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AsiaLIFE Media Vol. 119






AsiaLIFE Media Vol. 118




for more news and events, features, restaurant reviews and video, visit:


www. For advertising and marketing enquiries please contact: +84 938 298 395 / +84 903 325 543 or Director

Art Director

Jonny Edbrooke Editorial Director

Thang Pham L.C. Photo Editor

Barbara Adam

Romain Garrigue

Commercial Director

Editor Peter Cornish

Nguyen Kim Hanh

Production Manager

Contributors Keith Hancock Tristan Ngo Shannon Brown Reem Mehanna

Hoa Nguyen





FRONT EVENTS ............................................................... 04 ASIALIFE’S PICKS: LANGUAGE SCHOOLS . 06 Q &A IKnow’s Br ian Caleda......................................... 10 WHAT’S NEW IN SAIGON............................. 12 BUSINESS VIEW.................................................. 13 SAIGON PROFILES.. ........................................... 14 TRENDING.......................................................... 15


Examining Saigon’s food & bever age scene.. . 16


Yor kshire pudding............................................... 3 6


Banh Khot (savour y mini pancake).................. . 3 7


Molecular gastronomy bar in Thao Dien.. ...... 3 8


A destination dining exper ience . . .................... 3 9


Br itish chippy fare . . ............................................. 4 0


French chocolater ie cafe. . ................................. 4 1






What street names really mean....................... 2 2


Centre for Cognitive Dissonance.................... 2 4


Races, r ickety r ides and Buddhism . . ................ 2 6


Eye checks 101 .. ...................................................... 3 0


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Under stated island luxur y ............................... 4 2 Fashion for moder n women............................. 4 4

COLUMNS IMBIBE ............................................................................. 5 2 FITNESS .......................................................................... 5 4 EDUCATION HUB .................................................... 5 8 PERSONAL FINANCE ............................................. 5 9 PEOPLE MATTER ....................................................... 6 0 CRAFT SAIGON ........................................................ 6 1 APP CHAT .................................................................... 6 4 TALES OF A GECKOPHOBE ................................ 6 7 HANCOCK IN SE ASIA .......................................... 6 8 COMMUNITY FOCUS ............................................ 6 9 PUB QUIZ ..................................................................... 7 0





EVENTS Photography Fundamentals Workshop @Co-Space Entry: VND800,000 A fun excursion for camera enthusiasts to practice the art of street life photography, led by Michelle Seltzer of Green Gate Photography.

10 FEB Spring Festival @Tao Dan Park Entry: VND30,000 for adults, free for children under 12 One of the focal points of Ho Chi Minh City’s Tet celebrations, the annual Spring Festival brings together sellers of Tet flowers and decorations, calligraphy, art and food, as well as children’s activities.


8.30am - 11.30am

13 FEB

The Bike Shop Adventure Ride @The Bike Shop Entry: Free One of The Bike Shop’s regular Sunday adventure rides, this one will take you through 40 to 50km of road and trails over four to five hours. Meet at The Bike Shop in Thao Dien, District 2. Riders must be over 12 years of age.

2 FEB Tet Flower Street @Nguyen Hue Street Entry: Free Nguyen Hue in downtown Ho Chi Minh City will transform into the annual Tet Flower Street. Even though Flower Street is selfie-central, the Year of the Dog displays will be worth a visit.



Submit THREE pictures of at least 300 dpi to: Follow us: @AsiaLIFEmagazine on Instagram & @AsiaLIFEmedia on Facebook Deadline: 15th of January

The winner will have their photographs published in AsiaLIFE magazine.

Dinner for two at Soul Burger.


Learning Vietnamese is on most expats’ todo list. If it’s on yours, we’ve made it easier to get your Tieng Viet on. Established 1997





Always in stock an extensive range of quality imported helmets in all styles and sizes including Vemar, Project, Roof, Vega USA, TDC and more




CY Founded in 1994 by Dr Vo Xuan Trang, VLS was one of the first Vietnamese language centres in Ho Chi Minh City CMY specialising in teaching Vietnamese language and culture to international students. Their clients come from a diverse range K of backgrounds, including graduate students, native language teachers, businesspeople, diplomats, and expatriates from all walks of life. Originally known as Saigon Vietnamese Language School for Foreigners (SVLSF), the school has trained thousand of students over the past 24 years and built a strong reputation thanks to their continued investment in the quality of teaching, curriculum, and strong commitment to excellence in the classroom. Specialised Vietnamese language courses include academic training, corporate training and teacher training programmes. Most popular is the VLS Dynamic Participant programme, designed to heighten general Vietnamese proficiency levels and encourage active participation in local culture and communities. Taught over four levels, the programme prioritises speaking and listening skills at the initial levels and develops reading, essay writing, discussion and presentation skills for the upper two levels. The programme is designed to provide a solid foundation not only in conversational Vietnamese, but also in phonetics, grammar and cultural understanding. All training programmes and methods are geared towards increased interaction with locals, and focus on strengthening practical language skills while broadening knowledge and connection to Vietnamese culture and community.

4th floor, DMA Building, 45 Dinh Tien Hoang, District 1

SSC is the official Vietnam distributor for Vogmask - the first stylish, high efficiency, well-fitting, comfortable face mask in the world with n99 filtration and carbon filter.



• We now offer long term discounted scooter rentals. • New stock includes a wide range of models including 50cc. • No license needed - 16 years and older for 50cc scooters • Full service package included , delivery option available. • We also specialise in Saigon to Hanoi rentals with 1 way drop off. For more info -

Vietnam’s only 100% foreign owned and fully licenced 1-stop scooter shop 77a Hanoi Highway, Thao Dien, District 2 HCM City. Open every day 9.00am until 8.30pm. Tel : 0903013690 AsiaLIFE HCMC 7 For more info -

FACULTY OF VIETNAMESE STUDIES, HCMUSSH The Faculty of Vietnamese Studies has been providing undergraduate Vietnamese language courses since 2000 and was the first of its kind to meet AUN-QA (ASEAN Universities Network – Quality Assurance) standards in 2012. It is now the go-to facility for foreigners who want to take the Vietnamese citizenship test. The Vietnamese Cultural Discovery Programme offers participants the opportunity for academic study of Vietnamese, as well as the history and culture of pre-modern and modern Vietnam. No previous Vietnamese language study is required, and students are welcome to substitute up to 40% of the course with organised cultural tours in addition to those already included in the programme. The faculty’s certification programme is intended for foreigners studying Vietnamese for a specific purpose and accepts new enrolments every two weeks, according to their level and purpose of study. Courses are delivered in different formats, as group classes that develop conversational skills and cultural awareness, and as individual intensive specialised programmes. Most popular among foreigners is the general Vietnamese language programme that offers 12 courses grouped into six levels. Moving from elementary courses that introduce the Vietnamese alphabet and phonetics, placing emphasis on pronunciation, basic grammatical structures and essential vocab, the programme progresses to intermediate levels where students start building dialogue for conversational purposes. At the advanced levels, students learn to communicate in a wide variety of subject areas, focusing on comprehensive reading and writing. 10-12, Dinh Tien Hoang, District 1

INDOCHINE VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE SCHOOL FOR FOREIGNERS Another well-established school with a reputation for excellence, LASSHO was founded in 2000 as one of the first schools providing Vietnamese classes to foreigners in Ho Chi Minh City. Their motto is “Learn the language. Be immersed” and their courses are designed to enable students to become quickly communicative in Vietnamese. Offering intensive, survival, general and special courses, their curriculum includes topics such as general conversation, business, economics, history, survival Vietnamese and language research, with levels from elementary to the advanced. The survival course, popular among newcomers to Vietnam, is designed for people who live or work here and with limited time to commit to studying the language. The programme combines classroom tuition with outdoor activities, giving the opportunity to practice basic daily Vietnamese conversations, such as greeting others, dealing with maids and staff, talking to taxi drivers and handling yourself at the market. The general course takes a more detailed look at the language and is spread over seven levels. In the four elementary levels, students are taught to have simple interactions with native speakers up to being able to produce clear, detailed comments on concrete topics and explain a point of view, giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options. In the three intermediate to advance levels students focus on fluent and spontaneous interactions to being able to understand television programmes, radio broadcasts, and films, as well as native speakers. 5th Floor, 36 Mac Dinh Chi, District 1



LEARN VIETNAMESE IN SAIGON Providing a tutor service, Learn Vietnamese in Saigon offers individual and small groups private Vietnamese lessons with flexible times and locations, meaning they come to you rather than you go to them. The group of tutors have been offering private tuition since 2014 and have taught hundred of busy foreigners at times and locations suited to their schedules. Adopting an interactive approach to their training, they place emphasis on a fun learning experience, believing that results are achieved faster this way rather than in a traditional classroom setting. The time and location of lessons are flexible, meaning you can have your session at home, in the office or a nearby cafe from 7am to 9pm, Monday to Friday. Individualised lessons are delivered to meet specific needs and interests, as well as learning styles and purpose for learning Vietnamese. Classes are practical, and focus on authentic language use of everyday conversation, rather than text book language which can be contrived and outdated. Courses are offered from level 1 beginner, focusing on the fundamentals of Vietnamese grammar and pronunciation, up to level 5 advanced, where specialised language related to professions or specific interests are taught. They also provide online programmes for beginner and intermediate levels, and a regular Vietnamese language club for students who want to practice in an informal, social setting.

Annie started teaching Vietnamese through her popular YouTube channel before opening her office in 2014 with a group of passionate teachers. Combining both video and podcast lessons, the school offers a blended approach to Vietnamese language learning that provides some of the best materials available for learning Vietnamese, especially the southern dialect. The relaxed learning environment places emphasis on the communicative approach, believing that language competency is achieved through continued exposure and communication. Vietnamese is not just the subject of the class, it’s the environment of the class, and use of all other languages is kept to an absolute minimum with students speaking Vietnamese from the first day of their course. For those unsure about immediately enrolling in classes, the website hosts a good selection of video content which is free to registered users and introduce such topics as Vietnamese pronunciation, numbers, grammar and 100 most basic Vietnamese words. The resources found here offer a great introduction to the language and are popular among foreigners visiting Vietnam for a short time or those not ready to make a commitment to regular lessons. Private one-to-one classes are also offered online with different lesson duration and frequency, great for those with busy schedules and unable to escape the office. Three levels take you from elementary to upper intermediate, with between five and six units per level and each unit taking between 20 and 24 hours. 72/7 Tran Quoc Toan, District 3

23 Ly Chinh Thang, District 3





AsiaLIFE gets up close and personal with Mac whisperer Brian Caleda, founder of the popular iKnow computer repair store in Thao Dien. Photo by Romain Garrigue. You were born in the Philippines, went to school in Indonesia, went to university in Hawaii and studied biology. How on earth did you end up running a computer repair store in Vietnam? I ask myself the same question at times! I was working in environmental conservation in Hawaii after I graduated from university. In 2007, I purchased the first iPhone which only reinforced my addiction for bright, shiny tech devices. It sparked my interest in seeking employment with Apple, which led me to a position in corporate sales, mostly dealing with schools. By chance, in 2010, there was an opportunity to deploy tech workshops at the international schools in Saigon using the iPad, which was essentially the start of iKnow.

You’re about to become a dad for the first time. When are you going to introduce technology to your child? What do you imagine their life as an adult, considering all the tech changes you’ve seen so far in your lifetime? Screen addiction is a scary but true reality for kids. In my personal experiences, I’ve seen this happen all too many times and it is something that I want to avoid with my own kids. It’s interesting to note that Steve Jobs didn’t allow his kids to use the iPad at all. For me, I will try my best to keep my own kid away from any screen before the age of three. Which is a bit daunting as it also means that I need to limit my own screen time, so I don’t set a double standard. As a person with a business in the tech industry, this sounds easier said than done. With all the advances in tech I’ve seen in my lifetime thus far, I can’t even imagine what to expect for the next generation. There’s a series on Netflix called Black Mirror – it’s a dark and uneasy series that examines the dystopian future and unanticipated consequences that new technologies could potentially bring to modern society. I really hope that this isn’t what my kid should expect!

Many people only seek help with their devices when they’re on the verge of blowing them up in anger. How do you stay calm when technology doesn’t do what it’s *insert swear word of choice* supposed to? I’ve found that a quick Google search produces numerous hits for forums, groups, posts and websites for many issues and can provide a solace for techrage. Most of us are capable of DIY tech fixes, whether we know it or not. Once we know how to be more savvy with tech, we

can avoid frustration that results from not understanding how tech works. However, if all else fails, there’s this shop on 94 Xuan Thuy, called iKnow, that may convince you that throwing your iPhone against the wall may not be as satisfying nor cost-effective as you think the experience would be. You should definitely go over there if you need assistance with any tech-related mishaps.

How many devices do you have at home, and what do you use them for? This question made me realise how embarrassed I am to admit how much tech I actually have at home. Let’s just say that I am somewhat of a collector and own a few Apple devices that would make it into the Apple Museum in Prague.

Technology is ever-present and pervasive in our daily lives

You do a lot of work around town educating people about technology. What do you think is important for people to know? What are the basics you think everyone should know? I think a good tech tip for everyone to know is not to overcharge their devices. You can avoid many hardware issues on all devices by making sure that you charge your device properly – once your device hits 100% charge, don’t leave it plugged in longer than necessary. Technology is only as good as the person using it. Many times, people buy tech as a novelty but don’t necessarily know how to use it to the extent it was designed for. Spend some time getting to know how your tech can work for you, so you don’t spend time getting frustrated using your tech.

You’re a believer in following your passion. What’s the best general life advice that you’ve ever been given? What advice

would you give to young people today? When I was in university, I worked at the multicultural centre with a lady named Judy, who eventually lost her ability to speak because she got tongue cancer. She once told me that life is a collection of experiences that is built around your interactions with people, places and food. This really resonated with me and I live my life believing that the more people we engage with, the more places we see in our lifetime and the variety of food we taste gives us a fuller life. Hence, the advice I would give to young people today would be to get out into every crevice of the world, absorb as much as people coming your way have to say and eat your way through life.

Many parents worry that their kids spent too much time with screens. Yet, getting a handle on technology is going to be important for their future lives. How do you find a balance when it comes to technology and kids in the modern world? Acceptable screen time for kids is a debatable issue. Most credible studies say that one to two hours per day is appropriate, depending on age and what they’re doing on their devices, as schools nowadays require homework to be done digitally. The real danger is non-educational, leisure screen time. In addition, I think there should be a 3:1 ratio when it comes to outside activity vs. screen time – three hours of activity to every one hour of non-educational screen time. Equally as important is to establish limits and rules on tech usage before exposing kids to it. Even though I am a tech enthusiast, I believe in digital etiquette. In today’s digital world, we abuse tech usage all too often – texting while on our motorbikes, checking Facebook while we are having dinner, Instgram-ing every plate of food, taking selfies everywhere. I think not only should we establish limits on screen time, but it’s also important to teach kids tech-etiquette and acceptable use of devices.

What life skills can tech teach? Technology is ever-present and pervasive in our daily lives. It is all around us and certainly, learning about the tech that surrounds us can make us understand how to use it practically and empower us to use tech to make life easier. I think tech can teach skills such as productivity, time management, efficiency and logic. When you understand tech, there’s a certain logic that you develop. When you learn how to use tech to assist you with day-to-day tasks and activities, you learn how to be more productive and manage your time to be more efficient. AsiaLIFE HCMC 11



ECO CONCEPT STORE AND CAFE A cute little coffee shop and retail space dedicated to creating a more sustainable lifestyle in Ho Chi Minh City. 23 Street 61, Thao Dien, District 2

BAR AND LOUNGE It’s possible something was lost in translation when it came to naming this new lounge in Hai Ba Trung Street. The target market is hip and happening Vietnamese, but this place is sure to find fame online for its name alone. 26-28 Hai Ba Trung, D1




Pesticide-free greens delivered the same day they’re picked. The most basic membership gives you four 100-gram boxes of greens/month.

The sister fun park to Just Kidding in District 2, this “family fun fair” in District 7 has rides, a mini roller coaster, bumper cars and games.

SC VivoCity, 1058 Nguyen Van Linh, District 7



Italian restaurant and wine bar created in consultation with Michelin-starred chef Mariasole Capodanna. Casual dining on the ground floor, more intimate and luxurious setting on the first floor. G Floor, Petro Vietnam Tower, 1-5 Le Duan, District 1 - 12 AsiaLIFE HCMC

NIGHTCLUB Sleek new nightspot for the beautiful set, with a resident DJ. 172-174 Le Lai, District 1



MITSUBISHI TO PROMOTE ELECTRIC VEHICLES JAPAN’s Mitsubishi Motors will investigate how to promote the use of electric vehicles in Vietnam, under a memorandum of understanding signed with the Vietnamese government in January. The investigation will include a review of possible incentives that could support the accelerated adoption of sustainable automotive technology, the Vietnam Economic Times reported. Mitsubishi also announced it planned to invest US$250 million in a second automotive manufacturing plant in Vietnam.

Mitsubishi Vietnam already has a plant in Binh Duong province, neighbouring Ho Chi Minh City, with an annual capacity of 5,000 automobiles. The proposed second plant will be able to produce 30,000 to 50,000 vehicles a year, a company official said. Mitsubishi has not yet decided on a location for a factory, and has said it is seeking a site in an existing industrial park, close to a seaport, and easily connected to domestic and overseas markets.

A project to preserve Vietnam’s H’Mong chicken breed won the National Startup Competition 2017, organised by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The winning entry, the H’Mong Yen Bai Chicken Farm Project, was submitted by the Vietnam National University of Agriculture. The project now has the support of investors, with PTI Educational Institution Chairman Trieu Van Duong promising to take a 35% stake in the project, and Thai Binh Seed Corporation Chairman Tran Manh Bao offering to take a 50% stake.

BOOK STREET FOR DISTRICT 7 Leafy Nguyen Dong Chi Street in District 7 will become Ho Chi Minh City’s second book street later this year, according to the city’s People’s Committee. The street, named after folk culture researcher Nguyen Dong Chi, will become home to 20 book stalls and a coffee shop. It will follow the same model as Nguyen Van Binh book street in District 1. A third book street in District 5 is also being planned.


SHADOW ECONOMY BOOMING NEARLY one-third of Vietnam’s gross domestic product is generated by the shadow economy, a study has revealed. The study, conducted by the Fulbright University Vietnam, also found that 57% of workers in Vietnam were participating in the shadow economy, the “below the radar” economic activity that does not generate tax income for the government. In the wake of the report, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue called on the Ministry of Planning and Investment to investigate Vietnam’s shadow, informal, and illegal economies. Fulbright Economics Teaching Programme’s Do Thien Anh Tuan told Tuoi Tre newspaper that the informal or shadow economy was a long-acknowledged fact of

life in developing countries such as Vietnam. “A common trait of underground economies is that they involve economic activities not categorised, listed, accounted, monitored, or administered by the state. In many cases, ‘shadow’ does not necessarily mean illegal,” Tuan told the newspaper. “A sophisticated but obscure legal system is among the primary reasons why shadow economies prosper. To put it simply, people naturally find ways to dodge the law if it’s too troublesome for them to obey.” Tuan also said a country’s shadow economy usually had an inverse relationship to the overall economic growth of a country. The healthier a country’s economy is, the more its shadow economy will shrink, he said.

Vietnam exported 1.02 billion pairs of shoes last year, making it the world’s second-biggest shoe exporter after China. Vietnam News reported Vietnam’s shoe exports accounted for 7.4% of the 23 billion pairs of shoes made in 2017, while 67.3% was made in China. The US was the world’s largest shoe importer, importing 2.34 billion pairs, accounting for 19.6% of global footwear consumption.

BIG TURNOUT FOR HCMC MARATHON More than 8,000 runners competed in the fifth annual Ho Chi Minh City Marathon last month. The runners competed in distances ranging from 5 kms to the full 42-km marathon in the annual event organised by the Ho Chi Minh City Athletics Federation, Pulse Active and the city’s Department of Culture and Sports, Tuoi Tre reported. More than 800 foreigners signed up for the half and full marathon distances, which took them over the 2 km cable-stayed Phu My Bridge, which spans the Saigon River and connects Districts 2 and 9. AsiaLIFE HCMC 13


GEOFF HOPKINS By Barbara Adam. Photo by Romain Garrigue.


ondon-born Geoff Hopkins spends a few months every year searching for wild tea trees in Vietnam’s misty mountainous regions. For Geoff is a tea obsessive. He didn’t start off with a full-blown passion for tea, just your ordinary British appreciation for a good cuppa. But when Geoff was transferred to Hong Kong, he began getting more and more interested in Chinese tea. Then in 2008 his employer, HSBC, transferred him to Hanoi. “When I first came to Vietnam I didn’t even know Vietnam produced any tea,” Geoff said. “Which, I guess, is a bit of an embarrassing confession to make.” In Hanoi, Geoff met Nguyen Thu Ngoc, who hails from one of Vietnam’s most famous teagrowing regions, Lao Cai, near Sapa. Together they hatched a plan to open a business based around Vietnamese tea. Even though Hanoi is closer to Vietnam’s tea-growing regions, Geoff followed his contrarian heart and based their operation in Ho Chi Minh City. Geoff and Ngoc spent months hunting for wild tea trees around Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Son La provinces. “When we first started, we’d go somewhere 14 AsiaLIFE HCMC

and ask around: `who makes good tea?’ When the same name came up two or three times, we’d then pay them a visit. Typically we’d go there, get showed around, drink some tea and end up being invited for a meal, with lots of toasting with rice wine.” One of the reasons Geoff is so enamoured of wild tea trees is that they are grown organically. “It’s not a monoculture, not rows and rows of plants in a field as far as the eye can see,” Geoff said. “When you don’t have a monoculture, you don’t have the problem with pests, with the soil being degraded. It’s what being organic really should be about. There is simply no requirement to treat the plants with chemicals. “Traditionally in Vietnam these trees have been looked after by the ethnic minority groups, notably the H’mong and Dao.” Unsure that just selling tea was going to keep them fed, Geoff and Ngoc initially opened a teahouse and restaurant in Nguyen Hue Street called Hatvala. (In Vietnamese hat va la means “bean and leaf”.) But when Nguyen Hue turned into a giant construction site, Hatvala moved into smaller premises, abandoned the restaurant idea, and focused on the growing retail side of their

business. The Hatvala range of tea currently includes two white teas, three types of black tea, five types of green tea, five types of oolong tea and five flower-scented teas. There are also six roasts and blends of coffee. Because Vietnam is much more well known for its coffee than its tea. Each variety carries an exotic and evocative name, such as purple rain, tiger monkey or mountain mist. “Our objective isn’t just to have lots of different types of teas but to have teas that are significantly different to each other that may appeal to different people,” Geoff said. Tea trading accounts for a large part of Hatvala’s business, with bulk tea sent to customers in Europe, North America and Australia. The secret to Hatvala’s success, Geoff said, is their commitment to finding clean highquality tea and farmers who really know their stuff. “We are looking for the type of people who are creating a tea that is quite special in terms of flavour and complexity,” he said. “Where each time you steep you get a variation of flavour.” “It’s where art meets science.”

