Pride and Promise for Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ Community

By: John Mark Harrell

Vietnam is moderately accepting on the international stage.

Queer media representation is increasingly positive in Vietnam.

Thời gian thấm thoát thoi đưa
Thể nào anh cũng sẽ lừa được em
Chàng trai đang sánh bước bên em
Đằng nào rồi cũng sẽ thuộc về anh!”

A chorus of young voices sang this year’s unofficial Vietnam Pride anthem from singer and gay pop culture icon Truc Nhan as they charged up and down Saigon’s iconic Nguyen Hue walking street. Hoisting a giant rainbow flag over their heads, participants broke out into dance, took selfies with drag queens, and some even brought family members to an LGBTQI+ event for the first time. Local papers were there snapping photos, and even some international news outlets in far off countries covered the events of September 14th, 2019. It was only the eighth year in Vietnam’s history that Pride was publicly celebrated. 

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunitySaigon Pride Parade on Nguyen Hue walking street - by cvdvn.files.wordpress.com

What made this day’s gathering truly special, however, was its significance as a platform for the Saigonese LGBTQI+ community to visibly occupy public space - in plain view of their friends and families, their fellow Vietnamese citizens, tourists and expats, and even the police. 

“A western style drag scene has started and grown in Hanoi and Saigon,” says Blake, a Hanoi-based expat and performer. “Pride itself seems to be getting bigger.”

Here in Vietnam, the LGBTQI+ community has only recently begun to occupy a public platform, with the first ever Pride held in Hanoi on August 5, 2012. In a short span of time, Pride celebrations have spread to cities and rural towns all throughout Vietnam, and new ones - like this year’s first ever Pride in Tra Vinh, a sparsely-populated coastal province in the heart of the Mekong Delta - are popping up every year.

Vietnam on the International Stage

The landscape of sexual orientation and gender identity in Vietnam, and more broadly throughout Asia, is a complex terrain from which cultural values, family intradependence, religion, and the tumultuous legacy of colonialism grow and intertwine. As a result, LGBTQ rights vary widely in this part of the world. 

Taiwan is a model of acceptance among its fellow Asian nations, recently becoming the first to legalize same-sex marriage. Its annual Pride celebration in October drew about 200,000 local and international participants, making it the largest in the region.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityHanoi Pride Parade - by facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

Malaysia and Brunei have enshrined and upheld some of the world’s harshest punishments for same-sex sexual activity into law, ranging from jail time to caning and, in the most extreme cases, vigilante execution. Though these punishments are rarely enforced, LGBTQI+ individuals receive virtually no protection from the state and are frequent targets of hate crimes and discriminatory police raids.

Among its neighbouring nations, Vietnam sits relatively comfortably on the tolerant end of the spectrum, though perhaps not yet fully accepting. 

“The biggest challenge that we’re facing now,” says Long, a transgender dancer and drag performer based in Saigon, “Is the legal matters of same-sex marriage and the transgender community’s rights to legally adopt their new gender.”

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityHanoi Pride Parade - by facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

Homosexuality has never been criminalized in Vietnam, and as recently as 2015, the National Assembly passed a bill that would make it legal for transgender individuals to change their gender on legal documents to reflect their true gender identity; however, guidance for enacting this law has yet to be discussed or passed by the National Assembly, leaving the fate of thousands of transgender individuals in Vietnam to the discernment of local authorities, who are unable or unaware of how to proceed without a clear mandate to do so. 

But perhaps the greatest source of controversy over this bill within the transgender community is that only those who have had gender reassignment surgery qualify for legal recognition.

“Because that law will be defined by surgery and not by someone identifying as transgender, it really should be called the ‘transsexual’ law,” says Linh, director of ICS Center, a nationwide legal advocacy group. “So now the current draft, and older drafts, have been debated even in the trans community...because being legally recognised requires you to have some kind of medical transition, and not every trans person wants to do that.”

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityJS Band at GenderFunk Pride Ball - by facebook.com/GenderFunk

Rectifying this aspect of the law may take some time. The National Assembly, having agreed in principle that this law should be made in 2015, have since given a mandate to the Ministry of Health to work out the specifics of that law, as well as how it should be implemented.

“Though the transgender law is still debated within the transgender community, the main reason that hasn’t been passed is because there have been a lot of new laws proposed in the last two years,” says Linh. “At present, the transgender law is not the Health Ministry's priority. The draft bill has been proposed eight times from 2017 until now but it still hasn’t been prioritised, most likely because this law only affects a small minority of the population.”

