7 Saigon Bloggers You Must Bookmark Now

By: Aleksandr Smechov

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

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

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

 

Rusty Compass

Rusty Compass

Cool stuff about Mark’s blog:

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

• Well-structured website makes navigation easy

• Great pictures

• Observations are candid and nuanced

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

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

Mark also takes excellent photos.

Standout article: The Last President’s Driver

 

Andy Goes to Asia

Cool stuff about Andy: 

● Articles are written for the everyday expat

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

● Focuses a lot on storytelling

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

● Well written, fun, blunt and helpful

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

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

Standout article: The Motorbikes of Saigon

 

Adventure Faktory

Adventure Faktory

Cool stuff about the AF duo: 

● Best layout/presentation of the bunch

● Content is broken down by topics

● Cool pictures

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

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

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

Standout article: The Ultimate Saigon Cafes List

 

Elka Ray

Cool stuff about Elka: 

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

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

● Great writing

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

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

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

Standout article: Scraps of history

 

Hello Saigon

Hello Saigon

 

Cool stuff about HS:

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

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

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

● Blogger is active and a regular poster

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

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

Standout article: A Relaxing Stay at Salinda Resort

 

City Pass Guide

City Pass Guide

Cool stuff about City Pass: 

• Self-explanatory (kidding)

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

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

• Interview with experts on various destinations

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

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

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

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

 

Sketchpacker

Sketch Packer

Cool stuff about Zoe:

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

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

● Blogs are both informative and very well written

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

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

Standout article: Saigon’s Darkest Secrets

 


Special Flowers for Tet 2019

By: Robert Fouldes

Every Tet holiday we also celebrate and enjoy the arrival of spring. Everyone looks for the best flowers and ornamental plants to decorate their homes, to provide a striking visual effect and to create a feeling of freshness, helping us to look forward to a new year filled with luck, happiness and good fortune. Some of the popular flowers for this occasion are yellow apricot blossom, cherry blossom, kumquat, chrysanthemum, orchid, and narcissus. We find great joy in decorating our homes with flowers for Tet, raising our feelings as well as beautifying our homes, we also find ourselves expressing ourselves through personal tastes and communicating something of ourselves through the aesthetic of our style and decoration, in some cases hoping to mark ourselves as a connoisseur or arbiter of taste.

Let us consider what flower varieties are the hottest choices in this New Year / Tet 2019?

1. Chaenomeles japonica

This is a kind of flowering shrub that visually combines the cherry blossom of northern Japan and the southern yellow apricot blossom. Chaenomeles japonica is also known as Maule’s quince, belonging to the rose family with a short woody bush growing to about 100 – 200 cm. The shrub is slender and graceful, rich in colour, the flowers have broad petals, grow to be evenly sized, with cleverly arranged petals 3 - 5 cm diameter. The petals open by day and close at night and can be expected to be in flower for up to 2 months. The flower shows a diverse range of colour, bright red, crimson, red-orange, red rose. When in bloom, this flowering shrub is like a red fire, symbolizing wealth, peace, virtue and the common good. It is usually cultivated as a bonsai, and will also bear fruit. The shrub produces apple-like fruit, green until turning yellow when ripe, it appears quite like a pear, is fragrant, hard and usually sour, but it can be used to make preserves.

The price of Chaenomeles japonica varies from 1 to 10 million VND depending on the shape and size of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: giahuygarden.vn

2. Prunus mume Sieb

Prunus mume Sieb is a kind of white apricot blossom. It is a woody species, belonging to the rose family. The more rough and hardy the tree trunk is, the more beautiful it is considered. The flower buds are pink, but when blooming they gradually become white with very tight layers of petals. When the petals are shed, the remaining calyx (that protected the flower bud) gradually changes to red looking like a new flower, then this too falls away after a period of time, because of this, the flower has another name “twice apricot blossom” meaning that the flower blooms two times. Prunus mume Sieb symbolically represents the honourable man, for principles and values of virtue. The three most favoured silhouettes of the Prunus mume Sieb are the triangle, the straight and the slantwise. The triangle is also known as 3 elements: sky – earth – human with a large root and three branches forming the tree trunk. The straight upright appearance is straightforward, honest and strong. The slantwise is also known as the silhouette of a waterfall, leaning to one side, the shape often bending as would a tree growing on a steep mountain slope, which means reverence to the superior, the master.

