18 Tips To Get You By in Saigon

By: Sivaraj Pragasm

Visiting or moving to a new city can be pretty daunting at first, but the sooner you adapt to your new environment, the easier it is to go with the flow. With Saigon’s clutter and chaos, and surrounded by a language that’s both hard to comprehend and speak, adjusting to life here can be a challenge.

Video source: Cinelike Stories

Thankfully, there are also workarounds that will make life easier. These tips were all suggested by both locals and foreigners living in Saigon, and have been tried and tested.

Lastly, don’t worry. Everything in here is legal.

1. Not sure where you’re going? Use Grab instead of a taxi.

This is not to downplay the legitimacy of taxi companies, but mainly to make it easier and cheaper for you to get from point A to B if you don’t understand the language or are totally new to the city.

Grab allows you to input your destination, which is then shown on the driver’s mobile device with a GPS to guide him, and a fixed price that’s made known to you when you make the booking. There are also plenty of promotional codes from the app that are released almost every fortnight so you get to save a lot too.

tip in saigonImage source: i.ytimg.com

Unless you know how to give directions in Vietnamese, taxi rides can be challenging in some of the city’s grid-like road system. A wrong turn will result in higher fares, as the meter will keep running.

Another tip: When you’re making a booking, try to make sure you’re standing next to a local. Grab drivers tend to call you to confirm the booking, and a lot of them don’t speak English. So just pass the phone politely to the local beside you and he/she will most likely let the driver know your exact location. Don’t forget to thank him/her after.

2. Make a photocopy of your passport.

Whether you’re visiting for a short holiday or for work, it’s highly advisable that you make an official photocopy of your passport and to keep it with you at all times.

Firstly, that will work as your main form of identification should you be required at some point to show it. Secondly, according to Vietnamese law, your landlord has to register your residency with the local police, and one of the requirements is a copy of your passport.

3. Always carry small change.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone around with change for a VND500,000 note. Most xe om (motorbike taxi) riders and street vendors prefer exact change, and even a VND100,000 note would be pushing it. If you happen to have a VND200,000 or VND500,000 note, your best bet is to go to a convenience store to break it before you head to the street.

Another tip: When withdrawing money at the ATM, choose an amount that’s not divisible by 500,000. For example, instead of withdrawing VND1 million, choose VND900,000 instead, that way you will get a bunch of smaller notes, which will be useful if you’re in a rush with no time to look for a convenience store to get smaller change.

4. There’s Google Translate, and English-speaking youths too.

Vietnamese is a tough language. Even if you think you’ve got the spelling right, you’d probably get the pronunciation wrong. There’s Google Translate, which may not be 100 percent reliable but gets the job done for really common words. However, what if your mobile phone battery runs out or you have no signal?

tip in saigonImage source: tnxp.hochiminhcity.gov.vn

Look for a young adult or a teenager nearby. There is a higher likelihood that he/she might know at least some basic English compared to someone much older, and that will be good enough to help you. The English literacy rate among Vietnam’s younger population has been steadily increasing, mainly due to the belief that learning the language will secure a better future.

5. There’s more than just Ben Thanh Market.

Ben Thanh Market is the go-to venue for many foreigners to get their hands on local items. However, you actually have other (cheaper) options, as you can see here. If you’re looking for a bargain, you can either choose to haggle if you’re good at the language, or just politely nod with a smile and walk away, and then hear the seller magically drop the price almost immediately. That trick usually works pretty well if you have a poker face.

6. Turn your fashion catalogue into real clothes.

If you don’t already know, Vietnam has a large textile industry and extremely skilled tailors everywhere. You like the suit you saw online? No problem, take a picture and bring it to the tailor and he’ll get it made for you for a tenth of the retail price.

Alternatively, just make your own fashion catalogue with clear shots of the outfit’s front, side and rear and let him know your preference on the fabrics, or get them yourself. Pass the materials to him, get measured and then watch him work his magic.

