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f o y r o t s i H f ty e i i r C B h A Chi Min Ho








006 | The Prelude


THE TALK 009 | The Big Five 010 | Just In



50 sites that have made this city into the metropolis it is today


016 | The Buzz


022 | Calendar

Rap artist Suboi is going out on a limb

030 l The Pen Man

The man who sells the halfmillion-buck pen

032 l The Romance Tour

It’s Valentine’s. We show you where to get frisky

060 l Air

Inspecting the air down here. What's the quality like these days?


The problem with Trip Advisor

024 | Overscene

028 l Crossing Boundaries


A new side to an old story

020 | In the Papers





Introducing the first Michelin-rated chef in Vietnam



The Vietnamese drinking traditions that will get you through Tet



Derek Milroy gets street legal thanks to a figure of eight

070 138

COVERING ALL, HIDING NOTHING Ao dais get hip under our lens

DEAD END ON THE GLOBAL CIRCUIT Why touring bands skip Saigon

080 l Business Buff 088 l Top Eats 097 l Top Shelf 092 l Night Watchman 098 l The Coffee Cup 101 l In The Frame 102 l For the Record 104 l Road Rules 106 l Body and Temple 126 l Travel Notes TIENG VIET HANOI 132 l Man Xa

The village where scrap aluminium gets a makeover

FINAL SAY 142 l Dead Heat

The killer is getting away

144 l The Last Call

Kaiser T, Vietnam’s 2012 Pioneer DJ Champion

2 | Word February 2013


LEE TAE JOO - IB Score: 42 Presently studying at UCLA One of the top Universities in the U.S

RENAISSANCE IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THAT A RANGE OF IB SCHOLARSHIPS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2013-2014 Apply now. For details go to: 74 Nguyen Thi Thap Street, Binh Thuan Ward District 7, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam Telephone: (+84-8) 3773 3171 Website: Email: February 2013 Word | 3

The editorial and design of WORD is carried out by Duong Huynh Advertising JSC



ED WEINBERG Deputy Editor

CHARLES BARNES Staff Photographer

DEREK MILROY Features Editor

KYLE PHANROY Staff Photographer


NICK ROSS Chief Editor




MARK ALLAN Graphic Designer



For advertising enquiries please call Xuan on +84 1227 055122 or Bao on +84 938 609 689 Special thanks to Tim Doling, Rob Marsh, Shane Dillon, Mark Bowyer, Phil Kelly, Jasper Waale, Dierdre Appel, Tess Somerville, Andrew Bond, Courtney Larson, Quang Dao, Tara Oldfield, David Robinson, Michael Baumwohl, Melanie Elfert, Kaitlin M, Ellen Gleeson, Aron Szabo and Rita Csontos for their contribution to this issue. Word is a registered trademark. No content may be reproduced in any form without prior authorisation of the owners. © Word - Duong Huynh Advertising JSC

© Tất cả hình ảnh và nội dung trong Ấn phẩm này thuộc bản quyền của Ấn phẩm Word (Ho Chi Minh city và HaNoi) của C.Ty CP TM–DV–QC–Truyền Thông Dương Huỳnh. Mọi sự sao chép không được phép sẽ bị xem là vi phạm luật Sở Hữu Trí Tuệ hiện hành của nhà nước Cộng Hòa Xã Hội Chủ Nghĩa Việt Nam.

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Chịu trách nhiệm xuất bản: Lê Huy Hòa Biên tập: Hồ Phương Lan Sửa bản in: Nick Ross Trình bày: Dương Vy Bảo Bìa: Duong Huynh Advertising JSC

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In tại Công Ty In Trần Phú 71–73–75 Hai Bà Trưng, Q. 1, TP. HCM. Giấy XNĐKKHXB của Cục XB số: 92-2012/CXB/161-02/LĐ ngày 28/12/2012 Quyết định xuất bản số 542/QĐCN-LĐ Nhà xuất bản Lao Động cấp ngày 28/12/2012 In xong và nộp lưu chiểu năm 2013.

The Prelude O

bsessed with eating, drinking and partying, Ho Chi Minh City isn’t known for its sightseeing. You only need to look at the pages of this issue to see just see how much entertainment there actually is in this metropolis. On our Romance Tour (page 32-33), for example, we tackle some places to hit on date night. We discuss the music landscape with Suboi (Crossing Boundaries, page 28-29) and do some overall Southeast Asian comparative analysis (Dead End on the Global Circuit, page 146-149). We also preview a culinary shift courtesy of Michelin-star chef Michel

Roux (Dining with Stars, page 64-65), and get down and dirty on some of the city’s bridges (Night Watchman, page 92). But the question remains, as it does for those of us who have to plan an itinerary for houseguests — what makes this city special? In our cover feature, a Short History of Saigon (page 34-51), historian par excellence Tim Doling takes us on a stroll through Ho Chi Minh City’s hidden side streets to give us a deeper insight into what makes Saigon tick. Skipping Cu Chi and the water puppets in favour of Khmer pagodas and pink churches, citadels and opium factories, we’re introduced


In your PechaKucha article (January 2013, page 62), you mention the presentation by Katarina Wallin and her comment that Vikings originated from Sweden. Although some settlements have been found in Sweden, the majority of the Vikings came from Denmark, Norway and some of the Baltic countries nearby. — JW


I don’t think there would have been any difficulty getting the censors to publish your brisk and well-written pieces on Quang Tri (January 2013, page 36). Should think they loved it! — AH

to colonial-era clinics and the tombs of some of the country’s most accomplished forefathers. Instead of the War Remnants Museum we get the Secret Weapons Hiding Place Museum; we even get an upclose look at the building that vintage Citroën in Phu Nhuan is parked in front of. Ho Chi Minh City is an easy place to pass through without finding a way in — as Vietnam’s low overall tourist return rates attest to. But it’s not due to any lack of attraction, as Tim’s tip-of-the-iceberg landmarking demonstrates. So go on, be brave, and put a few new spots on your map of this city.



ry of


ity rief A B Chi Minh C Ho


THIS MONTH'S COVER Photo: Mads Monsen Design: DH Advertising



I am writing with regards to the CanCham Crystal Ball business luncheon article that you published recently (January 2013, page 9). I have a number of concerns about this piece. The first words stating, “You may not have heard of CanCham ...” come across as CanCham not being very well known, which is not the case. CanCham has a very good reputation in the business community — this event is yearly and has been running for eight years and is one of the biggest each year. We also have a good reputation in the general community, especially through our organizing of the The Terry Fox Run, which drew 14,600 people in November 2012. The next line about “dog-eat-dog North American neighbours” comes across as a negative comment towards the American chamber, AmCham, who is supporting this event. We have 11 business chambers co-hosting this event and AmCham is one of them. They co-host this event each year. I shared the article with a few people, some involved with business chambers and some not, and the general feedback was that the tone of the article was not very positive and one person responded that after reading it, he wouldn't attend the event. — Colin McDonald, CanCham

6 | Word February 2013

the talk

February 2013 Word | 7

The Talk

the talk


Tough Endings, Uncertain Beginnings What can we expect from the coming year?


n the run up to Tet at the Word office we’re under pressure. Due to the ten-day holiday when the country’s commercial life goes to sleep, we have to produce two issues in six weeks. It’s a tough call as we’ve also got the Hanoi editions to worry about. That doubles the output and adds to the madness. This predicament is not just confined to ourselves. The whole of the media industry in Vietnam is under the same pressure. At a time when our compatriots around the world are just winding back into gear after the Christmas and New Year festive season, here the magazines, newspapers, radio and TV stations are desperately trying to deal with that last minute rush before the old year closes and the New Year is ushered in. Tight schedules with printing houses are made. Content is called in early. Editors work around the clock. Designers put in double shifts. This is no time for the lazy and unmotivated. Then there is finance. With the belief that all loose ends should be tied up before the holidays, everyone is desperately trying to pull in outstanding payments, and those who need to pay are trying to avoid it. Even the banks are in on the act. This writer’s monthly message to remind them about paying the credit card bill came a couple of days early. And the payment due date is moved

8 | Word February 2013

forward, too — the fifth this month rather than the seventh. February ninth is like a Mayan-style watershed when all that we know or have known will come to an end.

The New Year That 2012 has been tough is something that all of us are attuned to. It has been written about, discussed and marveled on again and again. In the year just gone, despite continued growth, the country has seemed to come to a standstill. Even the English language teaching industry, one of the fields that has boomed over the past decade, has started to struggle. For years language teachers in this country have benefited from over-demand and under-supply. Yet in the last few months demand has dropped and teachers are struggling for hours. So, what will 2013 hold in store? It’s a question on everyone’s lips and it’s a concern that as of yet has no answer. Based on the year just passed, it will be tough. When finances are stretched, buyers demand more, prices are squeezed and suppliers have to work harder to meet their needs. Payment terms are prolonged — 60 days becomes 90, 90 days becomes 120 — and when the struggles start, tempers get lost with uncanny ease. According to this writer, 2013 will be no different to the year just gone by. At least initially. There is a lack of direction in

Vietnam and until the visions of a glorious future are rebuilt, a purpose regained, we will struggle on trying to make loose ends tie, and our monies meet. The words of one businessman sum up the concerns. With offices all around Asia, for years it was the Vietnamese operation that was always profitable. Now, says the entrepreneur, he has had to lay people off. “I’ve never had to do that before,” he says smiling, shaking his head. Behind the smile, there is a tangible sense of disbelief. But this is the Year of the Snake, which according to tradition is a good omen — a snake in the house means your family will not starve. There are two interpretations of this, the metaphorical — the snake as the wise businessman, graceful and cunning, a Solomonic mediator — and the literal — the snake as a wealthy creature, willing to sacrifice his possessions to pay for his family's food. One interpretation would seem to point towards a positive 2013, the other provides mixed signals: one step forward, two steps back. Despite the pressure of completing the old and starting afresh, 2013 will certainly have its opportunities. If we believe this and don’t get stuck on the fragility of our laurels, then The Year of the Snake may well be a year to remember. But it certainly won’t be easy. — Nick Ross






On midnight on the first of Tet, like all other years there will be fireworks. Take in the atmospheric kickoff of the New Year in one of several packed locations. The big displays are taking place by the District 1 waterfront, emanating from the mouth of the Saigon River tunnel. So, avoid the crowds and find a tall building. For smaller fireworks displays, check out Dam Sen in District 11, the Memorial Temple Ben Duoc in Cu Chi and the Culture and National History Park in District 9. The fireworks go off from midnight to 12.15am on Feb. 10 all around the city



PechaKucha, or chitchat in Japanese, returns to Vin Gallery on Thursday, Feb. 28 for Volume 2. PechaKucha is the art of concision and follows a presentation method of 20 images which are shown for 20 seconds each. Inspired by the wealth of sharing and networking, the event is a chance for young designers and creators to show their work publicly in a social way. PechaKucha was created by two architects in Tokyo in 2003 and is now held in over 570 cities. Entrance is VND100,000 at the door. Vin Gallery is located at 4 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, Q2. Doors open at 6.30pm and the show starts at 7pm


ON THE ONES AND TWOS World-renowned DJ and producer Wally Lopez brings his beats to Blanchy's Tash for one night in their continued commitment to provide Saigon with the very best in today's dance music. Lopez's hot remixes have yielded him the title of ‘Today's DJ and without a doubt also Tomorrow’s’. Dance away to his sought after sound on Feb. 2 from 10pm to 4am for VND150,000 (includes a free house beer or house spirit). Blanchy's Tash is at 95 Hai Ba Trung, Q1. For VIP packages or reservations, contact Mr. Sen on 0909 9028293

CONTEMPORARY LIFE CONTEMPLATION San Art will transform itself into a full gallery exhibition, Space/Limit, by artist Phan Quang at the end of February. Opening on Feb. 28 at 6pm, the exhibit questions the normality of our everyday human existence. Works range from cultural customs to gender stereotypes, to the contrast between urban and rural living. Phan Quang, a current Ho Chi Minh City resident, possesses a BA in Economics but pursues his passion for art with his own commercial photography studio. The exhibit is on display until Apr. 25. San Art is located at 3 Me Linh, Binh Thanh

MCSORLEY’S BAR OPEN MIC COMEDY NIGHT The rise of alternative, stand-up comedy in this city continues on Friday Mar. 1 at McSorley’s, with the first of a series of nights allowing comedians in the making and laughter-meister wannabes the chance to come up to the stage. Run by well-known, Britishborn local comic Chris Baker, each stand-up set will run for a maximum of six minutes, with profits from the night going to a local orphanage. To register for your open spot simply email Chris on and he will work with you to do the rest. McSorley’s is at 4 Thao Dien, Q2. The show will kick off at 8pm


February 2013 Word | 9

Just In

DELI BELLY Central Parc Banh Mi has been operating for several months in central Saigon, however it is only now that it is slowly coming to wider local attention. Offering a range of ‘New York-style’ banh mi and sandwiches (from VND45,000 to VND115,000) including wraps, bagels, foccacia and brioche, stuffed with gourmet ingredients not typically found in your neighbourhood banh mi establishment, think pink roast beef with paprika aioli potato salad on a whole wheat baguette anyone and you get the idea. Connected to the group behind Au Parc and Refinery, Central Parc Banh Mi also runs an onsite bakery dishing out fresh cakes, cookies, crumbles, bread and pasta. Order 24 hours ahead to cater for your event or party. Central Parc Banh Mi is open from 8am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday at 7 Bis Han Thuyen, Q1. Call 0838 228549 for deliveries

THAO DIEN TATS A new tattoo shop featuring European resident artists with over two decades of experience has opened in District 2. The parlour is aimed at operating on strict European standard health and safety codes and will carry a range of after-care products, helping to give clients a stress-free and relatively pain-free inking. The shop specialises in Asian and Japanese designs but can do anything from tribal and Polynesian, to old school, traditional, portraits and realistic body art. Internationally renowned artist Adrian Willard, aka Maui, who specialises in new school, will be joining up with the shop in the next few months. Exile Ink Vietnam is at 14 M 1 Quoc Huong, Q2

HOME HEALTH ANALYSIS Kiwifitness is offering health conscious denizens of Saigon the chance to gain an in-depth look at the inside of their own bodies. Their BodyMetrix Scanner uses ultrasound to measure a variety of bodily parameters. This is aimed at helping clients to identify their current levels of health and fitness, gain a deeper understanding of their bodies’ needs and requirements, and sketch out customised exercise plans. Kiwifitness offers two levels of assessment. The ‘Foundation Assessment’ scans body fat percentage and muscle thickness, as well as providing a risk appraisal for strokes, diabetes and coronary heart disease, while the 'Elite’ level gives you all this plus comprehensive lifestyle and nutrition recommendations. And the best thing about the BodyMetrix Scanner? It’s a completely portable system that Kiwifitness will bring to you, meaning you don’t need to get off the couch to start shaping up. Kiwifitness can meet at any location to conduct assessments. Get in touch with Phil Kelly on 0934 782763 or email phil@philkelly. com

10 | Word February 2013

VESPER BAR The spiritual successor to Cepage, which was formerly located on the site of Sin Lounge on Le Thanh Ton, Vesper Bar is a sophisticated yet down-to-earth wine bar run by a coterie of long-term expats. If you know who the chef Andy Ertle is, you’ll understand. Serving creative tapas to supplement the drinks, this is a chic venue that is a great addition to the city’s drinking and dining scene. Vesper is on the ground floor of the Landmark Building, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1

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the talk

{T ECH Tips} ** Passwords * *

CRUMBS RELOCATION The Australian-styled bakery and pie shop, Crumbs, has relocated from Truong Dinh to Cong Quynh. Now part of the Bui Vien locale, Crumbs offers an outdoor eating area, refreshments, ice cream, hot coffee, fresh food and ample parking. And, of course, the great selection of pies and pasties that have made this bakery a hit. Come and see its full line-up of cakes, bread and delicacies at 117 Cong Quynh, Q1. Call 0838 361992, email or visit


an’t live with them and can’t live without them. If you haven’t guessed what I’m talking about, it’s passwords. Sometimes they are the bane of our lives as we waste hours trying to reset them from our online banking or credit card accounts through to expat forums and of course email and Facebook. Passwords are not a new phenomenon, though. Encryptions and codes were probably used as far back as the time of Adam and Eve when they entertained themselves with secret games in The Garden of Eden. So they are nothing new. But we struggle with remembering them or even choosing a good, solid and safe password.

Strong or Weak?

NEW YEAR, NEW WORKOUT Personal fitness trainer, Terrones Cyril, brings a new sports concept to Vietnam that focuses on individual needs, not your dumbbell's weight. At Cyril and You, there is no monthly charge or membership fee, just pay-in-advance session rates. Specialising in Sport Conditioning, Resistance Training, and Senior Training, Cyril can guide you to a healthier, stronger lifestyle through personalised workouts and fitness classes like Boxing, Body Fight and Kickboxing. The cost is VND1.7 million for 10 sessions. Cyril and You is at 49A Xa Lo Ha Noi, Q2 — this is the road next to the highway that connects Thao Dien and Quoc Huong. For more information, call 0947 771326 or visit

12 | Word February 2013

What is a good password? I am often asked. Well, a good password is one you are able to remember, but not at any cost. I have a party trick when I join a group of people for a drink to try and shake them into affirmative action. I try to guess their passwords after meeting them for only a few minutes — it often get some gasps of astonishment. So if I can so easily guess these important security features of every day online life, what is there to stop others from following suit and hacking into our lives? Think about it, if somebody is able to guess your Gmail account password, they own your digital life. This could cause a lot of personal damage or even worse, depending on who you are, what secrets you are hiding. Photos and videos which are for personal perusal could go viral.

Of course it is also possible to reset passwords for all accounts that have your Gmail account as your recovery email account. And if you are cautious you should have no problems in choosing a good password that only you can guess. Yet, is your password made up like the one below? First name + birthday/year; family name + birthday/year; boy/girlfriend name + year; or a password with ascending number sequences.

One Log In Only So if you want my advice, choose a strong password but never use it for more than one log in. A high-end computer is able to attempt to guess passwords at a rate of 33 billion password guesses every second using this software — whitepixel. So using a ‘word’, regardless of how long it is, is not a good idea. Make your password more like a sentence using phrases, names from events combined with dates or times. For example: BenandErian2kids (caps, numbers, +8 characters). This is easy to remember but hard to guess. Perhaps use one of the many free online services here that can help you test the quality of your password. This one is from Microsoft — wQsSy. Or you can randomly generate a password tool from PCtools (Syma qualintec) — Jasper Waale is a computer and online specialist. You can contact him by emailing jasper.o.waale@

February 2013 Word | 13

the talk

SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT… LOCATION One of Saigon's top and longest running fine-dining restaurants, La Camargue, has relocated to the courtyard on Hai Ba Trung — reuniting with its previous neighbour, Vasco's. The address may be new but the warm atmosphere and ambience remain untouched, continuing its reign as one of the city's best French and Mediterranean restaurants. La Camargue still provides customers with classic Gallic fare served up with a contemporary twist, and an extensive wine collection. Chef's specials change weekly, allowing ample opportunity to enhance your gastronomic experience. La Camargue is now located at 74/7D (1st floor) Hai Ba Trung, Q1. Reservations are recommended. Call 0835 204888 or visit

VIETNAM’S FIRST HEADHUNTING PORTAL Vietnam’s largest online network of management professionals has signed a strategic partnership with the nation’s top ten headhunters to launch Anphabe Top Headhunt. The site, which attracts around 50,000 experts and leaders, has netted top recruitment companies such as Talent Net, L&A, Infinity HR and global players Manpower, Harvey Nash, RGF, Bole, Faro, Adecco and Robert Walters. For further information check out, or contact Pham Thi Thanh Hang at 0909 128834 or

NEW FOR SKIN AND DENTAL CARE IN Q7 EXM – Esthethic Mediplex has now opened with the goal of providing the most comprehensive esthetic medical and dental procedures in a single facility. Located in District 7 across from Thien Son Plaza and FV Hospital, the clinic offers anti-aging and cosmetic treatments ranging from Botox, fillers, laser hair removal to laser facial rejuvenation. This includes the use of five world-class lasers for treating a variety of skincare problems. The dental clinic provides full complete dental care including teeth whitening and dental implants. EXM is founded by the same people behind SIAN Skincare Laser and Westcoast International Dental Clinics. EXM – Esthetic Mediplex is at MD6, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7. Tel: 5410 0100,

MIUMIU GOES TWO Miumiu Spa, a well-known and premium brand spa in the Le Thanh Ton area, has opened a second outlet at 2B Chu Manh Trinh, Q1. The modern, Asianstyle architecture of Miumiu combined with subtle decorative furniture bring a harmonious, cozy and polite ambience. Like its sister spa, MiuMiu the second is the perfect place to melt away your tension in a tranquil atmosphere, while experiencing a friendly and professional spa service.

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FAMILY MEDICAL PRACTICE OPENS IN DISTRICT 2 The top-range medical advice and services available in FMP’s flagship at Diamond Plaza will now be closer to the bridge-and-tunnel crowd in Thao Dien with a new Monday to Saturday branch. This location has a fully-equipped ER, with an ambulance on standby and provided full support to the 24-hour centre in District 1. Services include pediatric, general practise and internal medicine, vaccination and travel advice, a laboratory, pharmacy, procedure room and ultrasound. Family Medical Practice’s District 2 clinic is at 95 Thao Dien, Q2. Call 0837 442000 for appointments

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The Buzz


A RUN IN PARADISE Registration is now open for the second annual Phu Quoc Half Marathon in Phu Quoc Island on May 4. The main 21km race plus the shorter 10km and 5km races are along some of the most beautiful stretches of beaches in Southeast Asia. Finish your trek inside the Long Beach Resort or with a refreshing, rewarding jump in the ocean. Participation fees start at US$28 (VND580,000) per person. Register at

On Feb. 26 at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel, Expat Property Planners director Nick Cartledge will explain the financial benefits and tax advantages available to Australians investing in property while enjoying the lifestyle of living overseas. In general, expats are comfortable with their new lifestyle, salary and the lower cost of living in Asia, yet are not keeping up with inflation and the price of property back home — almost all have ceased contributing to their superannuation the minute they board the plane. So, this is an opportunity to find how to take full advantage of living overseas. Says Nick Cartledge: “An Australian Expat investing in property while living abroad, will accumulate significant tax credits to use when they return home. If you don’t understand how to accumulate tax credits, or how to use tax credits, you really should attend this presentation.” Alcoholic beverages, soft drinks and finger food prepared by the Sofitel will be supplied. To reserve your place, or if you require further information, email Greg Shand at greg@expatpropertyplanners. Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel is at 17 Le Duan, Q1. The presentation starts at 6.30pm


CALL OF THE FOREST Wildlife At Risk (WAR) and Khan Quang Do magazine recently wrapped up a contest in which students designed computer game themes aimed at raising the awareness of endangered wildlife in Vietnam. Out of 400 submissions, 17 ideas have been slated for web-based development, to be featured on the websites of the contest-runners. First prize was awarded to 14-year-old Anh Nguyen Phuong for the game Hero of the Forest, which focused on identifying threats to wildlife and enacting protection. Learn more at and

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The only live cyclo race in the world returns for its 13th outing on Sunday Mar. 10 at The Crescent (Ho Ban Nguyet) in Phu My Hung. Offering a unique opportunity for team building, for demonstrating your corporate commitment to the community as well as having a truly enjoyable time getting together for a good cause, special additions to the 2013 edition include the very first Charity Grand Bazaar with 40 stall holders, and a Cyclo Décor Challenge Road Show to freshen up the event while preserving the day for family, children and community. As ever, entrance to watch the 10 teams in the event go for gold is free, and the proceeds from the race go to the organiser, Saigon Children’s Charity. For more information or to register a team, please email cyclo@

ONE PLANET Galerie Quynh is continuing its frequent exhibitions throughout February with One Planet, a showcase featuring the new work of Nguyen Manh Hung, one of Vietnam's most important young artists. The artist's first solo exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City, Nguyen Manh Hung is known for his paintings depicting military fighter jet aircraft. However, in this latest show of his works, he will present new sculptural installations. Drawing from his own personal history growing up in a cramped Soviet-style apartment block in Hanoi, Nguyen reflects on the idea of community, the conflicts that exist within and without constructed societies, and the complexities of civic development and individual responsibility. How is a community defined? Is the traditional idea of community just hollow rhetoric or an ideal that can evolve and adapt to modern day Vietnam? One Planet is supported by the Danish Embassy and will run until Feb. 28. Galerie Quynh is at 65 De Tham, Q1 and gallery opening hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10am to 6pm. For more information email info@

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IMPROVING EDUCATION THROUGH TECHNOLOGY Vietnam Tech, an initiative sponsored by Saigon South International School (SSIS) and the United Nations International School in Hanoi, is holding their first annual technology conference on Mar. 2 and Mar. 3 at SSIS in Ho Chi Minh City. The conference provides an opportunity for teachers and administrators to network, build capacity, and share effective practises to move technology forward in Vietnam's international schools. All schools are welcome to join. Attendance is US$60 (VND1,260,000). SSIS Campus is located at 78 Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7. To register contact Theresea Flaspohler at

Some people really do take themselves too seriously in this town.


If you can’t make fun of the Americans, then who exactly CAN you make fun of? The French?

Bojan Z, the Belgrade-born, Paris-acculturated jazz piano legend, is performing at IDECAF on Feb. 27. He’s played big festivals like the Montreal Jazz Festival and Copenhagen, incorporating subtle Balkan folkloric rhythms on a continental jazz sensibility. An ever-evolving musician, he’s been awarded the Prix Django Reinhardt for Musician of the Year from the French Academie du Jazz. Bojan Z plays IDECAF at 31 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Feb 27 at 8pm

So, I learned from this video that if a girl has the side of her head shaved, she likes to get rearended. — So she likes car crashes?? Boys and their ois. You know, Trent Reznor sniffed heroin! He’s lucky he’s still alive, but he’s super fat. I keep telling you, you need to sleep! Not sure who came up with the phrase imitation is the highest form of flattery. As far as I’m concerned it’s the highest form of idiocy. It’s not all beer and backpackers, you know. There are some decent people in this area. Apparently he said he was feeling smelly and just had to get home. All I was trying to do was say ‘hello’. They should never have left us alone in the office.

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NEW CRICKET SEASON For anyone interested in that most British of Indian, Australian, Kiwi, South African and Pakistani games, otherwise known as cricket, the new season in Vietnam has now kicked off. Sporting teams from a number of countries — including India, Sri Lanka, the UK and a mixed team, the United Cricket Club — this is a chance for enthusiasts to continue their love of the world’s second largest sport. New players and supporters are welcome to the games that take place at the RMIT Sports Ground, which has just installed a new pitch. For further information on the teams taking part, see our listings in Leisure and Wellness.

PATRICK DEVILLE AT IDECAF Find out the reason Ho Chi Minh City has streets named Yersin and Pasteur on Feb. 28, when IDECAF hosts Prix FNAC and Prix Féminawinning author Patrick Deville, lecturing on the heels of his recent revolution-laden novel Plague and Cholera. The fictional story of Yersin’s bubonic plague vaccinedeveloping work “is also a haunting rumination on the difficult birth of the 20th century” — changes that ran parallel to the development of Ho Chi Minh City. IDECAF is at 31 Thai Van Lung, Q1. The lecture is free, starting at 3pm on Feb. 28. The lecture will be conducted in French and Vietnamese

CANVAS AND WINE Vin Gallery continues its frequent art classes, served up with a dose of red wine, on Thursday, Feb. 21 from 6.30pm to 9pm. A fun, creative class for all, no matter your painting level, with a brush in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, this is the perfect way to get creative. And in the coming installment the theme will be the work of British painter David Hockney. Born in Bradford in 1937, after a successful career, in his latter years Hockney reinvented himself as a landscape painter. His landscapes are full of colour, spontaneity, creativity and energy. Using real landscapes as a reference, with the help of an instructor, participants will be taught how to use lively strokes, colour, line, and simple forms in order to get a finished painting. VinSpace is at 6 Le Van Mien, Q2. The cost per person is US$38 (VND800,000). To book email or call 0907 729846

February 2013 Word | 19

In the Papers the talk


VIS-A-VIS The forgotten industry, if you can call it that, tourism was whacked on the head again by the authorities with an increase of visa fees by almost 100 per cent last month. Tourists come to Vietnam not because of any incentives or attractions but out of intrigue. This may change if they feel they are being overcharged, with the one-time visa fee having been raised from US$25 to US$45. Fees for granting visas with validity of less than one month, less than six months and over six months are set at US$65, US$95 and US$135 respectively.


FROM FISH TO BIO-DIESEL Green pioneers Hiep Thanh Seafood Joint Stock Company, based in An Phu, District 2, are planning to produce diesel oil from tra fish. The company will use the scraps of fish such as heads, entrails, bones and fat to produce bio-diesel to fuel the power generators of the plant’s freezing and heating systems. The project has been made possible thanks to VTT Technical Research Center of Finland within the premises of the Enerfish program funded by the European Commission. According to VTT, catfish waste materials like fat account for 10 percent of a fish’s weight. If the volume of fish materials is over one million tonnes per year, the Mekong Delta will be able to produce over 100,000 tonnes of fish fat.

The Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang will be running sea tourism services to Cambodia’s Sihanoukville and Thailand's Trat and Chanthaburi provinces from later this year. When in place the new route is sure to attract international visitors, especially European travellers who want to see a bit more of Southeast Asia at a reasonable price, and much more quickly than by treacherous bus journey. Vietnam will also benefit from the route as many foreign visitors travelling to Thailand and Cambodia will head to Phu Quoc Island, an offshore part of Kien Giang, on the way.

“KARAOKE STREETS” IN EVERY DISTRICT In the interest of more effective management of ‘social evils’, local authorities are working on a five-year plan to reorganise karaoke parlours onto centralised ‘karaoke streets or areas’. Vu Trong Nam, deputy director of the city Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, revealed the move while talking with Tuoi Tre. According to the plan, which has widespread support, the creation of more karaoke-clustering streets like Su Van Hanh Street in District 10 will allow better control of prostitution and drug abuse, crimes that can arise from karaoke-related activities.

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the talk

VIETNAM ANNOUNCES A NEW OIL REFINERY Vietnam's second oil refinery, the US$9 billion Nghi Son plant, is expected to begin commercial production in 2017, PetroVietnam announced earlier this month. Construction is scheduled to start in the second quarter of this year, with an expected completion date in the fourth quarter of 2016. The 400-hectare plant will source crude oil from Kuwait, and will have a total capacity of 200,000 barrels a day and 10 million tonnes a year. It will be Vietnam’s second refinery after the Dung Quat Refinery in Quang Ngai Province, which started commercial operations in 2009. The plant will help meet some 40 percent of the domestic demand for fuel, while Dung Quat currently serves 30 percent — decreasing foreign fuel reliance to 30 percent countrywide.

BEAR RESCUE CENTRE RESCUED In a dispute between wildlife activists and land developers, the final resolution has come out in favour of the bears. Vietnam’s sole bear sanctuary, Tam Dao Bear Rescue Center, threatened by the possibility of eviction, is now being allowed to grow with its 104 Asiatic black bears rescued from Vietnamese farms and illegal wildlife trading. The Hong Kong-based animal welfare group Animals Asia set up the centre in 2005, when the agriculture ministry issued a directive on phasing out bear farming and the painful extraction of bear bile. The bile is used in traditional medicine, and sold for between US$3 (VND63,000) and US$6 (VND126,000) per milliliter. Around 3,500 bears are being farmed in Vietnam, concentrated mostly in the north. Vietnam, China and South Korea are the only three countries in the world to legalise bear farming.

A SOUTHERN FLOWERING Prices have increased again, but with Tet around the corner flowers are in sharp demand. Due to a number of factors — such as unfavourable weather, poor harvests and a bad market in 2012 — prices of chrysanthemums, orchids and yellow apricot trees have skyrocketed, up some 20 to 30 percent from 2012. Flower villages in the south, such as Sa Dec in Dong Thap province and Cai Mon in Ben Tre Province, have been taking advantage, transporting flowers to the north, where the desired blossoms are in short supply.

STARRY EYED The first-ever Starbucks store will soon open next to the New World Hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The world's biggest coffee chain has struck a franchise deal with Coffee Concept, a subsidiary of Hong Kong Maxim’s Group. Real estate giants Cushman & Wakefield will be in charge of seeking other suitable sites in HCMC to open more Starbucks stores.

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HAPPY HOUR. 5pm to 7pm from Mon to Fri. at Hog’s Breath

LADIES NIGHT. Free bottle for a group of 5 ladies. 9pm every Tue. at Lavish

VIETNAMESE BUFFET. Until Feb. 13 at Chit Chat, Hotel Equatorial

WINE PROMOTION. Every Monday at New York Steakhouse. Bring your own bottle with no corkage fee



HAPPY HOUR. 4pm to 6.30pm everyday @ Level 23 Wine Bar. Buy 1 get 1 free on classic cocktails and local beer

ROMANTIC ACOUSTIC NIGHT. 8.30pm every Mon. at La Habana

TET BUFFET IN STYLE. From Feb. 9 to 10 at Nineteen, Caravelle Hotel


LADIES NIGHT. 9pm every Tue. at Lush

LIVE ACOUSTIC NIGHT. 8.30pm every Tue. at La Habana

HAPPY HOUR. 5pm to 7pm every day at Pacharan

TET'S BUFFET. From Feb. 11 to 13 at Intercontinental Saigon

ROCK & MOVIE NIGHT. 5pm to 9pm every Mon. at Hard Rock Café

HAPPY HOUR. 4pm to 7pm from Mon. to Fri. at MM Bistro Saigon


WTF MONDAY. 7pm every Mon. at Sin Lounge

HAPPY HOUR. From 5pm to 10pm @ Oriental Garden. 20% discount on Chile Wine TAPAS FIESTA & WINE. through the night. 7.30pm every Mon. at La Habana


ONE PLANET EXHIBITION. Until Feb. 28 at Galerie Quynh


MUSIC QUIZ NIGHT @ La Fenetre Soleil every Tue.

COSMOPOLITAN PROMOTION.. Every Tuesday @ New York Steakhouse. One free cosmopolitan for every guest HAPPY HOUR. 50% off every day from 4pm to 7pm at The Deck


ROOTS. 9pm every Tue. at Blanchy’s Tash

BLIND TEST. 8.30pm every Tue. at La Fenetre Soleil FABULOUS NIGHT OUT FOR MEN. Buy 1 get 1 free. 9pm every Tue. at Level 23 Nightdpot

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ACOUSTIC LADY NIGHT. 8.30pm every Wed. at La Habana

MODELS AND BOTTLES. 9pm every Wed. at Sin Lounge MOVIES SCREENING. 8pm every Wed. at deciBel HAPPY HOUR. Everyday from 4pm to 7pm at BROTZEIT GERMAN BIER


HAPPY HOUR. 3pm to 6pm every day at BMV

STEAK & ALE NIGHT. for VND250,000+. Every Wed. at Hog’s Breath ITALIAN MOVIES @ Pendolasco, 7.15pm every other Wed. HAPPY HOUR. 50% off every day from 4pm to 7pm at The Deck


LIVE MUSIC WITH JURAM. 9pm every Wed. at Pacharan

PURE. 8pm every Wed. at Blanchy’s Tash COFFEE PROMOTION. Every Wednesday @ New York Steakhouse. One Free iced bourbon coffee or every guest


MARGARITA MADNESS @ Khoi Thom, 7pm every Wed.

FITNESS CLASSES @ The Boathouse, 8.30am every Mon., Wed. & Fri. Email for info SALSA DANCING. @ La Fenetre Soleil every Wed.



THIRSTY THURSDAY NIGHT PUB QUIZ. 8pm every Thu. at Ruby Soho

BEATS AND BOTTLES: DANCE TO DJ D-ROC'S TUNES. Every Thursday Night @ Martini Bar JAZZ NIGHT WITH MARIEDEL. 8.30pm every Thu. at La Fenetre Soleil


EARLY BIRDS’ HAPPY HOUR. 4pm to 7pm from Mon. to Sat. & 12pm to 8pm every Sun. at La Habana

SPICED UP LADIES NIGHT. 9pm every Thu. at Hard Rock Cafe SBA MEETING @ Swiss Chalet (54 Pasteur, Q1), every 2nd Thu. of the month.


LIVE ACOUSTIC. 8.30pm every Thu. at La Habana

DAILY HAPPY HOUR. From 4pm to 8pm every day at Saigon Saigon Bar, offering two-for-one deal SALSA CLASSES at 7.30pm and Jazz Night at 8.30pm. Every Thu. at La Habana


NEW 2 COURSE SET LUNCH. for VND185,000. From Mon. to Fri. at Hog’s Breath

JAZZ CONCERT WITH BOJAN Z. 8pm @ IDECAF. Call 38239968 for info

To have your event included in our calendar, please email by no later than Feb. 20 with a description of the event and a high-res photo



SAT DJ NIGHTS @ Xu, 10pm every Sat.

VIETNAMESE NIGHT BUFFET. 6pm to 10pm every Sat. in Feb. @ Saigon Cafe, Sheraton Hotel


02 DJ WALLY LOPEZ. 10pm @ Blanchy's Tash

MIDNIGHT XPRESS. 11pm every Sat. at Last Call


I AM HIP HOP @ Velvet, 9pm every Fri.

HAPPY HOUR. with house wine, beer and cocktail. 4pm to 7pm from Mon. to Fri. at Mekong Merchant KINKY FRIDAYS. 9pm every Fri at Blanchy’s Tash


VALENTINE'S DAY SPECIAL. at Brotzeit German Bier


HAPPY HOUR. 5pm to 7pm every day at Pacharan DAILY HAPPY HOUR. From 4pm to 8pm every day at Saigon Saigon Bar, offering two-for-one deal


VALENTINE'S SPECIAL. At Square One Park Hyatt. Buy 1 get 1 free off of a special concoction

HOUSE SPIRITS for VND20,000. 5pm to 7pm every Fri. at Phatty’s

CANVAS & WINE: PAINT LIKE DAVID HOCKNEY. 6.30pm at VinSpace (6 Le Van Mien, D2). Email info@vin-space. com for info PERONI FRIDAY’S @ Vino, 4pm to 7pm every Fri.


PECHAKUCHA NIGHT VOL.2. 6.30pm at VinGallery

LECTURE WITH FRENCH WRITER PATRICK DEVILLE. 3pm @IDECAF. Conference in French and Vietnamese SPACE/LIMIT EXHIBITION. From Feb. 28 to Apr. 25 at San Art



FESTIVE THEME DINNER. 6pm every Sat. in Dec. at Saigon Café

HOT AND COLD MINGLE. From Feb. 22 to 28 at Reflections, Caravelle Hotel OYSTER CELEBRATIONS. 5pm to 9pm daily in Feb. at Level 23 Wine Bar, Sheraton Saigon

SUNDAY PAELLAS & HAPPY HOUR. 12pm to 8pm every Sun. at La Habana

ENJOY FIREWORKS. @ Renaissance Riverside Hotel LUNAR NEW YEAR’S BUFFET DINNER. 6pm to 10pm @ Sheraton Saigon Hotel. Call 0838 272828 for reservation

16 SATURDAY ENDLESS PIZZA NIGHT. Every Sat. @ Park Hyatt Saigon. Call 0838 241234 for more info



SABADO NIGHT. 9pm every Sat. at La Habana

FREE SAUSAGE SIZZLE. Every Sun. at Hog’s Breath

BREAKFAST EVERYDAY & WEEKEND BRUNCH with new menu. 8am at Hog’s Breath MEATY MORNING BRUNCHES. Every Sun. at Restaurant Nineteen, Caravelle Hotel


RELAX ACOUSTIC. 8.30pm every Sun. at La Habana

SUNDAY DINNER BUFFET. 6.30pm every Sun. at Li Bai Restaurant, Sheraton CHAMPAGNE SUNDAY BRUNCH. 11.30am every Sun. at Saigon Café, Sheraton LE BRUNCH BY CHEF SAKAL. Every Sun. from 11.30am to 3pm @ Sofitel Saigon Plaza. Call 0838 241555 for more info



A GUY WALKS INTO A BAR... Brendhan Lovegrove and Jeff Innocent headlined the latest Saigon Comedy Night at Hard Rock PHOTOS BY NICK ROSS

WORD TURNS 5 The Word celebrated five years of back issues with a performance of 1980s classic “Word Up!” and some freeflowing drinks at Alto


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MUSIC*LOVE*DANCE Russian Bar continues its spiritual renaissance with this latest incarnation of Music*Love*Dance, this time at Heaven Bar


TOP OF THE WORLD New Year’s Eve at Alto, on the 52nd floor of the Bitexco tower



STREET FOOD SAIGON The An Vat Saigon book launch gets a boost from comedian Thanh Bach



The Madagui Trophy


Set in the heart of Cat Tien National Park, this year’s jungle-style triathlon is expected to be the biggest and best yet.

or contestants in the Ultra category, it’s a grueling, 11-hour schedule. After a 2am start, each duo — organisers insist all entrants compete in twos — will run around 20km through the jungle in pitch black before taking on a 40km cycle ride. They then finish off the race with a 2km walk or float down the river. It’s a challenge that as race organiser Jean-Luc Voisin is quick to point out, is only for professionals. But it’s also a challenge that has made the Madagui Trophy unique among triathlon and marathon-style events in Vietnam. Now in its sixth year, the Madagui Trophy has grown from an event attracting participants based in Southern Vietnam to a national competition that appeals to teams from the whole of the country. It also has entrants from as far afield as Europe, Australia and Hong Kong. The contest is run for a good cause, too — all proceeds go to a sustainable development project run in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to protect the rainforest. The community project is focused on Ta Lai Village, close to Cat Tien National Park. The home of the S’Tieng and Ma minorities, the project partners have worked with the local minorities to plant economically viable cocoa plantations in reforested land. These will soon be certified organic.

Not Just for Pros Yet while professionals may enter the Ultra

race, there are two other categories for those who quite simply want a challenge. The Extreme category is an eight-hour event starting at 5am while the Adventure race starts at 7am. For the first time, this year there is also a kids’ race. Regardless of the category, all contestants need to have completed their challenge by 1pm when the organisers hold the closing ceremony. “At the beginning it was only expats taking part,” says Jean-Luc. “Every year, more and more Vietnamese people are entering — their approach to leisure is changing. Many Vietnamese people are looking for peaceful places, they have a new appreciation of mother nature.” This is represented by the growing number of participants — a 10 to 20 percent increase year in, year out. In 2012, 250 people took part. This year Jean-Luc expects it to rise to 300. He adds: “What is attracting people is the image of the jungle in Vietnam.” An additional challenge is the good cause aspect, and “how to protect what remains of the jungle.” The Madagui Trophy will take place from Mar. 9 to Mar. 10. For security reasons, contestants need to register and complete the challenge in pairs. Registration can be done online at and is free of charge. Contestants pay for accommodation, transfer from Ho Chi Minh City and, if necessary, equipment rental.



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Crossing Boundaries One of Vietnam’s most talented and bestknown musicians, rap artist Suboi is attempting the unthinkable — to try and make it overseas. Words by Nick Ross. Photo by Aaron Joel Santos


hen the idea of doing an article on Suboi was first breached in the Word office, it was met with a chorus of groans. Not because of any dislike of Vietnam’s ‘Queen of Hip-hop’. But because the 23-year-old has had so much press recently and been the focus of so many product endorsements, that this would do no more than cover already well-covered ground. Yet when the angle was explained, the response changed. Born Hang Lam Trang Anh, the rap artist will be heading to Japan later this year to collaborate on a track with a well-known Japanese musician. Part of the celebrations to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Vietnam, according to Suboi’s manager this will potentially be followed up by a substantial recording contract. There are no specific details as of yet, but if this happens then Suboi could become the first Vietnamese artist to make it overseas. This would be a huge step not just for herself, but for the Vietnamese music industry as a whole. Dwarfed by the entertainment output of the likes of Korea and Japan, except among Viet Kieu communities, on

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the world stage V-Pop or indeed anything coming from Vietnam is non-existent. Making it overseas is tough for any artist, no matter their origin. Take the current K-Pop revolution that is presently storming into the charts in USA and Western Europe. Its roots are in the output of the early 1990s and in the creation of talent management agencies such as SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and DSP Entertainment. But it took time for the success firstly of BoA and of Rain a decade later for South Korean pop music to make its way along the Pacific Rim and into the Middle East and Eastern Europe. In 2011 and 2012 it went global. From a personal point of view, Suboi is crystal clear that rising to such heights will be no easy task, particularly on the language front. “All I know is I have to make new music over there,” she says. “Maybe I will need to rap in Japanese, but I will need to have someone to help me write it. It will take time for me to understand everything.” It will also be a step into the unknown. “I have no idea what [Japan] will be like,” she adds. “I’ve never been there. Japanese

people don’t speak great English. So that is a big challenge. And I want to see how Japanese producers work. But really I’m just looking forward to the music.”

Rebel with a Cause A rebellious teenager come good who “got involved with some bad people”, the language studies graduate started rapping at 15, and first went on stage at 17 when she performed with the local nu-metal band, Winfield. But entering the last year of high school she dropped out of the band to focus on her studies. It worked. The former tearaway made it to university. Under the auspices first of Music Faces and more recently under the management of Joshua Turner her career began to take off. And in the last 18 months she’s gone from a raw talent emerging from the country’s underground hip-hop scene to being a magazine cover girl and a well-known face appearing on advertising hoardings the length and breadth of Vietnam. The product endorsement contracts include Kotex, YoMost, Adidas and Samsung — she’s even had a YoMost peach-flavoured yoghurt drink named after her. Yet it’s a transformation that while welcome, is also frustrating. “If I’m on a front cover I always have to look girly, smile and be happy,” she explains. “I have a lot of tattoos, but they never get on paper.” We search out a front cover online so she can prove her point. “God I hate it!” says Suboi, pointing at her smiling image. “It’s so cheesy. Look at it! They Photoshopped everything. They don’t want to see your real skin. [Blemishes] are natural. That is why I was so unhappy when I saw this cover. If you Google my name, it’s all advertising shit and teen magazine shit. I don’t look like that any more.”

“[In Vietnam] I can’t say everything I like,” she explains. “I’m not going to swear and say ‘f**! you motherf****r!’ And it’s really hard for me if I want to talk about hustling or money or all sorts of other problems. [People here] just want to hear nice things. So, I have to do it so that people can read between the lines. This is rap, you know. So how can I not swear in my songs? So, this is the first big thing for me working outside of the country — I can say what I want to say.” She is also in search of new ideas. “I need to be around people to think outside the box,” she says. “Meeting different people is going to be good for me. I just want to get to know people.” Yet making it overseas, no matter how talented you are, requires work and Suboi already knows she will have to improve her language skills. Having studied Japanese and English at university, while her English is near-fluent — she raps in both English and Vietnamese — she admits that her Japanese is poor. So she’s now studying the language again at home from scratch. It’s a good start. She’s also listening to Japanese rap as well. “Music is how I talk,” she says. “What I write in there, the beat. Here they don’t let me say what I want to say. That’s why I want to go away.” Whether the reason is personal or genuinely focused on trying to bring Vietnamese music to a larger stage, there is an opportunity here. But it’s going to require a lot of mileage for V-Pop, or in this case V-Rap, to make it on the international stage.

“I need to be around people to think outside the box. Meeting different people is going to be good for me”

It’s a Rap It is such frustrations that make her pending trip to Japan so important to her. Another is the music.

