Vietnam Tourism: Past, Present and Future

By: Mark Gwyther

"Vietnam. It grabs you and doesn’t let you go. Once you love it, you love it forever." - Anthony Bourdain

The First Generation – Adventure Tourism

If you are reading this article in Vietnam, there is a fair chance it is in part because of Anthony Bourdain. As Vietnam slowly opened its doors to the world during the last few years of the 20th century, celebrity chef and author Anthony Bourdain epitomised the country’s first generation of tourism: adventurous Westerners with backpacks travelling halfway around the world to explore the sights, sounds and tastes of an exotic country. Only 20 years ago, Vietnam received a meagre 1.5 million international visitors. These early adventure travellers increased in numbers over the next decade and as they explored the country, their favourite places became Vietnam’s first generation of tourist locations. By 2008, arrivals nearly tripled. Of course not all were these adventure travellers: Asian businesspeople, Chinese cross-border shoppers, veterans of the war and Russian oil expats were also in the mix.

tourismImage source: st-christophers.co.uk

It was not all smooth sailing. During the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, growth was not linear or even a certainty. The SARS scare of 2003 reduced the total inbound visitors nearly 8 percent from the year before, and the Thailand political unrest in 2009 affected the entire region, dropping the number of arrivals to Vietnam in 2009 by more than 10 percent from the year before.

Despite the ups and downs, businesses serving these adventure tourists multiplied as savvy Vietnamese saw the profitability of focusing on foreign visitors. A small number of foreigners fell in love with the country (or someone) and became expats, often opening a business for the adventure travellers who followed. Inside the cities, Pham Ngu Lao (Ho Chi Minh) and the French Quarter (Hanoi) became known as “the backpacker area”. Outside of these two major cities, travel was difficult in the early days and many of the first-generation locations arose because they were accessible. Phan Thiet/Mui Ne was the first spot where Highway 1A meets the ocean. Nha Trang and Danang/Hoi An had military airports converted to civilian airports which increased access.

Adventure tourism is not unique to Vietnam; it is often associated with developing countries and it often comes with problems. Ironically, adventure travellers en masse tend to destroy what they love. First-generation destinations are almost always not prepared for the growth in tourism. Adequate waste disposal, business regulations and security never quite catch up with demand. Once shops, restaurants and hotels are built along the roads, improving transportation infrastructure becomes much more difficult and costly. Many first-generation locations in Vietnam still struggle with these issues.

Vietnam will continue to be an adventure traveller’s dream in the foreseeable future. New locations such as Sapa are being discovered (and ruined) by travellers trying to get off the proverbial beaten path. Infrastructure improvements and a loosening of visa requirements will lower the learning curve, making the country more accessible to more people looking for that once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Video source: Benn TK

The Second Generation – Mass Tourism

In January of this year, Vietnam received nearly as many international visitors as all of 1998, but not because of a huge increase in adventure travellers. A recent seismic shift in the type of visitors changed the industry. To illustrate the point, only eight years ago nearly as many Americans visited Vietnam as Chinese. Now the Chinese visitors outnumber Americans by almost six to one.

tourismImage source: citypassguide.com

The second generation of tourists to Vietnam are the new Asian middle-class from nearby countries. The growth of people with disposable income in Asia is unprecedented in the history of humankind, surpassing post-World War II United States. That leads to interesting questions about where those new American middle-class consumers travelled and what they did. The answer is they overwhelmingly headed south to Mexico, a warm country with beautiful beaches, where Americans had more purchasing power, and the culture was interesting but not too exotic. By the end of the century Mexico was a top-10 international destination with 90 percent of arrivals originating from its northern neighbour. Vietnam is positioned almost exactly the same geographically to China as Mexico is to the United States. Mexico’s tourism industry is an excellent guide for understanding the past, present and future development of tourism in Vietnam.