7. If it’s cheaper than it should be, then your coffee is most likely not real.

This was covered extensively in an earlier article. Vietnamese coffee is pretty popular around the world, but there’s a difference between a cup of coffee and the idea of one. Plenty of stores in Vietnam sell coffee without a single coffee bean in it. Featuring a mix of roasted soybeans, corn and random, unidentified chemicals, you’d really be better off not having one.

tip in saigonImage source: Mervin Lee

A good way to gauge if the coffee you’re drinking is real? It should not be cheaper than VND20,000.

Further Tip: This logic also applies to alcohol. There have been many cases of fake alcohol sold across Vietnam, so if your glass of vodka costs as much as a glass of water, say no instead of dzô (the Vietnamese version of cheers).

8. If it’s bigger than a car, don’t cross.

Crossing a road in Saigon can be a life-changing experience. Traffic signs are mostly just suggestions and if you’re standing along a curb expecting vehicles to stop for you, you’ll most likely draw a few chuckles from passers-by.

Take a leap of faith and just walk, slowly. The majority of the vehicles on the roads here are bikes, and they will go around you. If you need more visibility, just raise a hand to indicate your presence.

However, if you see a vehicle bigger than a car, just stop and let it pass and then continue.

Video source: Christian Regler

9. If you’re getting a haircut, just bring a picture.

This is especially important if you’re looking for a specific hairstyle. The best solution to this is to find a clear picture of that hairstyle and pass it to the barber. There are plenty of skilled barbers in Saigon, and a number of them do speak and understand English. However, a Vietnamese “undercut” may differ slightly from the American version, so a picture really helps.

tip in saigonImage source: brotherssaigon.vn

Further Tip: If you have a local friend who’s willing to spend 30 minutes watching you get a haircut, bringing him/her along would be a good idea too.

10. Never underestimate the importance of a raincoat/poncho.

Especially between the months of July to December, the heavens will open up and unleash its fury upon you, mostly while you’re on your way to work, or stuck in a jam on the way home.

tip in saigonImage source: thanhnien.vn

Most convenience stores sell them for about VND100,000 and you can find even cheaper ones from some street vendors. It’s highly advisable to keep one in your bag at all times.

11. There are apps for almost everything. Use them.

Need to get from point A to Point B? There’s Grab and Vinasun has one for its taxi services. Looking for a date? There’s Tinder and OkCupid. Feeling hungry? There’s Vietnammm and Foody.vn. Made a few Vietnamese friends and you plan to stay in touch? Facebook Messenger, Zalo, Viber, LINE and WeChat are the most commonly used instant messaging apps in Vietnam.

Other practical apps include Google Maps, XE Currency Exchange and Wi-Fi finder for Google play or App Store.

12. Arrange your money in order of value.

There’s a very simple and practical reason for this. The VND10,000 and VND200,000 notes are almost identical in colour, just like the VND20,000 and VND500,000 notes. By arranging your notes in order of value, the chances of you paying VND500,000 for a VND20,000 xe om ride will be much slimmer.

tip in saigonImage source: cdn.theculturetrip.com

It may seem strange, but this mix up has happened more times than you can imagine.

It’s also a good way to help you keep track of how much you’ve been spending throughout the day.

13. If you’re buying plastic bottles of water, go big.

This will not immediately elevate you to the status of Planeteer, but a five-litre bottle of water will cost just twice as much as a 1.5-litre one. So not only do you save some money, you’re also contributing less plastic waste as compared to buying three smaller bottles for almost the same amount of water. It’s simply the lesser of two evils.

tip in saigonImage source: taratur.com

The bigger bottles also allow you more creative freedom to reuse and recycle them.

Another tip: It’s best not to drink water from the tap because Vietnam’s water treatment system and infrastructure isn’t advanced yet, and there are impurities that may still remain in the water. So err on the side of caution.

14. There’s plenty of free WiFi everywhere so you might as well use it.

Vietnam is much more connected than you may think and this is proven every time you turn on your phone’s Wi-Fi or use the Wi-Fi-finder app listed in No.11 to see an entire list of networks available.

There is also a site which has an updated list of all the Wi-Fi hotspots in the city. All you need to do is take a seat in a coffee place or a restaurant and get the password and you’ll enjoy pretty high speed access to the internet.

You can also find free public Wi-Fi in some parts of Saigon, although it’s not recommended to use it if you need to perform any logins or transactions due to possible security risks.