The Music Suboi has now released two albums: Walk and Run. According to her manager, Joshua Turner, her best tracks are the title songs on both albums, Rainbow and Girls’ Night, a collaboration with Ho Ngoc Ha. To listen to her music, do a search on YouTube or Zing.

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The Pen Man A stockist of some of the most expensive and sought after pens in the world, Ralf Zepter is at the forefront of the top-end writing instrument industry in Saigon. Words by Derek Milroy. Photos by Mads Monsen 30 | Word February 2013


alf Zepter knows his Montegrappas from his Modiglianis. Before he even stepped foot in Vietnam a decade ago, the pen anorak was already a keen collector and now has some prized possessions which over the last few years have appreciated in value by 500 percent. He is understandably coy about which models he has hidden under the floorboards. He is the pen man. Like so many western men, the Swiss national arrived in Vietnam and immediately fell in love with a woman, and Vietnam too. But after flirting with other business ventures, like other entrepreneurs he went back to what he knows. And this man knows his stuff. “I had a life-changing moment,” recalls Ralf. “I was walking around Saigon looking for a nice gift for a friend. I couldn’t find anything suitable and ended up buying something from Europe. I decided there and then to set up my own pen business.”

perfect Tet present for businesses looking to give something a little different from the usual bottle of alcohol. But the key to his success is that the best pens are made in Europe — with Germany and Italy the big players. There are some beautiful designs but it is the celebrity items that really catch the untrained eye — among his collection are Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee pens. Both sets are rare and may well be worth a small fortune in years to come, but they are not cheap. As the old adage goes, you need to speculate to accumulate. “The celebrity pens are very popular worldwide but I think it is taking Vietnamese people a while to come around to the fact that an expensive pen will soon be the must-have in Saigon,” says Ralf. “Once a few people come around, then the market will go into a frenzy. However, people need not be scared off because I have a lot of expensive pens. 80 percent of [my products] are priced under one hundred dollars.”

Wordsmiths and Stars

The Rambo Factor

There is nothing Zepter doesn’t know about the latest models. Besides cigars, his small city store Humidor stocks everything from German Lamy pens, which are his cheapest items, to celebrity endorsed and collectors’ items from a huge range of Montegrappas, St Moritz, Alfa Romeo, Patek Philippe and Tibaldi products. They are the crème de la crème with prices to match. He also has gift sets that could be the

The moment Sylvester Stallone referred to his skulled designer pen in the blockbuster movie Expendables 2, Zepter had a wry smile. Halfway through the hit movie Dolph Lundgren’s character asks if anyone has a pen. Stallone then hands him a Montegrappa. For the uninitiated, Expendables 2 was the follow-up to the successful first movie with both films’ line-ups reading like a who’s who of action stars of the past

three decades. Stallone of course, Jason Statham, Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Jet Li, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, a very healthy-looking Chuck Norris and even a beefed-up Mickey Rourke. Zepter has in stock two limited edition versions of Stallone’s handiwork. Stallone himself actually helped design the Montegrappa pen, titled Chaos, which featured in the movie he also wrote. Ralf stocks the less expensive model which retails at a mere VND160 million. The most expensive version in the Chaos series is a gold fountain pen that can also be purchased from Ralf for only VND10.5 billion. In case you’re grumbling about the price, it comes with a gold and precious stone inkwell. “I was very excited about the Expendables movie,” Ralf smiles. “I have two of these pens in my shop. Sylvester Stallone is very involved in the Montegrappa business. I am not surprised he wrote the pens into the script for that scene. He loves [them].” Ralf is hoping the Saigonese obsession with face will see them proudly sport the latest Montegrappa or Lamy pen in their top pockets as they go to business meetings or social gatherings. Me? I think I’ll stick to cheap models. Although after meeting Ralf I might go a bit more upmarket than the biro. Humidor is on the ground floor of Sunwah Tower, 115 Nguyen Hue, Q1

“Among his collection are Muhammad Ali and Bruce Lee pens. Both sets are rare and may well be worth a small fortune in years to come, but they are not cheap. As the old adage goes, you need to speculate to accumulate”

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STEP 2: It’s the journey, not the destination


This perfect date you’ve set up is not a track meet (well, maybe it will turn into one, but that part is up to you)! It’s a slow saunter in and out of conversations, between the auras of your bodies, glancing off one another, coming close, trying for better timing on the next stride. If you have a chance to walk through a park, do so. Maybe you can watch the kids and their funky parkour moves. Maybe you’ll stumble through a nighttime tango class. Maybe there will just be a nice park bench, ideally situated on a waypoint on your stroll, with the paint peeling just right…


R O M A ♥ N C E

Tour Valentine’s is here. So we sent out lovebirds(?) Amy Sands and Brett Newski to check out the softer side of the city. Words Ed Weinberg, photos Kyle Phanroy


t’s 7pm on a Thursday, one of those aimless hot climate nights not near enough to any holiday to be deemed special. And you’re set not to go out with someone you’ve been pinning excess hope on — just someone who you like a bit, who asked you out at a mutual friend’s party, who looks good in a dress/ collared shirt. So you decide to put some effort into it, to floss, to take that extra VND500,000 out of the bank machine. Who knows, it might be a fun night.

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STEP 1: Get some food into you While this is a highly controversial firstdate move, it’s not a bad one. Yes, there is going to be a table between you and your paramour, and there will be a bill presented at the end, but once you settle on a followup plan to dinner and go to a place within your price range, a nutritious start to your date will help set you up for the long run. Amy and Brett picked the classy, funky French-influenced café deciBel (79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh, Q1) and headed to the lounge upstairs to canoodle a bit. This place hits a few boxes on the Hip Dater’s checklist — it has edgy/aesthetically-pleasing décor, a few dark corners for canoodling, and better music than you could probably program on your iPod… yet you can still take some credit for it.

“You’ve shown him/her a good time. You’ve flirted a bit. Now it’s time to push those chips to the middle of the table, dust off that winking eye, and go for broke” STEP 4: Follow a clever rhythm This is the point when a lot of you start straining, so listen carefully. This is not the point to be forcing anything, even if you feel like it’s the time to kiss or to confess deep feelings, to show your date that ultra-hip secret spot you’ve been holding in reserve. What it is time for is to go back to what’s been working. Maybe you’re the jokey sort, and you’ve been keeping the mood light and humourous throughout. If so, keep the atmosphere conversational, and cut out that weird dance-y detour you’d been planning. On the other hand, maybe you’re more of the adrenaline-junky sort, and you need a loud beat to get the pulse up. In that case, pursue your dance-y detour — your wild, funny faces won’t look proper in any other context. Our young lovers decided to keep with the easy flow of the night and pursue another open air spot, in the form of the surreal rooftop oasis at Broma (41 Nguyen Hue, Q1). The lights shimmer down, but it’s strangely calm. Amy and Brett embrace the easy vibe, and talk about their families, childhoods, hopes and dreams.

STEP 5: The move

STEP 3: Seek heat It’s hot enough, sure, but seeking the additional heat of like-minded others is never a bad idea. For a hint of the love that is always in the air, try the waterfront near Cau Mong, overlooking District 4. You can blend in with the night-time couples occupying a bit of waterside real estate and wishing they were far away, cradled in the arms of a surelyadoring destiny. There are even some drink-hawkers nearby to catch you up on cheap, ‘atmospheric’ drinks.

Ok, while still not forcing anything, this is the point you might want to get a bit more ambitious. You’ve shown him/her a good time. You’ve flirted a bit. Now it’s time to push those chips to the middle of the table, dust off that winking eye, and go for broke. Maybe it’s asking a date for next week/the next day. Maybe it’s saying something sweet and understated. Maybe it’s in the giving of a little present you’ve kept tucked away, a thoughtful little nothing to remember you by. Maybe it’s a kiss. Brett asked Amy to his house to see his rad rooftop swimming pool. He did not make the ill-advised joke that they could go skinny-dipping. They sat with their legs immersed, carrying on the easy vibe of earlier. It was a sweet end to a sweet date.

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A Short

History of

Saigon Like most metropolises, Ho Chi Minh City is littered with the good, the bad and the ugly. But it’s only when you explore the city’s more exceptional buildings, both present and past, that you really understand what makes this city tick. It’s not just bricks and mortar you’re seeing here, but the history of a 300-year-old city.

From the pagodas, museums and European architecture of the city’s recent past to the growing number of skyscrapers looking a little lost among the predominately small-sized buildings, despite the aims of modern architecture Saigon is still determined to keep its charm of old. So with the help of historian Tim Doling we take a step back in time and look at 50 buildings — 50 sites accessible to the general public that chart the development of Saigon into the conurbation it is today. Through this we can see that despite the rapid changes of the past decade, this is a city still hanging onto its soul. Photos by Charles Barnes, Alexandre Garel, SMM, Nick Ross and Francis Xavier

THE BIRTH OF CHO LON Minh Huong Gia Thanh, 380 Tran Hung Dao B, Q5



he 1683 arrival in Danang of hordes of asylum-seeking Chinese supporters of the deposed Ming dynasty could hardly have pleased the Nguyen lords. However, they turned the situation to their advantage by encouraging the refugees to head south to colonise new territories in Gia Dinh on their behalf. One group settled west of Prey Nokor where they established the Minh Huong commune, today’s Cho Lon.

Skilled traders, they immediately became involved in shipping and rice trading, markets they would dominate for centuries. Built between 1789 and 1797, the Minh Huong Gia Thanh is their oldest surviving communal house. In addition to honouring the Minh Huong village deities it contains shrines to the famous Nguyen dynasty military commanders who protected them and to Minh Huong scholars Trinh Hoai Duc and Ngo Nhan Tinh.

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MAN OF HONOUR Vo Tanh Mausoleum, Alley 19, Ho Van Hue, Phu Nhuan



MORNING ZEN Giac Vien Pagoda, 161/35/20 Lac Long Quan, Q11


NAVAL HERO Vo Di Nguy Mausoleum, 19 Co Giang, Phu Nhuan


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SCHOLARS AND REBELS Chi Hoa Communal House, 475/77 Cach Mang Thang 8, Q10


ife was hard for the citizens of Gia Dinh during the long war (1774 to 1802) between Nguyen Phuc Anh and the Tay Son brothers. However, dedicated mandarin-scholars like Vo Truong Toan were determined to continue teaching their students. Finding a secluded communal house in Chi Hoa, Toan trained many future southern luminaries here, including Trinh Hoai Duc (1765 to 1825), Ngo Nhan Tinh (1761 to 1813) and Le Quang Dinh (1759 to 1813), later known for their considerable literary output as the Gia Dinh Tam Gia (The Gia Dinh Three). In addition to its connection with Vo Truong Toan, this ancient building was used as a covert military training centre by rebel Phan Xich Long between 1915 and 1917 and again by antiFrench Young Pioneers after the August Revolution of 1945.


ietnamese history is replete with stories of heroic naval encounters. In his Voyage to Cochin China (1824), British mariner John White commented of the Viet kingdom that “perhaps, of all the powers in Asia, is the best adapted to maritime adventure, the Annamese rivalling even the Chinese as sailors.” Yet one of Vietnam’s greatest naval commanders is now all but forgotten. After recapturing Gia Dinh from the Tay Son brothers in 1788, Lord Nguyen Phuc Anh set up the Chu Su (Ba Son) naval workshop and placed it under the control of Vo Di Nguy (1745 to 1801). After presiding over the construction of a powerful new fleet of modern warships, Nguy became one of Nguyen Phuc Anh’s greatest admirals, but like his British contemporary Horatio Nelson, his most famous naval battle — the 1801 victory over the Tay Son fleet in the Thi Nai Estuary — was also his last. He was killed by cannon fire on Feb. 27, 1801. His mausoleum in Phu Nhuan is one of the city’s faded architectural gems.




he early Minh Huong settlers also built pagodas and one of the best surviving examples is Giac Vien Pagoda, a Linji Zen Buddhist sanctuary which began life in 1789 as a wood store during the restoration of its more famous neighbour, Giac Lam Pagoda. In the mornings it’s still one of the city’s most peaceful spots, though sadly after lunch the peace is shattered by the loudspeakers of the adjacent Dam Sen Water Park.



nown in the neighbourhood as the clubhouse of the local martial arts club, no one seems to know who’s buried here. Once celebrated as one of the “Three Gia Dinh Heroes,” Vo Tanh was another of Lord Nguyen Phuc Anh’s leading military commanders during the late 18th Century Tay Son war, who found himself besieged for 14 months at Binh Dinh Citadel. With the garrison facing starvation, one of his deputies suggested that it might be a good idea to surrender or escape. “We have our orders and we’ve sworn to live or die together here,” Tanh replied defiantly. “If we abandon the citadel and flee like cowards, how can we ever face the Lord Nguyen again?” After securing the safe release of his soldiers, he packed straw, firewood and gunpowder beneath a wooden platform, strapped himself on top and ignited it, committing honourable suicide. It’s said that his body was so badly burned that a wax effigy had to be commissioned for his funeral.



ANGKORIAN OUTPOST Chantarangsey Pagoda, 164/235 Tran Quoc Thao, Q3


he demise of Funan was followed by nearly a thousand years of Khmer rule. Being far removed from the centre of Khmer political power, the Delta remained relatively under-populated and unexploited — apart from ports like Prey Nokor, forerunner of Ho Chi Minh City. Today, ethnic Khmer people are still a sizeable minority in the city and their religious and cultural life is focused on the Chantarangsey (‘Moonlight’) Pagoda. Built on the banks of the Thi Nghe Canal between 1949 and 1953 by the Venerable Lam Em of Soc Trang, it is dedicated to the Shakyamuni Buddha. The walls of its ornate three-prang main sanctuary and adjacent sala are covered with brightly-coloured imagery depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life.


THE GREAT EUNUCH Le Van Duyet Mausoleum, 1 Vu Tung, Binh Thanh



ould this be the man who laid the foundations for the city’s development into today’s economic powerhouse? Known to posterity as the ‘Great Eunuch’ — though he’s said to have been a hermaphrodite — Marshal Le Van Duyet (1763 to 1832) was Nguyen Phuc Anh’s most senior commander during the Tay Son war. After his master took the throne as King Gia Long, Duyet became Viceroy of Gia Dinh, governing not only southern Vietnam but also Cambodia. Tolerant towards Christianity and open to dealings with the west, Duyet offered generous tax concessions to Chinese merchants and is widely credited for bringing prosperity to the south. However, he was distrusted by Gia Long’s successor Minh Mang, who tried him posthumously for corruption and then demolished his tomb in 1835 after a failed revolt by his supporters. Revered throughout the south, Duyet was eventually rehabilitated by the court and in 1937 his mausoleum was rebuilt by the École Française d'Extrême-Orient.

Former Caserne de l’infanterie, Ton Duc Thang / Dinh Tien Hoang intersection, Q1


his city has been home to two ancient citadels. Sadly there are now no traces of either, but surviving colonial buildings can help us pinpoint the location of the second one. In 1835, to discourage further dissent from followers of the late Marshal Le Van Duyet, King Minh Mang destroyed the 1790 Gia Dinh Citadel which Duyet had used as his headquarters. Then in 1837 he built the smaller ‘Phoenix Citadel’ in the area bordered by modern Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Nguyen Du, Mac Dinh Chi and Nguyen Binh Khiem streets. In 1859 the French razed it to the ground and in 1870 to 1873 they built in its place the main colonial infantry barracks for their new colonial capital of Saigon. The barracks survived until 1964, when Dinh Tien Hoang Street was driven through the site. If you look closely at old sepia postcards of the barracks, you’ll recognise the buildings either side of the main gate as those which now frame the entrance to Dinh Tien Hoang. ALEXANDRE GAREL




FUNANESE FORBEARS Vietnam History Museum, 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1


f you think the Vietnam History Museum has no exhibits on the history of the south, chances are you’ve never got as far as Room 7. Between the 1st and 7th centuries, the Mekong Delta formed part of the proto-Khmer kingdom of Funan and Room 7 in the museum’s 1970 extension block is packed with Funanese artefacts, many of them unearthed from the ruins of the ancient port of Oc Eo in modernday An Giang Province. Pride of place is given to a priceless collection of wooden Buddha images from Long An and Dong Thap provinces, believed to be the oldest surviving wooden statues in Southeast Asia.



DIOCESAN DWELLING Tan Xa Palace, 180 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3

ot quite a palace, but reputedly the oldest private residence in the city despite being dismantled and reassembled twice in different locations. Now hidden away in a corner next to the Archbishop’s Residence, it’s usually identified as the house which Lord Nguyen Phuc Anh (later King Gia Long) commissioned in 1790 for his French ally Bishop Pierre Pigneau de Béhaine, in gratitude for the prelate’s

assistance in the war against the Tay Son. However, one historian has suggested that it might instead be the “large and beautiful house abandoned by an Annamite mandarin” on Rue Lefèbvre (now Nguyen Cong Tru in District 1), which was seized by the French in 1860 and given to Monsignor Dominique Lefèbvre to use as his first bishop’s residence from 1861 to 1870. The jury’s still out on that one.

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THE BIRTH OF SAIGON HOLY ORDER St Joseph’s Seminary, 6 Ton Duc Thang, Q1


DRAGON HOUSE Nha Rong — Ho Chi Minh Museum, 1 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4



BIG CHURCH Notre Dame Cathedral, 1 Paris Commune Square, Q1


uilt to a design by Georges l’Hermitte to replace the earlier wooden cathedral on Boulevard Charner (Nguyen Hue), Notre Dame was inaugurated on Apr. 11 1880 in the presence of Cochinchina Governor Charles Le Myre de Vilers and Bishop Isidore Colombert.

or most people, the mention of French colonial architecture conjures up images of grand neo-classical edifices designed to reflect the glories of the empire. Yet many of the earliest French public buildings in Saigon were surprisingly modest structures with designs strongly influenced by Vietnamese ethnic architecture. Built in 1862 to 1863 as the headquarters of the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes, the Dragon House is a fine example of this early colonial style. Resembling a stilted house, it has a traditional roof decorated with dragons, the central pair gazing towards the moon in the luong long chau nguyet style found widely on Vietnamese pagodas and temples. Today it functions as the Ho Chi Minh Museum, referencing the fact that it was from this very spot that the young Ho Chi Minh set off for Europe in June 1911.



hose seeking a haven of tranquility in the heart of the city need look no further than the leafy grounds of St Joseph’s Seminary, one of the oldest Roman Catholic institutions in the country. Having used the persecution of missionaries as one of the main pretexts for their conquest of 1859, the French entrusted Bishop Dominique Lefèbvre of the Société des Missions Étrangères de Paris with the task of setting up the religious infrastructure for their new colony. One of his first major projects, St Joseph’s was opened in 1866 and expanded in the early 1890s to incorporate both a grand and petit séminaire. By arrangement, visitors can tour the original seminary building with its museum of religious artefacts, a Gothic Chapel and the ornate mausoleum of its first director, Monsignor Théodore Louis Wibaux.




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PUBLISHING POWERHOUSE Tan Dinh Church, 289 Hai Ba Trung, Q3

he outrageous pink décor of Tan Dinh Church belies its historical importance. The first church was inaugurated in 1876 by Father Donatien Eveillard, who also established a religious publishing house here and invited the Sisters of Saint-Paul de Chartres to set up a school to train disadvantaged children for the publishing trade. Under its first director Jean-FrançoisMarie Génibrel (1851 to 1914), the Imprimerie Tan-Dinh turned out a remarkable series of scholarly works, including the Vocabulaire

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Français-Annamite (1898), the Vocabulaire Annamite-Français (1906) and the groundbreaking Dictionnaire Annamite-Français (1898), which took Génibrel 14 years of painstaking research. Génibrel was working on a Dictionnaire Français-Annamite when he died. The present church dates from 1896, when the original sanctuary was rebuilt in Romanesque style. The bell tower, the rear vestry and the sumptuous Italian marble high altar were added between 1928 and 1929.



FUELLING ADDICTION Former Manufacture d'Opium gateway, 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1



n 1860, seeing an opportunity to profit from growing levels of opioid dependency, the French began importing Indian opium resin, processing it into smokable chandoo and selling it to consumers through a network of licensed opium dens. At first the processing was entrusted to private refineries, but the opening of the Manufacture d’Opium de Saigon in 1881 brought the process under government control. Governor General Paul Doumer (1897 to 1902) sourced cheaper opium in Yunnan and improved efficiency by combining the five existing Indochina opium agencies into a single opium monopoly. Business boomed and in 1905 Saigon’s Manufacture d’Opium was expanded to occupy the entire block. To encourage greater levels of consumption, it even developed a new fastburning variety of chandoo. Today only the gateway remains as a monument to one of the more shameful aspects of colonial exploitation.

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KEEPING IN TOUCH Ho Chi Minh City Post Office, 2 Paris Commune Square, Q1


SCHOLAR PAR EXCELLENCE Pétrus Ky Mausoleum and Memorial House, 520 Tran Hung Dao, Q5

till a somewhat controversial figure due to his close ties with the colonial authorities, Pétrus Truong Vinh Ky (1837 to 1898) was a man of remarkable intellect, cited by Encyclopédie Larousse as one of 18 world-famous writers of the 19th century. Fluent in at least 10 different languages, he left more than 100 works of literature, history and geography, as well as dictionaries and translated works. In 1928, to commemorate his 30th death anniversary, the Société d'Enseignement Mutuel de la

Cochinchine built a classical-style mausoleum over his grave, next to his family home in Cho Quan village. Later the same year, a city street, a school and a tramway station were named in his honour. Unfortunately Ky’s original house didn’t survive, so in 1937, to celebrate the centenary of his birth, a replica was built to serve as his memorial house. Now home to Ky’s descendants, it incorporates a small exhibition on his life and work.

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esigned by architects Alfred Foulhoux and Henri Vildieu, the Hôtel des Postes was constructed between 1886 and 1891 on the site of the original headquarters of the Commandant des troupes.







anned from an everincreasing number of city streets, the cyclo seems to become an endangered species. But spare a moment to appreciate this muchmaligned form of transport, which was invented in 1937 by Phnom-Penh-based French industrialist Pierre Coupeaud. Having succeeded in cornering the market in the Cambodian capital, Coupeaud turned his attention to Saigon and Cho Lon, where public transport was still monopolised by the pousse-pousse (rickshaw) and a covered horse-drawn cart known as the boite d'allumettes (the matchbox). In 1939, to demonstrate the effectiveness of his invention to the city authorities, he staged a cyclopousse relay race from Phnom Penh to Saigon. As a result, the first 20 cyclos were licenced for use in and around Cho Lon’s Binh Tay Market and the rest, as they say, is history.

19 GATEWAY TO NOWHERE Dinh Tien Hoang / Phan Dang Luu intersection, Binh Thanh


here else but Ho Chi Minh City could you find a door which leads nowhere? Now part of the outer wall of Truong Cong Dinh High School, the ancient gateway inscribed with the words “Gia Dinh” is known locally as the Gia Dinh Citadel Gate (Cong Thanh Gia Dinh), but since neither of Gia Dinh’s two citadels were situated in this part of town, it was certainly never part of their walls. It’s been suggested that it may once have been the entrance to a French guard post on the main road opposite the former Inspection de Gia-Dinh. Though how it ended up as part of a school wall is a complete mystery.

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Phuoc Kien Temple, 5A Hoang Minh Giam, Phu Nhuan

idden away amid the urban sprawl close to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, this forgotten architectural treasure was built in the early 20th century next to an old Chinese cemetery. Originally used to hold funeral ceremonies for deceased members of Cho Lon’s Fujianese community, it contains





ancestral tablets honouring the mysterious Fujianese deity Ong Bon, the god of filial piety Quang Trach and the celestial general Thai Tue. Since the cemetery was cleared in the 1970s, part of the temple compound has been used as a residence — ask permission before entering.

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YOU NAME IT, THEY PROBABLY BUILT IT Former Brossard et Mopin Headquarters, 48 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1

ith a head office in Paris and branches in Saigon, Phnom Penh, Singapore and Tianjin, the Société d'Exploitation des Établissements Brossard et Mopin was in its day one of Asia’s most successful engineering and construction companies. Awarded many major railway and port infrastructure projects in Indochina, its works in Saigon included the Halles Centrales (Ben Thanh Market, 1914), the Treasury (1925) and the Bank of Indochina (1928), as well as many apartment buildings. The dilapidated colonial mansion that once housed its Saigon branch office at 48 Rue Richaud (now Nguyen Dinh Chieu) in Da Kao currently provides office space for several agencies of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.


WEDDING CAKE People’s Committee Building, 86 Le Thanh Ton, Q1


victim of the rampant political infighting which paralysed the Saigon Municipal Council during the first half-century of colonial rule, the ostentatious Hôtel de Ville building was first conceived in 1872 but not completed until 1909.




STAGE RIGHT Ho Chi Minh City Municipal Theatre, 7 Lam Son Square, Q1

elatively few people know that before leaving the country in 1911, Nguyen Tat Thanh (Ho Chi Minh) lived in Cho Lon for nine months, travelling back and forwards to Saigon to study at the École des Mécaniciens Asiatiques (now the Cao Thang Technical College) and supporting himself by selling newspapers in the Saigon port area. The future president’s home during this period was a small upstairs room in the Cho Lon offices of the Société de Lien-Thanh, a fish sauce company founded in 1906 by a group of patriotic Phan Thiet businessmen. One of the company’s three former houses at 1-3 Quai Testard — now 5 Chau Van Liem — is a small exhibition centre which introduces the Société de LienThanh and Nguyen Tat Thanh’s life in Saigon-Cho Lon in 1910 to 1911.

uilt to replace an earlier playhouse located on the site of today’s Caravelle Hotel, the Théâtre de Saïgon was inaugurated on Jan. 15, 1900 in the presence of Prince Waldemar of Denmark and Saigon mayor Paul Blanchy.

MARKET LEADER Ben Thanh Market, Quach Thi Trang Square, Q1

he third city market in colonial Saigon, this famous landmark was opened amid great festivities in March 1914 as the Halles Centrales.

Huyen Sy Church, 1 Ton That Tung, Q1

n ornate Gothic edifice built between 1902 and 1905 through the beneficence of wealthy businessman Huyen Sy (1841 to 1900), who was laid to rest with his wife in an elaborately carved mausoleum behind the main altar.


or those condemned to a daily commute along this busiest of city arteries, the clean, elegant lines of the former Clinique Saint-Paul offer a refreshing contrast to the surrounding urban clutter. Funded by the Sisters of SaintPaul de Chartres, the Clinique was built in 1936 to 1937 by the Société Indochinoise d'Études et de Constructions (SIDEC) to a design by its in-house architect Louis Chauchon, whose other major works include the Psah Thmey Central Market (1937) and the Palais du Commissariat de France (1938) in Phnom Penh and the Pavillon de la Cité Universitaire in Hanoi (1942). Functional yet elegant, it is noteworthy for its stylish fusion of art deco curves and traditional four-panel roofs.





SITE FOR SORE EYES Former Clinique SaintPaul, Ho Chi Minh City Eye Hospital, 280 Dien Bien Phu, Q3

Nguyen Tat Thanh House, 5 Chau Van Liem, Q5






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IN MEMORIAM Tran Phu Memorial Site, Cho Quan Hospital, 766 Vo Van Kiet, Q5



s opposition to French rule intensified during the last few decades of colonial rule, the Saigon prison system became increasingly overcrowded, forcing the authorities to convert other public buildings into jails. One such building was the secure psychiatric ward at Cho Quan Hospital, which was used after 1930 to incarcerate political prisoners. Its most famous inmate was Tran Phu (1904 to 1931), first Secretary General of the Indochina

Communist Party, who was captured by French police and detained in several different locations before being brought here on Aug. 26, 1931. He died of tuberculosis in one of its cells on Sep. 6, 1931, aged just 27. His final words to colleagues were: “Remain determined to fight.� The old secure psychiatric ward has been preserved in period style as a museum dedicated to Tran Phu.




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EARLY REFORMER Phan Chau Trinh Mausoleum, 9 Phan Thuc Duyen, Tan Binh

much-loved figure in colonial Cochinchina, Confucian scholar and pioneer nationalist Phan Chau Trinh (1872 to 1926) resigned his position at court to become an outspoken critic of the monarchy. He was a strong advocate of mass education and one of his greatest achievements was the setting up of the patriotic Tonkin Free School in Hanoi in 1907. Exiled to France in 1911 for suspected

involvement in a peasant tax revolt, he joined Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh) in presenting a list of demands to the French at Versailles in 1919. Trinh returned home in 1925 and when he died the following year, his funeral famously became the spark for nationwide protests against colonialism. A memorial house preserves books, documents and photographs depicting his life and achievements.




Marguerite Duras House, 141 Vo Van Tan, Q3




Fernand Nadal Mansion, 86 Vo Van Tan, Q3



he relationship between high school student Marguerite Donnadieu (Duras) and rich Chinese Léo Huynh Thuy Le, which inspired her 1984 Prix Goncourt-winning novel l’Amant (The Lover), took place between 1929 and 1931 during Marguerite’s first two years of study at the Lycée Chasseloup-Laubat (now the Le Quy Don Secondary School). After the affair ended, the Donnadieu family went back to France, but they returned the following year so that Marguerite could complete her studies at the lycée. The villa at 141 Rue Testard (Vo Van Tan) was their home from 1932 until the family finally left Indochina in 1933.


ietnamese historians owe a debt of gratitude to Fernand Nadal, the Algerian photographer whose highquality sepia postcards captured so much of the hustle and bustle of daily life in colonial Saigon. In the 1920s and early 1930s, when Nadal wasn’t working in his studio at 118-120 Rue Catinat (Dong Khoi) or tending his plantations in Bien Hoa and Thu Dau Mot, he would probably have been found relaxing in style at 86 Rue Testard (Vo Van Tan), the ornate mansion he called home. Today it’s still privately owned but the ground floor is leased to a seafood restaurant.

MINH HUONG PAGODA Minh Huong Pagoda, 184 Hong Bang, Q5

monument to the prosperity, prestige and confidence of colonial Cho Lon, the Phuoc An Assembly Hall (popularly known as the Minh Huong Pagoda) was built right next to Cho Lon Railway Station in the late 19th century by Minh Huong Chinese whose ancestors hailed from Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang provinces. Originally established to worship

Quan Thanh De Quan (the famous Chinese general Guan Yu), it later acquired secondary shrines to the Fujianese deity Ong Bon and the Ngu Hanh goddesses of the five elements. Plaques commemorate official visits by Lieutenant Governor of Cochinchina Dr. Maurice Cognacq on Mar. 4, 1921 and Governor General of Indochina Henri Martial Merlin on Sep. 15, 1924.

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THREE STEPS TO HEAVEN Tam Tong Temple, 82 Cao Thang, Q3


cupuncture, magnetism therapy and the use of a contraption known as the corbeille-à-bec (beaked basket) to spell out messages from beyond the grave were some of the original rites practised by followers of Minh Ly, one of five syncretic religious movements based on the Chinese Ming Shi Dao which appeared in colonial Saigon. Established in 1924, Minh Ly was a crucial influence on the development of


later Cao Dai doctrine. Its Tam Tong Mieu or Temple of Three Philosophies (Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism) was opened in August, 1926 and rebuilt on a grander scale in 1957. The main sanctuary is soberly decorated with carved archways, calligraphic boards and parallel sentences and its architecture displays a preoccupation with numeric patterns.


HOUSE OF HORRORS Bot Day Thep, Khu Pho 2, Le Van Viet, Q9


t surely can’t be long before the “Steel Wire Police Station” near Thu Duc is added to the roster of Indochina’s most infamous places of torture, alongside Hoa Lo, the Maison Centrale Saigon, Poulo Condore and Tuol Sleng. Originally built in the 1920s as a radio communications centre, it was converted into a police station in 1946 and placed under the command of French Lieutenant Pirolet and his psychopathic deputy Ac Rau (‘Evil Beard’), who proceeded to torture and kill over 700 Vietnamese political prisoners here during

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the period from 1946 to 1947. Although we’ve never learned Evil Beard’s real name, we’re told in graphic detail about the horrors inflicted by this 20th-century Torquemada, which included pouring soapy water into prisoners’ noses and mouths, burning their bodies with red hot pokers and hanging them upside down in suffocating holes in the ground. He’s also said to have decapitated prisoners and placed the heads on poles, forcing other detainees to eat their ears and drink their blood. A national historic monument, Bot Day Thep has been restored as a museum.


SCARY MANSION Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum, 97A Pho Duc Chinh, Q1

ong rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a young woman, ‘Uncle Hoa’s Mansion’ — now home to the Fine Arts Museum — was one of three buildings constructed in 1929 to 1934 as the Saigon headquarters of the successful Chinese property business, the Société Immobilière Hui Bon Hoa.


Comptoir NguyenVan-Hao Saïgonnais, Ky Con / Yersin / Tran Hung Dao intersection, Q1

ne of several faded architectural jewels in District 1, the Comptoir Nguyen-Van-Hao Saïgonnais flatiron building dates from 1934 and once provided both offices and residential accommodation for the family of Nguyen Van Hao, patriarch of the Comptoir Saïgonnais company. Hao himself was a Doctor of Pharmacy and his Grande Pharmacie Nguyen-Van-Hao at 120-124 Boulevard Bonard (Le Loi) was one of the city’s largest. The company was also active in other areas and sold automobile accessories from shop space on the ground floor. Although now in poor condition, the flatiron building is still fully occupied by tenants, including on the top floor descendants of Nguyen Van Hao.





EAST-WEST FUSION Francis Xavier Church, 25 Hoc Lac, Q5


ver the years, many architectural atrocities have been committed in the name of ‘east meets west’ — but somehow this early hybrid succeeds where others have failed. Built between 1900 and 1902, it was conceived in European Gothic style but decorated with Oriental features such as yin-yang roof tiles, ceramic roof ridge decoration and lacquered calligraphic boards. These days the church is more often remembered for its connection with the military coup of November, 1963. Having fled the palace the previous day, President Ngo Dinh Diem and his younger brother Ngo Dinh Nhu came here early on the morning of Nov. 2 to pray (a commemorative plaque in the rear stalls indicates exactly where they sat), but as they left the church they were arrested, bundled into an armoured car and subsequently shot by members of the coup forces.


BIG MARKET Binh Tay Market, 57A Thap Muoi, Q6



ho Lon’s massive temple to colonial consumerism was built between 1928 and 1930 with funds from wealthy Cantonese merchant Quach Dam after the previous Cho Lon Market was destroyed by fire.

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A NARROW ESCAPE Nguyen Van Troi Heroic Martyr Memorial, opposite Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3


n May, 1964, an audacious plot was hatched to kill US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara by blowing up the Cong Ly Bridge as his motorcade passed over it. However, the plot was discovered and the man responsible for laying mines under the bridge, 17-year-old apprentice electrician Nguyen Van Troi, was arrested and sentenced to death. Events took an unexpected turn when Venezuelan revolutionary organisation FALN kidnapped US Air Force officer Lieutenant Colonel Michael Smolen in Caracas, threatening to kill him if Troi was harmed. After four months of negotiations, Smolen was released, but despite assurances, Troi was shot by a firing squad. After 1975, Cong Ly Bridge, the road to the airport and a nearby market were all named after Troi. The current memorial was inaugurated on Oct. 15, 2009, the 45th anniversary of his execution, in the presence of his widow and the Venezuelan ambassador.

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SACRED RELICS Xa Loi Pagoda, 89B Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Q3

s its monks are at pains to point out, Xa Loi Pagoda was one of the city’s most sacred Buddhist sanctuaries before its name became indelibly linked with the anti-Diem government protests of 1963. Noteworthy for its clean contemporary design by architects Tran Van Duong and Do Ba Vinh, the pagoda was built between 1956 and 1958 to house sarira (in Vietnamese xa loi) relics of the Shakyamuni Buddha presented to the Buddhist Association by the Venerable Narada Maha Thera of Sri Lanka during his visit of 1953. The main sanctuary, decorated with paintings of the Buddha’s journey from birth until Nirvana, houses a statue of the Shakyamuni Buddha in a space resembling a theatre stage. Above it, at the top of the “proscenium arch,” is a red compartment containing the holy relics.





he pho at Pho Binh is tasty enough, but the real focus of interest here is this café’s crucial wartime role as “Subdivision 6 Forward Headquarters of the Saigon-Gia Dinh Special Forces Region.” From 1967 onwards, owner Ngo Van Toai and his team served hungry customers downstairs, while NLF Special Forces operatives met in the room above to mastermind the attacks of Tet 1968. In their aftermath, the café was stormed on Feb. 3, 1968 and 13 were arrested. Two later died in police custody and Mr. Toai himself was imprisoned on Con Dao Island. After regaining his freedom in 1975, he reopened his noodle shop. Since his death in 2007, Pho Binh has been run by his children, who maintain the 2nd floor room where the Tet 1968 attacks were planned as a museum and family shrine.

Unification Palace, 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1


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THE FINAL CURTAIN Artists’ Pagoda, 116/6 Thong Nhat, Go Vap

ou don’t have to be an aficionado of cai luong (reformed opera) to enjoy a visit to the Artists’ Pagoda — though it helps. This unique building and adjacent cemetery was the initiative of people’s artist Phung Ha (1911 to 2009), who purchased the land and built the pagoda in 1958 to provide a resting place for deceased cai luong artists. In the early days she even bought tombstones for artists from poor families. The pagoda has



Pho Binh, 7 Ly Chinh Thang, Q3



he former presidential palace of South Vietnam was built between 1962 and 1966 to a contemporary design by award-winning architect Ngo Viet Thu to replace the original French Norodom Palace of 1873, which had suffered serious damage during a coup attempt.


over 500 columbaria and nearly 350 graves, including those of performers Nam Chau, Ba Van, Thanh Nga, Ut Tra On, Hoang Giang, Bay Cao and Duc Loi, and composers Hoa Phuong, Ha Trieu and Thu An. Phung Ha herself is buried in a special tomb outside the main cemetery. The only non-stage artist buried here is movie actor Le Cong Tuan Anh, whose tragic death in 1996 at the age of just 29 shocked Vietnamese cinemagoers.

OVER THERE First US Embassy, 39 Ham Nghi, Q1


mmortalised by Graham Greene as the ‘American Legation’ where title character Alden Pyle worked in his 1955 novel The Quiet American, the large yellow building on the Ham Nghi / Ho Tung Mau intersection (now a branch of the Ho Chi Minh City Banking University) was the first American Embassy in Saigon. Inaugurated in 1950 following the closure of the last US Consulate at nearby 4 Rue Guynemer (Ho Tung Mau), it became the target for a car bomb attack Mar. 30, 1965. Because of its vulnerability, it was replaced in 1967 by the more secure embassy compound at 4 Thong Nhat (Le Duan), though it remained an embassy annex until 1975.


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SWAMP WARFARE Sac Forest Guerilla Base, Can Gio Ecotourism Area, Can Gio District



WEAPONS STASH Secret Weapons Hiding Place Museum, 287/70 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3



his unassuming house conceals a fascinating secret — a cellar dug by owner Tran Van Lai in early 1967 to conceal weapons and explosives for the 1968 attack on the Independence Palace. From mid-1967 onwards, pistols, rifles, grenades and over 350kg of TNT were brought here from Cu Chi and other remote bases in vans or ox carts, ingeniously hidden in hollowed-out wooden panels, plant pots and wickerwork baskets. Today the house is preserved as a museum and visitors can descend through a trap door into the weapons cellar, which is realistically dressed with boxes of replica armaments to show how it once looked. Upstairs an exhibition explains the planning and implementation of the mission, while a memorial honours the 15-strong NLF Special Forces Team 5, all of whom lost their lives during the attack.


EVACUATION The Roof of 22 Ly Tu Trong, Q1


n the final days of the American War, when the order was given to evacuate the city, the roof of the CIA building at 22 Gia Long (now Ly Tu Trong) became one of several designated landing sites for so-called ‘Freedom Birds’, helicopters conveying people to US ships bound for Guam or the Philippines. On Apr. 29, 1975, the day before Saigon fell, the little hut on the roof at 22 Gia Long was captured in Dutch press photographer Hubert van Es’s famous image of people scrambling up a ladder to a waiting Bell UH-1 ‘Huey’ helicopter. Best viewed from a bench in Chi Lang Park.

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ast emerging as a rival to Cu Chi as the day trip of choice from Ho Chi Minh City, Sac Forest Guerilla Base is located deep in the mangrove swamps of the UNESCO Can Gio World Biosphere Reserve, 70km southeast of the city. Established in 1966, the remote base operated in extraordinarily difficult terrain, often with inadequate supplies of food and water. Despite this, it succeeded in launching many devastating attacks on enemy installations, notably the destruction of Nha Be Fuel Depot on Dec. 3, 1973. Accessed by speedboat, Sac Forest Guerilla Base comprises a semi-circular array of guerrilla huts connected to each other by bamboo walkways, showing what daily life would have been like for the revolutionary soldiers of the era.


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GROUNDED Boeing 707, Hong Ha, Tan Binh


ow many of us have done a double-take when suddenly becoming aware of the old Boeing 707 parked in a field next to Hong Ha street, some distance from Tan Son Nhat International Airport? Aviation enthusiasts have identified the aircraft as B707-344, originally delivered to South African Airways in 1960, which was acquired by Vietnam Airlines in 1977 and flown under its last registration VN-A304 until 1985.





n essential soundtrack to the history of this bustling metropolis, the cries of Saigon’s street vendors have long invigorated daily life in every neighbourhood — whether food vendors selling pork rib congee (chao suon day), rice cakes (banh gio, banh chung day) and hot bread (banh mi nong hoi vua thoi vua an day) or recyclers on the lookout for everything from bottles (Ai co ve chai ban khong?) to larger items (Ai co ti vi, tu lanh, may giat, dong ho, tui, ban ghe ban khong?).

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It was then grounded and somehow relocated here for training purposes — though how they got it here is a complete mystery, as old maps indicate that this area has never been linked to the airport runways. In the 1990s the old plane became a popular café, but that’s now closed and the word on the street is that this unusual landmark may soon be taken away for scrap.



SIMPLY MONUMENTAL Hoa Binh Theatre, 240242 Ba Thang Hai, Q10

n contrast to Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City has relatively little to offer fans of postreunification Soviet-style architecture. But there’s one noteworthy exception — Vietnam’s largest performing arts venue, the magnificent Hoa Binh Theatre. Built in 1985 with Soviet aid to a monumental design by Huynh Tan Phat, it incorporates a 2,300-seat main auditorium with revolving stage and a 300seat cinema.




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V u n g T a u 52 | Word February 2013


A short boat ride from Saigon, Vung Tau has long been relegated to low down the list of local getaways. Yet the city of 2013 is now becoming a real force. Words by Nick Ross

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or years I disliked Vung Tau. I'm not alone. The beaches are unshaded and uncared for, the sea is dirty and there is a seedy element to the nightlife. Yet this has become a stereotype, a stereotype that should be ignored. The reason for my bias was down to experience. I used to live and work there. I spent some of the best moments of my life in this seaside city doubling up as Vietnam’s oil town. I also spent some of the worst, and when I finally left in 2007 I swore I would never return. Except for two weddings and family ties that occasionally saw me make the two-hour trip from Saigon out of necessity, for a long time I kept my distance. Recent events have changed my mind and rid me of my baggage. It started with a photographer showing me his blog. Together with his son he had taken the cable car to the theme park at the top of the mountain. When I had lived in Vung Tau the cable car was one of those projects that seemed to

Bars The only beachside watering hole in Back Beach is the bamboo Vung Tau Beach Club (on Thuy Van in Ocean Park opposite Sammy Hotel). In Front Beach, a number of the city’s bars take advantage of their customers. The following watering holes in Front Beach are deemed by locals not to “rip off” their clients. Corner Bar

•26 Quang Trung Party Bar

•2 Hoang Dieu VFB

•Rex Hotel, 1 Le Quy Don MK Bar

•First Floor, 4 Nguyen Trai Enigma

•19 Nguyen Trai 54 | Word February 2013

be on permanent hold, a bit like some of the resort projects out at Ho Tram. And yet here it was, completed. The images showed a saturated, azure blue sky, a dark green pine forest and a vista of the city that was different to that of my memories. I determined that at some point I would take a look. So the next time I returned

these places existed, but in my six years in the city I had never made the effort.

Long Son My latest journey coincided with bad weather. In December and January Ho Chi Minh City can develop a night-time chill. The Vung Tau peninsula went one step further — it was genuinely

two new bridges connect these islands to the mainland. Besides floating seafood farms, mangrove — some destroyed and some not — a lake, the viewless mountain retreat of Du Son and the tiny fishing port at Ben Da, the main attraction in Long Son is an old house, known quite simply as Nha Lon (big house). The home to followers of

“‘Seven or eight years ago Vung Tau was appealing for investment in tourism… So, I got in touch with the local authorities to see if I could bring my weapon collection to Vietnam’” I borrowed a bike, left my not so comfortable comfort zone and went for a drive. I hit the numerous temple and junglelined mountain roads that skirt the city’s two most notable landmarks — Nui Nho and Nui Lon, Small Mountain and Big Mountain. I went to the church in Sao Mai village and the fishing port in Ben Dinh. I also visited the arms museum. I was enthralled. I had known that

cold. Yet the air was fresh — already a welcome change from the big city. Borrowing a motorbike I headed out to Go Gang and Long Son Islands. Although part of the city of Vung Tau, until recently road access required a 30km drive back down the highway before travelling the road over the mangroves to Long Son. Go Gang was even more remote and only accessible by boat. Now,

the Ong Tran religion — all the people working and living here wear black traditional ao ba ba — the colourful, wooden-framed building is over 100 years old and is a reminder of how houses built by the wealthy once used to look. In modern Vietnam such sites are a rarity. From the artwork-laden altar room and brightly-coloured courtyard through to the attic space above with views across

What to Do the complex, this beautifullypreserved shrine to the past is a must for anyone visiting Vung Tau. Even the market next door, with its Long Son-made seafood products and restored, dark wooden shop-fronts is worth a wander. If you like your homemade fermented sauces — chao, mam tom, mam ruoc — this is a place to stock up.

