading travel information provider in Vietnam-City Pass Guide.  For over 7 years,we have been providing travellers and residents useful information with our guidebooks, maps and apps, we have realised the lack of efficient and professional website development and online marketing services offered. This coupled with the ever increasing demand from businesses in the hospitality industry in Vietnam made us realise we could fill this void.

With our refined focus on serving the needs of businesses in adition to travellers and residents, we offer useful and practical solutions to maximise business potential. 
 
Discover How Innovo Can Help Your Business
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TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR TRIPADVISOR PROFILE 

BLOG ARTICLE



 Tripadvisor has become the leading resource for travelers when it comes to decide where to stay, lunch or hang out when visiting a new destination. However, most businesses in the hospitality industry in Vietnam still haven´t realised TripAdvisor´s full potential and the inherent competitive advantages they can get with a proper Tripadvisor business profile management.
Discover why you should take control of Tripadvisor for your business in 
this complete guide!
Need more information? Want to have a chat about how to maximise your business´s TripAdvisor efforts? Contact Us and let´s talk!

Did you know City Pass runs Vietnam's leading Travel Blog? Besides English, you can select from:


 Vietnamese                       
 French                            
 
Russian 
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NEW WORLD´S 20TH ANNIVERSARY
ART EXHIBITION

On October 8, The New World Saigon Hotel is celebrating their 20th anniversary. To celebrate this milestone, City Pass has been involved as a creative and active collaborator and consultant, displaying various works from artist around Vietnam (including Rehahn, DDK, Richie Fawcett, etc.) reflecting the many facets and colours of this wonderful country. Read the Full Article
Venue: New World Saigon Hotel. 76 Le Lai, District 1, HCMC, Vietnam.
Dates: until mid October
Photo Gallery: a selection of the
pieces of art displayed
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Online Marketing

ONLINE MARKETING RESOURCES
BEST ARTICLES IN THE INDUSTRY

During our long journey in the travel industry, we have read countless articles on Online Marketing. We´d like to share with you the ones that caught our attention, shaped our way of thinking and inspired us. We hope these will fuel the fire of success and help you achieve your goals.
This month we´ll feature materials about
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) since we consider it one of the most important (and technical) factors on which you may want to invest time and effort mastering and improving on your website.

Here is a selection of FREE Guides for beginners to learn what SEO truly means and implies for your business, as well as to start taking action over it:

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Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide --- by Google
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The Beginners Guide to SEO --- by MOZ
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Introduction to Search Engine Optimization - by Hubspot
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Guide to SEO --- by Search Engine´s Land

If you have any enquiry about our Services / Products please visit our
Website or 
 
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Online Marketing

HOW WELL IS YOUR WEBSITE PERFORMING??
FREE EVALUATION

Contact us today to evaluate your website SEO-performance and receive a detailed report within 10 days, highlighting your strengths and weaknesses. This is an exclusive offer with no ties attached.
 
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Creative tourism platforms. Online and in Print
42/37 Hoang Dieu, D4, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
www.innovo.vn | www.citypassguide.com 

Tourism In Vietnam: A Step In The Right Direction

By: Mark Gwyther

First, let me get the negative out of the way. This is going to be a brutal winter for Vietnam’s tourism businesses. The drop in value of the ruble is going to completely stop the flow of the fastest growing market of inbound arrivals. Investors and businesses were adding new supply to the market in anticipation of the Russian market nearly doubling this year and instead everyone will be fighting for the few who actually came. At the same time, the Chinese market has not rebounded from the anti-Chinese riots and arrivals are still less than last year. If you are thinking of investing in Vietnam tourism, this spring will represent the perfect buy-low opportunity.

So with that out of the way, let’s try to focus on some positive news, especially since this is the holiday season. It is not often I read about a Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism proposal and feel they have any understanding of what they are doing; but this month they surprised me. The governmental department has proposed to give inbound travelers from India visa exemptions. Now granted, Vietnam should eliminate or at least ease the visa process for all travelers. Also, this is just a proposal and has not come into law. But the proposal is a rare example of understanding the future rather than a reaction to the past. It’s also a positive step in diversifying away from a dependence on Chinese tourists and a creating new demand for Vietnam’s two major cities which have been losing ground to coastal tourism.


Why India is Important?

At first glance, India’s outbound market is not all that significant;it’s only 17% the size of China’s. In fact, VNAT does not even list the country in its statistics so it is difficult to say how many Indian’s come to Vietnam each year.

india passport

Two interesting factors combine to make India a market to target. Obviously the first is the size of India’s population (2nd largest in the World). But India has been the second largest population for some time. Even though the country comprises 17.5% of the world’s population,Indiansstill only took 1.5% of the world’s annual international trips last year.

That is about to change. Like China before, India’s per capita GDP has made impressive gains over the last decade, but it is expected to grow even faster in the next decade as the country continues to urbanize. This is important because we know two things

  • 1. It is not the size of the population that matters when it comes to outbound tourism, it is the size of the middle class population that has disposable income.
  • 2. People begin traveling internationally at an income of about $1,500 USD per month.