15. Join Facebook groups catered to foreigners for useful insights.

They’re one of the best ways to get the latest news, scoops for room rentals, recommendations on services or places to visit and other entertainingly informative reads. Apart from the thousands of posts each day, these groups also have valuable information for you to get what you need. You just need to do some serious scrolling.

Some Facebook groups we recommend are: Expats in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is Awesome and (of course, a shameless plug) City Pass Guide.

Another tip: You can also find a subreddit on Reddit dedicated to Vietnam. There are a few threads where users talk about current events and share the latest news related to the country.

16. Get a face mask. You’ll need it.

It’s almost a must-have accessory. Although not very fashionable, it will help you handle the pollution in the city. A face mask is also useful if you’re feeling under the weather and you don’t want to spread your cold or flu.

tip in saigonImage source: theconversation.com

Another tip: The cloth and medical masks don’t do much, Look out for N95 masks, which block out PM2.5 particles, the tiniest and most dangerous of the pollutants in Saigon.

17. If you don’t want it, don’t look.

One trick to avoid mobile street vendors, touts and the occasional man on a motorbike asking you if you want a massage or “boom boom” is to not look.

Ignorance is bliss, and in this case it really should be taken literally. Sure, it gets annoying if they just stay there and continue hassling you but after a minute or so, even the hardiest of the lot will eventually give up and leave you alone.

For the next 10 minutes at least.

18. Change your currency in Vietnam.

This is a very valuable one. Always change your Vietnam Dong in Vietnam either before you travel or after you return, as most other countries will charge you a huge fee for the exchange and you’ll end up taking a loss.

tip in saigonImage source: media.christinas.vn

On the flipside, you also get very good rates on foreign currency if you change it here, which will come in useful if you’re planning to visit an expensive country like Singapore or Japan.

The best places to exchange money in Saigon would are gold shops. One notable one would be Kim Mai Gold Shop along Cống Quỳnh Street in Phạm Ngũ Lão.

We hope this list has been useful for you. If you feel that we’ve missed any other crucial tips, do let us know and we will include it in a sequel. Enjoy Saigon and stay safe.

Also, check this out If you are wondering how to get safe from the food during your trip in Vietnam.

Banner Image source: media.christinas.vn


Acacia Veranda Dining Welcomes Celebrity Chef Jack Lee

By: Rachel Cabakoff

“Jack Is Back”

Celebrity chef Jack Lee is making waves upon his return to Ho Chi Minh City— starting with Compass Parkview’s Acacia Veranda Dining. A long-time high school friend of Thomas Khien, owner of Compass Parkview Apartments, Lee was tempted by the offer when his friend came to him for some help after their remodeling in December.

“He told me, ‘I have a gourmet kitchen, beautiful restaurant in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, District 1’,” Lee said, referring to Khien’s offer. Although it may not have meant much to Lee, location is a must in this city.

Situated on Nguyen Du street in the eye of Saigon’s stormy city centre, Acacia can be found on the 8th floor of Compass Parkview. Green hues accent the dining room, guests are welcomed into a modern yet comfortable environment. Seated in their dining room, guests have front row seats to watch Lee at work or out on their patio with a 260 degree view of the city — ideal during sunsets.

“Celebrity Chef”

A handful of Hollywood celebrities have chosen Lee to lend his talents for their events, cook in their kitchens and wow their taste buds. With over 15 years of experience and cooking for a plethora of famous names, Lee has racked up quite the resume in culinary specialities. Studying at the California School of Culinary Arts, followed by Le Cordon Bleu program, Lee went onto Bel-Air Hotel and later started his own catering service, Chinoise Cuisine, which he still runs today. Appearing on American TV shows such as, “The Taste,” “Cutthroat Kitchen,” “Rachael Ray” and the Food Network — let’s just say, Lee knows how to entertain while cooking up an ace dish.

 “Reconnecting To His Roots”

Originally from Cho Lon, Lee left Vietnam in 1980 and grew up in Southern California. Harnessing his passion for cooking from his mother, he’s kept her as an inspiration all these years. Although he’s returned to Vietnam for holiday and to visit family, his visits have always been cut short. Now, he is able to truly immerse himself in the culture.