Even though tea is also grown in Southern Vietnam, Geoff continues to only source tea from mountainous tea growing regions. “It should come from a higher elevation. It does prefer a particular type of soil, a peatyloamy and neutral to acidic soil. It should be on a slope. Tea doesn’t like to be waterlogged. “It should have adequate sunlight but the leaves should not be in direct sunlight. It’s best if it’s misty or shrouded most of the year.” Geoff said he’s really pleased with the products he and Ngoc have developed over the years, working in cooperation with the farmers to improve their techniques and guarantee their livelihoods. “Ngoc has a much better nose than me and she’s become very knowledgeable about techniques,” he said. “She works with the people we deal with to improve what they make and create products to our own specifications. “She’s got some very good ideas about producing teas that will have particular characteristics when it’s made and bring greater enjoyment to the drinker.” To organise a tea-tasting session at Hatvala’s tea studio, email

MORE BEER, MORE BEER More than 4 billion litres of beer were consumed in Vietnam last year, a year-on-year increase of 6%. That represents nearly 43 litres per person, according to figures from the Vietnam Beer Alcohol Beverage Association reported by the Vietnam Economic Times. Vietnam’s beer-drinking market is forecast to expand even further, to 5.5 billion litres, or 52 litres per person, in 2035. Vietnam was the eighth biggest beer consuming market in Asia in 2008, rising to third spot in 2016, the newspaper reported.

UNSEASONAL RAINS UPSET FLOWER FARMS Southern Vietnam might be in for a dreary Tet, after unseasonal weather decimated the region’s flower crops. In late December, Typhoon Tembin dumped heavy rain over Vietnam’s southwest, inundating the region’s “flower basket” in the leadup to the country’s biggest festival, Tet. “If the roots absorb too much water, the plants grow quickly, and easily produce flowers earlier than planned. If they don’t bloom right on time for the Tet holiday, we’ll lose everything,” Be Tre Province flower farmer Nguyen Van Phuong told Tuoi Tre newspaper.



here are four main types of tea, black, green, white and Oolong. They all come from the same plant, camellia sinensis.

Green tea

For green tea, the leaves aren’t allowed to oxidise, so the tea remains relatively green in colour and high in antioxidants. The leaves are picked and very soon after they’re subjected to high heat, which kills the enzyme that causes the leaf to oxidise.

Black tea

Generally, people will say black tea is fully oxidised. The tea maker tries to speed up the oxidisation process by rolling the leaves, which change colour from green to dark brown. Lots of chemical changes take place, producing stronger malt and chocolate flavours.

NEW RULES FOR UBER AND GRAB Ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab will have to obtain legitimate licenses and register to provide e-commerce services, under new rules announced by the Ministry of Transport last month. The new rules were introduced at the end of a two-year pilot period for Uber and Grab, during which arguments and violence often broke out between taxi drivers and newcomers. Under the new rules, Uber and Grab vehicles will need to display a logo, and an electronic receipt will be issued to the tax department after every ride.

Oolong tea

This tea falls in the middle of the spectrum. The tea maker decides when to stop the oxidisation process and as a result oolong teas have a much broader range of flavours, from floral to spicy.

White tea

Typically white tea is made with only the leaf buds. It doesn’t go through much processing, the buds are just left to whither for a long time. It is simple but time consuming and it generates a much more subtle and elegant flavour than green tea.

SAIGON STREET CLEANERS QUITTING Dozens of street cleaners have been quitting their jobs in Ho Chi Minh City in favour of lowerpaid less strenuous factory work, according to newspaper reports. Urban Environmental MTV director Huynh Minh Nhu said 50 of his company’s 400 garbage collected quit last year, including 20 who worked at the Tan Xuan Market in Hoc Mon District. Street cleaners earn about VND8 million (US$350) a month. Factory textile workers earn VND6 million ($260) a month.



Peter Cornish looks at what it takes to make it and make it last in Ho Chi Minh City’s food and beverage sector.


espite being Vietnam’s culinary capital, some Ho Chi Minh City residents consider the choice of restaurants to be limited, not living up to the expectations of a city this size. Others think the palate of local foodies is unrefined, unable to appreciate the subtle flavours of the food on offer and prone to covering everything in chilli sauce. Regardless of personal opinion, there’s no denying the changes this city’s vibrant, burgeoning food scene has undergone over the past ten years. A steady influx of internationally experienced chefs and foreign-owned eateries are pushing boundaries of choice and expectations, raising the overall standards of what’s on offer, how it’s served and presented, and enticing customers eager to experience new trends and flavours. But there’s also no denying the fickleness of the HCMC’s food and beverage sector, and the challenges facing novice and experienced restaurateurs alike. With the inevitable growth comes an increase in entrenched competition, changing loyalties and affections of customers, exorbitant rents, exploitative landlords and undertrained, unmotivated staff ready to swap jobs as soon as a better offer comes their way. The choice of food available in the city just a decade ago cannot be compared to what’s on offer today. Street food was still a big part of the culture and for many, eating out tended to mean heading to the local quan, plastic chairs and metal tables, a crate of beer full of empty bottles and plates of various shared Vietnamese delights. The idea of sitting in a restaurant was not sexy and sitting by the road was one of the enjoyments that Vietnam had to offer. This was before the scare of fake food when street feeds were still the norm for most. Western food was available, but it meant

a trip to a few limited locations around town. Bui Vien and surrounds for a curry, a bowl of pasta or an attempt at a burger, a few choice places on Dong Khoi and Hai Ba Trung for something French or a perhaps a steak, or a journey over to Thao Dien for an upmarket meal and a bit of a treat. It was a very different place back then and there were few mid-tier restaurants. Eating out was cheap or expensive. You could have a meal for two including drinks for VND100,000 in the backpacker area, or head over to Hi Ba Trung and blow VND500,000 a head with drinks on top. There were few local restaurants serving Western food, and barely any foreign-owned restaurants offering something Vietnamese. A lot of restaurants struggled to survive. But some did, and they are still around today. So, in a city where restaurants open and close before you’ve even noticed, what is it that brings success and longevity, and are the success factors the same now as they were ten or even 20 years ago? Is it simply a matter of luck, with early comers benefitting from sparse competition and tapping a growing market of hungry foreigners yearning for a taste of home, or is there a winning formula that once understood brings inevitable success? Wouldn’t that be easy?

More than just luck

The team at AsiaLIFE could only guess at the answers to these questions. But intrigued and eager for insight we reached out to some who’ve been there done that, to ask their thoughts and opinions and to share their secrets of success. The answers we got were varied, although some key themes came to light. Whilst there is certainly an element of “right time right place” involved, there is also hard work, careful planning and passion for what they do.

We wanted to know how the restaurant sector has changed since the turn of the century when international owners really started to make a mark on the city’s culinary scene. Do the same success factors apply now as they did then? One of the most noticeable changes is of course the amount of competition that restaurants now face. Steve Mueller was an early entrant, opening his De Tham Street Zoom Café in 1999 at a time when the Bui Vien Street backpacker epicentre was a mere hint of what it is today. There was little in the way of choice or competition, and most of the restaurants that were open have long since gone, Steve explained. Like others, this was a factor in early success, especially when catering for the transient and growing tourist market who have increasingly flocked to the area. Owner of Skewers (2000), Elbow Room (2008/09) and the more recent Café Sweet Street on Le Thanh Ton, Tristan Ngo, also noted how competition has changed the market, and especially how newer entrants are responding to it. “People are trying to outdo each other, wanting to be bigger and grander, copying what others are doing rather than doing what they love,” he said. Co-founder of multiple outlets, including Cafe Au Parc (2003), The Refinery (2006) and Hoa Tuc (2008), Noelle Carr-Ellison has chosen to ignore competitors and focus


on what she is doing, trusting her own concepts and not feeling threatened by what others are attempting. An increase in international entrants has meant inevitable change and the raising of standards, she noted, but if people bring passion to their ventures then the benefits are felt by many.

Market has matured

As the choice of restaurants has expanded, customers have become savvier, pointed out Peter Holdsworth, who has opened multiple food and beverage outlets in Hanoi and Saigon since the early 2000s. Vietnamese customers are increasingly receptive to new dining experiences, but this is as much about the look and feel of a restaurant as it is the quality and service. “Youngsters are looking for things that are more updated, following what’s happening internationally and being trendsetters here. They are no longer happy to just sit back and accept what’s on offer,” Peter said. The need to see and be seen has put the focus on building a brand identity, rather than just serving good quality food.

Evolving service standards

Another notable change that has impacted the way restaurateurs run their businesses and the service levels they offer is with staffing; hiring, training and retaining. While still an ongoing challenge for many owners, especially new entrants, most restaurants are now offering levels of service to their customers that are far from the norm of just a decade ago. “Staffing has changed, it used to be easy to find cute girls to hire, but with so many jobs available it’s now a lot tougher. Most of our staff are college kids who want to practice their English, they come and go quickly, especially around Tet,” Steve told me. Although there are still inevitable distractions for serving staff, it is now rare to see your waiter “mining for gold” moments before he brings you your plate

with the offending finger perilously close to your food. And the days of being asked to pay for incorrect orders are all but gone, and in most cases, you are likely to get what you asked for. Levels of staff experience have improved tremendously, explained Erwann Serene, formerly the chef at La Camargue and now owner of La Cuisine (2009). As competition has increased there has been a need to train to a high level so that service expectations are met. “Ten years ago, it was hard to find waiters who spoke English, and many were scared of talking to foreigners. Now they are comfortable with it, they can engage and learn more and the service is better as a result,” Erwann said. But as staff become more trained and experienced they look for better opportunities and conditions, a problem as relevant today as a decade ago. New restaurants open and you see the same staff as elsewhere, turnover is high which suggests unstable environments for them to work in. Tristan confirms the opinion of many successful owners that the key to longevity of staff is in hiring the right staff and treating them the right way. “When I hire my philosophy is to value the mentality and character of the person over their experience. A shitty attitude doesn’t help anyone. Personality is important as they drive the business,” explained Tristan, who still has staff who joined him when he first opened in 2000. It seems the way to keep staff is to treat them with respect and look after them, which is hardly rocket science.

Modern Technology

Another notable change in recent years is the advancement of technology and the impact this has had, especially in terms of delivery, marketing and customer reviews. People talk about life here in terms of ‘pre-app’ and ‘post-app’ and this change is perhaps no more apparent than in the food and beverage sector, especially when

Ten years ago, it was hard to find waiters who spoke English, and many were scared of talking to foreigners




Know what happening, what’s selling and what’s not selling, test, test, test and keep to your budget

ordering out and giving feedback on your dining experiences. Gone are the days when ordering a food delivery meant finding a phone number, calling the restaurant, repeating your order, explaining how to find your house down various hems and hoping the delivery guy turned up while the food was still hot. It’s now done simply and quickly on your phone. This advancement has had a tremendous affect on existing restaurants, able to increase their sales to a wider market. It has also opened up new market opportunities for ghost restaurants, offering their services without the overhead costs of a bricks and mortar location or waitstaff, and allowing for experimentation with different concepts without the otherwise huge risks of failure.

Social media

Noelle highlighted the huge effects that social media and online review sites, most notably TripAdvisor, have had on the industry, especially the impact on consumer decision making. While restaurants have been able to use social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to their advantage, reaching a wide audience with ease and low cost, there are downsides to this development too and they don’t necessarily put bums on seats. TripAdvisor can be like a popularity contest, explained Scott Marquis, former owner of Scott & Binh’s (2010), and current owner of Scott & Jeremy’s (2016) and La Fiesta (2014), which can play havoc with the effort and hard work as owners strive to make their business a success. This opinion was reiterated by Erwann who explained that just one bad review can cause tremendous problems and potentially ruin a reputation. Yet while there have been fundamental changes in the way the F&B sector operates, accompanied by an increased competitiveness of the market, it seems that those who have survived the test of time are following the same approach now as they did when they first started. Their advice is simple, and while not guaranteeing success, is certainly something to reflect on.

Follow your passion

Calvin Bui, former owner of Pop Fries (2013) and current owner of Sanchos Beer & Mexican Kitchen (2016) sums it up simply as “you gotta have passion.” Consider your options seriously and ask yourself if this is really what you love to do, he said. If you’re in it simply for the money, once the romanticised honeymoon period is over and the going gets tough, you’ll find yourself struggling to pull through, advises Tristan. Consistency in what you do is equally important, according to Scott and Erwann. The meal you serve today should be the same standard as the one you serve in six months’ time, which can be a challenge if you have a high staff turnover. Build a team and take care of it, recommends Scott, and make sure you have the right partnerships in place advises Erwann. Move around, talk to staff and choose your concept carefully was the consensus. According to Noelle, 10 years ago, there were an about 900 restaurants in the HCMC, today there are more than 3,000 and the market size hasn’t developed at the same speed. Avoid saturated areas like Thao Dien and look for new opportunity advised both Erwann and Noelle. Use technology advancements to your advantage and look at your data. “Know what happening, what’s selling and what’s not selling, test, test, test and keep to your budget,” recommends Calvin. Spend your investment money wisely in the places needed, don’t spend extravagantly on interior decor if you’re opening a simple cafe, and remember, the kitchen is important even though it’s often not visible at front of house. Establish your regular clientele, know what they want and keep it personal, but be aware that sometimes a restaurant has a short shelf-life and it’s time to change it up and get people interested again, warns Scott. Don’t open until you’re ready as the first impression you show customers is the one that counts Erwann advised, and if all else fails, Noelle suggests a move to Myanmar. AsiaLIFE HCMC 21


Barbara Adam investigates what the names of some of Ho Chi Minh City’s streets really mean. Photo by Romain Garrigue.

t doesn’t take very long for newcomers to Ho Chi Minh City to work out how to navigate the streets, especially downtown, where French town planners laid out grids of wide boulevards. But with the onslaught of everyday life in Vietnam, most expats don’t spare a thought for the names of the streets they traverse. It only takes one or two trips to other destinations in Vietnam to realise that the same street names are used in just about every town in the country. So what do the street names mean? Most streets are named after historical figures: military leaders, poets and politicians. Some streets are named after military events, marking a victory or a great battle. Historian Tim Dowling says Vietnam has a long history of naming streets after notable people. “Before the French arrived, there’s evidence that some streets in major towns had local names describing particular government offices or trades located on them, but the practice of giving each thoroughfare an official name only began after the arrival of the French and the introduction of Western-style urban management practices,” he said. “Throughout the colonial era, the French were constantly renaming streets as colonial governors and senior officials came and went. They also applied the names of great battles in which France had been involved, leading French generals, and a plethora of other famous individuals. “With the sole exception of the reigning Nguyen dynasty, great figures 22 AsiaLIFE HCMC

from Vietnamese history were generally ignored. Most of the Vietnamese street names applied in colonial times praised loyal local representatives of the French administration: collaborators, as they would be called now.” Tim said as the French began offering limited independence to its colonies, including Indochina, in the late 1940s, local names began being used for some streets. “By 1955-1956, most of the old French street names had been replaced with the names of great Vietnamese heroes,” he said. “In the North, these were supplemented by those of revolutionary activists, while in the South leading anti-communist politicians were also commemorated.” Once the Vietnam-American War ended, the new government of Vietnam began renaming streets throughout the country after “revolutionary” heroes. In today’s Ho Chi Minh City, several female revolutionary heroes have streets named after them, including Bui Thi Xuan, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, and Vo Thi Sau. Bui Thi Xuan (1771-1802) was a female general involved in the Tay Son Rebellion, which overthrew the Le Dynasty in the late 18th century. According to legend, she helped the Tay Son army train elephants for battle. She was captured by Nguyen forces in 1802, along with her husband and teenage daughter. All three were executed, the women by being crushed by elephants. Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (1910–1941) co-founded the New Revolutionary Party of Vietnam in 1927, which was a predecessor of the Communist Party of Vietnam. Khai was a secretary to Ho Chi Minh in Hong Kong.

She was jailed by the British in Hong Kong and again by the French after her return to Vietnam. She was executed by firing squad in 1941. Vo Thi Sau (1933–1952), joined an antiFrench guerilla unit as a teenager. When she was 14, she threw a grenade at a group of French soldiers, killing one and injuring a dozen more. Two years later she was captured by the French. She became the first woman to be executed at Con Son Prison on Con Dao Island, in 1952 at the age of 19. Some streets are named after former emperors. Some former kings even get more than one street named after them, one using their official royal name and another using their birth name. Dinh Bo Linh (924–979), also known as Dinh Tien Hoang, was the first emperor of Vietnam following 1,000 years of Chinese dominance. He and his son were killed in their sleep by a palace official, who claimed to be inspired by a dream. According to legend, Le Loi (1384–1433), also known as Le Thai To, had a magical

sword, which brought him one victory after another until Vietnam was freed of Chinese rule. Le Loi became emperor in 1428, the founder of the Later Le dynasty. Nguyen Hue (1753-1792), also known as Quang Trung, was the second emperor of the Tay Son dynasty. He was considered a ruthless military leader, overthrowing the Later Le dynasty as well as rival feudal houses in the south and the north. Although Nguyen Hue died relatively young, aged 40, he’s credited with adopting the Vietnamese chu nom characters as the official written language, replacing the traditional Chinese script. He also introduced the identity card system to help govern the population. Ham Nghi (1872-1943) was the eighth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, who ruled for only one year, from 1884 to 1885. He was later exiled to Algeria, where he married Marcelle Laloe and had three children. He’s buried in the Dordogne region of France. Some streets in Ho Chi Minh City are named after Vietnamese poets, such as Nguyen Dinh Chieu (1822–1888), and

scholars, such as Mac Dinh Chi (1272–1346). But most street names honour those who fought to secure their country’s right to rule itself. Hai Ba Trung (the two sisters Trung), are Trung Trac (12–43) and her younger sibling Trung Nhi, daughters of a general. The Trung sisters defeated their Chinese overlords in the 1st century, and Trung Trac ruled as queen for three years before the Chinese returned in force and resumed control. The sisters, both martial arts experts, were propelled into action when Trung Trac’s husband, Thi Sach, was executed by the Chinese, who had ruled the region for 247 years. According to the legend-like story, the two sisters gathered a mostly female army, which freed 65 citadels from Chinese control. Prince Tran Hung Dao (1228–1300), whose original name was Tran Quoc Tuan, repelled three major Mongol invasions. He defeated Kublai Khan, who at the time ruled one-fifth of the earth’s inhabited land and

was the grandson of the notorious Genghis Khan. Pham Ngu Lao (1255–1320) was one of Hung Dao’s generals, assisting his prince and father-in-law’s battles against the Mongols. Only a handful of foreigners have streets named after them, including French scientists Loius Pasteur (1822–1895), who developed the principles of vaccination and pasteurisation, and Alexandre Yersin (1863–1943), who discovered the pathogen that causes bubonic plague. Jesuit priest Alexandre de Rhodes (1591–1660) is also honoured, along with his Vietnamese contemporary Han Thuyen. Between them they developed quoc ngu, Vietnam’s modern Romanised script, by transcribing the characters used in ancient times. The colleagues are honoured with streets that run along either side of the April 30 Park, between the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dam Cathedral. The park is named after the day the Vietnam-American War ended in 1975. AsiaLIFE HCMC 23

Shannon Brown looks at a centre offering psychological and behavioural services in Ho Chi Minh City. Photos by Romain Garrigue.


zrael Jeffrey moved to Vietnam from the United States in 2009 to work for an international school in Hanoi. After several years, he became concerned about the high unmet need for psychological services he observed, and left Vietnam to pursue a PhD in counselling psychology. Five years later, Azrael returned with the intention of improving mental health in local and expat communities. Simone Maffescioni moved to Vietnam from Australia in 2013 to coordinate speech therapy training at a Vietnamese university. After two years, she began to search for other ways to work in the country as a speech pathologist. In 2014, Jeffrey and Maffescioni met in a networking group for specialists working with children. They realised they had a shared vision: both wanted to create an organisation where specialists could work in a stable, collaborative, and professional environment. Thus, the idea for the International Center for Cognitive Dissonance (ICCD) was born. It took six months for the business to get off the ground and a year to become fully operational. I visited their offices in December of 2017 to discuss forming a


mental health support group, and found the staff to be welcoming and knowledgeable. The center itself is on the top floor of a nondescript building in District 2 - it is set up to be as family-friendly and as private as possible. ICCD offers a range of services: psychological and educational assessments, psychotherapy and counselling, career coaching, speech and language pathology, occupational and music therapy, behavioral analysis for children, educational support services, and university coaching. They have a large client-base, great relationships with the international school system, and an ever-expanding team of professionals. This month, I spoke with the team and asked them about the highs and lows of working in the mental health and special needs field in Saigon. Each employee of ICCD said that the support they receive from their colleagues makes all the difference. “The invaluable aspect of working at ICCD is having a team of professionals to collaborate with,” Maffescioni said. “Particularly for children with complex needs, it is most effective to work together to best support the child and family holistically. For example, a child with significant special needs may require

support from an occupational therapist to be able to regulate their body effectively, a behavioural therapist to learn necessary skills and target behaviours, and a speech pathologist to develop communication skills. We also provide psychology or counselling support for the family.” Jessica McEachern echoed the importance of her team. “The ability to cooperate with other professionals at the center and to share our knowledge about how to best support our clients is extremely useful. It also feels amazing when clients report their successes and how we helped to make a difference in their lives.” Anne Peters said that for her, watching a smile come back to her clients is the best thing. “Not a polite smile, a genuine smile,” she elaborated. There are challenges as well. Everyone in the centre lamented the lack of general information about mental health disorders in Vietnam and said that social stigma is still a very real barrier to accessing help. In the smaller niches, it can become even more frustrating. Victoria Smith Lyons says many people don’t understand what she does for a living. “I trained to be a music therapist in Cambridge in 2008 but ever since I left the UK, where music therapy is a well-

recognised health profession, I feel like I have had to explain what music therapy is and who it can help. I think when you get to the specifics of how particular therapies work it can be overwhelming and confusing for people.” Maffescioni said that speech pathology is such a new field in Vietnam that there have been many impediments to care along the way. Many of the issues arise because her clients are bilingual or multilingual. “There are so few local and international speech pathologists in Ho Chi Minh City and so many people that are in need of services. The speech pathology caseload in Ho Chi Minh City is more complex than what I experienced in Australia. Almost all of my clients are at least bilingual and the typical speech pathology treatment resources are often inappropriate linguistically and culturally. I usually need to create specific resources for each separate case, which is particularly timeconsuming. Also, standard tests for speech and language are normed on monolingual English speakers, so assessing a client’s communication skills requires extra tasks and analyses.” One unique aspect of ICCD is that they host weekend groups to help children

develop their social skills. Lyons noted that this area is neglected in most educational settings and that she finds it highly rewarding. “The social skills groups at ICCD are a really important part of the work I do. The groups provide an opportunity for many kids from different backgrounds with various developmental, social and behavioural needs to come together every week and receive instruction in areas which are critical for their social development, including: conversation skills and body language, cooperative play and sharing, empathy and kindness, emotional awareness, self-regulation, teamwork, and expected and unexpected behaviour in various contexts.” ICCD does no marketing or advertising. Clients find them through word-of-mouth and former client referrals. Jeffrey said, “We believe our reputation and quality services speak for themselves.” He also talked a bit about the coming year and the goals that the team has set. “We want to continue to provide professional services to the local and international community. We plan to link stronger with the Vietnamese community and we wish to develop and bring in

more Vietnamese staff with international training. Currently, we are supporting our Vietnamese staff to gain training and international certification. We would like to expand locations within Ho Chi Minh City and other cities in Vietnam. And we want to continue to provide training and support to educational institutions to develop resources for children with special needs in the community.” Currently, ICCD is nearing capacity. Jeffrey explained, “As our reputation developed, so did our team and caseload. We need qualified and experienced professionals to provide services for our growing caseload of children with special needs. This includes speech pathology, occupational therapy and behavioural therapy. We also need counsellors, psychologists and psychotherapists for our growing local and international client caseload. Interested professionals can contact us through the website and set up a time to come and meet us to discuss potential opportunities.” ICCD is located at 191 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, District 2, on the fourth floor. They have several counselling rooms and you can make an appointment over the phone, over email, or in-person.