So right now India’s population is not traveling in large numbers because a significant majority of them don’t have the disposable income (the GDP per capita is about $1,500 a year). As the average income increases over the next decade, a meaningful amount of people will have disposable income for the first time and they will begin traveling. Like China, the growth rate will be exponential rather than linear as the median income approaches the magic number.


What Does that Mean for Vietnam?

Another thing we know about tourism is that the first international trip is usually very close to home and easy for a first time international traveler to navigate. Vietnam is in a unique geographical position to take advantage of both the Chinese and India market. Last year TLR Development Advisory created an Asian population center of gravity map that took into account the major population centers in Asia and graphed a center line based on the weighted populations of various cities.

As you can see, the line went straight through Vietnam. In other words, Vietnam is at the center of India and China’s immense populations, denoting it should draw substantial number of tourists from each country.

asia population

Does Vietnam have what Indian tourists want? That is a more difficult question. There are currently direct flights from India to Vietnam by Jet Airways and Vietnam Airlines since November 2014 along with other foreign airlines as Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia, so it´s expected that more airlines will include this route soon. But making steps to reduce barriers to first time international travelers is incredibly important so the visa waiver is a critical step. It is also avital step in reducing dependency on Chinese tourists, which as we’ve seen, will be used as an economic weapon by Chinese leaders.


Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2017-2018 in Ho Chi Minh City: Top Places to Party

By: City Pass Guide

Related articles: Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2017-2018 in Hanoi: Top Places to Party

December 2

British International School’s Christmas BISzaar

246 Nguyen Van Huong, D2 | 028 3744 4551

The British International School offers a way to get a head start on your Christmas shopping. Vendors will have an assortment of wares and treats, all ready for gifting. The students will also be there to sing Christmas carols.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/BISHCMC

December 4

Cafe de l’Opera

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Caravelle’s café will host a daily afternoon tea complete with pastries and other sweets from noon until 5:30 p.m., finished with a glass of champagne. Enjoy with a live local choir for extra holiday cheer. Entry is priced at VND590,000++ per person. The café will also sell made-to-order Christmas goodies like gingerbread and honey-glazed ham for your own holiday feast.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

December 7

Restaurant Le Bordeaux’s Christmas Epicurean Dinner

72 D2 St., Binh Thanh | 028 3899 9831

A dinner with pan-fried duck foie gras and lobster medallions will be served by top chefs at this Binh Thanh treasure.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/saigon.escoffier

December 12

La Fenetre Soleil’s Eat the ‘80s Christmas Special

44 Ly Tu Trong, D1 | 028 3824 5994

An ‘80s dress code will be enforced strictly. Get ready to dance to some old-school Christmas jingles. The best-dressed attendee will get a special prize.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/binauraldropout

December 9

Inpages’s Xmas Art Market

2 Le Van Mien, D2 | 097 115 6099

The bookstore Inpages will host an art sale in the run-up to Christmas this season. The event’s theme is notebooks, and they’re collecting the best notebook and stationery craftsmen and craftswomen (Craftspeople? Craftspersons?) together under the same roof. For the already-crafty, you can make one yourself in a workshop they’ll host during the day.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/inpages.org

The Hive Saigon’s Meet The Crafters

94 Xuan Thuy, D2 | 097 115 6099

Local crafters in Saigon will be offering their goods from the morning through the afternoon. Come ready to buy, shop and get into the holiday spirit.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/thehivesaigon

Rose Cao Floral Art Studio’s Christmas Flower Exhibition

67 Mai Chi Tho, D2 | 0167 446 6943

Stop by in the morning to see this small flower exhibition. The show will feature works from the studio’s namesake artist, as well as arrangements from 15 international students.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/rosecaofloraldesign

The Snap Cafe’s Christmas Kids Festival

32 Tran Ngoc Dien St., D2 | 028 3519 4532

Why buy a toy when you could build one yourself? The Snap Cafe is offering a group of workshops all day long starting at 10 a.m. for children aged 5 to 12. Register in advance for VND300,000 or buy entry at the door for VND50,000 more.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/wizkidsclubdotcom

December 16

The Oxygen’s Christmas Gingle & MIngle

628C Xa Lộ Hà Nội, D2 | 097 115 6099

Get into the holiday spirit with craft beer, food and music before everyone books it out of town for the real thing the week after. Cuba la Casa del Mojito will be among the many restaurants feeding hungry attendees. The entertainment lineup includes the Game On Crew dance group. Rumour has it there will also be a pole dance performance, but you didn’t hear that from us.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/theoxygenmall

Saigon Outcast’s Outcast Christmas Market

188/1 Nguyen Van Huong St. Thao Dien, D2 | 028 3925 4666

Saigon Outcast’s regular farmers’ market is converting itself into a holiday market for those of you who haven’t found a gift for your loved one yet. A VND20,000 entry fee gets you a bottle of water or, if you’re hydrated enough, a Red Saigon. Come to find a wealth of homemade gifts, ornaments and, of course, the fresh produce you’ve come to expect from Saigon Outcast on weekends.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/outcastfarmersmarket