Changing Times Back in Vung Tau I headed out to Tommy’s 3 in Front Beach, Bai Truoc. Run by husband-and-wife team Glenn and Trang, they have created a successful business out of doing what most of the other mixed expat-Vietnamese run spots refused to do — not be a hostess bar. Instead they are a well-run, well-oiled restaurant and sports bar with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. They have also bridged the barrier between foreigners and Vietnamese — their customers are an international mix of both. “Vung Tau is really starting to modernize,” says Glenn. “The buildings aren’t trashy little shacks any more. There’s new

GREYHOUND RACING stuff sprouting up everywhere. Aesthetically the people here are rebuilding the town… It’s starting to look very clean, very tidy.” He’s not wrong. The city formerly known as Cap Saint Jacques is still a sleepy enclave looking out towards the Pacific, but the past decade has seen multiple transformations. Front Beach has been overhauled and turned into a seaside promenade with sea-themed Barbara Hepworth-style sculptures and a shaded park. Back Beach has also been developed as has the area around Chi Linh, the beach at the end of Paradise Golf Course. High-rises now dot the skyline and more are on their way. And the roads are wide, well-paved and clean. New highways with flower-clad central reservations have been built, Metro Hypermarket has arrived, and the city’s residents have the option of the ‘dream modern lifestyle’, living in apartments like their counterparts in Saigon or Hanoi. The differences are not just

The stadium at 15 Le Loi in Front Beach opens every Saturday at 7.15pm for 10 dog races. Gambling is legal and punters can choose from either the air-con VIP rooms or the outdoor stands. Entrance starts at VND50,000


For VND200,000 you can take the cable car from Tran Phu in Front Beach up to the top of Big Mountain and visit a range of themed attractions — including a lake, a waterfall, a pine tree forest, a small zoo and a range of cafes and restaurants


Presently the city’s only golf course. Also home to Paradise World. Go to www.golfparadise. for information


Kitesurfing and windsurfing out in this Russian-run club in Back Beach. Go to www.vungtausurf. com and for information


The second-largest Jesus statue in the world. Steps from in between Back Beach and Banana Beach lead up to the 36-metre high monument to Catholicism in Vung Tau


Take Hem 444 on Tran Phu or Hem 220 on Phan Chu Trinh to head to two of the remaining French-built forts on the mountains


Vung Tau has many including one on an island only accessible when the tide is out. The best known is Thich Ca Phat Dai at 608 Tran Phu, Ward 5


A mine of information on the area, Australian Kevin Collins runs motorbike tours not just around the city but as far afield as Central Vietnam. He has a range of bikes available including manual Honda WH150s and can also organise trips by car. Call 0909 240389 or go to


Located in between Bai Dau and Ben Dinh on the edge of Big Mountain, this church was built by the large local Christian community who moved to the area in 1954


Known locally as Oyster Island, this little enclave 30 minutes from Vung Tau can be explored both by bike or by hiring a fishing boat — expect to pay VND200,000 to VND300,000 per hour. Famed for its big house, Nha Lon, and its seafood products including oysters


There are three main beaches in Vung Tau — Front Beach, Back Beach and Chi Linh. Head out to Chi Linh and the sand seems to stretch almost indefinitely, making parts of this area the perfect place for some isolated beach if you want to avoid the crowds

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“All around were the remains of brick walls, overgrown with tree roots like Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat. Yet here the handiwork was French rather than Khmer” structural — the city now offers up a myriad of activities for tourists. The cable car transports hundreds of people a day from its seaside base on Tran Phu to a Sky Park on the top of Big Mountain. I visited Front Beach twice. Once a rat-infested stretch of sand doubling up as a sewer, it is now surprisingly clean. Even the sea looks swimmable. Glenn, though, was particularly enthused by the restoration of an old French fort out on Big Mountain. “They’ve

Restaurants GANH HAO

3 Tran Phu, Bai Dau The best-known, top-end seafood restaurant in town. Great views over the sea, but pricey


334 Tran Phu, Sao Mai Said to be the best of the local, cheaper seafood restaurants. Close to the main fishing port

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Heading round Big Mountain, through another area that has been developed — much of the road here was once gravel and

mud — we took Hem 444 off Tran Phu and headed upwards. The fort itself is a restoration of the original French base, with a line of green-coated cannon looking ominously out to sea and a range of now empty, stone-built fortifications that once housed a garrison. Built as early as 1870, it is a wonder that the artillery was not dismantled for scrap metal. Despite the bad access, it is a wonder that no-one comes up here. In the 45 minutes or so we spent looking around, we were

the only visitors. “There are more,” says Glenn. “These are the only cannon that have been restored.” So we went off back into town — this time up Vi Ba, a street close to the intersection of Le Loi and Le Hong Phong. 2.5km up the hill we came across the remains of another fort, this time buried by jungle. The cannon and other machinery had long been dismantled, but the fixings were still there. Now part of a family home one of the garrison rooms




done all the work, but it’s impossible to get a car up there,” he explains. “The road hasn’t been widened yet and it’s often used for drying seafood.” All meaning that the fort remained one of the city’s little secrets. The next day, we went for a look.

The Forts

92 Ha Long, Ward 2 Well-loved Italian restaurant with full menu, seafront views and a woodfired pizza oven


Vung Tau’s only speciality dish can be found all around town. The best is available at Ba Hai (42 Tran Dong, Ward 2 ) although the most famous is found at Goc Vu Sua (14 Nguyen Truong To, Ward 2 )

9 Truong Vinh Ky, Front Beach French-run bistro specialising in tasty Mediterranean cuisine mixed with international fare. Great carpaccios and pizzas


3 Le Ngoc Han, Front Beach Mixed Asian and western menu selling anything from comfort food to salads and classics in a large, open-air space. Upstairs air-con sports bar

3 Ba Cu, Front Beach Outdoor, umbrella-covered restaurant and cafe just off the main drag in Front Beach. Same owners as Tommy’s 3

The Arms Museum

had been transformed into an outhouse for keeping pigs. But this was only the starting point. The real gem is the fort and semi-ruined French-built outhouse on Small Mountain. The road out there — Hem 220 off Phan Chu Trinh — is in disrepair, but the ride up the mountain with the sweeping city views to accompany was more than reward for the bumpy trip. After numerous bends and turns we took a right-hand fork and here were the first battlements. Semi-restored — work has obviously been done on the cannon at some point — all around were the remains of brick walls, overgrown with tree roots like Ta Prohm Temple in Angkor Wat. Yet here the handiwork was French rather than Khmer. Heading further up the track we came to the bottom of the Jesus Statue — known locally as Chua Kito. Yet here we were at the steps that were built when the monolith was originally constructed in 1974. Now unused, at their base lies a semireconstructed torpedo cannon — the largest beast of the lot with a chase perhaps one-and-a-half times the length of its compadre. A bit further up the track rounded back on itself coming to the base of the statue used today. Visitors climb hundreds of steps

to get this high. We had done the trip by bike. That night back in Tommy’s 3 the question got thrown up again and again. “I just don’t understand why the authorities don’t promote this place more,” said Glenn. We came up with a few theories. But what was clear was this. While Vung Tau remains badly promoted and many tourist sites a mystery, you couldn’t ask for a more perfect time to explore this beachside getaway, far from the madding crowd.

“Seven or eight years ago Vung Tau was appealing for investment in tourism,” says Bob Taylor, a local resident who for the last 23 years has made Vietnam his home. A collector of swords, guns and army uniforms, and with a collection that he describes as a “hobby that had gone out of control”, he felt he now had something that he needed to share. “So, I got in touch with the local authorities to see if I could bring my weapon collection to Vietnam,” he continues. “I live in Vung Tau, which is why I brought everything there. And it’s actually in my home which I modified into a museum.” Opened in January 2012 on Bach Dang at the base of Nui Nho, by the end of the year the attraction was receiving 200 visitors a day at the weekend and 50 visitors a day during the week. “People from around the world — foreigners — said it was one of the best museums they’d ever seen,” says Bob. “And the Vietnamese were overawed by it. It’s unique.” But Bob’s passion is not just reserved for arms. Attached to the back of the museum is a primate care centre housing gibbons and monkeys “rescued from cruel situations.” Working together with Monkey World in the UK, a chimpanzee rescue centre based in Dorset, and the Endangered Asian Species Trust (EAST) in Cat Tien National Park, Bob also takes

on the role of carer, looking after rescued primates from EAST that cannot be rehabilitated into the natural environment. “Many of the rescued animals have deformities, disease or psychological problems,” explains Bob. “So, it’s just not ethical if we send them back into the wild.”

The museum is located at 14 Hai Dang but is presently closed for public viewing while Bob applies for a new license. Both the facility and the primate care centre should be open again around Tet. For further information email Bob Taylor at roberttaylorvic@

Getting There Four companies now run hydrofoils to and from Vung Tau with the boats leaving every half an hour. Go to the ferry port on Ton Duc Thang opposite the end of Nguyen Hue for information. Tickets for the one-and-a-half-hour boat ride are VND200,000 (weekdays) and VND250,000 (weekends). Hoa Mai runs an efficient and fast bus service from 44 Nguyen Thai Binh, Q1. The journey takes twoand-a-half hours and costs VND85,000. Call 0838 218927 for information.

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Sound Advice? Trip Advisor is the go-to site for travel information on hotels, restaurants and places to visit. But with so many accusations of faked ratings and false reviews, can it really be trusted to give you the true picture? Words by David Robinson


orums such as are full of reports of hotels given bad reviews under suspicious circumstances or long after the guest has stayed. Steve Kaufer, head of Trip Advisor, told The Economist in an interview “someone on your team should be reading reviews”, implying that Trip Advisor is a fair and democratic platform where everyone has the right of response. Yet any hotel owner will tell you this is not the case. A customer can submit a scathing and abusive review but in most cases the hotel’s response is denied publication. Anyone who accuses Trip Advisor of bias or allowing fake reviews to be published is immediately blocked from posting.

The Right to Judge Critics claim that many reviews are written by family members and friends, especially in non-English speaking countries such as Vietnam. I asked one contributor who was being paid to write for Trip Advisor whether he had ever asked for favourable treatment in return for a review. “Of course,” he said. “If the hotel is expensive I always ask for a discount and tell them I work for Trip Advisor. Sometimes I get a free stay. All I have to do is spend 20 minutes writing a good review.” Trip Advisor claims they have advanced algorithms to prevent fake reviews, but in my testing I found I was able to post a fiercely negative (but valid) review about

small or the room lacked air-conditioning, but hoteliers say that the bed size is made clear via either pictures or text and you get exactly what you are promised. If the room does not say it is air-conditioned then you should not expect it to be.

Fake Reviews With Trip Advisor allowing a business to be ‘guilty until proven innocent’, it is no surprise that a small minority will abuse the system. One proprietor I spoke to said that an extremely positive review of another hotel followed by an equally negative review of their own resulted in the two hotels switching places on TA’s rankings. When he complained that he had reason to believe the guest had never stayed there and that TA was condoning fake reviews, TA punished the hotel by removing five of their top-rating reviews, pushing the hotel almost ten places down the list. The hotel was not given the right of response to the complainant’s accusations, which suggests that Trip Advisor view themselves to be above the law. Few advanced legal systems operate in such a way. Restaurants also come under the reviewer’s eye — indeed many locals are sometimes puzzled as to why some notso-highly-regarded restaurants manage to receive a high ranking on the list while others feature much lower. Some niche establishments receive a few positive reviews when they first open and then some

“Hotel owners insist that unhappy customers sometimes threaten to post a negative review on Trip Advisor if the hotel does not refund their deposit or change their room” a restaurant in under a minute with no verification done to even ensure my email address was real. Hotel owners insist that unhappy customers sometimes threaten to post a negative review on Trip Advisor if the hotel does not refund their deposit or change their room, or give them some other compensation for a perceived lack of service. Many of the complaints are unreasonable and petty such as claims the bed was too

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very negative ones a year later, but still manage to maintain a very high ranking due to the low total number of reviews. These are the listings most easily swung by a single fake review. Take Ho Chi Minh City as an example. There are only a small number of Vietnamese restaurants highly recommended on the website while the top slots are heavily dominated by foreign cuisine. May Restaurant and Cuc Gach Quan rank

prominently as does Huong Lai. These are all good establishments, but there are many others that are equally as good or even better. For locals, the rankings don’t give a good overview of the city’s dining scene. In addition, reviews are not categorised into different types of cuisine or price categories meaning that many excellent smaller restaurants disappear down the list in favour of larger, glitzier ones.

The New Wave The fact is that Trip Advisor is a for-profit company and they provide a soapbox for people to air their grievances and generate anger and dissent. The portal works on the theory that more reviews means more visitors and higher advertising revenue. This is borne out by the fact that the ability to respond to complaints is not their priority and email verification or CAPTCHAS are not used, which is unusual for a site that claims to be so determined to avoid fake reviews. The new wave of travel sites people are turning to are truly based on user contributions and try to focus less on “Was this restaurant’s service good on a particular day?” and just describe the types of food and culture you can find in a city. is well known as an excellent non-profit source of information on everything including culture, transport, hotels and dining. provides an enticing, magazine-style independent guide to Cambodia and Vietnam while assures readers that all reviews are genuine and scrutinized. The forum allows anyone to respond to reviews in an appropriate manner. While Trip Advisor is still number one on the go-to travel website agenda, for many it is either losing or has lost its edge. As one astute restauranteur in Hanoi has posted on their wall, “Have a complaint? Not happy with our service? Tell us first before posting it elsewhere.” While it might not seem on the surface that Trip Advisor has anything to gain from this guilty until proven innocent policy, it's important to remember that they are a profit-first company who make money from advertising. Just as you would turn to Wikipedia rather than a drug company for impartial medical information, so you should consider how biased your source of travel information is.

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W With a smoking ban in public places due to be enforced in May and air quality a growing issue, we toured the city with a laser particle counter to test just how bad the air we breathe has become. Words and photos by Nick Ross

e’ve just had a power cut when the rain starts. Within 10 minutes the phone rings. It’s 3.20 in the afternoon. “We’ll have to cancel,” says the voice on the other end. “The rain and wind is going to clear the air.” Silence follows. We had been planning this for weeks. With air quality such an issue in the fast industrializing cities of Asia — the pollution in Beijing is presently 25 times above the internationally accepted safety level — the idea was to see how Ho Chi Minh City is faring. Using the ParticleScan Pro, a laser particle counter that measures the number of particles in the air, we would go to a number of places in the city, both indoors and out, to obtain readings. This would in turn give an idea of pollution levels. But with the air clearing our original plan was going up in a haze of clean air. Yet it was an opportunity, too. Here was a chance to test how important the rain and wind, and in particular the rainy season is to this city and its air quality. As someone was to point out later on that day, “You should do this in March or April when it’s hot and dry. The readings would go through the roof.” Taking our chance an hour later we met at Ben Thanh Market — myself, Aron Szabo and his partner Rita Csontos — to see the other end of the air pollution scale in this city, a chance to measure it when it may even be within acceptable international limits. Despite taking almost daily readings, even Aron had yet to test the air quality after the rain had come down. As we discovered, on the roundabout opposite Ben Thanh Market during afternoon rush hour and at the end of a downpour, the air quality was

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Keeping it Pure

acceptable. Just. Around 60,000 units, the international standard set by WHO. Normally even in Phu My Hung, the area of the city that supposedly has the freshest air, the reading hits between 300,000 and 500,000. Without the rainy season the air quality in this city would be a mess.

Keeping it Clean

Improving air quality requires a broad range of measures that are beyond our personal control. However, there is much we can do ourselves if we want to take action. If you drive a motorbike, wear a facemask. There are now a range of products on the market — check out Saigon Scooter Centre (www. ) to see what they have available at the top end. Otherwise standard cloth masks are available at pharmacies or street-side cigarette and raincoat stands. For smokers, quite simply don’t smoke indoors. Especially in an environment with air-con. And if you live or work in an air-con environment, try to get the air circulating. This can be anything from opening the windows for a few hours a day to opening doors and creating some airflow. An alternative is to buy an air purifier for use indoors. Aron Szabo is the local agent for IQAir, a Swiss company credited in the industry for selling the best machines on the market for both residential and commercial use. Using a high-tech filtration and fan system, the purifiers remove ultrafine particles, the smallest and most numerous pollutants in the air. Including viruses, oil smoke, diesel soot, black carbon, smog, gas molecules, tobacco dust, bacteria, pet allergens and toner dust; these pollutants have the most negative effects on our health.

For further information email Aron on aron.szabo@bmscg. com or go to

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Described by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “a contamination of the indoor or outdoor environment by any chemical, physical or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere,” air pollution is a growing concern. According to the Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a study conducted jointly by Yale University and Columbia University in the US, in 2012 Vietnam’s environmental performance was deemed to be ‘modest’ and ranked 79th out of the 132 countries in the survey. While in some areas — water resources, forest vitality and dealing with climate change — the country performed relatively well, the stand-out low performance sector was air pollution. Here the effect of air pollution on human health was ranked an alarming 125th. The impact on health takes

many forms. The pollutant carbon dioxide, for example, which comes from motor vehicle exhaust fumes, can cause headaches, reduced mental alertness, heart attacks, cardiovascular diseases, impaired fetal development and even death. The gaseous pollutant ozone is nearly as harmful, causing eye and throat irritation, coughing, respiratory tract problems, asthma and lung damage. Sulfur dioxide, which comes from heavy industry such as coal-fired power plants, petroleum refineries, the manufacture of sulfuric acid and the smelting of ores containing sulfur has a similar effect, causing eye irritation, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and lung damage. Then there is particulate matter (PM10) — dust, soot and other tiny bits of solid materials that are released into and move around in the air — which when inhaled can penetrate deep into human lungs and veins, resulting in cancer, asthma, heart problems and other respiratory diseases. It is no surprise, then, that an estimated four million Vietnamese are believed to have some form of asthma. Indeed, WHO estimates that more than two million people around the

world die every year because of air pollution. And with bad air quality so increasingly noticeable, it is no wonder that so many motorbike drivers in this city are wearing facemasks.

The Test Leaving Ben Thanh Market we head to a well-known local bar with indoor air-conditioning. It’s late afternoon so the establishment has yet to pack out, but nonetheless the reading is above 200,000. And this is despite the freshness of the air outside. We then put the laser particle counter to the smoking test. A cigarette is lit and placed close to the reader. Almost immediately the particle count rises — 700,000, 1,000,000 and then over 2,000,000. With the cigarette now out, the readings gradually go down again, but only as low as 220,000. The bar is starting to fill up, too, and its clear that despite the freshness of the air outside, the pollution will gradually increase. “You would expect the air quality inside to be better than outside,” explains Aron. “But it’s not. All air-conditioning in a closed environment does is circulate the air, keeping it within the same space. We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, which is why indoor

“WHO estimates that more than two million people around the world die every year because of air pollution”

air pollution is so much more dangerous than its equivalent outdoors.” To test this theory we decide to take a second set of readings. So we head to another wellknown bar which has an outdoor smoking terrace and an indoor air-con space where smoking is forbidden. The establishment also leaves their doors open. The difference is astonishing. Thanks to the air circulation the readings both indoors and outdoors are the same, around 40,000. All giving the old theory of closing doors when you turn on the air-con a big kick up the posterior. For good air quality, circulation is vital. “The problem is not being exposed to huge amounts of particles in the air,” says Aron. “The problem is not giving your lungs enough time to relax again. This is the issue with aircon when there’s no circulation. Your lungs don’t relax.”

No Rain, No Wind Two mornings later we head to Phu My Hung, the area marketed as having the freshest air in the city. There is no wind and it hasn’t rained in 36 hours. We take our first reading outdoors at the end of Nguyen Luong Bang, the outskirts of Vietnam’s equivalent to Singapore. Morning air is supposed to be fresh — it certainly is where I come from — but here it is anything but. The readings are between 300,000 and 320,000, five times the limit. We then move to The Crescent. Here it is even worse — 450,000. An air-con café for breakfast

brings the first eye-opener of the day. A man at a table behind us lights up a cigarette. From readings of between 450,000 and 600,000 the counter spirals, settling at around a million. He puts out his cigarette and the readings gradually go down, but only to 600,000. And that takes over 20 minutes. Second-hand smoke. We talk for a bit about comparing An Phu to Phu My Hung. Would it be better or worse? What about other areas of the city? Would it be possible in terms of air quality to truly work out the best place to live in Saigon? We also talk about measuring the air quality in hotel lobbies, at the bottom and top of a high-rise, and in the depths of one of the city centre’s basement food courts. But to take on such an approach we would need to set up a controlled experiment. This would require more than one particle reader and it would necessitate frequent measurements over a lengthy period at the same times each day. So instead we decide to focus on the smoking aspect and the forthcoming ban. Just how bad is the air in a busy, smoky bar on a weekend night? The results as we discover the next day are alarming. Our chosen, nameless venue fairs very badly, averaging between 1,300,000 and 1,400,000 during its peak period. It’s not as bad as the standard outdoor readings in Beijing — 1,500,000. But it certainly adds to the significance of the upcoming smoking ban. The question is, will it be enforced?

The Readings There are two accepted methods for reading air quality. The first measures the weight of fine dust, while the second, which we used for this article, measures the approximate number of fine dust particles per litre of air. The comparisons are as follows — the weight measurements are in italics:

0 µg/m3 to 9.9 µg/m3 0  30,000 10 µg/m3 to 19.9µg/m3 30,001  60,000 20 µg/m3 to 34.9 µg / m3 60,001  105,000 35 µg/m3 to 49.9 µg / m3 105, 001 – 150,000 50 µg/m3 to 99.9 µg / m3 150, 001 – 300, 000 100 µg/m3 and higher 300, 001 +

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Dining with Stars The import of the world-famous Michel Roux to open a restaurant in Danang means there’s now going to be a three-star Michelin chef plying his trade in Vietnam. But is it going to be a success? Words by Derek Milroy. Illustration by Melanie Elfert


he nation’s hospitality industry not only stood up and took notice, but was stunned into silence when InterContinental Danang announced at the end of last year it had snapped up Michelin Star chef Michel Roux OBE to front their flagship restaurant La Maison 1888. Arguably the world’s best chef, the Frenchman’s protégées include Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White — these are just two of the names who have excelled under his wing. Signing up for a figure rumoured to be in the region of US$200,000 (VND4.2 billion), his team of overseas chefs alone are believed to be pulling in a monthly wage packet of over VND200 million, a substantial sum in a country where the average salary is just VND2 million. Many local critics think it is a huge faux pas to bring Roux to Danang, the nation’s third-largest city, rather than Saigon or Hanoi. Will, they ask, anyone go that far just to enjoy food served by a French legend?

A Gastronomic Coup? However, spokesperson Hoang Thuy Trang insists the resort is merely taking a page from the same blueprint Roux used when he kickstarted his British culinary revolution. “To explain the location we can look back to the story of the Waterside Inn,” she explains. “When Michel Roux opened his restaurant in Bray, 40km from London in a little village, people still came to visit the award-winning restaurant. So he expects the same thing with La Maison 1888. Yes, the

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location is important, but it does not have to be in a vibrant town with many people. La Maison 1888’s location is beautiful and unique. So… as long as we can offer a truly special gastronomic experience, people will come to visit and see what we have to offer.” Procuring Roux’s undeniable talents was more than a accomplishment — in football terms it is like Danang FC signing Barcelona genius Lionel Messi. However, the resort did have an ace to play after they had earlier snapped up Food and Beverage director Christian Fumado and restaurant manager Matteo Portioli, who both worked under Roux at the Waterside Inn. Coincidence, or a pre-emptive strike which worked a treat. “Mr. Roux knows and trusts the people that he is going to work with,” adds Trang. “It is always a good start for any partnership. And also, the brand name of InterContinental and the resort itself is another reason for him to join us. We are very excited and also honoured to have [him] with us.” So, is Vietnam ready for the equivalent of a Michelin Star restaurant? The resort team says ‘yes we can’. And Trang scoffs at suggestions that millionaire Roux is in Danang for an easy payday. “We will not try to achieve the starequivalent restaurant right away,” she says. “It will take time and a lot of effort. We will not use luxurious ingredients, but the freshest ones available. Michel Roux and his team will provide training to a team of young and enthusiastic Vietnamese staff

to guide them how to cook, taste and what to look for in a fine dining atmosphere. We cannot confirm the wage of Michel Roux. We can, however, confirm that it was not about the money. Mr. Roux is looking for a new challenge in his career.”

French Trained, English Famed Following his brother Albert into becoming a pastry chef, Roux arrived in England at the age of 27 to open their first restaurant, Le Gavroche on Lower Sloane Street. Already with a reputation in tow — Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardner attended the launch — in 1972 they followed up on their first venture with the inauguration of The Waterside Inn. Two years later when Michelin stars were first awarded in the UK, Le Gavroche and the Waterside Inn were both among those restaurants to win a star, and when a number of establishments won two Michelin stars for the first time in 1977, both Roux restaurants were in the mix. This was followed by three-star ratings in the 1980s. Together the brothers have been described as the “godfathers of modern restaurant cuisine in the UK”. And with an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) to his name, quite an achievement for a Frenchman in a country that has a love-hate relationship with their Gallic neighbour, the younger Roux is a regular face on British television. But the past is past and the three-starred Michelin chef can’t wait to get his hands dirty with his new ‘baby’ in Danang. He admits he loves Vietnam and feels that people are drawn to this country.

“Vietnam will attract so many people, who will come to this country and this part of the world,” he says. “Everyone in the international community just loves their time here. Vietnam has a young population and there are exciting times ahead. And as for the food, wow, I would say it is my cup of tea. Healthy, light and fresh — pho broth and noodles is magnifique.” In La Maison 1888, Roux not only wants to create the best restaurant in Vietnam, but he wants to train young Vietnamese chefs to be the best in the country and later Asia. He admits teaching young people requires one thing — patience. “I want my chefs to be like a sponge,” says Roux, who started his culinary journey in France at the tender age of 14. “I will teach them how to approach the job. I love to travel and when I arrive, I go straight to the market as I want to know what the local people eat. My inspiration to cook comes from the market. I think cooking is a performance. The kitchen is the heartbeat, the front is the theatre.” He scoffs at the mere suggestion his cuisine is classical French, instead insisting it is modern and relaxed. Food, he stresses, is meant to be enjoyed — his restaurants not only have a reputation for high standards but a relaxed ambience. Having sold millions of copies of his 12 cookbooks, with a 13th on the go, Roux insists it is all about one thing. “I do this for the people; food is for the people. Poor, working class, wealthy, very wealthy — I cook for all people.”

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The Rules of


With Tet on the very near horizon, Ed Weinberg finds out when to slake ‘em and when to break ‘em. Photo by Francis Xavier


here’s a man at your wedding table with a slightly manic look on his face. His eyes are fixed on the plate and upturned bowl contraption that he’s shaking in a frenetic ellipse before the fixed, lusty gazes of everyone else at the table. Something is knocking about inside. The plate spinner puts his apparatus down in time for the big reveal — a decapitated chicken head pointing beakfirst in the direction of this round’s loser. After a little squabbling over who the beak is pointing at, the loser picks up his shot of rice vodka to loud cheers. He drinks it down in one. Your typical wedding features a bit more of this, a random guy assaulting your table with an outstretched beer can, yelling “Tram phan tram,” or 100 percent, and the bride and groom trying to make their rounds while still saying sober enough for their wedding night duties. They typically brandish a cup of strawberry Sting for their toasts, and avoid the guy with the beer can.

What the Beer Can Guy Wants He wants to drink to your health, and if he can make you throw up while doing so, so much the better. When he says “tram phan tram” or “lac keu” — ice and glasses — he expects you to smash your can against his, enthusiastically yell “vo” and drink whatever you’re holding down to the very bottom. Maybe 90 percent will work. Anything less is unacceptable. These are the rules of drinking in Vietnam. They’re not always fixed. “You can bargain,” Tuong Anh says, “ok, 50 percent. The rule is how much they drink you have to drink.” She thinks a moment. “But I think the bargain is for the lady.” The rules also differ from region to region. Some drinkers we interviewed said coming late to an occasion requires the latecomer to drink three glasses of rice vodka, while

others said five. One said you should bring a bottle if you’re coming late — and if it’s a nice bottle you don’t have to drink at all! Although that kind of defeats the purpose. There were also some differences of opinions on the penalties. Some say there are stiff penalties — such as excommunication, never being invited around again — for failing to respect the rules of engagement. This can get quite tricky when you just want to go home, and you’re faced with the mandatory seven shots of rice vodka before you can leave early. Others don’t think such consequences were a worry. “You just have to talk with them, tell them you have to go,” Vinh says. “There’s no problem with that.”

Games, Games and More Games While the chicken head spin might be the

Western Drinking Games THUMB MASTER

While sitting with friends and drinks, the ‘thumb master’ (anyone who takes the initiative) puts their thumbs on the corner of the table nonchalantly. The last person to hook their thumbs onto the table has to take a drink.


Those kooky western imperialists are at it once again with this hedonistic timekiller. The first player takes out a coin and calls heads or tails. If the coin flips onto the side they called, they pass it. If it flips wrong, they have to “sip or strip!” — down a shot, or take off an article of clothing — and flip again.


A ‘game’ in which each player straps on two 40-ounce beer bottles, duct tape-style, one in each hand. The fun comes in the restrictions — they’re not allowed to remove the bottles until they’re finished. Want to go to bathroom? Chug or learn a new skill.

most notable in this category, there are Vietnamese drinking games that you’re more likely to see at a club, quan nhau (street pub) or someone’s house. One of these might seem familiar — spin the bottle. But the rules of this version owe more to the aforementioned spin game than to western high school slumber parties. There are dice games and cards just like in the west. They mostly take the form of high-number-low-number, everyone rolling a die or turning over a card at the same time. There is also the finger-throw, where everyone around the table has to extend either one or two fingers towards the middle at the same time. The ones who pick the less popular number of digits have to drink. There are also some that are a bit more saucy. One involves a paper napkin being passed from one mouth to the next. At the end of a pass, both parties must have a bit of paper on their tongue — or else they drink. Who cares if you can’t hear anyone above the roar of club music?

Chasers and Kit Kat “Kit Kat is hip. Kit Kat is ‘in’ this year.” Van Anh also tells me about chasers like hot vit lon (duck embryo) and hot pots, although they’re more for the older set. The younger people like sweet, which is one of the reasons they’re skipping on the game where you pass one glass of rice vodka around the table, drinking it before you pass it onto the next person. Younger people tend to prefer mixing their drinks with Coca-Cola or Sting. But this doesn’t mean the next generation of drinkers is slowing down. “People have to push you — ‘drink, drink, drink!’” Tuong Anh says. “I hate that. I say, ‘Ok, let me drink, I cannot finish that.’” She adds: “Vietnamese have this habit of drinking until they die. They think they’re not with their friends unless they keep drinking… They keep drinking until they fall down.”

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The Test We all love the buzz of riding a motorbike through town, but how many of us actually bother to obtain a license? Derek Milroy decided to sit the exam and become 100 percent legal. Here is his story. Photo by Nga Phan


he beads of perspiration rolling down the back of your neck every time you see the mustard or green outfits and look away hoping your number is not up — it’s just not good for the blood pressure. It’s a risk, too. So after twisting and turning for the best part of two years, enough was enough. I was heading to Tan Binh to run the gauntlet and do the one thing in life I hate the most — sit an exam. As the countdown to my big day began, horrific recollections of my high school examinations back home in Scotland resurfaced, recollections which haunt me even now. And even the memories of my driving test gave me the fear. I failed my

first two attempts, losing a kilo each time from sweating profusely as my feet and hands failed to coordinate. But third time round I told myself “just do it and stop your worrying”. It worked. I breezed it. But this time being a stranger in a strange land, the anxiety returned. What did this examination hold for me? First was the paperwork. Don’t believe any of the posts on all those expat forums out there. Compared to most things out here, paperwork-wise it was easy. The form I had to fill out was simple enough and it was submitted with certified copies of my passport and my UK driving license. I then had to wait two weeks before the big day. The test was on a Sunday.

Like Sunday Mornings

The Details Non-Vietnamese nationals aiming to get a driving license fall into three categories. This affects the type of test you need to take, if any, to obtain a Vietnamese license.

CATEGORY 1. For holders of an international

or national driver's license eligible to operate both automobiles and motorcycles. You can obtain a similar driver's license without any test.

CATEGORY 2. For holders of an international

or national driver's license eligible to operate automobiles only. You can obtain a motorcycle driver's license after passing a driving test for a motorcycle.

CATEGORY 3. For non-Vietnamese nationals who do not have a driver's license of any kind, you have to pass both theory and driving tests. The theory test is in Vietnamese and you are not allowed to have an interpreter or translator.

For further information go to www.sgtvt. or pop into 63 Ly Tu Trong, Q1.

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The journey to the test centre was a trek but we got there eventually. For once I was the passenger. I expected only a dozen or so expatriates to be taking the test, but it was teeming with locals and non-local faces alike. It seemed like 12 hours had passed before I finally had my big chance. I hate waiting around and am impatient, so this was my worst nightmare. Add to this that after 12 practice runs I had yet to make a perfect figure 8, I was starting to feel the heat. Although the rest of the exam was just simple driving in a straight line over some bumps, before zig-zagging in and out of the next group of obstacles and riding around the corner, it was the figure of eight that was nagging at me. Fortunately we had arrived at the test centre early and filled in the extra paperwork straight away. It proved to be a master stroke. Yet as the clock ticked by, I was unaware of this — the wait was starting to tell. I hit the toilet four times, drank three bottles of Dr. Thanh sugary tea. But after hanging around for what felt like an eternity I got the green light. Watching the examiners signing, ticking, checking their forms, occasionally darting a look to the bikes in action, I was thinking, “Hmm, maybe they won’t see how

bad I am.” I think I was right. About 100 or so other people were waiting for the test but we must have registered early because I was number 10. I got on my bike; a semi-automatic with gears, I knew what to expect. The instructor put the vehicle in gear and amazingly I was calm. My first circle was perfect but the next half was rubbish. I made it through the super eight and next managed to manoeuver the bumps in a straight line. Now I was on the home strait. Thinking I had blown it, I waved in false triumph — I was sure I would have to return in a few weeks. I was wrong. Managing to nosey at the exam paper I discovered I had scored 98 per cent, my best exam result of all time. I was later informed that none of the officials had even looked in my direction during my big test. How true this actually was I will never know. The sweating was not over for this big Scottish panic merchant and until I had that lovely plastic card, I wouldn’t be free of the worries. A bird in the hand as they say. Two weeks later I strolled into the office downtown and there it was waiting for me. My license. In the last decade of my life I have now obtained both a car and motorbike license. Maybe my letter from the Queen is in the post. I count myself as one of the lucky ones. Having obtained a car license in my home country, the procedures for getting a motorbike license in Vietnam are fairly straightforward. Those who do not have that precious piece of legitimacy have to endure a wholly different examination with, among other things, instructions in Vietnamese without being allowed to have a translator. With the trouble you can get into here for not being legal, it’s worth the effort. Now as I cruise past those officials in mustard and green I give them a stare and even a nonchalant wink. Yes, it’s a hassle, but having that laminated piece of paper saves much more. And after all, if you don’t have a license and get in an accident, forget that insurance payout.

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All, Hiding

The ao dai has shifted meanings over the decades, from its birth as a uniform of the aristocracy to its current iteration as the national costume of Vietnam. It’s an expression of modesty that wasn’t always seen as modest, a symbol of Vietnam that occasionally came to represent other things. Through its transitory, hard-to-pin-down history, one thing has been made clear — like the famous chestnut about its material qualities, the metaphor of the ao dai “covers everything, yet hides nothing.” 70 | Word February 2013

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Ao Dai Hoa Lan Thuy is one of the largest ao dai retailers in the city, with both ready-made and custom fits produced. Three generations of ao dai weavers work under one roof here, orbiting the middle-generation husbandwife team that originates many of the patterns. This workshop is known for both its vast stock of material and its reasonablypriced, top-notch design. Modeling by Kaitlin M Photos by Mads Monsen Styling, make-up & hair by Francis Xavier Ao Dai Hoa Lan Thuy, 1150 Lac Long Quan, Tan Binh

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City Guide BUSINESS 078 / EAT 084 / BARS 093 / CAFES 097 / ARTS 099 / LEISURE 101 / WELLNESS 107 / FASHION 111 / INTERIORS 114 / ELECTRONICS 116 / GROCERIES 117 / GENERATION V 119 / TRAVEL 125 Photo by francis xavier


Business Buff 080 Top Eats 088 Night Watchman 092 For the Record 102 Road Rules 104 Body and Temple 106 Travel Notes 126

BUSINE$$ * *

* *

From accounting to advertising to serviced apartments, our selection of some of the city's top businesses


E-Town Building, #4.4B & 4.5A 364 Cong Hoa, Tan Binh, Tel: (08) 3812 2196 Auditing, technical services and solutions firm working in all the major industrial service sectors. Provides management system certification and related training for IS0 9001, ISO 14001, SA 8000, OSHAS 18001, HACCP, ISO 22000 and BRC. Has over 900 offices worldwide in 140 countries.


11th Floor, Saigon Trade Center, 37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 0751 A member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohatsu. Provides audit, tax, consulting, and financial advisory services to public and private clients spanning multiple industries.


4th Floor, Unit 17, Saigon Center, 65 Le Loi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 0220 A financial advisory company that advises on everything from investments, offshore banking and education planning to life protection wills, pensions and more. Globaleye provide an invaluable resource for expats living in Vietnam who want to maintain tax efficient savings while having access to major fund houses such as Fidelity & JP Morgan from only VND3 million a month, and also to have the right insurance protection for families living on foreign soil.

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10th Floor, Sun Wah Tower, 115 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 9266 Worldwide firm specialising in auditing, accounting, tax and management consulting services. Also provides executive search and selection.


7th Floor, E-Town Building, 364 Cong Hoa, Tan Binh Tel: (08) 3812 5562 odyssey– One of the leading mid-tier accounting services firms in Vietnam. Odyssey provides accounting and management consulting services, along with tax advice and Australian tax agent services.


Saigon Tower, 29 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 0796 Provides business services including auditing, business and technology solutions, as well as tax and legal consulting. Has more than ten years of experience in Vietnam and works in all major industry sectors throughout the country.


6th Floor, Me Linh Point Tower, 2 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: 0938 220 255 Specialising in U.S. personal income tax returns preparation, this firm is IRS Enrolled Agent qualified with big 4 experience. Also provides Vietnam tax and business legal consulting.


Unit 501, Saigon Trade Center 37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 2262 TMF is headquartered in the Netherlands, with over 100 offices in 75 countries. Provides accounting, tax and payroll services. Also specialises in helping international investors establish a presence in Vietnam. This includes services such as incorporation of companies and representative offices, opening of bank accounts, licensing and tax stamps.


Unit 2.4, 2nd Floor, 12M Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 3500 A local full service agency run by advertising professionals dedicated to providing clients with results orientated marketing communications via strong advertising concepts and excellent customer service.


Level 7, Vietnam Business Center, 57-59 Ho Tung Mao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 8632 A full service marketing communications company that is part of the WPP Group. Focuses exclusively on the growing demands of Asian business, helping to build sustainable brands with global ambition.


16th Floor, Bitexco Office Tower, 19–25 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 3064

Specialising in brand strategy and brand design for both local and international consumer and corporate companies. Wholly owned with seven global offices — three of which are in Asia and working extensively across India, Southeast Asia and North Asia.


23rd Floor, AB Tower 76 Le Lai Street, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 9005 60 creatives strong, Dentsu Vietnam is able to provide through-the-line communication services from brand consultancy, creative concept and development, promotion and digital to media planning and buying.


13D Phan Chu Trinh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3551 2202 Draftfcb is one of the largest global advertising agency networks with headquarters in both Chicago and New York. Has more than 190 offices serving clients in 102 countries including many in the region.


404 Vo Van Tan, Q3, Tel: (08) 3929 1450 A full spectrum marketing communications company, Grey Group’s work includes PR, retail management, events and database marketing. Has offices in nearly 100 countries and major clients include Proctor & Gamble, SmithKline, Beecham, BAT and Mars.


Villa B,12A Duong So 12, Tran Nao, Q2 Tel: (08) 3740 6388 Offers (re)design, design engineering (3D CAD) and innovation consultancy for all products; plastics, consumer products, electronics, metal parts. Dutch industrial designers with over 10 years of working experience in Asia. Contact them to get a free quotation.

dochina. Now with offices in Saigon, Phnom Penh and an association in Vientiane, Phibious employs over 70 staff that are driven towards helping brands connect and grow in this dynamic region. Clients include The Coca–Cola Company, Asia Pacific Breweries, Piaggio and UPI.


113 Nguyen Thai Binh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 3615 Managing successful marketing campaigns since 2002 with four full-service offices and project management available nationwide. Marketeers Vietnam have designed and implemented campaigns that have been selected as global best practice by both international and local clients.


12th Floor, Centec Tower, 72–74, Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 9529 Well–known marketing communications company that leverages the brands of multinational clients by combining local know–how with a worldwide network. Works to create powerful campaigns that address local market needs while still reinforcing universal brand identity.


7th Floor, 11bis Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3930 6777 An independent, creative–led communications company growing fast throughout In-


Tel: 01265 669632 Founded in 2002, with more than 10 years of experience in graphic design, PBB specialises in branding, interior graphics, signage, print design, POSM and web design. As of 2006, PBB has been based in Ho Chi Minh City operating as a graphic consultant for creative agencies, companies as well as private clients.


Melody Tower, 422-424 Ung Van Khiem, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3898 1005 A leading independent creative communications company. Offers a wide range of services such as graphic design, branding, interactive media, video, photography and production.

RED | BRAND BUILDERS 10 Phan Ngu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3820 0169 Long established, branding

consultancy and marketing agency. From Vietnam to Australia, the red team create and shape unique brand personalities that add impact to international and local brands. The team regularly share industry trends, news and views at


Tel: (08) 3925 2538 The only communications network specialising in Indochina including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar for over a decade. Riverorchid specialises in advertising, design, activation, digital, media, PR, research, training, premiums and production.


3 Phan Van Dat, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1207 60th among the top 100 global advertising agencies, the company has worked with over half of the 50 best–known brands in the world. Services include advertisement planning, direct marketing, marketing consulting, graphic design and advertising.


Tel: (09) 0770 9044 Comprehensive, professional and cost effective printing solutions — but logo design, copy-writing, and corporate identity creation services are what set them apart. EnglishVietnamese / VietnameseEnglish translation is also covered.


Unit 603, Rosana Tower, 60 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 5315 TBWA is a Top-Ten worldwide advertising agency, named Advertising Age’s “Best International Network of the Decade” in 2010 and ranked 24th on Fast Company’s 2009 list of “The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies”. Marketing services include strategic consultancy, creative development, events and activation, direct mail, shopper marketing and public relations.


37 Dang Thi Nhu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 0779 A complete range of services and facilities for advertisement campaigns and public relations in Vietnam.


11th Floor, Capital Place, 6 Thai Van Lung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 7858 bdg– BDG is one of the leading business development and consulting company in Vietnam active in the areas of sourcing & production, strategic marketing and Project Management. Partners with clients in all sectors and regions to open new perspectives, address critical challenges and drive business activities to success in Vietnam. BDG is a private company with four offices in three countries.


33 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3911 1480 concetti– Consulting and research firm with a range of clients including the government, global US consumer products companies, infrastructure developers, oil companies and the World Bank.


69A1 Tran Ke Xuong, Phu Nhuan Tel: (08) 3551 2260 DL Technologies provide premium integrated technology solutions with emphasis on local “on the ground” support from a highly skilled and continually trained international team. Services include background music systems, lighting management and control systems, security & access control systems, premium audio and video with automated controls, discreet audio and video, home theatre, iPad-based home control / audio video control systems, air-conditioning control and energy management systems.


8th Floor, Saigon Riverside Office Center, 2A–4A Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 5252 Provides a broad spectrum of services to help businesses capitalise on opportunities for growth, improve financial performance and manage risk. Works with a range of firms including private, state–owned and foreign.

GOLDEN SPEED SEO Get maximum exposure for your website by improving your rankings in search engines like Google. A steady flow of potential clients will visit your site every day once you have achieved a good position on search engines' results pages. Contact Golden Speed SEO for a free session regarding your online project.


28th Floor, Saigon Trade Center, 37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3910 9100 Chartered accountants and management consultants working in a range of fields including Audit, Tax Advice, Corporate Finance and Advisory Services, Business Risk Services, Valuations and Due Diligence, Private Equity and Mergers and Acquisitions.


Villa 15, Duong 58, Phu Nhuan Compound, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 0916 352573 Huong Nguyen is a professional Image Consultant based in Ho Chi Minh City and the UK. An internationally accredited Master in Image Consulting, Huong offers personal consultations and corporate workshops on developing a professional and confident image, modern etiquette and business behaviour skills.


8th Floor, YOCO Building, 41 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 6416 A professional information

technology services company offering technical expertise in the areas of data security, email, document management, web hosting, information and communication technology (ICT) relocation services and a full-range of other IT solutions.


6th Floor, Abacus Tower, 58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 6770 Specialist intellectual property consultancy service providing the full range of IP services. From the implementation of global investigation and enforcement strategies, to the provision of commercial IP services, include IP filing and management services.


161A/1 Nguyen Van Thu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3911 0965 Incorporation of offshore and foreign–owned Vietnamese companies. Opening of representative offices and offshore bank accounts, providing licenses and tax stamps, business and marketing plans, reports and Englishlanguage editing. Also provides, investment strategies and administration services for foreign-owned companies based in Vietnam.


Fideco Riverview Building, Mezzanine Floor 14, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 0904 410884 Powered by Haines Centre for Strategic Management, STRASOL is a strategic solutions provider serving as a long-term strategic partner with senior leaders and organisations in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Focuses on the future, striving to deliver superior results, customer value and sustained competitive advantage through the application of strategic solutions, derived from a combination of researchbased best-practice, consulting and learning with a focus on change, people, strategy and leadership.


164 Nguyen Van Thu, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 2205 Tractus is a management consulting company that focuses on helping foreign investors gain success in Asia. Their core strengths are corporate strategy development and implementation, site selection, trade promotion, and market research. Offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Thailand, China and India.


35A-1-2 Grandview, Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7 Tel: (08) 5412 3402 An international human resource management consultancy specialising in organisational and people development. Services include: assessment / development centres, team building, corporate training, HRM audits and HR systems design.


New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 3562. An independent association of American and international businesses, the objective of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam is to promote trade and investment between the United States and Vietnam.


Ho Chi Minh Chapter, Suite 1A, 1st Floor, TV Building, 31A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3911 0272/ 73/ 74 A licensed foreign business group in Vietnam established to represent and promote the interests of Australian businesses operating here. AusCham co–ordinates topical breakfast seminars, social networking functions, governmental relations, and promotes profile charity events in Vietnam.

BRITISH BUSINESS GROUP OF VIETNAM 25 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 8430

The first foreign business group to set up in Vietnam, BBGV’s goal is to both promote the interests of its members as well as the more general interests of British business. Organises business luncheons and seminars as well as regular social and networking events.


Room 305 New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 3754 Open to all nationalities, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce aims to provide an effective network of business associates together with discussion forums about doing business in Vietnam. Offers an array of seminars as well as social and networking events.


12A Floor, Bitexco Building, 19–25 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 5423 Provides support to Nordic companies and individuals operating in Vietnam. A business and social network, members have the opportunity to meet, discuss, interact and share expertise and experience.


6th Floor, Unit 601, Tran Quy Building, 57 Le Thi Hong, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3046 A group with over 300 members who meet regularly to foster business relations with others in the community, as well as taking part in social, cultural, recreational, educational and charitable activities. Hosts regular networking functions and special events. Membership is VND200,000 per month and allows you access to a wide range of discounts around town.


42 Giang Van Minh, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 6996 The Swiss Business Association is a non-governmental, non-political, non-profit or-

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{BUSINESS Buff} ** A Marriage Made in Math * * By Shane Dillon

M=Y+(1/ M=Y+(1/ ee (X-Y)) (X-Y))


s someone who has just celebrated 12 months of marital bliss and with the added good fortune of marrying a fellow mathematician, you can imagine my enjoyment in finding some solid statistical research on the issue. So all those considering taking the big step on Valentine’s Day, read on and find the scientific formulae for a happy marriage. A 2010 study, published in the European Journal of Operational Research looked at 1,074 couples aged between 19 and 75 years, to discover which social factors were vital to a long and happy relationship. The results concluded that the perfect bride should be five years younger than the groom, from the same cultural background, and smarter by at least 27 percent. Optimally, the woman should have a degree, while the husband should remain relatively uneducated. The logic being that because women traditionally invest more raw emotion in a relationship, women have a tendency to carry the emotional happiness of the entire relationship, while the men tag along. Basically, if the wife is happy, then the husband is happy, too. Another academic reasoned: “Going back to prehistory, women have needed to invest more in relationships than men, because men are more biologically adapted to spread their seed around, women were therefore more likely to invest their intellectual abilities in maintaining that bond.”