Despite this challenge, there is a palpable sense of hope and anticipation within the local community that major progress could be made in the next few years. “I don’t think we’ll never be prioritised just because we're a minority,” says Linh. “It just means we need stronger visibility, to raise our voices and express our needs.”

“I'm positive that Vietnam will be the next in Asia to legalise equal marriage.” 

… says Dan Ni, a Saigonese drag performer whose optimism is shared by many in the Vietnamese LGBTQI+ community.

As public perception warms up to the LGBTQI+ community, mostly through increased representation in the media and pop culture, many Vietnamese citizens maintain a bright outlook for the advancement of gay rights in the next decade.

“We hope to achieve same sex marriage, hopefully in the next 6 years,” says Linh. “I hope that the transgender law will be resolved sooner, since it’s achieved more progress than the same-sex marriage law.”

Media Representation

Public exposure to queer individuals in pop culture, politics, and the media has certainly increased in the last decade. Vietnamese movies frequently depict protagonist, usually gay male or transgender female characters, though their roles have often been relegated to well-known and tired stereotypes. 

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityDrag queen, Sweet Potato, at Saigon Pride Parade on Nguyen Hue walking street - by facebook.com/GenderFunk

“Securing acceptance and respect is important,” says Ana, a British expat and performer based in Saigon. “As opposed to the current portrayal [of gay men] in the media as just jokers or flamboyant comedy characters.”

“In the past 2-3 years, there has been a lot of LGBTQ representation,” says Linh. “Talk shows and reality shows create a lot of positive influence, although most of them are not perfect, and there are still stereotypes and bias. But it does bring different stories to the general public. That is something we appreciate about the media. And we will need all this visibility and much more in order to pass the transgender law in Vietnam.”

Though stigma and harmful stereotypes certainly remain in pop culture, LGBTQI+ representation seems to be steadily increasing and improving. In the Spring of 2019, popular TV game show Người Ấy Là Ai featured a young gay male contestant who shared his story on national television. His parents later joined him onstage and talked about how they had come to love, accept, and celebrate their son for who he is. Former Vietnam Idol singer and transgender pop icon, Huong Giang, is also a regular judge on this show, which has subsequently featured a handful of other LGBTQI+ contestants.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityLove is love - by znews.vn

One of 2018’s biggest viral moments in Vietnamese television that made international waves came in the form of a shocking reveal on Vietnam’s first ever season of The Bachelor, in which one of the female contestants, Minh Thu, broke decorum and declared her love for one of her fellow female contestants, Truc Nhu, and asked her to quit the show in front of a national audience. Later footage would reveal the producers’ shock as the contestants embraced and left the set together, though Nhu would agree to stay on the show until her eventual elimination. After the season aired, the two announced that they had gotten together after the show, and have been the subject of national admiration ever since.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityStill from Truc Nhan’s MV Sáng Mắt Chưa - by yeah1music.net

Just a few weeks after international Pride month this year, Vietnamese singer and pop culture icon Truc Nhan released his latest hit music video, Sáng Mắt Chưa—a wacky, colourful, unapologetically flamboyant rollercoaster ride in which he is depicted “crashing” his friend’s wedding to let her know that her fiance is secretly his gay lover. 

While the tabloid-esque frivolity of illicit sexual affairs may seem like a rather shallow and tacky Pride anthem to the casual Western observer, this hilarious jab at “closeted” gay culture in Vietnam struck a chord with the local LGBTQI+ community for depicting an all-too-relatable scenario, in which many deny their own sexuality to fulfill their parents’ expectations to have a heterosexual marriage and start a family. Indeed, the tremendous pressure gay men face to take up the mantle of their family name and have children of their own is at the root of a lot of the violence, rejection, and discrimination they experience, sometimes in the form of violence from their own families.

Out in Public, Closeted at Home

Many people, particularly in urban areas, lead fairly open lives with their friends, finding local queer spaces when they are available, and of course dating and often getting into serious relationships—but they simply don’t talk about their public lives at home for fear of disappointing their parents, maintaining a precarious separation of the two worlds. It is common, therefore, for LGBTQI+ individuals in Vietnam to be publicly “out” but still “closeted” in their own homes.

This cultural phenomenon is widespread in Asian countries, where three or more generations often occupy a single household, and where adult children often stay with their families well beyond the age of 18. In Vietnam, this is partly due to cultural values rooted in traditional Confucianism, and partly due to socioeconomic necessity, with families functioning as a vital support system.