“I feel like it is a blessing in disguise because when I left, it was not the best of times. And now I can discover Vietnam again, it's totally different,” Lee explains.

 “I’m falling in love with the country and the people and I’m able to help them eat healthy and be happy. I’m ecstatic, it's something to give back to the country, it’s really good.”

With the daunting task of creating a whole new menu for Acacia upon his return, Jack was also confronted with a new set of ingredients readily available to him, most of which are hard to come across back in the States.

“I walked around Ben Thanh market, again and again for three days, trying all of the fruits and stuff. I came to realize, you have to really respect the culture and the ingredients and then go from there. That is how all of my fruit sauces evolved,” Lee explained.

Traveling all over the world and cooking for international hotels and esteemed guests, Lee understands the style of five-star cuisine and how to adapt it to the fine dining world. Coining the term “Jack Cuisine,” — a fusion of Asian, French and Western all rolled into one — Lee puts a twist on your traditional Vietnamese dishes.

“I would describe my food with the word, ‘happy.’ After you eat it you’re going to be happy,” Lee explains with a bellowing laugh.

“Getting Saucy” 

The way Lee incorporates these ingredients into his fusion-style dishes is what separates Acacia from other dining options around town.

Pairing fruits and meats together such as marinated grilled lamb chops with Balsamic cherry sauce (VND388,000), pork tenderloin wrapped with smoked bacon, poached pear and port wine reduction (VND288,000) or his spicy scallops in soursop dish (VND208,000) — he takes one’s taste buds on a whirlwind.

When it comes to the imported USDA prime rib (VND388,000 for 200g, VND488,000 for 300g), Lee doesn’t mess around. This tender and flavourful meat is slow roasted to perfection, cooking the umami to create natural and authentic flavours. With plans to rotate the menu every few months, the prime rib will be their staple dish.

 From their chicken and eggplant quesadilla (VND98,000), deep-fried calamari (VND88,000), passionfruit Foie Gras (VND188,000) to various soups, salads, pasta dishes and more — Acacia covers the fusion spectrum effortlessly.

“I like to do food art. I travel to Da Nang and Hoi An and get inspiration from these different places. Presentation is important to me,” Jack explained. “I think often people eat with their eyes first.” As he is saying this he holds up his phone with a photograph of a portrait he made with Balsamic dressing and lettuce to represent the hair.

When it comes to presentation, Lee takes it to the next level producing works of art not just in the appearance of Acacia’s dishes but also on the side as an added hobby. Another creation Lee made is a Piña Colada salad portrait to portray the drink — decorated with fresh coconuts, pineapples and fruit sauces.

Drawing from life experiences and inspirations, he plays with the textures, colors and tastes of the foods to create something more than what’s at the end of your utensil.

In addition to running Acacia’s kitchen and culinary arts, Lee wastes no time settling in Saigon’s cooking industry. With several side projects in the works come March, he will be gracing our TV screens on YANTV, helping out with a new cooking show.

For the latest updates on Lee’s and Acacia’s current specials, visit their Facebook page. To make a reservation, call 08 3823 5220 or email acacia@compassparkview.com.

149-151 Nguyen Du St. District 1, HCMC


3 Step Guide to Saigon’s Fashion Street

By: City Pass Guide

Do you like sweaters? Does leather make your heart flutter? Do handbags just light up your life?

For the clothing enthusiast Ho Chi Minh City’s “Fashion Street” is famous among locals and expats alike, and if you’re a bit of a sweater-loving, leather-craving, handbag enthusiast you’ll probably love it too. I did. And I don’t even like handbags.

But making a purchase in Ho Chi Minh City can be overwhelming even if you love to shop. With all the dimensions of parking, browsing, variety, price and bargaining, buying clothes in this famously bustling city is like searching for an earring in a box of persistent and colorful parrots.

Noisy, confusing and a bit strange.

And shopping on Fashion Street is no exception! Boasting a plethora of international brands, boutique goodies and cheap but exciting sequins, Nguyen Trai can fix you an outfit for any occasion. But the confusion of finding said outfit stops many before they even get off their motorbike.