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When Should You Marry? Lead researcher Nguyen Vi Cao states: “If people follow these guidelines in choosing their partners, they can increase their chances of a long, happy marriage by up to 20 percent.” He added that marrying a divorcee makes it far more unlikely that you will be happy. Another mathematician (Lindley) figured out the best age to get married by deducing the best time to make your decision is roughly one-third of the way into your period of availability. To be exact, you divide your total “available” time by the exponential e, which is equal to 2.718. For women, the period of availability [sic] is about 30 years, from age 16 to 46. Available time over e is roughly 11. Add 11 to 16 and you find that the “mathematically correct” age for a woman to get married is 27. Many say that men have a longer period of marriage availability from 16 to 60, which is a 44-year window. Over e again is 16, add that to their 16 year starting time, and you find that the mathematician’s time for a man to get married is 32 years of age. As far as the maths of marriage goes, sometimes the numbers don’t add up. But then again, sometimes the result is greater than the sum of the parts. Shane works in financial services. To contact him email

ganisation that strives to promote business, economic, cultural activities and other interests of common concern to the Swiss Business Association’s members and the Vietnamese authorities.


Tel: 0988 297990 Evecoo provides everything needed to plan, supply, organise, publicise, improve and implement a successful event. Evecoo gives every client specific attention and adds the needed magic to make any event memorable.


63 Mac Dinh Chi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6048 This luxury event hall in the centre of District 1 has four different ballrooms and a rooftop terrace, professional banquet, catering, and event services. Gala Royale is the ideal place for events such as meetings, conferences, product launchings, cocktail parties, weddings, or anniversaries.


50/8 Hoa Binh, Q11, Tel: 0165 6392 507 Mr Bouncy is an inflatable game hire company, offering great products hiring out a number of inflatables such as waterballs, bouncy castles and many more great items for parties and events.


268/3-5 Nguyen Thai Binh, Tan binh Tel: (08) 6675 2620 One World Tourism’s wedding planning business offers comprehensive wedding planning services in Vietnam no matter what size or type of wedding. It is offered to couples seeking high quality, attention to detailed planning and resources, wanting to create the wedding of their dreams, no matter what size, style or location.


46D Vuon Lai, Tan Phu, Tel: (08) 3812 6901 Offers everything from canapés and cocktails, buffets and set menus to barbeques and wedding catering. Combines excellent food, event management and exclusive venues to provide the ideal solution for any kind of event.


121/21 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3920 7237 A service dedicated to finding people a place to live. With an extensive list of

properties that fit any price range and preference, they can have you moved into a new house within days. Help with motorbike rentals, visas and other information about living in Vietnam is also available. All services provided free of charge.


32-34 Ngo Duc Ke, Suite 701, Q1 Tel: (08) 01659 419916 Created by a team of Vietnamese and expat professionals, Happy House aims to make life in Saigon easier for everyone by offering practical solutions for a myriad of problems, including monthly bill payments, home repairs, motorbike rentals, visa applications, maid placements, plant watering, computer repair and pet transportation.


Tel: (08) 2226 8855 The first dedicated relocation company in Vietnam provides services from relocation and immigration to cross–cultural and business awareness training.


Bitexco Office Building, 7th Floor, 19-25 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3529/3530 Represents property investors, developers and occupiers in all matters related to commercial and residential property. Services include leasing and sales, valuation and research, property management, and support services.


International Plaza Building, Room 16B8, 343 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 7553 A real estate agent providing a wide range of services including property sales, leasings, rentals, free brokerage and aftersales service.


Level 2, Pathfinder Building, 52 Dong Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 4707 Global real estate consultants, specialising in commercial / residential sales and leasing, project management, valuation and research


& consultancy. For further information email

EASY SAIGON The Easy Saigon website is a useful real estate website helping expats to find apartments in Ho Chi Minh City. Enquiries via their website are welcome.


48A Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 0989 007700 Expert in providing rental properties, constructions, decorations in HCM city especially in District 2. Supporting the professional services and after–sales.


369/6 Do Xuan Hop, Phuoc Long B, Q9 Tel: 0903 198901 thenest– Well–known property search and real estate agency with a useful website listing properties available for rent and sale. Service is orientated towards expats. Website is in English, French and Spanish.


1 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 6281 8516 Real Quest Vietnam staffs a mix of foreigners and Vietnamese to find houseseekers good homes at affordable prices.

SNAP A simple, web–based real estate search service. Provides information on rental properties all around the city with full listings available online.


18/34b Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: 0903 955 877 Native English speakers specialising in rentals and tenancy management. Spot offers quick and easy complimentary services from start to close.


Capital Place, 6 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 2000 Vietnam Sotheby’s International Realty has access to residential real estate both for sale and for lease in Vietnam and around the world. Contact them to view high–end apartments, villas, resorts and island properties.

Tel: 6255 6774 HousingInteractive offers an easy-to-use, comprehensive website that only lists authentic apartments and villas throughout Ho Chi Minh City. The website allows users to make specific searches to narrow down properties in order to suit their exact requirements and save time. Upon selecting, HousingInteractive’s professional staff is available 6 days a week to introduce tenants to their future homes.


Suite 501, Anh Kim Office Building, 43 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1 Tel: (08) 3914 7003 Transpo Property specialises in finding a suitable residence for their clients, as well as offering a full range of relocation services including school search, preview trips, orientation tours, and whatever else one may need when moving to Vietnam. Also provides a home search service to expats who are already living in Vietnam, specialising in finding high–end apartments and villas.


Tel: (08) 3825 8416 Offers full hospital costs paid up to VND40 billion with no hidden hospital sub–limits. Also includes a routine heath check and dental care. Available for anyone up to 74 years of age. No claims discount available.

THE ETHICAL INVESTMENT GROUP The Ethical Investment Group is dedicated to offering ‘real’ alternative investments to investors looking to make quality, above-average returns, while simultaneously expressing a social conscience with meaningful, measurable and sustainable environmental benefits.


66/11 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3 Tel: (08) 3820 0623 t– Personal financial planning for expatriates. Portable retirement savings plans for individuals of all nationalities. Tax minimisation strategies. Asset allocation and money management. Debt and cash–flow planning. Life, disability and health insurance. Family wealth protection.


17th Floor, Sun Wah Tower, 115 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 9930 A leading investment fund management company with extensive experience in the emerging Vietnam market. Manages the Vietnam Opportunity Fund (VOF), which is a US$839 million investment fund currently listed on the London Stock Exchange.


Lau 8, River View Tower, Thai Van Lung,Q 1 Tel: 3821 9908 Blue Cross Vietnam is part of the Pacific Cross group of companies with over 60 years’ experience in providing health and travel insurance to people and businesses who call Asia home. Their reputation for transparent, honest and reliable service means they are the strength behind your insurance. To make sure you are getting the most out of your insurance contact them for a free quote.


1A Me Linh Square, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 7362 Independent advisors that represent top reputable medical insurers to provide you with the best suitable medical cover for individual, family or company needs.


Tel: (09) 3487 4271 Represents insurance programs offered by Seven Corners and other global insurers. Customized health and travel cover options are available at competitive rates for corporations, individuals, families, students and groups.


15th Floor, Kumho Asiana Plaza, 39 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3812 5125 Provides a quality range of insurance services to both commercial enterprises and individuals. Coverage includes property, liability, business interruption, marine cargo, automobile, home and travel as well as expat healthcare packages. Toll free hotline in Vietnam: 1800 599 998.


1901 Me Linh Point, 2 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 9355 An integrated financial services provider with an exclusive focus on Vietnam’s capital markets. Established in 1994, the group is one of the largest and most experienced asset managers in Vietnam with total group assets in excess of US$2 billion. Has offices in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and the UK.

26 Phung Khac Khoan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3597 Established in 1994, Apollo offers high–quality and cost–effective English language classes including general English, English for teens, English for business communication and a pronunciation clinic.


51 Nguyen Cu Trinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 6788 A foreign owned education and training company that offers a broad range of educational programmes and services such as English language tuition, university pathway programmes, corporate training, teacher training, and overseas study consultancy and placement services.


33/19 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 0908 381492 L’Atelier is a French language centre offering classes in all forms to children and adults, and to French-speaking and foreign residents. Each course is offered in small groups of a maximum of four people or in private class. Classes include spelling and grammar tuition after school, monitoring for the French Education Programme, preparing for official tests (DEFL, DAFL, TFL, IB), and Vietnamese lessons, including extra-curricular activities during the holidays.


135/10 Nguyen Cuu Van, Binh Thanh Tel: 0916 670 771 A Vietnamese language school specialising in personalised one-on-one instruction at a comfortable and central school, in your home, office, or over Skype.



110-112-114 Street No. 2, Hung Gia 5, Q7 Tel: (08) 5412 3300 A fast-growing English language center in District 7’s Phu My Hung, UEC was founded in 2009. Now with 500 students drawn from 17 different nationalities, the classes are served by over 35 native English speaking teachers who are committed to providing a culturally diverse and engaging classroom atmosphere. Offers a wide range of classes from beginner levels through TOEFL, IGCSE, SAT and IELTS. UEC also provides support to students aspiring for a place in international schools. VNC Vietnamese Language Training & Translation provides Vietnamese language training by qualified experienced teachers and Certified/ Notarized Translation by experts for types of materials and documents.


189 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 9800 One of the largest and most respected non– governmental language institutions in Ho Chi Minh City. The English language training programmes are designed in cooperation with the City University of New York. Has a number of campuses throughout the city.


Suite 605, Saigon Tower, 29 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 1717 Australian law firm working in Asia for over 30 years. Besides providing the standard legal services to corporate clients, has an excellent website containing the Vietnam Laws Online Database English translations of over 3,000 Vietnamese laws. Also publishes a monthly Vietnam Legal Update.


12th Floor, Saigon Tower, 29 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 5585 Baker & McKenzie provide on–the–ground liaison and support services to clients interested in investigating, negotiating and implementing projects in the country.


17th Floor, Saigon Tower, 29 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 8860 Operating in Vietnam since 1994 with offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, the firm provides clients with the full range of legal services in all areas of business including corporate, real estate, banking and finance, and all forms of inward investment.


45 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3910 0168 A leading professional institution specialising in teaching Vietnamese to international students. Courses range from basic conversational Vietnamese for beginners to upper elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, as well as a range of special courses that take in Vietnamese literature, composition and a crash-course 6-hour survival session. Courses range in intensity and classes take place on and off campus.



88 Huynh Van Banh, Phu Nhuan Tel: (08) 6292 9288 Based in Singapore with campuses located

37/54 Tran Dinh Xu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6678 0914

4th floor, 4 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 4728 As the first team building provider established in Vietnam, Embers specializes in making teams better in globally competitive markets. Embers' HR performance management services include team building excursions, strategic planning retreats, conference facilitations and training workshops.


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throughout Southeast Asia, ERC offers a comprehensive range of business courses from soft skills development programmes and corporate training to bachelor programmes in finance, business management and tourism and hospitality management, all the way through to the 12-month MBAs awarded by the Australian Institute of Business Administration.




6th Floor, Yoco Office Building, 41 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 9919 A 100% foreign–invested company focusing on management services and consulting with in–house programmes to meet the particular requirements of its clients. Offers teambuilding and academic–based business and management programmes.


MARKET RESEARCH 9 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3822 7727 An independent marketing and brand research specialist operating in the Asia Pacific region. Services include auditing and optimising research programmes, knowledge management, developing marketing plans and business models, and assessing market opportunities.


3rd Floor, 140 Nguyen Van Thu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 6965 Provides a regional perspective on consumer, retail and social research to a range of multinational organisations operating in Indochina.


CentrePoint Building, Level 4, 106 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhan, Tel: (08) 3997 8088

Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence, mobile measurement, trade shows and related properties. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York and Diemen in the Netherlands.


105–107 Nguyen Cong Tru, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 5727 With over 11 years in the marketplace, TNS Vietnam offers all three major market research services — customised, access panels and media monitoring — to a range of local and international clients.


30 Dang Tat, Q1 Provides professional marketing services and consulting for the Vietnamese market including integrated marketing communications, PR and brand–building consulting.


Level 5, 273-273B Ben Chuong Duong, Q1

Tel: (08) 3838 5517 matterhorncommunications. com Providing public relations and communications support to international and local firms operating in Vietnam. Specialising in corporate communications, media relations, corporate social responsibility, and media and issues management and training.


1201, Block A, Indochina Park Tower, 4 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 2220 2989 universalmanagementasia. com UMA is an Australian/Vietnamese promotional and representation company providing promotional marketing solutions for business products and services within Vietnam.


7th Floor, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 0462 Vero Public Relations helps clients expand their footprints in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand through effective public relations campaigns. Services offered include branding, media relations, event management, public affairs and issues/ crisis management.



1st Floor, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3930 8800 Established in 2003, HR2B is currently one of the top three HR consulting firms in Vietnam, specialising in matching senior level professionals to top opportunities in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. Other services include: payroll outsourcing, contract staffing and HR management consulting.


8th Floor, Resco Building, 9496 Nguyen Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3911 0950 Manpower is the first global recruitment company to set up locally. Offers a range of services for the entire employment and business cycle.


39 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3520 7900 Robert Walters Vietnam offers a highly professional and specialised recruitments service. With 47 offices in 23 countries, Robert Walters holds an established track record with Asia's leading institutions, from multinational corporations to smaller enterprises. The Vietnam office specialises in permanent




Ian: 01283 327472 Innovative Training 2020 provides tailored training courses combining soft skills with English. A knowledgeable team is able to offer English language-led training and development to all industries — hospitality, banking, healthcare, IT and local government.

702 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 Tel: (08) 3776 1300 A leading international provider of skills training and professional staff development. Well-known for their MBA programme which can be taken both part and fulltime.

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jobs across these disciplines: Sales & Marketing, Technical Healthcare, Accountancy & Finance, Banking & Financial Services, Human Resources, IT, Supply Chain, Engineering and Oil & Gas Technical.


Suite 808, 8th Floor, Sun Wah Tower, 115 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 9488 The first and only global HR consulting firm fully operational in Vietnam. Services include executive compensation, talent management, employee rewards and surveys, HR effectiveness and technology, data services and total reward surveys.


2nd Floor, 58 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3454 With more than 800 offices in over 45 countries, Allied Pickfords is one of the worldwide leaders in removal services. In Vietnam, Allied also provides tailored relocation services.


9th Floor, Unit 9.3, REE Tower 9 Doan Van Bo, Q4. Tel: (08) 3826 7799 Asian Tigers are the largest regional move management

specialists with partners all over the world, with services including door to door moving, housing and school finding, local and office moves, and pet relocations.


48A Huynh Man Dat, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3840 4237 Crown Relocations services include expense management, policy consulting and programme administration, storage, transit protection and domestic and international transportation of household goods.


6th Floor, Saigon Port Building, 3 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4 Tel: (08) 3826 7655 Focused primarily on the international and local movement of household goods, JVK is currently a leader in the field.


396/4 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4 Tel: (08) 3941 5325 Specialists in international moves for household goods and used personal effects through our global partner network. Also local, domestic and office moves. Experts in exporting used scooters that do not have documentation. Email Chris Honor at chris@ for further information.


Tel: (08) 2226 8855 Resident Vietnam is the first dedicated relocation company with 11 years of experience in Vietnam and provides full range of destination services, cross–cultural training and immigration management services.


7th Floor, 6-8 Doan Van Bo, Q4 Tel: (08) 3826 8850 SEAL offers a complete range of relocation services, including global and local relocation services to, from and within Vietnam. SEAL is also

an accredited pet relocation agent.


8th Floor, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3933 0065 Santa Fe Relocation Services offers moving, home search, pet transport, orientation and immigration services. The only moving company to have ISO 9001 – 14001 certification in Vietnam.


Crn. of Nguyen Du & Le Van Huu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3520 8888 Adjacent to the InterContinental Asiana Saigon is the InterContinental Asiana Saigon Residences with 260 luxurious and spacious residential suites. The residences offer panoramic views of the downtown area and is part of the brand-new Kumho Link Asiana Plaza, the city’s finest integrated food and beverage complex featuring commercial, residential and luxury shopping arcade.


307/29 Nguyen Van Troi, Tan Binh Located five minutes from Tan Son Nhat International Airport and 15 minutes from the city centre, Jasmine Court is a boutique property with only 12 apartments comprising one and two-bedroom suites of various sizes. Amenities in each apartment include a 32” LCD TV, DVD player and audio system, in-room safe and wireless Internet with broadband connectivity, and a four-fixture en suite with shower.


17–19-21 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 6111 Offers clients a wide choice of luxurious and modern furnished accommodation with attentive and discreet

service. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, sauna and steamroom, as well as two on-site restaurants — Shang Palace and Terrazzo Café.


53 Vo Truong Toan, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 4111 riverside– Four–hectares of nature on the bank of the Saigon River where all can enjoy the lifestyle of a resort with all the luxury amenities of a fully serviced-apartment. Located within minutes of the downtown area by high speed boat shuttle service.


127 Pasteur, Q3 Tel: (08) 3823 2288 Sherwood Residence is a luxurious serviced apartment property in Ho Chi Minh City and the first property certified by the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism. Modern living spaces meet prime location, comfort and class with five–star facilities and service.


8A Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 8899 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9197 Somerset Chancellor Court and Somerset Ho Chi Minh City serviced residences combine the space and privacy of an apartment with the services of a top-rated hotel. They come with separate living and dining areas, as well as a fully equipped kitchen where guests can prepare a meal for themselves, their family and friends.


5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 2098 65 serviced apartments located in the city centre overlooking the river. Also has a comprehensive health club for tenants and members, a squash court and a 16th floor swimming pool.

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Want to know the best places to eat or drink in this city? Here is our pick of the top 100 restaurants


NEW YORK-ITALIAN 11 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 3329 New York-style Italian restaurant offering a range of tasty and affordable antipasti, pastas, and pizzas. Friendly staff and rustic bare brick walls adorned with Hollywood film legends make for a relaxed and attractive setting.


FRENCH/MEDITERRANEAN Sofitel Saigon Plaza, 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1555 Exuding a southern Gallic atmosphere with its tiled veranda, pastel-coloured walls and ficus trees, this traditional French restaurant has quarterly Michelin star

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promotions and an award winning pastry team.


new world wine list.

excellent wood-fired pizzas.



FRENCH / PARISIEN 38 Dong Du, Q1 Tel: 01204 699154 Chic art nouveau decor surrounds this dining experience – but the streetside seafood stand draws the focus back to where it should be, on the fresh, authentic Parisian cuisine.

FRENCH / MEDITERRANEAN 48 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 2229 8882 This intimate, openkitchened restaurant bathed in white specialises in a mix of contemporary Mediterranean and French cuisine. Has a small but well thought out menu, backed up with an extensive wine list.



FRENCH / MEDITERRANEAN 74/7D Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 4888 A romantic, indoor setting creates the atmosphere at this white tablecloth mainstay. Serving a mixture o f F re n c h - i n f l u e n c e d Mediterranean cuisine, it also boasts excellent desserts and a great old and

TRADITIONAL ITALIAN 17B Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 1080 This downtown hideaway with rustic–style decorative trawls features fresh, light regional cuisine from across Italy. Try the carpaccio misto di pesce and agnello d’antico. Also specializes in

CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN 11 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: 01634 991625 Serving traditional Italian cuisine with a contemporary flair, Del Buon Vino (the Good Wine) also features a beautiful lounge on the 3rd floor for relaxing with friends and a glass of wine.


CLASSIC FRENCH / EUROPEAN FUSION 40 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 9263 A sociable and popular French bistro serving up 100 percent organic, traditional Gallic staples such as French onion soup, escargot, and moules marinières, plus

European fusion dishes, and competitively priced world wines.


CLASSIC FRENCH 31 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8465 Unpretentious but tasty French fare in a relaxed garden setting within the French cultural centre. The robust, bistro-style cuisine is very well-priced, and excellent, cheap house wine is served by the carafe.


TRATTORIA-STYLE ITALIAN 88 Ho Tung Mau, Ben Nghe, Q1, Tel: (08) 3915 3692 A contemporary trattoria in the heart of Saigon, serving home-cooked Italian cuisine with New York flair in a beautifully designed space with high ceilings. The menu features both traditional antipasti and substantial main courses.


ITALIAN, INTERNATIONAL 175/1 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 0760 A family-run restaurant selling excellent pizzas, salads and pastas to hungry backpackers for well over a decade. Amiable service and reasonable prices make a very pleasant eating experience.


FRENCH BISTRO 28 Do Quang Dau, Q1, Tel: 0903 852956 French backpacker area mainstay attracting a clientele made up of Gallic expats and tourists. Excellent food menu with daily specials backs up a long bar seating area perfect for cradling a Ricard.


CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN Ground Floor, Park Hyatt Hotel, 2 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1234 Unpretentious, casual but elegant restaurant with a tried–and–tested Italian menu backed up by a compact wine list from regions like Umbria, Toscana and Veneto. Regular specials and impressive open kitchens.


PAN-ITALIAN 36 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel: (08) 6253 2828 Opening out into a large, leafy terracotta-tiled garden area, this trattoria-style Italian restaurant serves up quality homemade pasta, risotto, gnocchi, excellent pizza and grilled dishes. Another branch downtoan

at 87 Nguyen Hue, Q1.

Excellent delivery service.



ITALIAN / VIETNAMESE 119-121 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 9220 Two-storey Stella serves very reasonable Italian food — antipasti, pasta, pizza, insalata plus meats and fish — at reasonable prices. Also has Wi-Fi, cool aircon, and one of the best lattes around. Now no-smoking indoors.


CLASSIC FRENCH 18 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 4585 Trois Gourmands is the successor to the legendary Le Toit Gourmand in Tan Binh, and continues to serve up some of the best Gallic fare in town. The seven-course, wine-paired dinner remains excellent value.


INTERNATIONAL 27 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: 0838 238424 The downtown outlet of one of Vietnam’s most successful restaurant chains, Al Fresco’s offers international, Australian-influenced comfort fare in a pleasant environment with efficient, friendly service to match.

BRAZILIAN / BUFFET 238 Pasteur, Q3, Tel: (08) 3820 7157 Latino ambiance with great meat dishes and attractive, spacious décor. The churrasco, with 12 cuts of barbecued and cured meats plus unlimited salad, is hand carved at your table. Can get busy.


EUROPEAN / CAFÉ 23 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 2772 Consistently tasty European café fare — think deli-style sandwiches, salads and mezzes, plus coffees and juices — served at a popular park-side Le Duan location with classic cream and green-tiled décor.


LEBANESE The Courtyard, 74/13D Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: 3822 2188 A Lebanese restaurant and shisha lounge located downtown, encompasses a multiple-floored restaurant and extensive garden area. As the name suggests the menu has a Lebanese/Arabic theme.



40 Lily Road, An Phu Superior Compound, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6790 Live music, mini-festivals and functions are regular events at this spacious restobar in An Phu on the banks of the Saigon river. The menu offers seasonal dishes, classic mains and sharing plates.


INTERNATIONAL / GRILL CR-2 3-4 107 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 6592 Australian themed but Singaporean-owned eatery and bar on The Crescent with great terraced seating specializing in hugeportioned international fare, all set in a contemporary, spacious environment.


GERMAN / RESTOBAR Level 1, Kumho Link, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 4206 The city’s first contemporary Do you think you should be listed on these pages? If so, simply email us on and we’ll see what we can do. We can’t promise but we’ll try our best


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{R I S I N G Sun} ** I-tsu-mo * * PRICES Chicken or pork stick: VND20,000 Two pieces of sushi: VND40,000 Large sushi platter: VND70,000 Udon chicken soup: VND45,000 Udon curry: VND90,000


he Japanese word itsumo means anytime, so you might be a tad disappointed to find that I-tsu-mo only opens for breakfast and dinner. Despite being on the bustling Bui Vien, it is at the quieter end, set back from the road just enough to be invisible unless you turn to look. But hidden behind a thick glass and oak door is an intimate little restaurant. The menu is brief but tempting. Yet despite having some of the tastiest sushi in the city, there is little variety. This is not a sushi bar, it is a place for people to come and relax. There are fewer mainstream dishes like katsudon or teriyaki chicken and more of those typical, everyday Japanese dishes. It-su-mo focuses on making a handful of meals very well. An authentic miso soup and some sushi or nigiri might be your entrée followed by curry and rice or udon done a number of different ways, including basic soups or bukkake style through to their curry udon house specialty. If you are taking local friends, there are many Vietnamesefriendly meals such as the yakitori or the excellent karage chicken. Upstairs you can find more

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tables ideal for a dinner party or celebration — and certainly the Pham Ngu Lao style beer prices make it an inexpensive place to do that, although you can buy some fine sake or shouchu for a bit extra.

Quiet or Loud It’s not uncommon to find rowdy gatherings on the second floor, so for a quieter meal you might want to take in the more mature Japanese dining experience of sitting at the bar flicking through the Japanese culture and dining magazines while watching the two chefs and their assistants prepare the food. Smoking is welcome inside and most nights you can find at least one wizened old man sitting at the end of the bar puffing away and chatting to staff after his meal. While Japanese food is reasonably popular in Saigon, there is less of the authentic udon bar style restaurants in tourist areas, so it’s a real pleasure to enter this quiet little haven in Bui Vien and forget about the motorbikes and night life outside and experience a little bit of Tokyo for an hour. — David Robinson I-tsu-mo is at 242 Bui Vien, Q1

* * * TOP 100

Want to know the best places to eat or drink in this city? Here is our pick of the top 100 restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. Unhappy with it? Email

German beer bar and restaurant, Brotzeit offers well known German beer accompanied by authentic Bavarian Cuisine —sausages, schnitzels and more — in a relaxed yet chic drinking hall setting.


87-89-91 Ho Tung Mau, Q1 Tel: 0122 763 1261 bahdjarestaurant@gmail. com Located just beneath Au Lac Saigon Hotel, Bahdja is Saigon’s first ever Algerian restaurant, serving authentic, multi-ethnic Berber North African and Mediterranean cuisine cooked and served in a traditional Algerian style. Best experienced in a group, this small but pleasant restaurant’s soothing ambience is matched by the owners’ genuine hospitality and complimented by an array of tasty tajines and couscous-based dishes. Make sure to try the excellent Moroccan wine, too.


INTERNATIONAL / VIETNAMESE 40/31 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 7622 This affable café is a rarity in the backpacker area for its genuinely good musical playlist. Excellent, build-your-own breakfasts, baked potatoes, toasties, Vietnamese fare and more. Has a popular motorbike rental service.


INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN Level 51, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8751 Highest dining in the city. Modern international and pan-Asian fine dining cuisine with 360-degree sweeping views. Open theatre kitchen, mezzanine seating and 300+ label walk-in wine cellar.


STEAKHOUSE / INTERNATIONAL 117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 5368 Do you think you should be listed on these pages? If so, simply email us on and we’ll see what we can do. We can’t promise but we’ll try our best


Although a hotel restaurant, the enticing range of US and Australian steaks plus great grill and comfort food menu in this contemporary eatery make for a quality bite. Decent-sized steaks start at VND390,000.

The rustic looking, bananaleaf roofed Mekong Merchant has long been the place in An Phu. Set around a cobblestoned courtyard the cuisine includes gourmet seafood and pastas. Bakery-style Bistro out front.



AMERICAN 52 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 4327 The comfort food on offer at this striking US-style diner ranges from meatball baguettes to chilli burgers, pizzas, blackened chicken salads and a selection of more expensive international mains.


ARGENTINIAN STEAKHOUSE 5D Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1879 A pleasant downtown eatery mixing an Argentinian steakhouse theme with pork, chicken, lamb, homemade spicy sausage, skewers, burger dishes and everything that can come off a grill.


AUSTRALIAN / INTERNATIONAL Ground Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1Tel: (08) 3915 6006 Mixing hearty pub grub such as burgers, salads and prime rib steaks with a sports bar atmosphere, this Australian chain also offers regular promotions and a 4pm to 7pm happy hour. Excellent outdoor terrace.


INTERNATIONAL FUSION The Square, 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 0931 Although a chain restaurant, the international offerings here are consistently good and creative. Excellent service, an attractive outdoor terrace area, and a good kids menu. Check out their pepper steaks.


INTERNATIONAL BUFFET Ground F l o o r, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, Crn. of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3520 9099 Buffet restaurant specialising in a boutique selection of appetisers, local and imported seafood, succulent steaks from the grill, and hand-crafted noodles. Bakery operates throughout day to ensure that every dish arrives fresh.


INTERNATIONAL CAFE FARE / SEAFOOD 23 Thao Dien, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6478

PAN-AMERICAN / TEX-MEX 50 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1311 Mogambo is one of the city’s longest running establishments. A wellknown expat meeting spot, with dishes running from fajitas and burritos through to the coronary bypass burger, gumbo and ribs.


AMERICAN / FRENCH 25–27 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 7373 NYSW is well known for serving up formidable prime signature cuts of New York strip steak, rib eye, double strip loins and chateaubriands along with sophisticated sides, in a glitzy, Hollywood-esque atmosphere.


INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN Ground floor, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 Great buffets draw daily crowds to this downtown hotel restaurant. Streamlined décor and clean lines create a modern ambience that makes an excellent backdrop for the extensive range of cuisine.


SPANISH / EUROPEAN 97 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6924 Legs of Iberian ham hang in the downstairs bar at this multi-story bodega serving Spanish-styled tapas. Attractively decorated in warm reds, yellows and oranges, Pacharan’s food menu is traditionally Spanish.


INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8888 Flagship restaurant of The New World Hotel, serving lavish buffets all day. Many cooking stations ranging from Chinese to Italian, sushi and seafood, to salads, cold cuts, cheese plates and desserts.


TURKISH / INTERNATIONAL 25 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 3677

Sumptuous, Turkish-themed restaurant close to the mosque with Islamic-style white dome décor and comfortable, cushioned seating. Authentically Turkish cuisine with a sprinkling of western fare thrown in.

influenced, international cuisine ranging from the zucchini carpaccio through to the saganiki, a range of dips, mousaka, osso buco and lamb chop skewers. Also has an excellent upstairs cigar room.



EUROPEAN/ASIAN FUSION 8/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9838 This quirky but highly rated Italian / Japanese fusion pizza parlour serves wacky yet delicious pies such as tuna curry pizza and calamari seaweed pizza, as well as more traditional varieties.


FRENCH BISTRO / INTERNATIONAL The Square, 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 0509 A slightly retro feel pervades this popular French-style bistro and wine bar which once housed the city’s opium refinery. The cuisine runs from creative salads through to Mediterranean influenced mains.


INTERNATIONAL / FINE DINING 3rd floor, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 Old images of Saigon grace the walls while a pianist plays in the background of the Caravelle’s signature restaurant. The fare is surprisingly contemporary. Good choice for a particularly special meal.


INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN Renaissance Riverside, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0033 Offers versatile all–day dining of international quality, with the bonus of being able to watch the action on the river sidewalk. Features western, Asian and Vietnamese buffets.


INTERNATIONAL 15-17 Cao Trieu Phat, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: 0948 901465 scottbinhs.php Serving creative, all homemade comfort food, this restaurant boasts a full bar, ice-cold beer and an international wine list to complement meals. Has a focus on the creative use of local ingredients.


CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN 23rd Floor, Centec Tower, 72–74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3, Tel: (08) 3827 9631 A breezy terrace, indoor bar and separate dining room with sweeping views over central Saigon make up this enormous, comfortable space. A wellthought out and romantic venue, with excellent food.


INTERNATIONAL / MEDITERRANEAN 9A Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 4798 Simple, unpretentious Greek-

INTERNATIONAL/ASIAN Level 50, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8750 All-day restaurant and events venue offering a panoramic view of Saigon. Food offered includes an express business lunch, high tea, and buffet dinner, along with an a la carte menu.


The restaurant of famed chef Ryoichi ‘Roy’ Iwashita, from Osaka, Inaho features some of the best sushi and sashimi in town, with faultless ingredients and presentation.

the full range of fare from all ends of the subcontinent, from dosas and vadas through to chicken tikka masala, kormas, kebabs and fiery vindaloos.


INDIAN MALAY 35 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: 0903 863114 Long running hole-in-the-wall halal restaurant opposite the Mosque selling a selection of Malaysian-style Indian cuisine. Simple fan-cooled dining area with all dishes costing well under VND100,000.

JAPANESE / FUSION 45 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2351 Kabuto Tokyo offers typical Japanese cuisine, and fusion dishes in a dramatic environment with Manga cartoons on the walls, golden ceilings, Japanese armour and huge carp steamer lantern displays.


MODERN ASIAN FUSION 38 Nguyen U Di, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 6632 Set on the banks of Saigon River across from Thanh Da Island, this innovative restaurant serves up modern Asian fusion cuisine in a Bali-style atmosphere, complemented by great cocktails and a long wine list.

JAPANESE NOODLES 18 Thai Van Lung, Q1; SD04, Lo H29-2, KP My Phat, Phu My Hung, Q7 Noodles can be found in every form in this sleek, openkitchened eatery. Noodles are served in sets — the lunchtime offering goes for just over VND100,000 — or as individual dishes.



MIDDLE-EASTERN 71/7 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3822 The deep colours, Arabic décor and cushioned outdoor terrace area give this popular venue its unique touch. The food is good, too, taking in tabouleh, houmous, falafel and mutabbal, shwarmas and more. Sells authentic shisha.


INTERNATIONAL FUSION 41 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 7375 Creative cocktails, an extensive wine list and laid-back ambiance, combined with a conversationfriendly bar area, 40-seat dining space, and high quality international cuisine makes ZanZBar one of Saigon’s go-to destinations.


AMERICAN / TEX-MEX 169A Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 3897 cafe_zoom This corner-located Vespainfatuated venue is a café and restaurant by day and a sidewalk drinking joint by night. Friendly staff and American deli-style and Cajun fare makes it a regular expat haunt.


JAPANESE NOODLES 29 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3521 0008 Bright, airy and spacious with sake bottles hung across the wall, the menu here focuses on ramen noodles, starting at around VND100,000 a dish. Also rice and dumpling options.


SUSHI / SASHIMI 4 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 0326

SUSHI / SASHIMI 53-55 Ba Huyen Thanh Quan, Q3, Tel: (08) 3930 0039 Sushi Dining AOI offers fullblown Japanese-style sushi, sashimi, and other dishes such as tempura, pork cutlet and cold soba noodles in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Good value set lunches. Probably the best sushi in town.


JAPANESE BARBECUE 15A6 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2527 Japanese eatery specialising in all things barbecue, the charcoalgrilled beef cooked at the table is to die for, and various other meat and vegetable options are good, too. Great lunch set.


JAPANESE / OKINAWA 13/1 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8433 yamaneko– Funky Yamaneko — down an alley off Le Thanh Ton — offers delicious, unpretentious Okinawan fare alongside mainland staples. Does a great set lunch deal.


PAN-THAI 55 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 5453 Subtle lighting and comfortable sofa-like seating at this An Phu eatery. The menu has a whole page dedicated to tom yum soup as well as firey larb moo and Laotian som tam. Thai cuisine cooked up by no-holds-barred Thai chefs.


NORTH / SOUTH INDIAN 164 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3838 6661 This pleasant, airy Indian does



THAI / VIETNAMESE 185 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 1311 Owned by a Thai-trained Vietnamese chef this is one of the few eateries in town serving up very good pan-Thai cuisine. Great value, with mains generally around VND70,000.


CANTONESE / PAN-CHINESE New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8888 Elegant surroundings, top quality ingredients, attentive service and comfortable, roundtable dining makes Dynasty one of the top Chinese restaurants in town, with a classic dim sum menu.


NORTH / SOUTH INDIAN 15B4 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 3017 com The ubiquitous mint sauce is thick and creamy and the curries are both authentic and smoky. Ganesh is rated by many as the best Indian in town. Very friendly service.


CLASSIC THAI 34 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8554 Excellent, long-running restaurant with classic Thai decor. The fare includes laab salads, curries, som tam, fish cakes and dishes such as deepfried catfish with mango salad. Three VIP rooms upstairs.


ROAST KITCHEN CANTONESE Unit 15, 1/F, Kumho Asiana Saigon, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3521 8181 Hong Kong casual dining restaurant, Gourmet’s Delight Roast Kitchen is the first of its kind in Saigon serving authentic barbeque and traditional Cantonese dishes in a laid-back atmosphere.


CANTONESE Renaissance Riverside Hotel, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang. Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0033 Offers authentic, gourmet Cantonese cuisine in an elegant, classic setting, with striking décor and the bonus of views over the Saigon River. Dishes range from

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{ TOP Eats } ** Reviews * *



2A Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 0835 194520

any amusing name combinations are available for anyone who wants to play with the Vietnamese language and its often unsavoury pronunciation when pronounced phonetically in English. But so far no foreign-inspired enterprises, at least in Vietnam, have gone down the Phuc My or Phuc Long route when searching for a name for their business. Which all gives Phat Phuc Chinese Takeaway a certain edge. The people behind this business have got balls. Fortunately the one thing they don't



Delivery only Tel: 0839 415433 Daily 11am to 11pm

hicken and waffles have been a bit of an obsession for me since I went to my first Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles location on Pico Boulevard. Since then, any chance I could get to downtown Los Angeles meant a stop for some southern goodness. Which brings me to Willy Woo’s Chicken and Waffles. It’s pretty strange to see a chicken and waffles joint in Ho Chi Minh City, but it seems that owner Geoffrey Dietz doesn’t mind going Americana, if restaurants like The Black Cat and El Gato Negro are any indication. Perusing the

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serve is balls or indeed any other vital organs. Instead the speciality at this takeaway or delivery only joint is Britishstyle Chinese. The menu abounds with British sounding concoctions created by the large Chinese diaspora that have made the UK their home. Take the beef, pork or chicken in oyster sauce, the crispy shredded beef, sweet and sour pork and crispy aromatic duck, all ubiquitous dishes that you would find on street corner eateries the length and breadth of not just Great Britain, but many other countries in the west. Yet there are notable omissions, too. Chicken chow mein is one, egg fried rice another and that most Chinese of Chinese dishes, chicken and cashew nuts. Fortunately there are a few Mongolian, Szechuan and Hunanese additions, giving

the menu a touch more spice than you would be likely to find back home. For this too-lazy-to-cook writer, the standout dish is the crispy shredded beef (M17 on the menu if you're ordering over the phone). Crispy on the outside, tender in the middle and cooked with copious amounts of whole dried chillies, it ticks all those finger-licking boxes that make the clichéd Chinese dish into a winner. The excellent General Tso's chicken with broccoli is a hit, too. Yet it's nowhere near the heady heights of the crispy beef. Smothered in Sriracha chilli sauce, and you’re in spicemeister heaven. — Nick Ross

menu is a delightful look at the Deep South with staples like Chicken Fried Steak, a Pulled Pork Sandwich, and Red Beans and Rice. He even has a Chick-Fil-A sandwich! After a look, I went with the Hollywood and, just to push things over the edge, an order of buffalo wings.

For the sides, we ordered the mac-andcheese along with their mashed potatoes. Both were great but I felt the mac-andcheese could have used just a bit less salt. The buffalo wings were great value. For VND120,000 you get a set of eight that are glazed with a tangy wing sauce that has just enough heat to make your lips tingle. On the side their homemade blue cheese dipping sauce and a small handful of celery sticks help cool it down. Deep frying chicken wings is an art form and the staff at Willy Woo’s performs this duty perfectly. The blistery, crackly chicken skin held the wing sauce and kept the chicken underneath juicy and tender. For me the wings stole the show. — Quang Dao

Savoury but Sweet The Hollywood comes with three pieces of fried chicken and a Belgian waffle with choice of two sides. The portion is generous for the price, which comes to VND200,000. The three pieces of chicken were tender and juicy and had a strong hit of pepper with each bite. The waffle was fluffy and managed to stay crisp during the delivery. Eating chicken and waffles is a hands-on experience that shouldn’t involve a fork and knife. Just tear off some chicken, place it in the waffle and dip it in the syrup.

Mains come with white rice and cost between VND120,000 and VND160,000 each. Lunch specials cost VND120,000 a set.

Willy Woo’s Chicken and Waffles is only available for delivery through and

* * * TOP 100

Want to know the best places to eat or drink in this city? Here is our pick of the top 100 restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. Feel we're missing something or have included the wrong places? Simply email

VND80,000 to VND900,000.


CONTEMPORARY THAI FUSION Level 1, Kumho Link, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4423 Modern Thai fusion restaurant serving Thai classics alongside tom yam cappuccinos and more. Koh Thai’s creative cocktails merge Thai flavours with local seasonal fruits and herbs.


SINGAPOREAN 45 Le Anh Xuan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8371 Friendly, authentic five-storey Singaporean eatery, plating up the likes of nasi lemak, mee rebus, and awesome chicken curry, as well as specialities like frog porridge, chilli crab and fish head curry.


PAN-SOUTHEAST ASIAN 1 Cao Ba Nha, Q1, Tel: (08) 6290 8899 Traditional pan-Southeast Asian favourites served in a visually arresting setting within a French colonial-era villa, just minutes from the backpacker area. Reasonably priced, with healthy juices and smoothies.


PAN-ASIAN CURRY HOUSE S57-1 Sky Garden 2, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 0999 A Saigon South favourite, with three draught beers and a menu of Pan-Asian dishes from Sri Lankan curries, to beef rendang, fish head curry and mutton vindaloo. Most dishes under VND100,000.


KOREAN 33 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4297 Seoul House was the first Korean restaurant in town and continues to be popular with a cosmopolitan clientele. Food includes banchan starters, bulgogi, awesome spicy tofu and minced pork soups.

to vindaloo, sambhar, dosa, and kebabs. Also a great range of vegetarian fare.


NORTH INDIAN 40/3 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3508 3777 Don’t be duped by the veneer, The Punjabi knocks out some seriously good North Indian fare at budget prices. Portions of both vegetarian and meat dishes are big, too.


TEPPANYAKI & BBQ 42 Le Anh Xuan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3232 This seven-floor restaurant is headed up by Thailand’s number one teppanyaki chef. The all-Thai cheffing team possess an arsenal of entertaining cooking skills, preparing meat and seafood on traditional teppanyaki grills.


PAN-CHINESE 1st Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, crn. of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 9099 Skillful chefs prepare authentic hand-pulled noodles, fresh dim sum and hot wok dishes within an impeccably designed open kitchen, as diners look on. Stylish and spectacular.


BANH XEO / HUE CUISINE 46A Dinh Cong Trang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1110 One of the best banh xeo — pork, beansprout and prawn pancakes served up with salad and fresh herbs — joints in town. No frills, outdoor, covered bench seating.



PAN-CHINESE / NOODLES 162 Nguyen Trai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3925 0824 Bustling 24-hour restaurant offering the full range of Chinese fare, including dim sum, homemade noodle soup, rice and seafood dishes. Perfect if you have an attack of midnight munchies.


CHINESE / VIETNAMESE BINH DAN 67 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 7751 Few places do Hainanese-style chicken rice as well as this multi-storey eatery. Prepared downstairs out front, choose from chicken, sweet-roasted pork, roasted duck, and a range of other options.


VIETNAMESE FRENCH 38 Dang Dung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3846 9853 MSG-free traditional Vietnamese cuisine with a French twist, cooked fresh to order. Dishes include noodle soup, steamed ravioli and beef stew, stir fries, hot pots and curries.


VEGAN 378/3 Vo Van Tan, Q3, Tel: (08) 3834 4473 A pleasant, standalone eatery with the feel of a meditative retreat specialising in hotpots. The vegan menu, however, runs the gamut from faux meat through to noodle and rice dishes.

NORTHERN / PAN-VIETNAMESE 101 Vo Van Tan, Q3, Tel: (08) 3602 2069 Named after the mountain highway that skirts the ChineseVietnamese border to the north, Highway 4 serves up authentic north Vietnamese cuisine. Also does excellent Son Tinh branded rice wine.




VEGAN Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3848 3399 Set inside the city’s largest pagoda, this eatery has received many plaudits for its setting, reverent ambiance and interesting menu which includes salted tofu in claypot and hundred flowers hotpot.


PHO EATERY 260C Pasteur, Q3, Tel: (08) 3829 7943 Huge sized portions dished up at this famous restaurant serving Vietnam’s national dish. Choose from a range of cuts of beef, fresh herbs and spice to taste.

NORTH / SOUTH INDIAN 74/6 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3930 4839 Downtown location, and extensive menu taking in anything from creamy korma and rogan josh curries through



PAN-CHINESE / CANTONESE 1st Floor, Norfolk Mansion, 17-1921 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 2221 (Ext: 164) Featuring over 200 dishes and 50 kinds of dim sum prepared by chefs from Hong Kong, Shang Palace has nine private dining rooms and a main dining area seating over 300. Good for events.


VIETNAMESE / INTERNATIONAL BARBECUE 135A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3340 A charming, leafy outdoor terrace area lit up by fairy lights plays host to one of downtown’s most popular and alluring eateries. It’s a DIY barbecue on the table affair.


VEGAN 9 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 2538 One of the city’s oldest eateries (established in 1925) does some of the cheapest and tastiest vegan cuisine in town, all cooked up without onions, garlic or MSG.

COM TAM (BITTY RICE) 26 Ton That Tung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3925 0935 Downtown branch of the famous budget Thuan Kieu eatery. Broken rice with barbecued pork, bitter gourd broth, stuffed squid etc. Average meal price just VND35,000. English menu.


VEGETARIAN 200 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3839 5893 Good vegetarian eatery with a well-stocked and enticing com binh dan buffet-style counter in the entrance. It’s a pick and choose affair, with a range of faux meat dishes. The staff, though, are not know for their politeness.

VIETNAMESE STEAKHOUSE 188 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3930 3917 Specialises in tasty Vietnamese or Australian steak served sizzling on a griddle with thick– cut fries, bread and salad, optional pate or eggs, all for well under VND100,000.


to the art of barbecuing and grilling, with an expansive menu of meat, fish and vegetarian dishes on offer, all grilled at the table. Often packed to the brim.



VIETNAMESE BBQ Top Floor, 29 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 1631 A steamy, smoky rooftop homage

MODERN VIETNAMESE 10 Dang Tat, Q1, Tel: (08) 3848 0144 A converted French villa with mixed Indochine and rustic Vietnamese décor, the cuisine here is scrumptious, mixing street food dishes done well with quality ingredients and more contemporary options.

CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE The Square, 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1676 Highly rated restaurant with stunning outdoor terrace. Specialities include pink pomelo squid and crab salad, mustard leaf prawn rolls, fishcake wraps and barbecue chicken in ginger, onions and a lime leaf marinade.


PAN-VIETNAMESE 31 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1330 Famous for its signature dish, bo tung xeo — strips of grilled marinated beef, as well as its slightly more unusual offerings — scorpion, grubs, ostrich and crickets. Try if you dare!


INDOCHINE VIETNAMESE 5/2 Hoang Sa, Dakao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 1277 Meaning ‘Cloud’, May utilises homemade recipes and broths developed by the restaurateur’s father, such as pan-fried duck

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NEW YORK STEAKHOUSE 25 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1 Throughout February, NY Steakhouse is offering an aphrodisiacal surf ‘n turf sharing board, with a 450g Canadian lobster, prepared Thermidor style, two bacon-wrapped Atlantic sea scallops and one 250g hunk of USD beef fillet — VND 1,450,000++ per couple.