The legacy of Confucianism, imported by Chinese colonial rule centuries ago, still lies at the foundation of family values in Vietnam and, like many other patriarchal systems around the world, governs familial relationships, and assigns specific roles to women and men. Though Vietnamese women today enjoy a greater measure of independence and equality than in the more conservative, fundamentalist past, they are still typically expected to leave their childhood homes to join their husbands’ families after marriage. 

Traditional Confucianism says little about sexuality, but the structural mandates built on gender and generational hierarchy have historically left no room for homosexual relationships, and in extreme cases, have made homosexuality a de facto threat to the fabric of society and the status quo.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ CommunityĐạo Mẫu, or “Mother Goddess” worship - by thanhnien.vn

A notable exception exists in the centuries-old tradition of Đạo Mẫu, or “Mother Goddess” worship, originating in the north of Vietnam in the 16th century as a rebellion against Chinese colonial Confucian gender roles. Instead of relegating women to submissive, passive roles, Đạo Mẫu incorporates numerous female and male deities, and places female deity Lieu Hanh at the center—a symbol of women’s desire for freedom, happiness, and independence. Even more transgressive were the mediums specially chosen to commune with the goddess, who wore the clothing matching the gender of the male or female deity they wanted to commune with, regardless of their own gender. This is, perhaps, the first recorded instance of the performance of gender fluidity in Vietnamese culture. Đạo Mẫu received UNESCO’s inscription in 2016, and has had a cultural resurgence at the Four Palaces in Hanoi, where visitors can witness the colourful and centuries-old ritual practices of the religion in a dramatised way.

Looking Ahead

“There is no secret group of smart, benevolent activists who are going to secure rights and acceptance for you,” says Blake. “If you want things to change, you must be part of the effort. How big your contribution is and exactly what that contribution is, is up to you, but you should not be a bystander.”

Vietnam stands at the precipice of an exciting time for the LGBTQI+ community. Awareness and acceptance is spreading, laws are gradually making their way into the books to secure equality and protection for some of Vietnam’s most vulnerable communities, and the general outlook for the community in Vietnam is positive.

Vietnamese children and teenagers now have access to role models and resources that were almost completely out of reach only a decade ago. Media representation is increasingly affirming and positive. International influence imports a diversity of worldviews and cultures to a country that, up until the early nineties, was virtually cut off from the outside world.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI and CommunityHanoi Pride Parade - by facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

Still, there are plenty of challenges that remain. The LGBTQI+ community continues to be ostracised and isolated, particularly in rural communities, and disproportionately affecting trans people. “Coming out” is a hot topic and widely seen as something that is still impactful and consequential for many families. Particularly with the older generation, outdated stereotypes and misinformation through lack of exposure and education persist.

Thanks to the efforts of local initiatives and organisations like ICS, this is gradually changing, and leaders in queer communities throughout Vietnam are becoming more and more outspoken to challenge conventional assumptions and offer support to people who are vulnerable or afraid to be their true selves. 

“Don't be shy, be confident, do everything you can to be confident,” says Phong, a Hanoi based drag performer. “You're beautiful and have the right to exist. When you accept who you are and show your talents, don't be afraid of what other people think of you.”

“No matter what gender you have, you have the right to choose to do the right thing or the wrong thing,” says Lolita. “So, choose the right path to discover yourself and do not rush to conclude anything when you do not really understand it.”

“Be you,” says Dan Ni. “Because as Lizzo said, it feels good as hell.”

Vietnam’s LGBTQI and CommunityGuests at Genderfunk - by facebook.com/GenderFunk

Banner Image source: facebook.com/hanoipride.vn


Traffics Fines and Penalties in Vietnam: Know the Risks!

By: City Pass Guide

We tell you what happens if you are caught speeding, not wearing a helmet or seatbelt or using a phone while driving, plus, the cost of parking fines in Vietnam.

traffics fines and penalties in vietnamImage source: Chris Goldberg

You break the law and you are arrested

If you are caught red-handed — for instance if you have forgotten a turn signal or crossed into the wrong lane — in the sight of a policeman, they will walk into the street, point at you with their brightly colored torch, and motion for you to pull over. Beautiful girls and owners of brand new motorcycles have the reputation of being arrested more often.

Good to know: Traffic policemen are obliged by law to salute you when they stop you.

Do not try to escape

Some expats will advise you to pretend not seeing the policemen and ignore them or run away. We think you shouldn't. Trying to avoid them could possibly lead to an accident with another motorist or worse, the police getting on their bikes to chase you down. This will almost definitely lead to your bike being impounded on top of a hefty fine.