December 23

Tapas Kitchen

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

The Tapas Kitchen’s chefs are readying their menu of oysters, wagyu beef and cognac-infused lobster cocktails for the holiday season. Served in bites, the dinner is a perfect place to catch up over a few drinks and something delicious to eat.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Nineteen Buffet Restaurant

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Start Christmas early with a holiday buffet replete with ham and roast turkey from a carving station. Finish off with one of the 20 desserts that Nineteen Buffet Restaurant has prepared for the evening. Dinner starts at VND1,390,000++ per person. Nineteen will also serve dinner and lunch on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We hear Santa himself may make an appearance.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Christmas Eve

La Villa French Restaurant

14 Ngo Quang Huy, D2 | 028 3898 2082

La Villa is pulling out all the stops for its elegant Christmas dinner. A nine-course tasting menu, featuring culinary gems like pan-fried foie gras, Hokkaido sea scallops and a special fourme d’ambert espuma will definitely be a dinner you won’t forget. Be sure to book this well in advance.

eventImage source: La Villa French Restaurant

Saigon Flea Market’s Christmas Flash Sale

1st Floor 107 Ton Dat Tien, D7 | 090 438 2734

Christmas Eve and you still have no present? Hurry on over to the Saigon Flea Market. Starting at 10 a.m., they’ll be selling a bevvy of handmade wares from 100 shops. Find your cute thing there, dear reader.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/saigon.flea.market

EON51 Restaurant’s Christmas Dinner

Level 50, 51 and 52, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D1 | 028 6291 8751

One of the city’s highest restaurants and bar is celebrating with a candy Christmas. You’ll get to enjoy top-notch mixologists creating special holiday tinctures, surrounded by the warm sounds of Christmas music. Plus, there will be a holiday buffet at Cafe EON: VND1.15 million++ per adult, VND695,000++ per child, which will feature a holiday-themed lucky draw. At EON51 Sky Dining, their Christmas Flair set menu (VND1.65 million++ per person) will feature a live musical performance from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. DJ Lan Kido and DJ Tuan Anh will perform late into the night right at the only Helicopter Bar in Vietnam.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: Eon51

Christmas Eve Dinner Buffet At Latest Recipe

Mezzanine Floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

From 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., guests will enjoy a specially cooked feast at Latest Recipe. A holiday set menu, VND1.45 million++ for a free flow of soft drinks, juice, tea and coffee and VND1.95 million++ for a free flow of rose, wine, beer, soft drinks, juice tea and coffee, will delight the senses and tantalise the taste buds. Children under 3 get in free; children from 3 to 12 years of age have a 50 percent discount.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: Le Meridien Saigon

Christmas Eve Set Dinner at Bamboo Chic

9th Floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

On Christmas Eve this Japanese restaurant will have a bevy of great deals, including a VND1 million++ set meal that includes two free drinks; a VND1.3 million++ set meal that includes a welcome glass of rose along with a free flow of wine, beer, soft drinks, juice, tea and coffee; and a VND1.7 million++ option that includes a welcome Champagne drink, and a free flow of the other beverage options.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: Le Meridien Saigon

Cuba la Casa del Mojito

91 Pasteur St., D1 | 028 3822 7099

The Cuban lounge will be preparing a Christmas feast and following it with a dance party featuring a DJ and complimentary shots. As they say in Spanish, “nos vemos!”

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/SalsatekaUKinVietnam

Reflections Restaurant

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Executive Chef Darren Watson will be cooking a four-course meal starting with sous vide lobster and ending with fresh mince pies. Choose from a roast turkey or roast fillet of Turbot. Dinner starts at VND1,880,000++ per person.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

SOHY’s Christmas Eve Dinner

72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 | 090 330 5999

Besides a colourful tree-lighting ceremony on 9 December, this elegant rooftop bar is pulling out all the stops. A six-course set menu for two (VND2.5 million++) comes with a complimentary bottle of Bollinger champagne.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: SOHY

Christmas Night Special Event @ SOHY

72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 | 090 330 5999

Celebrate Christmas Eve in style by spending the night on the top of Saigon Winterland for a memorable time. Dance the night away and show your moves to the beats from SlimV, top DJ in Vietnam. Christmas won’t be Christmas without your loved ones by your side. So, why not bring them along? Chill with your friends without feeling chilly because they’re there with you. No need to worry about the budget, instead, use that energy to party all night. Why? Because you don’t need any entrance ticket whatsoever! Just dress to the nines and be ready to roll all night! Remember to grab some drinks and snacks to re-energise from 5:30 to 8:30 pm because they will be 49% off. What else are you waiting for?

eventImage source: SOHY

Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

The sounds of Cuba will grace Saigon’s skyline from the Caravelle Hotel’s rooftop bar. Live band Living Cuba will be playing through the night to a crowd awash in craft cocktails. For a small VND280,000 cover charge, you can be in the caribbean this holiday.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

The Myst Dong Khoi’s Christmas Eve Buffet Dinner

6-8 Ho Huan Nghiep St., D1 | 028 3520 3040

Christmas eve dinner here will feature a foie-gras stuffed turkey, baked salmon and lobster. Enjoy with a complimentary flute of champagne or a cocktail for VND1,550,000++ per adult or VND655,000++ per child.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/themystdongkhoi