How do I focus on skirts when the shop next door is pumping club beats into the street? ‘la la la....I am titanium...’ Wait, what’s a skirt?

I’ve been to Fashion Street about six times now and each time I’ve taken about six hours longer than I’d intended looking at skimpy tops and baggy pants, and every single time without fail I have walked away in need of a good cold beer. With ice. Do you do that? I know it’s a bit strange but since living here I’ve realized that beer is so much better with ice.

Ice-sullied beer aside, the fact is, shopping on Nguyen Trai can be stressful! Shopping anywhere can be stressful if you’re not 100% sure where you’re going or what you’re buying. Call me melodramatic, but sometimes I just wish there was a guide to these things...

Where do I shop?

Let me answer that with a question of my own - what do you want to buy? Depending on your taste, shopping list, budget and time frame there are a number of options on ‘Fashion Street’.

At the bargaining bottom are the street racks covered in colorful pieces of material and manned by several middle-aged ladies in pajamas. As suggested, bargaining is the key here, and quality is not assured. Other clothing options included cute boutique shops, international chains such as Block and Nino Max, strange trashy outlets nestled between designer handbag stores, glasses shops, helmet shops, even a bicycle repair business.

As an indie soul and very much a female, my favourites have always been Su <3 Su at number 85 and J&P which reminds me a lot of Forever 21. Adidas, Giordano, Adachi, and Hello Kitty all lay claim to space along this street. There is also an ABC Bakery for those who like to add food to fashion, and fancy a pit stop mid-shopping spree.

Sizes, prices and quality

Are you a foreigner? If so, you would be familiar with the endless trials and tribulations of buying something that fits in Vietnam. Right? Well the trials continue, unfortunately.

I am a very tall Australian size 8, and I can fit most jeans, tops, sweaters and jackets on Nguyen Trai, but shoes will always be impossible given my size 40 feet. It’s always a bit of a hit or miss for foreign bodies, but you stand a better chance of finding something that fits in brand stores such as Block and Hollis. Internationally renowned outlets like Giordano and Adidas, though tougher on your wallet, will also guarantee both size and quality.

As per any other shopping mecca in Saigon, both cost and quality range on Fashion Street, but if you’re shopping in an actual store you can usually expect fixed prices. Buying from one of the many street stalls however is another story. In general expect to pay between VND 150,000 in a miscellaneous store and VND 300,000 in Su <3 Su for a pair of jeans. Quality tends to match price.

Must knows

  • Money: The street sports ATMS, banks and even a Western Union. Banks that are represented are:
    • Sacombank
    • VCombank
    • Southernbank
    • ACB bank
  • Safety:

Keep a careful eye on your phones and bags when walking the strip. I like to walk with my bag on the side of my body closest to the pavement, and I keep my hand on it at all times. If you want to take photos be aware of who is around you, or driving past.

  • Road safety:

The usual traffic-tackling policies apply here. Cross the road in groups if you can, walk slowly and don’t do anything sudden! If there is a bus do not challenge it, and as tempting as it is to confront that taxi driver with his honking horn and bad attitude...safety first.

  • Parking:

At number 8, Nguyen Trai, there is a long driveway which eventually opens into a car and bike park. In typical Saigon style there is no indication at the font of this alleyway that it might house anything other than a few apartments, but believe me it does. Leave your motorbike here for VND 4,000 or your bicycle for VND 2,000. Other options included walking (about 20 minutes from backpacker haven Bui Vien), and browsing the street on your motorbike. Most shops have an area to leave bikes while you look inside. Below is an image of the entrance to the parking area:

 


A different approach to present French cuisine

By: Michael

Growing up in Paimpol in Brittany I could have followed a career in sport and become possibly a Judo Champion, but a broken leg and my brother being a cook changed my fate.

Having been used to competition I never chose the easy path. In 2004 without any prior experience I was accepted by Michel Trama to join his kitchen team, practically the day before he obtained his third star in the Guide Michelin.

The task was tough and the pressure intense. I gave myself an ultimatum of two months not knowing then that this was forgotten the moment I was gripped by the gastronomic fever.