Tourism in Mexico began with adventure travellers, just like Vietnam. As the numbers increased, Mexico learned from the problems first generation tourism hotspots like Acapulco encountered. Rather than continue to let development occur naturally, it allocated huge tracts of land for large developers in designated locations and provided incentives to build mammoth modern resorts. Mexico invested its oil revenues to develop the infrastructure surrounding these designated tourism locations. Unlike adventure travellers, the new middle-class travellers preferred resorts with walls that kept them inside and the locals outside. This successful strategy resulted in Cancun developing 26,500 hotel rooms and welcoming six million visitors a year by 2005.

Given these developments in Vietnam as well, it might lose some of the less mass-tourism-inclined visitors to less developed neighbouring countries, but many will be motivated to find less-known locations in Vietnam. An indirect benefit could be that tourism revenue may spread to some of the poorer areas of the country.

Vietnam’s second-generation of tourism is just beginning, despite tremendous growth in the last few years. The government is targeting 20 million international arrivals by the end of this decade. It is likely that nearly 30 million visitors will come to Vietnam by 2022. Destinations such as Phu Quoc, Cam Ranh and Danang are turning into Asia’s versions of Cancun and Cabos.

Video source: Hi Hai

Individually, these travellers might not spend as much money as more experienced travellers, but their sheer numbers make up for that and more. Additionally, the environmental and social impact is contained in a proportionately small area. For a developing country like Vietnam, the economic impact might be great enough to push the country towards the top end of the middle-income scale. For that to happen, the government’s proceeds from tourism should be reinvested back into programs that offer a high rate of return such as better infrastructure and education. While that may be uncertain, what is certain is that investors, developers and the Vietnamese government will continue to focus on this growing market segment.

The Third Generation – Sustainable Tourism

Once people travel internationally a few times, they become more adventurous and look for quality experiences outside the resort wall. The third-generation of tourism arises when the experience or activity is integrated into the surrounding environment. Specific cultural, geographic and historic properties are integral to the vacation. Companies engaging in third-generation tourism act in a more sustainable manner since their business model depends on the surrounding environment remaining relatively the same. This is also what industry experts mean when they discuss diversifying tourism products. Rather than focusing on a geographic market, the focus is on people from around the globe interested in some activity. Third generation tourists are searching for specific experiences and thus are willing to pay more. Price becomes less of an issue. This is the holy grail of tourism.

tourismImage source: baodulich.net.vn

How will tourism companies in Vietnam take this next step? Culturally, Vietnamese food is gaining an excellent reputation for being both tasty and healthy. Foodies all over the world might be interested in coming to Vietnam to experience their favourite dishes cooked and served authentically, especially if they know it is safe to eat. While an adventure traveller is comfortable eating on the street without guides, third-generation travellers need value added by a company that understands their needs. They pay more and expect more. Home stays and indigenous villages also offer a view into Vietnam’s unique culture. Vietnam has great potential for medical tourism as a low-cost alternative to Western medical procedures.

Vietnam’s incredible and diverse geography is another advantage companies may use to entice sophisticated travellers. Photography, adventure sports and spelunking are just some of the activities that potentially could bring vacationers from around the world.

Historical tourism will be a tougher road. Vietnam’s recent past damaged or destroyed many of its ancient sites. Although many Cham structures still stand, most could use renovation and support services to make the experience better. While war tourism is not a big market, maybe a small niche might arise for tours focused on the recent past wars. The Cu Chi Tunnels, after all, are a popular attraction.

tourismImage source: huracars.com

The evolution of tourism in Vietnam can and will happen concurrently. Third generation tourism businesses already operate quietly. Examples include the Amano’i Resort in Ninh Thuan Province which offers spa and wellness services to the super rich and famous. Eco-lodges in both the North and South try and co-exist with locals outside of the popular destinations. It will be up to individual businesses like these to move past the mega resort model since the Vietnamese government’s focus should be directed towards the low hanging fruit from the North. But Mexico’s tourism industry learned that as Americans gained more travel experience they eventually desired more than a beach and buffet. The new Asian middle-class travellers will also evolve past mass tourism, and those working in the tourism industry in Vietnam need to be prepared for the shift and get ahead of the curve.

Banner Image source: yenbai.org


July 2014 B2B Newsletter

By: City Pass Guide

 

July, 2014
The City Pass Post: An Insider Look

MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY


YEGA THIYAGARAJAN


This is the first in an occasional series in which we profile a successful industry identity. We find out what makes them tick, how they got to where they are now, and what they learned along the way.