Most of the Prunus mume Sieb cost from 2 to 15 million VND depending on the shape, silhouette and age.

special flowers for tetImage source: sohanews.com

3. Camelliathea amplexicaulis

Also known as Japanese Red Camellia (and has been called the Japan Rose), the flowers possess a conspicuous beauty and exude a beautiful, elegant and gentle scent (tea being a variety of Camellia). Camellia can be considered a gourmet plant with an added reward of flowers. Wherever you place the tea flower, the whole area will benefit and become refreshed and brightened as the flowers exude their wonderful aroma. Tea flowers come in many different colours such as reddish brown (deep tea), dark pink (pomegranate tea), pink rose (royal tea), white (white tea), yellow (gold flower tea) and sometimes hybrid combinations of white and pink stripes, red stripes, speckled (octagonal tea). The flowers are large and conspicuous usually with 5 to 9 petals. The Tea flowers will bloom for 5-15 days. The flowers symbolically represent perfection, loyalty, humility, dignity and grace.

Flowers cost from 500 thousand to 120 million, depending on the colour of the flower and the age of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: blogspot.com

4. Camellia sasanqua

The flowers are fresh and vibrant, but they do not overpower us with a dazzling feeling, but radiate our senses with a feeling of warmth. The petals are broad, curved, and gently embrace the yellow stamens, the fragrance is very light. These flowers include two varieties, one with single petals and one with dual petals. The colours are quite diverse with white, pink, dark pink, yellow, with the most popular being crimson. Blooms can last up to 20 days; the flowers are often very thick and cover trees with a high density. Camellia sasanqua represents harmony, joyful life and friendship of the family (in Chinese, the name of the flower is synonymous with the big house, the main house).

Flowers cost from 500 thousand VND to 100 million VND, depending on the shape, age and age of the tree.

special flowers for tetImage source: kenhhomestay.com

5. Hibernation Rhododendron

According to the ancients, the rhododendron flower is a symbol of gentleness, peace, prosperity and reunion. For some European countries, this flower is considered a symbol of glory and pride. Rhododendrons can also have another name: Azalea. Possessing a brilliant beauty with warm colours, azaleas are commonly dark red, dark pink, pink, purple, orange, white. Every time the flower blooms, it fills the space around it with vitality. An interesting aspect of the rhododendron is its hibernation, in cold dry periods the plant will reduce its water content, but the cells will remain alive, in Autumn / Fall, the tree will slowly fall into hibernation with the appearance of dry branches. When the water supply at the roots resumes, after 2 days the tree will wake and on the third day will bud and the flowers will begin to sprout. On the 7th day, the flowers will begin to bloom, and after 15 days the buds will fully bloom with brilliance.

The price of hibernation rhododendron is quite low, from 150-500 thousand VND / bunch of 30-50 branches.

special flowers for tetImage source: kenh14cdn.com

6. Classic Rose

Classic Roses are always loved for their beauty, romantic association, elegance and luxurious appearance. In addition, the number of blooms on each bush/tree is usually quite large. The rose bush also radiates a broad gentle fragrance that adds to its attraction. Classic Roses are a diverse and widely cultivated species. The flowers have many varieties such as Van Khoi Rose, Sapa Rose, Lipstick Rose, Bach Xep Rose or imported pink called Tree Rose, all with various colours: white, pink, dark pink, yellow, red, purple or veined stripes. Rose blooms usually last for 7-10 days, with some types of super long lasting blooms persisting for a whole month.

Classic roses are priced at VND 1.5 - 250 million depending on the origin and freshness.

special flowers for tetImage source: vuonhongvanloan.com

7. Peony

Peony was dubbed the king of flowers with a beautiful, noble and gorgeous bloom. Charming and delicate as roses, the petals are narrow, smooth, layered from the centre to the outside, giving a full shape, but the size is much larger (20-30cm) than a rose, making it stand out in every space. It also possesses a passionate and charming scent along with various striking colours such as pure white fawn, a noble and fresh pink, an attractive bright red, a charming high purple, a warm golden shine, a keen purple, and a charming pink colour to a unique reddish purple. The flower symbolises wealth, prosperity, beauty and wisdom and is a popular gift all around the world. The Peony will bloom for 7-10 weeks in suitable conditions.

Peony flowers cost between VND 500,000 and VND 8 million.

special flowers for tetImage source: tronghoa.vn

8. Winterberry

Winterberry is a shrub that grows wild in many countries such as the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States. The tree is tall, beautiful, with slender glossy green leaves, it produces small white flowers, then clusters of berries along its branches, appearing as yellow then ripening to a striking red; these berries are also a favourite food of birds. The tree is at its most beautiful in the late winter and early spring, a clear sign of the New Year. Europeans have long used the Winterberry along with other flowers to decorate and bring a feeling of warmth to the home in the middle of the cold winter season. In the climate of southern Vietnam, fruiting branches can be kept fresh for 7-10 days. If the climate is as cold as in the north, they can be kept for months.