After 5 years of training in every culinary way, I had a solid foundation ready to become an “alchemist”. Feeling entrepreneurial I was tempted to move to New York, but the economic crises blocked me and so I was looking towards Asia.

And then everything moved very fast. I was aware of my lack of experience, but I was confident and my enthusiasm was guiding me well. So in December 2009, at the age of only 23 I became Executive Chef of “The French Window”, a Restaurant in Hong Kong. As the Cuisine was meant to be contemporary French I created classic dishes with a different approach to present them, while keeping their authentic taste.

Machael - CamargueIn 2011 with several opportunities to choose from I made a step forward and created my Consulting firm with the purpose of offering my expertise in the Asian Restaurant market something I enjoy doing until now.

I always considered the Gastronomy to be a good tool to share your concerns and being a priori a non-conformist I thrive to find answers to all my questions: The doubts form the pillars on which I am leaning to move forward.Even when looking for the best products, one by one, I follow Nature’s model, the particularities of each season, the harvest of each producer etc.

I always create a very personal menu with some 20 dishes, the result of several years of research, of hundreds of experiments and tests until a perfect technique is achieved.

The Asian knowhow has long seduced me and is until today tempting me to apply local cooking styles to a typically French Cuisine…. During my travels through Asia, I explored the markets of the different countries I visited. In some Restaurants I discovered techniques of preparation and finishing which I am applying somehow in small measures. I smoke my poultry with tea, I cook the pigeons like the lacquered ducks, I make my Cromesqui like Dim Sum even if the filling is made of foie gras, Trumpet mushrooms quail breast and truffle jelly.

It would be stupid while being in Asia to only use the French cooking style, moreover when you can apply here a wide range of maneuvers with endless so far hardly exploited variations.

My curiosity and wish to escape the routine and to search for innovations guided me in the last few years quite often into Art Galleries. There I met some artists and also amateurs but most important I met the remarkable photographer Nicolas Lemal.

I very much enjoyed working with him and gained a new approach to culinary art. ‘Indulence’ was created, a series of 20 photos using the feminine curves as a base to arrange chips of transparent and brittle vegetables and fruits like shards of glass, following the theme of dishes I had created in some of the places I had previously worked.


WMC Hospitality Group – Appoints New Vice President of Operations

By: City Pass Guide

Ho Chi Minh City, July 27th, 2015 - Herbert Laubichler-Pichler, a hospitality veteran with over 35 years of industry experience, has been appointed vice president of operations at Windsor Property Management Group Corporation (WMC Group), a Vietnam-based hospitality and property management company.

The Austrian-native is currently General Manager of The Reverie Saigon, hailed as Vietnam’s most opulent hotel (set to officially debut later this summer) and part of WMC’s diverse portfolio. In addition to The Reverie Saigon, which he will continue to manage, Laubichler-Pichler will play a key role in driving WMC’s ambitious plans to establish itself as one of Vietnam’s leading hospitality brands, paving the way for continual growth and expansion.

Laubichler-Pichler has held general manager positions throughout Southeast Asia including, most recently, at Raffles Hainan, China. He has also held management positions with Shangri-La Group in the Philippines and Malaysia, and also GHM’s award-winning Vietnam property, The Nam Hai in Hoi An.

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Ms. Do Thi Bao Tram

Marketing Communications Manager

THE REVERIE SAIGON

Tel: (08) 3823 6688, Ext. 1366

Mobile: 0932 185 388 or 0908 353 721

Email: tram.do@wmcvietnam.com


December 2016 News Recap

By: City Pass Guide

Vietnam Plans to Sell Saigon Beer Company Stock

Vietnam’s government is making plans to sell a large portion of the country’s largest beer company, the Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corporation, or Sabeco. The company, reportedly worth at least $1.8 billion, will potentially be the largest privatisation sale of a Vietnamese state-run firm.

Vietnam Plans to sell Saigon Beer Company Stock

The sale is marked as a further push in Vietnam’s effort to open its doors to foreign investment. Phan Dang Tuat, the head of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Enterprise Reform Commission, reports that the government could sell at least 40% of the company’s stock. Sabeco produces well-known Vietnamese beers like 333 and Saigon Beer, which control up to 40% of the country’s beer market.

