Ikigai: Understanding Ourselves to Find Purpose

By: Patrick Gaveau

Why does having purpose even matter?

What is Ikigai & how do we find it?

“The real test of knowledge is not whether it is true, but whether it empowers us.” - Yuval Noah Harari, “Sapiens”

Part 1: WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE PURPOSE

For as long as I can remember, I have always been working towards a goal or a dream. As soon as I managed to accomplish one of my objectives, a desire to target the next big thing would start forming. The process of working towards these goals has been a large part of what I feel has given my life meaning and purpose.

IkigaiImage source: unsplash.com

Early on, I attained my dreams through trial and error. Fortitude was one of my strong points, so even when the path wasn’t easy I prided myself on never giving up. Yet, as I got older and I gained wisdom I realised something: the forward motion I felt while working towards a goal was really only part of the deeper experience. There was a bigger question looming beneath it all.

Why Does Having Purpose Even Matter? 

This primal question had no immediate answer. Other animals are content finding purpose by simply surviving. Humans seem to need more than that. But why?

IkigaiImage source: tripsavvy.com

I began by asking myself the following questions: 

- Why was I motivated to wake up every day?

- Are we rational beings?

- Is searching for purpose rational?

- Can the lack of purpose be what damages us the most?

Some of these questions were easy to answer. I knew what motivated me was to inspire and share with others in order to create a better world. In Part 2 of this essay, I will discuss the concrete ways I go about doing just that. However, before I could continue on my quest, I needed to know what made the desireto succeed at my self-imposed goals burn so bright? And, perhaps even more importantly, what might be holding me back?

The Rationale for Being Irrational 

Let me be blunt and provocative. For starters, humans are, in essence, irrational beings living in non-existent societies. By this, I mean that societies have been created by us. They are essentially figments of our imaginations. Certain things that we know to be true, like the fact that France borders on Switzerland, are actually human creations. Animal and plant life don’t see any difference between the two countries on either side of the Alps, yet, we insist on creating invisible borders. Humans are masters at creating stories and then deeply believing in them to the point that an alternate reality can no longer exist. 

IkigaiImage source: businessinsider.com

Storytelling is what humans do best. We’ve created stories to explain and organise what we perceive to be real for millennia. It has allowed us to create complex and vast ever-changing systems that bind us together so that we can easily dominate other species. Without such a remarkable capacity to create fiction that makes us believe in Government, Money and Religion, we humans could not be at the top of the food chain. The ever changing stories we build over and over are the actual cement of our societies and cultures

Yet, despite our deep-seated beliefs in our stories, there is also something within us that thrives on paradox. To put it more clearly, can we all agree that when we say/think something, we often end up doing exactly the opposite? Is this as true for you as it is for me? Do you think that accepting such behavioural patterns as “normal” is rational?

If tobacco has repeatedly been proven to result in cancer, why do we continue to sell it? To smoke it? If healthy food is essential to a healthy life, why do we continue to make the decision to eat so poorly? We can all agree that if we continue to abuse our plastic consumption that we put ourselves, our children and all life on Earth at risk of extinction. Yet, how many of us have managed to decrease our plastic use? … and the list goes on.

IkigaiImage source: pregistry.com

At heart, we are all irrational beings and this implies that humans have an incredible capacity to find comfort in contradictions. It is important to realise that our basic need to seek meaning in life is also irrational. Yet, that doesn’t make it any less essential.

What Holds Us Back From Our Goals? 

I hope that I’ve demonstrated two important things by now: our irrational capacity goes well beyond beliefs, and created fictions are a powerful force. Yet, what does irrationality have to do with needing to find purpose? 

Video source: Improvement Pill

Our quests for purpose are simply another part of our personal storytelling. They are built upon generations of fabricated knowledge. So if purpose was invented and therefore irrational can’t it also be limitless? In light of this, why can’t each of us create a beautiful story that resembles us, so that we can each strive in our imaginary world, and be exactly as successful as we choose to be?

Part 2: FINDING YOUR PURPOSE 

Anyone who has made it this far into this article might find some inspiration in the beautiful Mandy Hale quote that states that... 

“Sometimes all we can do is to embrace the uncertainty. Focus on the wait, enjoy the beauty of becoming. For when nothing is certain, anything is possible.”