Pay a fine or pay a bribe?

Once you have been pulled over, the amount you pay will depend on how much Vietnamese you speak and what paperwork you have. If you pretend to not know Vietnamese, English, or even French, you might be able to get away without paying anything in some cases.

Another trick that seems to work is to talk gibberish and gesticulate: If they feel they are losing their time with you, they might let you go. This will only be an effective way to dodge a fine if the infraction you committed is minor.

traffics fines and penalties in vietnamImage source: baocantho.com.vn

If you are not a good actor/actress, then you will have to pay.

If your paperwork is in order (valid license, vehicle registration, insurance, passport), the only right and legal way to follow is to take the ticket and pay it within a couple weeks at the tax office. However, if you choose this solution, the police officer has the right to confiscate your vehicle’s registration. He may also take your license for extreme cases (read Tips for Buying or Renting a Motorbike in Vietnam for more information).

According to Circular No. 48/2014/TT-BGTVT, any foreigner or Vietnamese citizen residing overseas that wishes to drive in Vietnam shall:

a) Follow procedures for replacing an equivalent driving license of Vietnam if that person already has a national driving license;

b) Be permitted to operate the types of vehicles written on the international driving license without having to replace it with a Vietnam’s driving license if that person already has an international driving license issued by a competent authority of a member state of Convention on Road Traffic 1968;

c) In case an international agreement on driving license to which Vietnam is a signatory prescribes otherwise, such international agreement shall apply.

Even though it is the correct way to do things, it is usually a hassle for both the policemen and for you. To exacerbate the situation, the place to pay your fine might not be where they are keeping your registration license.

Because of these complications, most people choose to pay the fine directly to the cop and to get on with their day. These ‘fines’ can range from VND100,000 - 200,000 for motorbikes and VND500,000 - 1 million cars. Beware that they can be higher than the actual cost of the ticket. The amount will vary depending on your language proficiency, the type of vehicle, and the condition that it is in. Please note that only police wearing brown uniforms are allowed to issue fines and handle traffic violation. Without it, they cannot legally pull you over.

The Consequences: How much will you be fined?

Concerning fines, below is a breakdown of what you can expect to pay if you’re fined according to Decree No. 171/2013/NĐ-CP

 

Behavior or violation

 

Fines (VND)

Temporary keeping your motor (day)

Taking away driving license (day)

Excessive speed from 5 - under 10 km/h

100,000 - 200,000

0

0

Excessive speed from 10 - 20 km/h

500,000 - 1,000,000

0

0

Excessive speed over 20 km/h

2,000,000 - 3,000,000

0

30

Passing at the prohibited area

500,000 - 1,000,000

0

0

Driving in prohibited area, opposite side

200,000 - 400,000

0

30

Driving in wrong path of road or lane

200,000 - 400,000

0

0

Non-compliance with the signal of traffic lights

200,000 - 400,000

0

30

Non-compliance with the command of traffic controller

200,000 - 400,000

0

30

Changing direction without reducing speed

200,000 - 400,000

0

0

Changing direction without the signal informing turning direction

200,000 - 400,000

0

0

Level of alcohol in the blood over 0.25mg - 0.4mg/l

500,000 - 1,000,000

7

30

Level of alcohol in the blood over 0.4mg/l

2,000,000 - 3,000,000

7

60

Non-compliance with checking for the levels of alcohol in the blood

2,000,000 - 3,000,000

7

60

Not carrying Registered Certificate of motor, Driving License

80,000 - 120,000

0

0

No carrying insurance Certificate of Motor

80,000 - 120,000

0

0

Not owning a driving license

800,000 - 1,200,000

7

0

Not owning a Registered Certificate of motor

300,000 - 400,000

7

0

Driving a motor with capacity over 175 cm³ without driving license

4,000,000 - 6,000,000

7

0

No wearing helmet

100,000 - 200,000

0

0

Using phone when driving

60,000 - 80,000

0

0

Pulling or pushing other vehicles

200,000 - 400,000

0

0

Taking off 2 hands while driving

5,000,000 - 7,000,000

7

60

Weaving when driving

5,000,000 - 7,000,000

7

60

Driving on one wheel (to 2-wheel vehicle)

5,000,000 - 7,000,000

7

60

Driving self-assembly or self-produced vehicles

800,000 - 1,000,000

confiscating vehicle

60

Overall, after several years living in Vietnam, policemen have only stopped me a few times. Unlike some other Asian countries, it does not seem that the local police are targeting foreigners in particular. If you have all your documents in order and follow the traffic rules, you don't have to worry about being arrested or harassed. If you’ve had a different experience to me, please let us know by posting a comment below!