Read more

Surgery Now Aided by Robots

December marked the first time robots were used to assist in surgeries in Vietnam. One of the first recipients was a 64-year-old woman facing obstruction of the flow of urine. Her surgery took place at the Binh Dan Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3.

Surgery Now Aided by Robots

The head of Binh Dan Hospital, Dr. Tran Vinh Hung, said that robots improve the quality of Vietnamese medical care and will reduce the number of patients who choose to go overseas for surgeries. Benefits include reduced invasiveness, bleeding and, ultimately, less risk of fatality. So far, the robots have assisted with surgeries of cancers to the stomach, colon, liver, pancreas, lung and prostate, along with surgeries related to eight other diseases.

Read more

Beach Towns to Hold Regular Water Testing After Formosa Incident

After what has been called the “Formosa Incident”, in which many dead fish washed onto the shores of provinces located near large fishing grounds, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked that the affected provinces produce regular water toxicity reports every two weeks. The test results, which will come from Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces, will be made public on the ministry’s website and through other country-wide media sources.

The monitoring will take place on 19 beaches across the listed provinces. So far, all tests have shown toxicity levels within Vietnam’s legal limits for sea water quality. The tests have been funded by Formosa, which reportedly gave $500 million to the Vietnamese government after the incident.

Read more

Ho Chi Minh City Experiences Growth in 2016, Sets Plans for 2017

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council met this December to review the changes implemented in the city’s infrastructure. Saigon experienced 8.05% economic growth, which is 1.28 times the growth of Vietnam’s total GDP. Additionally, total revenues for 2016 are expected to reach VND304 trillion, a 10.8% increase on the revenues reported in 2015.

HCMC Experiense growth in 2016, Sets Plans for 2017

While these numbers are positive, the People’s Council did not achieve all the goals it set for 2016. Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam admits that Saigon’s congested traffic, flooding, food safety concerns, disease outbreaks and robberies are still major issues. Targets for 2017 include: economic growth of 8.4-8.7%; establishment of 50,000 companies in the city; a reduction of the poverty rate to below 1.2%; the creation of 125,000 jobs; the construction of eight million m2 of public housing; an increase of clean, drinkable water available to more citizens; and the treatment of 100% of the city’s medical wastes.

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Major Changes to Occur in the Coffee Industry

Vietnam’s coffee industry will undergo major restructuring in the coming years, according to the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association. The goal will be to increase coffee production 30-40% by 2030, which will ultimately make $5-6 billion for the industry. Right now, coffee accounts for 15-20% of the country’s annual agricultural exports, generating up to $1.8 billion a year and making Vietnam the second-largest coffee exporter in the world.

However, there’s still major room for improvement. Doan Xuan Hoa, the Deputy Director of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production, reported that there are plans to improve the scale of production, replace ageing coffee trees, fix poor quality control procedures, and generate updated processing technologies.

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Taxpayers Fight to Change Compensation for Illnesses

Taxpayers say that current rules and regulations for sick pay are not doing enough to alleviate the burden of their illnesses, complaining that the current illness exemption and reduction procedures are insufficient and needlessly complicated. Under Vietnam’s current tax plan, if a taxpayer suffers from one of 42 listed diseases or ailments affecting the means to earn a livelihood, including cancer, heart attack, stroke or a brain injury, that person is eligible for a tax reduction or exemption.

Taxpayers Fight to change compensation for illnesses

The problem for many people, however, is that the relief cannot exceed the income tax the person has paid the year he or she started treatment. For many, this means that their tax compensation is much less than the cost of their treatment. Many are calling for reforms, petitioning for less paperwork and benefits equal to the amount they’ve paid for treatment in subsequent years.

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Rent-A-Toy the New Big Thing

The newest rage among parents in Saigon appears to be renting toys. A number of toy rental shops have opened, offering affordable prices for the newest kids’ entertainments. Rentable goods include slides, swings, baseball sets and electric cars, with a range of toys depending on the child’s age and capabilities. Rentals are generally weekly, although longer rentals are possible, and prices range from VND60,000 to VND5 million. Kindergartens, charity organisations and families hosting large get-togethers are also using the rental shops.

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