Winterberry prices are quite expensive because of their origin, incurring import and storage fees. Each branch will cost around 200-400 thousand VND, a large collection for about 5 - 50 million VND.

special flowers for tetImage source: wikimedia.org

9. Forsythi

This flower blooms in early spring; the blooms are a bright yellow colour, like the apricot blossom in southern Vietnam. However, Forsythi blooms in clusters, with the flowers clinging along the length of its long slim branches. The flowers have 4 long petals stretching out to hug the pistil. The Forsythi grows as a wild-flower in many European and American countries. They also have the name "Easter Tree " or "Golden Rain", and are often grown as fences/hedges or in parks. The plants often shed their leaves before flowering. Each flower cluster appears to possess great intricate beauty, but close observation reveals quite a simple structure, but it remains visually dominating. The yellow colour always raises one's spirits, inspiring and bringing joy wherever they are found. The flowers can stay fresh for about 15-20 days.

The prices range from 300-500 VND / branch, depending on the height. A large plant is available for about VND 4 - 15 million.

special flowers for tetImage source: amazonaws.com

10. Hybrid Orchid

The Orchid is still the first choice for many flower lovers, but the type of orchid most sought after recently is the Hybrid Orchid, even though their prices are quite high, from several million to nearly ten billion VND. The Flowers have a very distinctive appearance with different colours, diverse shapes and width of petals. There are many types of orchids such as Rhynchostylis gigantea, Dendrobium anosmum, White Dendrobium Nestor… each species having a unique appearance, in fact, all are unique. For example the Paphiopedilum parishii orchid or “mutant beard”, originated from Germany, its shape is intriguing as it appears to be adorned by two long beards, it holds the price of 4.6 million VND / plant. Dendrobium anosmum orchid is marked by broad, thick, firm but not too long petals, costing from 5 million VND / plant. Rothschild: an almost extinct orchid species with only a small number remaining in the Kinabalu region of Malaysia - dubbed the "gold of Kinabalu", blooms only once every 15 years, the flowers costing upwards from 110 million VND. To get these orchids, collectors must order a long time in advance, and sometimes there will be no guarantee that they will receive them at a given time, such are their rarity, but for many flower lovers and collectors, the investment is worth both the time and money, for them to attain the object of their passionate desire.

special flowers for tetImage source: ytimg.com

Banner Image source: ynghiahoa.net


Things not to do in Vietnam

By: Quang Mai

Following the post about “Tips to spot and avoid scams and pick pockets”, City Pass Guide provides a list of things not to do in Vietnam that can secure visitors and help them to make their trip in Vietnam enjoyable.

On the street

To avoid being robbed or becoming victims of pickpockets, we highly recommended travelers not to carry more money than they need when walking around the streets, especially when you are alone. Wear as little jewelry as possible, as even fake jewels attract unwelcome attention from would-be robbers. In fact, thieves and drive-by snatchers do not have time to decide if jewelry is high value or not; they simply take whatever opportunity comes their way through a moment’s carelessness.

When taking a ride by xe om (motorbike taxi) make sure your bag, if any, is not on display or easy to grab. Bag snatches, although relatively rare, are probably the most likely crime a tourist will encounter, and it the risk is increased enormously if your prized camera or laptops are clearly visible.

Cultural issues

Wearing large amounts of jewelry is considered impolite because it seems to be flaunting wealth in public.

Don't wear singlets, shorts, dresses or skirts, or tops with low-neck lines and bare shoulders to Temples and Pagodas. To do this is considered extremely rude and offensive. Don’t be surprised when you notice some local ladies wearing them. Such dress is actually being criticized in many official and unofficial discussions in both online and print /media. You should not create any chances for locals to lay the blame on western culture.

Never sleep or sit with the soles of your feet pointing towards the family altar when in someone's house.

Never lose your temper in public or when bargaining for a purchase. This is considered a serious loss of face for both parties. Always maintain a cool and happy demeanor and you will be reciprocated with the same.

Physical displays of affection between lovers in public are frowned upon. That’s why you may usually come across couples holding hands while very seldom you can see a couple give kiss to each others in the public area. In fact, you may catch some couples hugging or even kissing to pose their selves in front of a camera. They are actually a part of the new generation of Vietnamese who are open-minded and affected by film and entertaining industry.