Annigje Jacobs explores a wonderfully weird Buddhist-themed theme park. Photos by Brice Godard.


ietnam’s biggest theme park, Dai Nam, has been open for almost a decade now. But it hasn’t yet made its way to the lists of tourist hotspots. This is surprising because the vast complex is located just outside Saigon’s city limits, and it has have one of the world’s more bizarre theme park concepts: Buddhism. Dai Nam is an enormous place, a world in itself, really, with more than enough to do for the adventurous tourist. There’s an amusement park, a temple, a beach, a zoo, a hotel and a race course. And no matter which parts you choose to visit, you’re in for a surprise.

An amusing start

The central theme park, also known as Dai Nam Wonderland, opened its doors in September 2008. The impressive gate, wide entrance lane and broad layout show the place was designed with substantial crowds in mind. As you enter, you’re greeted by traditional Vietnamese tunes and birds chirping through speakers. As soon as you arrive at the first


attraction, these are drowned out by shrill shrieks. Welcome to the enormous Five Dragon Discovery haunted funhouse. The fantastic scenes are all handmade by Vietnamese craftsmen with a great love for black light body paint. Some of them are surprisingly scary! Dai Nam hosts many more haunted houses and they all bring Buddhist stories to life. The most outlandish one is undoubtedly the ‘Five Unicorn Labyrinth’. Inside this attraction, a small boat takes you on a Buddhist journey to the afterlife. The execution of the scenes is somewhat cobbled-together, often bizarre and very graphic. You float past colourful jungle scenes and fruit trees. But you also see bloody skeletons and even disemboweled human bodies. If you’re planning a family trip to the park, be cautious. This ride may put a bewildered smile on your face, but is probably a little too scary for young children. There are enough other things to do for the little ones though. The park has a dinosaur carousel, a giant stride and many kiddie rides. The only thing lacking, here and everywhere, are

other visitors. The good thing: there are virtually no queues in the park. Some rides however require a minimum number of passengers. Others, like the bumper cars, are just more fun when you’re with a group. Strolling down the main roads of the park, you’ll see that not all the games have stood the test of time. Much of what you see is best described as dilapidated glory, or if you’re in a less poetic mood, simply as rusty old rollercoasters. Snow World, the park’s most popular attraction, is the only place where you might have to wait for your turn. At the entrance, the attraction supplies rubber boots, winter jacket and gloves – be sure to put them on. Once you step into the giant freezer, you can slide down a 15-meter snow hill on inflatable rafts. The enthusiasm of the Vietnamese families around you definitely adds to the fun.

Spiritual extravaganza

To calm down after so much excitement, follow the 12 golden zodiac signs starting at the western exit of the amusement park. At the end, you will

arrive at Dai Nam’s second glorious sight: The Golden Temple. A massive place for worship that lives up to its name: all doors, statues and most objects inside are inlaid with 24-karat gold. In this sumptuous temple, Buddha, the Hung kings and several other gods are worshipped. Look for the transparent box filled with little red envelopes next to the main altar. Pick an envelope and unfold your fortune. It’s in Vietnamese but worth tapping into Google Translate, or better still, finding a local who can you read. Some people consider the setting of the temple too dramatic to be spiritual. But there’s definitely a certain sense of magic and wonder to it. The extraordinary statues, shiny altars and colourfully dressed Buddhas with flickering lights will certainly leave an impression, even on non-religious visitors. Behind the temple, you will see the Bao Son: a scaled-down, concrete version of Da Nang’s Marble Mountains. Amidst these stands the so-called Precious Tower that was built for Vietnam’s heroes. Each of the nine levels venerates a different ancestor,

such as: the unknown martyrs, Tran Hung Dao and – of course – Uncle Ho.

Let’s go to the beach

If you are not too keen on exploring multiple areas, do as many visitors do: head straight to the Dai Nam Beach. More of a waterpark than an actual beach, it’s a great place to relax with friends or family. It’s big, clean (like the rest of the park) and there are plenty of food and drink stalls. So, lean back, gently move your body to the ever-present Vina-house beat and wonder at yet another set of sculptures built to honour Vietnam’s history. Or take a refreshing dive in the enormous man-made lake, divided into salt water and fresh water parts. There is a variety of waterslides and wave pools to burn off any excess energy. Everything you need for a day in the water is available on the spot: bathing suits, sunscreen, water toys, etc. And there’s more: you can rent a horse and ride around in the outdoor arena. There’s a helper available if you need one (from VND200,000 per 15 minutes).

Animal kingdom

Next stop: Dai Nam Zoo. Let’s be honest, zoos in general are not the best idea humankind ever came up with. And the Dai Nam Zoo can’t compare to its American or European counterparts in terms of size or quality standards. Most tourists skip this part of the park, but if you’re really keen on seeing exotic creatures, do pay a visit: it’s allegedly the best in Vietnam. The animals, from exotic birds to crocodiles, elephants and white tigers seem relatively relaxed and curious. The decorations in and around the animal shelters are not exactly a copy of the natural habitat. The turquoise-pink mushrooms and fences seem to be built to please the visitors rather than the permanent inhabitants. And watch your hands, there have been some incidents. In 2013, one of the elephants said goodbye to his caretaker by throwing him in the water tank. And in 2009, one of the tigers escaped.

Need for speed

The newest part of the Dai Nam complex is a 60-hectare racecourse, officially opened in May 2017. The AsiaLIFE HCMC 27

set-up of the course is professional. It includes a 2,200-metre track for motorcycle and go-kart racing a 1,600 metre track for greyhounds and horses and a pool for jetski performances. If you enjoy the sound of roaring engines and racing horses, this is the place to go. From the podium, you have a good view of the tracks and the stadium commentator definitely knows how to warm up the audience; his excitement is infectious, even if you don’t understand Vietnamese. The races are held on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Expect to

see motorbikes, go-karts, national racehorses plus foreign (Australian) racehorses. The greyhounds and jetskis are less frequent. You can check the racecourse schedule to see what’s going on at If you enjoy karting and you’ve been looking for a good place in Vietnam, Dai Nam is definitely worth a visit. The go-karts are in good condition and so powerful, even experienced drivers will get a kick out of it. You’re allowed to rent one and use the professional track if you are at least 16 years old and above 1.6 metres.

Spend the night

Getting there

Tet activities in the park


The Dai Nam Complex offers enough entertainment for two or even three days. You can stay on the premises at the Dai Nam hotel, right next to the racecourse entrance. Room prices start at VND600,000. The beach villas start at VND2 million for six people. On weekdays and even on weekends, you can book a room when you arrive at the park. However, during the Tet holidays, it’s wise to book in advance.

Naturally, Vietnam’s biggest theme park will be abundantly decorated in Tet style. There will also be a Flower Street and daily performances by the famous singers Ho Quang Hieu and Khoi My. The racecourse will be open every day during Tet, hosting special tournaments with Vietnamese and foreign racing professionals.


A never-ending story

The founder of the park, Mr Huynh Uy Dung, created the park to celebrate 4,000 years of Vietnamese culture and history. Its official name, Dai Nam Van Hien, loosely translates as “cultures and traditions from the old Vietnam”. It’s doubtful whether you’ll learn anything new about Vietnam during your visit, but the complex is definitely one-of-a-kind and impressive. And looking at the excavators on the fallow land around the buildings, we haven’t quite seen the end of it yet.

The Dai Nam park is located in Binh Duong province, about 40 km from Ho Chi Minh City. It’s about one hour by car; Grab / Uber (VND400,000 – 500,000); and about 1.5 hours by local bus 616 from Ben Thanh Market (VND25,000).

Entrance to The Golden Temple is free. For all other parts of the park, there’s a fee: -Racecourse + amusement park (together VND200,000). You pay extra for each individual ride as you go (between VND30,000 and VND100,000); -Beach (VND150,000); -Zoo (VND150,000). Discounted package deals are available for those who want to visit multiple areas. Kids between 1m and 1.4m pay half price, those under 1m are free. The attractions and areas are quite far apart. You can rent a tandem (VND50,000 for a full day) or a golf cart (VND300,000 for the first hour, VND200,000 for the next).




Lauren Cameron looks into ocular health in Ho Chi Minh City. Photos by Romain Garrigue.


nsuring proper eye health is important wherever you are in the world, but if you are a resident of Saigon – boy, do you need to keep on top of it. Vietnam ranks among the top 10 countries in the world in terms of serious air pollution, making it a hotspot for eye irritation, dry eyes and disease such as allergic conjunctivitis. The stresses of Ho Chi Minh City living can also impact our vision. Nguyen Ngo Vinh Tai, a refractionist at Eyewear HUT Optical in Thao Dien, says getting enough sleep at night is essential to maintaining good eye health. “People who get fewer than six hours sleep are at greater risk of having their vision impacted,” he warned. As well as getting enough shut-eye, Tai recommends that Saigonites wear antiglare, anti-scratch, UV protection glasses whenever outside or riding a motorbike. “Particularly in the morning when pollution and glare are at their worst,” he said. “You should also wear polarised glasses at night ‘without power’ to protect your retinas from having dirt fly into them.” Ophthalmologists at the Japan International Eye Hospital also advise motorbike riders to wash their eyes using natriclorid 0.9 every time they complete a journey, and to use an artificial tear solution three to four times per day to prevent dry eyes.

How often should I get checked?

Standard international practise advises people to have a full eye exam at least once between age 20 to 29 with at least another two between the ages of 30 and 39. Local eye specialists, however, recommend getting tested every three to

12 months if living in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Once you hit 40 it is recommended adults not showing symptoms of eye disease get a baseline eye disease screening and then, based on those results, follow the ophthalmologist’s advice for follow-up examinations. If you are over 65, it is recommended you have a complete eye exam annually.

And for kids?

It’s worth noting kids require eye exams every year or less because their vision changes rapidly with growth. You should have your child undergo their first comprehensive eye exam at six months of age, followed by another at age three and another around age five or six. Early identification of a child’s vision problem can make a huge difference to their long-term prospects, as kids are more receptive to treatment following an early diagnosis.

How much?

If you look hard enough, you should be able to find a clinic in HCMC that offers free eye exams. At Eyewear HUT Optical, Thao Dien, it costs VND50,000 for Vietnamese nationals and VND100,000 for foreigners to have a comprehensive eye exam.

Where to get your eyes checked

You will be pleased to know that HCMC boasts a large number of medical centres, hospitals, clinics and retail stores that specialise in onsite eye examinations. In general, the city’s private practices and international, English speaking clinics and hospitals offer the most efficient services, though that does come at a price.

Victoria Healthcare +84 28 3910 4545 They have four clinics across HCMC, two in District 1, another in District 7 and a fourth in Phu Nhuan District. American Eye Center +84 28 5413 6758 5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, District 7 Eyewear HUT Optical +84 28 3519 2028 Ground, 161 Ha Noi Highway, District 2 Cao Thang International Eye Hospital +84 93456 7135 135B Tran Binh Trong, Ward 2, District 5 CMI – Centre Medical Internationale +84 28 3827 2366 1 Han Thuyen, District 1

Signs you should book into an eye exam

1. If you have sudden or gradual blurry vision. 2. If you are seeing floaters, flashes of sight and other odd visual disturbances. 3. Frequent headaches. These can be a sure-fire sign that you have a vision problem. 4. If you are experiencing eye fatigue or strain. 5. You find yourself squinting. 6. You suddenly have sensitivity to light. 7. Your eyelids are swelling and you sense itchiness, redness and/or discharge.


Barbara Adam and her kids explore a family-friendly homestay in the Mekong Delta.



ithin three minutes of arriving at Happy Farm Tien Giang, our ever-smiling host, Khoi, has introduced my kids to Kim, Cherry and Tin Tin, the farm’s resident horses. The kids then meet, in quick succession, a bunch of wriggling licky puppies, ducklings, a monkey, kittens, chickens, two geese and a gosling I named Ryan. The kids are in ecstasy, feeding and patting the animals, and burning off energy running around Happy Farm’s big grassy paddock and exploring the paths, footbridges, swings and hammocks. We’ve arrived before lunch, and the Happy Farm staff are setting a table under a shady tree for one of the families who is staying for the weekend. Happy Farm opened in 2016, replacing a restaurant Khoi’s family used to run on the site. There are 12 rooms, simple little shacks made from bamboo and coconut fronds, set amongst lush grounds. Oanh, Khoi’s wife, briefly emerges from the kitchen where she is supervising a lavish multi-course feast for the weekend guests. She finds time to whip up some delicious seafood banh xeo for us. Khoi tells me that his farm stay is very popular with Vietnamese families on weekends, when a full programme of kids’ activities is available, with expats and international visitors mainly

staying during the week. After lunch, my kids enthusiastically join the activities, which are conducted in a mix of English and Vietnamese. (English for my kids, Vietnamese for the other guests). First up is a blindfold duck-catching game. Next is a sack race, then a hay bale rolling race, then tug-of-war. One sporty dad decides to take on all five kids, and ends up flat on his face. Then comes the horse riding. Some kids are quite intimidated by the horse, even though he’s a small and placid beastie. But each kid eventually takes a turn, sitting in the saddle -- some nervously and some proudly -- and being led around the field once or twice as their parents take lots of photos. Just when I think the activities are done for the day, Khoi announces it’s time to go fishing. All the kids stampede over to the farm’s fruit orchard, only to discover “fishing” involves getting into a water-filled ditch to catch fish with bamboo baskets. The other parents seemed to have been forewarned of the wetness and muddy-ness of this activity. Some have changed their kids into swimsuits. But we are here on a quick day visit, and I didn’t bring a change of clothes. I forbid my kids from getting in the water. They both get in. Of course.

There is a lot of screaming and excitement, and not all the noise is being generated by the kids. It’s a lot of fun, and the highlight is catching an elephant ear fish that one of the families is going to eat for dinner. After fishing, there’s a clean-off session under the sprinklers. Both my kids are dripping wet by now and I wonder if any taxi is going to let us get in. Because we’re only day visitors to Happy Farm this time round. Suddenly Oanh appears with some of her kids’ clothes for my kids to wear home. I tell her we really do have to come back to her farm now. We have borrowed clothes to return! Khoi and Oanh used to work in Ho Chi Minh City, both in the field of information technology. They both prefer the countryside to city living, and they have found a fantastic way to share their lifestyle. They especially love showing city kids how country life works. “Kids can help collect the eggs,” Khoi said. “They can help in the garden, help harvest vegetables. The children can learn how to be a farmer!” A stay at Happy Farm usually includes a barbecue dinner, and boat trips and other excursions can be organised as well. Happy Farm is 8 km from My Tho in the Mekong Delta, and 80 kms from Ho Chi Minh City, or about 1.5 hours by car. AsiaLIFE HCMC 33


s our minivan hit the coastline at Ho Tram and the ocean opened up before us, our party of 10 began breathing a little easier. As expats who had fallen for the charms of Ho Chi Minh City and now called it home, it was a rare occasion for us to be within eyesight of the ocean. We were out of the city at last, with a glorious stretch of white sand and rocky boulders moving beside us as we cruised toward our weekend getaway destination. Coco Beachcamp, rustic beachfront oasis slash live music venue located on one of La Gi’s beaches, seemed like the perfect escape from Ho Chi Minh given its proximity to the city. Just three hours in a private, air-conditioned minivan, perhaps less on a zippy motorbike. We had heard rumours of this “hippie haven on the coast” but hadn’t quite anticipated the reality of it. As we pulled up, we saw signs promoting the beach party that would take place that same night, featuring DJs, international singers and a heck of a lot of booze. We were like schoolkids for whom Christmas had come early as we checked out the sprawling bar area and treehouse platforms that lined the beachfront – it was like nothing we had 34 AsiaLIFE HCMC

seen to date in Vietnam. While not aimed at those seeking luxury, Coco Beachcamp has been designed most thoughtfully with an infinity pool, beachfront dining and drinking options and a variety of accommodation possibilities ranging from a simple US$1-a-night tent to an air-conditioned beachfront bungalow. There are also a handful of retro caravan campers, colourful beach huts and a variety of garden rooms available for rent. One can even opt to share a luxury teepee tent with up to 15 friends – a rare find in Vietnam! We stayed in a beachfront wooden house hut, and when I say beachfront I mean smack bang on the sand. It was wonderful! With both air-conditioning AND an electric fan inside our hut, my husband was a very happy man indeed. Our cabin also had an indoor shower and toilet. With a rather retro bedspread and a Bohemian tapestry hanging from the ceiling, I felt like we’d stepped back into the 70s. We loved it. Coco Beachcamp owner Tran Qui Le had spent close to 15 years working in the Vietnam travel industry when he realised there was a dire need for a new kind of accommodation model, something that blended resort-style luxury and outdoor

adventure – and for a fraction of the price. Thus ensued the Coco Beachcamp project. We spoke on the beach at sunset, Le wearing his wetsuit. He had been windsurfing for hours and hoped to have another surf before the sun fully set. With a beer in hand and the salt of the ocean still in his hair, it was not difficult to understand why he opted to give up his fast-paced life in Saigon for the charms of coastal living. Born locally, he had acquired the land that Coco Beachcamp sits on in 2003 but it took close to 13 years to design and build the resort as per his very specific vision. “I realised that most resorts in Vietnam are all about eating and drinking in a beautiful atmosphere,” he explained. “I wanted to create a destination that was a little simpler in its design, but still beautiful. A place where you can take part in a ton of outdoor activities rather than just lie around checking Facebook.” The entire site sits on a sprawling several acres of palm trees, dunes and ponds, with pastel beach chairs, swings, vintage armoires and rusting kombi vans found haphazardly throughout the gardens. Guests lay in treehouses drinking cocktails over the beach, ate authentic Vietnamese

Lauren Cameron gets her groove on at Coco Beachcamp.

from the onsite restaurant, played beach soccer or sunbathed by the infinity pool. A duet of sisters took up their place on the beach stage at around 9pm and DJs entertained guests until the wee hours of the morning. But the entertainment options weren’t only limited to late night fun. Outdoor activities on offer at Coco Beachcamp include kitesurfing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, kayaking, catamaraning, beach volleyball and yoga, with further plans for expansion in coming years. “Our dream is to develop a full-on beach sports club, with professional instructors and lessons available for guests and other visitors,” Le said. “Many Vietnamese people are afraid of the ocean or do not know how to swim. We want to help change that. We also plan on opening more bungalows further away from the main entertainment area, for families and people seeking a quieter stay.” Le and his wife, who works in the film industry, also have big plans to open a farmstay in the local village of La Gi as well as a health spa and film studio which they hope will one day become a national point of pride. If Coco Beachcamp is anything to go by, I strongly suspect both

projects will be successes. Le also told me he had signed a contract with Quest Festival that same week, enabling Coco Beachcamp to hold the multi-day camping, music, arts and nature festival onsite this coming May, as well as host Vibe Nation Beach Fest again in March 2018. With live music events held every Saturday night and most Fridays too, it has certainly garnered a reputation as a place where city dwellers can revel in a late-night tune and fall asleep to the calming sound of the ocean (if not to the hypnotic beat coming from the main stage). As we sat there watching sunset over the water, buffalo-drawn carts taking tourists along the beach drew our attention. Le admitted he disliked this aspect of local tourism and that he did all he could to protect the local coastline through Coco Beachcamp’s operations. “The environment is a huge passion of mine. We collect and sell all plastic and cans to recyclers, and we give proceeds to the local government, orphanages and local schools every year to support local causes,” he said. - 0252 2481 678 Le Minh Cong, Tan Phuoc, tx. La Gi, Binh Thuan. AsiaLIFE HCMC 35



e all recognise n understand there are many variations n a certain amount oft folklore surrandin t mysterious Yorkshire pudding. This mountain oft manliness evokes memories oft miners covered int coal dust, flat caps, whippets, pint pots wi thi own name on, 5’s n 3’s, John Smiths, Tetley’s n straight forard talkin. Ow eva there b certain rules tha must follow t mek sure tha gets t full risen golden crunchy yet soft masterpiece. Floppy-aired southern celebrity chefs n even t French classically trained cuisine magicians av all tried t ger in ont act, they all declare t their own minds n all that will buy their books, that they av farnd t secret. T endless search fer that miracle nar stretches its arms art t Europe, America n beyond. I believe I av tried em all n had become lost int mire oft chemical reactions, proportions oft milk t wata, oddities, prayers, standing positions, temperatures, doors open n curtains closed. It were my trip at Christmas, back t me birthplace int country oft Yorkshire that dragged me back in t light n set me ont right track agen. I had whilst away twatwafflin bought anuva property n during t endless moving in oft furniture n possessions, chanced upon a box I adn’t opened int years. A knew t book as soon as a saw its dusty cover, felt t warm homely glow as me fingers traced its outline. Fergettin all abart t unpacking a poured messen a Tawny, sat darn t read n remember me childhood n early culinary exploits. Blackberry n apple crumble, creamy rice pudding, jam rolly-polly, Yorkshire brack (all sure t sink a battleship er an ill fated ungry duck), but then there it was n all it said were “one t one t one meks two t four”. Now me Mam were not a great cook bein not Yorkshire born n bred but there were four things she cud mek, pasties, rost tatties, gravy n Yorkshire puddings. I closed me eyes n remembered t countless times she ad recounted it t me. So here are t rules that will ensure tha will neva gu wrong. The rules are as follows: 1. Feed t whippet, chain it up owtside n tek of yer flat cap. Hang it up nice nar. 2. Never ever ever ever use t wooden spoon. Oni use a slightly 36 AsiaLIFE HCMC


larger than tablespoon sized spoon wit no sharp edges on it. 3. Oni use mucky fat (beef dripping). If tha carnt get it tha ken use lard but dunt tell anibody. 4. Never wash t tin, wipe down wit a clean paper cloth. This keeps t Keeluts (hairless dog like monster from Yorkshire folklore) from infesting yer kitchen. Oni kidding Keeluts dun’t like beef dripping. 5. Tis a tin ant never a tray an if tha aint got nuffin in tha tin ont Sunday lunch time then wi alus say “tha wat! Tin tin tin?” Aye this is t ferst signal that divorce might be ont cards. Ow Tha Meks It (This is mi Mam’s original recipe n I aint messin arand wi it): 1. Tha must av an oven that will get up t 225°C or 440°F. 2. T beef dripping must be smoking hot afore tha ladel int batter. 3. Never open door til they have finished rising n when tha doesoni open it fer 5 seconds t let t steam art n promote crisping oftartside. 4. Ingredients n method, well tis is a rule oft thumb; one egg, plain flour n milk. if t egg measures in a jug 100ml then 100g oft plain flour is needed n 100ml oft fresh full milk mek up t mix (See nar one t one t one). Blend wi a metal spoon til smooth tha naws then add a pinch oft salt n whip up well fer a gud five minutes, nar leave t rest fer 30 minutes. Afta 30 minutes add 2 tablespoons oft cold water n mix agen. Tha needs t mek sure oft thi timings fer toven temperatures t be reet n be prepared t move quickly wit t ladel n fill each pudding cup ner further than a half. 5. One egg will mek four two inch cups er two four inch cups. 6. Remember t lower shelf darn in toven er tha wilt end up wit Yorkshire puddings sticking t top oft toven. 11. Please note: it is written int old Yorkshire laws that at any time openin of toven door afore puddins av risen wilt result in thi being banished fer one year n one day t Rochdale. N there tha as it. Fer t heathens art there, ift rosting lamb or t mutton sum chopped-t-hell mint can be added inta mixture n wit chicken n t pork fresh rubbed n chopped rosemary, fer beef tha ken add a dash of horseradish but thy may find t Ministry O Yorkshire knocking at yer door t confiscate thi spoon n tins.