LA BRASSERIE DE SAIGON 38 Dong Du, Q1 The recently opened, Parisienstyle French eatery is launching a selection of daily ‘grandma specials’. Costing VND100,000 for a starter and VND200,000 for a main course, the dishes chalked up on that everchanging blackboard are the type that your grandmother may have cooked from her own secret recipe at home. Including the likes of bone marrow, mustard rabbit, cordon bleu, Alsatian bacon tart, pigeon stew, ratatouille, potau-feu and more, the additions will create an extra dimension to the tasty fare already on offer at La Brasserie. BROTZEIT First Floor, Kumho Link, Cnr. Le Duan and Hai Ba Trung The contemporary, Germanstyle beerhouse has a range of promotions on offer throughout February. With a daily happy hour from 4pm to 7pm, beer-guzzling patrons can have a free flow of house beer for just VND199,000 per person, while until Feb. 9, groups of five or more who book in advance will receive a 10 percent discount off their bill. For Valentine’s the restaurant features a romantic five-course menu at VND870,000 per person, which comes with a welcome glass of prosecco and complimentary roses for ladies. Special themedecorated tables are reserved for bookings in two days advance. YAMANEKO 13/1 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Throughout February, the city’s only Okinawan restaurant will be running a promotion perfect for diners looking to swill some beer to wash down their tasty Japanese

90 | Word February 2013

fare. Each group of diners will be given a die by the waiting staff. Role a one, three or five, and the group will receive a free flow of beer throughout the course of their meal. Any other number and, well, you can still order and eat as normal, but the beer goes on the bill. CARAVELLE HOTEL Celebrate the Tet Holiday at Nineteen Restaurant with two Chinese New Year‘s buffet dinners on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10. Indulge in their global spread of cuisines, including Vietnamese favourites like steamed snails, banh xeo and banh tet, with delicious desserts to top it off — VND1,170,000++ per person. Valentine’s Day will not go unnoticed at the Caravelle. Love birds are invited to the Lobby Lounge for a special high tea menu between midday and 5pm on Feb. 14 — VND325,000++ per person, or VND440,000++ including a flute of Taittinger Champagne. Restaurant Nineteen offers a buffet dinner spread with cuisine from around the globe and unlimited dessert servings — VND1,170,000++ per person. Or enjoy an elegant four-course set dinner at Reflections Restaurant and receive complimentary boxed gifts of mixed nuts, raisins, and chocolates — VND1.5 million++ per person. NEW WORLD SAIGON Feel the love at Parkview as it presents its Valentine’s Asian and international buffet with desserts prepared tableside, and free flowing wine, beer and soft drinks. VND1,640,000++ per couple includes a red rose and a “Love” teddy bear. Reservations are recommended. THE HOTEL EQUATORIAL The Hotel Equatorial is offering some fantastic deals this month including a Vietnamese buffet until Feb. 13 served from 6.30pm to 10.30pm at Chit Chat @ The Café for VND678,000++ per person including a free flow of soft drinks, beer and wine.


Tel: 0906 912730 restaurants-ben-style Healthy, calorie-counted sandwich and deli fare

Valentine’s Day only on Feb. 14 from 6.30pm to 10.30pm at Chit Chat @ The Café Orientica costs VND1,398,000++ per person, including a free flow of Tiger, wine and soft drinks. Or there’s also the lavish seafood buffet for VND 1,650,000++ per person, including a glass of bubby and a free flow of beer, wine and soft drinks.


STAR CITY SAIGON Love is in the air at StarCity Saigon Hotel. Enjoy the atmosphere of Valentine’s Day with an entire afternoon at the swimming pool, jacuzzi, and sauna. Then pamper yourself with a free 90-minute body massage and a romantic candlelight dinner for two at La Mezzannine. The Valentine’s Couple Special voucher is VND2,079,000. Delivery service website for local restaurants

SOFITEL SAIGON PLAZA The famous Sunday Brunch buffet of Sofitel Saigon Plaza will become “Le Brunch by Chef Sakal” — expanding its line of dishes and adding a pronounced French flair. A range of delectable foods, from the freshest seafood to the highest quality imported meat, to irresistible desserts from Sofitel’s renowned pastry team can be found at Cafe Rivoli every Sunday from 11.30am to 2.30pm — VND850,000++ per person includes soft drinks and iced tea, VND1,200,000++ per person with free flow of wine, beer, or champagne. RENAISSANCE RIVERSIDE HOTEL sgnbr-renaissance-riverside-hotel-saigon Fireworks are happening this Tet just opposite the Renaissance Riverside, with sumptuous views available poolside and ground-level at the Riverside Café. Tack on a free flow of sparkling wine, house wine, beer and soda poolside for VND590,000++ per person, Feb. 9 from 10pm to 12.30am, or ease into the New Year at the Riverside Café from 6pm to 10pm, VND1 million to VND1.2 million++ per person, including Tet cocktails with the standard free flow.

Tel: (08) 3898 3747 Vietnamese, international fare, pizza, pasta, sandwiches


Tel: (08) 3939 3030 Pizzas, wings, desserts



Tel: (08) 6660 1577 Californian-style burritos

HUNGRYPANDA.VN Delivery service website for local restaurants


Tel: (08) 3848 9999 Fried chicken, chicken burgers, sides


Tel: (08) 3910 0000 Burgers, fried chicken, sides


2A Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4520 British-style pan-Chinese


Tel: (08) 3838 8388 Pizzas, wings, pasta, appetizers


Tel: (08) 3823 5795 Pizzas, pasta, salad, antipasti, desserts

TACO BICH Homemade Mexican fare


Tel: (08) 3941 5433 US-style chicken and waffles

VIETNAMMM Delivery service website for local restaurants


Tel: (08) 3824 4136 Japanese bento and rice sets. Go to vietnammm. com for menu

* * * TOP 100

Our pick of the best restaurants in this city

breast served with nuoc mam and ginger, and 1940s style spring rolls. This is the Saigonese cooking of old set in an Indochine atmosphere.


HUE CUISINE 136/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 38 250261 Down an alley near Ben Thanh Market, this pleasant Hue-style eatery is known for its excellent central Vietnamese cuisine. Think banh beo, bun thit nuong, com hen, all at under VND50,000.

ALTO Heli Bar: Level 52 Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D.1, HCMC, t: 08.6291 8752 e:


STREET FOOD 160 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7131 A well-spruced, leafy courtyard in a colonial villa provides the setting and the old-world charm for one of the city’s most frequented Vietnamese eateries which serves up quality street food.


PAN-VIETNAMESE 68 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 6258 1508 Papaya is one of the city’s unsung gems. The cuisine here is presented simply but beautifully with an emphasis on top quality ingredients. Prices are cheap and portions are large.


TRADITIONAL VIETNAMESE 8 Nguyen Van Nguyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3602 2241 Make sure to try the sautéed shrimps with cashew nuts and crispy fried tofu with lime wedge, at this popular, high-quality eatery where all food is served in traditional crockery.


PAN-VIETNAMESE 1st Floor, Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 9244 Once a hotel for Indian dignitaries visiting old Saigon, the elegant and atmospheric Temple Club is one of the city’s best-preserved buildings. Serving quality Vietnamese and Indochine cuisine at reasonable prices.


HUE / VIETNAMESE 187 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3829 7242 Imperial Hue cuisine mixing dark brown Indochine décor and a more casual and jovial atmosphere than other eateries of its ilk. For the background and quality of cuisine, prices are very reasonable.


(ALTO Heli Bar on level 52 & CIRRUS Sky Dining on level 51) o

Contact us to learn more

about our very special Tet and Valentine’s Day menus created by our American Executuve Chef Gabriel Boyer.


MODERN VIETNAMESE First Floor, 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 8468 Elegant Xu is a venue at the forefront of modern Vietnamese cuisine. Pushing the Asian concept of shared-plate dining, the fare includes pork wanton, seared beef crostini, and Xu-style chicken rice.

Saigon’s highest venues


Impress your guests with

360-degree sweeping views of the city’s skyline. o

Reservations essential.

Word tries to keep its listings as accurate as possible, but we can’t do this without yourself. So, if you see anything which needs updating or revising, please email us on

* *

CIRRUS Sky Dining: Level 51 Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D.1, HCMC. t 08. 6291 8751 e:

{ NIGHT Watchman } ** A View From a Bridge * *

Ed Weinberg and Francis Xavier (photos) explore the bridges over the River Saigon


e have our supplies. One bottle of Vodka Hanoi, two shot glasses, 10 beers, one ukulele, some grilled octopus. (“Octopus is ‘in’ this year,” Francis explains). We set off on bikes for Thu Thiem Bridge, 9pm on a Saturday. What we’re in search of is an alternative to the type of night we know so well. Eat some dinner, see a band, hear them cover Adele’s Rolling in the Deep at the prescribed time, and feel a little chill running down our necks despite ourselves — a little more Pavlovian by the Saigon night. We pull up to a line of parked bikes and see a perfect snapshot of Ho Chi Minh City. Precisely angled around the skyline anchors of downtown, swaddled in the curve of the Saigon River, it gives the city a frame that closer perspectives never seem to be able to. Instead of abruptly arriving at the foot of Bitexco via the Q1/Q4 connector Khanh Hoi Bridge, we are given a glimpse of penthouses and rooftop helipads. Even the street level grind plays into the symmetry, with sounds strangely absent, just buildings rising up out

92 | Word February 2013

of tree-lined avenues and the rhythmic blinking lights of traffic. Our companion Kaitlin, whose platinum-blonde hair draws some attention before she says a word, takes out the ukulele and plays us a song. It’s an original, about casual hookups, the kind of whimsical paean to a drifting life that seems made for this moment. The five of us take turns on the shot glasses, each downing a half-measure of good cheer and bad vodka. We wave off the cold drink-seller as couples take pictures by the railing, arms extended in spontaneous photo-ops.

Wolfish Pre-Teens We’re a bit of an anomaly here, and we don’t last long. Before Kaitlin can sing another, a patrol passes and the bridge is cleared. Back on our bikes, we decide to head to the next spot. We pass couples watching

the water on the cobblestones running between Khanh Hoi Bridge and Mong Footbridge, our target. Our bikes jump the curb onto the plaza nearby, populated by a couple of snacksellers and a pack of roguish pre-teens. One of the snacksellers points our bikes to the stairs, agreeing to watch them if we buy drinks. He quotes us prices in US dollars. We take our supplies up past the wolfish pre-teens and settle into a nice spot. This isn’t the same scene as the last time I was camped on this bridge — Dec. 24, 2012. There were hundreds that night, mostly Vietnamese celebrating Christmas Eve over 333’s and fish balls. It seemed like a good way to celebrate Christmas in a warm zone, as diametrically appropriate as watching snow fall over a mug of hot chocolate. Now we’re the ones creating the scene, as the ukulele again

rings out. Lewis, the guitar pro of our group, strums on it a bit more then puts it down. The kids, who’d been playing shoving games and smoking out of one pack of cigarettes, wander closer, interested. One asks if he can give the uke a try. He strums on it loudly, without much finesse, and when he gives it back it’s out of tune. We’re most of the way through the grilled octopus and the bottle of Vodka Hanoi when it starts raining. We’re shepherded to the green cast-iron underside of the bridge, and a tiled area close to the whooshing black river. After a little climb through the rafter-like jungle gym of bridge underbelly, we settle down below. The bad kids are sitting close-by, and our guard is down. While the two girls with us talk to each other, Lewis and I try to sidestep the catcalls of a 14-year-old Vietnamese girl in very high heels. She grabs my big western nose several times. I don’t have any defense against a girl like this. The charm of this scene is wearing off, and we decide to split. It’s 2am and T&R is calling.



Strata Restaurant Level 50 Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, D.1, HCMC, t: 08. 6291 8750, e:

Drink and be done by, or as the t-shirt tells us, khong say, khong ve. Our pick of the best drinking haunts in Ho Chi Minh City. Think we've missed somewhere? Email us on

midnight opening hours, regular DJ sets, and London-style bar décor. Has a great upstairs terrace.

double-tiered escape, complete with upstairs garden space, an extensive wine list, top shelf spirits and unobtrusive music.

MICROBREWERY / RESTOBAR 107 Pasteur, Ben Nghe, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 8619 After spending 30 years in the Czech Republic mastering the Gambrinus brewing technique, 107 Pasteur’s owner has returned to Vietnam to share his craft (and tasty Czech cuisine) with beer enthusiasts.







TOP-END INTERNATIONAL Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1234 International décor blends seamlessly with local themes. Style joins forces with a wideranging drink menu and hip dance tunes to create one of the most tasteful if pricier bars in Saigon.


LIVE MUSIC 6E Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Q3, Tel: (08) 3930 2239 Though only 1km from the city centre, Acoustic is well off most foreigners’ radars. Come see the Vietnamese house band play nightly, as well as performances from overseas bands and guest artists.


RESTOBAR / NIGHTCLUB 5 Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6257 Alibi’s dark wood paneling and warm red palette seem intended for colder cities but are nonetheless welcome in steamy Saigon. The addition of tasty fusion cuisine makes it an attractive destination.


TOP-END LOUNGE BAR Floor 52, Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8752 The jazzy, lightbox-lit space by the helipad in the city’s highest building is more than just great views. Top-end cocktails, a great tapas menu and a chilled ambience make up the mix.


DANCE / NIGHTCLUB 2C Thi Sach, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6124 One of the oldest nightclubs in Saigon, Apo draws in a not-so-healthy mix of tourists, expats and locals, who dance to Top 40 tunes on the club’s two floors and outdoor terrace. This is a pick-up joint in every sense of the word.

MINIMALIST CAFÉ BAR 9 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: 0907 609202 Reminiscent of a New York or London underground watering hole, this is a great place to enjoy Mediterranean influenced breakfasts, lunch by day and a variety of DJ sets by night. HOTEL LOUNGE BAR Saigon Sofitel Plaza, 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1555 Boudoir’s sun-drenched conservatory, plush salon, old-timey cigar room and upscale library will please any lounge enthusiast. Features breakfast, lunch and evening bouchées, as well as International DJ sets on weekend nights.


INTERNATIONAL / COMFORT FOOD 19 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 1720 With a free book exchange, and tasty Sunday night roasts, the tiny Bread & Butter is a perfect place for homesick expats and beer enthusiasts (excellent Hue-Brewed Huda beer served here exclusively in Ho Chi Minh City). COCKTAILS / ROOFTOP 41 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 6838 Broma’s medieval rooftop-cocktail lounge conglomeration is a magnet for the city’s weirdest and coolest events/random moments. A sophisticated cocktail menu and quite possibly the best lamb burger in town. Check out their bun bo Hue-inspired cocktail.


RESTOBAR 7 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2080 Just across the lane from Mc’Sorley’s, this pub with an eccentric European tilt and some nice, authentic cuisine draws an older crowd with darts, pool and weekly poker tourneys.


RESTOBAR / VIETNAMESE / WESTERN 129 Cong Quynh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3832 4589 Only a couple blocks from the bru-haha of Bui Vien, Godmother’s is a small watering hole with big attractions including excellent mojitos, good food, and the weekly Optimus Club featuring international DJ’s.



LIVE MUSIC / BAR 8 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 7699 Named after the famous opera, Carmen has built its reputation on offering a mix of nightly live Latin music, most notably flamenco. Its striking design is a treat for the eyes as well.


INTERNATIONAL / COMFORT FOOD 40/24 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 8452 Bernie’s upstairs dining room and casual downstairs bar make a great place to indulge in international cuisine or chow down on a burger while watching a sports game or a live band.



RESTOBAR / NIGHTCLUB 95 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 This popular downtown three-storied bar attracts late-night revelers thanks to its past

INTERNATIONAL / RESTOBAR 187 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 9575 A slightly grungy corner joint banging out indie and pop tunes, Go2 draws in all walks of life at all hours. Whether you’re looking for affordable Thai / Vietnamese / western cuisine or late-night debauchery, Go2 delivers.


LOUNGE RESTOBAR & TERRACE Floor 26 & 27, 76A Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 5630 Chill’s view has only been improved by the addition of a magnificent VIP terrace. A substantial wine list and specialities from the owner’s native Denmark complement the primarily French-influenced cuisine. Great cocktail selection.


LOUNGE BAR Hem 36, Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 This hip marriage of living room-of-workingarchitects and opium den is populated with vintage furniture, records and a thoughtful, intimate vibe. Its only street-side markings are a few Chinese lanterns.

LOUNGE BAR & TERRACE 6th & 7th Floor, 2bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, Q3, Tel: 0907 502951 The creators of Velvet present this trendy,

o The only all-day dining restaurant in Saigon with a VIEW o Chef’s special Tet and Valentine’s Day lunches, dinners and brunches being served with special menus o Private dining rooms and function room space available for family gatherings and corporate affairs o Saigon’s Highest Tea available every afternoon

February 2013 Word | 93


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LIVE MUSIC / WESTERN RESTOBAR Kumho Asiana Plaza, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 7595 If you’re craving for American food, classic cocktails, rock n’ roll memorabilia, and live music, Hard rock delivers all three in large doses. Stages regular events including ladies’ nights and stand-up comedy.


LIVE MUSIC / RESTOBAR 40/15 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: 0902 799962 With swings dangling playfully overhead, an expansive mural of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, multi-genre musical attractions, and famous western breakfasts and Mexican dishes, Hideaway awakens the senses and appeals to cosmopolitan sensibilities.


EXPAT BAR 54 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2664 Expats keep returning to this smoky dive bar, largely due to its amicable service, brewsky-downing atmosphere, and spirited dart games. A mainstay in the local darts league.


LATE NIGHT RETRO 13B Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 1074 Plush couches, hookahs, soft lighting and artsy retro decoration, combined with affordable drinks, friendly staff, and the ability to request or play music makes Do you think you should be listed on these pages? If so, simply email us on and we’ll see what we can do. We can’t promise but we’ll try our best


94 | Word February 2013

this a great place to bring friends. Open Late.


CUBAN / MUSIC BAR 6 Cao Ba Quat, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 5180 Cuban-themed bar and restaurant selling an exciting range of Spanish and Cuban cuisine, as well as a few German favourites such as curry wurst and Weiner schnitzel. Nightly live music and regular salsa classes.


FRENCH / JAPANESE RESTOBAR 2nd Floor, 44 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 5994 A seductive watering whole in a great corner location thanks to its old Saigon glamour, Japanese-Vietnamese fusion cuisine, imported beer, classic cocktails, and entertaining music events / DJ sets.


AFTERHOURS LOUNGE 59 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3122 If you’re in need of dense, soulful atmosphere and maybe an artisanal cocktail on your way back from wherever, Last Call is your stop — and fast becoming that of the similarly inclined. Great happy hour deals for early evening starters.


INTERNATIONAL / RESTOBAR 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 7679 Warm colors, artsy décor and a friendly ambiance combine to create a perfect setting for enjoying tasty international and Vietnamese cuisine. Check out their daily drink specials and Tuesday night pub quizzes.


HOTEL MUSIC BAR 23rd floor, Sheraton Hotel & Towers, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2828 Some of the most awe-inspiring views of the city make this a choice venue for enjoying live performances from the international house band. Expect a bit of everything from jazz to R&B, with five-star prices to match.


HOTEL LOUNGE BAR Ground Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, cnr. Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 9099 The Library captures the romance of a bygone era, offering a sophisticated snack menu and a nostalgic afternoon tea from 2.30 pm to 5pm. A great place to hang out in five-star luxury.


FRENCH / RESTOBAR 003 / 207 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 2704 French-run but universally appealing, Long Phi has been serving the backpacker area with excellent cuisine and occasional live music since 1990. Excellent late-night bistro cuisine.


IRISH BAR 4 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4659 Standing in the former home of Gaudi, McSorely’s is full of surprises, including a beautifully backlit swimming pool, reggae parties, comedy nights, and sporting events projected onto the patio wall.


LIVE MUSIC / NIGHTCLUB 56A Bui Thi Xuan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 5258 Cover bands of the pop, jazz, rock, and Latin persuasion, flattering lighting, and ample choices of vintage wines make this crafty cocktail bar a destination for Saigon’s 30-plus Vietnamese / expat population.


IRISH BAR / INTERNATIONAL 74/A3 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 3198 This Irish-themed sports bar with classic pub décor is widely appreciated for its excellent international fare, large whiskey selection and upstairs pool table. Great pizzas. And for a real treat, check out their zesty rolls.


EVENTS / MAKESHIFT CAFÉ BAR 188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0908 208523 Up-cycling and innovative design form the foundation for this bar / arts venue / mini- skate park. Come for barbeque and reasonably priced drinks, stick around for entertaining events and adorable puppies.


SPANISH RESTOBAR / LIVE MUSIC 97 Hai Ba Trung , Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 6924 Legs of Iberian ham hang from the ceiling in the downstairs bar of this multi-storey homage to everything Spanish. Regular first-floor live music and excellent eats makes it a mainstay for the wining, dining and tapaseating crowd.


AUSTRALIAN / SPORTS 46-48 Ton That Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 0796 From its roots as the famed Café Latin, Phatty’s has become the go-to, Aussie beerguzzling / sports viewing emporium, showing everything from international cricket to Aussie rules and serving an array of pub grub favourites.


WINE BAR / ASIAN FUSION 110 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3915 2979 Saigon’s first wine bar offers a well-rounded wine list and a pan-Asian fusion menu that boasts crowd pleasers like Asian tapas. Also features a highly rated international standard massage

parlour upstairs. Open late.


ROCK BAR 25C Tu Xuong, Q3, Tel: (08) 6290 7489 The promoters of Rockfanclub (the long-running Vietnamese hard rock and metal night formerly hosted at Tadao Coffee Bar) have found a home for fans to mosh in every night from 9pm. This is rock in its rawest, most grass roots Vietnamese form.


LOUNGE BAR S52-1, Pham Van Nghi, Sky Garden 2, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 6039 rubysohosaigon.wordpress. com Owned by French animation designers, this spacious double-tiered lounge offers classic French dishes, a set lunch menu every day from 11am until 2pm for under VND100,000, and a 3pm to 7pm daily happy hour.


HOTEL MUSIC BAR 9th floor, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Som Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 Live Latin music in its various forms is this fan-cooled, Old Saigon-style bar’s main attraction. With the international bands performing nightly, Saigon Saigon also benefits from great views, polished service and a vibrant ambience.


THEMED MUSIC BAR 103A Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 0007 Wild West-themed bar doubles as a music venue, where three talented Filipino bands (B&U, Wild West, and Most Wanted) play covers of rock icons like Bon Jovi, U2, and Guns n’ Roses. Top-shelf spirits and friendly, hostessstyle table service are the name of the game here.


INTERNATIONAL / SPORT 111 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08)

3920 7670 spottedcow@alfrescosgroup. com Spotted Cow delivers the fun-loving atmosphere that its playfully decorated black and white spotted interior promises, as well as decent international comfort food, a range of happy hours, live sports, and darts.

STORM P DANISH / INTERNATIONAL 5B Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 4738 Named after a Danish cartoonist, this Saigon long-termer with its wall-length mural of Copenhagen attracts a variety of patrons and provides them with a wellstocked bar and extremely tasty Danish-influenced pub grub.

THI CAFÉ LIVE MUSIC / LOUNGE 224 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (08) 2210 2929 It’s a well-worn Saturday night path that starts at Thi Café, where Saigon’s better funk and rock cover bands can be danced to downstairs or listened to from the underutilized upstairs lounge. A Backpackers’ Area mainstay.

T&R TAVERN DIVE BAR 57 Do Quang Dau, Q1 T&R is a popular setting for late night fun and questionable decisions. The bar’s laptop allows patrons to choose their own soundtrack to a pool / darts game, dance-off, or…whatever else they’re doing.

UNIVERSAL BAR LIVE MUSIC / RESTOBAR 90 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: 01633 343933 Just up from Bui Vien’s street beer nexus is Universal, a live music and sports-watching venue with an outdoor seating area that lets you take in the action from a more comfortable perspective.



1st Floor, Gemadept Tower, 6 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: 3822 1637 Specialising in French and Vietnamese cuisine cooked up by an experienced chef, Tryst Lounge serves up its tasty fare at all times of the day, making it a venue for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Complemented by healthy mixed juices, Illy coffee, creative cocktails and a good selection of wines at affordable prices, the space has a chilled atmosphere, and is great for hanging out both indoors and on the outdoor terrace. Has live acoustic and Latino music every weekend courtesy of well-known Cuban outfit Warapo. Word tries to keep its listings as accurate as possible, but we can’t do this without yourself. So, if you see anything which needs updating or revising, please email us on


MUSIC / LOUNGE BAR The Square, 74/7D Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 2888 A veteran fixture of Saigon’s nightlife scene, Vasco’s offers a softly lit downstairs patio, and an upstairs Blue Room chill out lounge area with regular live music.


WINE BAR / TAPAS The Square, 74/17 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 6299 1315 This downtown wine shop’s terrace is a popular after work drinking spot, where one can select from 10 wines by the glass, a range of imported beer, and an excellent tapas menu. Alternatively, buy from the great selection of wines in the shop and pay a small corkage.


CAFÉ / LOUNGE BAR Ground Floor, 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 8468 This iconic upmarket downtown bar is known for its cocktails and wine list. It serves a range of international and Vietnamese dishes to be enjoyed in its richly decorated interior. Regular DJ nights.


TECHNO / DANCE / HIP-HOP 3A Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: 0919 206461 Neon-lit Fuse is popular with the young, fashionable and affluent Vietnamese crowd. A small space means this place gets packed quickly, so arrive early to enjoy bumping techno, whisky and fruit platters.


HARD TECHNO 79 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 2525 A friendly, communal atmosphere and attentive service helps Gossip to stand out from its contemporaries. As expected, techno and house blare at tinnitus-inducing volumes throughout the packed two-tiered club.


PROGRESSIVE / MAINSTREAM 2 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 2496 Overseas DJ’s, Tuesday night ladies’ nights and cosmopolitan clientele converge in the red-velvet and cartoon-styled interior that makes Lush one of the city’s iconic clubs.


DANCE/HIP HOP 26 Ho Huan Nghiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2262

You will be hard-pressed to find another club as extravagantly furnished and über trendy in Saigon. Packed with socialites, celebrities, and fashionistas, Velvet’s the place to see and be seen in this city.



QUAN NHAU 18A/31/B22 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 This plastic-chair establishment is the effective living room of the room-renting expats in the alley surrounding, featuring cold beer, easy conversation and a friendswith-everyone proprietor.


BIA HOI 102 Bui Vien, Q1 Beloved for its cheap, cold beer, prime people-watching, and elderly but toughas-nails hostess, Bia Hoi or “Grandma’s” is a favourite of locals, expats, and backpackers alike.


BIA HOI 75 Bui Vien, Q1 Right across from “Grandma’s” you’ll find this comparable street-side establishment serving cheap beer. Minh Chau’s plastic chairs are populated by a more foreign crowd, due to the hotel upstairs.

Created by wellknown German chef Andreas Ertle, the tapas at newly opened watering hole, The Vesper Bar (5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1), mixes anything from Asian and Mexican spices and textures, with the best of western cuisine. All making the food menu at Vesper a reason to make a visit, regardless of whether or not you're in the need of a drink.

February 2013 Word | 95



If there's any industry where Saigon excels, it's the industry that is all things coffee. Here is our list of some of the best places to drink coffee, tea and everything else non-alcoholic in this city.


VIETNAMESE / INTERNATIONAL 40C Tran Cao Van, Q3, Tel: (08) 3823 3398 Eat, drink, and buy furniture at this beautifully designed café located down alleyway 38. Doubling as an interior design showroom, customers are invited to lounge with their coffees and browse simultaneously.


EUROPEAN / MEDITERRANEAN 23 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 2772 Set in a shophouse-style building, Au Parc offers a chic colonial space to indulge in sensibly priced European and Mediterranean food complemented with good coffee and excellent desserts.


INTERNATIONAL 45 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 4090 Choose from a full range of café beverages and a fast-food style menu as you watch the latest Hollywood hits in their upstairs lounge. Check website for movie locations and schedule.

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CONTEMPORARY CAFE 118/11 Tran Quang Dieu Street, Q3, Tel: 0903 736313 A small, simply designed café tucked down a small alley away from the noisy outside world. Enjoy acoustic music shows on the weekend and drinks starting at VND22,000.


LIVE MUSIC / THEMED CAFE 57H Tu Xuong, Q3, Tel: (08) 3932 2797 Set in a three-storey colonial villa, this cafe devotes a unique stylistic sound and decor to each floor, with the ground level dedicated to live music five nights a week.


VIETNAMESE 343/17 To Hien Thanh, Q10, Tel: (08) 3863 2832 A unique, rustic décor travels through this spacious cafe, from its garden to terrace to their cozy indoor seating. Bamboo, streams, and lush plants create a serene atmosphere.


CASUAL CAFE 8A Luong Huu Khanh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3926 2828 This picturesque coffeehouse is full of charm, providing a quiet location to relax or read from their ‘Borrow-A-Book

Nook’. A perfect blend of coffee and creativity.


VIETNAMESE 10B Ton Duc Thang, Q1 In contrast to its trendy, stylish café neighbours, the basic outdoor seating and affordable menu makes for a modest, less pretentious experience with drinks around VND15,000.


SPORTS CAFE 384/1B Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3526 8480 Three-screen indoor rooms, one putting room, and an area for food and drink set this café apart. Play for VND400,000 per hour or hang out and watch others.


CONTEMPORARY CAFE 125/3 Hoa Hung, Q10, Tel: (08) 3865 2075 Secluded and difficult to find, Song Me is a perfect chill out spot to sit surrounded by water and lush plants or opt for indoor sofa seating. Drinks reasonably priced.


MIDDLE EASTERN Alley no. 59, Nguyen Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 8382 4130 This secluded Middle Eastern coffeehouse has both cozy indoor and rooftop

seating to admire views of the city. With such a prime downtown location, expect prices to match.


ITALIAN 11-13 Lam Son Square, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 5946 Conveniently located near the Caravelle Hotel, this casual cafe serves one of the best lattes in town with a mid-range Italian menu including panini and other typical fare.


CONTEMPORARY CAFÉ BAR 213 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: 0902 514757 An up and coming hole-inthe-wall cafe, Chicco Dicaff serves an extensive menu of coffee, ice blended drinks, lattes and Italian sodas at affordable prices. Delivery available.


CONTEMPORARY CAFE 386/5i Le Van Sy, Q3, Tel: (08) 2212 8560 Explore the interesting artwork or listen to beautiful melodies as you escape for an hour in this warm, cozy café that doubles as a music and theatre venue.


INTERNATIONAL Metropolitan Building, 235

Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3508 7825 Large portioned coffee lures customers into the flagship store of this international café chain. The contemporary, yet generic atmosphere is bolstered by comfortable seating and a menu to satisfy any sweet tooth.


106 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 International coffee chain found throughout the city. It may not provide an authentic Vietnamese experience but it does offer comfortable seating and killer ice blended chillers to help beat the heat.


FRENCH 5 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 9117 Known for it's fantastic street-side seating opposite the park on Le Duan and savoury crepes, this hang out café will impress you with its location as much as its food.

INTERNATIONAL 41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3, Tel: (08) 3822 4222 Hidden in a colonial building with an outdoor courwrd, the ample soft, sofa seating renders a great spot to relax. The mouth-watering western menu is on the expensive side.



INTERNATIONAL 79/2/5 Phan Ke Binh, Q1, Tel: (08) 6271 0115 Trendy without pretense, this two-floor, relaxed café offers beautiful decor and unique original events like live music, film screenings, and art exhibits. Great prices and food with daily specials.


INTERNATIONAL 92/17 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3, Tel: (08) 3507 1418 A unique theme and decor secluded from the city bustle create a warm space that values both art appreciation and coffee love, with drinks starting at VND30,000.


INTERNATIONAL 169 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8659 In typical French fashion with fresh pastries, groomed waiters, and elaborate portions of ice cream, Givral is located opposite Continental Hotel Saigon, offering prime city viewing but higher prices.


INTERNATIONAL Saigon Trade Centre, 37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 5689 The flagship store of this upscale, somewhat pricey, coffeehouse offers westernstyle and local-style brews, with other branches also found in prime locations around the tourist area. Cappuccinos and a mediocre café experience costs above VND30,000. But the Wifi is good.


CAFE/ART GALLERY 324bis Dien Bien Phu, Q10, Tel: (08) 3888 1908 Renowned for its appreciation of art, Himiko is a hybrid of café and art gallery. Regularly displaying the work of young artists, an atmosphere unlike many others flourishes here.


CONTEMPORARY CAFE 34D Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2910 Centrally located near Ben Thanh Market, i.d offers casual café dining with a wide variety of food and bever-

{T O P Shelf} ** Last Call * *


f you’re looking for that elegant yet cozy cocktail bar to slip away from the chaos and roughness that is Saigon at just about any hour of the night, it’s time you get your patooties over to Last Call. Artisanal cocktails, assorted flavours of high-end spirits — think the likes of ginseng and caramel-flavoured Grey Goose — and a range of crisp Champagnes are just a few things that give this classy afterhours bar the gift of eloquence amidst its stylish, chic décor, inviting outdoor terrace, and 1970s funky, Motown vibe. Better yet, be ready to pay moderately affordable prices for top quality drinks and atmosphere, or come during happy hour, every day from 6pm to 9pm for 30 percent to 50 percent off the entire menu.

Goose and More Goose A friend and I sought to check out the late night groove on a Saturday night just before happy hour finished, which also happened to be the tail end of a private birthday party. Boy, did we feel like party crashers! But the blissful birthday girl and friendly staff warmly welcomed us through the quietly obscure stairwell that leads to the tastefully lively bar upstairs. We proceeded to take in the artsy ambience and order what the birthday girl was drinking, a Midnight

Express Martini, equipped with Grey Goose, Kahlua, espresso, cacao and whipped cream. It was the perfect delectable kick to include on the menu to keep those eyes open when it starts getting real late. Our cocktails were first prepared by chilling our glasses with ice, pouring in the important mixed libations, and then adding finishing touches of real chocolate shavings on top. We were so impressed that we had to try more — for Top Shelf bar review purposes only, of course! Last Call cocktails are categorized by sparkling, spicy, creamy, and sweet ‘n sour — pretty much all of my favourite varieties, so I had to try one from each. For sparkling, we tasted a Honolulu — Grey Goose, ginger, sparkling wine, lemon oil and bitters. Refreshing with slices of ginger thrown in, I preferred this over the Midnight Express Martini. However, the Pandora from the spicy selection was the drink that had me by the ball and chain. Made from Grey Goose, strawberries, basil and cracked black pepper it was sweet, tangy and exotic. I never thought my love for spicy food would transfer into spicy cocktails. Thank you Last Call for providing cocktail creativity set in the perfect ambiance for that late night Saigon escape. — Courtney Larson

A Ta ste of Authenticity

36 Tong Huu Dinh Street, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, HCMC Tel: 08 6253 2828 |Fax: 08 6253 2888 Email: Delivery service available daily, from 11:00 AM - 10:00 PM

87 Nguyen Hue St., District 1, HCMC Tel: (84.8) 3821 8181 Email: Monday to Friday: 11.00 - 14.00, and 18.00 - 22.00 Saturday and Sunday: 11.30 - 22.00

February 2013 Word | 97

{T HE Coffee Cup} ** Café and Art * *

ages. Where modern design and a warm ambience meet for coffee.


MUSIC CAFE / VIETNAMESE 29/27 Doan Thi Diem, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 0909 682927 This tiny café pairs nightly live music with a warmcoloured, rustic decor. The combination of young Saigon artists and striking wall decor makes it worthy of the crowd it draws in.


LA MAISON CAFÉ AND ART GALLERY 163 Nguyen Dinh Chinh, Phu Nhuan


idewalk or alleyway coffee joints offer a great entryway into Saigonese street food culture. The sporadic crowing of the proprietor’s rooster, the glimmer of ivory Chinese checkers pieces slapping the board, or an overpowering whiff of petrol being surreptitiously sold from a nearby soda bottle combine to create an experience that’s often more stimulating than the caffeine imbibed. Yet, however much we may love the gritty plastic stool coffee experience, sometimes we need an escape from the chaos. Designed by professor of architecture Lii Nguyen, La Maison Café and Gallery is visually inspiring in a delicate and unobtrusive way, simultaneously intriguing and lulling those who enter. The hominess suggested by the café’s name is reiterated by the daybed basking in the light of a large window near the entrance. There are a few eye-catching larger pieces, such as the faux cherry tree in the corner with its explosion of paper butterflies fluttering up the wall, or the large, colourful woven installment on the back stairs. While the muted walls, pale fresh flowers, lace curtains and simple furniture give it a clean elegance,

98 | Word February 2013

splashes of bold colour entertain the iris.

Behind the Scenes But the real magic lies in things not readily apparent. Every nook and cranny contains some nostalgia-inducing knickknack — an oldfashioned radio, a ball of yarn, an antique sewing machine. I was instantly transported back to my grandmother’s parlour, and had to restrain myself from combing the café’s many bookshelves, dressers, and mantels to fondle each little treasure. My fingers itched to open up the house piano and bang out my childhood favourite Chopsticks. Upstairs from the more vibrant café is the salon — a designated quiet zone. Both serve the same range of coffees, teas, sinh tos and soft drinks, as well as a handful of Vietnamese classics like com tam and mi xao bo. While it’s possible to stop in for a quick bite, this place is worth setting aside some time to casually sip an expertly-crafted and attractively presented latté, a refreshing café sua da, or an exotic fruit concoction. Whether you’re a stressed adult in need of some peace, a bubbly teenager looking for a new hangout, or an art enthusiast seeking intellectual nourishment, La Maison will provide for you. It will also provide for the child within by reawakening a state of wonderment. — Tess Somerville

INTERNATIONAL / MEDITERRANEAN 39-41 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 6799 Kita's colonial-era building and bistro-style decor will have you thinking you've been transported to the streets of Europe. Pair your experience with an espresso-based Italian coffee from their Mediterranean-based menu. Excellent sandwiches and salads.


INTERNATIONAL / VIETNAMESE 76A Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 2718 The outdoor, well-aired terrace is the centrepiece of this popular, contemporary café. Enjoy live music on weekends as you sip on reasonably priced Vietnamese or espresso-based coffee.


CAFE / GALLERY 163 Nguyen Dinh Chinh, Phu Nhuan Inside this striking white house is a space devoted for art enthusiasts and cafégoers alike. Browse the arts and impressive decorations and enjoy homemade milk and cakes.


FRENCH 189 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3827 7868 A small space is met with a warm, luxurious design in this romantic French-style café. Menus change daily but the friendly staff ensures customer satisfaction.


CONTEMPORARY / FRENCH First Floor, 151 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6674 3565 French-style wooden decor compliments the spacious, whitewashed contemporary interior of L'Usine. A simple, creative menu combines with reasonably priced coffee, and a fashion store and art gallery out back.


FRENCH 5H Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0458 This charming, mid-range café is filled with vintage decorations and architecture from the French colonial

era. Live piano performances add a touch of romance on Wednesday and Saturday at 5pm.


VIETNAMESE / INTERNATIONAL 54 Nguyen Thai Binh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3915 3274 Unveil culture and admire old architecture and antiques in this villa converted into a café. Live drama Thursday evenings in the first floor cafe. Drinks start at VND30,000.


TEA ROOM 335/31 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 Traverse a wooden bridge over a bamboo-shaded goldfish pond to enjoy high quality tea, starting at VND35,000, in this quaint, open-air tearoom. Tea and tea-ware available for purchase.


MUSIC CAFE 351/4A Le Van Sy, Q3, Tel: (08) 3931 6312 In a jungle of a place where vines wrap round stairwells, an all American playlist meets a typical Vietnamese menu. A living-room style music cafe with live piano on weekends.


ITALIAN / INTERNATIONAL 119 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 9220 This pleasant, mid-range venue, best known for its coffee, offers some of the best lattes and cappuccinos in town. Choose from indoor and outdoor spaces as well as upstairs dining.


CAFE & RESTAURANT 11 Nguyen Thi Huynh, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 2211 3544 VIETNAMESE / INTERNATIONAL Positioned cozily down an alley in this less travelled part of town, The Fig's earthy, eco-friendly vibe is a gem that combines Vietnamese, Thai, and western cuisines tastefully, at prices between VND100,000 and VND300,000 a dish.


VIETNAMESE 100 Tran Huy Lieu, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 2240 5306 Tram Café combines modern and classic design creating an artistic harmony between earth and heaven that won't break your wallet. A sanctuary of nature awaits you.


CONTEMPORARY CAFE 63/18 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 9070 3159 Venture through an alley and up three floors to this unique, relaxed cafe. Casual, cushioned floor seating and a simple, sensibly priced menu. Music on Wednesday and Friday evenings.

INTERNATIONAL VIETNAMESE 80 Dong Khoi, Q1 One of a growing number of downtown locations of the ever-expanding international homegrown brand, this pleasant two-storey café produces and serves their own coffee in distinct Vietnamese-styles in a comfortable, sophisticated atmosphere.




CONTEMPORARY CAFE 158 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4990 Second-storey coffeehouse offers a quiet atmosphere to chill out or read from their book-nook collection. Comfortable couch seating, open table space and a cappuccino costs VND40,000.


CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE 269 Nguyen Trung Tuyen, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 3845 2155 A unique cafe with whole sets of upside down furniture and even a grand piano hanging from the ceiling, Up offers cafe drinks, cocktails, and simple Vietnamese cuisine.


CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE 185 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3839 5038 Spreading to four cafes in town, comfortable sofa-style seating with surprisingly cheap coffee and good WiFi makes Soho Coffee Lounge convenient to work, eat, rest, or play.

VIETNAMESE / INTERNATIONAL 28 Ho Bieu Chanh, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 3505 2727 Turn back the clock in this vintage café. Embrace your nostalgia with their blackand-white photos as you indulge in a reasonably priced menu. Music Tuesday to Sunday evenings.


INTERNATIONAL 5 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3911 5599 This two-storey building with a mezzanine level boasts an industrial style complex with block walls, steel structures and huge glass windows. The mid-range menu offers over 40 options from appetizers to desserts.

CONTEMPORARY CAFE 53/56 Tran Khanh Du, Q1, Tel: 0903 714525 Boasting a cozy space in a quaint wooden house, Slow Time is a simple, peaceful café serving reasonably priced Vietnamese cuisine and a range of café drinks.




From our columns - For the Record, In the Frame and Decks ‘n Drums - to our listings, arts-wise this city’s starting going from strength to creative strength

Do you think you should be listed on these pages? If so, simply email us on and we’ll see what we can do. We can’t promise but we’ll try our best


CINEMAS Showcasing the latest Hollywood blockbusters and 3D cinematic sensations, chains such as Megastar Media, Lotte and Galaxy Cinema offer the most up-to-date and modern cinema-going experiences in Saigon. For those partial to more esoteric and independent flicks, smaller outlets such as Cinebox and Idecaf carry little known Vietnamese and European efforts.


240 Ba Thang Hai, Q10 Tel: (08) 3862 2425


13th Floor, Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 38227897 3rd Floor, Lotte Mart, 469 Nguyen Huu Tho, Q7 Tel: (08) 3775 2521


230 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3920 6688 116 Nguyen Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 5235 246 Nguyen Hong Dao, Tan Binh Tel: (08) 3849 4567


31 Thai Van Lung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 5451


Level 5, Crescent Mall, Nguyen Van Linh, Phu My Hung, Q7 Tel: (08) 5412 2222 Level 10, CT Plaza, 60A Truong Son, Tan Binh Tel: (08) 6297 1981 Level 5, Parkson Paragon, 3 Nguyen Luong Bang, Phu My Hung, Q7 Tel: (08) 5416 0088


189/C1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2 Tel: 0903 955780 This French painter teaches beginners how to work with different mediums and techniques, and more advanced artists how to release creativity.

THE TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHERS WORKSHOP; Peter Stuckings and Mark Stennett are professional travel photographers based in Ho Chi Minh City who offer workshops and tours to help you improve your photography skills.


Tel: 01642 078110 A creative group inviting new members every second Tuesday for feedback on work in progress and creative writing exercises to inspire. All levels are welcome from beginners to the more experienced.


4 Le Van Mien, Q2 Tel: 0983 377710 Vin’s Space is an intimate, light-filled space that offers artists a quiet space to work individually or share ideas. Weekly classes include oil painting, drawing and arts and crafts classes for all ages.


43 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3502 1559 Frequent overseas imports of the latest magazines and books makes Artbook a rarity in this city. The stock covers art and architecture through to graphic design, fashion, cooking, interior design and landscaping.


40 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 5796 Although there are many branches of Fahasa dotted

throughout the city, this is one of the largest, with three floors of books and related products in English, French, Chinese and Vietnamese.

FRENCH BOOKSHOP NAM PHONG 94 Ho Tung Mau, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 7859 Set in a mixed-colonial, Chinese shophouse building constructed in the early 20th century, this small Gallic-run bookshop specialises in mainly French language novels and non-fiction publications.


2A Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9650 Now with over 30 bookstores in Ho Chi Minh City, PNC is probably the leading book retailer in Vietnam. Stocks the full range of Vietnamese fiction and non-fiction books as well as over 2,000 English language titles.


175/24 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1 Tel: (08) 6290 6599 The authorised distributor of Lonely Planet in Vietnam, they also stock non-copied works of fiction in English (both new and second hand) as well as postcards, maps, stamp books, coin collections and travel fiction.


97A Pho Duc Chinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 3695 Built in the 1920s by a wellknown local businessman, the rambling colonial building that houses the Blue Space Arts Center is an attraction in itself. Inside, Tran Thi Nguyen Nga curates a collection featuring artists from throughout Southeast Asia.


27i Tran Nhat Duat, Q1 Tel: 0908 878317 (Ms. Mai) Located in a quiet corner of District 1, Craig Thomas Gallery offers a compelling mix of up-and-coming and established local artists. In

operation since 2009, its founder has been promoting Vietnamese art for a decade.


31C Le Quy Don, Q3 Tel: (08) 3933 0498 Housing over 1,000 works of traditional and contemporary art, this mock-colonial mansion constitutes the private art gallery of Vietnamese business tycoon Bui Quoc Chi. Prices start at VND2 million per painting and rise to the astronomic.


65 De Tham, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 8019 In addition to working with artists based in Vietnam, Galerie Quynh also exhibits the work of artists from around the world. This wellestablished gallery supports education through talks, lectures and publications.


324 Bis Dien Bien Phu, Q10, Tel: 0958 881908 (Ms. Hoang) A visit to Himiko’s Visual Saloon is never anything less than a feast for the eyes. Open for five years, this cafecum-gallery has a reputation for showcasing the work of Saigon’s bright young creative things including Himiko herself.


97A Pho Duc Chinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 4441 Housed in a colonial-era building that also boasts what is possibly the first elevator ever built in Saigon, the exhibition space here covers three levels. There’s also a warren of galleries in the basement.


Floors 2 and 3, 9 Phan Chu Trinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 6570 Founded in 1999 with the objective of promoting contemporary Vietnamese art, the gallery organises about three Vietnamese exhibitions every year and the entire inventory of works is available to purchase via their website.


213C Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 1366; 129B Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3181 Established in 2004, these two galleries feature works by the likes of La Hon, Ton That Bang and Le Xuan Chieu. An eclectic range of styles is exhibited, including abstracts, landscapes and impressionism.


3 Me Linh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3840 0898 san– San Art is an independent, artist-run exhibition space that offers residency programmes for young artists, lecture series and an exchange programme that invites international artists/ curators to organise or collaborate on exhibitions.


53 Ho Tung Mau, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 0966 Opened in June 1989 as Vietnam’s first private art gallery, TuDo specialises in oils, silk paintings and lacquerware, and has over 1,000 pieces across its five showrooms of works by city artists.


288 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3 ZeroStation is a multi-complex studio space for young, experimental Vietnamese and foreign artists and longterm art projects managed by visual artist, independent curator and art writer, Nguyen Nhu Huy.