Vien Dong Hotel’s Christmas Party and Anniversary

28-29 Hung Phuoc 3, D7 | 028 3836 8941

From 6 p.m. onward, enjoy a buffet party soundtracked by Christmas music at the District 7 hotel. It’s both a holiday celebration as well as an appreciation of Vien Dong Hotel’s customers.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/viendonghotel.phumyhung

Hotel Equatorial’s Christmas Eve Dinner at The Cafe

242 Tran Binh Trong, D5 | 028 3839 7777

Besides a special visit from Santa Claus and their Christmas choir, The Cafe’s extensive buffet includes sushi, sashimi, a selection of patés made in-house… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re after a nice steak, you can get a fine New Zealand strip here, or even some New Zealand lamb. For dessert, save room for a medley of cakes, pies, pumpkin-spice cheesecake, a chocolate fountain and, of course, Christmas pudding. Adults pay VND1.488 million++ per person, and it’s VND774,000++ for the little ones.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/hotelequatorialhcmc

Santa’s Buffet at Food ConneXion, Pullman Saigon Centre

148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (on 3rd floor) | 028 3838 8686

Celebrate Christmas Eve this year with an international take on a Christmas buffet dinner at Food ConneXion! Enjoy a roasted Christmas turkey, seafood ice bar, Spanish serrano ham, homemade traditional French terrine, Japanese corner as well as a dessert and chocolate corner!

Pair your dinner with free flow Champagne, wine, and beer to make Christmas Eve with your loved ones even merrier!

VND 1,900,000 NET per adult and VND 850,000 NET per child.

christmas newyearImage source: pullman-saigon-centre.com

Mad Cow Wine & Grill - Christmas Eve Madness

148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (on 30th floor) | 028 3838 8686

Celebrate the Madness of Christmas Eve above the city at Mad Cow Wine & Grill with our Christmas themed 4-course dinner & wine pairing at VND 2,100,000 NET per person

From 4PM to 11PM on 24 Dec 2017.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/madcowsaigon

New World Saigon

76 Le Lai, D1 | 028 3822 8888

New World is famous for taking Christmas decorations to new heights, so be sure to stop by to get an eyeful. When you’re hungry, take your pick on Christmas Eve between Parkview, offering an internationally buffet for VND2.4 million per person, and Dynasty, specialising in Cantonese flair for VND888,000 per person.

eventImage source: saigon.newworldhotels.com

Intercontinental Saigon

Corner of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan | 028 3520 9999

Intercontinental takes the holidays seriously! A veritable smorgasbord of Christmas delicacies await at its three restaurants, including a Christmas Eve dinner at Market 39 and a “bubbly” Christmas brunch the next day, an all you can eat Christmas Eve dinner at Yu Chu and a Christmas Eve dinner at Basilico. With discounted prices for children, and a visit from Santa Claus on Christmas Day, Intercontinental’s various offerings are perfect for a family.

eventImage source: facebook.com/intercontinental-saigon

Christmas Day

Hotel Equatorial’s Christmas Day Brunch & Dinner

242 Tran Binh Trong, D5 | 028 3839 7777

Celebrate Christmas Day with an all-day breakfast feast featuring dishes like eggs benedict, french toast flambé and smoked salmon. Enjoy a roast turkey and trimmings with cranberry sauce, and keep a lookout for Santa. Tickets start at VND1,288,000++ per person or VND645,000++ per child. House wine, mulled wine and beer will flow freely during this meal.

Dinner features a seafood feast with turkey. Entry starts at 1,488,000++ per person and 744,000++ per child.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/hotelequatorialhcmc

T & R Saigon’s Christmas Party

57 Do Quang Dau, D1 | 028 4838 9839

Head out for a dance party this Christmas evening. VND70,000 gets you a Wild Turkey shot for a quick boost of that holiday feeling.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/tnrsaigon

Nineteen Buffet Restaurant

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Nineteen Buffet Restaurant invites you to a special Christmas lunch or dinner. Dine on fine food as in-house carolers do their thing. We hear that Santa may make an appearance. Lunch starts at VND2,690,000++ and dinner at VND1,980,000++.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Café Cardinal’s Christmas Season Menu

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Through December, indulge in an assortment of seasonal favourites in a sumptuous, six-course French-themed set dinner. This holiday feast features a selection of fresh seafood including lobster and oysters, USDA first choice beef, and a traditional ‘Noel Baba’ yule log dessert. It’s available from 1 to 30 December (excluding 24 December) for just VND1,488,000++ per person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

Café Cardinal’s Festive High Tea

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

For a touch of refinement this Christmas, the Festive High Tea offers a delightful selection of sandwiches, pastries, tartlets and scones served with cream, strawberry jam and whipped cream, paired with a choice of Christmas punch, mulled wine or Christmas tea. Available from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., 27 November until 1 January for only VND548,000++/person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

The Royal Pavilion’s Cantonese Set Dinner

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Celebrate Christmas and New Year with a set menu of classic Cantonese recipes, a perfect choice for unique holiday gatherings with family and friends. This delightful six-course set dinner features The Royal Pavilion Appetizer platter, braised bird’s nest with crab meat in chicken broth, braised whole abalone and Japanese-style pan fried codfish. Available on 24, 25, 26, 31 December and 1 January for just VND1,988,000++ per person.