SAVOURY MINI PANCAKE BY TRISTAN NGO Chef, patron and owner of Skewers Restaurant The Elbow Room and Cafe Sweet Street.



appy New Year foodies! I hoped everyone had had wonderful Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations. Believe it or not, the festivities are not yet over as we still have the big Tet festival (also known as lunar or Chinese New Year) in a couple of weeks time. Unlike the western new year, Tet celebrates the arrival of spring, based on the lunar calendar and officially lasts for five days. I only just realised that, as of December, this Local Eats column is five years old. Who would have guessed it would have lasted this long? Your support has kept Local Eats going for so long. Without you I would have packed in a long time ago. So thank you! I thought by now I would have written just about every local dish possible, but I could not have been more wrong. Because I haven’t yet told you about banh khot, a savoury mini pancake originally from Vung Tau, a popular beachside getaway 2.5 hours from Saigon. Banh khot is made with rice flour, coconut milk, turmeric powder, mung beans, salt and shrimp. It’s fried in a type pan similar to a cupcake caddy, but much shallower and thicker. Banh khot is not as well-known as its big sister, banh xeo. Banh xeo is around plate-sized, thin and crispy, while banh khot are much smaller (think bite-sized). Topped with shrimp and chopped green onion, it’s served with a dish piled high with lettuce, mustard leaves and assorted herbs, as well pickled radish, carrots and marinated fish sauce for dipping.

It’s the ultimate finger food and one of Vietnam’s tapas-style dishes, like spring rolls, nem nuong (grilled pork sausage) and chao tom (grilled shrimp paste on sugarcane sticks). Each baby banh khot pancake is wrapped in a lettuce or mustard leaf wrapper, along with the herbs -- perilla, basil -- the pickled radish and carrots, then dipped into the dipping sauce. Enjoy! 1. Banh Khot Dang Dung Alley 32 Dang Dung Street District 1 Open 11am to 5pm 2. Banh Khot Vung Tau Khanh 7 Dong Nai Street District 10 Open 3pm to 10pm 3. Hoang Yen Buffet 52 Ngo Duc Ke Street District 1 Open 10am to 10pm. AsiaLIFE HCMC 37



The LAB.O 94 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, District 2

Peter Cornish experiments with cocktails and tapas at a new laboratory-themed lounge. Photos by Romain Garrigue. Thao Dien has become such an enclave of bars and restaurants that for many locals there’s hardly any reason to leave. As more and more places open, Thao Dien has even become a destination for non D2-dwellers. One such bar creating a buzz is newly opened Lab.O, a cocktail bar with a difference. Located on Xuan Thuy at the entrance to Little Thao Dien, this slickly designed rooftop bar with a laboratory theme offers a unique space to get your party on, or just kick back under the evening sky as you sip one of the 17 unique cocktails on offer. The initial concept for the bar was based around molecular gastronomy, a subdiscipline of food science that investigates the physical and chemical transformations of ingredients that occur in cooking. Somewhere along the way food got replaced by alcohol with results as pleasing to the eye as they are to the mouth. Owner Francois Rousselet is somewhat of a cocktail connoisseur. Along with his partners Tran Nguyen Viet Linh, Gwenael Perodou and Caroline Perodou he wanted to offer a different cocktail experience, experimenting with local flavours and ingredients to step away from the ordinary. “We want the eyes to say wow and the mouth to say whoa when we serve you a drink,” Francois explained. Lab.O’s sleek, modern design includes a central, well-stocked bar lined with flasks, test-tubes and syringes ready for drinks. High tables and stools occupy the main area with a section to one side providing lower seating, next to an impressive water feature that lights up as 38 AsiaLIFE HCMC

the sun sets. Ambient lighting sets a relaxed scene and a retractable roof offers protection from the sun and the rain. An air-conditioned room next to the open kitchen provides a no smoking area for diners. Medically-themed cocktails include the Dr Chi Ly, mangifera genetic, sexperience lab, DNA love and Mary’s bloody cell (VND175,000, including service and VAT), artistically blending familiar flavours and transforming them in to exciting new tastes that tease and titillate the taste buds. If it’s not time for a cocktail, the reasonably priced spirit selection includes aperitifs, gins, rums, tequila, vodka, whisky, whiskey and bourbon or ‘ken and Tiger on tap (VND55,000). As you’d expect with French owners the wine list is on point with a generous selection of reds (glass from VND150,000 / bottles from VND750,000) whites (glass from VND140,000 / bottles from VND6,300,000) and bubbles (Moet Imperial Brut VND2,190,000 and Bollinger Special Cuvee VND2,690,000). If you’re feeling peckish, there’s a simple tapas menu designed for sharing, with dishes such as HCMC bruschetta, passion for tuna, prawn’s roaring and a very tenderloin beef tartare, reverting to the molecular theme of the venue and delighting as much as the drinks. LAB.O opens for lunch from 11am and happy hour is daily from 5 to 7pm. With cocktails of the month and regular events planned for after Tet, this new venue is a winner for the Thao Dien contingent and sure to tempt people from other parts of town.

Q.ITCHEN FACTORY 2nd floor, Lot DVTM-9, Road 7, Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone, District 7

Barbara Adam investigates tasty Asian-inspired sharing platters in a surprising location. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

It’s an ambitious goal to set out to create a new “destination dining” experience, a place that’s so good people will drive for miles to visit. It’s even more ambitious to be a hospitality equipment supply company seeking to showcase your wares by setting up a restaurant. So far, all this ambition doesn’t seem misplaced. Q.itchen Factory, in the back lots of District 7, seems to have everything it takes to make people travel for Asian-inspired tapas made from locallysourced ingredients. There’s the mystery of the location, in an export processing zone. And once you find the building, with its sparkling showrooms of industrial kitchen equipment, you need to find the restaurant. Q.itchen Factory pays homage to its origins with a stylish industrial chic interior, part steam punk, part factory-

floor, with portholes looking into the warehouse. Executive Chef Adrian Chong Yen presides over the open kitchen, which is full of the very latest in whizz-bang kitchen gear. Originally from Malaysia, Adrian moved to Singapore as a teenager. There he went to cooking school and began working at various restaurants in the city-state. At one point he became so obsessed with Spanish cuisine he moved to San Sebastian for several months. Now he’s melding his Asian roots and Spanish experience in Saigon, where his Singapore-based employer, Q Industries, is expanding. The Q.itchen Factory team are also hoping to build momentum in Vietnam for the “locavore” movement, where people eat locally-grown food. Here, everything is also served local-style, as sharing platters.

Meals begin with a nod to Southern Vietnamese cuisine, with a selection of dips served with a bowl of greens and herbs instead of bread. After snacking on the greens, we moved on to the delicious and colourful farm chicken salad (VND150,000), with purple cabbage, lotus root, fried shallots and crunchy rice crispies -- the Q.itchen Factory version of croutons -- dressed with a tangy vinegar and fish sauce dressing. The beef short ribs, sautéed with mushrooms, potato puree & veal reduction (VND210,000) was a carnivore’s dream. Tender well-seasoned beef, with a tasty yet slightly unusual take on mashed potato. The grilled pork chop glazed with soy and honey (VND250,000 for two people, VND 350,000 for three) was my personal favourite. The pork, topped with garlic chives, parsley, sesame seeds and the

Q.itchen signature popped rice, was incredibly tender for such a fat cut. The seasoning worked well with the mild flavour of the pork, and the side of crispy potatoes with garlic aoili and smoked paprika was so moorish I’d recommend not sharing this part of the meal with anyone, no matter how much you love them. The cuttlefish noodles with prawn vinaigrette capsicum confit (VND150,000) was a tasty surprise. The noodles, strips of cuttlefish poached in verjuice and prawn stock, looked like pasta, but the texture was slightly different and the taste much richer. All in all, a meal worth crossing town for! Q.itchen Factory’s building also has a cooking studio onsite, which can be used for teambuilding, cooking classes and product launches. AsiaLIFE HCMC 39

UNION JACK’S FISH & CHIPS Upper Deck, 130 Ton That Dam, District 1 //

Peter Cornish experiences the epitome of “the kettle’s always on” British hospitality with authentic chippy fare. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

There are certain foods that evoke strong feelings of cultural identity and tradition -- Vietnam’s pho, an American burger or an Italian pizza. For much of the English-speaking world, especially those who speak proper English like the Queen, the food that gets many of us going is a slap-up plate of fish ‘n’ chips, lashings of Sarson’s vinegar, a pickled egg and a side of mushy peas. Jack’s Fish & Chips is a tribute to this traditional British fare that harks back to the childhood of owner Matt Ryan, who grew up on the A30 road from London. Matt’s local chippy was called Jack’s Fish & Chips. An institution of over 40 years, Jack’s served up battered cod and haddock accompanied by thickly-sliced chips hot out the fryer. Proper chips. Fluffy in the middle with a crisp outside, 40 AsiaLIFE HCMC

covered in malt vinegar and served in sheets of newspaper. News that his hometown chippy had closed brought back fond memories and spurred Matt’s desire to pick up the mantle dropped by JJ’s and introduce his own interpretation of Britain’s oldest and most famous dish to Ho Chi Minh City. Union Jack’s reminds the British of a home-away-fromhome while introducing others to the sights and smells of a traditional English chippy. With the experienced guidance of Chef Josh Mcgechaen, they offer the hungry of Saigon a new taste of fish and chips, cooked in beef dripping for an even tastier, crisper slice of battered fish, just like Jack did back in England. Locals lean towards battered fresh snapper (VND170,000

with chips and a choice of sauce), a soft, moist fish that pulls apart lightly, caught locally and from sea to plate in just a few hours. Expats prefer the meatier cod option (VND240,000 with chips and sauce) that gives them the real “taste of home”. Accompanying sauce are made in-house from fresh, locally sourced ingredients and include Josh’s curry sauce, tartar and a meaty gravy. Of course, there’s Sarson’s vinegar, Helmann’s mayonnaise, HP Sauce and Branston pickle too, just as you’d get back home. As well as fish there’s also some oink, and Josh brings his specials from Pot Belly Pig including the renowned black pudding (VND50,000). Fryday Friday offers a free battered black pudding with every fish meal. There are sausage rolls

on the menu (VND140,000 with chips), flaky pastry covering a sausage packed with flavour, and pies (VND110,000) of richly herbed minced pork wrapped in crunch pastry for a memorable, full-bodied flavour, served with a choice of egg, onion or cucumber pickles. A beef and ale stew (VND140,000 with bread), made with local craft beer and chunks of beef soaking in a rich, meaty gravy with heavy hints of rosemary, tastes better than anything Mum ever made and a hit with locals and expats alike. Opening for lunch after Tet they currently deliver to Districts 1, 3, 4, 5 and Binh Thanh and aim to be at your door within 40 minutes from order. If you fancy a taste of tradition, get down and give this a try.

CHOCOLAT FREA 68 Truc Duong, Thao Dien, District 2 //

Peter Cornish dives into a dessert-centric cafe in District 2. Photos by Romain Garrigue.

Tucked down a small hem off Thao Dien, up by Meatworks Butchery, is a tiny cafe offering some sweet chocolate delights that would not look or taste out of place in Paris. The culinary talent behind these chocolaty treats is Heloise Richard, a young Frenchwoman who learned her skills in Paris at the famed Gregorie Ferrandi school. After a apprenticeship at the Park Hyatt Vendome, Heloise turned her eye to Vietnam where she had spent her childhood and accepted a job with Marou Chocolate to learn the process of bean to table and further develop he skills as a chocolatier. The job was rewarding, but having worked with many big hotels and restaurants in Europe she was keen to branch out on her own and perfect her own creations.

Chocolat Frea is a mix of cafe, kitchen and showroom set in the ground floor of her house, where customers can enjoy their sweet treats while watching Heloise work her magic in the kitchen. Open from 10am to 6pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, customers are welcome to relax on comfortable seating and order food and drinks from a small menu of select delicious delicacies. In the morning, pancakes are served with coffee from a large machine that holds pride of place on the cafe’s counter as Heloise and her staff prepare fresh cookies for delivery later in the day. The glass counter displays today’s cookies for visiting customers in five enticing flavours. Experimenting with local ingredients such as tamarind

and caramel, coconut and cacao nibs, black sesame and lime, and almond and cashew with dark chocolate the cookies are priced at VND25,000 each. If temptation gets the better of you, an artfully designed box of ten will set you back a reasonable VND300,000, including a VND50,000 deposit on the box which is refunded on your next order. Accompanying the cookies are succulent homemade chocolate passion pies (VND85,000 per slice or VND640,000 for a whole pie), J-Ls (VND80,000 for one or VND650,000 for ten) of two soft layers of cake sandwiched in between chocolate and whipped cream and sprinkled with shards of dark chocolate or a classic vanilla flan (VND80,000 per slice or VND450,000 for the whole

cake) of French pastry, baked at a low temperature to create a soft, creamy texture that melts in the mouth. The treats that are drawing customers citywide are the chocolates themselves, an art that Heloise learned from Jacques Genin, famous in the Parisian world of chocolate. With flavours that will encourage another, there are ganache and pralines, made from chocolate and cream. Mixed using the moulage technique, the moulds are coated with melted chocolate before being filled with a soft, creamy ganache and then closed using more melted chocolate. The result is a chocolate hard on the outside yet deliciously soft in the centre. The second and third taste as good as the first! AsiaLIFE HCMC 41

Jonny Edbrooke explores the understated luxury of Fusion Resort Phu Quoc.


hat could be more relaxing than an all-Spa-inclusive resort on a beautiful tropical island a short flight from Ho Chi Minh

City? Not much, in my book. Fusion Resort Phu Quoc, on the northeast side of the island, even has its own deserted beach. About 1.5 kilometres of it. The resort is one of six Fusion resorts and hotels in Vietnam, each one finding a creative balance between its unique setting, a harmonious use of space and the group’s all-inclusive wellness philosophy. My first impression of Fusion Resort Phu Quoc was of peaceful, spacious low-rise elegance. The property is extensive -- 20 hectares in total -- and each of the 97 villas, each with its own pool, feels like a private oasis. A handy map is issued on check-in. The villas are set in groups of four, with each surrounded by a unique grassy bank to create total privacy in the secluded garden.


Each villa is spacious and elegantly furnished, with interesting features such as a television that swivels so you can watch it from the sunken bath if you so wish. After oohing and ahhing over the expansive and stylish interior of our villa, we opened the curtains and realise it is twice as big as we thought, when we take into account the terrace, the garden and the pool. It’s the ultimate in get-away-from-it-all luxury, and we could have easily stayed forever. At Fusion Resort Phu Quoc, the only real reason you need to leave your villa is for a massage or facial. And as wellness treatments are included in the room rate here, it’s pretty much compulsory to leave your villa for a bit of rejuvenation at the beautiful Maia Spa and Wellness complex, which has its own pool, steam and sauna rooms, a hair and beauty salon, fitness centre and 20 double treatment rooms. The smallest of the resorts villas is 128

square metres and the largest a whopping 680. Throughout the resort there is a strong focus on relaxing. For many parents that means a bit of kid-free time. In this vein, there’s a private adults-only swimming pool for when you need a break from your beloved offspring. There is also a kids’ play areas and daily activities organised by dedicated and very attentive staff known as Fusionistas. The two restaurants, Secret Garden in the heart of the resort, and the more informal Pezca, serve an array of dishes with many local seafood options. A nice touch is the all day breakfast in any of the restaurants, or in the privacy of your villa, by the pool, or even down on the beach and all at any time of the day or night. The resort also has plans for the future with 33 more villas, a new healthy dining restaurant a much larger kids’ playroom and convinient meeting room.



arina Gri, who launched her fashion brand in Ho Chi Minh City at the end of 2017, believes important changes are happening in Vietnam, with women increasingly gaining influence as a result of their commitment and

hard work. “I would like to create a dialogue with Vietnamese women, because the young generation is entering a time of profound change,” Marina Gri said. “To seize these new opportunities, they need confidence and that’s what Marina Gri is about.” Marina’s designs include daring details -- a harness here, an open back there -- that reveals sensual glimpses of the wearer’s adventurous personality. Her redesigned ao dai is a modern take on Vietnam’s fashion icon. The unique features of the ao dai are still there: the tight-fit shirt with long flaps covering the legs, the ample pants, the sexy slit ending above the waist. Marina Gri chose fabrics that are in phase with today’s lifestyle: a thin natural cotton for the shirt, and a durable poly linen for the pants, both really soft to touch and comfortable to wear. The shirt is now buttoned at the front and can be unbuttoned as low as you dare… The front flap has been divided in two parts that float gracefully on each side when you walk. The side of the pants also can reveal your legs or conceal them in an instant thanks to snap fasteners. The typical customer of Marina Gri is a woman who is at ease with her body and active in her life, who controls her destiny, who respects traditions but uses them to build a better future for herself and for her family. Marina Gri’s collection has looks for day and night, at affordable prices from $40 to $110. Marina Gri’s collection is available at: A Cut Above 90/10 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien, District 2 My Little Showroom House 5, 153 Nguyen Van Huong, District 2 Boho Store, 63 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne.






hotel & travel CON DAO Con Dao Resort 8 Nguyen Duc Thuan Tel: 0254 4830 939 Modern hotel with 45 rooms and seven villas set on 2km of private beach. Onpremise facilities include restaurant, bar, beach-view swimming pool, tennis court and volleyball. Organizes outdoor activities and tours. Six Senses Con Dao Dat Doc Beach, Con Dao Dist, Ba Ria Tel: 0254 3831 222 The first 5 star resort with 50 villas stretch across a mile-long beach, each villa has its own infinity-edge pool facing the ocean and a stunning restaurant.

DALAT Ana Mandara Villas Resort & Spa Le Lai, Ward 5, Dalat Tel: 0263 3555 888 Luxury 35-acre resort encompasses 17 restored early 20th-century villas and 65 rooms set in the rural highlands. La Cochinchine Spa offers wide range of treatments. Le Petite Dalat Restaurant serves Vietnamese and fusion cuisine. Heated swimming pool, art gallery and cooking classes in organic garden. Dalat Edensee Lake Resort & Spa Tuyen Lam Lake, Zone VII.2, Dalat Tel: 0263 383 1515 Nestled in the heart of the “Black Forest of Vietnam” and discretely hidden along the waterfront of Tuyen Lam Lake, this resort is a perfect launching point for exploring the Highland region. It has two fine-dining restaurants, a café and terrace, a cigar lounge, and golfing and tennis. Sofitel Dalat Palace 12 Tran Phu, Dalat Tel: 0263 3825 444 Stately lakeside hotel was built in 1920s and retains the period’s aesthetic. It encompasses 38 rooms, five suites, a gourmet restaurant, brasserie, piano bar and Larry’s Bar. Golf can be arranged, and there’s tennis, boules, snooker and billiards on premise.


Intercontinental Westlake Hanoi 1A Nghi Tam, Tay Ho Tel: 024 6270 8888 Located on the waterfront with contemporary Vietnamese design, restaurants, business services, fitness centre including exercise classes and pool. Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi 83A Ly Thuong Kiet Tel: 024 3822 2800 Conveniently located in the heart of Hanoi’s business district, a 40-minute drive from Noi Bai International Airport


and only 5 minutes from the city centre, Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi is the latest five-star hotel in town, tailored to meet the needs of discerning guests and especially corporate travellers. Sheraton Hotel Hanoi K5 Nghi Tam, 11 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho Tel: 024 3719 9000 “Resort within a city” boasts 299 spacious guest rooms with panoramic views, fitness centre, international restaurant and Hemisphere Vietnamese restaurant. Sofitel Metropole 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem Tel: 024 3826 6919 Located downtown. colonial-style hotel with well-regarded restaurants/bars serving French & Vietnamese cuisine, plus Italian steak house.