Ethnic minorities

Avoid giving empty water bottles, sweets and candies or pens to the local people when trekking through ethnic minority villages. You cannot guarantee that the empty bottles will be disposed of in a correct manner, and the people have no access to dental health. If you want to give pens, ask your guide to introduce you to the local teacher and donate them to the whole community.

Never take video cameras into the ethnic minority villages. They are considered to be too intrusive by the local people.

Political issues

Blogging is acceptable if your content stays steer clear of sensitive stories about the government. It is OK to share your personal experiences and review accommodation or restaurants but nothing else. Talk about anything like corruption in the government or even the Vietnam War can lead to a negative reaction on the part of the authorities. Therefore we definitely highlight this important point. It’s better to forget the term of “Freedom of Speech” while travelling in Vietnam.

Do not try to take photographs of military installations or anything to do with the military. This can be seen as a breach of national security.

Anything that depicts pornography is highly illegal. Prostitution also happens to be illegal. If you love bars and nightclubs, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi probably can serve your interests. But always keep in mind that sharing a hotel room with a Vietnamese of the opposite sex is generally not permitted.

Trading in or possession of drugs is illegal and a capital offence in Vietnam. As in other countries, drug abuse costs a lot in terms of prevention or even reduction, but it seems that it can never be completely eradicated. Therefore, don’t ever carry drugs with you while you are travelling in Vietnam.


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

Tips to spot and avoid scam and pick pocket

Top 5 tips for preventing theft in Vietnam

The art of bargaining in Vietnam



Facebook redesigns business pages with new look

By: Emilio Piriz

Facebook redesigns business pages with new look

After redesigning its news feed personal accounts last week, Facebook announced that it will roll out a new look and feel for business pages. This affects the Online Reputation Management (ORM) service that we at City Pass provide to premium clients in the Travel and Hospitality sector in Vietnam; therefore we should take these changes into consideration to get the best out of the new features.

The remake means good news to all users of this platform. Even Facebook calls this new appearance a more ‘streamlined’ look. The new design includes two columns similar to the old version, but the right column is now the Page’s timeline while the left includes information about the brand or business (e.g., map, business hours, phone number and website URL). Previously, both left and right columns used to display posts as users would scroll down the page.


Facebook New
Two distinct columns in new design

This major rearrangement makes Facebook Business Pages look a lot more like a personal profile. In a post on the official Facebook for Business blog, the company explained, “We’ll begin rolling out a streamlined look for Pages on desktop that will make it easier for people to find the information they want and help Page admins find the tools they use most.”

The redesigned layout comes with several changes for City Pass's Social Media management services – part of our ORM package – as Page admins. Stats such as page likes, the number of ad campaigns, post reach impressions, and notifications will appear in a tool bar in the right column. Therefore, administrators now have this information readily available in one place without having to navigate through numerous menus.

The new appearance actually makes the desktop version look more like the mobile version. This offers a more unified experience for your visitors no matter what device they’re using to follow your feed. Additionally, the ‘face makeover’ comes less than a week after Facebook updated the look for news feeds. This is a fairly minor change that includes larger photos and new icons and fonts.

How do you like Facebook’s latest redesigns? Do you think they will achieve their primary goal in improving the user’s experience?



Posts run on both left and right side in old design

A Guide to Moc Bai Border And What You Should Know

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

The “border run”, as dodgy as it may sound, is an experience that many expats in Vietnam are familiar with. For expats living in Saigon or other nearby southern provinces, the thought of the long ride up to Moc Bai in Tay Ninh Province on the border of Cambodia could evoke anything from a disgruntled groan to a fair bit of excitement. It depends on how you feel about burning at least half a working day going somewhere you’d rather not be, just to ensure you remain in the country legally.

Typically, most expats will have to wait a few weeks or months to get their official work permit sorted out. This means if you’re the proud owner of a 1, 3 or 6-month tourist or business visa, you will need to ensure you get a new visa on the day the current one expires.

Buying a Visa for the Moc Bai Border Crossing

Depending on which country you’re from, the process starts with finding a legitimate and reputable visa agent to obtain a letter that you’ll need to submit to the immigration officer. You can easily find a visa agent amongst the many expat groups on Facebook. All you need to do is ask, and you’ll either get a private message from one, or a referral from another expat.