BOOK NOW

eventImage source: The Reverie

R&J Italian Lounge & Restaurant’s Festive Set Menu

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

From 1 December 2017 to 30 December (excluding 24 December), gather the family for this bountiful set menu dinner of traditional Italian dishes prepared with love and care. Featuring mouth-watering classics as salmon and cream cheese involtino, scallop ravioli and USDA grade beef tenderloin medallion with foie gras. It is not to be missed at just VND1,288,000++ per person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

The Deli

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Stop by for a festive treat including a delicious selection of festive-themed cakes and pastries from 27 November to 1 January.

eventImage source: The Reverie

Le Méridien

3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6699

Starting 8 December, this celebrated hotel will enjoy the start of the holiday season with a traditional Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the hotel lobby, followed by a spirited rendering of “Unlock the Passion”. Exclusive holiday gift baskets will be available in the hotel’s store, starting from VND900,000++, and amazing deals will be available at their two restaurants, Latest Recipe (VND1.45 million++ per person) and Bamboo Chic (VND1 million++ per person).

eventImage source: facebook.com/lemeridiensaigon

R&J Italian Lounge & Restaurant’s Christmas Feast

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Celebrate this most special of occasions with fine Italian fare that is both hearty and delicious. Some of the stand-out offerings include a foie gras terrine with toasted brioches, squid-ink lasagne, Wagyu beef cheek, and a cinnamon, apple and raisin puff pastry. Available on 24 and 25 December for VND1,880,000++ per person, or VND3,288,000++ with wine pairings.

eventImage source: The Reverie

Café Cardinal’s Christmas Buffet Dinner

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

On Christmas Eve, from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m., delight in a Christmas buffet of holiday favourites paired perfectly with a three-course set menu of hot dishes freshly prepared from the kitchen. The buffet feast includes free flow sparkling wine, house wine, and draught beer for just VND2,188,000++ per person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

Bay Hotel

7 Ngo Van Nam, D1 | 028 3829 6666

What better way to enjoy Christmas than in the luxury of a premium hotel? Take a mini vacation in the heart of the city starting from VND1.590 million++, and take advantage of Propeller Rooftop Bar’s exclusive Christmas party, as well as the weekly live music night every Friday and Saturday.

eventImage source: facebook.com/bayhotelhcm

New Year’s Eve

SOHY

72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 | 090 330 5999

A great choice if you want a glitzy venue to bring in the new year. If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a VND2.5 million++ set dinner for two, with, of course, a complimentary bottle of champagne. On the Sky Lounge, you can enjoy the night while listening to DJ Cazzette.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: SOHY

Rex Hotel

141 Nguyen Hue, D1 | 028 3829 2185

Here’s how to do New Year’s Eve right. At the Rooftop Garden Bar, for VND3.7 million, you’ll enjoy a buffet menu, a free flow of house wine, beers and soft drinks, and will dance the night away courtesy of a DJ and an in-house Flamenco band. Plus, during the countdown party, be sure to take advantage of the non-stop champagne toast!

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: Rex Hotel

InterContinental Saigon

Corner of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan | 028 3520 9999

Here you can pick from a variety of New Year’s Eve extravaganzas. Our recommendation? Check the party at InterContinental’s pool. VND490,000++ per person will get you a glass of champagne and a beautiful buffet. However, if you eat dinner at any of the hotel’s three restaurants, you’ll get free entrance to this elegant pool party.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/intercontinentalsaigon

Nineteen Buffet Restaurant

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Toast with a dinner of Canadian lobster, king crab and green mussels at Caravelle Hotel. If seafood isn't your thing, how about a spiced lamb leg or bourbon roast ham? A free-flowing champagne and cocktail upgrade is available, but you do what’s right for you. An early evening dinner will be served from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., starting at VND1,490,000++. A late evening dinner starts at VND2,490,000++.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Harmony Saigon Hotel & Spa’s New Year’s Eve Party

32A-34 Bui Thi Xuan St., D1 | 028 3925 4666

Check out this 4-star hotel and its luxuriously done dining room overlooking District 1. A VND890,000 ticket gets you a cocktail, a dinner complete with smoked salmon and roasted tenderloin, a seat for a violinist’s performance and, of course, a glass of champagne to toast with at the first minute of 2018.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/harmonysaigonhotel

Reflections Restaurant

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

Executive Chef Darren Watson continues the holiday feast where he left off on Christmas. For New Year’s Eve you’ll get smoked beef tartare, roast duck liver flavoured with sweet orange and roasted French wood pigeon. Stay for the hand-rolled chocolate truffles and coffee. Entry starts at 2,380,000++ per person.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Saigon Saigon Rooftop Bar

19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

The sounds of Cuba will once more come from the Caravelle Hotel’s rooftop New Year’s Evening. Entrants are asked VND990,000 for an evening package that includes a welcome drink and live Cuban music.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

Caravelle Hotel’s New Year’s Masquerade 2018

26th floor 19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

From 9 p.m. onward, masked guests atop the Caravelle Hotel will be wined, dined and serenaded by a live band until the first hour of 2018. Admission starts at VND2,990,000 per person.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

New Year’s Eve Buffet at Food ConneXion, Pullman Saigon Centre

148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (on 3rd floor) | 028 3838 8686

Welcome 2018 with an International buffet featuring many international favourites to enjoy with free flow Champagne, wine, and beer. Bring your loved ones and celebrate the beginning of a new year!