Caravelle Hotel 19 Lam Son Square, D1 Tel: 028 3823 4999 One of the city’s most prestigious venues. Features a casino, Reflections Restaurant and al fresco 9th-floor Saigon Saigon Bar. Equatorial 242 Tran Binh Trong, D5 Tel: 028 3839 7777 On the intersect of 4 districts, with 333 rooms, Orientica Seafood restaurant and bar, Chit Chat café, pool (swim-up bar), gym. InterContinental Asiana Saigon Corner of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3520 9999 305 rooms/suites with floor-to-ceiling windows, five restaurants/bars, meeting/ banquet facilities, spa/health club and lounge with panoramic view. New World Hotel 76 Le Lai, D1 / Tel: 028 3822 8888 Located in the city centre, with gym, outdoor pool, tennis court, event space and Dynasty Chinese restaurant. Renaissance Riverside 8-15 Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3822 0033 349 rooms/suites with panoramic views over Saigon River. Conference/banquet facilities, rooftop pool, gym, two restaurants. Sheraton 88 Dong Khoi, D1 / Tel: 028 3827 2828 Luxury downtown hotel: Level 23 bar, Mojo café, Li Bai Chinese restaurant, fine dining at The Signature on the 23rd floor. Sofitel Saigon Plaza 17 Le Duan, D1 / Tel: 028 3824 1555 One of the city’s top hotels with in-room Wi-Fi, two restaurants with international cuisine, two bars, six conference rooms, outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre. Windsor Plaza 18 An Duong Vuong, D5 Tel: 028 3833 6688 Located in a main shopping hub. Three restaurants, modern discotheque, conference centre, shopping centre, supermarket.

HUE, HOI AN & DANANG Boutique Hoi An Resort Tel: 0235 03 93 91 11

This resort is located on Cua Dai Beach in Hoi An, just five minutes from the Old Town and 30 minutes from the Da Nang airport. The property has 82 rooms and villas, all with private balconies or terraces facing the ocean, a swimming pool and a wide range of cuisine from around the world. Indochine Palace 105A Hung Vuong Street, Hue City Tel: 0234 393 6666 Surrounded by the lush exotic garden, the hotel has is designed to appeal to the affluent, up-market leisure and business travellers with facilities offering for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions. InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort Bai Bac, Son Tra Peninsula Tel: 0236 393 8888 A world of poetic experiences and jungle-clad romance in a place that cloaks you with luxury. The mastery of traditional Vietnamese design meets modern architectural flair in this distinctive retreat within the dense rainforest of mythical Monkey Mountain. Nam Hai Tel: 0235 3940 000 Luxury resort accommodation from single villas to sumptuous five-room dwellings with private pools. Facilities include 8 private spa villas; 3 beachfront swimming pools; library; and tennis, basketball and badminton courts.


Evason Ana Mandara Nha Trang Beachside, Tran Phu, Nha Trang Tel: 0258 3522 222 Beachside resort set in 26,000 square metres of tropical garden, with 74 guest villas, three restaurants, Six Senses Spa. InterContinental Nha Trang 32-34 Tran Phu Street, Nha Trang Tel: 0258 388 7777 A luxury beachfront retreat located in the heart of the city, the resort overlooks the stunning coastline. From there getting around the city is convenient as shopping, attractions, restaurants and bars are easily accessible within walking distance of the hotel. Mia Resort Nha Trang Bai Dong, Cam Hai Dong, Cam Lam, Khanh Hoa / Tel: 0258 398 9666 Ultimate luxury resort with 50 rooms, divided into villas and condos, catering by well-known restaurant Sandals and Mojito's bar.

PHAN THIET Anatara Beach Resort Mui Ne Beach, KM10, Ham Tien Ward Tel: 0252 3741 888 Beachfront resort with 90 fully equipped rooms, business centre, spa, fitness centre and outdoor pool. Princess D’Ânnam Resort and Spa Khu Hon Lan, Tan Thanh, Ham Thuan Nam, Binh Thuan. Tel: 0252 3682 222 Located on Ke Ga Bay with 57 exclusive villas, eight swimming pools, two restaurants and 1,800 square metres spa complex. The Sailing Club 24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne,

Phan Thiet Tel: 0252 3847 440 Open bar overlooking the sea, spacious rooms, restaurant, swimming pool and day spa. Victoria Phan Thiet Resort and Spa Mui Ne Beach Tel: 0252 3813 000 Located on a private beach, 60 cosy bungalows, natural spa experiences among other great activities on offer at the resort.


Note: AsiaLIFE only lists dive centres recognized by international dive training programs, such as the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) and Scuba Schools International (SSI). We strongly advise against diving with unaccredited dive centres in Vietnam. Rainbow Divers 55 Nguyen Dang Giai, An Phu, D2 Tel: 0908 781 756 Diving tours and career/instructor development offered by Vietnam’s first PADI centre. established in the mid-90s. Operates dive centres in Nha Trang, Whale Island, Hoi An and Phu Quoc. Octopus Diving 62 Tran Phu, Nha Trang Tel: 0258 826 528 PADI/SSI dive centre based in Nha Trang and affiliated with the Sailing Club Co. with additional centres in Mui Ne and Hoi An. Offers a range of services.


The Imperial Hotel 159-163 Thuy Van Tel: 0254 362 8888 Victorian-style hotel with 152 rooms, outdoor pool, shopping mall and fully serviced gym. Ho Tram Beach Resort & Spa Ho Tram Village, Xuyen Moc Tel: 0254 378 1525 Located about 45km from Vung Tau in the Phuoc Buu Reserve Forest, Ho Tram Beach Resort & Spa boasts uniquely designed bungalows and villas. The Grand-Ho Tram Strip Phuoc Thuan Commune, Xuyen Moc District, Ba Ria Vung Tau Tel: 0254 3788 888 The Grand - Ho Tram Strip is Vietnam's first large scale integrated resort and ultimately will include an 1,100-room five-star hotel, a world-class casino, restaurants, high-tech meeting space, an exclusive VIP area, as well as a variety of beach-front recreation activities. The first 541-room tower of this development opened with its casino including 90 live tables and 614 electronic game positions. The Grand will be the initial component of The Ho Tram Strip, the largest integrated resort complex in Vietnam.


Buffalo Tours Agency HCMC: Level 8 157 Pasteur, D3 Tel: 3827 9170 Hanoi: 94 Ma May, Hoan Kiem District Tel: 024 3828 0702 Tailor-made itineraries, community-based tourism, cultural tours, adventure trips, golfing and premium trips offered by locally run and well-respected travel agent. EXO Travel HCMC: 41, Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3519 4111 HANOI: 3rd Fl, 66A, Tran Hung Dao Hoan Kiem Tel: 024 3828 2150 iViVu Offering the traditional services of a travel agent – airline tickets, tours, packages and hotels - as well as tips and up-todate travel news on Vietnam. Terraverde 12/20 Nguyen Canh Di, Tan Binh Tel: 028 3948 4754/56 German-owned travel agency specializing in tailor-made tours combining nature experiences; site visits; cultural encounters; biking, boating and trekking expeditions.

AIRLINES Air France 130 Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 3829 0981 An airline with a vast and effective global network. Now flies direct to Paris. Cathay Pacific 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 Tel: 028 3822 3203 Hong Kong-based airline makes three flights daily to HCM City and two flights daily to Hong Kong’s international airport. Jetstar Pacific Budget branch flies into Can Tho, Danang, Hanoi, Hai Phong, HCM City, Hue, Nha Trang and Vinh and operates

cheap flights from HCM City to Siem Reap and Bangkok. Malaysia Airlines Unit G8 Ground floor, SG Trade Center 37 Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3824 6663 Offers daily flights from Hanoi and HCM City to Kuala Lumpur for about $200 round trip, with four economy class fare levels: low, basic, smart and flex. Thai Airways Ground Floor Suite 101 29 Le Duan, D1 Bangkok-based airline connects twice daily between the Thai capital and HCM City and Hanoi. Multiple daily flights are also operated from both to Phnom Penh and Phuket. Turkish Airlines 8th floor, AB Tower 76A Le Lai, D1 Tel: 028 3936 0360 Awarded as the Best Airline in Europe offers the brand new Comfort Class to Economy class: 46inch leg room, personalised entertainment screen and globally awarded cuisine on-board. Vietnam Airlines Hanoi: 25 Trang Thi, Hoan Kiem Tel: 024 6270 0200 HCM City: 16th Floor, Sun Wah, 115 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3832 0320 The domestic route map is extensive, with several flights daily between major and less touristed cities throughout Vietnam. Flies internationally throughout Asia and to Paris, Frankfurt, Moscow, Sydney, Melboure, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

a favourite, and a great range of lush smoothies and juices are on offer. 


Bamboo Chic Le Meridien, 3C Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 6263 6688 Slick, minimalistic restaurant boasting a stunning view of the Saigon River as well as a menu of high­quality cuisine that mixes Japanese and coastal Chinese styles. Worth a visit, even if it’s just for a cocktail.

food & drink Dublin’s Gate D1 19 Thai Van Lung, D1 This authentic Irish pub in downtown Saigon has a large wine list, a wide selection of single malt whiskey and local and imported beers, including widgets of Guinness. It also has a western and Asian menu.

Buddha Bar D2 7 Thao Dien, D2 // Tel: 3744 2080 An Phu institution serves up tasty meals and good drinks in a friendly, chilled environment. Plenty of room to relax inside or out, plus a pool table on premise. 

Saigon Social Space D2 53 Quach Giai / Tel: 0938 890 870 Located in the mystical Pendula Gardens offering a vast array of settings, a brand new venue to eat, drink, socialise and celebrate. 

DISTRICT 1 Al Fresco’s 21 Mac Dinh Chi D1 Tel: 028 3823 8427 27 Dong Du, D1 Tel: 028 3823 8424 D1-23 My Toan 3, D7 Tel: 028 5410 1093 Theme restaurant boasting a range of Tex-Mex, Italian and Australian-style BBQ dishes. Huge portions and tasty Australian ribs coupled with a good atmosphere and helpful staff. Good lunch menu.  Au Parc 23 Han Thuyen, D1 Tel: 028 3829 2772 Lavishly decorated brasserie borrowing from Moroccan and French styles and popular during lunchtime with expats. Specializes in Middle Eastern and North African food. The salad menu is


Basilico InterContinental Asiana Saigon, Ground Floor, corner of Nguyen Du and Hai Ba Trung, D1 Tel: 028 3520 9099 Contemporary and casual trattoria-style restaurant specializing in authentic Italian dishes and homemade desserts. Wood-fired pizza oven and a wide selection of Italian wines. Bep Me In 136/9 Let Thanh Ton, D1 Home-cooked Vietnamese dishes from all regions of Vietnam, with no MSG, just like you’d be served at a family party in the countryside. Black Cat 13 Phan Van Dat, D1 Tel: 028 3829 2055 Tiny but popular District 1 restaurant serving up an excellent selection of Western and Vietnamese fare and an extensive range of sandwiches and burgers.  Chilli Pub 89 Ton That Dam, District 1 Tel: 098 376 33 72 Located in the heart of the nightlife area of District 1, Chilli pub is a cozy bar full of fun. Hosting regular events such as quiz night, darts, live music and live sports on the big screens. Menu revolves around Chili dishes with chili dogs and of course big bowls of Chilli. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf 12-14 Thai Van Lung, D1 94 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 Nowzone, 235 Nguyen Van Cu, D5 Metropolitan Bldng, 235 Dong Khoi, D1 International café chain with a wide variety of coffees and teas, as well as light snacks and food. Also sells freshroasted coffee beans and tins of whole leaf tea.  Corso Steakhouse & Bar Norfolk Hotel, 117 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Located in the chic Norfolk Hotel Corso Steakhouse & Bar is well known for its steak imported from the US and Australia. Fork Saigon 15 Dong Du, District 1 Tel: 028 3823 3597 An eclectic tapas-style restaurant that draws inspiration from all over the world, rather than just Spain. Tasty small plates to share, great set lunch deals and fantastic happy hour drink specials. Good Morning Vietnam 197 De Tham, D1 Tel: 028 3837 1894 Popular authentic Italian restaurant with additional outlets around the country. Specializes in thin-crust pizza, pasta and a range of Italian dishes. Good selection of Italian wines.  Guanabana 23 Ly Tu Trong, District 1 Tel: 09 09 82 48 30 Guanabana brings a California approach with its all-natural range of healthy smoothies. The smoothies are available in three varieties and are priced between VND 45,000 and VND 65,000. Hoa Dang

38 Huynh Khuong Ninh, D1 Swish vegetarian restaurant on a quiet street that serves up nutritious dishes, including meatless versions of bun bo, pho and steamboat. Cosy bar serving non-alcoholic drinks, fruits and other sweets. In Saigong Rooftop Bar 27-29 Huynh Thuc Khang, D1 Tel: 028 9934 4350 The city’s only Wollongong-themed bar, this rooftop bar is a relaxing place to undwind with local and craft beers, cocktails and a varied menu. Jake’s BBQ 50 Pasteur Street, D1 Tel: 028 3825 1311 Genuine, warm service from Chef Jake himself sets this American Barbeque joint apart. A true slice of Americana in Vietnam. Large portions, smoked meats, and the only ‘Jucy Lucy’ burger in town!  Jaspa’s 33 Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 3822 9926 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Dist 1, HCMC Tel: 028 3827 0931 Unpretentious brasserie-style restaurant specializes in Australianinfluenced international fusion cuisine. Full range of drinks including Australian and French wines and good cocktails. The Dong Khoi branch has recently beed enovated with new menu and decor.  Kay’s Vegan Bistro Hem 84 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D1 090 395 81 69 Homemade vegan delights from all over Southeast Asia and beyond. With daily specials and ingredients available to take home, it’s a hit with the locals. Koto 3rd Floor Rooftop, Kumho Link Plaza, 39 Le Duan, Ben Nghe Ward, D1 Tel: 028 3822 9357 This is the Saigon arm of the renowned organisation that began in Hanoi a decade ago. Vietnamese food is prepared with innovative twist by young people Koto are helping get a start in the hospitality industry and on a path for a better life. Kissho 14 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3823 2223 Kissho boasts a multi-concept cuisine set in a cutting edge interior. Specialties include teppanyaki, yakiniku, sushi and sashimi crafted by expert chefs. The freshest imported meats and seafood round out the menu, accompanied by an extensive selection of fine wines and Japanese spirits. Open 11.30 am to 2 pm and 5.30 pm to 10 pm. La Brasserie 2nd Floor, Hotel Nikko Saigon 235 Nguyen Van Cu, D1 Tel: 028 3925 7777 Offers wide international buffet stations for breakfast and dinner. Nightly live music performance.

Malt 46 – 48 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 09 1848 4763 American-style bar that offers good beer, shuffleboard and an interesting pub grub menu in a casual setting. Manmaru 71 Mac Dinh Chi, D1 Japanese izakaya with a solid lineup of affordable beers, sakes and whiskies. Whether you choose the casual, pub­like experience downstairs, or the formal dining terrace upstairs, expect excellent food and even better prices. Service is friendly and efficient and always welcoming. May Restaurant & Bar 19-21 Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 6291 3686 We have over 20 years experience in hospitality business in Vietnam with some famous Brand such as Shodow Bar & Café and MAY Restaurant & Bar. MAY- short for ‘Me and You’, it is all in one premium casual kitchen & bar downtown. Located centrally on the historic Dong Khoi street with a fusion of Western and Asian cuisine and pride themselves in their wine list and international standard of service. Market 39 InterContinental Asiana Saigon Ground Floor, corner of Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, D1 / Tel: 028 3520 9099 Seven interactive live kitchens offering French, Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cuisines, including a bakery, French patisseries, pancakes, tossed salads, grilled steak, seafood, wok-fried items, noodles and pasta dishes. Ming Court 3rd Floor, Hotel Nikko Saigon 235 Nguyen Van Cu, D1 Tel: 028 3925 7777 Featuring authentic Chinese cuisine and a wide selection of delectable All-youcan-eat Dim Sum. Mojo 88 Dong Khoi, D1 A top-end café with an attractive interior, outdoor terrace at street level and comfortable lounges upstairs. Good business coffee or lunch venue. Mountain Retreat 36 Le Loi, D1 Tel: 90 719 45 57 A rustic restaurant perched above downtown offering a secluded getaway and tasty traditional food. OMG 15-17-19 Nguyen An Ninh, D1 Tel: 09 37 20 02 22 Perched on the ninth-floor rooftop of a hotel adjacent to Ben Thanh market, OMG has superb views over downtown Saigon and food to match. The menu is focused but includes enough choices to satisfy everyone across hot and cold starters, pasta and risotto, mains and dessert.

Lac Thai 71/2 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 028 3823 7506 An elegant restaurant tucked in an alleyway, decorated with art-deco furniture. Authentic Thai cuisine prepared by two Thai chefs. Food is tasty but less spicy than you’d find in Thailand. 

Phatty’s 46-48 Ton That Thiep, D1 Tel: 3821 0796 Jaspa’s Steve Hardy and Ben Winspear’s sports bar has five widescreen TVs, a large drop-down screen and lots of pub grub and beer for fans looking to take in a game or two.

Li Bai Sheraton Hotel, 88 Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 3827 2828 Imperial-styled restaurant named after a famous Chinese poet. Nightly à la carte menu with dishes going from 100k VND.

Quan Bui Add 1: 17A Ngo Van Nam, D1 Tel: 028 38 29 15 15 Add 2: 55 Ngo Quang Huy, D2 From the team behind Quan Bui, the popular casual Vietnamese eatery on the north edge of District 1, is this four-

floor fine-dining restaurant in downtown Saigon. The chic design and ambience, as well as its rooftop garden, are designed to attract a more up-market clientele. Quan Ut Ut 168 Vo Van Kiet, D1 Tel: 028 39 14 45 00 American-style barbecue meets Vietnam-style dining with big wooden tables and benches that are reminiscent of an open-air quan. Serving a wide range of smoked and barbecued meats. Reflections Caravelle Hotel, 19 - 23 Lam Son Square, D1 Tel: 028 3823 4999 Contemporary fine dining that combines Asian flavors with classic Mediterranean cuisine in an ambiance of understated elegance and European style. Special culinary events include guest chefs from Michelin-star establishments around the world. Private rooms are available. Relish and Sons 44 Dong Du, D1 Tel: 012 07 214 294 105-107 Xuan Thuy, D2 Tel: 90 900 4294 Burgers are the stars of the show in Relish & Sons, with six varieties, all composed of different but expertly combined ingredients.  Romeo and Juliet Times Square Building, 57 – 69F Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 38 236 688 Underground restaurant of the newlyopened Reverie Saigon, Romeo and Juliet is reinventing local dining to encourage the kind of slower, savourthe-moment experience that allows guests to enjoy the space’s ambiance, food and top-notch service. Royal Pavilion Reverie Saigon Hotel, 4th Floor, 22 - 36 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3823 6688 Located in the Reverie Saigon Hotel, the Royal Pavilion serves up classic Cantonese cuisine in fine dining style. Featuring a menu of epic proportions, there is sure to be something for everyone. Saigon Indian 73 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 028 3824 5671 Popular venue with an enormous menu. Serves both southern and northern Indian dishes like tandoori, biryani, dosa and idly snacks, plus a wide range of vegetarian dishes. Offers a set lunch menu. Cater service is available.  Shang Palace Restaurant Norfolk Mansion, 17-19-21 Ly Tu Trong, D1 Tel: 028 3823 2221 An upscale Chinese restaurant with a spacious and welcoming atmosphere. The menu boasts a wide range of Hong Kong Cantonese cuisine, including both dim sum, a la carte and set menus, regularly changed by the creative chefs. Skewers 9A Thai Van Lung, D1 Tel: 028 3822 4798 Rustic Mediterranean restaurant where subtle colours and exposed brickwork combine with jazzy tunes. Serves tabouleh, falafel, couscous and kebab. Highly rated for its grilled meats, bread and dip combos, soups and pastas.

Stoker Woodfired Grill & Bar 44 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 090 729 2725 District 1 venue with spacious bar downstairs and upstairs dining room. Serving a full selection of home aged US and Australian beef complimented by a delicious sides. Tandoor 39A-39B Ngo Duc Ke, D1 Part of a chain of restaurants covering Hanoi and Saigon, Tandoor features a large selection of standard northern Indian dishes, including a good vegetarian selection. Excellent cheap set lunches and reasonable prices all around. Will organize catering for events.  The Elbow Room 52 Pasteur, D1 Tel: 028 3821 4327 American-style bistro offering a wide range of appetisers, soups, salads, sandwiches, mains and desserts, plus an extensive wine menu. Open daily 7.30 am to 11 pm. Breakfast served all day. The Racha Room 12-14 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 09 08 791 412 With street and hawker specialties from Thailand prepared under one roof – and in one room – The Racha Room is a restaurant-cum-lounge fit for a king. The Refinery 74/7C Hai Ba Trung, D1 Tel: 028 3823 0509 Authentic bistro with cane furniture outside, informal indoor restaurant section and a bar area. Cuisine is light, modern European. The menu spans a price range to suit most budgets. The Sushi Bar 2 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Tel: 028 3823 8042 3A Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3911 8618 This brightly lit Japanese-style restaurant serves over 40 varieties of sushi at reasonable prices. Sit at the sushi bar or in private rooms upstairs. Open until 11.30 pm, delivery available on request.  Tuk Tuk Thai Bistro 17/11 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Tel: 028 35 21 85 13 Tuk Tuk, a chic new modern Thai bistro. With three floors of seating, an open-air roof area and an array of Thai dishes to excite your palate. Urban Kitchen + Bar 18 Ngo Van Nam, D1 Tel: 028 62 506 363 Urban Kitchen takes a nuanced approach to Western cuisine, producing an eclectic compilation of regional North American dishes – whether it’s comfort food of the American south, Quebecois specialties or East Coast-inspired. Yu Chu InterContinental Asiana Saigon, corner of Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3520 9099 Specializing in authentic Cantonese and Peking cuisine.Award-winning chef prepares dishes including handmade noodles, dim sum and wok-fried items. Wide selection of live seafood. Five interactive kitchens.


DISTRICT 2 BoatHouse 40 Lily Road, APSC Compound, 36 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6790 Riverside restaurant with umbrellashaded tables spread across outdoor deck and small indoor dining room. With revamped menu which includes a mix of family-style meals with Mexican featuring predomominately, followed by Italian and Asian fare. 

