Visibility and the Exploding Growth of Vietnam’s Queer Spaces

By: John Mark Harrell

Vietnam’s lô tô troupes are one of the first safe spaces for the trans community.

A growing number of venues and grassroots organizations are creating new safe spaces for Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ community.

Vietnam’s LGBTQI+ community, like others around the world, has gradually stepped into the light and become increasingly visible and accepted, largely thanks to increased media representation that has spread awareness and helped normalise gender fluidity and non-heterosexual relationships. While there is much work to be done, safe spaces for queer individuals to gather and seek support have been growing and flourishing in the country’s major urban centers, and even in the countryside thanks to the decades-long existence of Vietnam’s well-known lô tô troupes.

Lô Tô: A Safe Haven for Vietnam’s Trans Community

Many LGBTQI+ individuals hide their sexuality or true gender identity from their families, but for many in the transgender community (particularly for those who choose to transition), this luxury may not always be afforded to them. While transgender people are increasingly visible in positive media representation and pop culture, the Vietnam Union of Science and Technology Associations, in collaboration with Hanoi University of Public Health, has found transgender discrimination to be rampant, with over 60% of transgender people in Vietnam having attempted suicide at some point in their lifetimes. 

“Part of the problem is the limited way of thinking in the heterosexual community,” says Phong, a Hanoi-based performer. “Claiming that everyone has to live according to the gender assigned at birth.”

While transgender women experience the misogyny, abuse, and erasure that is devastatingly common throughout the world, transgender men (and more broadly, anyone assigned female at birth or AFAB) currently have very little access to sexual health resources. Fortunately there are growing grassroots movements, like FTM Vietnam, who are working to organize events like Trans Dot and spread awareness of issues specific to this underserved queer community. In addition, a recent initiative by ICS to provide quality sexual health education to students across Vietnam has concentrated a majority of its resources on the AFAB community.

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/transdotvn

Beyond basic sexual health, professional medical help is another scarcity in the limited pool of resources for the local trans community. Few doctors in Vietnam are qualified or knowledgeable about gender confirmation surgeries or hormone therapy, leading many trans people to buy their hormones on the black market and inject them without knowing the appropriate dosage for their body type. Those who are fortunate enough to have support networks and sufficient resources travel to Thailand for their medical procedures—but if any complications arise after returning home, transgender people may find it next to impossible to find treatment even in major cities like Hanoi and Saigon.

Transgender people in southern Vietnam have historically banded together and formed their own communities as a survival mechanism. In the early 1980s, coupled with the rising popularity of Bingo which had been imported by the French during the colonial era, the nomadic lô tô“ troupes first appeared, comprised of mostly transgender drag queens who travelled from town to town, throwing carnivals and Bingo games for local communities until their licenses to operate expired, or they could no longer attract enough customers, or they were forced out by the local community. 

Though once merely regarded as a sort of “freak show,” this tradition has become a weekly staple at Rubik Zoo in Saigon performed by a local troupe of performers called Sài Gòn Tân Thời. Lô tô itself has transformed from a local novelty into a part of the country’s unique cultural heritage and, gradually, a positive representation for transgender people. Sài Gòn Tân Thời have recently been featured at a performance arts festival in Taipei, Taiwan, and have even had a go at investors on an episode of the Vietnamese version of Shark Tank

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: phunuvietnam.mediacdn.vn

For many transgender people in Vietnam, working as entertainers or in lô tô troupes is the only means to survival, as their legal gender doesn’t match their true identity or appearance, leading to difficulty applying for other kinds of jobs or integrating with society in ways cisgender people take for granted. Though change is inevitably on the horizon, it is only recently that transgender people have begun to be heard and seen beyond their capacity to entertain.

Safe Spaces for Queer Folks

ICS is a nonprofit organization that works throughout Vietnam to advocate for LGBTQI+ rights, educate local communities, and help organize local Pride events. Originally comprised of volunteers who met on internet forums, they eventually become organized and officially registered as a company in 2011. In 2012, they organized Vietnam’s first ever Pride celebration in Hanoi, and have since expanded to cities and towns all throughout the country.

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

The Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment (iSEE) is another local advocacy group that also works more broadly for gender justice and protection of ethnic minority groups and has been advocating for social justice since before ICS was founded. The Center for Studies and Applied Sciences in Gender, Family, Women and Adolescents (CSAGA) has been around since 2001 and works more broadly for women’s and girls’ rights throughout Vietnam. In addition to these more established organizations, an increasing number of smaller grassroots organizations have grown to address the needs of smaller and underserved queer communities or needs and concerns specific to certain demographic regions, like NYNA and NYNO, Unigen, Hanoi Queer, Saigon Queer, and Bau Troi Xanh

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

Thanks to these grassroots organizations working in their local communities, the word is spreading and public perception is gradually shifting.

“[Public perception] has improved quite a lot; those within the younger generation don’t discriminate at all and those from the older generation are softening up,” says Long, a transgender dancer and drag performer based in Saigon. “Parents of those within the community are starting to accept how their kids identify themselves and understanding that it’s natural and normal.”