More information about traffic and driving in Vietnam:

Top 5 Tips for Renting a Motorbike

How to Cross the Road in Vietnam?

Banner Image source: blog.hoozing.com


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 


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


Increase Your Effectiveness by Managing Your Time

By: Victor Burrill

“Effectiveness is a habit and that you can improve through practice.” - Peter F. Drucker

We all have the same amount of time so why does it seem that some people are able to get more out of their day. Believe it or not, they have learnt the skill of how to properly manage their time to build their effectiveness. You too can learn this valuable skill and no matter how long you’ve been in the workplace, it’s never too late to learn.

Goal Setting

After getting to know my clients, one of the first things I ask them is ‘where do you want to be?’ One way I sometimes ask this is ‘What would be different say in two years’ time from now?’

Setting goals, or knowing which direction you are going is fundamental in clarifying your ideas, focusing your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want in life. To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be SMART which is:

- Specific (clear and concise).

- Measurable (the ability to track your progress).

- Achievable (challenging yet attainable).

- Relevant (set goals that are relevant to your overall plan).

- Time bound (goals should have a target finish time attached).

The Power of Focus

Tim Cook, the COO of Apple said “We are the most focused company that I know of or have read of or have any knowledge of. We say no to good ideas every day. We say no to great ideas in order to keep the amount of things we focus on very small in number so that we can put enormous energy behind the ones we do choose.” Like Apple’s success, you too can achieve amazing results on focusing your efforts and doing a good job on those things you decided to do and eliminating unimportant opportunities.

Time Management

Keeping the amount of goals you have to less than three increases the likelihood that you will reach them all with excellence. Statistics show that those who have more than four goals are likely to achieve only 1 or 2 of them. If you have over 11 goals, you are unlikely to reach any.

Learning to say ‘NO’ is a skill many successful people have mastered. Take billionaire Warren Buffett, for example. With all the demands on him, Buffett learned a long time ago that his most valuable resource is his time. He has mastered the art and practice of setting boundaries for himself. The mega-mogul once said, "The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.

Executive coaching guru, Dr. Marshal Goldsmith says that one of the greatest lessons Peter Drucker taught him is:

“We spend a lot of time helping leaders learn what to do. We do not spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop. Half of the leaders I have met don’t need to learn what to do. They need to learn what to stop.”

As a coach, I have found that much of my work is helping leaders work out what they need to stop doing in order to focus on their most important priorities.

You may also want to start by looking at your schedule or to-do-list every day and for simplicity try to get down five tasks you need to accomplish. Using the principle you can probably eliminate the majority of the items on your list. It may feel unnatural at first but overtime this will condition you to scale up effort on the most important tasks.

Learning How You Spend Time Will Help You Save Time

When it comes to managing your time, you may need to find out where your time actually goes. You may believe that you only send 30 minutes on emails, but in reality that task might be eating-up an hour of your day. The easiest way to keep track of your time is to download an app like RescueTime, Toggl or my app Calendar to track everything you do in a week. You can then find out what’s stealing your time and make the appropriate adjustments.I've found that setting a time limit to each task prevents me from getting distracted or procrastinating. if I don’t complete the task on time, I can still work on it without eating into the time reserved for something else.

Virtual meetings - thanks to rapidly advancing technology, we have more and more choice on ways to run a meeting. Of course, to say that online meetings can simply replace all face-to-face meetings is unrealistic.

Batching similar tasks together such as emails and phone calls. I know effective managers who schedule a specific time to handle these tasks such as late morning and towards the end of the day.

I also plan my week to avoid wasting time waiting. If I do find that I have a delay, I make the best of it. For example, whist waiting I’ll read an inspirational book, listen to a podcast, or make those important calls.

Time Management

Delegation and outsourcing can get a bit difficult for some but are real time-savers since it lessens your workload - which means you have more time to spend on more important tasks. Either hand over responsibilities to team members who are qualified or hire an experienced freelancer. Time training will be worth-it in the end.

Leaving a buffer-time between tasks and meetings can help performance. Jumping immediately from one task or meeting to the next may seem like a good use of your time, but it actually has the opposite effect. We need time to clear our minds and recharge. After all, the human brain can only focus for about 90-minutes at a time. Without that break it’s more difficult to stay focused and motivated. Scheduling buffer-time also can prevent running late to your next meeting.