By Darren Gall

IMBIBE ROASTED SLOPES The Wines of the Cote Rotie, (Roasted Hillside) on the sharp rising slopes at the northern end of the Rhone Valley are some of the most seductive and alluring wines from France, and indeed the world. Elegant, yet richly concentrated and with characteristic roasted nuts, pan juices and mixed spice, they have a sensuous texture, exotic aromas and attractive yet complex flavours. The 60 or so vineyards of the Cote Rotie total a mere 225 hectares, and soaring demand for the relatively small amount of wine produced here has seen prices skyrocket in recent vintages. Cote Rotie was first planted to vines during Roman times during the rule of Caligula (37AD to 41AD) when the region was known as Vienne. The vineyards became popular with locals in the 1700s and a century later were being shipped to markets farther afield. The Phylloxera aphid epidemic that almost destroyed the French wine industry in the late 1800s all but wiped out the Cote Rotie region and it would not recover for almost a century. Indeed, it was only after the Second World War that the Cote Rotie vineyards began to be re-established. Recognition for the wines would take even longer and it was not until the 1960s that wider praise and demand for the wines arose. The 1980s and 1990s saw a surge in new vineyards and

producers in the region just as global recognition and demand for the wines from the Cote Rotie were rising sharply. The two best slopes in the region are the Cote Brune and Cote Blonde. The Cote Brune wines are much firmer and more masculine, whereas Côte Blonde makes wines with more finesse and elegance due to its light, sandy-limestone soil. Both the Côte Brune and Cote Blonde vineyards rise to 1,000 feet, with a gradient of 30 to 50 degrees. While it is commonly accepted that the slopes are named for the composition of their soils, a fondly told legend relates the story of Seigneur de Maugiron, who having two daughters – one blonde and the other a brunette – bequeathed a hillside to each one of them, thus were born the names of Cote Blonde and Cote Brune. The wines are made using Syrah and the laws of the appellation permit up to 20 percent of the white grape Viognier although the majority are 100 percent Syrah and those who use Viognier only add very small amounts. Co-fermented as the appellation stipulates, when added Viognier can give the wine a marvelous perfume and a slipperiness to the texture. While one wine scribe famously quipped that it makes the wines smell like a woman’s purse and taste like a man’s wallet, I personally love the style.

Darren Gall has spent a quarter of a century involved in virtually every aspect of the wine industry and the passionate pursuit of the next great bottle continues. 52 AsiaLIFE HCMC

Bia Craft 90 Xuan Thuy, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2588 A cozy bar serving beer­themed snacks and some of the best craft ales in Saigon. Constantly buzzing with the friendly chat of local expats in the area. Ebisu 66 Song Hanh, D2 028 6276 8787 The city’s soba noodle specialists bring authenticity and professional service to the Japanese table. Sushi and grilled skewers are also specialities, DTwo Sports Bar 55­57 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3519 4138 Stylish non­smoking sports bar offering all the latest action on a choice of widescreen TVs. Perfect for sports fans who are looking for a cold pint and big portions from a tempting pub grub menu. Mekong Merchant 23 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 4713 Set in a courtyard, this rustic Australianstyle brasserie has brought modern international cuisine to suburban An Phu. Popular for weekend brunches. Weekly specials and seafood flown in from Phu Quoc.  Quan Bui Garden 55 Ngo Quang Huy, Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3898 9088 From the team behind Quan Bui, this D2 spot has all the chic design and ambience, with a gorgeous garden setting designed to attract a more upmarket clientele. The Deck 38 Nguyen U Di, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6632 Serves upmarket takes on regional specialties made with fresh local and imported products. Well-designed, minimalist dining space and bar on the river are a serious draw.

DISTRICT 3 Cha Ca La Vong 3 Ho Xuan Huong, D3 Tel: 028 3930 5674 36 Ton That Thiep, D1 Tel: 028 3915 3343 Two HCM City outposts of the legendary Hanoi original serve only one dish: the eponymous and delicious cha ca la vong, fish pan-fried at the table with turmeric and dill and served with cold noodles and peanuts. Com Nieu 19 Tu Xuong, D3 Tel: 028 3932 6288 The house specialty, com nieu (smashed rice), comes with a shattered-crockery and flying-rice

show at this well-known restaurant, prominently featured in Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. An extensive and tasty selection of southern Vietnamese cuisine rounds out the menu. Hu Tieu Nam Vang Lien Hua 381 Vo Van Tan, D3 Lien Hua has been serving Chinese­ Khmer noodle soup on this spot for over forty years. Pork and shrimp set hu tieu Nam Vang apart from your average pho while the house speciality dim sum selection is unmissable Kumdo 6A Pham Ngoc Thach, D3 Tel: 028 3824 3253 Korean beef barbecue served in small, welcoming dining rooms with barbecues built into tables. Large selection of raw meat specialties. Viet Chay 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D3 Tel: 028 3526 5862 Upscale vegetarian restaurant specializes in fake meat dishes. The attractive dining room is suffused with natural light. Located within the walls of Vinh Nghiem Pagoda.

DISTRICT 5 Ngan Dinh Chinese Restaurant Windsor Plaza Hotel, 18 An Duong Vuong, D5 Tel: 028 3833 6688 Beautiful wood paneling, colourful hanging lanterns and a sparkling mineral gallery make for a relaxing dining experience at the Windsor. Feast on roasted Pi Pa duck, giant grouper and steamed king prawns. Be sure to check out monthly specials.

DISTRICT 7 Kim Bab Chun Gook R4 42 Hung Phuoc 2, Phu My Hung, D7 Tel: 028 6296 9057 Korean boonshik/snack food eatery serving up a wide variety of light but substantial foods including dumplings, rameyon and fish cakes. The Tavern R2/24 Hung Gia 3, Bui Bang Doan, D7 Tel: 028 5410 3900 Boasts good international food, a pool table, dartboards and sports coverage on large screens. Outdoor seating on mutiple levels. Second floor sports lounge hosts DJs at the weekends.  Viva Tapas Bar & Grill 90 Cao Trieu Phat, Phu My Hung, D7 Tel: 028 54 106 721 Tucked away on a quiet street in Phu My Hung, Viva is colourful and welcoming and has both indoor and outdoor seating. Tapas make up the bulk of the menu and cover traditional dishes as well as a few house specialties that put a quirky twist on things. 

PHU NHUAN Iki Ground Floor, Eastin Grand Hotel Saigon 253 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Tel: 028 3844 9222 Saigon’s trendiest Japanese restaurant turns the notion of the common hotel sushi eatery on its head, with a wide yet very affordable menu from Bento boxes, yummy tempura or fresh madeto-oder sushi and sashimi.

nightlife See bar restaurant listings for more popular watering holes. The Library InterContinental Asiana Saigon, corner of Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3520 9099 Unwind with a glass of wine or a cup of tea. The Library provides a welcoming atmosphere for those in search of calm, comfort and personalized service. Purple Jade InterContinental Asiana Saigon, corner of Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3520 9099 Chic lounge blends the stylistic influences of contemporary design and opium dens. Hosts live music and serves special drinks, including Shaoxing and Maotai rice wines and an exclusive selection of luxury spirits. Saigon Saigon Bar Rooftop via 9th floor, Caravelle Saigon Hotel, 19 - 23 Lam Son Square, D1 Tel: 028 3823 4999 A great iconic bar to watch the sun go down over the city skyline, or dance the night away. The panoramic views of the city are spectacular, particularly in the evenings. Live entertainment nightly with Cuban band Q’vans except Tuesday from 9:00pm till late.

BAKERIES Harvest Baking 30 Lam Son, Tan Binh Tel: 3547 0577 This authentic bakery offers a range of specialty baked goods for delivery. Offering bagels, scones, breads, desserts,cakes, tarts and more. Chocolate fudge cake and cinnamon rolls with cream cheese icing highly recommended. Pat A Chou 65 Hai Ba Trung, D1 The home of the long and crusty baguette. Supplies many restaurants but also sells wholesale. The miniature patisseries such as crème brulée and cheesecake are worth a taste. Opens at 6.30 am. Tous Les Jours 180 Hai Ba Trung, D3 Part of the Korean bakery chain, Tous Le Jours stocks a superb range of freshly baked good from sugary treats like pain au chocolat to superior quality baguettes and loafs. Voelker 39 Thao Dien, An Phu, D2 Tel: 028 6296 0066 Small bakery turns out sweet and salted pies and mousses in addition to baguettes and a range of Western sweets.

at home DELIVERY

Patty’s Kitchen homecookhealthyfood Home-made meals for pick-up or delivery. A free website that allows users to order delivery from dozens of restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. Simply provide your address and phone number and pay the delivery driver in cash when he arrives


Annam Gourmet Market 16-18 Hai Ba Trung, D1 Tel: 028 3822 9332 41A Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2630 Takashimaya Saigon Center 65 Le Loi, D1 Boutique grocer with wide selection of foreign foods; Annam-brand coffee, tea and spices; and household products. Wine and premium beer, full deli counter, produce, dairy-frozen and baked goods on second floor. Cosy café serves coffee, drinks and sandwiches. Kim Hai Butchery 46 Nguyen Thai Binh, D1 Tel: 028 3914 4376 This town is definitely big enough for two Australian butchers. Reasonably priced imported beef, fish, chicken, and more at this original neighbourhood fixture. Meatworks Butchery 1, Street 2, Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2565 Imported meats from Australia, including top-quality beef and lamb, and locally sourced pork and chicken.. Proudly Australian owned and managed. MegaMart An Phu, D2 Tel: 028 3740 6677 Tan Thoi Hiep, D12 Tel: 028 3717 2979 Warehouse wholesaler located just off the Hanoi Highway in D2 between the Saigon Bridge and the tollbooths. Sells bulk food, fresh fruit and vegetables and meat, as well as paper products, cleaning supplies, housewares-basically everything. Organik 11A Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 090 273 3841 Online grocer based out of Dalat selling a range of organic vegetables and groceries, as well as imported allnatural products. Phuong Ha 58 Ham Nghi, D1 Tel: 028 3914 1318 A mini-supermarket that sells an extensive assortment of imported packaged food, cheese, meat, fresh fruit, vegetables and fine wines. Veggy’s 14 Pham Hong Thai, D1 Tel: 028 3823 8526 Sky Garden Pham Van Nghi, Bac Khu Pho, D7 Popular expat market with a walk-in fridge area stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and a range of meats. Imported canned and dried foods, wines, beers, soft drinks, spirits and snacks also available.


listings By Phil Kelly

FITNESS 4 KEYS OF EXCELLENT HEALTH Last month for Western New Year (following the Gregorian calendar) I discussed five key signs your training efforts are failing. Two new years allows a double opportunity to start 2018 in the most positive way possible. Last month we looked at training, now I want to make suggestions for health. So if you haven’t kick-started your efforts yet… the Lunar New Year provides a second chance. A healthy functioning body is the most valuable asset you possess. It’s the first thing of value given to you when you enter this world and you owe it to yourself to value it and increase its functioning value. This article touches on the four key underlying elements to create a healthy body and life for yourself, so you can enjoy life to the fullest. 1 – Think Right: “As your mind flows so your life goes”. Meaning that your life is a product of the thoughts you think, which leads to the actions you do, which then creates the results you see. Someone who is 10 kilos overweight cannot lose that weight if they continue to think that they must eat ice cream every day to be happy. Clearly the key to changing this ingrained habit pattern is to progressively change that way of thinking to one that will produce right habits/actions. Habit change is the true path to success… do not try to complete a diet, instead aim to adopt healthy habits. 2 – Eating and Drinking Right: This is obvious – right? Then why is it so hard to accomplish? Many people find this hard to do because they’ve long formed improper eating habits that can be very hard to change without assistance. Eating healthy food is easy but changing a habit is very difficult. How would you rate your eating habits? Health is fuelled by the food you eat. Understand that your body is a living organism that uses the food you consume to

recreate itself. Before a cell dies it reproduces another cell from the food you are currently consuming. So consider this: If you had the choice would you create your body from the nutrients in the food you are consuming right now? 3 – Resting Right: Rest = Restoration. While exercise and movement are essential for stimulating circulation and the elimination of toxins, rest and sleep provide an opportunity for the body to cleanse, repair, and rejuvenate on a deep cellular level. This is the most commonly overlooked and misunderstood element of health. Nourishing your body with plenty of healing sleep and rest is essential. 4 – Being Happy: You are responsible for your own happiness! Happiness is a mindset. Some people would consider the possibility of being happy every day to be impossible but I’m here to tell you that it is possible. How you look at yourself and the world is totally in your control. YES IT IS! Psychologists say that we can be trained to be happy. How? Well for starters I recommend that you tell yourself some positive affirmations. “I choose to be happy and I deserve to be happy”, “I am kind, I am loving, I am happy” and “I perform my random act of kindness regularly. Kindness breed’s love and love results in happiness” for example. What you tell yourself over and over you will become. Secondly, I recommend that you smile and say “HI” to as many people as you can throughout the day. Some people will ignore you but others will light up… Simply giving and then receiving a smile has more power than you can imagine. These two tips alone are enough to improve your mood and outcome in life significantly. Abraham Lincoln said “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So let put your mind to it.

Phil Kelly is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness ( 54 AsiaLIFE HCMC

sports & leisure

Sport Street Huyen Tran Cong Chua, D1 between Nguyen Du and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Services include mending and restringing broken tennis rackets. Products range from badminton birdies and rackets to basketball hoops, free weights, roller blades, scooters, soccer jerseys and all manner of balls.


Saigon Cricket Assocation Social cricket league plays 25 overs a side matches Sunday mornings at RMIT’s District 7 pitch. Season runs November through May, with friendly games throughout the pre-season. Practice on Saturdays and Sunday afternoons. Australian Cricket Club Terry Gordon English Cricket Club Richard Carrington Indian Cricket Club Manish Sogani, United Cricket Club Mr. Asif Ali,


DanCenter 53 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, District 2 Tel: 028 3840 6974 Purpose built studio with foreign trained dance instructors. Classes in jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop, yoga, zumba, belly, hula, capoiera and more. Kids can start from 4+ and adults of all ages and levels are welcome. Schedule and news on events available on-line. Salsa Dancing at La Habana 6 Cao Ba Quat, D1 Salsa package for single persons and couple, run by Urko. Lessons every Tuesday (beginners L.A. style at 7.30 pm; intermediate L.A style at 8.30 pm). Registration required.


AIS Sports Centre 36 Thao Dien, An Phu, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6960, ext 126 Six-lane, 25-metre pool, basketball and netball courts, astroturf hockey/football area and outdoor gym equipment. Available for party hire - BBQ included on request. Membership packages avail-

able. Kids swim club and adult masters programmes. Rainbow Divers offers scuba diving courses for children and adults. Free morning yoga. California WOW Xperience Parkson Plaza, 126 Hung Vuong, D5 28/30-32 Le Loi, D1 Tel: 028 6291 5999 The world’s biggest fitness centre chain is one of Saigon’s most modern places to get your sweat on. Located in Hung Vuong Plaza, CWX offers a huge workout area and all kinds of classes including spinning, KickFit, yoga and more. Caravelle Club Spa 19 Lam Son Square, D1 Tel: 028 3823 4999 Modern and stylish gym with lots of cardiovascular machines and free weights. The swimming pool is a great place for a dip, and the massage parlour, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi are there for winding down. Equinox Fitness & Leisure Centre Equatorial Hotel, 242 Tran Binh Trong, D5 Tel: 028 3839 7777 Decent-sized 3rd-floor gym with modern cardio and weights machines, sauna, steambath, jacuzzi, and large 4th floor pool great for swimming laps. Hollywood Fitness World H3 Building, 384 Hoang Dieu, D4 Tel: 028 3826 4639 One of the latest & best workout environments in the city, suitable for all ages and fitness levels. Personal training is offered. L’Apothiquaire Fitness Centre 64A Truong Dinh, D3 Tel: 028 3932 5181 Internationally-certified teachers offer daily classes in Sivananda, Iyengar, Power, Yoga, Abdo-Pilates, Taebo and Aqua-Aerobics. Peaceful swimming pool, sauna and steam room. La Cochinchine Rex Hotel, 146 Pastuer, D1 Tel: 028 3825 1812 (ext 7477) New and affordable fitness centre located in the heart of the city. This gym has a wide range of weight machines, as well as many cardio machines, including treadmills, cross-trainers and bikes. A good variety of classes are available, including yoga and aerobic dance. NTFQ2 Spa 34 Nguyen Dang Giai, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6672 Therapeutic massage with a focus on sports massage to increase circulation, remove lactic acid build-up, restore flexibility and relieve back pain. Sheraton Fitness Level 5, Sheraton Saigon Hotel & Towers, 88 Dong Khoi, D1 Tel: 028 3827 2828 Sheraton Fitness features a team of trained professionals and new Technogym equipment. Members have full use of leisure facilities and receive discounts at hotel bars and restaurants and Aqua Day Spa. Star Fitness Gym Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: 028 3514 0255 This 1,600sqm gym is apparently the biggest in Vietnam. Has a good range of machines for any type of workout. Membership involves one time entry fee plus monthly subscriptions and gives free access to regular fitness classes. Saigon Yoga Tel: 090 835 2265 A yoga centre with highly qualified instructors offering hot yoga, Hatha Flow, restorative yoga, kids’ yoga, pre and


Australian Rules Football Tel: 093 768 3230 The Vietnam Swans play regular international footy matches around Asia. Training sessions are held weekly in HCM City (2.30 pm Saturday, RMIT D7) and Hanoi (midday, Saturday, UN International School, Ciputra). All skill levels and codes welcome. RMIT Vietnam A new player on the SIFL scene with a team made up of students from the University. They have their own football ground on-site consisting of two brand new pitches. Contact Landon Carnie. Saigon Raiders Sociable football side who are always on the lookout for new talent for their weekly matches and training sessions. The team participates in the Saigon International Football League and also has regular fixtures against local teams in the outlying provinces and also participates in international tournaments. Saigon Saints Expat football club of all ages, which has been running since 1995 and plays in the SIFL. Regularly venture on international tours especially to Bangkok and Manila and play in other local and international tournaments. The players train weekly, and new players are encouraged to join.


Dalat Palace Golf Club Phu Dong Thien Vuong, Dalat Tel: 0263 3821 101 The most beautiful course in Vietnam, combining the crisp mountain air with an environment of stately pine trees. Overlooking Xuan Huong lake, the 7,009yard course is an enjoyable challenge for golfers of all levels. Dong Nai Golf Resort Trang Bom Town, Trang Bom Tel: 0251 3866 288 / 3677 590 Large golf resort with 27 holes, plus a villa complex, bar, sauna. jacuzzi and billiards. The resort sits on 160 hectares of land in Dong Nai Province, about 50 kilometres from the city. The Bluffs Ho Tram Strip Phuoc Thuan, Xuyen Moc, Ba Ria Vung Tau Tel: 064 378 8666 Designed by Greg Norman, The Bluffs is a 50-hectare 18 hole links-style golf course associated with The Grand Ho Tram Strip integrated resort, about a 2.5 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. Saigon South Golf Nguyen Van Linh, Tan Phu, D7 Tel: 028 5411 2001 Nine-hole mini golf course and driving range set amongst attractive gardens just behind FV Hospital. Club, shoe and umbrella hire is also available. Song Be Golf Resort 77 Binh Duong Blvd, Thuan An Tel: 0274 3756 660 Located 22 kilometres from the city centre, the premier golf course in the area features an 18-hole, 6,384-metre course. Also has tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a gymnasium.

Vietnam Golf and Country Club Long Thanh My Village, D9 This facility consists of two courses of 18 holes each, one of which is designed in a more traditional Asian style, and the other in international style. Has other attractions such as boating, tennis and a restaurant area.

LEISURE Phun Runner Social running group that meets Saturdays at 7 am for a scenic run around Saigon before breakfast. Great way to explore the city, meet fellow runners and get fit for future events. Check website for rendezvous points. Rangers Baseball Club Isao Shimokawaji A baseball club always looking for additional players of any age, race or experience level. Plays Saturdays or Sundays, often against Korean or Vietnamese teams. Saigon International Dart League A highly popular group in town, the darts club runs a competitive year-long league for 16 pub-based teams. There are some excellent players in this sociable and international group. See website for details of how to join and latest 180 scores. Saigon International Softball League The league plays slo-pitch softball every Sunday (usually at the Taiwanese School in Phu My Hung) and always welcomes newcomers. Saigon Pony Club Lane 42, Le Van Thinh, D2 Tel: 0913 733 360 A standout facility offering pony rides, riding lessons, horse clinics and pony rentals. Also hosts events and birthdays. Squash The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3822 2098 ext 176 One of three squash courts in town. Membership is open to non-Landmark residents and drop-in players. Lessons and racquets are available for additional fees. Balls are provided. Book in advance or phone for further information. Ultimate Frisbee RMIT, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, D7 Join in this exciting popular sport every Sunday afternoon from 3pm to 5pm in Saigon South. Pan-Asian competitions also organised for the more experienced. Contact David Jensen at 0909458890 Vietwings Paragliding Promoted by a local advertising executive turned test pilot, paragliding, hanggliding, trike plane can be performed in several locations across southern Vietnam including Dalat, Phan Thiet, Tay Ninh. Call Loco on 0903 825607 for more information.


OUR SPECIALTIES General and tropical medicine

The 1st Singapore Standard Hospital in Vietnam. The clinic is located at the center of Dist. 1, provides a comprehensive range of services specializing in Obstertrics, Gynaecology, Peadiatrics, Immunization, General Practice and Emergency. Open hours: Weekdays: 8am to 5pm; Saturday: 8am to 12pm.

Cardiology Obstetrics/gynecology Psychology Osteopathic medicine Pediatrics

Raffles Medical Clinic 167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D3 Tel: 028 3845 4218 Globally-renowned provider of medical assistance and international healthcare. Specializes in offering medical transport and evacuation both within and outside of Vietnam for urgent medical cases.

Psychiatry Speech and language therapy CENTRE MEDICAL INTERNATIONAL 1 Han Thuyen, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Tel: (84.28) 3827 23 66/67 Fax: (84.28) 3827 23 65 Email:

Traditional oriental medicine Psychomotor therapy Childbirth education classes Home nurse service



American Chiropractic Clinic 161 Hai Ba Trung, D3 Tel: 028 3939 3930 A chiropractic, physiotherapy, foot care clinic staffed by American-trained chiropractors speaking French, English, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean. Treatsback pain, neck pain, knee pain, also specializing in sports injuries, manufacture of medical grade foot orthotics. CARE1 Executive Health Care Center The Manor, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: 028 3514 0757 Care 1 Executive Health Care Center in the Manor is the main facility for health screening and wellness check-ups. To fit into your busy life, Care 1 offers one stop service - modern, comprehensive healthcare services and state-of the-art facilities all in one place. Institute of Traditional Medicine 273-275 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Dr. Le Hung is the man to see at this well-established traditional hospital & training centre. He speaks good English and provides excellent treatments in a clean environment. The Institute also provides acupuncture lessons.


Victoria Healthcare 135A Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Tel: 028 3910 4545 79 Dien Bien Phu, D1 Tel: 39104545 Well-regarded clinic offering general examinations and specializing in pediatrics, digestive diseases, cardiology and women's health. Offers a membership program and cooperates with most insurance companies in Vietnam and abroad. Open with doctors on call 24/7.