The City Opera House, 7 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 7419 Ho Chi Minh City’s opera and ballet perform programmes of classical dance and music throughout the year. Depending on the show, tickets start at just VND60,000 for the sky seats, with circle seats priced at VND150,000.


112 Nguyen Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 3774 This colonial–era theatre holds classic piano recitals and orchestral performances,

and is closely connected to performance groups in the city. There are two concert rooms with two performances weekly.


Tel: 0903 930907 This 40–voice choir and 21-piece orchestra holds both private and public performances, with rehearsals held every Monday from 7.30pm to 9pm at the British International School at 43 Tu Xuong St, Q3.

SAIGON PLAYERS Composed of local and foreign thespians, Saigon Players hosts monthly drama activities that include club nights every first Wednesday of the month and script nights every third Wednesday.


339 Binh Quoi, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3823 7434 Established in 1995, Crea TV produces television programmes and commercials, corporate films, documentaries, and feature films. Services include location scouting, casting, authorisation and permits, art department work, production and direction.


91/12 Hoa Hung, Q10, Tel: 0908 477079 Fact & Fiction Films has developed content worldwide for documentary, web and TV, with experience in all stages of production from development through to post-production and delivery.

Word tries to keep its listings as accurate as possible, but we can’t do this without yourself. So, if you see anything which needs updating or revising, please email us on


February 2013 Word | 99

{ CINEMA Buff }


he Oscars are coming. So which movies are likely to make some visual waves? As we’re on the other side of the International Date Line from all the goings-on in Hollywood, we’ve decided to pull up a chair next to our YouTube-watching brethren and take a look at what may or may not be a hit. Rather than download leaked promo reels of these Oscar-nominated films like some broadband-internet elitists, we went for the trailers. This is what we saw.

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD Director: Benh Zeitlin Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry and Levy Easterly Release Date: July 2012


C: That was a sweet trailer! Leo seems like a smug prick. It’s going to be nice watching him die. D: You hear that Will Smith turned down the main part? C: Why? D: Probably because he’s concerned about his image, and he doesn’t want to be racially slurring and shooting people who aren’t aliens. C: If that’s true, he’s a pussy.

LES MISERABLES Director: Tom Hooper Stars: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway Release Date: January 2013 D: [from the tagline] “The dream lives this Christmas!” C: Les Mis isn’t a hopeful film, is it? [opens an internet page] Les Mis can translate as ‘The Miserable’, ‘The Wretched’, ‘The Miserable Ones’, ‘The Poor Ones’, ‘The Miserable Poor’ and — this is my favourite — ‘The Victims’. D: It looks like a nice production. C: I don’t think they should give out Oscar nominations for something like this, it seems kind of pandering. D: Why? C: Well, it’s kind of a shoe-in. Like if you’re gonna do a Shakespeare adaptation… C’mon, it’s been done to death.

D: Is this one of those movies where they show that everything is connected? C: I hate those… I hate films about oneness. They give people the illusion of belonging. D: Ok, let’s talk about the good things. C: It looks really pretty. Like Guillermo del Toro, it takes the poetry of the script and turns it into visual images… it looks like this film might do that.

Cranston and John Goodman Release Date: October 2012

ARGO Director: Ben Affleck Stars: Ben Affleck, Bryan

C: It looks like this film was shot in the 1970s. Did you know it was based on a true story? D: I miss the days when the US government used to have these crazy schemes for things, like that time they tried to make Castro lose support by defoliating his beard! C: That is some Rube Goldberg logic.

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Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio Release Date: December 2012

DJANGO UNCHAINED Director: Quentin Tarantino Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph

LIFE OF PI Director: Ang Lee Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Adil Hussain Release Date: December 2012 C: There's this trope in western literature, like in Bagger Vance — brown people are full of magic. It's so racist! Sure, you can be a white person and write about India, but don't make it racist. D: What about a 'sense of wonder'? C: There's plenty of magic in the world without inventing talking animals and stuff.

{IN The Frame} ** Reality Blurs * *

LEISURE Time to release all that pent up energy - it’s not all work and propping up the bar, you know. Here are some ideas for better ways to spend that free time


Deirdre Appel parses the techno-landscapes of photographer Olaf Mueller


laf Mueller, one of Asia's leading photographers, has taken Hong Kong's art scene by storm and is now raining down his talents on Ho Chi Minh City. In December, the Hong-Kong based gallery owner made a new home for himself in Thao Dien with the opening of O M Gallery. Mueller is known for a photographic style that juxtaposes conventional methods with modern digital technologies to construct compositions where existence as a dream or reality is questioned. This blurred photographical cosmos derives from a unique process that is neither solely physical nor digital. Mueller fashions the two by using theatrical shoot locations then enhancing them through digital stitching to create a hallucinatory, fantasy-like feel. The resulting photography is filled with powerful dualities that are symbolic of his dynamic visions and technical yet aesthetic novelty.

From Real Estate to Fine Art Born in Germany in 1980, the half-Korean Mueller spent his young life on the continent before heading to Asia. He completed a BBA degree, and later an MA in Real Estate Finance, before travelling a drastically different career path in pursuit of his creative passions. Before this U-turn in life, Mueller cheerfully described his career love affair with freelance photography as

“a lucrative hobby”. Now a full-time photographer, Mueller has built an impressive resume. In addition to his visionary and fine photography, Mueller has energized the pages of high profile publications with shots of fashion, beauty, and luxury brands. From successfully establishing a studio and advertising agency to receiving over 22 honourable mentions at the International Photography Awards in New York, it is no surprise Mueller’s first series was exhibited at The Cat Street Gallery, one of Hong Kong's most renowned spaces for international contemporary art. He set a new precedent for photographic artwork at the gallery when his featured series entirely sold out.

Next Stop, Ho Chi Minh City Mueller has moved his visually compelling and critically successful photography to Ho Chi Minh City with the opening of O M Gallery, the first of its kind outside of Hong Kong. Among a city of perpetual activity, his work seems to reside outside the constraints of time and space, transporting you to a dimension of transcendence and creativity. He thoughtfully walks the line between distortion and clarity rendering soulful, mystical works.

Binh Duong Highway, Phuong Hiep An, Thu Dau Mot, Binh Duong Tel: 0650 3845845 This huge amusement park is Vietnam's answer to Disneyland. A bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City gives you access to some amazing rides, a water-park and one of the better zoos in Vietnam. Located 45km away on Highway 13, just after Thu Dau Mot.


5th floor, Alta Plaza, 91B2 Pham Van Hai, Tan Binh Take the glass elevator to the top floor of Alta Plaza and you’ll soon find yourself in a dark playground holding a laser gun, ready for 15 minutes of sci-fi style fun.


2 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 3728 Dating from 1875, Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens has a vast collection of rare orchids and ornamental plants, and a collection of over one hundred species of animals.

CLUBS & SOCIETIES INTERNATIONAL LADIES IN VIETNAM This long–established social organization offers ladies a

chance to socialise at their weekly coffee mornings (Thursdays at 10am) and participate in many cultural, social and sporting activities. Please see website for details.


628A An Binh, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3898 9000 The Parkland Country Club offers a wide range of activities on its extensive facilities including supervised children’s areas, a multiuse sports field, tennis courts, squash courts, pools, spa and a gym.


Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9666 This Club boasts two floors of modern facilities that provide sanctuary from the busy streets below. Facilities include tennis courts, a sauna and Jacuzzi. Members can enjoy alfresco dining at the ‘Coco Cabana’.


36bis Huynh Khuong Ninh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3820 9734 Sunday 1.30pm to 5pm The Overland Club organises pottery classes, VietnameseJapanese cooking classes, cultural art events and monthly special activities, such as the Soba Festival, pottery painting classes, the art of decorating paper and multinational cuisine days.


74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 8485 Learn to cook quality Vietnamese cuisine with local specialist Hoa Tuc. The three-hour lesson, conducted by an English-speaking Vietnamese chef, includes a trip around Ben Thanh Market to gather fresh ingredients for the class.


Suite 45, 4th Floor, 26 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 0349 Located in a pretty colonialstyle villa, the Vietnam Cookery Centre offers a hands-on guide to local gastronomy for persons of any ability. An introduction to traditional Vietnamese kitchen utensils is an added bonus.


53 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, Q2; The Crescent Mall, Phu My Hung; Tel: (08) 3519 4490 Children and teenagers can enjoy jazz, ballet, hip-hop, tap, sing & dance, break, acro and more in this modern, newly built studio.


Geisha's Coffee and Tea House, 2nd Floor, 85 Pasteur, Q1 Salsa, Merengue, Bachata

O M Gallery is located on 216/18 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, Q2

February 2013 Word | 101

{ FOR The Record }


n which we dispatch our crack team of armchair critics to look at Pitchfork’s celebrated Top 50 list of last year’s albums.

NO. 32 Artist: Action Bronson/Party Supplies Album: Blue Chips In Brief: "A horny AlbanianAmerican former chef from Queens going over to Williamsburg to rip bongs" D: Sampling Aaron Neville, pretty cool. C: Don’t go defending this. D: This guy raps a lot about money. That’s kind of a sign of weakness. C: I’m interested to know what your moral code is.

** The Best of 2012: The Haters’ Review * *

NO. 6 Artist: Grimes Album: Visions In Brief: "No one else is making music that sounds like this” C: There’s a song from the 1950s that reminds me of this — “Run run run runaway.” D: Or from the 1980s — “And I run, run so faraway.” The chick has kind of a lollipop, Candyland voice. Kind of like “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world” — but better. C: This really reminds me of Madonna, early synth beats. D: Damn, Pitchfork is weird.

NO. 9 Artist: Death Grips

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C: Is this Thom Yorke? D: No… but this does sound a bit like Radiohead. C: Yea, the music isn’t as complicated but it’s still got that same ambient quality. You know when I was a kid Radiohead could really rock, but now they’re on those Casios. D: It is kind of ambient, moody background music. C: Please note that D is saying this with Oreo on his lips. NO. 1 Artist: Kendrick Lamar Album: good kid, m.A.A.d city In Brief: “It's deep-rooted, the music of being young and dumb”

NO. 23 Artist: Miguel Album: Kaleidoscope Dream In Brief: "Body language like piano keys" C: [commenting on song Pussy is Mine] This should be called From my vagina to yours, by a man. D: I bet you don’t like R. Kelly either. C: R. Kelly is a pretty big pussy, too. D: How about this song, it’s alright? C: What is it, R&B day?

NO. 10 Artist: Grizzly Bear Album: Shields In Brief: "That hopeless tundra you reach when you’re at the end of your tether… the only definite things that remain are the contrasts between elements"

Album: The Money Store In Brief: "This isn’t just punk as radical individuality, but mysticism" D: This feels like ‘music to have seizures to’. C: It’s way too syncopated to get pumped up to, but too “didi-di, di-di-di” to relax to.

D: It’s making me uncomfortable. C: It’s like, if you have a really hot girlfriend who’s also a mascot for some sports team. And you see her at work one day, and she’s dressed like a big furry bear, but you know she’s a babe under all that, and you’re just… confused.

C: ‘Bodies on top of bodies, Audis on top of Audis’… there’s a strange kind of symmetry here… D: I know! They go together for me. This is the kind of aesthetic I want in my hip-hop. C: But don’t you think he could have rhymed ‘Nissan’ in there? D: I think they’re too busy saying ‘poetic justice’.

and Reggaeton is taught every Sunday. No partners needed, just buy a glass of wine or a cocktail to participate.


No 96, Street 2, Cu Xa Do Thanh, Q3 To learn how to move your hips like Shakira, head over to this studio for courses in belly dancing and “sexy dancing”. Scheduling information is available online.

SAIGON SWING CATS For lessons in the Lindy Hop, East & West Coast Swing, Shap and Jitterbug, visit the website for more information. Free introductory class every Wednesday.


Cherry Blossom 1 & Lotus Road 1 and 3, APSC Compound, 36 Thao Dien Road, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2549 (Ms. Chi) With a pool, astroturf play area, basketball court and outdoor gym equipment, AIS Sports Centre is a great venue to stay fit. Packages available for family members of students, couples and others.


Tel: (09) 3478 2763 Do you have limited time? Not seeing results? BES’s online software and memberships offer affordable and powerful tools to achieve fantastic fat loss, fitness improvement and overall wellbeing — anywhere.


Queen Ann Building, 28–30– 32 Le Lai, Q1; 5F Hung Vuong Plaza and 126 Hung Vuong, Q5, Tel: (08) 2222 0355 One of the leading fitness and yoga centres in Vietnam featuring modern equipment with over 100 aerobic and yoga classes like Hot Yoga, Indian Dance, Pole dance, Zumba, Body Balance and Body Combat.


19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 This well–equipped gym Word tries to keep its listings as accurate as possible, but we can’t do this without yourself. So, if you see anything which needs updating or revising, please email us on


has rows of cardiovascular machines and free weights, a massage parlour, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, with a pleasant swimming pool.


49 A Xa Lo Hanoi, Q2, Tel: 0947 771326 This sports centre in An Phu, started by fitness guru Cyril Terrones, features the same personalised mentorship Cyril's clients love. Includes Zumba, salsa, boxing and fitness for kids and adults every day. No membership fees. Pay for classes in installments of 10.



13th Floor, Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 7750 A well–equipped gym with steam room, Jacuzzi, massage parlour and swimming pool can be found above this leading department store.


Tel: (09) 8378 9318 This certified fitness professional offers tailored training for exercise and nutrition programmes, weight loss, muscle gain and strength training based on 10 years experience in the fitness industry.


100 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, Q2 K1 offers martial arts, boxing, kick and Thai boxing, Krav–maga, grappling, MMA, kid’s martial art classes and private fitness and conditioning. Open to everyone from kids to adults, beginners to professionals.


Tel: (09) 3478 2763 Kiwifitness provides quality, accurate, professional and effective fitness and health services to enrich people’s lives.


Rex Hotel, 141 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1812 A colonial–themed gym in a large, open–plan space, situated on top of the Rex Hotel. Includes a tennis court, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, cardio and resistance machines, sauna and steam rooms.


64A Truong Dinh, Q3, Tel: (08) 3932 5181 Classes in Ashtanga, Iyengar, Hatha and Vinyasa yoga,

Power yoga, Pilates, Tae Bo, Centergy, aqua–aerobics and body sculpting are offered by internationally certified teachers. There’s also a swimming pool, sauna, and steam room.


34 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6672 Offers fitness classes and personal training with excellent facilities. Group classes include power yoga, pilates, circuit training, martial arts and spinning. There is also a spa and a restaurant serving calorie–calibrated meals.


Tel: 01286 305982 Paul Simos creates a supportive environment that enables people to achieve all of their health goals. Paul uses practical lifestyle coaching methods to guide clients in discovering which approach works best for them.


Tel: 0938 156865 Personal fitness, yoga and mixed martial arts trainer with 14 years of fitness industry experience and over 10 years of experience as a kickboxing instructor at Gold’s Gym in Venice, California.


8–15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0033 Exercise with an unsurpassed city view at this health club with gym, swimming pool, steam room and massage parlour. There’s also a good place to take time out, by the poolside bar.


New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4000 Medium–sized gym with new cardio equipment and spacious changing rooms with adjustable shower settings, Jacuzzi, steam bath and sauna. Also has an excellent guitar–shaped outdoor pool.


Tel: 01225 811080 Sawano specializes in Fletcher Pilates and personal fitness, and emphasises core muscle development to strengthen and tone the body. Savano also offers individual and group classes tailored to your needs.


17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1555 At this small but well– equipped gym the equip-

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{ ROAD Rules} **

* * Pat Joynt of Saigon Scooter Centre has Vespas, Gasoline and Oil

been in Vietnam for 15 years restoring classic bikes, importing and producing parts. Here he answers your questions.

HI PAT, I’M INTERESTED IN BUYING A CLASSIC SCOOTER BUT I HAVE HEARD THAT VESPAS ARE MORE RELIABLE THAN LAMBRETTAS, IS THIS TRUE? THIS BOILS DOWN to the workmanship of the mechanic who has restored the scooter and the parts used. Vintage scooters have been a workhorse in Vietnam for 50-plus years. These classic vehicles have not been used for going to church on Sundays and have usually done hundreds of thousands of kilometres. A reliable scooter after all this wear and tear is only going to be a good buy if a complete rebuild has been done with quality parts — no Asian parts. The mechanic needs to be experienced and more importantly have an understanding of western concepts and standards. There is no short cut to having a reliable vintage scooter. The job needs to be done well and quality parts need to be used. You’re not going to get this from a back street mechanic and a VND20 million budget.


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based on octane. In most countries, regular gasoline is 87 octane, midgrade is 89 and premium is 91 to 93. If you check your owner’s manual, you’ll find the recommended level for your engine. In Vietnam unleaded petrol is usually available in 92 or 95 octane. This is measured in RON (research octane number). 98 octane is available overseas for high performance engines but is not available in Vietnam. In general, gasoline should also be used within a month of purchase; it does have an expiry date. Most modern day engines perform better on higher octane petrol.

HI PAT, IS IT OK TO BUY THE READY MIX 2-STROKE OIL AT PETROL STATIONS? DEFINITELY NOT — 2-stroke oil does a very specific job. Its main purpose is to lubricate the top end of the engine. This includes the piston and cylinder but also the crankshaft, bearings and oil seals. If the incorrect oil is used then this can quickly lead to engine failure resulting in a costly rebuild. There are many companies who produce

ment is modern and staff members are extremely helpful. Yoga classes are just one of a number of fitness classes offered.


Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3514 0255 Steve Chipman, who had a hand in establishing gyms at the Sofitel hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is behind Star Fitness — one of Vietnam’s largest and bestequipped gyms.


Tel: 0908 897604 Stephane Laporte is a certified personal trainer and sports massage therapist. Programmes include pre/ post-race preparation and therapy, triathlon coaching, corrective and functional exercises, weight loss/gain, TRX, Kettlebells, Capoeira and more.


3rd Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung, Tel: (08) 5412 1277 Overlooking the Crescent complex’s lagoon, this centre offers modern facilities, a gym with Technogym equipment allowing users to track their progress. Includes fitness classes, yoga, squash courts, pool, steam bath and nutrition bar.

2-stroke oil in Vietnam. We always recommend a fully synthetic version — the quality is much better than mineral oil and there are numerous benefits including low smoke, low carbon build up, smoother combustion and more efficient running. Another important factor is that the measure ratio of oil to petrol needs to be an exact measurement and not judged by the eye. Measure cups are readily available showing 2 percent to 4 percent mixes and this should be used at every refill. Under mixing will cause overheating and engine seizures. Over mixing can cause excessive carbon build ups and in some cases blown oil seals and the all too familiar site of the smoke screen Vespa. To ask Pat a question about your motorbike email


The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2098 ext. 176 In addition to the squash court, facilities include a fully–equipped gym room, a rooftop swimming pool and separate male and female saunas.



8 Vo Van Tan, Q3 Tel: (08) 3829 6312 Home to the majority of hotshot Asian teams including Filipinos, South Koreans and Japanese. Mismo Ngayon, one of six Filipino teams, play there every Sunday morning.


RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, Tan Phong, Q7 Weekends The Saigon Cricket League includes teams from five nations — Australia, England, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — plus a mixed–nationality team called United Cricket Club. New recruits are welcome.


Manish Sogani, Tel: 0908 200598



Deeptesh Gill, Tel: 01228 770038

ISCS (INDIAN SPORTS CLUB IN SAIGON) Munish Gupta, Tel: 0986 973244


Ruby Towers — Saigon Pearl, 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 9009 This gym is equipped with advanced equipment, cardiovascular, strength and free weight sections, sauna and steam rooms, plus studios offering Spinning, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Aerobics, and Belly Dancing. Includes a large outdoor pool with jacuzzi.

Samie Cashmiri, Tel: 0976 469090

Do you think you should be listed on these pages? If so, simply email us on and we’ll see what we can do. We can’t promise but we’ll try our best



SACC (SAIGON AUSTRALIA CRICKET CLUB) Steve Treasure, Tel: 0903 998824


Suhard Amit, Tel: 0988 571010

Asif Ali, Tel: 0937 079034


RMIT University, 702 Nguyen

Van Linh, Tan Phong, Q7, Tel: 0937 683230 The Vietnam Swans play international footy matches around Asia. Social functions aplenty for everyone. Regardless of age or ability, all are invited to become an active part of the club.



VIETNAM GOLF AND COUNTRY CLUB This originally French team welcomes football enthusiasts looking for competition or conviviality both on and off the pitch.


Contact Fred on 0919 709024 or Viet Luu 0909 500171. This predominantly French side has been playing for over 10 years, winning the championship title for the last four years.

SAIGON RAIDERS This team is part of the Saigon International Football League, with regular games against local teams. A sociable football team always on the hunt for enthusiastic new talent.


RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, Tan Phong, Q7 saigonrugbyfootballclub@ The Saigon Geckos play social touch rugby and also welcome men and women to join and enjoy drinks afterwards. There are regular tours of the region, as well as games with visiting teams. Beginners welcome.

77 Binh Duong, Thuan An, Binh Duong, Tel: 0650 756660 This resort incorporates tennis courts, a swimming pool and a gymnasium at its 18–hole, 6,384–metre course just 22km from the city.

Long Thanh My Village, Q9, Tel: (08) 6280 0101 This facility just off Highway 1 has two courses. Both 18– hole courses are complemented by other attractions such as tennis, boating and an on–site eatery.


25 Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1 capoeira.vietnam@gmail. com For a different form of training, try Capoeira, an Afro–Brazilian art form that involves movements from martial arts, games, and dance.

HASH HOUSE HARRIERS Balancing beer and exercise, this long–established running club goes to various out–of–town locations to tear up a few kilometres and burn some of the weekend’s calories. Walking trails offered. Depart from the Caravelle Hotel on Sundays at 2pm.

RAINBOW DIVERS Players train weekly and tour across the region to play in local and international tournaments. New players are actively encouraged to join this SIFL expat football club, running since 1995.

Buddha Bar, 7 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: 0913 408146 Diving courses and trips offered by the longest established PADI dive centres throughout Vietnam. All courses can be started at their state–of–the–art centre in An Phu.





ladiesfirst– A non–profit association of women golfers in Ho Chi Minh City, organising monthly tournaments whose format varies from month to month, including single stroke play, individual stableford and two–ball scramble.


Nguyen Van Linh, Tan Phu, Q7 Tel: (08) 5411 2001 Visitors’ fees are around VND500,000 for a round of golf at this mini nine–hole course. 40 percent discount on Wednesdays. On the driving range, 50 balls cost under VND60,000. Equipment hire available. A baseball team with over 25 international members. Practices and games are held on the weekends at RMIT and the Taiwanese Junior High School in District 7.

SAIGON INTERNATIONAL DARTS LEAGUE There are some excellent players in this fun and popular international darts league, which runs a highly competitive competition for a growing number of pub– based teams.

SAIGON INTERNATIONAL SOFTBALL LEAGUE The Saigon International Softball League invites you

to play slo-pitch softball. Teams with players from all over the world compete every Sunday.


saigonshootersnetball@ A friendly mixed netball league, running on Monday nights, is open to both men and women from the ages of eight and up (including an adult competition).


Tel: (08) 7303 1100 Offers coaching for football, tennis, basketball and swimming for both children and adults. Private lessons are also available throughout the year.


The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 2098 ext 176 Membership is open to non–Landmark residents for use of the courts. Private instruction is available for new players or those without a partner. Racquet rental with balls inclusive. Book in advance.


James: 0938 889899 Rina: rinabakher@yahoo. com. Founded in Singapore, they train every Saturday morning from 10am to midday. Everyone is welcome. For more information about games and the club in Vietnam contact James or Rina.


RMIT, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 Tel: 0909 458890 / 0903 042014 saigon– Pan–Asian competitions are often organised for the more experienced and everyone can join in this exciting modern sport held every Sunday afternoon in Saigon South from 4pm to 5.30pm.


74 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 6210 9192 Offers beginner and advanced mountain climbing routes, safety courses and training at its 26–metre purpose–built mountain in District 3, with an additional location in District 2.


796 Su Van Hanh, Q10, Tel: (08) 3863 3706 Hourly hire for courts starts from VND80,000. Private coaching is available, and a small shop stocks all the equipment. Also has an ex-

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{ BODY and Temple} Advice **ManyFitness ** people resort to cardio training


to lose weight. But could it be doing the opposite and instead increase belly fat? Fitness expert Phil Kelly explains

new year brings about a rush of people determined to get fitter and lose some body fat. The most common exercise chosen is ‘cardio’ (running, elliptical or cycling). The fact is that long bouts of cardio training at a moderate to high intensity (‘chronic cardio’) can be counterproductive for fat loss. I’m not suggesting that it will make you fatter, but it will negatively impact your cortisol levels (a stress hormone with catabolic properties), which in turn makes recovery harder and will be harmful for those of you wanting to maintain or increase so-called ‘tone’ and shape.

The Cortisol Factor What is not understood or considered when completing the usual ‘steady state’ cardio workout is the hormonal or metabolic effect on the body. The incorrect type of aerobic training raises cortisol levels, which can cause your body to store fat instead of burning it. High cortisol has been proven to increase visceral fat (fat that surrounds our organs / belly fat) and inflammation in the body. Furthermore, visceral fat is actually a metabolic tissue that secretes chemical Adipokines, which works to breakdown muscle and create more belly fat. This is one reason why belly fat is referred to as being ‘stubborn’ or difficult to lose. ‘Chronic cardio’ isn’t detrimental solely because of cortisol, as cortisol is produced whenever we put stress on our body. It’s because ‘chronic cardio’ does not stimulate an anabolic hormone response to counteract the catabolic process of cortisol. For example, when an individual lifts weights or sprints they put their body under stress, producing cortisol, but these activities also generate the

106 | Word February 2013

production of anabolic hormones that encourage growth, repair and fat burning. Hence, the best exercises to perform for maximal belly fat loss are ones that elicit the body to produce Human Growth Hormone (HGH), testosterone and adrenaline. The anabolic hormones elevate the body’s natural anti-stress system and return it to a state of equilibrium and growth. In additional to the cortisol issue research shows that continuous aerobic work plateaus after six to eight weeks of training, which means limited value in doing traditional aerobic-style training. Those doing an hour of cardio to lose weight may be wasting their time.

Getting Lean There are many more efficient and effective methods of getting a lean, toned, tantalising torso than performing ‘chronic cardio’. The best way to approach training is to perform exercise that will at least maintain muscle mass. Compound, whole body exercises like squats, deadlifts, push-pulls, bent-over rows, multi-directional and plyometric movements, for example. These kinds of exercises should be performed with high volume and short rest periods to maximise beneficial hormone response and optimal genetic expression for the best fat loss results and cardiovascular fitness affect. You must ideally adapt your training methods and lifestyle to develop a total hormonal environment that acts synergistically to produce a leaner and more functional physiology. Phil Kelly is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. For more information contact him at 0934 782763 or go to

cellent gym and swimming pool.


291 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q10, Tel: (08) 3862 7144 Private coaching sessions and group lessons are available at this popular club. You can rent one of several courts from VND40,000 per hour. There is also equipment for hire.


Tel: 0908 604753 Contact outgoing and experienced instructor Mr Hoang, who takes individuals or groups from beginner level up to fluency. VND220,000 per hour.


45 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 3175 This professional school has built a good reputation over 12 years. Offers set and tailor–made courses for all abilities in both northern and southern Vietnamese within high quality facilities.


37/54 Tran Dinh Xu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6678 0914 VNC Vietnamese Language Training & Translation provides Vietnamese language training by qualified experienced teachers and Certified / Notarized Translation by experts for types of materials and documents.


shivaprakashyoga@yahoo. com A qualified yoga master from India who has been teaching in Ho Chi Minh City in different locations including L’Apothiquaire and Nutrifort. Yoga styles include Asthanga, Hatha, Dynamic, Vital and Power yoga.


Tel: 0909 648193 E-RYT200-certified yoga instructor offering Vinyasa yoga classes at various locations around the city. Private and corporate yoga programmes available.


Tel: 01286 305982 Paul Simos offers power yoga to build strength, flexibility, balance and en-

durance while at the same time imparting a feeling of calm and relaxation. Private sessions and group classes available.


Ruby Towers — Saigon Pearl, 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 9009 Saigon Pearl’s luxury, stateof-the-art health club provides a number of Yoga classes held throughout the week with experienced practitioners at varied times in a specifically designed softfloored studio.


Tel: 0908 352265 Founder Suzanne Vian, has two decades of experience and is a Yoga Alliance ‘Experienced Instructor’. Iyengar-influenced classes, specialising in Hatha, Flow, Hot, Pre and Post-natal Yoga, Restorative, Injury Rehabilitation, Retreats and Trainings.


54/2/25 Bach Dang, Tan Binh, Tel: (08) 3848 5347 Newly opened yoga studio focusing on Ashtanga Yoga and suitable for all levels. Prenatal and postnatal classes also available. Classes are bilingual with internationally certified instructors in cooperation with Tirisulayoga Singapore.


Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 0255 Yoga professionals teach regular yoga classes in three disciplines at this gym. Members get free access. Contact Star Fitness directly for schedules and non–member prices.


84T/4 Tran Dinh Xu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 5813 Soham Yoga Studio and Boutique specialises in highquality yoga training, offering Vinyasa Flow, Sivananda, Power yoga and more with Yoga Alliance-certified yoga instructors. Soham’s yoga shop also sells high quality yoga products.

VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM MEDITATION GROUP Meditation group specializing in the methods of Tibetan Buddhism. Help the practitioners understand and experience the nature

Want to know what’s going on in this city? Go to

of their mind and the nature of all phenomena.


Van Hanh Pogoda, 750 Nguyen Kiem, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 0913 985403 vn Well-respected Dr Thich Tam Duc, secretary-general of the research institute, teaches Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist meditation classes, with the ultimate goal of attaining true happiness. Open to both Vietnamese and nonVietnamese speakers.


33/19 Quoc Huong, Q2; Lotus Road 28, Thao Dien, An Phu, Q2 Tel: 0903 873599 Vivacolour offers tailoredmade relaxation and meditation programmes combined with chromotherapy, essential oils and music. Laughter Yoga and a Colours Meditation group training workshop is also available.


17/27 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 w w w. a n u p a . n e t / y o g a anupa The Yoga Anupa Studio is a place where students practice yoga in classes limited to four students with highly qualified teachers. Classes include Kandalini, Sivananda, Hatha Flow, Yin, Ashtanga, Power and more.


Tel: 01266 626467 Daphne offers yoga classes, Reiki and Thai Yoga Massage across the city. Each session is unique and different to provide the perfect balance in nurturing the body and mind.


Studio 1: 95 Pasteur, Q1; Studio 2: 5 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: 0905 735833 (Thuy) Conducts over 150 commercial and private classes a month and offers a variety of classes. A larger second studio provides a great space for yoga workshops, training and healthcare and lifestyle events.


335/31 Dien Bien Phu, Q3; Tel: (08) 3929 1707 A place to get away from the city for quality yoga or meditation practice. They offer daily classes in different yoga styles — Ashtanga, Power, Yin, Vinyasa, Hatha, Slow Flow and Funky Flow.

WELLNESS From alternative medicine through to have that long sought-after nose-job and that once-a-year medical check, here are some the wellness options available in town


8 Truong Dinh, Q3 Tel: (08) 3930 6667 A clinic providing chiropractic, physiotherapy, and foot care, staffed by Americantrained chiropractic physicians and an Americaneducated doctor of physical therapy. Includes treatment of back, neck, and knee pain, and sports injury rehabilitation.


Family Medical Practice Tel: (08) 3822 7848 American-educated and licensed physical therapist with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree in Viet-

nam. Specialising in orthopedic injuries, joint pain, sports injuries and post-operative rehabilitation.


2B1 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 34 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2 Tel: 01268 654202 American-trained and nationally certified massage therapist and National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer offering orthopedic manual therapy, corrective exercise and orthopedic massage, focusing on pain management well as injury rehab/prevention.


432 Pham Thai Buong, Q7 Tel: 0906 684969 Dr Kim Sung Soo offers a range of alternative oriental treatments, including acupuncture, cupping, moxibus-

tion, physical therapy, plus treatment for fertility, chronic pain (headache, backache, arthritis, muscular), obesity, allergies and menopausal disorders.


273–275 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Q3 Tel: (08) 3997 1146 Apart from standard treatments such as acupuncture and massage, this hospital and training centre places emphasis on physiotherapy — the use of herbs to stimulate and protect the immune system.

OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE / PHYSIOTHERAPY — DAVID TRUONG TAN Tel: 0903 098124 osteopathy– French–trained osteopath and physiotherapist specialising in treating back pain and other muscular, ligaments and joint problems.

Osteopathy relieves pain and other discomforts using a global approach and gentle manipulative techniques.


Tel: 0937 442 516 Australian-trained Massage and Remedial Therapist offering Deep Tissue/Sports Massage, Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage, Prenatal Massage and Reiki. Located in An Phu. Home visits available.


Tel: 0918 591933 A unique energy healing technique for mind, body and spirit. Jodie Eastwood is a UK-qualified practioner based in Ho Chi Minh City.


179 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3932 6579 One of the city’s leading

centres of traditional Chinese medicine infused with modern understanding. Up–to–date and clean with friendly staff, but you will need a translator.


Tel: 0903 873599 Vivacolour offers chromotherapy and chromopuncture which involves combining the energy of colour and acupuncture channels. Treatment is available for a variety of problems such as joint pain, stress, sleep issues, among others.

COSMETIC SURGERY AMERICAN EYE CENTER VIETNAM 5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, Q7 Tel: (08) 5413 6758 American Eye Center Viet-

nam offers a solution to different eye problems with eyelid plastic surgery by an American Board-Certified eye surgeon providing eyelid surgery as well as Botox and cosmetic filler injections.


135B Tran Binh Trong, Q5 Tel: (08) 3923 8435 A range of eye and aesthetic procedures are available at this modern hospital. With state-of-the-art devices, services include laser vision correction, cataract surgery, himyopia treatment, Botox and other cosmetic procedures.

DR. TU’S COSMETIC & LASER SURGERY CLINIC 290 Tran Hung Dao, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 7685 Modern treatments such as ultrasound–based fat elimi-

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nation and body contouring, Botox, restylane, and surgical interventions. The clinic director is a certified member of the International Board of Cosmetic Surgery. Stamford Skin Centre offers a broad range of medical and aesthetic skin treatments. Their international dermatologists and doctors ensure accurate diagnosis and safe treatment procedures. It houses excellent equipment for a variety of procedures.


MD6, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7 Tel: (08) 5410 0100 EXM Clinic is a high tech skincare and dental cosmetic center that specialises in beauty enhancement. EXM is founded by the same people behind SIAN Skincare Laser and Westcoast International Dental Clinics.


6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South Parkway, Q7 Tel: (08) 5411 3366 This modern international– standard hospital has a full cosmetic surgery department offering body contouring, breast augmentation, Botox, a range of facial surgery options, laser skin improvement, with expert French and Vietnamese doctors.


45 Vo Thi Sau, 2nd Floor, Citilight Tower, Q1 Tel: (08) 6290 6167 Conveniently located downtown clinic providing modern, safe and fast treatments including Botox and restylane, by an experienced American doctor. Also provides cosmetic surgery consultations with French and Vietnamese doctors.


Opera View Building, 161 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 8800 Accadent Vietnam is supported by Accadent Germany and offers high quality standards, high–tech materials and equipment, German precision and hygiene standards for your teeth.


6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South Parkway, Q7 Tel: (08) 5411 3435 Full–service dental clinic at this international–class hospital covers the entire spectrum from examinations and cleaning to braces and implants, all carried out to


Level 2, 71-79 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 6999 The Australian and Canadian managed SIAN Clinic offers a wide range of skincare medical therapies to treat problems by an experienced dermatologist and facial care team. The clinic utilises the latest therapies.


254 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3932 1090


The Crescent, 173 Ton Dat Tien, Q7 Tel: 5413 6634 A contemporary Japanese dental clinic that provides a full range of standard and specialised dental services and treatments, including a 20-minute teeth whitening using Brillica mouthpieces and LED lighting systems; general check-ups and cleaning (polishing & prevention), and a range of orthodontic work. Smile Dental Clinic is open Mon-Sat from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 6pm, closed on Sundays and public holidays. English Vietnamese and Japanese are also available to call

the highest standards.


167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3 Tel: (08) 3829 8520 Globally renowned provider of medical assistance and international healthcare offers full dental services in the clinic. Foreign and Vietnamese dentists provide high skilled dental service. Orthodontics is also available.


2 Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, Q3 Tel: (08) 3822 6222 Long–established, modern clinic with French, Canadian, Belgian & Vietnamese dentists. A favourite of the foreign residential community due to its modern and effective treatments allied with extremely reasonable prices.


Ben Thanh Clinic, 27 Nguyen Trung Truc, Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 6999 The Practice, Level 1, 71-79 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 6777 An international dental clinic equipped with the latest technology, the comfortable clinics offer cosmetic and implant dentistry with a focus on making each patient’s experience anxiety and pain free.


Fideco Riverview Building, 14 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 6475 anthony@aglondonsalon. Top British stylist “George” brings his unique flair to hair in District 2. A modern and professional salon, the products used here are exclusively Dermalogica, Schwarzkopf and L’Oreal.



Commitment, Integrity, Quality

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37B Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3 Tel: (08) 3823 0908 A four–floor, one–stop hair salon for people who like highlights and a sharp–looking mane. Even the stylists here sport modern, funky styles. A cut above the rest.


23 Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 7700 A Singaporean salon specialising in hair colouring, treatments and styling. A team of local and foreign stylists will help you choose the hair colour and style that is right for you.


48 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4625 Open daily from 9am to 8pm Hair stylist and colourist specialist Sandrine has relocated her long-standing flagship salon Venus Coiffure to a villa in Thao Dien. A full range of services is offered including a dedicated kids salon.


45 Ton That Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 2737 Spa–related salon with a good reputation for quality and comfort offers washes and leisurely haircuts from VND330,000 plus a range of related services.


119 Dinh Tien Hoang, Da Kao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7700; SD11,Panorama Phu My Hung, Tan Phong, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 3300 More high–end salon than school, this outlet provides treatments, from a simple wash and blow-dry from a student to multi–tonal highlights from a junior stylist supervised by qualified instructors.


21–23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9660; 65 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 6394 From the same chain as His Salon, these places have equally well–trained stylists offering simple haircuts starting from VND150,000.


Services includes general outpatient healthcare, corporate / visa health–checks, X–ray, full laboratory and in– house pharmacy including specialist medical services covering cardiology, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, orthopedics and dermatology.



41 Nguyen Trung Ngan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 6298 This salon can make you look naturally blond or help you to revamp your hairstyle. Using international brands like L’Oreal and Wella, your hair will be given that healthy, bouncier new look. 219 Dien Bien Phu, Q3, Tel: (08) 3829 2791 Run by Canadian hair stylist Ky The Guy, YKC Hair Studio attracts a loyal expat clientele thanks to the welltrained staff and friendly English-speaking environment. Top industry products such as Tigi and Goldwell are used.



5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, Q7 Tel: 5413 6758 / 5413 6759 AMERICAN EYE CENTER is located in the heart of Phu My Hung, providing eye care services to Adults and Children by an American Board-certified ophthalmologist with 17 years of experience. The American-standard facility is equipped with state of the art equipments for the early detection and treatment of important eye diseases from Lasik and cataract surgeries to presbyopia, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease treatments. Cosmetic procedures such as eyelid surgery and Botox injections are also available.

AUSTRALIAN CLINIC & PATHOLOGY DIAGNOSTICS 273–275 Ly Thai To, Q10 Tel: (08) 3834 9941

135B Tran Binh Trong, Q5 Tel: (08) 3923 8435 Cao Thang is a comprehensive eye hospital overseeing 6000 surgeries per year. English speaking staff, a member of the World Association of Eye Hospitals, and quality assurance by the Joint Commission International.


Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 0757 Sister clinic of the Family Medical Practice, Care 1 opened in 2007 and offers preventative healthcare checkups as well as a full range of corporate health services for international companies in Vietnam.


1 Han Thuyen, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 2366 This French medical clinic provides general practice and a range of specialties including cardiology, gynecology, psychotherapy and traditional medicine.


8 Alexandre de Rhodes, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 8888 Well–established and well– regarded, offers emergency and primary medical care with international and Vietnamese doctors on call 24 hours a day. Prices are very reasonable.


Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 7848 Full–service 24–hour healthcare provider with highly–

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qualified doctors handling everything from emergencies to tests and X–rays, in–patient and out–patient care, check– ups, travel medicine and medical evacuations.


6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South Parkway, Q7, Tel: (08) 5411 3333; Emergency: (08) 5411 3500 International hospital whose standard of health care matches that found anywhere, with 19 full–time French doctors and 58 Vietnamese doctors, providing expertise in 30 medical and surgical areas, especially maternity care.


45 Vo Thi Sau, 2nd Floor, Citilight Tower, Q1, Tel: (08) 6290 6167 State–of–the–art medical centre located in District 1. Experienced American, French, and Vietnamese doctors provide the full spectrum health care. Plus sports medicine, cosmetic treatments, skin care and surgical consultations.


601B Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q10, Tel: (08) 3977 8130 Mottoed “Building Stem Cell bridges for everyone”, HMIC comprises a medical clinic and associated pathology

laboratory with Applied Research Center of Regenerate medicine.


1 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2366 cmi– This French medical clinic provides general practice and a range of specialties including cardiology, OB–GYN, ophthalmology, paediatrics, and sports medicine.

Well-regarded clinic offering general examinations and specialising in pediatrics, digestive diseases, cardiology, women’s health and internal medicine. Offers a membership programme and cooperates with most insurance companies in Vietnam and abroad.



167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3829 8520 The world’s leading provider of medical assistance and international healthcare offers primary health care, diagnostic services and 24/7 emergency care. Specialist care is available in many fields.


254 Dien Bien Phu, Q3, Tel: (08) 3932 1090 Stamford Medical Clinic offers services in internal medicine, dermatology, aesthetic medicine, infectious diseases, and general medicine.


135A Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 3997 4545; 79 Dien Bien Phu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 4545


3 Truong Dinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3521 0599 A nail spa in Saigon with a modern ambiance. Services range from classic manicures and spa treatment to acrylic and gel enhancements.


40 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 1407 Grooming salon for men which, as well as its standard hairdressing services, offers massages for the tired executive. A good place to escape the hustle and bustle of Saigon.


Lash Lounge, Q7 Tel: 01205 100583 Originating in Canada, Lash Snob has just recently opened another luxury lash lounge in District 7. We specialize in silk lash extensions and use only the highest-grade glue that has been approved by Health Canada. Each individual silk lash is properly and precisely applied to your natural lash, and lasts anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. No need for mascara! You too, will leave as a Lash Snob. Make-up application also available. Book your appointment today.

64A Truong Dinh, Q3; 100 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 1218 Award–winning salon very highly rated by foreign visitors offers body massages, facials, sports fatigue massages, slimming wraps and waxing. Also offers gentleman’s care.


23C Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Specialising in all forms of skincare, this is well–designed, ambient and outfitted day spa offers body treatments as well as facials and foot treatments.


G20-022, Rd. 6 Hung Vuong 1, Q7, Tel: (08) 5414 8008 This modern salon provides waxing, nail art and manipedis to both women and men. Smooth aims to satisfy your cravings for luscious lacquer, silky smooth skin, happy hands and fab feet.



112, Pasteur Street, Q1, Tel: (08) 6299 0563 10am to 10pm (last booking 9.30pm) Mekong Bliss Spa is a top place to enjoy authentic Vietnamese spa treatments. As well as offering an impressive array of services, part of the proceeds help disadvantaged youth in the Mekong Delta.


4 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 Tel: 6659 3609 2B Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 Tel: 6680 5652 10am to 11:30pm (Last booking 10:30pm) Located in the city centre, and standing for “Nyanya” (or “cry of the kitten”), Miu Miu is an elegant and serene Japanese spa offering various body, facial and foot massages, as well as several nail treatments including manicures, polish and design, and scrubs. Massages range from 60 minutes to two hours and rates are from VND65,000 to VND530,000. The spa also offers Thann and Harnn, popular beauty products in Thailand.

tique spa housed in the refurbished former Chilean Consulate. Spa Tropic has a long-standing reputation among expats and visitors alike for its professional quality service.


Nguyen Du Villas, 111 Nguyen Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 0885 High–end spa set in the elegant grounds of one of the city’s most enviable addresses. The spa itself is intimate and beautifully decorated. Treatments focus on relaxation therapies.


22nd floor, Sailing Tower, 111A Pasteur, Q1 Tel: (08) 2220 2600 A luxury health spa that offers both relaxation and health care therapies to clients. Oriental remedies and therapies collected from the Traditional Medicine Institutes of Vietnam are used by the centre’s therapists.


Saigon River Club, Saigon Pearl, Ruby 1 Tower, 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3514 9006; The Manor, 1st Floor, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3514 0290 Located at two serviced apartment locations, The Spa offers foot massages, body massages and treatments, facial skin treatments and pampering packages.


31 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3905 4609 An old world, Indochineesque interior complete with wooden floors, flowers and flowing drapes makes this an excellent atmosphere in which to enjoy a massage. Also offers hair styling and facials.

New World Saigon Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4000 ext. 2235 Elegant facility offering relaxation at the highest level. Different treatment rooms are available to deliver contemporary rejuvenation treatments. Spacious changing rooms with jacuzzi, steam bath and sauna.

61-63 Tran Dinh Xu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6295 8926 Aimed exclusively at ladies and couples only, treatments at this Japanese spa include facial, body and foot care, and Japanese-style haircuts, as well as steam-sauna, paraffin and waxing services.




3rd Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, crn. of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 9901 Spa InterContinental offers guests the professional spa expertise and a truly sensory experience. With an extensive menu, the Spa InterContinental provides the caring touch of local therapists.


Sheraton Saigon, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2828 Natural and holistic treatments abound at this refurbished luxury hotel spa, from natural rainforest showers to the use of Harnn & Thann spa products.


129A Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8368 Modern and bright downtown spa, offers massages lasting from 30 minutes, to two-hour hot stone therapy, includes one suite with a Jacuzzi bath; offers hand and foot care and a hair styling area.


69 Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7188 Indochine Spa provides a peaceful and serene atmos-

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phere with aromatic scents and lulling melodies. Customers are pampered by qualified therapists using natural French products in a clean and pleasant environment.


110 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: 0907 589290 A new spa that offers services such as body massage, facial and hair treatments. The price list includes service with discounts for members.



79 2/1 Phan Ke Binh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 5575 Spa Tropic is a stylish bou-

Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son Square, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 1234 Breathtaking luxury spa with a tranquil atmosphere, Vichy shower room and range of high–quality massages, facial, body and foot treatments, and overall spa packages complemented by the use of Comfort Zone products.


219 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3829 2791 Exceptional service and customer satisfaction has established YKC as a premier pampering destination for Saigon’s expats and visitors. YKC operates with the utmost integrity and respect in regards to serving its clients.



Looking good and dressing even better is big in this image-conscious metropolis. So, here are some of the fashion options available to you in Ho Chi Minh City


362 Huynh Tan Phat, Q7; 193 Vo Van Ngan, Thu Duc; 55 Pham Van Thuan, Bien Hoa Tel: 097 7872 777 This cute little store has been gaining popularity amongst Vietnamese and foreigners alike. Although dinky from the outside, 2K stocks an impressive, colourful selection of purses, wallets, handbags, manbags, laptop carriers, backpacks and suitcases. If you’re hunting for a good value, last minute purchase, then 2K is well worth the visit. Prices range from VND100,000 to VND1.5 million.