We caught up with Yega Thiyagarajan, the general manager of Villa Song SaigonRead the full article that reveals the path to his success.

If you have an interesting business background and would like to participate in our series, don´t hesitate to contact us: send an email to carlos@citypassguide.com or emilio@citypassguide.com

by Rob van Driesum
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TRAVEL NEWS: INSIDE & OUT

STAY UP TO DATE WITH NEW ONLINE MARKETING TECHNIQUES

 
The latest news in the Travel and Hospitality Business. We've gathered the best articles to keep up to date with the latest Online Marketing practices in our industry:
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MOBILE USAGE CHANGES TRAVEL EXPERIENCE

PLACEABLE RESEARCH


Hoi An Entrance Fee
The rapid move to mobile research and bookings means travelers require easier ways to access content. In 2014, approximately 40% of leisure travelers and 35% of business travelers will use mobile search engines to find hotels, and this number will only grow, with 72% of travelers worldwide saying that the ability to book via mobile device is useful.

Placeable has recently conducted a survey where they surveyed 1,000 consumers to find out about how they research and find businesses before and during their travels. Read the FULL ARTICLE for key findings and nicely illustrated infographic.

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CITY PASS GUIDE DISTRIBUTION

CITY PASS GUIDE INCREASES ITS DISTRIBUTION NETWORK


Julien Robellet, Distribution Manager at City Pass Guide, talks about the quick and high increase of the distribution network.

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Aiming to reach a larger number of readers and provide useful and meaningful information to travellers and residents, City Pass team has done a great effort on its distribution channels. READ FULL STORY

SEE THE INFOGRAPHIC DISPLAYED ON THE LEFT IN FULL SIZE

If you wish to contact Julien directly, email him at distribution@citypassguide.com





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FOOTBALL TOURNAMENT
FOR CHARITY IN HCMC

SPORT & FUN ON SAT 19TH JULY

 
CityPass Guide is a proud sponsor of the 1st Inter-Company Football Tournament, organized by BBGV. The event will bring 16 teams together to compete for the Championship title. Colleagues, families, sponsors, associates and volunteers will support and cheer on the football teams throughout the day.

Date: Saturday 19th July 2014
Time: 08:30 to 17:30
Where: RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, District 7, HCMC
  • Fun and games for adults and children
  • All proceeds go to support local charities in Vietnam
For more info visit the Event Page
Top Three Souvenir Shops in Hanoi

If you´re interested in collaborating with City Pass Guide in the promotion of your Events/Deals, please write an email to carlos@citypassguide.com

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Ox-racing festival in An Giang

By: Quang Mai

Annual festival for all ages

The 21th Bay Nui ox-racing festival was held at the Khmer pagoda of Ta Miet, in the southern province of An Giang, on October 14, with 64 pairs of cows from southern provinces of Vietnam and Cambodia.

In order to promote the solidarity of 54 ethnic minority groups, the festival is organized annually. This is a joyful activities in An Giang that visitors from all ages are fond of. During four-day event, visitors also have chance to enjoy the cultural identities in Vietnam.

A muddy 120-meter-long racing path is the central point of the whole event where people gathered to witness the strongest and the fasted pairs to win the race. Before the cow racing festival, farmers had chosen the best pairs of cows for racing. The cowboy held the stick with sharp point when the race starts, he hitted the cows to make them run as fast as they can. The challenge is how to keep the pair run at the same speed and stay focused, otherwise he can probably fall down onto the race and get severe injury.

Photo by: Huỳnh Bá Long

 


Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

By: Vinh Dao

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

The weekend is one day away so if you are heading to Nha Trang, we have listed 5 things to do in Nha Trang. Nha Trang is known for it’s beaches and scuba diving sites and is a popular destination for both local and international tourists. While high rise hotels span the length of the main beach, the city still retains some of it’s local charm and if you are willing to head out of town, there are a few unspoilt beaches to be visit.