IkigaiImage source: runnersworldonline.com.au

Knowing that your options are truly as broad as your imagination can be liberating but it can also be overwhelming. Initially, I too struggled to have a clear view of my ultimate purpose until, while researching, I stumbled on an ancient Japanese concept called IKIGAI

Ikigai literally means “A Reason for Being”. Not only does this concept help define who a person truly is, it also creates a framework for what that person should strive to become. Joseph Campbell poignantly explained this concept when he wrote... 

“People say that we’re searching for the meaning of life. I don’t think that is it at all. I think that what we are seeking is an experience of being alive.”

Ikigai is a simple, practical and effective way for anyone looking to have a deeper and more meaningful experience more in their lives. Ready to begin? 

A Lesson in Ikigai 

IkigaiImage source: Toronto Star

Take a look at the four central questions featured in this conceptual framework and address each one with a verb, name or concept that relates to how you see yourself. List as many elements you hold for each question. If you use the same words in several questions as in the below sample, this is fine. Be honest with yourself, and take your time, do it over and over. It may take weeks to nail down the true essence of each personal category. 

Once you’ve completed your list, review the chosen words. Now it’s time to be truthful—you’ll grade yourself on how you truly excel at each concept. To do this, rate yourself on how proficient you think you are compared with a random group of 100 people. Take a look at one of my client’s sample tests. The word “creativity” appears repeatedly under each question category. He gave himself a score of 100%, meaning he felt strongly that he was a master at being creative. Finally, classify each word by order of importance. If a word scores below 80-85%, you may choose to remove it.

As you work, you may realise that some verbs are similar and can be grouped. For example, negotiating and persuading have a close enough meaning that they can be summarised by one word such as “influencing”. If you’re still unsure about the right verbs/skills/capacities and its ratings, ask your partner, your mother or someone else who knows you very well, and validate your findings together. 

IKIGAI

A Japanese term for "Reason for Being. "The word ‘Ikigai’ usually refers to the source of value in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile.

What I can be paid for

What I am good at

What I love to do

What the world needs most

Ratings

Keyword

Creativity

Creativity

Creativity

Creativity

100.00%

 

 

 

 

 

 

TO INSPIRE (MENTOR-COACH-HEALER-ENTERTAINER)

Laughing

Laughing

Laughing

Laughing

100.00%

Breathing

Breathing

Breathing

Breathing

95.00%

Talking

Talking

Talking

Talking

95.00%

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

Public Speaking

95.00%

Persuading

Persuading

Persuading

Persuading

95.00%

Questioning

Questioning

Questioning

Questioning

90.00%

Exercising

Exercising

Exercising

Exercising

90.00%

Conceptualising

Conceptualising

Conceptualising

Conceptualising

90.00%

Resolving

Resolving

Resolving

Resolving

90.00%

 

MISSION

What I love to do

What the world needs most

Ratings

Keyword

 

 

 A personal mission statement, which offers the opportunity to establish what's important to you. It can also help guide you towards a decision in a particular job, company, or career field.

Spontaneity

Spontaneity

100.00%

 

 

 

TO GROW

Introspection

Introspection

95.00%

Philosophy

Philosophy

95.00%

Psychology

Psychology

95.00%

Sincerity

Sincerity

95.00%

 

PASSION

What I am good at

What I love to do

Ratings

Keyword

 

 

 Represents a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm or desire to do something. 

Improvisation

Improvisation

100.00%

 

 

 

TO FLOW

Waterskiing

Waterskiing

100.00%

Driving

Driving

90.00%

Skiing

Skiing

90.00%

 

PROFESSION

What I can be paid for

What I am good at

Ratings

Keyword

 

 This is an occupation, practice, or vocation requiring mastery of a complex set of information and skills through formal education and/or practical experience.

Persuading

Persuading

100.00%

 

 

TO LEAD

Interviewing

Interviewing

95.00%

Marketing

Marketing

90.00%

Managing

Managing

85.00%

 

VOCATION

What I am good at

What the world needs most

Ratings

Keyword

 

 

 What am I destined to become? A vocation is not something that you can switch like a profession or a career.

Spontaneity

Spontaneity

100.00%

 

 

TO BE CONSCIOUS

Straight-forwardness

Straight-forwardness

90.00%

Adaptation

Adaptation

90.00%

Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy Lifestyle

85.00%

Your next step is to search for one word that can effectively summarise the other verbs, names or concepts that have been identified within each section. This word should be written on the right side of the table and should truly describe the essence of who you are. 