B1-37 Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3993 9308 9am to 10pm One of the most instantly recognisable international retail brands operating inside Vincom Center, Accessorize pulls in droves of shoppers thanks to stocking an attractive range of globally sourced products, from beachwear and children’s clothing to underwear, swimsuits, hats, bags, sandals, jewellery, sunglasses and much more. Prices vary depending on type and design but generally start from around VND200,000.


2 Thao Dien, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 01283 221705 / 0986 024367 B.O.M provides imported, high-quality helmets from Italy and China, bean bags, authentic sunglasses from France, high-quality raincoats for kids and adults, and other accessories.


B-42, Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3936 9777 9am to 10pm Stands out from the crowd thanks to its wooden and neon-lit frontage and eyecatching wooden shelves and boxes used to display its Birkenstock brand products. Selling shoes, sandals and clogs imported from Germany made with various designs and colours, there are also similar products for kids. A pair of thong sandals starts at VND1.9 million for adults and VND1.6 million for kids.


1B Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 2210 2084 8am to 10.30pm It’s hard to ignore this store as its frontage is painted in a stark lemon yellow. Wellknown for its selection of recycled bags made from plastic feed sacks, coming in all designs and colours, the unique product selection includes colourful quilts, ethnic bags, jewellery, scrap metal animals and other such wares. Prices range from VND5,000 to VND2.1 million.


18-20 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 1132 B1-62 Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3993 9306 9am to 10pm This airy, well-displayed and well-organised Singaporean store has two branches in town. An elegant beige frontage stands out thanks to three large hanging posters. Sells women’s shoes, bags and accessories with a wide range of products from boots, heels and sandals to bags and clutches. Prices are acceptable for an international brand with a pair of thong sandals costing VND775,000 and leather bags starting at VND1.1 million. There is also a selection of sunglasses from VND1.1 million and belts for VND600,000.


127-129 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3832 3904 9am to 10pm Dr Martens has come a long way from the punk era of the late 1970s when its boots first gained popularity as a hardman (or woman) accessory. Indeed, according to a recent consumer survey, eight out of 10 urban Vietnamese teenagers own a pair of sandals from this global shoe brand. Standing out thanks to its bright yellow signage, the street style and wooden-shelf decor of this shop displays a range of shoes, sandals and boots that contrast from the 15-hole lace-ups from the past. But then, with Dr Martens its all about the quality of the soles.


35 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 8162 9.30am to 8pm Located next to Jaspa’s and

run by jewellery and furniture designer Vivek Chaudhary, this retail-cum-gallery space is decked out in white giving it a sleek aura of elegance. Specialises in contemporary and exclusive arty jewellery including rings, bracelets, necklaces and medals all displayed in Ushaped cases. The products are handcrafted and made from handpicked gemstones and raw materials consisting of precious metals, plastic, zinc or fiberglass. There are also exhibitions and gallery talks every month and the gallery stocks the work of guest jewellery artists. Check the website for details.


77-79 Dong Khoi, Q1. Tel: (08) 3822 3277 71 Pasteur, Q1. Tel: (08) 3824 2701 9am to 9pm Looking for fun, sexy, glamorous accessories? Look no further. Dubbed one of the most renowned brands for designer handbags and jewellery in Vietnam, IpaNima is the brainchild Hong Kong-born designer Christina Yu. The flamboyant designs, unique twists and funky embellishments in great fashionable shapes definitely catch the eye. Also stocks shoes, dresses and hats. Prices range from for bags, VND1.2 million to VND2.1 million for shoes and from VND3 million for dresses.


174 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3926 0270 9am to 10pm A branch of the Vietnamese SJC company, the elegance and luxury of this space provides instant temptation for the avid shopper. All products are made in Vietnam with imported rare stones that increase the value of each piece. A coral necklace costs around VND900,000 while a silver ring with an angel hair stone is stocked at around VND1.5 million. A selection of bags starts from VND1.4 million.


67 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 4007 8am to 10pm This small two-storey shop contains a huge collection of cool and funky jewellery.

There are also selections of ethnic bags, fabulous handmade silver pieces and lacquer items. All products are from Vietnam. Prices begin at VND160,000 and intricate designs cost over VND2.1 million. The staff is friendly and speak English.


146AB Pasteur, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 8382 10.30am to 8.30pm Located opposite Labella, the luxurious design and appearance of this quiet shop actually intimidates passers-by. Features upmarket shoes and bags made from highquality materials such as crocodile or python skin and garnished with a large variety of wooden, Swarovski crystal and European-style colourful beads. Prices vary but a normal pair of shoes starts from VND21 million. Credit cards (of course) are accepted.


115 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 9582 9am to 10pm The award-winning SKECHERS is one of the world’s most sought-after footwear brands. Now the number two footwear brand in the US with new and stylish designs for both genders from 5 to 70 years old, SKECHERS is fast becoming a popular choice with Vietnamese. The display is impressive with shoes in many designs and colours hanging on the walls. A pair of sports shoes starts at VND2 million.


28 Mac Dinh Chi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3807 393 Dien Bien Phu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3929 0685 8am to 9pm The wide signage on the front of the shop name checking a host of famous international timepiece brands means this shop is unmissable. Large and with in-your-face displays, TDC is the official dealer of Tissot, Swatch, Longines and Jacques Lemans. A funky plastic Swatch strap watch costs VND2 million while a classic gilded Longines strap starts at VND11 million. Also stocks high-end brands like Rolex, Cartier and Omega.


72 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 3519 9am to 8pm The pleasant and steady sound of a watch stays the same. However, its design has evolved along with mankind. So has the TicTac Company, growing from a family watch specialist store in Ho Chi Minh City in 1978 to an elegant black-and-gold designer watch showroom. Stocks luxurious brands such as Omega, Baume & Mercier, Maurice Lacroix, Armand Nicolet, Mido, Hirsch and Swiza. Also provides repairs and battery changes. Time seems to never stop at Tic Tac Watches.


9 Nguyen Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 3756 8am to 7.30pm A good place for luxury jewellery, this store is located on a tiny street in between Nguyen Hue and Dong Khoi. However, it stands out thanks to its décor and design with a big wooden and glass door. Products vary from pearl rings to sapphire earrings, an oval pink stone necklace, a gold plain daisy brooch, all displayed in a Ushaped wooden case. Prices start at VND10 million for a ring. Men can also find a selection of cufflinks here.


Unit 66, Saigon Square, 7-9A Ton Duc Thang, Q1 11am to 8pm Located inside Saigon Square, this store is perfect for anyone looking to indulge in their obsession with classic scooters. Stocking a wide range of Vespa-inspired tidbits and memorabilia from Saigon Scooter Centre, the wares include t-shirts, riding gear, Italian helmets, Respro face masks, DVDs, books, bags, magazines, posters and much more. Rental scooters and bikes are also available.


32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Q2 Tel: 0907 168910 Situated on the same site as Snap Café, YB is a small shop with simple décor, offering all kinds of jewellery including earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings. Most of the products are handmade and crafted from various

gemstones consisting of turquoise, quartz, jasper and hematite. Prices are affordable, depending on the type of gemstone and design, but usually start from VND50,000. Also offers custom orders.


147 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3920 7442 123A Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 0019 9am to 10.30pm Even though their business card claims Marathon to be a sports fashion store, it’s actually a beachwear shop. With an orange frontage, this outlet quickly grabs the attention of passers by. Displays many products in a simple and accessible style, offering colourful beach pants, t-shirts and flip-flops for men and women, caps, and a small selection of sneakers and belts. Prices range from VND110,000 to VND190,000 for a t-shirt, and VND140,000 for a pair of flipflops.


171 Bui Vien, Q1 9am to 10pm Specialises in 100 percent cotton t-shirts for both men and women, which are manufactured in Vietnam. Also offers a small selection of hats, safety pins and postcards. A part of the profit from each sale is given to two charity organizations, Poussieres de Vie and the Endangered Asian Species Trust. A t-shirt starts at VND189,000, a cap costs VND99,000 and a post card is only VND15,000.


180 Bui Vien, Q1 238B Pasteur, Q3 Tel: (08) 3820 2620 152 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 5028 9am to 10pm With three stores throughout town, this well-known clothing outlet is aimed at teenagers and young adults. Despite simple décor, Orange stands out thanks to the array of colourful products hanging on the wall including jeans, t-shirts, bags, sandals and belts. A selection of attractive hats and leather bracelets are also stocked. Prices are affordable with tshirts selling for VND180,000

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while bags go for between VND90,000 and VND600,000. Shoes start at VND400,000 a pair. 8.30am to 10.30pm A brother of Maxxstyle, this brand is well-known locally for both its men’s and women’s clothing. Set in a large, two-floor space, Ninomax stands out thanks to its large white-painted Renaissancestyle columns. Despite its size, a lack of adequate lighting gives the shop a slightly darker feel. Has the same prices as Maxxstyle and also stocks similar products.


174 Bui Vien, Q1; 148 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 228 Vo Van Tan, Q3; 15H Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: 0903 641826 9am to 10pm This hip-hop-cum-skate store has played a large role in the current rise of local, non KPop street fashion thanks to its branded mix of sneakers, tees, hoodies, jeans, oblique baseball caps, accessories and more. Naturally, there is also a range of skateboards on sale, with the board and wheels costing anywhere between VND1.5 million and VND2.5 million.


187A Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3926 0257 BOO embraces street style in clothing as well as decor — with a traffic light, zebra crossing and bus shelter complementing the shopping experience. BOO's Bo Sua and Infamous brands have their own street stalls instore, stocking clothing and shoes made in Vietnam and designed by the young staff.


54-56 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 0905 493148 9am to 10pm Quality, original, Vietnamthemed tees are the showpiece at this airy French-run clothing store that also has an outlet in Nha Trang. Designs are inspired by anything from the Vietnamese flag, local telecom wires and motorbikes to creative, Siddharta-style imagery. Has a permanent photo gallery upstairs exhibiting the works of Thiery Beyne.


52 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3833 4299 150-152 Hai Ba Trung, Q3 Tel: (08) 3824 9534 8.30am to 10.30pm Located next to Zen Plaza, this Vietnamese brand is one of the best-known shops in town for unisex clothing. Contains a wide range of apparel including jeans, tees, shirts, jackets, khaki trousers and much more, all displayed in a huge retail space. Stocks many different designs, fabrics and colours, and prices are good. A pair of men’s jeans starts at VND500,000, and VND450,000 for women, while a female shirt costs about VND300,000 and VND279,000 for a printed male tee.


118-122 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 9689


22 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3839 2292 9am to 10pm This Hong Kong-brand retailer sells both male and female casual wear, including jeans, khaki trousers, tees and shirts. Although carrying various designs, including plain, striped, V-neck and button-neck shirts, there are not many products. Prices range from VND900,000 for a pair of women’s jeans and VND700,000 for a shirt. Also stocks socks and belts.


43 Thao Dien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3744 2411 9am to 8pm This Scandinavian outlet is situated on the first floor of An Phu market, stocking high-quality designer garments. Carries a full range of products, from floral dresses to tight tanks starting at VND1.8 million, as well as chiffon shorts and high-waist trousers for VND2 million. Shoes, bags, belts, scarves and hats are also carried as well as larger sizes.


89A Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 5164 9am to 10pm Inspired by the modern woman with a youthful attitude, D’Blanc introduces an ageless brand that balances a feminine, sexy aesthetic with an electric, urban sensibility. A complete lifestyle collection that offers a broad range of stylish looks to take women from day to night and work to the weekend. Accessories are also available. A dress costs from VND1.5 million.


L1-08, Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 7493 9am to 10pm Located inconspicuously on a corner of the Vincom Center, customers have trouble finding this generically designed shop. Stocks both casual and formal wear for men and women, including jeans, tees, shirts, party dresses and working skirts.

Prices here are also surprisingly reasonable. A male tee starts at VND750,000 while a pair of men’s jeans goes for as little as VND1.8 million. There is also a small selection of bags and belts.


Le Lai Corner, 1 Nguyen Van Trang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 1495 Located on the 2nd floor of the Gaya, all the clothing here is designed and tailored-made by renowned French-Cambodian designer Romyda Keth and concentrates mainly on women’s wear. There are plenty of colourful and sexy evening dresses, embroidered floral skirts and cute chiffon tops. If it doesn’t quite fit, alterations are available. Prices start at VND2 million for a normal party dress. Also stocks a small selection of men’s shirts.


85 Pasteur, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 4004 8am to 10pm The products of this Australian fashion label are displayed on the basement floor with contemporary ranges of casual and eveningwear fused with Asian designs. The work of proprieter Hellen Holani, the apparel includes sweet floral dresses, jean skirts, printed tees and street-style bags. Worth a visit with friends so you can also enjoy a cup of coffee at the in-house cafe while waiting to pick up your clothes.


89 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3825 8325 itshappenedtobeacloset. 9am to 9pm More than just a typical clothing store, It’s Happened To Be A Closet (also known as Ethophen) not only carries a colourful range of retro-ethnic Thai bohemian women’s wear, but doubles up as a WiFi friendly café stocking an impressive array of imported food and beverages, as well as artful jewelry, handicrafts, comestibles, accessories and books. Also offers manicures and pedicures.


85-87 Pasteur, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 0172 9am to 9pm Located opposite Sergio Rossi, the decorative style and display of this Vietnamese fashion outlet is both impressive and endearing, using strong colours like orange and wood-brown to catch the eye. Products include a comprehensive range of silk dresses, halters and skirts. A large selection of bags is displayed on colourful and

eye-catching box-shaped shelves. Also offers night and loungewear, scarves and belts.


47 BC Nguyen Trai, Q1 315A-317 Ba Thang Hai, Q10 Tel: (08) 3240 7460 225 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3240 7461 9am to 9.30pm For cosmopolitans who love genuine Levi’s Jeans, there are numerous of the selfbranded stores throughout the city. Invented by Levi Strauss & Co. in 1873, the brand has become one of the most recognisable and imitated pieces of clothing throughout the world. The stores here offer a wide range of the latest jeans and accessories. Prices vary but normally start at VND2 million for a pair of woman’s jeans.


40D Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 7114 10am to 7pm Located near the corner of Pasteur and Ly Tu Trong, Liti harks back to Vietnam’s French colonial era. Stocking simple but vintage embroidered and crocheted clothing for women and kids, other retro ware includes clocks, brooches, teapots, cups and other art deco-style products. A simple black blouse starts at VND820,000 while an old clock costs upwards of VND3 million.


61 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Parkson, Saigon Tourist Plaza, Level 2, 35 Bis - 45, Le Thanh Ton, Q1 (opening Aug. 15) Parkson, Flemington, Level 2, 184 Le Dai Hanh, Q11 (opening Sep. 1) Tel: (08) 3925 9993 Established in Punta Del Este, Uruguay in 1960, Lolita operates ladies fashion boutiques in 19 countries around the world, offering stylish and comfortable easy-to-wear clothing for work or play


First floor, 151 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 6674 3565 10am to 10pm A contemporary shopping experience can be enjoyed at this fashion boutique, café and art gallery. A spacious, elegant Indochina-themed image of a 1930’s French garment factory, L’Usine stocks exclusive labels from all over the world, elegant and sophisticated clothing and casual high-quality cottons tailored to the climate of Ho Chi Minh City. Lifestyle accessories include shoes, home-wares, nick-knacks, cameras, stationery and a range of vintage bicycles.

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132–134 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 2733 9.30am to 9.30pm Based on the ground floor of the Continental Hotel, Mai’s feels more like an art space than a fashion shop. Run by designer Mai Lam, all products displayed are her own designs with a mixture of vintage and modernised traditional clothes and accessories. Her renowned signature pieces include velvet and cotton ao dai reworked for casual wear, as well as hand embroidered vintage US army and flak jackets. Also stocks a fine selection of artworks. Prices range from VND1 million to VND80 million for clothes, and VND600,000 to VND40 million depending on styles and materials.


40-42 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 1136 96 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 6624 65 Le Loi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3914 7464 B1-43 Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3993 9300 9am to 10pm This Spanish brand is located in an impressively designed two-storey building with a black-painted neon logo outside. The entire shop is well displayed with air-conditioning and professional staff, exuding a feeling of class but not luxury. Provides a full range of clothing including jeans, tees, skirts, trousers, cardigans, leggings and much more. There are also selections of bags, wallets, belts and scarves. A shirt costs from VND1.2 million, and a pair of jeans starts at VND1.4 million. Visit the website for more Mango outlets in town.


43 Ton That Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 8019 9am to 9pm This designer fashion outlet, located in the same building as Dogma and Saigon Kitsch, sells a variety of men’s and women’s clothing and shoes produced in Vietnam for export markets in Europe, Japan and the US. All designs are brand new, delivered directly from the factory weekly and sold at factory outlet prices (VND100,000 to VND70,000).


23 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: (08) 6290 9391 9am to 8pm Ngan has become a wellknown brand due to their distinctive tailor-made clothing and designs. Stocks mainly women’s clothes, however, men are also suitably catered for. The entire

shop is designed in a sleek and luxurious black with cozy lighting emanating from a pendant light fixture. Due to the elegant and sophisticated designs and high-quality fabrics, prices are more top-end, with a party dress ranging from VND6 million to VND10 million a piece, and a normal dress starting at VND3 million. There are selections of boots, belts, scarves and jewellery boxes. Also does bespoke orders.


137 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 01222 210008 9am to 10.30pm A fashion store with streetwear, t-shirts, bags, a wide range of sneakers and authentic Brazillian Havaianas flip-flops. Crocs sandals are also displayed in the middle of the store. T-shirts range from VND400,000 to VND900,000, VND400,000 for a bag and VND700,000 for sneakers. Also stocks sunglasses starting at VND400,000. Has Europeansized t-shirts.


1st Floor, Saigon Centre, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 5292 This t-shaped and turquoisepainted store is located on the first floor of Saigon Center, stocking the clothing of French designer Valerie Gregori McKenzie. All the designs have a quaint, slightly Gallic feel and are made from a mixture of linen, silk and cotton. A simple white tank dress costs VND760,000 and a spandex shirt goes for VND1.5 million. Also stocks shoes, sandals and a small range of accessories.


19 Vo Thi Sau, Q1, Tel: (08) 3820 3574 8am to 8pm With over 15 years in the trade, Thuy Nga is one of the best-known garment brands in Vietnam. This luxurious shop stocks both men’s and women’s clothing, including office attire, casual and evening wear. A long-sleeved women’s shirt starts from VND1 million while a male striped shirt starts from VND1.3 million. Also stocks jewellery and accessories.


35 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: (08) 6276 2730 8am to 10pm Impressively designed with exposed brick walls, Umbrella is airy and well displayed with warm lighting exuding a comfortable atmosphere. Sells their own women’s clothing designs including dresses, trousers, skirts, jumpers and blouses. Prices vary, starting from VND999,000 up to VND3,499,000 on selected items with more complicated craftsmanship.


Eco Luxe Anupa, 9 Dong Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 2394 Situated in a French villastyle home and converted into an eco-boutique, Villa Anupa houses the complete Anupa Collection as well as the products of Anupa Horvil's handpicked eco designers. Anupa’s collection features luxury leather accessories including bags for men and women as well as many other pieces from yoga bags to belts. Other designers include Unit T bamboo eyewear, Miguel la Salle and Things of Substance to name but a few. Recently expanding to another location, Anupa has opened an EcoLuxe boutique which carries a smaller selection of her collection. Both stores are open from 9am until 8pm daily.


155 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 3582 10.30am to 8.30pm Located inside the Rex Hotel, this Parisian fashion house is one of the most popular international brands with local celebrities due to its welltailored, traditional, feminine and fashionable products. Chloe Saigon stocks a range of Chloe products, from low-rider fitted jeans, satin dresses, crocodile skin shoes to Sakia bags. There is also a selection of glasses in many cool and contemporary styles and designs.


M-29, Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3993 9005 9am to 10pm Contemporary decor with large mirrors and leather sofas creates the setting for a range of products catering

for both men and women. The apparel of this Italian brand varies in both design and fabric, helping shoppers identify with contrasting international fashion trends. A pair of floral shorts starts at VND9 million and a snake-patterned dress costs VND24 million. There is also a small selection of bags and scarves.


155 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 3580 10.30am to 8.30pm Situated inside the Rex Hotel next door to Chloe, this urban American brand carries international-standard clothing and a wide range of sophisticated bags placed on wooden shelves, costing from around VND6 million. There is also a glass case in the middle of the store containing other accessories.


M-15, Vincom Center, 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 9am to 10pm Spacious, well-displayed and stocking the designs of the iconic Italian fashion label, Versace is shopping at its most lavish. The products come in many colours and fabrics, designed elegantly in a classic and sophisticated style with floral dresses, plain chiffon blouses and skinny trousers. Prices are expectedly expensive; a well-tailored floral dress will set you back VND40 million. There is also a small selection of shoes and bags.


211 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 5695 8am to 8.30pm Situated on the corner of Truong Dinh and Ly Tu Trong, Aquamarine is a

classy branch of Xuan Thu swimwear. A small shop full of colourful products, a step inside results in a sensory overload. Offering custom orders, the stock here runs the gamut from one-piece bikinis through to two-pieces as well as monokinis and various types of beachwear with different designs and patterns. Prices start at VND790,000 for a bikini. Also stocks a small selection of scarves.


Zen Plaza, 54-56 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 0339 9am to 10pm One of the most popular underwear brands in Vietnam, the American self-branded shop stocks a full range of Vietnamese-manufactured or imported products for men and women, including underwear, sleepwear and sportswear. Prices of imported clothing are slightly more expensive compared to domestically manufactured products. A sport tee ranges from VND150,000 to VND180,000, while a pair of long johns starts at VND200,000, with a sports outfit costing VND300,000.


139 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3757 9.30am to 9.30pm One of the best local swimwear brands in Vietnam, La Ha caters for both men and women. The shop is small and simply decorated but contains a comprehensive range of products with many different designs and patterns. Prices start at VND175,000 for a bikini. Also stocks yoga and gym outfits.


127 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 0909 711312 9am to 10pm This brand is better known on Facebook than in The Backpackers’ Area. Sells

women’s swimsuits in plain and floral styles, including one-piece and two-piece bikinis starting from VND250,000. The shop has been designed well making it easy to search for the right swimsuit. Also stocks maxim dresses at VND380,000 and beach sandals at VND110,000. A small selection of earrings and sunglasses is available. Search on Facebook for ssuziswimwear for new designs and promotions.


Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1. Tel: (08) 3824 5756 Saigon Tax Centre, 135 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3914 3202 9am to 9pm A well-known underwear brand in Vietnam, Triumph’s high-quality products make women look and feel good. However, because of the form of the bra cup, this brand is considered to be more suitable for European women. The bras are plentiful and come in many different colours, styles and designs, while the pants look more classic and traditional compared to other brands. Prices vary but normally a bra starts at VND600,000 and a pair of knickers goes for VND200,000. Also stocks a small selection of bikinis.


94 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 6291 1099 232 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3820 3948 9.30am to 9.30pm One of the growing number of Japanese underwear brands for women in Ho Chi Minh City, Wacoal has more than 10 shops around town. However, there is a lack of product variety and the designs are quite classic. Compared to Triumph, prices are quite expensive with a bra ranging from VND400,000 to VND800,000, while pants

start at VND250,000 per pair. No swimsuits. Staff are friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.


A large amount of fine and affordable sportswear can be found around town, however, there are two main streets stocking sportswear in the centre; Huyen Tran Cong Chua, between Nguyen Thi Minh Khai and Nguyen Du in District 1; and Pham Hong Thai, between Cach Mang Thang Tam and Le Loi. You can find everything for sports on these streets, from local clothing to imitations of famous brands like Adidas, Nike and Puma at ultra affordable prices through to the real thing.


163 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Q1 Tel: (08) 3920 9187 9am to 11pm With its wooden frontage, this shop feels and looks like an army disposal store, with a comprehensive range of products, including flashlights, binoculars, climbing clothing, funky men and women’s casual outfits, bags and even underwear and cycling gear. If you’re after any products related to travelling, then this store is a must.


270 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 2240 5990 8am to 8pm Located on the corner of Bui Vien and Cong Quynh, this store offers a wide range of tailor-made clothing with all designs and styles, from vests to ao dais, and skirts and trousers. Customers can either bring their own fabric

or ask the tailor to choose for them. A normal pair of shirts can be made in two days. Prices are acceptable, with a vest costing around VND700,000 and VND300,000 for an ao dai — not including the price of the fabrics. Guarantees that all tailormade clothing will fit.


171 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 5267 9am to 7pm One of the most difficult things for foreigners living in Vietnam is finding the correct shoes size. Mandarina is a good place for picking up a tailormade pair of shoes. They can even make shoes in 24 hours for around VND1 million. Simply choose the design and colour and they will take care of the rest. There is also a wide range of ready-to-wear shoes, from sandals and peep toes to slingbacks and boots. Stocks a small selection of bags, too. Prices range from VND300,000 to VND2,000,000 depending on style and materials.


39 Dong Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 4556 9am to 11pm Run by two Vietnamese sisters, Tricia and Verona, this shop offers tailormade clothing for both men and women with the latest and trendiest designs and styles. Stocks a wide range of fabrics, which is helpful for those that don’t know where to purchase it separately. Find something on the rack, get measured up then return a day or two later and pick up your custom-made garment. Alterations can be made upon request. An ao dai costs from VND1.6 million and a suit starts at VND4 million including fabric.

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Give your home that look you’ve always dreamed of. Furniture and repro art is not just manufactured in Vietnam for export. Apparently you can even buy bicycles made from bamboo here. Oops, no. Those beauties are for export only.


50-52 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 7962 8.30am to 8.30pm With a sister gallery in Hanoi, this airy and spacious place is ideal for people interested in Vietnamese-themed art. Displays and sells works by local leading artists, from past masters to new rising stars. Think carefully before purchasing as the cheapest piece starts at VND40 million.


244 Bis Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 9136 9am to 10pm Offers one of the most interesting types of local art: rice painting. Standing out with its neon-lit front sign, Gallery is small and simple with artwork adorning its walls. Takes custom orders and delivers after four days for the smallest sized paintings. Prices for bespoke work starts at VND600,000 a piece and the space also offers an international shipping service for customers living abroad.


17/12 Nguyen Huy Tuong, P6, Binh Thanh. Tel: 0904 959053 Located near to the Fine Art University, Cactus Gallery was founded in 2011 by artist Phuong Quoc Tri with a desire to provide the art space to the world in general and Viet Nam in particular, both on a personal level and on a united one. Linking talented artists together for daily art events such as exhibitions, artist talks and art projects the gallery aims to erase the boundaries between Vietnamese and International artists as well as any art lovers, curators, collectors and art dealers. Cactus Gallery primarily focuses on discovering, supporting and developing young talent.


1st Floor, 43 Ton That Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 8272 9am to 8pm Located in the same building as Saigon Kitsch, Dogma stocks many cool and interesting tidbits, including propaganda art costing from VND450,000 per poster, Uncle Ho statues, books and themed postcards. If you want to wear these pieces of propaganda art, there is a wide range of propagandaprinted tees and jackets for both men and women, stocking at around VND600,000. A small selection of jewellery is also available.

65 De Tham, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 8019 10am to 6pm, Closed on Monday Although situated close to the canal in one of the poorer parts of District 1, this gallery retains it distinct character, providing visitors with an authentic artsy feel that avoids the jaded, Vietnamese-themed stereotypes available elsewhere in town. Open from Tuesday to Saturday and run by Viet Kieu Pham Quynh and her partner Robert Cianchi, the art and installations on display here are the work of both international and contemporary Vietnamese artists. The helpful local staff speak good English. Visit the website for information on up-coming exhibitions.


257 De Tham, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 7692 11am to 10pm Located opposite Highlands Coffee in Pham Ngu Lao, this small shop is decorated with lacquer paintings of Buddhist and Vietnamese landscapes and flowers. Nhu Y takes custom orders and prices vary from VND150,000 for the smallest piece (20cm x 20cm) rising to VND1.1 million for a 40cm x 80cm painting.


213C Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 3166 129B Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 3181 9am to 8.30pm Located opposite the Vincom Center, this tiny white space displays selected contem-

porary artworks by Vietnamese artists. Styles include abstract works, landscapes and modern day impressionism, focusing mainly on lacquer on wood, oils on canvas and silk paintings. More paintings are displayed at the Le Thanh Ton gallery in a four-floor building with each floor yielding a different style of art. Prices start from VND2.7 million. Credit cards are accepted.


Although available elsewhere in town, Bui Vien in the Backpackers’ Area is the best place to find reproductions of masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh, Monet and Degas as well as Andy Warhol copies and the works of a whole host of other artists. Depending on size, style and material, prices vary but generally start from VND1 million per painting. Shops include Truu Tuong (No. 158), Buddha Art (No. 230), Duc Tai (No. 155A), Hanh Dung (No. 210), Duc Anh (No. 136), Nam Phuong (No. 105) and The Sun 3 (No. 145).


234 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 9542 9am to 10.30pm This airy, simple and wellorganised space offers a comprehensive range of products. An eye-catching selection of plastic Buddha images and statues start at VND2 million. Also stocks embroidered paintings from VND700,000, pottery, lacquerware, bamboo lamps and a selection of bags and scarves. Takes custom orders for embroidered painting.


38 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 4408 8am to 9.30pm With its ancient-looking dark brown and tiled roof, many Japanese tourists favour this petite shop. Carries a full range of products including souvenirs, embroidered handkerchiefs, kitchenware, home décor and much more. There are also large selections of men’s shirts, ties and women’s dresses and skirts. Offers order-madeclothes to fit individual sizes and tastes.

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35-37 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: (08) 2210 3110 S17 – Sky Garden 1, Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 Tel: (08) 6271 7758 A project of the NGO Mekong Plus designed to support community development programmes in remote villages in Vietnam and Cambodia. All products are locally produced, including paper mache, ratten, bamboo and hyacinth products, contained and displayed in a simple white-painted space. Bamboo vases from VND350,000 and rag ranges from VND400,000.


2 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 9459 8am to 8pm The dark, musty décor gives Nguyen Freres the aura of a haunted house. Strange, unique yet seductively attractive, this retail shop doesn’t stand out as much as other places in the same area but it is big and carries a wide range of products concentrating on northern and hill-tribe culture with ethnic clothing, hand-crafted décor items and antique furniture. Items costing as low as VND20,000 can be found here.


83 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 9079 8am to 10pm With more than 10 stores around the city, this Vietnamese company is known for its hand-embroidered and crocheted products including bedding, tablecloths, napkins and placemats. This packed and slightly haphazard looking shop also stocks children’s and adult’s wear as well as souvenirs. All products are made from linen and cotton. Prices vary but normally start from VND110,000 per item.


209 De Tham, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 9780 69 Dong Khoi, Q1 7am to 10.30pm Gorgeous tribally-inspired handbags, dresses and accessories on the ground floor combine with authentic tribal clothing on the floor above.

Concerning itself mainly with the hand–woven clothing of the northern rural Vietnamese tribes such as the Hmong, there is also a cute line of ladies’ shoes, silk wraps and bags.


35-37 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: (08) 2210 3110 64 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1 Tel: (08) 3914 2119 S17 – Sky Garden 1, Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 Tel: (08) 6271 7758 A charity organization helping poor women in rural areas, all products are handmade with a wide range of quilts in many designs and fabrics. Special orders can be taken for delivery within 5-6 weeks. Also stocks accessories such as aprons, sheets and tablecloths.


20 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 0023 9am to 6.30pm Located in a villa-style building, this An Phu-based shop stocks antique repro furniture. All products are samples, so it’s limited and exclusive with only one or two pieces of each particular item. Also has a great range of imported fabrics up on the 2nd floor and an in-house sewing room for cushions, sofas and curtains. Offers custom-made furniture and delivery within four weeks. Home décor orders are also available.


Km 11 + 300 Highway Hanoi, Q9 Tel: (08) 3730 9856 8am to 4.30pm, closed on Sundays Produces high-end Danish design sofas and armchairs in contemporary and traditional styles. With imported materials, the brand provides a large amount of high quality products for the Vietnamese market and exports to Europe, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan and Singapore. Also offers to produce customers’ own designs. Their products are stocked at AA Deco with Their products are stocked at Nha Xinh showroom.


The Crescent Parcel CR107/08, 103 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung Tel: (08) 5413 6538 A branch of the AA Corporation, Bellavita specialises in the distribution of imported high-end furniture manufactured by well-known brands such as Walter Knoll, Poltrona Frau, Minotti and Cassina. Most products displayed in this airy space include chairs, tables and other high quality glassware. Orders are taken 10 to 12 weeks in advance before delivery. There is also a selection of home décor items such as pottery.


68-70 Dong Du, Q1 Tel: (08) 3824 6604 4th Floor, Unit 09, The Crescent Mall, 101 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung Tel: (08) 5413 7357 Located next to Sheraton Hotel, the first BoConcept shop stands out thanks to its black signage and glassy atrium. The shop carries a full range of furniture including sofas, beds, wardrobes, tables and chairs; all are imported from Denmark. Delivery of non-stock items takes up to two weeks. Also has a range of furnishing accessories such as mirrors, rugs, paintings and lamps.


4th Floor, Unit 10, The Crescent Mall, 101 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung Tel: (08) 5413 7355 The famous Italian interiorfurnishing brand, founded by Antonio Calligaris in 1923, designs, produces and distributes chairs, tables, beds, sofas, storage units and furnishing accessories. Producing 160,000 units per month with over 7,000 product variations for the kitchen, living room and bedroom, products are distributed to over 12,000 retail outlets in 90 countries worldwide.


53 Pham Ngoc Thach Q3 Tel: (08) 3823 2213 207 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 Tel: (08) 3827 3696 8am to 9pm This well-known Vietnamese furniture brand is a good choice for most families with its respected high-

quality designs and competitive prices. Located on the corner of Pham Ngoc Thach and Dien Bien Phu, the spacious showroom specialises in sofas and other furniture such as table sets, shelves and kitchen cabinets. There is a large selection of carpets as well as numerous choices of curtains and accessories.


327F Luong Dinh Cua, Q2 Tel: (08) 5402 7434 This is a great place to pick up compact sofa beds for homes lacking large amounts of space. A wide range of stock includes many covers in various colours and fabrics. Purchases of all standard and deluxe products include a one-year warranty. Prices start at VND6.7 million and a free delivery and assembly service is offered to city residents. Visit the website for a quick demonstration.


13 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1803 9am to 8pm The two-storey shop stocks contemporary and colorful furniture and decorative accessories, from sofas and armchairs to tables and cabinets, lightings, votives, kitchenware, vases and a full range of modern home accessories. Special orders are possible for delivery all over the world.


11 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 7371 www.estheticfurnishing. 9am to 7pm Having just moved to its new location, this large twostorey outlet specialises in interior and external designs. Products include beds, sofas, wardrobes and shelves made from high-quality woods. Also offers antique reproductions as well as madeto-order furniture such as sofas and home décor designs. Lamps, lampshades and other accessories are also stocked.


51 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 2181 8am to 6pm, closed Sundays Specialising in interior designs and landscaping, this three-storey building is so packed full of items for sale that it doesn’t seem to have enough space for all of its products. The basement storey carries outdoor furniture such as bamboo-imitation and mosaic table sets, while the second level stocks all types of indoor furniture except beds. Accessories are found on the level above. Special orders are taken for delivery within three weeks. Also offers a rental service.


81 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4640/4643 8am to 6pm

This two-storey shop carries all types of furniture, displayed simply so as to give clients a general idea of each product’s style and quality. Items for sale include chairs, tables, wardrobes, drawers and other furniture made from Kiwi pinewood and acacia. Custom orders are accepted and take about four weeks for delivery. Free shipping is included for orders costing more than VND10 million and within Ho Chi Minh City. As a general pricing gauge, a bed costs VND5.6 million and a wardrobe starts at VND6 million.


3B Tong Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: (08) 6657 0788 www.thefurniturewarehouse. 9am to 7pm Specialises in high-end European-style furniture for outdoor and indoor design and home décor. Products include wardrobes, armchairs, sofas, tables and shelves made from pine, oak, acacia and hardwood. There is also a selection of antique furniture and décor items. Free shipping and made-to-order available for small quantities. Visit the website for more information and prices.


1 Nguyen Van Trang, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 1495 10am to 8pm Set in one of the most attractive post-World War II buildings in the city, Gaya has a reputation for chic and sophisticated indoor and outdoor sofas, pod seats, lamps and tableware, with all products both constructed and designed locally. You can find a wide range of mirrors and lacquerware with bowls, vases and contemporary Asian-style boxes as well as a fantastic selection of linenembroidered bedding in all colours and designs. Prices here match the quality of the products.


7/308 Highway 13, Thuan An, Binh Duong Tel: (0650)376 5115 Typical of the large, slightly out-of-town stores found in Europe, North America and Australia that focus on all things for the home, Gomo represents the arrival of a new style of homewares shop in Vietnam.


46A Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Tel: (08) 3997 7300 8am to 8pm This giant glass showroom features a comprehensive range of products including exclusive kitchen and bathroom appliances, furniture, and light and locking systems. This is also a good place to pick up sensor equipment and items such as rubbish bins, doors and

lights. The selection of door handles is endless and all products are imported from Germany. Like Gaya, prices are top-end but the quality is beyond reproach.


59 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 7614 9am to 7pm This narrow four-storey building carries products ranging from sofas, chairs and tables to beds, bookshelves, cabinets, dressers and wardrobes. Accessories include ceramic pots, candles and mirrors. Special orders can be taken based on the catalogue or custom design and will be delivered within three weeks. Also stocks a range of bedding made from cotton, linen and silk.


85 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: 0955 000560 9am to 5pm With more than 10 years in the business, this old world, French colonial styled store has a reputation for restoring and reproducing antique furniture. Products include armchairs, sofas, tables, bookshelves, drawers, lamps, paintings, ceramics, lacquerware and much more. Also offers an exclusive interior design service package, from initial design to installation with natural wood imported from the US. Free consultation is provided via phone or email.


2nd Floor, Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 6115 CR3, The Crescent Mall, 111 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung Tel: (08) 5413 6657 8.30am to 9.30pm One of the most renowned Vietnamese furniture suppliers, this brand has over 15 years experience in the business, selling a wide range of furniture products made for the bedroom, living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom. Custom orders are also accepted. Also sells a large selection of home decorations such as handmade flowers, statues and modern lamps. Offers a good design consultation service.


Tel: (09) 0770 9044 Vietnam has a climate that is perfect for spending time outdoors, why not make the most of it? Outdoor Lifestyle Products offers a range of products designed and developed to complement the best in BBQs.


222 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Tel: (08) 3930 4190 9am to 9pm

This white-painted building sells highly stylized, contemporary imported indoor furniture made from various materials. From wood to plastic, and crystal to stainless steel, this shop stocks a large selection of sofas, tables and chairs. Accessories include exclusive clocks and lamps. Paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Chairman Mao and other well-known characters are also stocked.


152 Le Lai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 3648 Inspired by the sumptuous textiles, rich palettes, and hotels of the 1940s, Verlim stocks a well-curated and eclectic trove of French, Chinese and Vietnamese Deco furniture and accessories, including outsized teak-framed mirrors, panelled screens and low-slung armchairs. There is also a selection of antiques and art deco reproduction. Arranges shipping and offers custommade items.


Tel: (08) 090 3873 599 Vivacolour offers professional interior design services for your home that create a personalised ambience to express your style and personality, business colour consultations to build a tailor-made environment for your team and clients, visually expressing your brand and communicating your values to your customers. Contact Pascaline for more information.


It’s easy to figure this area out with all the stainless steel goods hanging from the rows of shops. You can quite literally find everything for the bathroom and kitchen, from sinks to cups and dish shelves to buckets. Compared to other shops in the centre of town, prices tend to be cheaper here. However, prepare to bargain.


Saigon Center, 65 Le Loi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3915 1778 CaoDong Design is an official distributor of the award-winning TouchAble brand. Stocks elegant and fashionable interiors, and a selection of souvenirs, leather boxes and luxury stationary. Includes table-standing lamps, pendant lights and hand-painted lampshades imported from Spain and the UK. Promises to deliver non in-stock orders within 30 to 45 days.


51/2A Thanh Thai, Q10 Tel: (08) 3866 9173 8am to 8pm Features imported decorative lights from Austria including wall, track and outdoor lighting made of metal, glass and plastic resin. Stocks a full and varied range of lighting systems for the kitchen, bathroom, children’s room, garden and swimming pool. Also offers customised lighting system orders. Prices range from VND159,000 to VND27million. Visit the website for information and images of the products.


92 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1 Tel: (08) 2210 3460 8am to 7pm Located opposite Saigon Square, this big store displays all types of lights from ceiling and wall lights to table and desk lamps with lampshades in all designs and styles. All products are self-produced and designed, and are made from a comprehensive selection of high-quality domestic and international materials. Good customer service with enthusiastic staff. Customised orders are accepted.


34 Le Duan, Q1. Tel: (08) 3825 7750 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


126 Hung Vuong, Q5. Tel: (08) 2222 0383 9.30am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court



98 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 4634 This eye-popping lime greenpainted boutique carries furniture, tableware and decorative home accessories. Also stocks an exclusive selection of lights and lamps, including lotus lamps at VND300,000, lacquer lamps at VND400,000 and orchid lamps at VND650,000. All products are Vietnamesethemed and are made from bamboo. As well as selling locally, Mosaique exports to Europe, the US, Australia and Africa.


35-45 Le Thanh Ton, Q1. Tel: (08) 3827 7636 9.30am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


65 Le Loi, Q1. Tel: (08) 3829 4888 9am to 9pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


77-89 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1 9am to 9pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics


12 Dang Tran Con, Q1 Tel: 3823 9375 Located opposite Galaxy cinema, Unity offers accessories that are designed to seamlessly blend in with your life. Familiar basics are given a contemporary update with the use of modern, alternative materials like silicone, rubber, and brushed aluminum. From orbital lamps and eggshell-white china, to wire-clasped water bottles, each individual piece complements the others in the collection— to give your home a sense of Unity.


replacement lights and T8 tubes that are easy to install in current sockets. Using green materials (no mercury or other toxins), these lights provide an energy saving of 50% against normal Fluorescent lights, with 10-15 times the lifespan of normal lights.

135 Nguyen Hue, Q1. Tel: (08) 3821 3849 9am to 9.30pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Souvenirs, Restaurant


70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1. Tel: (08) 3936 9999 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


117/28 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 6294 5448 Vektor LED provide LED base

54-56 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 0339 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court

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* ELECTRONICS Nope, Ho Chi Minh City is not as cheap as Hong Kong or Bangkok when it comes to those camera and computer purchases we are all obsessed with these days. But it’s not far off. Here’s a lowdown on where stuff is available


Saigon’s photography lovers need look no further than Huynh Thuc Khang, Ho Tung Mau, Nguyen Hue and Le Loi to find dozens of stores stocking everything from digital to disposable cameras. Camera accessories, such as lenses and caps, digital image printing and other services are also available too as is a range of second-hand lenses and camera bodies.


28 Ton That Thiep, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 8773 8.30am to 6.30pm Lying opposite Sun Wah Tower, this is a typical Vietnamese retail outlet without decoration and with products displayed in glass cases. Selling digital and video cameras of well-known brands such as Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, Sony and JVC, prices start at VND9 million for a professional camera and VND5.5 million for a standard video camera. Also sells a range of accessories.


Tel: 0903 035 271 Wear it or mount it. Waterproof, professional, true HD and extremely small. The world’s most versatile camera and accessories are available in Vietnam from authorised distributor Silver Sun Ltd Co. in Da Nang. Call for details of stockists or for a direct order.


85 Nguyen Hue, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 6503 9am to 8pm Located in the same building as The Lost Art, Le Vu Nikon specializes mainly in Nikon products with a full range of cameras and accessories. A normal DSLR Nikon camera with a lens that can be disassembled is priced at VND12 million. Batteries cost between VND200,000 and VND300,000. Also offers a maintenance service and part exchange.


Fitting & Services Centre, 117/28 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 6294 5448 Ctrack GPS vehicle solutions.

A world leader in real time monitoring and data collection, Ctrack GPS has operations in 56 countries and have more than 20 years of hands on experiences in solutions related to GPS and management logistics. Juotec T-eye Dashboard Cameras record events outside and inside vehicles with high-res 1.3Mb cameras.


11 Le Cong Kieu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 5888 Situated in one of the most beautiful antique-store streets in the city, this small shop restores and fixes all kinds of cameras from Nikon and Canon to Sony. They will locate and identify the specific problem and quote a price before fixing the camera. Speak good English.


Bui Thi Xuan, Nguyen Cu Trinh and Ton That Tung streets are considered to be the places to shop for computers, selling everything from LCD monitors, RAM sticks, keyboards, webcams and internet phone cards through to speaker systems at reliable and affordable prices. Many of the stores also offer a computer maintenance service.


81 Dien Bien Phu, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3514 0999 8am to 5pm This Australian company provides an impressive selection of printing solutions such as ink, lasers, faxes, photocopier cartridges and high-quality paper. Free pick-up and delivery service, and a refill service is available at reliable prices. With professional staff, the store offers an effective and quick restoration and maintenance service for printers of well-known brands such as HP, Epson, Canon, Xerox and Brother.


236 Dien Bien Phu, Q3 Tel: (08) 7300 6666 8am to 5pm A large internet service supplier, FPT is also known for being one of the biggest Vietnamese IT brands. Manufacturing IT products including deskstops, notebooks,

servers and accessories, their stores are found nationwide. Prices start at VND5,7 million for a desktop without monitors, and a notebook costs from VND11 million. Accessories vary, from flash memory cards and scandisks to USB bars. Visit the website for information and product prices.


Hoan Long Building, 244 Cong Quynh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 8999 8am to 9pm Located opposite Co-Op Mart, this glass building carries a full range of IT equipment and accessories, including laptops, desktops, Acer RAM and products by Dell and Sony. Also sells Apple’s iPad, starting at VND21.8 million for the 3G version and MacBooks for VND28 million. In addition has a small selection of digital video cameras. Offers an assembly service for both domestic and international orders. Good post-sale maintenance and customerservice.


50 Nguyen Cu Trinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 0699 8am to 7.30pm This shop concentrates mainly on notebooks, stocking popular brands such as IBM, Dell, Acer, HP, Sony and Apple. Also stocks plus disk drivers, RAM and batteries, and offers cameras, pocket PCs, smart phones (HTC and 32GB iPhone 4 sold at VND23.6 million), projectors and printers. Good customer service and quick delivery.


125 Cach Mang Thang 8, Q1 Tel: (08) 6290 8777 9am to 9pm Known as one of the leading IT retailers in town and located at the corner of Cach Mang Thang 8 and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, the products for sale at Phong Vu include computers, laptops, office equipment, entertainment devices and accessories. Also provides internet and network solutions and systems. Good maintenance service for desktops, notebooks and printers. Visit the website for more information.


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42 Huynh Thuc Khang, Q1. Tel: (08) 3822 2247 Upon arrival, this large store looks more like a stationary shop than a mere CD shop. Products include blank CDs and DVDs at VND25,000 for 10 Kachi CD-Rs and VND38,000 for 10 Maxell CD-RWs. The DVD selection is endless with the prices starting from VND5,000 for one DVD, depending on type and brand. Also stocks numerous music CDs and DVDs of international and Vietnamese singers.


428BIS Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Tel: (08) 3818 1188 8.30am to 9.30pm This supermarket-esque shop is an official distributor of top brands including Intel, Asus, HP and Acer, stocking everything from laptops and desktops to monitors and keyboards, laptop fans and computer speakers. Office equipment, including photocopiers, fax machines and paper destroyers, is also sold here. Other entertainment devices, such as mobile phones and mp3 players are also stocked.