While we’ve written in length about Nha Trang in our Discover Vietnam post, we’ve listed our top 5 things to do at the beach destination.

1. Take a cable car to Hon Tre

Take the 3,320 metre gondola cable car to Hon Tre which is home to Vinpearl Land. This entertainment centre  includes a water park, bumper cars along with an expansive food court and is enough entertainment for the whole day!

Local insight: The cable car is the longest over the sea cable car in the world.

2. Take a mud bath

There are a few spas dotted around town that offer relaxing spa treatments but for the ultimate in relaxation, head to Thap Ba Hot Springs for a hot mineral-mud bath.

Local insight: They are a bit out of town so make sure you take a taxi there.

3. Get your PADI

The scuba diving is world-class and there are many different schools to choose from in the city. Just make sure you use a PADI certified school.
 
Local insight: Rainbow Divers has been running for over 17 years and is the recommended choice in town.

4. Go diving

There are over 350 different species of coral and other marine life in the ocean off Nha Trang. So when you get your PADI, rent a boat and go diving!

Local insight: Hon Mieu island’s clear water makes it a favourite for snorkellers and scuba divers alike.

5. See the sleeping Buddha

Located in Long Son Pagoda, this 80 metre long sleeping Buddha is one of the largest in the world. Inscriptions of the teachings of the lord Buddha dots the walls of the pagoda.

Local insight: Make sure to take the 150 step staircase to the top. Stunning views of Nha Trang are your reward.

Have a great weekend and enjoy our 5 things to do in Nha Trang!


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon



Golf in Dalat

By: Simon Stanley

"City of Eternal Spring", Why not?

Golf Clubs

Dalat is the stepping stone to the Central Highlands of Vietnam.  It stands at 1475 metres and this French influenced city is a breath of fresh air after the mayhem and humidity of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh. Dalat has been known for decades as the "City of Eternal Spring". This is due to its year round cool crisp mountain climate.  Dalat is the centre for vegetables and flowers, which grow in abundance in the rich, dark colored soil.

Dalat palace golfGolfwise, it is well serviced by three golf courses, although two are only nine holes, with both scheduled for completion of 18 holes this year.  In 1994 Dalat Palace Golf Club emerged again as the ideal golf retreat in Southeast Asia. The 18- hole golf course is crafted into the area’s rolling hills, surrounded by stately pine trees and seated above the majestic lake Xuan Huong.. The course weaves its way through stately pine trees to oversized and delicately manicured bent grass greens.  For many years it has been rated as the best golf course in Vietnam and many would tell you that it still is.

The course makes full use of its mountainous setting and cooler climate with breathtaking views of famous Xuan Huong Lake nestled amongst French inspired architecture.  It really is a delight to play and tee times are easy to get during the week.  Weekends tend to be busy due to the influx of native golfers from Saigon and Hanoi. The clubhouse sets the scene for the entire course, built in 1956 and restored to its former beauty. It houses a fully equipped pro-shop, locker rooms and international standard restaurant.  Stya and play packages are available from the golf course owned Hotel du Parc and the upmarket Dalat Palace Hotel.  Check the website for promotion packages, such as twilight golf.  www.vietnamgolfresorts.com

Located about 15 minutes drive from the airport, Royale City Golf Club, whilst only 9 holes is an absolute gem of a golf course.  Some of the views will take your breath away and the par three third hole, with its 80 metre drop from tee to green is just stunning. Designed by Peter Rousseau, his concept is to keep the site as natural as possible, preservingRoyale city golf the beautiful trees, some of the paddy fields and other water features. At the same time, enhance it with more exotic flora and fauna and to utilize the many natural springs, waterfalls and smaller lakes.

With four sets of tees, then it is recommended to play nine holes off one set and another nine of another tee box.  We can guarantee you will never get bored with this course!  Because of the many changes is elevation and the distances between holes, a buggy is mandatory. The current price is only $3 per hole, including green fee, caddie fee and a buggy.  This is great value for money.  www.royalecity.vn

Tuyen Lam golfThe latest addition to Dalat is  Tuyen Lam Golf Club and Resort, situated halfway up the mountain heading into Dalat City. The resort is located by the beautiful Tuyen Lam Lake, right outside of Dalat town. The valley topography is surrounded by sloping hills and primeval pine forests. 18 holes are planned to be completed by April 2104 and nine holes have been opened since February 2013.