VND 2,250,000 NET per adult and VND 950,000 NET per child.

From 6PM to 10:30PM on 31st December 2017

Add VND 800,000 NET and reserve your ticket for the countdown party on the rooftop!

christmas newyearImage source: pullman-saigon-centre.com

Mad Cow Wine & Grill - Mad New Year's Eve

148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (on 30th floor) | 028 3838 8686

Finish on a high and celebrate the end of 2017 with a 4-course feast paired with wine at Mad Cow Wine & Grill. Seats are limited so reserve your table today!

Available at VND 2,500,000 NET per person

Add our Rooftop Countdown Party for only VND 800,000 NET

From 4PM to 11PM on 31 Dec 2017

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/madcowsaigon

New Year’s Eve Dinner Buffet at Latest Recipe Restaurant at Le Meridien

Mezzanine Floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

Celebrate New Year’s Eve in style! VND1.65 million++ will get you a free flow of non-alcoholic beverages, and VND2.35 million++ will have you drinking Prosecco (or a variety of other drinks) all night.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: Le Meridien Saigon

New Year’s Eve Set Dinner at Bamboo Chic, Le Meridien

9th floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

Bamboo Chic will be pulling out all the stops for New Years. For VND1.2 million++, you’ll get a delicious meal plus a glass of champagne. For VND1.5 million++, a glass of champagne and a free flow of a variety of drinks. And for VND1.7 million++, an even more deluxe line-up of different drinks.

BOOK NOW

christmas newyearImage source: pariscityvision.com

Pre-Cocktail party at Latitude 10 Bar + Lounge

9th floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

Before the new year kicks off, enjoy a drink or two here. An entry fee of VND700,000 will get you all the canapes you want, plus wine, craft beer and festive cocktails.

christmas newyearImage source: Le Meridien Saigon

Poolside Countdown Party at Le Meridien

9th floor, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 | 028 6263 6688

Raging until 1:00 a.m., VND300,000 will let you enjoy the sights and sounds, with a great view of the fireworks, along with a welcome glass of sparkling rose.

christmas newyearImage source: Le Meridien Saigon

Lush

2 Ly Tu Trong, D1 | 091 863 0742

Party in style this New Year's Eve without the lavish price tag at Lush, with tables ranging from VND5 to 15 million. Always a fun place to be when the clock strikes midnight. Packages and Belaire specials all night.

eventImage source: Lush Bar

R&J Italian Lounge & Restaurant’s Swinging New Year

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Make it a New Year’s party to remember on 31 December with a special five-course menu, and groove the night away to the “Colours of Jazz” countdown with Kate Bowen. The five-course set menu includes highlights such as imported Mediterranean scampi, Prosecco and oyster risotto and a slow-cooked veal shank with truffle potatoes. The five course menu is VND1,888,000++ per person, or VND3,388,000++ per person with wine pairings.

eventImage source: The Reverie

The Long’s 2018 Countdown

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Revel in the New Year at the venue featuring the city’s longest bar, with live musical entertainment from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. followed by a DJ set all the way through to 2 a.m. The Terrace will apply a minimum charge of VND1,300,000 per person from 8 p.m. to midnight.

eventImage source: The Reverie

Café Cardinal’s New Year’s Countdown Buffet

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Join a spectacular celebration on 31 December from 7 p.m. to welcome the New Year with a buffet feast and countdown party. Enjoy sweeping views of the New Year fireworks, live music from 7 p.m. until midnight and the extensive New Year’s Eve buffet including a three-course set menu freshly prepared from the kitchen, as well as free flow of house red and white wine and draught beer, which is priced at only VND2,788,000++ per person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

The Spa

22-36 Nguyen Hue Boulevard, D1 |028 3823 6688

Give yourself a gift this festive season with one of The Spa’s relaxing and reinvigorating treatment packages. Each package features four separate treatments, and range from 90 to 210 minutes. Prices start at VND2,800,000++ per person.

eventImage source: The Reverie

The 1,200-square-meter spa and recreation center reflects a sophisticated lifestyle and modern design philosophies. The facility is positioned on floors 6 and 7, and is one of the largest and most comprehensive lifestyle centers in the city, incorporating outdoor swimming pools, 24-hour fitness center, a luxury spa with high-end beauty services, boutique retail choices and innovative thermal experience areas.