Accadent 39 Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 6267 6666 A clinic that brings leading German dentistry to Vietnam. All dentists here were trained in Germany and all equipment comes from Germany to ensure proper hygiene and quality. Starlight Dental Clinic Dr. Philippe Guettier & International Team of Dentists 24 Thao Dien, D2 2Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, D1 Tel: 028 3822 6222 With 14 years’ experience providing dental treatment to expat and Vietnamese patients, this well-known dental surgery is staffed by both foreign & local practitioners. With the latest treatments and techniques, the surgery prides themselves on their high standard of equipment & sterilization. Minh Khai Dental Clinic 199 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Tel: 028 3925 3399 No.1 Dental Clinic 51 Ba Thang Hai, D10 Tel: 028 3929 0909 Located in District 10, No.1 offers general dentistry services include fillings, checkups and teeth cleaning and specialist dental care that includes dental implants, orthodontics (braces), endodontics (root canals), prosthodontics (false teeth, including dentures, crowns and veneers) and cosmetic dentistry, such as laser teeth whitening. West Coast Dental Clinic 27 Nguyen Ba Lan, D2 Tel: 028 3519 1777

MEDICAL Centre Medical International (CMI) 1 Han Thuyen, D1 Tel: 028 3827 2366 Located downtown next to the cathedral, the centre provides a high standard of medical care from qualified French and Vietnamese physicians. Its range of services include general and tropical medicine, cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics, ophthalmology, psychology, psychiatry, osteopathy, acupuncture and psychomotor therapy. .

Family Medical Practice HCMC Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3822 7848 95 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2000 Leading international primary healthcare provider, with a 24-hour state-of-theart medical centre and highly-qualified multilingual foreign doctors. Extensive experience in worldwide medical evacuations with car and air ambulance on standby. Also in Hanoi and Danang. HANH PHUC, International Hospital Binh Duong boulevard, Thuan An, Binh Duong Tel: 0650 3636068 The 1st Singapore Standard Hospital in Vietnam. 260 –bedder, provide a comprehensive range of quality healthcare services: Obstertrics, Gynaecology, Paediatrics, Immunization, IVF, Health checkup, Parentcraft, Woman Cancer, Cosmetic Surgery… Just 20- minute driving from HCMC. HANH PHUC International Hospital Clinic 97 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Tel: 028 3925 9797

The Body Shop 216 Hai Ba Trung, D1 Tel: 028 3820 5845 87 Mac Thi Buoi, D1 Tel: 028 3823 3683119 Nguyen Trai, D5 Tel: 028 3923 2918 Parkson CT Plaza, Tan Binh Tel: 028 6297 2095 Parkson Cantavil, D2 Tel: 028 6296 0265 Diamond Plaza, D1 Tel: 028 3822 1887 check out more outlet via website International cosmetics retailer with strong commitment to environment sources natural ingredients from small communities for its line of more than 600 products. The Face Shop 81 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3829 3058 Diamond Plaza 34 Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3507 0800 Vincom 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Tel: 028 3936 9308 Parkson Cantavil, D2 Tel: 028 37407180 check out more outlet via website Stamford Skin Centre 99 Suong Nguyet Anh, D1 Tel: 028 3925 1990 The Stamford Skin Centre has grown to include qualified specialists who treat general diseases of the skin such as acne, eczema and other forms of dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis, skin cancers. Offering treatments for simple blemishes and outbreaks on a person’s face, a long standing melasma, acne scars, wrinkles or sagging skin that if treated, removed, or substantially improved.



Conservatory of Music 112 Nguyen Du, D1 The established training centre for professional musicians offers private piano and violin lessons to foreigners in the evenings. DanCenter 53 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, D 2 Tel: 028 3840 6974 Children and teenagers from age 4+ can enjoy jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop, acro dance and break dance classes at this professionally run, newly built dance studio. Schedule and news on events available on-line. Saigon Pony Club Lane 42, Le Van Thinh, D2 Tel: 0913 733 360 Close to X-rock climbing centre, kids from three and upwards can ride one of the stable’s 16 ponies. Lessons with foriegn teachers last 45 minutes for kids from age six.


Maman Bebe L2-11, Vincom Quang Trung, Go Vap 3rd Flr Parkson Hung Vuong Plaza, D5 L2-11K, Vincom 72 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Stocks an assortment of modern strollers and car seats. Also sells various utensils and practical baby products. Small selection of clothing for ages newborn to 14 years. Me & Be 230 Vo Thi Sau, D3 52-54 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 191 Hoang Van Thu, Phu Nhuan S11-1 Sky Garden 1, Phu My Hung, D7 The closest thing to Mothercare the city has to offer. Stocks a substantial range of apparel for babies including bottles and sterilizers, cots (including travel cots), clothing, toys, safety equipment and more, all at reasonable prices.


Albetta 32 Tran Ngoc Dien D2 58 Nguyen Duc Canh, Tan Phong, D7 Albetta is a British family owned company, with a factory in Saigon, which produces beautifully designed and handcrafted clothes, gifts, shoes and accessories for children. Their new Lucky Luca collection shown are available in Albetta shops now. DLS Paris Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, D1 A superb range of unique and beautiful clothing for young children (from newborns to pre-school age) at high to midrange prices. The quality compensates for the price. Bedding, baby equipment and furniture and organic and natural supplies also kept in stock. Little Anh – Em 41 Thao Dien, D2 A French brand made in Vietnam offering a wide selection of colourful, simply packaged and thoughtfully collated “sets” of garments for girls and boys

from newborn to 10 years old. Lifestyle pieces also available include sleeping bags, bedroom accessories and bags. Ninh Khuong 42 Le Loi, D1 Tel: 3824 7456 71B Dong Khoi, D1 22 Nguyen Trai, D1 344 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3 343 Hai Ba Trung, D1 27 Le Van Sy, Phu Nhuan Well-known hand-embroidered children’s clothing brand using 100% cotton. Newborn to 10 years old (girl) and fourteen years old (boy). Also stocking home linens. Prices are reasonable.

EDUCATION ABC International School 2,1E Street, KDC Trung Son, Binh Hung, Binh Chanh Tel: 028 5431 33/34/35/36 Judged “an outstanding school” by British Government Inspectors, the ABCIS is accredited by CIE, AQA and Education Development Trust and members of COBIS and FOBISIA. Serving 2-18 year olds in a caring environment, it delivers a globally valued curriculum based on best UK practice. This culminates in the award of IGCSEs and A levels from the Cambridge and AQA examination boards. These “gold standard certifications” afford entrance to the very best universities around the world.

American International School 220 Nguyen Van Tao, Nha Be, HCMC Tel: 028 3780 0909 Established since 2006, American International School is a private school serving students from Preschool through grade 12. Operate on 2 campuses, the school offers innovative American curriculum with true Vietnamese heritage. All students are well prepared for academic success appropriate to their needs and aspirations in the US and around the world. The Australian International School Xi Campus (Kindergarten) 190 Nguyen Van Huong, D2 Tel: 028 35192727 Thao Dien Campus (Kindergarten & Primary School) 36 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 3744 6960 Thu Thiem Campus (Kindergarten, Primary, Middle & Senior School) 264 Mai Chi Tho (East-West Highway) An Phu ward, D2 Tel: 028 3742 4040 The Australian International School is an IB World School with 3 class campuses in District 2, HCMC, offering an international education from Kindergarten to Senior School with the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), Cambridge Secondary Programe (including IGCSE) and IB Diploma Programme (DP). British International School Primary Campus 43 - 45 Tu Xuong, D3 225 Nguyen Van Huong, D2 Secondary Campus 246 Nguyen Van Huong, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2335 BIS is the largest international school in Vietnam operating from three purpose built campuses in HCMC catering for students from pre-school to Year 13. The school operates within the framework of the National Curriculum for England and is staffed primarily by British qualified and


trained teachers with recent UK experience. Students are prepared for both IGCSE & the IB Diploma programmes. BIS is a member of FOBISSEA & is fully accredited by the Council of International schools

By Shannon Brown

EDUCATION HUB TO SCHOOL OR NOT TO SCHOOL For many parents, schooling is pretty straightforward. Children start school between the ages of 2 and 4. They attend classes five days a week, for about 12 to 15 years. They learn specific subjects and pass traditional exams. But for international families, school can sometimes take different forms. In educational circles, there are three common alternative methods parents can choose to educate their children abroad: homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling. Homeschooling, or home education, is taking what children do at school, and doing it in the home instead. Many homeschool families use regular textbooks and children are taught by parents or tutors. Homeschooled children typically enrol in other activities to foster socialisation, and many studies have confirmed the academic excellence of children who learn at home. Unschooling, a term coined by John Holt in the 1970s, is more of a complete rejection of the compulsory school system. It puts total trust in children to learn through natural curiosity and the use of adults as facilitators. Worldschooling is harder to define, but usually involves elements of outdoor exploration and travelling. Worldschooling seems to be a combination of homeschooling and unschooling, where parents allow children to be free of the constraints of school while still nudging their learning and monitoring their progress. Naysayers proclaim that

children need more structure and socialisation with peers than these methods allow. They also worry that if children pick and choose their passions, they may miss out on core subjects needed to pass university entrance exams and excel in the workplace later in life. Proponents of these alternative methods say that children learn the most when learning is natural. Children are spontaneously drawn to topics in their environments, whereas school curriculums are one-size-fits-all. Many parents who choose to forego traditional schooling say that they don’t want their children to experience stress and pressure and that they hope to show them how to learn more than what they need to learn in order to pass a standardised test. Some parents are turning to these methods in response to the high costs of international schools in Vietnam. International school fees start at $6,000/year for half-day kindergarten and go to more than $28,000/year for grade 12. No matter how you decide to educate your children, experts agree that parental involvement is a high indicator of success. Homeschooling, unschooling, and worldschooling are evolving options that allow parents to interact with their children positively on a daily basis. For more information, check: and worldschoolacademy. com

Shannon Brown works in international education in Ho Chi Minh City and has a background in social work, public heath, and early childhood education. 58 AsiaLIFE HCMC

EUROPEAN International School 730 F-G-K Le Van Mien, Thao Dien.Tel: 028 7300 7257 The EUROPEAN International School Ho Chi Minh City (EIS) offers an international education from Early Years through Primary and Secondary School. EIS is committed to educating students to become creative critical thinkers and problem solvers. In small student centred classes, students are immersed in a multicultural learning environment which values multilingualism. The language of instruction throughout the School is English; the language program includes Spanish, German, French and Vietnamese. International School HCMC 28 Vo Truong Toan, D2 Tel: 028 3898 9100 One of 136 schools around the world to be accredited as an IB World School. Offers all three of the IB programmes from primary through to grade 12. The school is fully accredited by CIS and NEASC and has a strong focus on community spirit and fosters an awareness of other languages and cultures. The International School HCMC American Academy 26 Vo Truong Toan, D2 Tel: 028 3898 9098 The International School Ho Chi Minh City - American Academy is a worldclass middle and high school for children aged 11 to 18 years old. Offering a comprehensive academic program built upon the principles and standards of the American education system.. International School Saigon Pearl 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh District Tel: 028 2222 7788/99 The International School Saigon Pearl (ISSP) is a world-class Elementary School for children aged 18 months to 11 years old offering a full American school curriculum in Vietnam. With a custom built primary campus ISSP’s ethos is centered on building caring relationships with each child and family. Montessori International School International Program 42/1 Ngo Quang Huy, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2639 Bilingual Program 28 Street 19, KP 5, An Phu, D2 Tel: 028 6281 7675 Montessori utilizes an internationally recognized educational method which focuses on fostering the child’s natural desire to learn. The aim is to create an encouraging environment conducive to learning by developing a sense of self and individuality. A wide array of curriculum/extra-curricular activities are on offer including Bilingual programs.

Renaissance International School 74 Nguyen Thi Thap, D7 Tel: 028 3773 3171 An International British school providing inclusive curriculum based upon the

British curriculum complemented by the International Primary Curriculum and International Baccalaureate. The school has made a conscious decision to limit numbers and keep class sizes small to ensure each student is offered an education tailored to meet his or her individual learning needs. It is a family school providing a stimulating and secure learning environment with first-class facilities including a 350-seat theatre, swimming pool, mini-pool, play-areas, gymnasium, IT labs, music and drama rooms, science labs and an all-weather pitch. RMIT 702 Nguyen Van Linh, D7 Tel: 028 3776 1369 Australian university located in District 7, offers a highly regarded MBA and undergraduate courses in various fields. SmartKids 1172 Thao Dien Compound, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6076 An international childcare centre that provides kindergarten and pre-school education for children aged between 18 months and 6 years. A fun and friendly environment, the school focuses on learning through play. Saigon South International School Nguyen Van Linh Parkway, D7 Tel: 028 5413 0901 An International school environment offering an American/international program in a large, spacious campus, to children from age 3 to grade 12. Great facilities, extra-curricular activities and internationally trained teachers giving unique opportunities to learn.


Diamond Plaza 34 Le Duan, D1 The top floor arcade and bowling alley is bound to keep your little ones entertained for hours with an impressive array of video games. Some child-friendly dining options too, with Pizza Hut on hand, a KFC and a New Zealand Natural ice cream concession. Gymboree Play & Music Somerset Chancellor Court 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Tel: 028 3827 7008 The Gymboree Play & Music offers children from newborn to 5 years old the opportunity to explore, learn and play in an innovative parent-child programmes.


Beatrice’s Party Shop 235 Le Thanh Ton, D1 A lovely little shop selling everything you need to throw your little ones a good party. A catalogue of entertainers showcases a number of party favourites such as magicians, circuses and more. Nguyen Ngoc Diem Phuong 131C Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 A curious shop stocking a range of hand-made fancy dress costumes such as masks, superman outfits and much more. The stock changes seasonally, so this is a good place to stock up on Halloween, Christmas and other costumes. Bibi Clown - Chu he Bibi Tel: 0933 131 012 Does exactly as his name suggests.Great service has earned him a reputation for turning up almost instantly with a superb selection of balloons and games in both English and Vietnamese. The Balloon Man Mr Hoat 0903 837 326 Does exactly as his name suggests – balloons. He will come to your place for decoration but English not as good. Also provides helium balloons.


living By Paul McLardie

PERSONAL FINANCE TAKEAWAY FOR DOGS I’m going to be completely honest here and say that I don’t believe in horoscopes in any way. But for this article I looked at my horoscope for the Year of the Dog. What I learned was that I should a) focus on a prudent capital preservation strategy, b) avoid major salary drops by not changing jobs and c) create a spending plan and keep track of my expenses. Well, I never knew how insightful horoscopes could be! Don’t take any risks and you will not lose any money. Keep on doing what you are doing and you will not lose any money and thirdly, don’t spend any money and guess what, you will not lose any money. What have I been doing all my life without these helpful insights? The one thing that gets me about horoscopes, apart from the fact that they are to scientific reasoning as a pizza crunch is to haute cuisine, is that they group together so many different people from so many backgrounds and upbringings just because you were born on a certain day of a certain year. The thing is though, they could be right on this occasion. A capital preservation strategy this coming year could be a strategy, especially if your risk profile is low to conservative. People seem to have forgotten about the global financial crisis ten years ago. The US markets are soaring now, money is cheap and consumer debt is going up.

Sound vaguely familiar? I am not saying that there will be another collapse, but it may be time to sell out and take your gains. If you are coming to the end of your investment schedule before retirement or if you were invested for a large purchase, weigh up the risks against any potential losses or gains you may make. Also, look at your risk profile. Do you really want the pressure of waiting for your investments to come through to fruition against the time it will take for the value to go back up? If there is a collapse, it may take a few years. If you are fine with this, brilliant as you will actually be in a better position in the long run, but it is your choice. I am not planning to change jobs in the near future (but if I do I will make sure the chief bottle washer’s job pays well). But even if I don’t change jobs, a spending plan is always a good idea. I have been advocating this for eons. Businesses fold if they do not keep up with their cash flow and so do people. One change I would recommend people do this year is getting back in touch with their own finances. That means only four things: how much comes in, and when; and how much goes out, and to whom. Everything else falls into place after that. And if you are asking what a pizza crunch is, well it is a delicacy of deep fried battered pizza. But make sure you get it with a tub of curry sauce to dip it into. Bon appetit.

Paul McLardie is a partner at Total Wealth Management. Contact him at

Small shop run by photographer and collector. The owner’s more collectible pieces are pricey, but entry-level manual focus SLRs from the 70s and 80s are affordable.


Future World 240 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D3 Authorized reseller of Apple computers and products, as well as some off-brand items like headphones. Excellent service and English-speaking staff. Accepts credit cards. Phong Vu Computer 264C Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Tel: 028 3933 0762 The biggest and busiest of the PC stores in town. Known for good, efficient service, in-house maintenance and aftersales repair on the second floor.

Unit 2404, 24th Floor Pearl Plaza Office Tower, 561A Dien Bien Phu BUSINESS GROUPS Street, Ward 25, Binh Thanh District Direct: 84 8 3840 4237 AmCham New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, D1 Business Centre, Room 323 Want to 3562 avoid making mistakes?? Tel: 3824 To learn how contact Crown for all your relocations needs. We provide services Internationally, locally and AusCham as well provide storTVcommercially Building, Suite 1A, as 31A Nguyen Dinh age solutions long and short Chieu, D1 Tel: 3911 0272 / 73term. / 74 British Business Group of Vietnam 25 Le Duan, D1 Tel: 028 3829 8430 / CanCham New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, D1 Business Centre, Room 305 Tel: 028 3824 3754 Eurocham 257 Hoang Van Thu, Tan Binh Tel: 028 3845 5528 German Business Group 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Singapore Business Group Unit 1B2, 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, D1 Tel: 028 3823 3046 Swiss Business Association 42 Giang Van Minh, Anh Phu, D2 Tel: 028 3744 6996 Email: Hong Kong Business Association New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, D1 Business Centre, Room 322 Tel: 028 3824 3757 / 3822 8888 NordCham Bitexco Building, 19-25 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3821 5423


Kiet Camera Ground Floor, Lucky Plaza, 69 Dong Khoi, D1 Ver reliable shop with large range of kit and very good prices. If he hasn’t got in stock, Kiet can quickly find it. Pham The 11 Le Cong Kieu, D1 An authorized service centre for Nikon camera that also specializes in repairing all camera makes. Measurement equipment and spare parts also available. Shop 46 46 Nguyen Hue, D1

Thuan My 32 Cach Mang Thang 8, D3 2 Thao Dien, D2 Apple Authorized reseller and Premium Service Provider of Apple computers and products. Excellent service and Englishspeaking staff.


Concetti 33 Dinh Tien Hoang, D1 Tel: 028 3911 1480 Consulting and research company for technology transfer and investment. Embers Asia Ltd. 4th floor, 04 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D1 Tel: 028 3822 4728 As the first team-building provider established in Vietnam, Embers specialises in making teams better in globally competitive markets. Services include team-building excursions, strategic planning retreats, conference facilitations and training workshops. Ernst & Young Saigon Riverside Office Center, 2A-4A Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3824 5252 Professional service firm specializing in advisory, assurance, tax, transactions and strategic growth markets. Grant Thornton Saigon Trade Centre, 37 Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3910 9100 International business advisors specialising in auditing, management consulting, corporate finance, risk management and IT IF Consulting IBC Building, 3rd Floor 1A Me Linh Square, D1 4th Floor, 5 Ba Trieu Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi Tel: 028 3827 7362 Email: Private insurance and finance. Indochine Councel Han Nam Building, 65 Nguyen Du, D1 Tel: 028 3823 9640 Business law firm specializing in legal services to corporate clients in relation to their business and investment in Vietnam. International Management Initiative for Vietnam (IMIV) The International Management Initiative for Vietnam (IMIV), a non-profit initiative within VinaCapital Foundation that promotes excellence in business leadership and management by bringing to Vietnam proven international executive


education and professional development programmes. Phuong Nguyen Consulting TPC Business Center, 92-96 Nguyen Hue, D1 Tel: 028 3829 2391 Specializing in business facilitation, conferences, education counselling, market-entry research and IT/business consulting.

By Gary Woollacott

PEOPLE MATTER HELPING OTHERS It’s going to sound a bit like a complaint (which it is) but the lift system in a building where we have an office is really antiquated. In a bank of four lifts, at busy periods only two of them work: one going up, the other going down. You might think that odd: what are the other two doing? Well, they are waiting for someone to call them from a floor that doesn’t already have people who’ve pressed the button. So the empty lifts sit there, until the other two reach their destinations and then, hey presto, one will burst into life. Not very efficient, you might think. Old-fashioned too – the technology has been around for over 30 years to fix that. (But that costs money, and the landlord watches every cent.) The whole scenario wastes so much of the tenants’ valuable time; the landlord saves a dollar, so I suppose he’s happy. But it got me thinking. We have an expression in English: when you’ve reached the top, send the lift down for the others. It’s allegorical, meaning being prepared to help those below you on the career ladder so that they might also enjoy success. But why couldn’t that happen literally? If, at peak periods, the last one out took the trouble (what trouble?) to press the button to send the lift up or down, as required, the problem would simply evaporate. All four lifts would do the job they are designed to do and passenger waiting times would be kept to a minimum.

There’s a wider angle here, of course, as there usually is in my columns. It’s about helping people – in whatever way. So many (most?) of us are thoughtless. It doesn’t mean that we are bad people, far from it. It simply means that we don’t think about how we might help others, or at least make their situation less bad. Example: Thoughtless car drivers who go through puddles at speed, soaking those on the pavement. They could think about it, slow down, and be a little kinder to people who have to walk in the rain. Another: the only person who insists on having a loud conversation on his mobile phone in an otherwise quiet train carriage. The rest of us are minding our own business, absorbed in our own worlds, and we have to listen to the intimate details of their work/life/marriage/who knows what. It’s at times like that I’m pleased that I’m not fluent in whatever language is being spoken – it goes over my head. If it were in English I would hear (different from listen) to every word. In our busy world there are a thousand ways, every day, of showing a little bit of kindness, consideration or helping others. Think how marvelous the world could be if we all took just one or two opportunities each day to help each other. Wouldn’t that be something to celebrate? As usual, let me know if you have any particular topic you would like to see covered here.

Gary Woollacott is an executive search consultant who works for Horton International in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos. He can be reached at +84 8 3910 7682 or via 60 AsiaLIFE HCMC

TMF Vietnam Company Limited Unit 501, 5th Floor, Saigon Trade Center 37 Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3910 2262 ext. 113 Fax: 028 3910 0590 With headquarters in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, TMF Vietnam specializes in accounting outsourcing and consulting. Total Wealth Management 66/11 Pham Ngoc Thach, D3 Tel: 028 3820 0623 Specialists in selecting and arranging tax-efficient savings and pension plans for expatriates. Offers councel on private banking services, wealth protection in offshore jurisdictions, currency risks and hedging strategies. Towers Watson Vietnam (formerly Watson Wyatt and SMART HR) Sun Wah Tower, 115 Nguyen Hue, Suite 808, D1 Tel: 028 3821 9488 Global HR consulting firm specializing in executive compensation, talent management, employee rewards and surveys, HR effectiveness and technology, data services and total rewards surveys.