Vietnam allows visa-exemptions to citizens of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, The United Kingdom, South Korea, Japan and fellow ASEAN member states, excluding Timor Leste and Cambodia, for limited periods ranging from 14 to 30 days. If you’re not from any of these countries, or if you need a visa for more than a month, you’ll need to find that visa agent regardless of where you’re from. It’s best to seek this information directly from the visa agent as the immigration rules are constantly changing and it can be quite confusing and challenging trying to keep track.

The countries that do not enjoy visa-exemptions are categorised into different “tiers” that determine how much you will need to spend for the letter and what kinds of visas you are eligible for. This letter typically costs anywhere between US$25 to US$40 and will be e-mailed to you within 2 working days. Then the fun starts.

Getting To The Moc Bai Border

There are many ways to get to Moc Bai Border, either via private transport through your visa agent that might cost quite a bit but will save you lots of time or public transport. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the latter as that’s the most commonly used and also the cheapest.

It’s always good to start your border run bright and early in the morning, preferably before 9:00 a.m. because it will generally take anywhere between 5 to 8 hours depending on how familiar you are with the process and the traffic situation during the journey. It’s also a good idea to pack some small snacks and a bottle of water and have plenty of VND in small denominations. Alternatively, you may also bring USD with you, either currency is fine. Don’t forget to bring along a printout of the visa letter, plus 2 passport-sized photographs and cash for the stamping fee either in USD or VND.

The cheapest way to get to the border is by bus number 703 that you can board at Saigon Bus Station at Pham Ngu Lao street in District 1. You can find these buses parked near the entrance facing the Cong Quynh Street roundabout. The buses, run by SAPACO Tourist are usually blue or silver with Moc Bai written on the front display. The 3-hour journey will cost you only VND40,000 each way.

Mộc BàiImage source: foxtravels.net

For those of you who have never taken a public bus in Vietnam, all you need to do is board the bus, take a seat and a few minutes later, the bus conductor will collect the fare in exchange for a paper ticket. As your bus streams across the city, you will be joined by a whole bunch of other passengers, mostly locals. They will not be doing the border run with you. At some point, the erratic swarms of motorbikes and incessant honking will be replaced by vast fields with grazing buffaloes and half-completed skeletons of bridges, highways and roads as you make your way out of Saigon.

The Actual Visa Run

Once your bus reaches the destination, it will be fairly obvious to you because the driver will yell something in Vietnamese. Then you will see a group of xe om drivers circling the bus, congregating near the exit and you will see a whole bunch of trucks lined up along the road, waiting to cross the border. At this point, you have two options.

The first option, or what I call, the ‘express package’, is to get on the back of one of these bikes and for a fare of VND100,000, the xe om driver will drive you through the checkpoints at the border and back to the bus station. This option can be very tricky for the first timer because there is a very high chance you might end up spending much more than the VND100,000 quoted to you.

These additional charges include simple tasks such as filling out forms for you or helping you join ‘express queues’ at the various checkpoints. The good thing with this option is you will most likely clear the whole process within an hour. However, if you prefer doing this entire border run without spending a single dong or cent, then option two is for you.

Mộc BàiImage source: flickr.com

Once you disembark from the bus and politely decline the swarm of xe om drivers, walk towards the large line of trucks. Here, you will realise that you’re on a road that’s about 500 metres long that leads directly to the border. The walk itself will take about 10 minutes until you reach the complex. There is a high chance you will see multiple lines which all seem the same. However, since you didn’t get the ‘express package’, you’ll have to join the ‘normal queue’, on the extreme right. This queue is usually the longest.

Once you’ve gotten your exit stamp, you can proceed to walk towards the Cambodian immigration complex about 200 metres away. Upon arrival, a couple of guys may approach you, offering to fill out the immigration form for you. If you’re not in the mood to hold a pen, these guys will do it for you for a small fee, not more than VND50,000. If you require a visa to enter Cambodia, these guys can help you with the process.

Once you’ve cleared Cambodian immigration, you can proceed towards the exit ahead of you, turn around at the rear parking lot and head towards the exit queue, which is outdoors and also doubles up as a checkpoint for vehicles. After you’ve gotten your exit stamp, you’ll have to walk back towards Vietnam to sort out your Vietnamese visa, the reason why you’re even here in the first place.

When you enter the complex, you will see a bunch of guys wearing blue uniforms. They work at the border and will insist on helping you fill out the application form, then help you submit the form to the immigration officer once you’ve paid the stamping fee. This amount depends on which visa you’re getting. You can always refuse this service and do it by yourself but it’ll take longer.