For example, “To Flow” is my client’s Passion. He arrived at this word because of his skills of waterskiing, skiing, driving and improvisation. All of these talents require the ability to focus and react promptly as well as effective navigation capacities within the flux of the environment, whether that be flying through the air above a lake or sailing his way through a speech in front of a room full of business colleagues. He felt that the epitome of those skills was his ability to effectively “flow” through any situation. This is the same process of self reflection that he went through for each section.

Once completed, you’ll know what words are the most important to you. These words, though extremely specific, will also be general enough to cover a wide variety of activities in which you can choose to partake. Your next step is to identify which activities will serve you best within this framework.

My client discovered throughout the process that his Ikigai is “To Inspire”. Striving to inspire others requires “Consciousness” of thoughts, words and actions, which describes his Vocation. In order to find new ways to inspire others, he also needs to constantly continue to learn and to “Grow”, which is his Mission. As a business owner, “Leading” is a necessity. It is also an essential part of his character, making it his Vocation. Last but not least is his Passion for “Flow”. He is constantly seeking new ways to maximise his creative flow, in order to remain as long as possible in his most productive state. Reflecting in depth on these keywords helped him to narrow down his career paths to being a Mentor, Coach, Healer or Entertainer. 

IkigaiImage source: vpr.org

For me, my Ikigai has become my compass. The gained knowledge of realising that my possibilities are limitless in the human construct of our society, along with my deep beliefs in creating my life story with this guidance have provided deep and long lasting fulfilment.

Discovering your own IKIGAI, Passion, Vocation, Mission and Profession is not as easy as it may seem. It may be more evident for some people than others. It often relates to each person’s capacities to reflect inwardly. If you face difficulties, ask for the support of a wise analytical mind and/or a wordsmith. Believe me, with sustained concentration and sufficient time, you’ll find it too, and once you do, you’ll be able to guide your storytelling path towards true meaning. Remember, your purpose in life may evolve over time, thus it is important to continue to re-examine your Ikigai every few years or so.

The next time you find yourself needing to make an important decision concerning your life or career, ask yourself if doing so will serve your Ikigai? This will guide you, and give you strength to pursue your goals with a newly gained sense of purpose. Afterall, when you are living a passion-filled life you are living on purpose, and that is the purpose of life.

Banner Image source: unsplash.com


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

7 Saigon Bloggers You Must Bookmark Now

By: Aleksandr Smechov

Saigon’s tourism scene is stuck on a plateau. Unlike other popular destinations like Bangkok, New York, Paris, etc., all is not revealed – secrets remain and an air of mystery still permeates even rudimentary tasks like going to a doctor and understanding traffic patterns. There’s a severe lack of official documentation and foreign language support that grants Ho Chi Minh City an air of impenetrability at times. Some times, to the point of utter frustration.

Our only hope, it seems, are the bloggers who brave the alien terrains of shouting ladies and incomprehensible signs to discover, transcribe and inform the confused community of expats and visitors. 

To save us all from bashing our heads against the wall when we order sautéed beef and get an avocado smoothie instead, we present a motley group of Content Heroes who provide us with the ins and outs necessary to experience the oohs and ahhs, without as much of the ughs and pffts. 

 

Rusty Compass

Rusty Compass

Cool stuff about Mark’s blog:

• A one-man powerhouse who produces consistent quality content on HCMC and around

• Well-structured website makes navigation easy

• Great pictures

• Observations are candid and nuanced

Rusty Compass features the lovable shiny-head Mark Bowyer, an Asia explorer since 1988. Mark has some cool guides for Vietnam and Cambodia, but his blog section is where his personality really sparkles. 

You get articles carefully eyeing the good and the bad of Saigon’s idiosyncrasies, with sensitive issues like the Cu Chi tunnel’s firing range and a potentially bland future for the city brought to light and discussed in Mark’s signature erudite manner. 

Mark also takes excellent photos.

Standout article: The Last President’s Driver

 

Andy Goes to Asia

Cool stuff about Andy: 

● Articles are written for the everyday expat

● Includes travel blogs, but also what it’s like to live here and work for a living

● Focuses a lot on storytelling

● Explains details that may seem confusing to expats, like the motorbike culture

● Well written, fun, blunt and helpful

A simple Wordpress blog, Andy Goes to Asia details the AsiaLIFE writer’s observations and travels in Vietnam. 

The blogs steady between practical and entertaining, are well written (Andy’s an English literature major, after all), easy to read and quite useful. “The Motorbikes of Saigon” sheds some light on Ho Chi Minh City’s chaotic motorbike culture, giving nuanced advice on where to rent, the 2007 helmet law, unpredictable obstacles and more. 