Nguyen Kim Shopping Centre 63-65 Tran Hung Dao, D1 Tel: 028 3821 1211 Stocks DVD/CD players, cameras, TVs, hi-fis and more from Sony, Sanyo, Panasonic, Philips and other major manufacturers. Also a good place to pick up electronic kitchen supplies like coffee makers and rice cookers, as well as large and small appliances, from hot water heaters to refrigerators. Tech Street Huynh Thuc Khang Street between Ton That Dam and Nguyen Hue, D1 Sells compact discs, DVDs, electronic money counters, video games and systems, Discmans, mp3 players and portable DVD players.

FURNITURE AustinHome 42 Nguyen Dang Giai, D2 Tel: 028 3519 0023 Outstanding quality and style for your home. The shop says its products are hand-picked by an American furniture expert from the best factories in Vietnam. Upholstery, accessories, antiques and more.

Decosy 112 Xuan Thuy, D2 Tel: 028 6281 9917 Producer of a large selection of European styled furniture and interior fittings, specializing in wrought iron and patine (distressed) wood finishes. Also stocks a wide-range of decorative accessories, crockery and fixtures. Custom design services available upon request. Gaya 6/39A Tran Nao Street 12, D2 Tel: 028 3740 6009 Gaya is re launching with new name at the new location featuring the work of foreign designers: furniture and lighting

by Quasar Khanh, laquerware decor by Michele De Albert and other home accessories and outdoor furniture . Linh’s White 67 Xuan Thuy, D2 Tel: 028 6281 9863 Furniture shop that focuses on solid wood furniture and decorative items ranging from pillows and lamps to bedding. Also offers kids’ furniture and custom pieces.


Dreamplex Level 9 – 10 – 11 21 Nguyen Trung Ngan, District 1 Tel: 028 7306-6880 A coworking space for startup entrepreneurs, creatives, consultants and investors to work collaboratively or privately. There’s a meeting hub to connect enterprises with domestic and global investors, as well as assist with recruitment. The Hive Saigon 94 Xuan Thuy, District 2 Tel: 028 3620 3481 Open spaces and private offices in a three-storey building for creatives and entrepreneurs. Part of a network of coworking spaces throughout Asia. PepperHouse 19 Hoang Sa, District 1 Tel: 028 3910-2028 PepperHouse provides a space to stay and work in Ho Chi Minh City. Bright, open, and the perfect place to hunker down to get some work done and network. Saigon Coworking 101 Cu Lao, Phu Nhuan District Tel: 0965 100 244 and 0902 740 106 One of the first coworking spaces in Saigon, Saigon Coworking was founded for startups and networking for young foreign entrepreneurs. The space partners with local professionals to help with legal, financial and IT consulting. Has an onsite kitchen and green rooftop garden. Start Saigon 18bis/14 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, District 1 Tel: 028 6682-8580 Start Saigon is a 24/7 co-working space dedicated to information technology start-ups and entrepreneurs. With a rooftop garden, pool, fast optical-fibre internet, and a meeting room, they also host after work parties and barbecues. Workyos Viettel Complex, Tower A 12th Floor, 285 Cach Mang Thang Tam, District 10 Tel: 028 6288-2882 Drop in and work in one of the open spaces, or rent a desk or private office longer-term. Branding consultation available from the experienced staff. Also available are meeting and event rooms, a bar and a “relax” room.


First Alliances #609, Saigon Trade Center 37 Ton Duc Thang, D1 Tel: 028 3910 2080 As Vietnam’s most established recruitment consultancy, First Alliances operates across all major industry sectors and at all levels of seniority. Also providing HR outsourcing solutions for staffing and payroll,overseas employment and education services.

HR2B / Talent Recruitment JSC Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, D3 / Tel: 028 3930 8800 HR consulting advises businesses on how to improve employee productivity. The search team specializes in matching senior level Vietnamese professionals and managers to top level opportunities in both major cities.




ARMORY Greg Hitz, co-founder of the made-in-Saigon jewellery company Armory, didn’t even wear a piece until he was 25 and backpacking through India, where male jewellery is part of everyday life. And most pieces had a story attached. “It was either a symbol for affection: `My wife’s father gave this to me on our wedding day’; `I bought this for myself when I returned from the army’. Or jewellery served as an extension of identity: `I’m Sikh and I wear this to remind me to do God’s work’.” “I thought this was really cool,” Greg saidl. “For men and women, jewellery seemed to be a part of them. Like a tattoo you could take off.” Greg bought himself a few bracelets but wasn’t happy with the way they slid up and down his wrist. When he returned to Vietnam he tried -- and failed -- to find something more comfortable. That’s when Greg and his girlfriend Oanh, who grew up running between the stalls of her family’s business at Ben Thanh Market, decided to create a range of comfortable and stylish unisex bracelets and dog-tag necklaces. Every day Greg and Oanh travel to metal street, Ha Ton Quyen in District 5, to ensure they get the best metals. Silver comes from northern Vietnam.

Horton International 5F, Vitic Building 6B Nguyen Thanh Y Street, D1 Tel 028 3910 7682-3 Established in HCMC in 2005, Horton International services local and multinational companies seeking to recruit high quality personnel. Horton International is one of the world’s leading executive search groups with 50 offices in 30 countries.  For more information, contact

Brass and Copper from Italy or Japan. Then the couple go back to their workshop and begin cutting and hammering. “The hammer hardens and shapes the bracelet,” Greg said. “You need around 300 hammer strikes per bracelet. The heaviest strikes come on the ends to create a flared look. We intermittently heat up the bracelet to soften the metal and make it more pliable.” The bracelets are then filed and twisted into shape. “This is done by hand and takes some real strength,” he said. “We take the metal bend it around an oval shaped tool we cut from a tree stump. This creates the oval shape that our customers have come to love and expect from Armory. A shape that hugs the wrist and makes it easy to take on and off.” Any engraving is done with a laser, and the final step is branding the piece with the Armory logo, the ancient Vietnamese character for hammer or hard work. “A tremendous amount of hammer and hard work goes into each bracelet,” Greg said. “We hope when our customers wear them, they can summon some of that resolve into their own lives. That they’re reminded of their own personal power -their `Armory’.”

Craft Saigon is a monthly column to highlight new small businesses in the city, if your business wishes to be featured please email

UTS Saigon Van Intl’ Relocations 1st Fl, 214 Nguyen Van Huong, D2 Tel: 028 3744 7102 MOVING!? Full service relocating agency with ware! housing, handyman, insurance & claim, ! orientation an partner career support services also availble. !"#$%&&'(!)%*#)%&&'(!+),-.)%*#)%&&'/! 0#1.!2#3-(!#4$-(!5%$,#.'/!! !6--7!8,#.%9-!/! :&%))+)9!,#!.-&#$%,-!;#.&7;+7-/! ! !"#$%&$''(")*'+,"-%,'.%*$#/*0'


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Santa Fe Relocation Services 8th floor, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, D3 Tel: 028 3933 0065 With over 150 offices around world, Santa Fe offers local & international moving, pet transportation, relocation services including home search, orientation, cultural training, immigration & records management.



Accessorize Vincom Center, 70/72 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Fashion-forward accessories including necklaces, handbags, wallets, flip-flops, sunglasses, hair accessories, belts and more. Ipa-Nima 71 Pasteur, D1 Tel: 028 3824 3652 77 Dong Khoi, D1 Well-known Hanoi-based fashion brand. Founder Christina Yu is a former lawyer turned designer who produces eclectic and eye-catching handbags. Also stocks costume jewellery and shoes.

READY TO WEAR unisex L’Usine

151/1 Dong Khoi, D1 Lifestyle store and cafe housed in a period building restored to evoke the aesthetic of an early 20th-century garment factory. Carries an exclusive, frequently refreshed line of imported men’s and women’s fashion, including T-shirts and footwear, and a range of unique accessories. Entrance via the street-level Art Arcade. Retro KID 345/3 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, D3 Tel: 0909 168 350 Featured Street wear imported from Thailand and US as well as local designmen’s and women’s fashion, including T-shirts and footwear, and a range of accessories. Runway Vincom Center, 70/72 Le Thanh Ton, D1 Tel: 028 3993 9988 Massive and minimalist design-led interior lets ultra high-end designer garments stand out. Carries men’s, women’s and children’s clothing, swimwear, shoes, accessories along with home décor. Brands include Chloe, Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Sergio Rossi and Eres.


Massimo Ferrari 42-A1 Tran Quoc Thao, D3 Tel: 028 3930 6212 Bespoke menswear shop also boasts its own brand of contemporary preppy attire tailored for the tropics. Carries a line of European-quality shoes, bags and accessories designed in-house, as well as exclusive Orobianco unisex bags, designer fragrances and eyewear.


ER-Couture Boutique 36 Thao Dien, D2 Tel: 028 3744 2411 Exclusive Scandinavian brand offering designer garments. Versatile fashion for women in European sizes 34-44. Each style is released in limited quantities and can be tailored to individual taste. Valenciani Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, D1 Tel: 3821 2788 66-68 Nguyen Trai, D1 Tel: 7302 4688 Homegrown luxury boutique carries silk dresses, velvet corsets, chiffon shawls and a range of accessories, all designed in-house.


Dieu Thanh 140 Pasteur, D1 Tel: 028 3824 5851 Experienced tailor shop specializes in swimwear and cotton clothing, as well as business suits, evening dresses, luxury fabrics and accessories. Dzung 221 Le Thanh Ton, D1 One of the most reliable and respected men’s tailors in town with prices and production time to reflect the quality of the workmanship. Massimo Ferrari 42-A1 Tran Quoc Thao, D3 Tel: 028 3930 6212 Traditional Italian sartorial techniques are employed to offer a full wardrobing service and custom tailoring for men. Stocked with imported fabrics primarily from Italy. Uyen 13 Nguyen Thiep, D1 An excellent option with English-speaking staff and a good selection of fabrics (although the price takes a dip if you bring your own) and some off-the-rack staples to copy. Reasonable prices.


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District 7 & Nha Be

In line with this month’s cover feature, AsiaLIFE throws the spotlight on the top apps for entrepreneurs to get on download.





Touted as a virtual “chief of staff,” Accompany does all the research necessary to prep users for big meetings by emailing a concise briefing beforehand. The app works by connecting to users’ Google or Microsoft email accounts, mobile calendar and Facebook and Twitter pages. It examines personal data and other information online to create summaries of contacts.

This “save for later” app allows users to file away useful articles, interesting videos and any other content that may be needed for future reference. So, if you stumble across something online that you want to save for later, simply store it in your Pocket and it can be accessed from your phone, tablet or computer, whether you’re on or offline.





This app empowers users to connect directly with customers and run their business from their phone. It channels all customer information into a single, integrated platform, enabling users to build a client-centred business that includes marketing, sales, customer service and business analysis.

Toggl is a super simple way of tracking and logging your time, eliminating the need for timesheets. This app allows you to track time from a browser, computer or smartphone so you never again lose a minute of billable time. You can organise your time by project or tag, and mark as billable. If you forget to turn it on, just enter the time later.


DAY OF THE DEAD: BLOODLINE Day of the Dead: Bloodline is the second remake of the 1985 classic horror. The Bulgarian-American film follows a small group of military personnel and some survivalists dwelling in an underground bunker as they seek to find a cure in a world overrun by zombies. It is directed by Hector Hernandez Vicens and the screenplay by Mark Tonderai and Lars Jacobson, based on the characters created by George A. Romero.

PETER RABBIT Already pitted to be a hit, this animation brings to life the antics of the character featured in Beatrix Potter’s collection of children’s books. Here, Peter Rabbit’s feud with the McGregor family reaches new heights as he and Thomas McGregor compete for the affections of a kind animal lover who lives next door. It features the voices of James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie and Elizabeth Debicki.

BLACK PANTHER After the death of his father, T’Challa returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king – and as Black Panther – gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther.

MARROWBONE Another horror that will leave the blood curdling is Marrowbone, young man and his younger siblings who have concealed the death of their mother to remain together are plagued by a sinister presence in their home. The English-language Spanish film is written and directed by Sergio G. Sanchez and made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sep. 11, receiving top reviews.


phobia pho•bi•a (fō’bē-ə) n. A persistent, abnormal, or irrational fear of a specific thing.


riends stayed with us over Christmas and as much as I was looking forward to hosting them, their visit was a wakeup call for

me. I wanted to help plan their sightseeing in Ho Chi Minh City and recommend a beach retreat. It should have been a great opportunity for me to see more of Vietnam, the country I’m calling home for now. The first step was looking at photos of beautiful Vietnamese coastal cities on the Internet. Ahhh, so many choices. Then I began looking at hotels and resorts. I drifted from comparing availability, amenities and costs to checking how close the rooms were to greenery, trying to determine how many geckos I was going to find. No surprise that one of the hotels had a restaurant called Gecko! These little reptiles are a national treasure, after all. But I just could not bring myself to book. Luckily my friends came up with their own plan. During their stay, I realised how much my phobia has kept me from enjoying myself. I am constantly checking the walls every time I leave our apartment. I avoid going out at night altogether. And I leap ten feet in the air every time I hear a creak or spy a sudden movement. Often I realise I am clutching the baby far too tightly and furtively scanning nearby trees when everyone else is happily engaged in conversation.

How can I join this carefree chat when I could so easily be thrown into a screaming fit at the sight of a gecko? A series of power cuts early in the new year hammered home the dire state I’ve found myself in, here in Ho Chi Minh City. We have a generator, thankfully. But it’s positioned on our terrace under a giant gecko ornament. I am reluctant to go out there, so I try to wait the power cuts out. But one day, after 30 minutes without electricity, the air was syrupy with humidity and the baby was sweating and cranky. I gathered my courage and marched onto the terrace like a mighty soldier. But when I uncovered the generator a huge yellowish frog leaped out. I screamed like a banshee, rushed back inside and locked the door in tears. Have I mentioned my phobia extends to all reptiles and insects? Our kind helper ended up starting the generator. She looked at me with compassion, but without understanding. I realised I had become crippled by fear. I decided to seek therapy. This decision set off an internal debate. I’d been to therapy briefly before to help deal with the stress of studying two masters degrees abroad, far away from my support network of family and friends. In contrast, seeking therapy to overcome a gecko phobia seemed somehow childish. I felt too embarrassed to walk up to a therapist and confess my fear of geckos, especially when I live in Vietnam. Also, where I come from people who

seek psychotherapy are stigmatised. Ah well, being called a lunatic does not bother me so much. Gladly reason won the day, and I started looking for therapists in Ho Chi Minh. I didn’t find many of the Englishspeaking variety, and none who seemed to specialise in phobias. Also there’s the scheduling issues that all new mums experience. I opted for online therapy, it’s flexible and there’s no language barrier. After a brief search, I found an online therapy service that offers different tools for communication (texts, emails, Skype calls, phone calls). The profiles of the different therapists showed some had expertise in the field of phobias. The online hub is based in the US with a 12-hour time difference, so I had to approach several therapists until I found a very nice one who was flexible enough to chat in the early mornings and late evenings. We agreed to put off Skype calls till we feel it was needed. The therapist suggested reading about systematic desensitisation which will allow me to see geckos in a different way and therefore to react differently to them. According to my therapist, being able to visualise my life differently is the only way I will be able to realise my vision to live a normal-ish life. Easier said than done I suppose. Let’s see how it goes. AsiaLIFE HCMC 67

hancock in se asia



ell after a relatively quiet Christmas break, 2018 is well and truly upon us. As always, full of promise and confidence, people are declaring their resolutions and enjoying clean living, no smoking, no drinking and regular visits to the gym. As always this will last for about three weeks then fizzle out into life back in the drunken, smoke-filled slobfest that was 2017. Why do we do it? Gyms around the world report record memberships every year as the new year starts. It’s the same every year and when one gets older these January firsts come round far too frequently. I have never really understood why January 1st should any different to any other day; it is just a day. Though I suppose coming, as it does, just a week after Christmas, everyone feels totally full of food and drink. As usual, I made no resolutions this year, I decided in December that I was going to try and drink a bit less and try and live a little healthier, but in Saigon’s shockingly polluted environment it’s not easy. Hopefully this will be the year when I get to split my time between city and seaside. I have desperately wanted to do this for ages, but business pressures dictate that


I am in the city. I think I should look into buying a facemask as well. Of course here in Vietnam, we get to do it all again in a few weeks time when Tet arrives. This time it’s the Year of the Dog. Ho Chi Minh will empty, the streets will be traffic free and most places will be closed. This year I really do intend to get out of town for a while. Also, maybe in the Year of the Dog, those pesky dognappers will stop their wicked practice. The thought of their family pet finishing up on a dinner table must be a very hurtful one for pet owners. Meanwhile all over the world we seem to be going through one of the most turbulent and unsettling periods for a long time. I look at the West and realise exactly why I left. It isn’t perfect here but I feel much more settled and safe than I would back in the UK. I guess the sunshine helps. I look at friends posts from home and shiver at the very thought of an English winter. It would be nice to think that we could all make each other’s lives a little gentler this year. A kind word here, a good deed there, goes an awful long way in society. So many

people respond with hate filled replies on social media. It seems that the journey from disagreement of an idea to full on hate fuelled angry shouting is but a very short one. Instead of making resolutions that we know we’ll never keep, why not try small ideas that we can. It would be nice to make 2018 the year of kindness and respect. Go on, you know it makes sense. I hope that this year is good for all and the year when the world finally starts to realise that we are all in this together.

Following a successful 25-year career as a singer/ songwriter/musician, Keith pulled out of the rat race and moved to Southeast Asia in 2008. First living in Thailand, then Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City since 2013.



rom the outside, The Shop of Hope appears little more than a secondhand shop of people’s abandoned belongings, stacked on shelves, hanging from rails, hoping to find a new home. Yet delve a little deeper and you’ll discover a story of hope and blessings, of giving those discarded by society the chance of a second try at life, and the hope a brighter future. The Shop of Hope is just a small part of something much bigger, of an effort bringing hope to those throughout Vietnam neglected by society, facing poverty, hardship and the prospects of a bleak future. The larger organisation is Tiny Hearts of Hope, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit founded by Brent and Stacy Tarr in 2008 after they visited Vietnam to adopt their daughter. It was through the adoption process that

the Tarr family first encountered the disparity of Vietnam’s poor and forgotten, and felt compelled to return to work with orphaned children, like the little girl they had welcomed into their home. Tiny Hearts of Hope started off with small activities, but as they grew they saw more needs to meet and now support multiple orphanages and ethnic groups around the country. From humble beginnings, the support they now provide includes scholarship and education programmes, clean water and sanitation initiatives, food distribution and medical care, as well as the creation and distribution of abortion and antitrafficking materials. Inspired by the second-hand shops of their home country America, the Tarrs founded the Shop of Hope in 2012 and celebrated their fifth anniversary last December. Through the

generous donations of others, the shop has helped countless individuals with the money they raise selling books, art, furniture, clothes, knickknacks and objects de art. Using the shop for more than just fundraising, they provide training and employment opportunities to many underprivileged Vietnamese who would not otherwise have such chances due to discrimination against the handicapped and marginalised. These opportunities help bring financial stability to individuals and families, with wages above the national minimum and other benefits that would not normally be available to them. The Shop of Hope also donates many items to the orphanages they work with. Since opening five years ago, they have given computers, motorbikes, backpacks, clothes, bicycles, medical supplies, and countless other things that have helped many children. Working with international schools such as AIS, they give away boxes of hope at Tet and Christmas to hundreds of children around the country. Each box contains something to play with, something to hold, something for hygiene, something for education, something to wear and something special for everyone. The Shop of Hope is reliant on the support of donations, especially from the expat community. But more so they are reliant on the customers who visit the shop to pick up a brand new second-hand something to take home and give a new life. For each purchase made, you are giving someone else a chance at a new life. Give them a visit and see what you can find for yourself, and for giving hope to someone else. 76 D5 Street, Bình Thạnh AsiaLIFE HCMC 69

In SaiGong Pub Quiz

3. Which river in Vietnam is known as the nine dragons? 4. Which country did the Vietnamese under-23 football team recently beat in the Asian under-23 championships ? 5. What does Ha Long Bay translate as?

General knowledge 6. Manchester City’s long unbeaten run in the premier league came to an end versus Liverpool last month. Who before that was the last team to beat Manchester City in a premier league game? 7. Which African nation will send a team to compete in the women’s bobsled in this year’s Winter Olympics, the first time anyone from this country has competed in the Winter Olympics? 8. Which Disney movie will debut on Broadway this year with its own musical ? 9. Which country won the 2017-18 Ashes cricket series?

11. What is the world’s most northern capital city?

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13. Name the only two double land-locked counties in the world. 14. Name the only country in the world without a capital city.

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15. Name the world’s largest lake by volume.


Strange world facts 16. Due to precipitation, which mountain for a few weeks each year is bigger than Mount Everest?


19. Only two countries in the world begin with an A but don’t end with an A. Which are they? 20. In which kingdom do the citizens officially become a year older on new year’s day?









17. On every continent there is one city named what? 18. Which is the only country that has never had censorship on adult movies?

Code: KK101 Hm17.

ISBN: 978-604-80-2974-7

12. By population, what is the world’s smallest capital eity?

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2 3 8 5





7 6


3 8 5

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Pub Quiz Answers

2. Name the highest mountain in Vietnam.


TRẦN CHÍ ĐẠT - Director & Editor in Chief

1. Dong Nai 2. Phan Xi Pang 3. Mekong 4. C Australia 5. Descending Dragons 6. Chelsea 7. Nigeria 8. Frozen 9. Australia 10. Ed Sheeran – Perfect 11. Reykjavik 12. Ngerulmud, Palau 13. Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein

1. Name the longest river in Vietnam that only FLOWS within Vietnam itself.

10. The Christmas number one song in the UK is a huge deal – who was this years Christmas number on there?

Responsible for Publishing & Contents:

14. Nauru (although technically some say Bern Switzerland also) 15. Lake Baikal - Siberia 16. K2 17. Rome 18. Belgium 19. Azerbaijan and Afghanistan 20. Bhutan

How well do you know your adopted country?

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AsiaLIFE HCMC February 2018  
AsiaLIFE HCMC February 2018  

AsiaLIFE looks at the changing F&B scene ins Ho Chi Minh City