The heart of the valley is a natural high mound which is a highlight for the formation of a four-star hotel, a golf clubhouse and next to it is the driving range. Halfway is a winding path following the slope of the hill. You can feel a combination of high-level works among the pure natural hills by standing anywhere.   http://www.sacomresort.com.vn/.

Dalat is highly recommended not only for the magnificent golf courses, but also a wonderful and relaxing place to visit.

Climate

Dalat from high upWith its mountain setting, the temperate weather is usually warm to hot during the day and cool during the evenings.  There is no need for air conditioning. The rainy season lasts from May to October, and the dry season is from November to April.  The wet season does not prevent golf, as the rain is not continuous and many days are dry.  One word of warning!  Due to the high altitude, the sun’s rays are much stronger; therefore use plenty of sun lotion to avoid getting sunburn.

Staying in Dalat

There are many hotels and resorts in Dalat, from five star to one star and therefore accommodation is plentiful and built in a French style.  There are many restaurants and cafes offering interesting local and international cusine.

Getting there

There is an international airport, with regular daily flights from Ho Chi Minh, Danang and Hanoi.  For visitors on a budget, sleeper buses from companies such as Sinh Café.  Be warned that is it about 7 hours from Ho Chi Minh to Dalat.  BEWARE.  The usual charge for the 35 kilometer journey from the airport to Dalat centre is around 300.000 Vietnam dong.  Do not use the meter if you are using a taxi.  You can buy a ticket from the taxi booth inside the terminal.

Booking golf

Golf Asian – www.golfasian,com  - and Golf Dalat – www.golfdalat.com – specialize in booking golf trips to Dalat.  They can book not only tee times but also accomodation and make all travel arrangements as well.


Things to do in Ninh Thuan Province - Phan Rang City

By: Mark Gwyther

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Activities

The beach is the main attraction, and choosing the right place to stay is very important if your goal is to have quality beach time. The resorts have private beach rights allowing them to keep non-guests away from guests. It also motivates the resorts to keep their beach clean. However, only Bau Truc and Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu do it consistently. Beaches in front of the other resorts can accumulate garbage from the locals who come to the bay in the morning and evenings.

Waking up for sunrise is highly recommended and may be a highlight of your trip to Vietnam. Get to the beach before 5:30 AM with a towel to sit and watch what seems like the entire city of Phan Rang doing their daily exercising/socializing in front of a beautiful sunrise. You will also see many of the traditional round boats out in the bay as the fisherman collect their daily catch.

Sunrise at Ninh Chu BayThe hundreds of locals mysteriously disappear around 8:00 AM and the beach is all yours until the evening. If you have traveled to other popular beach locations in Vietnam, you will notice im/mediately that nobody will come and try to sell you trinkets in Ninh Chu Bay. In fact, during the daytime you may not see anyone on the beach.

If you love to wind surf or kite surf, then Ninh Chu Bay is a paradise. A consistent, strong wind begins blowing before noon and lasts until the evening. Jet skis and motorboats are still unknown, leaving just a few fishing boats as the competition. As of now, none of the resorts rent equipment, however. If you feel like exploring, behind the Saigon Tourist Hotel and within walking distance from the center of the bay, is a hill with several temples and pagodas. Pathways make it easy for visitors to walk up to the statues among the hills and look out over the area. It is a very peaceful place.

Thap Cham in Ninh ThuanThap Cham is the location of two of the most famous Cham temples. The most popular is Po Klong Garai, which was built in the 13th century and is still an active site for Cham celebrations. Unlike many old ruins, the government has recently renovated the attraction and it is kept in good shape.

