Enter the Strawpocalypse: Artist Fights Plastic Waste in Vietnam

By: Brennan Lagman

For the next two months, you can head over to Estella Place and meander through a tidal wave of straws which started as trash picked off the streets and have been transformed into the cerulean brush strokes of a stunning visual masterpiece. This powerful public art installation entitled The Parting of the Plastic Sea (#Strawpocalypse for short) is the latest installment of esteemed visual artist Von Wong.

Von Wong, Zero Waste Saigon, Starbucks Vietnam, and property developer Keppel Land joined forces to bring the installation to Ho Chi Minh City. The debut is the latest in a recent string of waste awareness events in Ho Chi Minh City dedicated to addressing the problem of single-use plastic waste.

Plastic Waste in VietnamImage source: Anna Tenne

Plastic Waste as a Mosaic For Change in Vietnam and Beyond

A Canadian international with a global influence, Von Wong is a contemporary visual artist, photographer, and environmentalist known for transforming waste into dramatic imagery that challenges viewers to feel, think and act. He chose Saigon as the home for his latest masterpiece: a trash tsunami of epic proportions.

The sculpture is a life-size mosaic of carefully placed plastic straws comprising two 4-metre-high furling waves of blue and green capped with a white plastic seafoam. A trail of orange and yellow beckons onlookers to journey amidst the parting waves and creates an illusion of being swallowed whole by a sea of plastic. Von Wong encourages people to go and experience the art in person and share it with as many people as possible.

Video source: VonWong

Here’s How Von Wong Created this #Strawpocalypse in Saigon

Collaboration is key to all of Von Wong’s epic work. He worked closely with Michael and Julia Burdge, founders of Zero Waste Saigon (ZWS), and a power couple in Ho Chi Minh City’s grassroots fight against plastic waste in Vietnam. Julia has been a long time fan of Von Wong’s work and reached out for a possible collaboration in April of last year. As two fiery individuals with a passion for change, they immediately connected. ZWS got to work organizing clean-ups around Vietnam and getting local businesses and organisations on board, while Von Wong went into the lab to cook up this epic piece.

Fast forward nine months and Von Wong touched down to hundreds of volunteers who helped donate, collect and hand-wash thousands of straws and heaps of plastic packaging. He worked with local builders and electricians to construct and hardwire a LED infrastructure and turn the amassed refuse into vibrant waves. Hosted by Keppel Land’s Estella Place Mall and funded by Starbucks, volunteers came from the community and local schools such as the British International School, American International School and German International School.

Video source: VonWong

The Impact of This Powerful Art Installation

Plastic waste is an issue of global concern. As Vietnam is in the top 4 polluters of ocean plastic in the world what is done or not has far-reaching implications. Therefore, it’s everyone’s responsibility to engage with this issue.

Creative visionaries like Von Wong tap into their imagination to educate people in visceral and captivating ways that statistics and numbers alone cannot. The Parting of the Plastic Sea without a doubt accomplishes that.

For the evolving environmental movement in Ho Chi Minh City, to have the endorsement and contributions of such a renowned artist and be given a platform to collaborate, share, feel and engage with a spirit of creativity is a vital aspect in getting people to care and fight to find solutions.

Plastic Waste in VietnamImage source: VonWong

Banner Image source: vonwong.com


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


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

By: Mark Gwyther

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

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

Vietnam hospitality was poised to have a huge year.

Bull

First Impressions

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

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

China and Vietnam

The Actual Cost

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

China

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

Chinese Arrivals to Vietnam

Chinese Tourists

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

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

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


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

China Back off

What’s Next?

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


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


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

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


Advantages of train travel in Vietnam

By: Vinh Dao

The trains in Vietnam are relatively cheap, comfortable and scenic. Train travel is Vietnam is underutilised by visitors to the country and is a great mode of transportation for those looking to see a bit more of the country while relaxing in leisurely surroundings. As you plan your journey around the country, read on to find out other advantages of using trains when you travel.

1. Easy and Relaxing

If you haven’t really come to grips with the manic road traffic in Vietnam, taking a train to your destination can save you heaps of stress. No beeping, near misses and traffic jams to worry about here!

2. Practical

You don’t have to worry about getting to the train station hours early to jump on. You can also bring on your own food onboard unlike having the dreaded airline food as your only option in a plane.

3. Environmentally Friendly

Vietnam has some of the highest rates of personal transportation in the world at 92 percent. So if you are looking to cut down on your environmental impact, take a train.

4. Freedom

Unlike air travel, you can actually get out of your seat whenever you want. It’s a great opportunity to meet some Vietnamese people and get to know a bit more about their country. Take a walk around, grab a cafe sua da at the canteen carriage, or catch up on that reading you’ve been putting off.

5. Centrally Located Stops

Most major tourist destinations have a train station with several daily arrival and departure times. Also most train stations are located only a few minutes travel to major tourist destinations in towns.

6. Fascinating Views

Vietnam has over 3,260 kilometres of stunningly beautiful coastline, most of it can be viewed from the comfort of a train carriage. If you wish to experience the beauty of Vietnam, take a train trip up the coast. Make sure to pay attention during the Hue to Danang leg of the trip. Possibly one of the most scenic views in the country.

Overall, train travel in Vietnam is a good choice for those who are looking for an affordable and comfortable trip around the country. Whether you wish to move from one city to another or just to tour the country, train travel will provide you with the perfect transportation.

For more information about trains in Vietnam, click here to check out this excellent website.

If you are a big fan of train travel and are in the UK, take a look at this website for some information about their excellent railway service.

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