The Power of Planning

A lot of successful leaders spend time thinking on how they will achieve their priorities. Spending time planning keeps you focused on your goals as well as giving you the opportunity to build contingency for a possible crisis and help you work out how to avoid interruptions.

One of the worst things that you can do is wake-up without a plan for the day. Before leaving work for the day, spend the last 15-minutes organizing your office and composing a list of your most important items for tomorrow. During your morning routine write down the 3 or 4 most urgent and important matters that need to be addressed today and work on those when you’re most productive.

Spend your mornings on your most important tasks (MIT’s). Mark Twain once said, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." Gross? Sure. But, the point that Twain was making that you should take care your biggest and most-challenging tasks in the morning, aka your most important tasks (MITs) of the day.

There are a couple reasons why this is such an effective time management trick. For starters, you usually have the most amount of energy in the morning. So it’s better to tackle these tasks when you’re not drained. Also, you can use that feeling of accomplishment to get through the rest of the day.

Be Energized and Inspired

There is a reason why successful leaders exercise regally. Even a short burst of fun cardio activity works wonders, especially in the morning. This is because exercise releases endorphins, serotonin, and other happy chemicals in your brain. According to renowned psychologist Shawn Achor, the reason why exercise is so key to your morning routine is that it literally trains your brain to believe "my behavior matters," which then carries (positively) into other activities throughout the day. And for procrastinators, exercising when you least feel like it is when it does the most good.

Time Management

I use inspirational sources like a TED Talk or biography. It’s a simple way to reignite that fire to get me motivated and back-on-track.

Change your schedule. If you’re reading this article then it’s obviously because you want to discover some useful time management skills. If you’re struggling with being effective, the solution may be as simple as changing your schedule around. For example, instead of sleeping-in until 6:30am, wake-up an hour earlier. Personally, I find 5:15am to be the most productive time of the day since it gives me time to exercise, plan-out my day, go through my emails, and even work on side projects without being disturbed.

*Victor Burrill is an internationally certified coach, leadership trainer and is Chairman of the Business Executive Network Vietnam.

Image source: Shutter Stock


Google's New Update Affects All Hoteliers

By: City Pass Guide

Breaking news: Your online bookings may be at risk

Did you hear that explosion? Google just set off its Mobile nuke. Media's calling the new algorithm update "mobilegeddon."

Basically, if your site is not mobile-friendly, you can expect a significant drop in your search rank. And since 90% of search engine clicks occur on the first page (Chitika), that could spell disaster for many unprepared tourism stakeholders.

Starting today, if you're not toe-to-toe with the search giant's expectations, you just lost a large chunk of bookings.

Yeah it's grim, but Google moves faster than any of us. All we can do is adapt.

Let's take a look at all the warning signs that told us this was inevitable:

1) Last year, mobile bookings rose by over 36%. Almost 21% of booking, 17% of room nights and 15% of revenue came from tablets and mobile devices. 25% of all bookings and revenue came from non-desktop mediums. (HeBS Digital Research).

2) 40% of page views were generated from non-desktop devices in 2014. (Tnooz)

3) In 2014, desktop website bookings declined by 4.4%, while desktop visitors declined by over 13%. (Tnooz)

4) Smartphones saw a surge in purchases in Vietnam in 2014. According to The Giodidong, 52% of all phone users own and use a smartphone.

5) Check out the infographics below, straight from Google. They drive the final nail in the coffin:

How Google's New Update Will Affect Hoteliers

How Google's New Update Will Affect Hoteliers

The warning signs were there: Google told businesses to brace for impact back in February.

So how will this update affect your business?

"Businesses that depend on people finding them through localized search will suffer most. Most of us use Google search engine on our phones and tablets. Imagine what happen when typing "activities in Saigon" or "Italian food in Ho Chi Minh City?" The many non mobile friendly website that relate to these subjects will fall off the screen. It will result in a substantial traffic decrease for them and a loss of sales."
Patrick Gaveau, CEO of Innovo JSC says
"Google has always been about relevancy, and content is king," he says. "But that's changing. Yes, they're saying content is still extremely important, but user experience is just as important. It's not sufficient to have all the right content — if people come to your site and the content is there but it's not readable, that's not good."
Itai Sadan, CEO of Duda, adds

Tnooz concludes that:

"Investing in your property website to maximize revenue from the three screens (desktop, mobile, tablet) is paramount to the very existence of your property. Coupled with a robust, well-funded digital marketing strategy, this will allow you to improve your property’s bottom line and leave the comp set in the dust."

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