If you want to take a day trip, the most popular attraction for the Vietnamese tourists is near-by Vinh Hy Bay. Vinh Hy is a small fishing village about 30 kilometers north of Ninh Chu Bay. Your resort can arrange for you to catch a bus. Once in Vinh Hy, you can take a boat tour to some of the nearby islands and the deserted beaches of the Ninh Thuan coast. Before the new coastal highway was built, these beaches were only accessible by boat.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Eating

Your dining options are fairly limited, but they are also pretty good. Of course Vietnamese style seafood is the main attraction. The Sakaya Restaurant at the Bau Truc Resort is highly recommended. The restaurant is open air and located on the beach, unlike many of the other resort dining options. The food is relatively inexpensive with most dishes being around $4 and a beer costing $1. Stick with the Vietnamese dishes and stay away from their attempts at western food.

If your resort has a large group of loud Vietnamese tourists, then another excellent option is the beach bar at the Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu Hotel. It is usually very quiet and you can order any of the dishes from the main restaurant.

Phan Rang is also famous for its chicken and rice. The dish is fairly simple, just boiled chicken, rice, and a spicy fish sauce. You can find this dish in many of the local restaurants around Phan Rang.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Entertainment

16 April ParkPhan Rang does not have any nightlife fitting for foreign tourists, yet. If bars and discos are your thing, then Nha Trang or Mui Ne are more appropriate locations. That doesn’t mean there is nothing to do at night, though. Check out 16 April Park to experience a side of Vietnam that not everybody sees. Hundreds of locals gather around the park to eat street food, drink beer, and chat. It is safe and you will be left alone to enjoy the cool evenings. The park is located between the beach and Phan Rang city.

Things to do in Ninh Thuan - Getting Around

 In general, it is not safe for foreigners to rent motorbikes in Vietnam. Phan Rang might be the exception, as the roads near the beach are wide and empty. Most resorts can rent one to you for about $7/day. We still recommend a taxi or bus if you plan on visiting the Cham Temples or Vinh Hy Bay. If you stay at a resort in the center of the bay, you can walk along the beach or the road lining the beach for some light exploring. Taxis are easy to find and Mai Linh Taxi and Phan Rang Taxi have meters.

Issues and Concerns

The biggest factor that can negatively affect your vacation to Ninh Thuan is if a large group of Vietnamese stay in your resort. Ask the receptionist when you check in if they expect a large group and ask for a room that is away from them. These company or school trips are usually accompanied by an tour guide/MC with a microphone and large speakers. A banquet with entertainment and karaoke can make dining at the restaurant impossible. If this happens, try going to the beach bar at the Saigon Tourist-Ninh Chu Hotel. Have some beer, good seafood, and relax while listening to the waves. Another option is to go to your restaurant, order, and have them deliver dinner to your balcony. The groups typically go to Vinh Hy Bay for most the day or they move on to another destination. Daytimes at the resorts are almost always quiet and peaceful.

Phan Rang RoadPhan Rang is not Ho Chi Minh City or even Nha Trang when it comes to service. Many of the staff speak English, but you are far more likely to have to point to the menu (written in English), and ask the receptionist to tell your taxi driver where you are going than in the more popular tourist destinations. You should keep your expectations low for any spa treatments from the local resorts.

The beaches are separated from town, so there are not a lot of convenience stores around, yet. It is possible to find some convenience store items nearby, but if your plan is to stock up on groceries, you may want to take a taxi to the Co-op Mart near Phan Rang.

Conclusion

Ninh Thuan Province is very much like the eye of a storm. To the south are the bars and crowds of Mui Ne and Phan Thiet. To the west is the increasingly popular mountain city of Dalat. To the north is the beach city of Nha Trang. If you are looking to step out of the storm that is Vietnam tourism and see what Vietnam is like when foreign tourists are not present, then maybe you should try Ninh Thuan Province. You might want to hurry, though, as this hidden gem is becoming discovered.


Other articles:

Top 5 things to do in Saigon

Top 5 things to do in Danang

Top 5 souvenirs to buy in Vietnam

Top 5 things to do in Quy Nhon

Top 5 dishes to try in Nha Trang

Top 5 things to do in Nha Trang

Top 5 dishes to eat in Hanoi

Top 5 places to go shopping in Ho Chi Minh City

Top 5 Che-sweet soups must try in Saigon


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