Behind the Flood: How Greener City Planning Can Unblock HCMC Waterways

By: Molly Headley

We’ve all seen the images online of people attempting to ride their scooters through city streets flooded in waist-deep water, drenched, miserable but determined. In some ways, the images seem to celebrate the resilience of Vietnam’s city dwellers but a look at what lies beneath those flood waters shows another tale of rising tides, stalled projects and a sharp cry for better foresight.

Saigon seen from above reveals a lego-like clusters of low-rise retail and residential buildings punctuated by iron and glass mega-stars like the Landmark 81, Bitexco Financial Tower and Vietcombank tower. Small patches of green colour the otherwise very concrete landscape. The developments are separated by the Saigon River, which barges through the centre of it all like a pulsing vein, bringing life to the city by way of commerce as well as increasing the risk of flooding with its ever-rising water levels during the rainy season.

Ho Chi Minh cityImage source: cartimes.vn

City Planning and Well-Designed Waterways in HCMC

Le Corbusier, the iconic 1930s Swiss-French architect, urban designer, artist and pioneer of modern architecture, once wrote that “The materials of city planning are: sky, space, trees, steel and cement; in that order and that hierarchy.”

Rather than allowing cities to develop in the typical hodge-podge development style of the past, Le Corbusier believed that urban areas could be planned to be organised, efficient and tranquil. Fast forward to 2018, almost a century later and city planning is still a hot topic worldwide, though some cities are just better at it than others, often out of necessity.

The Danish city of Copenhagen, which nearly burned to the ground twice in the 1700s, was forced to redesign itself to survive. This is where forward thinking Danish design really began, Ho Chi Minh City-based, Danish architect and interior designer Fong-Chan Paw Zeuthen told #iAMHCMC. Zeuthen is founder and owner of KAZE interior design studio, which has been responsible for landmark commercial projects, luxury residential builds and hotels throughout Vietnam and Cambodia. Danish design is known internationally for its iconic style and insistence on sustainability as well as its focus on building with the same demand for “sky, space and trees” that inspired Le Corbusier.

Now, while everyone (animal or human) can attest to the fact that we would all like a lot more of the above list, are they really necessary in a city where space is at a premium? When it comes to flood prevention, the answer according to experts is a resounding yes.

What Happens When Urban Planning Can’t Keep Up With Urban Development in HCMC?

According to “Effects of Urban Development on Floods” a survey by C.P. Donrad for the US Geological Survey, one solution for alleviating flooding is to design around it. Successful city planning means placing green spaces that can handle excess water in flood-prone zones rather than choosing those areas for large-scale developments. Impermeable surfaces (such as concrete sidewalks and roads) combined with drainage systems that lack the capacity to handle the increased population and development in Ho Chi Minh City have contributed to a year-on-year increase in flooding, property damage and even loss of life.

Ho Chi Minh cityImage source: cartimes.vn

The most recent storm, a typhoon nicknamed Usagi, which hit HCMC hard this last November, caused widespread flooding throughout the city and one death.

In addition, Vietnam was ranked 6th globally on the 2018 Climate Risk Index list compiled annually by German NGO Germanwatch due to its high number of climate related losses (both financial and human). Weather calamities are inevitable but climate and development experts reveal that the effects of flooding on urban areas are something that is largely within our control.

When the Buildings Go Up in Saigon How Can the Water Go Down?

“There is a connection between the height of a building and how far you have to dig down to build the foundation, especially when you build on a swamp”, Zeuthen explained to #iAMHCMC. “When you penetrate that far into the ground you have to move the soil somewhere, and the water will have to find another way around.” The rush to build all these new apartments in Ho Chi Minh City by 2020 may increase flooding by overtaxing the drainage systems as well as rerouting underground waterways to other areas, she continued. Nearly half the city lies less than one metre above sea level and more than two-thirds are susceptible to major flooding. Groundwater and soil extraction can also cause the earth to sink, which may have an effect on flooding in the future. Development projects should consider these factors from the outset, Zeuthen concluded.

Zeuthen is not the only one concerned.

According to the ScienceDirect article ‘Scenario-based approach to assess Ho Chi Minh City’s urban development strategies against the impact of climate change’ by Harry Storch and Nigel K. Downes, “The influence of planned urban developments to the year 2025 on future flood risk is seen to be significantly greater than that of projected sea-level rise to the year 2100.”

Ho Chi Minh cityImage source: znews.vn

In short, climate change is part of the bigger picture but the speed with which major developments are going up has had an immediate effect on infrastructure demands and flooding in HCMC.

In 2016, Vietnam in conjunction with the World Bank began a flood prevention project near Saigon that was projected to cost more than USD$400 million to deal with overflow but the project was halted because of site clearance problems. However, there is still hope for positive progress. The ADB (Asian Development Bank) has said it is willing to invest in sewage and drainage systems in Ho Chi Minh City and a collaboration between Royal HaskoningDHV, an engineering consulting firm headquartered in the Netherlands, and Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in the field of water, subsurface and infrastructure, have been brought in to create a comprehensive plan. In the meantime, the density of concrete buildings continues to rise, leaving no space under or above ground for water to escape and sustainable development projects are still a minority in Saigon’s urban sprawl.

Greener Solutions for Dryer Futures in Saigon

Melissa Merryweather, Director of Green Consult Asia the first company based in Vietnam to offer professional consulting services for sustainable development as well as the former Chair of the Vietnam Green Building Council, told #iAMHCMC that “Development was very slow for a long time except at the low-cost, or single-family homes end, but the last 10 years has been extraordinary. We see it elsewhere in Asia, this very short building cycle even for major projects, but it is still quite breathtaking. The problem is that you can’t build that quickly and still build carefully and the macro-planning of roads, transportation, parking, and public spaces has to be incredibly well thought out. Public spaces and infrastructure have not been prioritised [in HCMC].”

Video source: DC Film

During the property boom that began in HCMC after Vietnam entered the WTO (World Trade Organisation) in 2007, developers launched their projects on whatever land was available without having much interference from urban planning committees. Some of these new developments, mainly mixed-use retail/residential spaces, have put HCMC on the international map. The Landmark 81 project, officially completed in July of this year, for example, is a source of pride for Vietnam as the 14th tallest building in the world.

However, fighting floods as well as creating a city that is livable, sustainable and economically viable requires strategy that goes beyond how high the city can build. Especially, when that city has a population of close to 8.5 million and housing is in high demand.

“There is public interest in all the things that sustainability is about: in healthy living, in a cleaner environment, in controlling climate change. But the developers just see profit margins so far”, Merryweather said. “However, there is some competition at the top to have a green certification so there are a few projects taking that on board, and there are a few developers who want to bring those benefits to people in Saigon. A few.”

Ho Chi Minh cityImage source: votrongnghia.com

Green Consult and KAZE Interior Design Studio can work with clients to integrate sustainable solutions in the development and design process to reduce environmental impact from construction. It is also possible for HCMC’s urban planners to inspire themselves by green initiatives that have worked in other cities. A few include, rooftops and parking lots designed to store water in the case of excess rain-flow, permeable pavements and percolation trenches, which are porous canals used to trap water. In a neighborhood in Seattle, Washington in the US, stormwater runoff was reduced by 98 percent simply by making the street narrower and placing vegetated swales along the sides of the road. The swales, plant filled canals, are multipurpose; they collect rainwater runoff as well as improving the visual design, air quality and water quality of the city.

Long-term solutions are still in the planning stages but the question remains - Will HCMC be able to rise to the challenge of creating a more livable city out of necessity? Or will it continue to sink underwater with every passing storm?

Banner Image source: traveltimes.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.

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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.

Read more

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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