Standout article: The Motorbikes of Saigon

 

Adventure Faktory

Adventure Faktory

Cool stuff about the AF duo: 

● Best layout/presentation of the bunch

● Content is broken down by topics

● Cool pictures

● Content is both practical (who expats date in the city) and related to experiencing the city (restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.) 

The cleanest, most well-laid-out site on the list, Adventure Faktory is a sexy travel blog with quality photos and a simple writing style that’s easy to get into. 

Written by world travelers Mitch and Thuymi, the blog is broken down into simple categories like “Travel,” “Sports & Adventure,” “Lifestyle” and more. Articles are practical and for the most part focused on venues and experiences (like “Fashion Boutiques in Saigon,” “Oktoberfest in Saigon” and “Ho Chi Minh City’s Coffee Culture”), and are chock full of cool Instagram-worthy shots. 

Standout article: The Ultimate Saigon Cafes List

 

Elka Ray

Cool stuff about Elka: 

● Tends to focus on short pieces targeted at the day-to-day goings-on

● Includes nicephotos and interesting stories – even a dash of humor thrown in

● Great writing

Elka Ray is a storyteller, and thus provides a more personal account of her daily life in Vietnam. Author and illustrator, Elka moved to the country in 1996, and has since started a family. 

The blog rotates around her family life at home, daily observations and insights and random musings. It’s a much different tone than others on the list, and the information leans more towards musings rather than practical advice, although there are some venue profiles.

Entries are fun, very well-written and a great read for anyone living in and experiencing the ups and downs of Vietnam.

Standout article: Scraps of history

 

Hello Saigon

Hello Saigon

 

Cool stuff about HS:

● Articles tend to focus on reviews of different attractions, hotels and venues around the city

● Site is streamlined and mobile friendly – tons of pictures and short-form content

● Does a lot of work with food discussions and where the best places to eat are

● Blogger is active and a regular poster

Hello Saigon boasts a constant stream of entries on Ho Chi Minh City’s active scene, including venues, events, food trips and travels to other cities. This is the most streamlined site of the bunch, and consists of a continuous river of bite-sized articles broken up by relevant pictures (1-2 sentences + picture, 1-2 sentences + picture, repeat). 

It’s really freaking easy to read, is fun to scroll through and is quite practical, especially with the flood of photos. The writing is simple and light-hearted, and the content is very snug on mobiles.

Standout article: A Relaxing Stay at Salinda Resort

 

City Pass Guide

City Pass Guide

Cool stuff about City Pass: 

• Self-explanatory (kidding)

• Large back catalog of blogs from a diverse team of writers and guest bloggers

• Long-form content may put off the ADD crowd, but articles are informative and delve deep into their subject matter

• Interview with experts on various destinations

• Blogs cover tourism industry, various lists, events and more

We City Pass Guide is known around town as the free guidebook distributed at fancy shmancy resorts and hotels. Their online counterpart is focused on venue listings, but there is a dedicated blog section that is quite useful if you want to dive deeper into Vietnam’s tourism market, learn about grand opening, unique events, or scroll through various lists (ex. top 5 Vietnamese love sayings, top 7 honeymoon resorts, etc.).

Articles are written by staff writers or guests from various industries, are relatively lengthy but go well with a glass of pinot noir and a bag of Poca chips.

Standout article: The Declining State of Tourism in Vietnam – And How We Can Help

 

Sketchpacker

Sketch Packer

Cool stuff about Zoe:

● The blog features creative sketches of Saigon’s life and locals

● Zoe’s gonzo, down-to-earth observations are fun to read

● Blogs are both informative and very well written

Like Wix-using Andy above, Zoe hardly needs anything more than a free Wordpress blog to suck in readers with surreal sketches, disarmingly honest prose and a gonzo wit about her observations.

Blogs detail living on a severely limited budget (eggs, baguettes and VND 10,000 drinks every day? No problem), unspoken rules of the road, living in a shack on Phu Quoc for a week, children helping administer heroine to their mothers (yep…) and many more gems.

Standout article: Saigon’s Darkest Secrets

 


The East Sea Dispute Cost Vietnam One Million Hotel Nights In Five Months

By: Mark Gwyther

I’ve been asked several times just how badly Vietnam’s hospitality business was affected by problems resulting from the East Sea dispute with China. From the investor’s point of view, it is much worse than most people realize.