Saigon NYE Dinner @ Café EON

Level 50 Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D1 | 028 6291 8750

Coming to Café EON this New Year’s Eve Buffet Dinner, you will have an opportunity to become the one and only owner of their VND 2,000,000 Food and Beverage Voucher. Buffet ticket starts at VND 1,350,000 per adult and VND 700,000 per child.

eventImage source: EON51

NYE Dinner @ EON51 Sky Dining

Level 51 Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D1 | 028 6291 8751

At the highest restaurant in the heart of Saigon, with panoramic views over the city, enjoy the New Year’s Eve special 6-course set menu for VND1,950,000++. You will also have a chance to win “Sweet Treat Pass”, a privilege to enjoy complimentary desserts for a whole year.

eventImage source: EON51

Heli Countdown Party @ EON Heli Bar

Level 52 Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D1 | 028 6291 8752

Enjoy the very last moments of 2017 at the iconic EON Heli Bar, with live music performance from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and DJs and games from 10 p.m. Grab your ticket at VND349,000 per person, including a great drink.

eventImage source: EON51

New Year's Day

Kara Spa

7th Floor 19 Cong Truong Lam Son, D1 | 028 3823 4999

After all that partying, you’re due for a little relaxation. Enjoy a 60-minute body massage for VND1,175,000 throughout January. Finish with a cup of tea and a little swim in their pool.

christmas newyearImage source: facebook.com/caravellesaigon

The Very First Brunch at Food ConneXion, Pullman Saigon Centre

148 Tran Hung Dao Boulevard, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (on 3rd floor) | 028 3838 8686

Start 2018 the right way by splurging on a New Year’s Day brunch at Food ConneXion! Enjoy your seafood fresh on ice or grilled a la minute. We have plenty of oysters, crab and lobster awaiting you.Complete your New Year’s Day brunch with free flow sparkling, wine, and beer!

Available VND 1,500,000 NET per adult and VND 800,000 NET per child

From 12PM to 3PM on 1st January 2018

christmas newyearImage source: pullman-saigon-centre.com

Banner image source: VNSplorer.com


The Saigonese Art Scene

By: Vinh Dao

The art scene in Ho Chi Minh City has evolved greatly over the last ten years, from only commercial galleries, copying Western artworks, to real representatives of the contemporary Vietnamese creation, with curators, private spaces, and regularly organised exhibitions, in an attempt to reach the public while also managing to create overseas binds which will also benefit the artists.

The Vietnamese art scene initially lacked regular programs, exhibitions, art events and talks, residency programs, research, and network building. Vietnamese people didn’t really take stock in art production throughout the country for quite some time, as they had other matters to deal with, especially thriving after the war.

Galleries now play an active role in promoting the development of a vibrant domestic art scene in Vietnam through ongoing efforts to support talented young Vietnamese artists and via hosting regular exhibitions. This new interest is also about making a difference in the local art scene by expanding activities beyond gallery exhibitions and also encouraging the flow of information in and out of the country (more and more artists have the opportunity to exhibit their works abroad, mainly in Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States, thanks to sponsorships and exchange programs). In the mid 2000s, there was a high level of traffic in and out the country, but little information was reaching a majority of the artists living in the city. Now, talks and gatherings work to bring the community together in a context of artistic challenge and engagement, from both artists and the public (all of which is still in need of further development).

The main actors have managed to develop stronger relationships with artists, curators, and mid-career Vietnamese artists to provide them with a platform to present their work to a wider audience. They also intend to show and explain the role of visual art and creative practices in contemporary life, through platforms (San Art can be considered the leader of this medium) for the development of visual art and creative practices through a range of art-related activities that are much needed in the context of Vietnam.

To name a few, the most active and recognised, we advise art amateurs to visit Galerie Quynh, San Art, Craig Thomas Gallery, Zen Collection, Saigon Outcast, Decibel, the Fine Arts Museum, or even small exhibitions happening in well-known local restaurants. The afore mentioned are the main centres in which art is initially set, allowing the public to easily appreciate past and present creations, whilst also discovering its evolution in Ho Chi Minh City.


Not another hidden Gem - Ninh Thuan province

By: Mark Gwyther

If you read a great deal about traveling in Vietnam, you are bound to hear so much about “hidden gems” that you might think going to Vietnam is one big mining expedition. Many of these “gems” are difficult to reach, take you far from your other objectives, and provide so few amenities that the effort and hassle spoil the entire experience.

Not another hidden Gem - Ninh Thuan province

Ninh Thuan is an exception. The province is located in the middle of the south central tourism triangle of Phan Thiet/Mui Ne, Dalat, and Nha Trang. In the heart of the province are the adjoined cities of Thap Cham and Phan Rang. Thap Cham is the historical capital of the Cham people. Phan Rang, the capital of Ninh Thuan, is a mid-sized modern city near the ocean. From Saigon the drive is only an hour or two longer than traveling to Mui Ne, and it is two hours closer than Nha Trang. If you are flying into the Cam Ranh Airport, it is the same drive time as if you were going north to Nha Trang. Nearly all the visitors to this area stay at Ninh Chu Bay, which is five kilometers from Phan Rang.