After a 15-minute wait, you’ll get your passport returned to you with the new visa in place and you can then proceed to the final phase of your border runre-entering Vietnam. Don’t forget to check the visa before you leave to make sure you got what you paid for. Once you’ve cleared the exit queues, congratulations. You’re now legally back in Vietnam. Now you just have to sit through the arduous 3-hour journey back to Saigon Bus Station.

Mộc BàiImage source: vietnamtravel.guide

What You Need to Remember When Doing a Visa Run

There are a few important things you need to know to ensure a safe and smooth border run. The first thing is to make sure you have the required documents with you. These include the visa letter, photographs and cash.

The latter is the most crucial. It is advisable to bring a slightly higher amount than you expect. As a foreigner, and especially if you’re a first-timer, you’re going to be bombarded by service providers you don’t really need and you might end up forking over some extra cash. In addition, there is no ATM at the border. The nearest one is a 15-minute bike ride away courtesy of a xe om ride that will probably cost you another VND100,000.

Another important thing to remember is to check the expiry date of your current visa. If you’ve accidentally overstayed your visa, the immigration officer will point it out to you and you will be required to pay a fine depending on how long you have overstayed. You will also be required to sign some documents as part of the paperwork process. Once again, an inconvenience that could easily be avoided. Also ensure your passport has a minimum validity of six months or you might not be allowed to enter Cambodia, effectively wasting your time and effort getting there.

If you need more information, feel free to reach out to visa agents who are mostly bilingual.

Video source: Edges Of Earth

Banner Image source: fee.org


What is the Year of the Pig in Vietnam?

By: Angee the Diva

This is my second year in Saigon for Tet holiday. I love being in the city when it’s quieter and less chaotic. I ride leisurely through District 1 and try to feel the zen of its relative calm instead of annoyance when my favorite places are closed for a few days. No traffic, no queues, no incessant horn-blowing, no crowds. My narcissistic mind just enjoys being the first and only for a brief period in a city that is otherwise basically a hive. But, true to my expat ignorance, it only recently crossed my mind to try to understand what’s happening and why all of my neighbors go away for the biggest holiday in Vietnam.

year of the pigImage source: izwanshahmin.com

Enter the Year of the Pig. The origins of its story lie in the Chinese zodiac. Like eons ago, the Jade Emperor called for a race of 12 animals. The cunning, creative, and uniquely beautiful rat (by the way, apparently, I’m a rat) was first to finish. The other animals arrived at the palace one by one. Just when the Emperor is thinking the pig is never going to make it, in he strolls like whatevs.

Seems the pig got hungry and stopped for a big lunch and a casual nap for a few hours. No big deal. Seriously, it’s a pig, so the Jade Emperor shouldn’t have been that surprised. Honestly, I get it. I’d totally choose a pizza and Netflix binge over a stroll in the Ho Chi Minh City’s humidity any day.

year of the pigImage source: sapo.vn

Anyway, this is where you gotta throw out all those preconceived notions. Kudos for the positive spin on that “lazy pig” fake news, Vietnam. Don’t even think of fat shaming the pig, cause according to the Vietnamese zodiac, pigs are total bosses! A quick look at Vietnamese food proves they hold pigs in high regard. There are no losers here. Pigs like to have full bellies and pockets, so they do what it takes to get the paycheck. They are patient, tolerant and hard-working. It might take them a bit longer to get the job done, but they’ll be rewarded with all the dongs.

year of the pigImage source: sapo.vn

And since they like to eat with others, pigs are the coolest kids at the party. Legendary for a taste for the luxe life and a friendly attitude, people love to be around pigs. Add in optimism, good luck, generosity, and loyalty - sounds like it’s time to find a new bestie!

If you’re lucky enough to be born in the Year of the Pig, get ready to be living your best life in 2019. This year is a good time to start a new business or make important business moves. Try to secure a new bae or get to work on creating a little piglet of your own wink. Even if you’re not a pig, this is supposed to be a prosperous and productive year. Be like the pig - take your time and be aware of obstacles for optimal results.

Maybe you believe all this or maybe you don’t. Either way, remember to be respectful of our host country and its gracious people. It’s always a good year to learn something new about the people around you smile.

Best wishes for long life, health, and wealth to all in the Year of the Pig! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới 2019!

year of the pigImage source: kenh14cdn.com

If you’re staying in Saigon during the Tet Holiday, be sure to check out the Best of the Week: Special Tet Edition for some fun events.

Banner Image source: mspoweruser.com

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