In addition to advocacy groups, a growing number of queer-specific parties and events have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, giving the increasingly visible LGBTQI+ community opportunities to express themselves, make new friends and connections, and simply have fun. 

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/hanoipride.vn

GenderFunk is a collective of queer artists and performers who have been organizing some of Saigon’s biggest queer events since summer of 2018. Their Saigon is Burning series, which has expanded to include Hanoi is Burning (as well as a GenderFunk-inspired “Is Burning” event in Grenoble, France), is a drag competition inspired in part by the original New York City ballroom scene which is the subject of the groundbreaking 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. 

GenderFunk aims to promote queer art, create safe queer spaces and, in the words of founder Ricardo Glencasa, “to explore and express your gender, however the f*** you want!” GenderFunk has also organised several gender and sexuality workshops for universities in Saigon and worked with ICS through charity fundraising events to finance close to 100 million VND for initiatives for leadership training and inclusive sexual education in schools throughout Vietnam.

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/GenderFunk

Before there was GenderFunk, there was Full Disclosure, which pioneered the first inclusive drag night for both locals and expats in Saigon. Full Disclosure, founded by Gavin Sealy (also known as drag queen Joy Oi), started in 2017 and still organises events featuring local and international talent in a laid back environment where attendees can simply be themselves and have fun. 

Full Disclosure has also worked closely with the Tipsy Unicorn, one of the newest additions to Saigon’s gay bars, to put on weekly events and create safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community in Saigon, ranging from trivia nights to weekly Rupaul’s Drag Race viewing parties. In addition to bringing the local community together for more informal gatherings, these events consistently provide a platform for the city’s newest drag performers to experiment and gain valuable experience.

In addition to these newer queer spaces, many existing performance troupes and drag shows have existed for the local community over the past decade or so, including the legendary JS Band, a group of fashionable transgender drag queens who perform regularly at venues around town (as well as GenderFunk & Full Disclosure) founded by activitist and mentor Jessica Ca in 2012. Bang Trinh team is another blend of trans and cis drag queens who frequently perform at local clubs and venues and spread awareness of LGBTQI+ issues in Vietnam—not only entertaining their audiences, but educating them as well.

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: kenh14.vn

Ongoing club nights in Saigon like Republic and more upscale events at Skyxx are long-established venues for local and international drag performers, though they cater to high end crowds looking for a nightclub atmosphere. And perhaps one of the most popular unofficial-but-everyone-knows-it queer spaces is at Thi Bar on De Tham street in Bui Vien, which is consistently packed on the weekends and a favourite gathering place for local Vietnamese gay men.

Further to the north, Hanoi’s queer scene is expanding and manifesting itself in new ways that many in the local community never thought they would see.

“We have drag in Hanoi, which is crazy,” says Phong. “And it’s been nothing but support from everyone. Hanoi Pride caused lots of attention, good and bad but hey...that’s progress!”

Local queer collectives Peach and Wet organise numerous drag performance events and queer parties at venues all over Hanoi. One of Peach’s highlight events, “Singalong Social,” features a unique format where drag queens lead the audience in singing along to some of their favourite tunes. They also put on regular performance events and have recently hosted their own drag competition show for Hanoi Pride called Queen of Hanoi. 

Peach has worked closely with GenderFunk in Saigon to co-organize events in both Saigon and Hanoi in the past year, and an exciting blend of Vietnam’s diverse cultural communities in the North and South, as well as the mixture of international visitors and expats, has created a unique new kind of queer community in the country that expands beyond borders to a movement that is gradually having an international impact.

Beyond clubs, bars, and drag shows, there are a growing number of safe spaces for queer folks together in Saigon and Hanoi, like iSEE’s multi-functional meeting space, Gõ LGBT Shop, and the ICS Hub Cafe. Hanoi Queer recently organized Queer History Month in conjunction with Hanoi Pride in September 2019, with a stated goal of “communicating the presence of the LGBTQ community and contribute to the celebration of diversity as part of the larger goal of pushing for the society’s recognition of LGBTQ people.” The Hanoi International Queer Film Week hosts queer film events in a major festival once a year and smaller recurring events throughout the year. 

Vietnam's LGBTQI+ CommunityImage source: facebook.com/VietnamQueerHistoryMonth

As more and more members of the community raise their voices and make themselves heard, the demand for queer spaces and queer gathering places has increased dramatically in the last decade. There are now more safe spaces and grassroots organizations than ever before in Vietnam’s history, though for now they are mostly concentrated in major urban centres like Saigon and Hanoi. 

Here and around the world, there is certainly much to be done in the struggle for equality, but in Vietnam there is a palpable sense of hope in the local LGBTQI+ community. A hope that inclusivity and acceptance of “alternative” gender identity and sexuality will soon become the norm, rather than the exception.

Banner Image source: starsinsider.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


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."


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

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