Ninh Chu Bay

Ninh Chu Bay is considered one of the nine most beautiful beaches in Vietnam. Prior to 1974, the ten kilometer crescent was used as the exclusive beach for the President of South Vietnam. Since that time, it has remained relatively unknown to those outside Vietnam. Seven resorts of various quality and character line the area between the wide roads and the beach and several more resorts are being developed. The city of Phan Rang is located far enough away from the coast so the area near the ocean is uncongested.

Ninh Thuan MuseumWhat makes the area a true “hidden gem” is the unique balance of traditional Vietnamese life combined with modern conveniences for travelers. It is a gateway into seeing how contemporary Vietnamese live outside the major tourism destinations, while also providing all the services tourists need. Two large metered taxi companies offer reliable transportation to visitors, ATMs and banks line the streets, and high-speed internet access and international TV are available in all the resorts. Near the bay is one of the most modern buildings in Vietnam, an arrow-head shaped museum which is part of a large park that is now the unofficial community center. However, it is not unusual to see cattle being herded down the wide, six-lane road that connects the beach to Highway 1. If you have travelled around Vietnam for any length of time, you will notice several unusual things about this area that make it a welcome change. You will not be approached by people asking you to buy things or give money. You can walk on the sidewalks without the fear of motorbikes. Crossing the street is not life-threatening. The temperature is not humid and the ocean breeze cools you down. Getting in a taxi is safe, and the traffic is light. It is one of the easiest places in Vietnam to relax and just experience Vietnamese people as they truly live now and not how they lived in the past.

When to Go

If you want good beach weather almost guaranteed, then Ninh Thuan Province is for you. The province has the least amount of rain, the most sunny days, and consistently warm temperatures throughout the year. In fact, 95% of all grapes produced for wine are grown in this province.

The raining season is officially from mid-September to mid-December. However, when it rains it usually rains for about 15 minutes and stops. Phan Rang has 20% less annual rainfall than Nha Trang and Phan Thiet. Exceptions, like when a typhoon is near, are rare.

Getting There

As the city is directly in the middle of major tourist destinations, you have several options of travel. The train is a safe and reliable method to travel to Phan Rang on a budget (but spend a little extra for a cabin bed). Almost all the north/south trains stop at Thap Cham Station, which is about a $7 taxi ride from Ninh Chu Bay. Metered Mai Linh taxis are usually waiting at the train station.

Taking a bus is also an easy alternative. Most tour buses going to Nha Trang are happy to drop you off and pick you up in Phan Rang. If you are planning on arriving in the middle of night, make sure they drop you off where you can find a taxi to take you to your hotel.

Ninh Thuan Coastal HighwayPhan Rang is nearly the same distance from the Cam Ranh Airport as Nha Trang is, only south instead of north. The taxi ride will be more expensive since fewer taxis are willing to make this trip. You can expect to pay between $20 and $30. Once the new coastal highway is opened, the trip from the airport to the beach is going to be spectacular. The views from this highway are some of the best in the world. It is schedule to open in the first half of 2013.

Taking a van, taxi, or bus from Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, or Dalat will take about 2 hours. A taxi from Nha Trang will cost approximately $50.

Before the war, a railway connected Phan Rang to Dalat. The government plans to re-open this route in the next few years, which means Phan Rang will be the gateway into the south central highlands.

Where to Stay

It is highly recommended you stay at one of the seven resorts located on Ninh Chu Bay. Mini-hotels in the city are an inferior alternative.

The seven resorts range in price and service. Two-star options are available for $20 per night, but you will get what you pay for. Thai Binh, and Con Ga Resorts are the best of these. For a slightly higher price, you can stay at Bau Truc (formerly known as Den Gion) which has both three and four star facilities. Bau Truc is a nicely designed resort in the center of the bay with an open, outdoor restaurant right on the beach. They also have one of the largest swimming pools in Vietnam that they keep very clean.

Beds have new mattresses and linens that conform to western standards. Moving up in price, the next option is the Saigon Tourist owned, Ninh Chu Hotel. It is 8 floors and has many rooms with ocean views, as well as some beach bungalows. The Saigon Tourist hotel also has the most facilities such as a spa, game roomand a beach bar. Unfortunately, like many Saigon Tourist hotels, the service is subpar and the staffing is kept at a bare minimum.

Bau Truc resortFor a surreal experience that will make you feel like you are in a Scooby Doo mystery, stay at Hoan Cau resort (really, don’t). The resort mixes Vietnamese folklore and Disneyland design, only it looks like it hasn’t been maintained for the last decade. But, if you feel like staying in a “tree trunk”, then by all means check it out (don’t).

If you are traveling with a group, the new Aniise Villa resort recently opened and they have several beach villas with kitchens that can easily accommodate up to ten people.

Finally, the world famous Aman Resort Group is opening a resort on the cliffs above Vinh Hy Bay. The Aman Resort Vinh Hy Bay is set to open in the first half of 2013 and will be one of Vietnam’s most prestigious hotels.

Banner Photo by: Khánh Hmoong

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