Back in April (the anti-Chinese riots occurred mid-May) Vietnam’s inbound international arrivals were up 27% for the year, buoyed by a 47% increase in Chinese visitors. Danang resorts, built in anticipation of these new Chinese tourists, began filling up. The amount of direct flights from China to Hanoi, Danang, and Cam Ranh increased almost weekly. Peter Ryder, the CEO of Indochina Land said, “Right now we’re at an inflection point with supply and demand. But I see demand outstripping supply within the next 12 months.” 1

Vietnam hospitality was poised to have a huge year.

Bull

First Impressions

At first it did not look so bad; at least from an outsider’s perspective. When the tourism numbers were announced at the end of May the Vietnamese media reported the East Sea dispute was not having much of an impact since the number of Chinese arrivals was still up 30% for the month compared to the year before. People in the business handling the thousands of cancellations and seeing the empty rooms didn’t believe the numbers.

But those numbers included the first half of May in which Chinese arrivals were most likely up around 50%, meaning the second half of the month experienced a precipitous drop. Another factor leading to a lack of understanding of the impact was how VNAT reports statistics. Monthly international inbound statistics are released around the 25th of the month-meaning they estimate the final few days using data from the entire month.

China and Vietnam

The Actual Cost

As the summer wore on it became very apparent to everyone that the East Sea dispute had significant implications for tourism. Vietnam’s inbound growth rate began sinking like a ship taking on water; steadily dropping from 27% in April to 10% by the end of September. Still, most media didn’t recognize or didn’t report the real damage of opportunity costs.

China

In 2013, more than a quarter of all international visitors to Vietnam were Chinese. The Chinese market is bigger than the next three countries combined. Of course many of those visitors cross the northern border to trade, but that proportion has been decreasing. China’s burgeoning middle-class’s economic influence on Vietnam is hardly surprising as most countries throughout the world are experiencing large growth in the number of Chinese inbounds. China's government is also aware of the flow of outbound riches and it is well equipped and prepared to stop this flow to meet political objectives.

Chinese Arrivals to Vietnam

Chinese Tourists

What is important to understand and very few people have noticed, is that the growth rate in Chinese arrivals to Vietnam is not only growing, but the growth rate is growing as well. In calculus it’s called the second order derivative; in real life it is called accelerated growth.

When estimating how many tourists Vietnam lost, we must forecast the regular growth plus the additional amount from increasing growth rates. For the first four months of 2014, Chinese increased 48% from the previous year. This growth rate was accelerating at about 1.5% per month, which means if we had forecasted Chinese arrivals back in April, we’d have come up with this prediction.

 May 14June 14July 14Aug 14Sep 144 Month Total
2013 Chinese Visitors 148,606 129,577 173,257 190,358 169,682 811,480
Expected Growth (48%) 71,331 62,197 83,163 91,372 81,447 389,510
Accelerated Growth 2,330 3,887 7,796 11,421 12,726 38,160
Expected Total 222,267 195,661 264,217 293,151 263,856 1,200,990
Actual Total 194,018 136,726 123,442 135,170 148,895 738,251
Difference 28,249 58,925 140,775 157,981 114,961 462,739


That's over 450,000 visitors that should have arrived but didn’t. If the average stay is over 4 nights with double occupancy,we are discussing a million room nights lost in five months.Like rotting fruit, that inventory is lost forever. Developers and investors were anticipating growth in the Chinese outbound market and instead it suddenly shrunk dramatically.

China Back off

What’s Next?

This is not the first time the Chinese Government has used its outbound tourists as an economic weapon against another country. In May 2012, they advised travel agencies (many which are state-owned) to cancel tours to The Philippines because of protests at the Chinese embassy in Manila. They lifted the ban several months later and Chinese arrivals to The Philippines increased by 70% in 20132. That would seem to indicate the Chinese travelers will come back rapidly once relations begin to normalize.


1: http://thedevelopmentadvisor.com/news/vietnam-danang-resort-villa-condominium-market/
2: The Chinese government re-instated its travel warnings to The Philippines last month.


5 photo tips for travelers in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

How to capture and keep the Vietnamese breathtaking moment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Other articles:

Top 5 tips for crossing the street in Vietnam

Top 5 photo tips for travelers in Vietnam

Top 5 tips to rent a motorbike in Vietnam

5 tips to manage your online reputation on Tripadvisor

5 tips of preparation for better score at golf

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

Top 5 tips for preventing theft in Vietnam

The art of bargaining in Vietnam

Tips to spot and avoid scam and pick pocket

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