227 Tran Hung Dao, Q1 Tel: (08) 3838 9164 8am to 5pm Devout fans of that new religion called ‘Apple’ will be satisfied at Thuan My, one of the growing number of Apple dealers in Saigon. Products include MacBooks, iMacs, iPods, iPhones and their numerous accessories. Remember to ask for software installation. Competitive market prices and service make this place stand out.


352 Ba Thang Hai, Q10 Tel: (08) 3868 3733 9am to 6.30pm Besides stocking the ubiquitous iPhone and iPad, this shop also sells mobile phones from the likes of HTC, LG, Dell, Nokia, Vertu, Blackberry and more. There is also an exclusive and unique selection of handsets from the likes of GoldVish Gold Le Million, Porsche P9521 and Tag Heuer. Prices are higher than

other places but the after-sale customer service is excellent.


The following streets have dozens of stores selling major mobile brands such as Samsung, Nokia, LG, Apple, etc. New and second-hand handsets and extra accessories are also available. Ba Thang Hai between Ly Thuong Kiet and Ly Thai To, Q10; Hai Ba Trung between Le Duan & Dien Bien Phu, Q1 & Q3; Hung Vuong, Q5 (close to the end of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai).


382B – B1 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3 Tel: (08) 3526 5838 8am to 5.30pm One of the top five master dealers nationwide with popular mobile phone brands such as Nokia, SamSung, LG, Motorola, and Panasonic, this company is an official distributor of Philips in Vietnam. Produced the first Vietnamese mobile phone, Bavapen, and also stocks the iPhone 4 at VND21.3 million. Accessories include phone wallets, earphones and batteries.


182A Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Tel: 1900 561 292 8am to 10.30pm This well-known retail chain catches the attention of pedestrian shoppers due to the unmissable and striking yellow signboard with its long black logo. The website is efficient with adequate photos and information on phones and specifications. The staff speaks English and the store offers online orders at cheaper prices. Stocks everything mobile, from phones through to tablets and laptops.


328-330 Ba Thang Hai, Q10 Tel: (08) 3863 3333 Has more than 65 stores nationwide and offers a comprehensive range of mobile phones from top brands such as Apple, HTC and Blackberry to the Chinese makes Cayon and Huawei. There is also a wide range of top laptops and mp3 and mp4 players. Recently opened a technology support centre called EBAR where customers check and test new products and software. Online orders with free shipping is available.

ELECTRONICS MARKETS Known as “electronics supermarkets”, the number of stores selling everything from TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners to washing machines, coffee makers and blenders seems to be increasing by the day. You’ll also be able to find vacuum cleaners and irons from popular brands such as Sony, Samsung, Toshiba, JVC, LG and Sanyo. In addition these stores stock a wide range of mobile phones from the likes of Nokia, Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson. In order to attract the largest number of customers, most of these stores offer daily promotions with competitive prices. Visit their websites for promotions, online orders and more information.


590 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3 Tel: (08) 3846 4700 8.30am to 9.30pm


975 Tran Hung Dao, Q5 Tel: (08) 3923 1536 8.30am to 9.30pm


133–141AB Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3 8.30am to 9.30pm


63–65 Tran Hung Dao, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 1211 8am to 10pm


277B Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q10 Tel: (08) 3863 3733 www.dienmaythienhoa. vn 8am to 10pm


From catering services through to the growing number of bakeries - and we’re not talking Tous Les Jours. Here are places to stock up on wine, liquor, imported cheeses and freshly baked bread


84 Nguyen Cong Tru, P. Nguyen Thai Binh, Q1 Tel: (08) 6295 9087 Specialising in freshly baked cupcakes such as the Ravishing Red Velvet, Foxy Banoffee, and Heavenly Honey, this boutique cupcake shop also offers coffees, teas and juices. Wi-Fi available.


117 Cong Quynh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 1992 Dubbed “the local bakery”, Crumbs serves up a variety of baked goods including baguettes, muffins, cheese and garlic–based buns and loafs, meat–filled pastries, sweet pastries, health–conscious breads and more. There is also a breakfast menu and variety of sandwiches available.


33 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: (08) 5404 7777 The air of American donuts infuses this pleasant and popular venue, with a variety of the sweet circular treat complementing an excellent selection of coffees, teas and juices. Specials include the mixed fruits donut, ice cream donut, and ice cream & sauce/peanuts donut. The store is open from 7am to 10pm daily and offers free Wi-Fi and a non-smoking area.


30 Lam Son, Tan Binh, Tel: (08) 3547 0577 Made to order baking delivery specialists by phone or email. Scones, bagels, breads (everything from 12 grain loaves to Italian focaccia), muffins, cookies, buns, fudge cake and more, from upwards of VND45,000. Orders must be placed 48 hours in advance.


64–68 Ham Nghi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 2970 Selling baguette–style bread for VND5,000 and basic freshly made sandwiches for around VND15,000. Also has a range of Vietnamese pastries and savouries. Open 24 hours.


SL15-1 Grand View, Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7

Tel: 0908 828552 For anyone with a sweet tooth, this cake delivery service offers homebaked products using the finest ingredients including fresh fruit, imported butter and chocolate. No preservatives or hydrogenated fats are used. All cakes and cookies are made to order and can be customised upon request. Free delivery is available. Place orders one day in advance.


153 Xo Viet Nghe Tinh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 3518 0897 Located in the premises of the Hospitality School, Sesame Bakery provides practical experience to its students. Has a wide variety of French pastries, loaves, baguettes, cookies and cakes at good prices. Special order and delivery available.


180 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3823 8302 59 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 4350 187 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Although tailored to the local market, this Korean–owned bakery chain and café bakes a tasty range of pastries, bread and cakes all at very affordable prices. Excellent baguettes and sandwich bread. Also does a slightly sweet version of croque monsieur.


39 Thao Dien, Q2 French–run bakery selling probably the tastiest range of patisseries, breads, quiches and pies in town. The signature passion–fruit tart is a must try.


Available all year round for birthday cakes, BBQs, corporate events, private parties, wine tastings and more, Au Parc Catering provide a full service including drinks, glass rentals, waiters and crockery. For a quote, email or call Mr. Loi on 3829 2772.


100 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: (08) 6281 9830 New delicatessen shop offering western–fusion French

food. French Chef Stephane Courtin and his team will assist you in a Gastro’Home food experience. Visit the shop in An Phu or try the “at your home” catering service for a dinner, buffet or cocktail party.



Tel: 6274 0647 A French food delivery service that does cocktail parties, buffets and events specialising in salads, sandwiches, gratin, quiche, pies, desert, muffins and more. Visit website for full menu.


Ground Floor, Norfolk Hotel, 117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Tel: (08) 3829 5368 / 0908 406 505 Delicious food and professional service for any special occasion including company functions, formal banquets, Christmas and New Year parties. Reasonably priced.


41 Vo Truong Toan, D.2, HCMC Tel: (08) 3898 9286 With over 10 years experience, SCC is the event manager for the annual NZ Wine & Food Festival, official caterer for ZanZBar, and provides catering services to a number of consulates and multinationals. Experienced with every conceivable style, from the smallest dinner party to a stand-up cocktail event for thousands, SCC takes care of everything from the venue, flowers and decorations to transportation, set-up, guest management, event flow, marketing and promotions, invitations and menu planning.


46D Vuon Lai, Tan Phu Tel: (08) 3812 6901 With extensive experience in menu design, The Caterers will come up with an original menu for your party or gathering, then prepare all the food and serve it to your guests. Also offers a venue for clients to use.


84 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien Ward, Q2 Tel: 0913 981128 SCC can create a menu to meet your exact requirements and budget.Theirchefs use the freshest ingredients to produce quality, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented food at reasonable prices.

up the bulk of the selection, but some locally–sourced poultry and fish products are also on offer. Also does pre–packaged prepared meat like chicken strips – perfect for the freezer. Open seven days a week.


32 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 3856 An international standard butchers with a solid selection of fresh meats, charcuterie products, a tasty selection of pates, sausages, cheeses and poultry. Sells both retail and wholesale.



16–18 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9332 41A Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2630 Attractive and spacious French–owned grocery shop stocking a large range of foods, organic fruit and vegetables, imported beers and wines. Also sells luxury branded products from the likes of Fauchon. The deli upstairs in the Hai Ba Trung branch serves tasty baguette rolls in a comfortable lounge area with free Wi–Fi, and offers probably the best selection of cheese and cured meats in town. Free delivery for Districts 1, 2 and 3.


45 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8126 aussie– Aussie Fruits are among the first in Vietnam to promote a full range of Australian seasonal fruits. Their mission is to bring the best quality fruits from Australia into Vietnam, with professionally trained customer support along with a state of the art facility that guarantees 100% freshness directly from Australian farms. Check their website to see what’s in season.


No. 17, Street 12 (perpendicular to Tran Nao street), Q2 Tel: (08) 3740 7105/06/07/08 / 0903 814761 Fax: 3740 7109 Supplier for the city’s five– star hotels, also distributing brands like San Pellegrino, Rougie foie gras, Galbani cheese, fresh poultries, meat, live seafood and vegetables. You can now find all the products at the gourmet shop on location.


73 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 6057 Stocks a comprehensive range of fresh meat products imported directly from Australia. Beef and lamb make



58 Ham Nghi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 1318 Mini supermarket stocking a large range of imported foods, cheese, meat, fresh fruit, vegetables and good wines. Friendly service and helpful staff, although the selection of products is slightly smaller than its next door neighbour, Thai Ha.


60 Ham Nghi, Q1 Supermarket that vies with its next door neighbour, Phuong Ha, for customers. Excellent selection of imported goods including canned foods, dairy products, cereals and meat products. The staff here speak reasonable English although the service is better next door.


29A Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8526 Packed from floor to ceiling with imported cereals, meats, cheeses, and almost anything else you can think of, this is a very popular choice for expats doing their weekly shop. The walk–in fridge at the back is a draw in itself.



16–18 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 9332 annam– Here you’ll find anything from Guinness to Leffe, with a whole lot of Belgian, Australian and German beers in between. Also has an excellent selection of imported wines and liquors.


158D Pasteur, Q1 A range of spirits, whiskies

and wines at affordable prices. Wines come from all over the world with an especially good selection from France, Chile and South Africa. Also has an excellent range of single malts, top shelf tequilas and has an on–site wine tasting machine, the Enomatic, the first of its kind in Vietnam.


74E Hai Ba Trung,Q1, Tel: (08) 5404 3575 A premier importer/distributor of quality wines, spirits, non–alcohol drinks, representing over 400 wines, spirits and drinks from 12 countries since 1995.


6/7 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q1 Tel: (08) 6210 2986 Wine wholesaler importing well–known Australian wines. Present portfolio includes Kangarilla Road, Zema Estate, Buller, Bethany and Chapel Hill.


22 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 0021 One of the largest distributors in town, stocks around 90,000 bottles from virtually every region in the world. Sells both retail and wholesale.


178 Pasteur, Q Tel: (08) 3825 8826 One of the busiest wine retailers in town. In addition to their excellent range of wines, they also stock imported beers, bottled mineral water and spirits.


15C7 Thi Sach, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 1141 Well–known and respected wine importer and distributor stocking a number of old and new world wines. Brands include Perrin & Fils, Pere & Fils, Dr Loosen, Kracher and William Fevre.


74/17 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 Tel: (08) 6299 1315 Corner of Thao Dien & Duong 2, Q2 Tel: (08) 6281 9059 Professional advice on selecting and tasting wines. Also offers regular popular wine courses. The outdoor terrace area is the perfect spot to sample a new vintage.

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Got kids? Looking for that perfect school for your children? Want to give them involved in some extra-curricular activities? Search no further. Here are some options for you.


66B Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q10 Tel: (08) 2210 2775 Discounted car seats, buggies and more.


1B Ton That Tung, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 5404 Near Phu San maternity hospital with reasonably priced clothing, bottles, nappy bags and toys.


230 Vo Thi Sau, Q3, Tel: (08) 3932 1611 Closest this city has to Mothercare, stocking apparel, bottles and sterilisers.


40 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 5796 Good selection of imported books for all ages as well as cheap stationery, stickers and other odd ends.


1st Flr, Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, Q1 Picture books for babies to stories and education books for older children can be found here.


10 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 4946 Swiss artist Bernadette Gruber runs six–week printmaking classes for children and

adults, starting from the very beginning and working through to final prints made from copper plates. Other printing methods are also addressed.


53 Nguyen Dang Giai, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4490/4340 The Crescent Mall, Phu My Hung Children and teenagers can enjoy jazz, ballet, hip hop, funk, belly dancing, salsa and more classes of all levels at this modern dance studio.


Mr Anh Vu Phi, another conservatory graduate now teaching at the International School, offers private tutoring in guitar and piano in Vietnamese and English for VND200,000 per 45–minute session. He has 30 years experience teaching youngsters, and after a stint in Spanish city Seville now offers classes in flamenco, call him at 091 387 7884.


189/C1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2 (gallery and workshop), Tel: 0903 955780 French painter teaches beginners how to work with different mediums and techniques. For more advanced artists, she shows you how to release your creativity. Daytime and evening courses available

for children and adults.


Tel: 0909 269511 Group swimming, tennis and golf lessons run by Michael Belmes, the former Head Coach of the Vietnam National Polo Team and the Phillipines Elite Development Group of Swimmers. Prices start from around VND120,000. A Saigon Masters Swim Club is also being formed. Visit the website for more info.


82 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 7691 Former conservatory student Nguyen Trung Minh offers lessons in piano at Minh Nguyen piano boutique for all ages and levels for VND150,000 a session.


42/1 Ngo Quang Huy Street, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 2639 Steffen Christophe teaches introduction to musical instruments for students aged four upwards at Montessori, as well as private and group lessons in guitar, keyboard, and voice. With a diploma in guitar and singing from 10 years spent at the Geneva Conservatory, lessons at his home come from 25 years experience playing – one hour private tuition cost VND500,000 for students aged four to 14, and VND550,000 for those over

(scb_music77@hotmail. com).

Contact Abbie Klein for more info.



628A An Binh, Q2 Tel: (08) 3898 9788 Provides a range of leisure activities including sports and movie nights for children of all ages. Participation requires membership of this well–known country club. Email for more details.

55 Nguyen Dang Giai, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6825 Scuba Diving Adventures in a Swimming Pool for 8 + 9 year olds. 15 week PADI programme conducted by Rainbow Divers, the leading PADI dive centres throughout Vietnam.



Tel: 0122 5636 682 Offers a full range of piano lessons, from basic to advanced ones such as Bach, Mozart and Chopin. Suitable for kids of all ages.


Tel: 01227 163844 rubbaduckiesswim@hotmail. com Infant water familiarisation classes for little ones from six months to three years at Somerset, Q1; AIS, Q2: APSC, Q2; Sherwood Residence, Q3 & classes now available in Q7. Run by Elizabeth Hollins.


Tel: 0987 027722 saigonmovement@gmail. com Offering a variety of classes for movement development for ages two to 11 in An Phu and Phu My Hung. Saigon Movement aims to improve children’s total body awareness through games and sports–based activities.

702 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7, Tel: (08) 3776 1300 The venue for a large number of sporting activities for children of all ages. Sports include baseball, softball, football (soccer) and more.


42 Le Van Thinh, Q2, Tel: 0903 930907 An excellent way for children to escape the urban bustle is to ride one of the 16 ponies and learn the correct riding technique from the three part–time teachers. Half–hour lessons with the engaging Amaury cost VND200,000.


Tel: (08) 6281 9790 info@SaigonSportsAcademy. com Saigon Sports Academy offer coaching for children aged 4–16 years and private lessons for children and adults. They currently offer soccer, basketball, tennis and swimming. They have a team of

International coaches offering training for beginners all the way up to professional levels. Please check the website for details. Also offers a youth soccer league that runs on Sundays 2pm–6pm in District 7. Call 0932 153502.


Tel: 0903 145087 stagemagicbiz The city’s first stage school, offering youngsters between seven and 19 the opportunity to develop their acting and singing skills. The ultimate aim is to put on public performances at the end of each term. Cost for a 10– week term begins at VND2.1 million.


BP Compound, 720K Thao Dien, Q2 Martial arts expert Mr. Phuc welcomes anyone over the


Tel: 0932 102378 Canadian watercolour artist, Lindsay Erdman hosts Saturday afternoon workshops for painters of all levels. Work with still life, live models and flora while learning or refining a variety of watercolour techniques. Workshops held on a beautiful terrace in district 10. Weeklong workshops are also available.

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age of five to take part in his thrice–weekly classes. One class a week costs VND160,000 per week; two classes a week are VND800,000 and three classes a month are VND1 million. There’s an additional fee for non–members. Contact Mr. Phuc on 0903 918149.


226 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3 Focuses on good–quality clothing for up to the one–year–old mark, with prices starting from just VND120,000. Also has a decent range of shoes and other accessories.


12 Mac Dinh Chi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 6615 4th Floor, Crescent Mall, Nguyen Van Linh, Q7, Tel:5413 7574 Belli Blossom is a shop catering to moms and babies stocking imported brands of maternity and nursing wear and accessories, infant clothes, baby bottles and feeding products, strollers, high chairs, slings, baby carriers, diaper bags and more. Available brands include Mam, Mamaway, Quinny, Maclaren, Debon, Luvable Friends and Gingersnaps.


17/5 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3853 The emphasis here is on attractive and unique designs for the very young, encompassing clothing, pyjamas and bedding. A great place to browse for some memorable items.


93 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 4893 There are clothes for all ages in here, mostly made of cotton and reasonably–priced, with friendly English–speaking staff on hand to help.


227 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 With the belief that each child is a prince or princess, the store offers an exclusive selection of brand names in clothing, accessories and creative toys. Creative toy brand names such as Playmobil, Vilac and Trousselier are on display and clothes by international designers such as Sonia Rykiel, Petit Bateau, Baby Dior and Kiwi are also available. As an added touch, the shop has been designed especially for children so that they feel at home.


2, 1E Street, KDC Trung Son, Binh Hung, Binh Chanh, Tel:

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(08) 5431 1833 Founded in 1995, this international school of 800+ students drawn from 32 national backgrounds is served by 80+ UK expatriate teachers and 70+ support staff. It is the only international school in the city whose curriculum is wholly based on UK standards for all pupils from age two yrs (Playgroup) to 18yrs (Pre–University matriculation). Students graduate with IGCSE’s & A levels awarded by Cambridge University examinations board.


East-West Highway, An Phu, Q2 Tel: (08) 3747 1234 Part of the Academic Colleges Group’s international network of schools, ACG offers comprehensive education from kindergarten to senior school and a range of extracurricular activities. The new campus provides exceptional learning and sports facilities. Offers international curricula (IB PYP and Cambridge International Examinations).


Xi Early Childhood Centre 190 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 2727 Early Childhood & Primary School, Cherry Blossom 1 &

Lotus 1, APSC Compound, 36 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 6960; Middle & Senior School, East-West Highway, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3742 4040 A co-educational day school with dedicated early childhood, primary, middle and senior school campuses. An IB World School, students follow the PYP and MYP curriculum. Senior students follow the IGCSE – Cambridge A Levels. AIS is the only school in Vietnam authorised to deliver the University of New South Wales Foundation Studies GRADE 12 Curriculum (UNSW). Focus on academic excellence, international student body, and exceptional facilities in quiet residential settings, qualified expatriate staff, range of cocurricular sport, creative, academic and musical activities and languages. Scholarships available.


246 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2335 Three campuses offer a British–style education to moret than 1,500 children aged from two to 18. A centre for the UK Cambridge International Examinations boards, it is also an IB. World School, delivering the IB Diploma Programme.


13C Nguyen Van Linh, Binh Chanh Tel: 5412 3456 The first Canadian international school in Vietnam offers co-educational classes from Kindergarten to grade 12 for local and foreign students. Talented, certified teachers implement the awarded Ontario curriculum to create a student-centered learning environment. Focuses on academic achievement, character education and global thinking with a commitment to the arts and languages (Vietnamese and French). Students graduate with the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), recognised by universities worldwide.


Cu Xa Do Thanh, 7, Duong So 2, Q3 Tel: (08) 3832 8488 Flemington Tower, 2nd Floor, 182 Le Dai Hanh, P15, Q11 Tel: (08) 3962 1218

CitySmart is an international education centre for children in Vietnam that delivers a range of diverse, internationally proven educational programs for children to develop a love for learning and the essential skills, character, and intelligence needed to become outstanding leaders and achieve success and happiness in life.


15 Tran Doan Khanh, Q1 Tel: (08) 3820 3302 / 3820 3202 Promoting and facilitating English language acquisition, Compass Education is a English language education company that offers a range of courses for teachers, students and managers, corporate and teacher training, nanny and teacher placements and career counseling.


Somerset Chancellor Court, 1st Floor, 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 7008 Gymboree Play & Music has been fostering creativity and confidence in children aged 0 - 5 for over 30 years. Today there are over 550 locations in over 30 countries, making them a leader in early childhood development programs. Recognized for their

approach to parent involvement, their programmes encourage participation in, and understanding of, each child’s development.


730 F-G-K Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: 7300 7257 The German International School offers a unique bi-lingual German-English programme for students, from a variety of nationalities, from 2 to 16 years old. Its curriculum is based on the internationally recognised Primary Years Programmes (PYP), Middle Years Programme (MYP) and IB Diploma Programme of the International Baccalaureate (IB) system.


28 Vo Truong Toan, An Phu Tel: (08) 3898 9100 ISHCMC, located in District 2, has been successfully

graduating students with an IB Diploma to highprofile overseas colleges and universities since 1999. ISHCMC is the only fully authorized IB World School in HCMC, providing an International Baccalaureate curriculum (PYP, MYP & IBDP) to all students, ages 2 to 18. It is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Association of School and Colleges (NEASC).


92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh Tel: (08) 2222 7799 ISSP offers a rigorous American standard-based curriculum taught by certified North American teachers. ISSP started the academic year of 2010-2011 with more than 100 students enrolled from 20 different nationalities. A brand new single purpose-built campus and state-of-art facility caters for nursery through to grade 5 (sixth grade added in 2011). All passport holders, including Vietnamese are welcome. Unique features include Mandarin language classes, golf, home languages and an active extra-curricular programme.


Ground Floor, Crescent Residence 2, Phu My Hung, Q7 Tel: 0907 099 480 Kindermusik is the world’s premier Music, Movement & English language program for children from birth to 7 years. Each unit’s weekly lessons promote early literacy and English language acquisition, social skills and more. The learning fun continues with Kindermusik@ Home materials, including music from class, musical activities and story time. Kindermusik programs align with standards and/ or requirements for the USA, UK, EU, TESOL Pre-K and IB Primary Years Program; and have been adopted by the National Teachers College of Ho Chi Minh City. Enrolments include a family activity book or digital magazine, along with high-quality CDs or digital music downloads, containing a variety of musical styles and genres. There are over 6,000 Kindermusik Educators in 67 countries.


42/1 Ngo Quang Huy, Q2 Tel: (08) 3744 2639 School following the Montessori methodology for children

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from two to six years old, offering natural learning environments to complement the child’s natural sense of engagement with their surroundings. Also offers extra–curricular activities for children from three to 12.


Tel: (08) 6281 9679 Enrolling aspiring learners 6 and up for instruction in piano, guitar, drums, singing, flute, clarinet, and saxophone by real musicians and experienced teachers. ABRSM Qualified. Group dance and drama sessions also available. Plus new vacancies in our popular Tiny Tots music enrichment & dance program for ages 3–5.


74 Nguyen Thi Thap Street, Q7 Tel: (08) 3773 3171 RISS provides British/International education with native English teachers and state–of–the–art facilities. Students from more than twenty–five nationalities from age two to 18. RISS is an IB World School, a member of CIS and IPC, and an approved centre for IGCSE.


21K Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Tel: 0938 371 760 An Australian-Vietnamese government project, SIC caters for Years 10, 11 & 12 and is under the Curriculum Council of Western Australia. All subjects taught in English by foreign teachers. Inspectors from Australia control teaching standards. Students graduate with the internationally recognised Australian Certificate of Education (WACE), which gives direct entry to all Australian universities. Fees up to VND142,702,000 per year.



15 Street 12. Perpendicular to Tran Nao, Q2 Tel: (08) 3740 8081 Has evolved over 10 years to create a creative learning environment through play for children between the ages of two and six. There are 12 teachers, and the school limits numbers to 85 to ensure personal attention for all the children.


Saigon South Parkway, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 0901 Offers an American-style education (SAT, IB and AP) from elementary to high school, emphasising state– of–the–art facilities, a multi–cultural student environment, and a commitment to a well–rounded education at all levels.


Residential Area No. 5, Thanh My Loi Ward, Q2, Tel: (08) 3742 3222 enroll@saigonstarschool. The school offers a British primary curriculum, supported by the Cambridge International Primary Program, as well as an integrated Montessori programme for nursery and kindergarten. Experienced teachers and small class sizes cater to individual needs and abilities. The school focuses on providing a stimulating learning environment, and a value priced education. A brand new 8,000 sq. meter eco-friendly campus, the largest of any primary school in Ho Chi Minh City, includes a pool, running stream and more.


1172 Thao Dien Compound, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6076 26, Street Nr. 10, Thao Dien Ward, Q2 Tel: (08) 3898 9816

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15 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien Ward, Q2 Tel: (08) 3519 4236 An international childcare centre provides kindergarten and pre–school education for children between 18 months and six years old. A fun and friendly environment, the school focuses on learning through play.


177A Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 2223 Fax: 3519 2224 A fully-licensed American school programme designed by administrators and educators experienced in the development and operation of American and international schools. An independent and private college preparatory school with an individualized programme, The American School of Vietnam offers a US-based curriculum for Kindergarten through Grade 12.


102 My Kim 2, Phu My Hung, Q7 Tel: (08) 5421 1052 Little Genius Kindergarten has joined Sisterhood with school in USA and uses same curriculum. It is the Kindergarten with the best facilities and environment compare to any similar size school in Vietnam


98 Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3 Tel: (08) 3933 3655 VAS is one of the leading schools for teaching and learning development in Vietnam, providing from programmes from Kindergarten to Secondary school education. In line with their mission to educate an elite young generation with confidence to integrate into the world’s education, VAS also aims to develop its human resources by creating a pro-

fessional and friendly working environment with attractive benefits for teachers.


45 Dinh Tien Hoang, Ben Nghe Ward, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 0168; R4-28 (Hung Phuoc 2) Le Van Them, Q7, Tel: (08) 3602 6694 This professional school has built a good reputation over 18 years. VLS offers set and tailor-made courses for all abilities in high quality facilities with time flexibility. Lessons can be taken either at school or at the learner’s office and home.


34 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 7750 Diamond Plaza features a top–floor bowling alley and video arcade as well as youth–oriented eating options, with KFC and Pizza Hut.


35Bis Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7614 Over at Parkson Plaza there is a large selection of arcade games to choose from along with a bowling alley, with a food court one floor down where you can regroup after zapping millions of aliens.


74 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 6210 9192 Offers beginner and advanced mountain climbing routes, safety courses and training at its 26–metre purpose–built mountain in District 3, with an additional location in District 2.


196 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3912 0161 Popular toy shop which also houses a large selection of

partywear and costumes.


Tel: 0909 052502 Specialising in producing environmentally friendly handmade flaglines for any occasion including kids’ parties, picnics or school decorations.


100/531B Thich Quang Duc, Phu Nhuan Tel: (08) 3990 3560 For an unusual and special performer, contact the excellent Balloon Man, who has earned a reputation for dashing instantly to any party that needs balloon shapes.


46D Vuon Lai, Tan Phu Tel: (08) 3812 6901 If you don’t know how to cook jelly, never mind, because The Caterers do. Although mainly focused on grown–up events, they will cater for kids’ parties as well.


5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 6758/5413 6759 American Eye Center provides eye care services to Children by an American Board-certified ophthalmologist with 15 years of experience in US. Vision problems in children can be treated here: hyperopia, astigmatism, focusing problems, Myopia, strabismus and lazy eyes. FAMILY MEDICAL PRACTICE Diamond Plaza, 34 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3822 7848 vietnammedicalpractice. com Three paediatricians make up the childcare speciality at this well–equipped medical care centre. Also has

obstetrics and gynaecology services for expectant mothers including pre–natal screening.


6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (08) 5411 3333 This international–standard hospital has a dedicated and fully equipped paediatric centre staffed by a team of international specialists. Also offers other maternity services.


167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3 Tel: (08) 3829 8520 internationals Operating in Vietnam since 1989, this clinic is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. An internationally experienced general medical and pediatric team will meet the preventative, diagnostic and treatment needs of your child. Emergency cases managed 24 hours a day. House call service is also available.


2Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, Q.3 Tel: (08) 3822 6222 Up–to–date well–equipped clinic with both western and local dentists experienced in providing preventative care, alignment and reconstructive procedures for children of all ages.


79 Dien Bien Phu, Q1 Tel: (08) 3910 4545 Victoria Healthcare is especially committed to paediatrics, and its services for children include general examinations (vision and hearing checks, immunisation, growth and development assessment) as well as specialist consultations.

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People travel thousands of miles to get a whiff of exotic Vietnam. From travel agencies though to resorts, here are a few suggestions on where to stay and how to get there in and around Vietnam



130 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: 3825 8583


1st Floor, Centre Point Building, 106 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan Tel: 3846 3999


194 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Tel: 3933 0330


5th Floor, Centec Tower, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3 Tel: 3822 3203



7th floor 28 Nguyen Thi Dieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 3933 1000 The number one hotel loyalty membership in the Asia Pacific. Members enjoy fantastic savings on dining, and the best accommodation rates at over 340 Accor Hotels throughout Asia.


113C Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 3838 6678 92-94-96 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 0615 A tourist information company offering customized itineraries, tour packages, hotel and cruise reservations throughout Asia. Daily tours are available in Saigon, Hue, Hanoi, and three deluxe cruises in Ha Long Bay.


3rd Floor, Sheraton Hotel, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: 3821 9098

S67-1 Rock Climbing Gym, Sky Garden 3, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 5523 AZA seeks to connect adventure travel newcomers and veterans with service providers, adventure activities, and accommodations that fit the client’s desires, budget and skill level in Asia.



37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: 3911 1591



34 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: 3824 2878


93 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: 3822 6990


Ground Floor, Saigon Trade Centre, 37 Ton Duc Thang, Q1 Tel: 3829 2529


Saigon Tower Bulding, Room 101, 29 Le Duan, Q1 Tel: 3823 1588


29 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: 3822 3365



27B Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1 Tel: 3832 0320

Ho Chi Minh Intl Airport, Tel: (08) 3930 1118 Chauffeur–driven and self–drive vehicles (for local license holders) from one of the world’s best– known car rental companies.


81 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 9170 This premium travel agency helps travelers select their destinations and organize their trips. From corporate travel to small group tours, explore the world or Vietnam.


195/14, D1, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 6258 3281 Friendly, high–quality, innovative custom tours in and around Vietnam to suit most budgets. They also offer a fast and efficient flight ticketing service.


70 Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat

Motorbike tours from over 70 guides, all speaking English. Tours include Dalat, the Central Highlands, Phan Thiet and Nha Trang. Note: insurance is not included.


64 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2911 SC4-1 My Khanh 3, Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7, Tel: (08) 5412 2761, Ext 113 41 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4111, Ext 171 An upmarket operation operating through Southeast Asia, Exotissimo brings you personalized tours across the region, many including insights into culinary customs, handicrafts and humanitarian initiatives.


121 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 7744 Flight travel services, including global travel management, domestic and international air booking and travel insurance, to corporate companies, family and individual travelers.


60 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc, Tel: 0939 402872 A PADI 5-star dive resort with fully experienced and certified scuba diving staff fluent in English, French, Dutch, German, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian and Vietnamese.

FLY VIETNAM They provide flight information, pricing, availability and booking for domestic and international travel, in addition to railway reservation, hotel bookings, holiday packages, buses, and car rentals, travel insurance, coach tours and visas.


270 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 5552 One of the first tourist companies to set up shop in De Tham, Kim Travel has bussed hundreds of thousands of tourists up and down Vietnam. Destinations include Hanoi, Nha Trang, Hoi An and Hue along with other tours.


149/42 Le Thi Rieng, Q1, Tel: 0904

193308 An international travel company operating in Vietnam since 1992. They offer daily tours, short getaways, and small group excursions throughout Vietnam and beyond.



108 Huynh Thuc Khang, Mui Ne, Tel: 0908 400108 Vietnam’s first and only sailing school offers individually tailored training programmes for individual clients and groups. Services include recreational sailing, supervised dinghy rental, sail training, racing, wake boarding and beachside accommodation.


28/4 Do Quang Dau, Q1, Tel: (08) 6675 2620 A local inbound tour operator specializing in boutique tours around Vietnam. They provide economy, luxury, packages and tailor-made tours, which include the flexibility for customers to explore at their own pace.



Tel: 0979 992983 Good selection of standard and automatic bikes. Bike delivery available for drop-off and pickup.

12/20 Nguyen Canh Di, Ward 4, Tan Binh District Tel: (08) 3984 4754 If you like cycling through the Mekong Delta, trekking in the highlands, or lazing in a junk on Ha Long Bay — all while making a difference in people’s lives — then this company will suit you well.


60 Hai Ba Trung, Can Tho City Tel: 0713 752436 Services include trips to the Mekong Feeling floating hotel, cruises along the Mekong Delta, and speedboats between Chau Doc, Phnom Penh, Saigon, Cantho and Chau Doc.


169A De Tham, Q1, Tel: 01222 993585 Vespa Adventure offers multi–day tours of southern and coastal Vietnam on the back of a luxury motorbike powered by clean, renewable biodiesel. English-speaking tour guides lead the way.

Want to be in touch with what’s happening in this city? Check us out online at

40/27 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 0903 643446 On offer are automatic bikes for VND1,575,000/month and standard bikes for VND1,050,000/ month. Bikes are well-maintained and staff helps with any difficulties bike may encounter.



203 Bui Vien, Q1 Tel: 2244 4466 Where foreign residents in the know go for long-term bike rentals. Operating in the backpacker area for almost 10 years, Saigon Motorbike stocks a large variety of motorbikes and scooters (including Vespas) at prices that are hard to beat.


25/7 Cuu Long, Tan Binh Tel: 3848 7816 Saigon Scooter Centre stocks a selection of high-end well maintained bikes and classic scooters for short and long term rentals. Vietnam’s only 100% foreignowned scooter business also offers a one way drop-off service for their bikes and includes helmets, locks and travel packs. February 2013 Word | 125

{ T R A V E L Notes} By Mark Bowyer

Mark Bowyer is publisher of the Vietnam and Cambodia travel guide — You can contact him on mark@









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If eco-tourism is the most violated word in Vietnam’s tourism lexicon, heritage also comes in for its fair share of abuse. Vietnam has a proud heritage and an impressive collection of heritage assets from the natural to the historic. Think Cham ruins, mountains and caves, Hue, Hoi An and Hanoi and of course, Halong Bay. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that heritage gets a good workout in Vietnam’s tourism promotion. But while new world-class hotels and resorts, golf courses and casinos, have been a part of Vietnam’s two decades of tourism development, heritage management has languished. Museums and historic sites have barely evolved since the cash-strapped 1980s. In Hue, the experience of real history — something that involves real textured characters and real events — has been subsumed by the Disneyfication of the Nguyen Dynasty Citadel. Other important Hue sites fade into


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Heritage Abuse


Halong Bay, Vietnam’s showpiece eco-destination is a sad environmental story. While local authorities are no doubt focused on preventing further boat tragedies of the kind that have claimed far too many tourist lives in recent years, they would also do well to focus on addressing the pollution that blights the bay. More and more travellers are leaving Vietnam’s signature tourist attraction mesmerised less by its beauty than by the amount of plastic and other waste they see, and the treacherous bus journeys to and from the new wonder of the world. The hotel sector could be more serious too. A few beachside resorts have stripped back their in-room offerings (and their investment) in air conditioning, TV and refrigeration to burnish their ecotourism credentials. But there’s more to ecotourism than cost-cutting. Vietnam’s long term love affair with massive scale

highways would be a great start. There are small companies offering great tours for cyclists and some hotels provide some excellent tours. But there’s so much more that could be done with some official help. And cycling is a relatively easy ecotourism box to tick.


Polluting the Bay


tourism developments — a good many of which never see the light of day — is neither eco-friendly nor in tune with a shift to boutique-style accommodation. The beach stretch from Danang to Hoi An is unlikely to win any ecotourism awards. And rumours of planned mega-developments on the fragile islands of Phu Quoc and Con Dao also spell disaster for the local environment. Cycling and walking are quintessential ecotourism activities. And Vietnam’s potential for both is begging for official attention. Providing you stay off Highway 1, Vietnam and cycling are a great fit. Yet bicycles aren’t available in many of the country’s most cycle-friendly places. And quality bicycles are almost impossible to find. The closure of Hoi An’s old town streets to motorised vehicles at prescribed times is a great initiative for walkers and cyclists. Brand Vietnam as an ecotourism destination would benefit greatly from similar initiatives. While travellers are jumping on bikes everywhere, most local authorities have done nothing to make cycling interesting and safe for visitors. Simple things like creating marked cycle paths and providing cycling route maps avoiding the main

anonymity. Travellers leave Vietnam’s former capital with no appreciation of the dramas that have unfolded there nor the amazing cast of characters that comprise the city’s story. No meaningful information is provided to travellers at Cham sites dotted around southern and central Vietnam. Former battlefields, colonial icons and even the recently opened Hanoi Citadel are virtual information-free zones. Like basic ecotourism measures, basic heritage measures are inexpensive. Providing engaging information about historic sites (any information would be a good start) can be done at little cost. Tourism authorities underestimate the power of history and heritage in international tourism. They also underestimate the compelling stories of the places they’re charged with promoting. Vietnam is rich with stories. But nobody’s telling them. Destinations ignore eco and heritage tourism at their peril. Golf, gambling, grog and hostess bars may be necessary tourism evils, but they do not make a sophisticated tourism industry.



ravel writers commit plenty of crimes of the pen. I have a long list of my own. My worst was writing for a travel brochure more than a decade ago. I described Cambodia as a nation “finding its feet”. It was awful. It was thoughtless. And it was totally innocent. But it was in print — there was no turning back. But there's worse than thoughtless fumbles. There’s travel writing that sucks the life out of important concepts like ecotourism and heritage. Here in Vietnam, these words suffer especially nasty abuse. Ecotourism has been a tourism buzzword worldwide for two decades. It’s been done to death. But in Vietnam, only the most token effort has been made to embrace ecotourism practices.



$$$$ Le Lai, Dalat, Tel: 063 3555888 17 French colonial villas reside atop the slopes of Vietnam’s rural highlands. Complete with a personal butler, in-villa dining, and a holistic spa, Ana Mandra Villas is where luxury meets tranquility.


$$$ 04 Phan Boi Chau, Dalat, Tel: 063 357 8888 This châteauesque resort is found in the heart of Dalat. Pamper at the beauty salon, indulge at the BBQ garden, or take in the view from the heated swimming pool.


$ 174 Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat, Tel: 063 3827 999 Free Wi-Fi, private car airport pickup, a coffee shop, and 10% discounted promotions at the nearby V Café; this charming hotel offers cost effective peace and quite.


$$$$ 12 Tran Phu, Dalat, Tel: 063

382 5444 The style of the 1920s, the backdrop of the Xuan Huong Lake and Liang Biang Mountain, and a piano bar — these are the elements through which Dalat’s top hotel retains its classic charms.


$ 151 and 164b Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat, Tel: 063 383 3748 An all you can eat breakfast buffet, jacuzzis, saunas, and friendly service. This is one of the budget deals in town.


$$$ 1 Phan Chu Trinh, Dalat, Tel: 063 355 0979 This four-star apart’hotel exudes the French art nouveau style. Boasting a modern commercial centre, retail, food and beverage outlets, La Sapinette is the palace to call home.


$ 4A Bui Thi Xuan, Dalat, Tel: 063 382 2663 Centrally located, this quaint stop offers affordable accommodations, in a basic style. Goes bus-todoor through the Sinh Café people.


$$$ 36 Le Duc Tho, My Dinh Commune, Tu Liem, Hanoi, Tel: 04 6270 6688 This premier five-star property lies beside the My Dinh National Stadium and Convention Centre. Boasts two swimming pools, a spa, and a fitness centre in its 24 stories.


$$$$ 51 Xuan Dieu, Quang An, Q Tay Ho, Tel: 04 37198877 Fully serviced, fully furnished, and strategically located in the Syrena Centre on Xuan Dieu, Fraser Suites is a gold–standard bearer of expat living.


$$$ 109-111 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: 0439 286969 Located in the centre of the Old Quarter, this little slice of heaven offers complimentary sundries and a replenishable minibar. The Orient restaurant, serves the finest in international and Vietnamese cuisine.


$ 48 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0438 285372 Two locations in Hanoi; complete with bunk beds, in same or mixed sexed dorms, pool tables, and darts. This is the place to meet international travelers.


$$$$ 1 Le Thanh Tong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0439 330500 Adjacent to the prestigious Opera House, this five–star landmark lives up to its family name. Colonial architecture, an elegant and spacious interior, is further complemented by, the spacious courtyard pool.


$$ 14 Luong Van Can, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0904 428387 With four locations in the Old Quarter, and close proximity to Hoan Kiem Lake, this is a good, central, no-frills chain. Amenities include compact rooms, friendly staff and free Wi–Fi.


$$ 5 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0439 381048

Aside the immaculate St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and boasting exceptional Breakfast Pho, comfort is found at Joseph’s. One of the best boutique deals in town.


$$ 17A Pham Dinh Phung, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Tel: 0437 349988 The newly-built Marigold Hotel combines traditional Vietnamese architecture with Oriental luxury . Online promotions, and a nightly live Irish pub on the top floor.


$$$ 35-37 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0439 380999 A minute from Hoan Kiem Lake, this glowing pearl in the heart of Hanoi provides tranquility with an art gallery and piano bar.


$$$$ 40 Cat Linh, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0437 330808 With deluxe rooms and suites, a contemporary lobby, an excellent buffet, and a la carte restaurant, this Accor group property is prestigious and close to the Old Quarter.


$$$$ 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0438 266919 The finest hotel from the French colonial period restored to modern Hanoi. This elegant oasis of charm is complimented with impeccable service, luxurious facilities and an ambience of a bygone era.


$$$ KM 8 Pham Van Dong, Duong Kinh, Hai Phong, Tel: 0313 880888 This four-star resort offers in room bathrobe, slippers, digital safety box, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, 24hour room service. A resort complete with a pool, deluxe spa, fitness centre, and VIP massage room.


$$$ Tel: 0933 446542 Experience breathtaking tours of the serene Halong Bay, aboard reproduction wooden junks. Two or three–night trips with a wide range of cabin styles: standard, deluxe, or royal.

Joseph’s Hotel Foreign-run,boutique hotel Next to the cathedral

Free wi-fi, international breakfast, spacious and airy, lift, plasma TV, multi-shower, friendly service 5, Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi | Phone: 04 3938 1048 | Mob: 0913 090 446

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$ Cuc Phuong, Nho Quan, Ninh Binh, Tel: 0303 848006 Vietnam’s first national park and primate centre with accommodations is stilt houses or detached bungalows. Both are available at the park headquarters, the park centre and on the road between the two.


$$$$ Tel: 0439 351888 Reproductions, of 19th–century paddle steamers, trawl around Halong Bay in colonial style. A classic experience, complete with, overnight accommodations in impeccable cabins suites.


$$ Cu Yen, Luong Son, Hoa Binh, Tel: 0218 385622 10 houses, surrounded by rice fields, lakes, and hills, this eco–village caters to those who wish commune with nature.


NOVOTEL NHA TRANG There isn’t a finer place to take in the fireworks this year in Nha Trang than the roof terrace of the Novotel Nha Trang. Add in a free flow of wine, beer and soft drinks for VND500,000++ per person, and you have your Tet plans set. Stay all the way to Valentine’s and take in a romantic dinner with your loved one for VND735,000++ per person — including a fivecourse meal, and a romantic, candle-lit, violin-enhanced backdrop. Add in a private-room couple’s massage and floral bath for only VND2.5 million++ per couple, all inclusive. NTTV TRAVEL VIP NTTV Travel, a leading upmarkethotel booking service, is launching a VIP membership programme for current and prospective customers. To qualify, customers need to spend VND10 million on hotel bookings. The rewards include 10 percent cash-back on future bookings, VIP rates and distinctive prizes only available to VIP members. MERCURE DANANG This Lunar New Year you can take advantage of an all-you-can-eat dim

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sum from Feb. 9 to 17, 7am to 2pm, for just VND350,000 net per person at Mercure Danang. There are more than 50 items, including dumplings, noodles, soups and desserts, as part of the deal. There is also a spa special which includes a herbal footbath followed by a traditional Vietnamese massage and scalp massage to relax the muscles. Complete the journey with a Karma signature tea and ginger jam priced at only VND950,000 net for 100 minutes, until Feb. 28. There is also a Valentine’s Day package which includes a steam, sauna & jacuzzi, your favourite body massage and mini facial. Afterwards, enjoy a sparkling wine and fresh fruits with candle light for only VND1,950,000 net for 150 minutes, until Feb. 28. BANYAN TREE Banyan Tree Lang Co is teaming up with the newly-opened Laguna Lang Co Golf Club to introduce the Must Golf Banyan Tree Lang Co package. From now until the end of March, guests who book the package, starting from US$705 per villa per night, will receive an extra night’s accommodation for two including daily breakfast and one round

of 18-hole golf for two people — including green fee, caddy fee and caddy booking fee. Banyan Tree’s 18-hole, par-71 championship course designed by Sir Nick Faldo delivers a golfing experience that can be enjoyed by skilled and novice players alike. ANGSANA LANG CO Angsana Lang Co, located 60 minutes from Danang International Airport, has introduced the Stay & Meet offer to corporate groups for meetings and stays from Feb. 1 until Jun. 30. The newest resort in Central Vietnam is equipped with four meeting rooms and a stately ballroom measuring 392sqm. It is host to business functions, gala events and weddings. For VND5,500,000 per person those who book the Stay & Meet deal enjoy two nights’ stay on twin sharing basis in a Deluxe Room, complimentary daily buffet breakfast, group round-trip airport transfer to Danang International airport, one full-day meeting package (lunch and two tea breaks included), one three-course menu set dinner at Market Place restaurant and complimentary highspeed internet access resort-wide.

$ Ngoi Tu Village, Vu Linh, Yen Bai , Tel: 0439 262743 A resort, ecolodge, and school, located on the banks of Thac Ba Lake. This bamboo-constructed paradise offers lake cruises, mountain biking, motorbike tours, hiking, and volunteer opportunities.


$$$ Mai Chau Town, Hoa Binh, Tel: 2183 868959 Rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, and a romance in nature, the Buffalo Toursowned lodge is set in a lush valley, this is home to indigenous Vietnamese.


$$ Ha Long Road, Bai Chay Ward, Ha Long City, Quang Ninh, Tel: 0333 848108 This beachfront property is close to local markets. Fine dining, a professional spa with seven treatment rooms, Novotel Ha Long Bay enjoys impressive panoramic vistas, and a pool overlooking the limestone bay.


$$$$ 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: 0838 234999 Winner of Robb Report’s 2006 list of the world’s top 100 luxury hotels, the Caravelle

houses the popular rooftop Saigon Saigon bar, and the restaurants Nineteen and Reflections.


$$$ 63 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: 0838 222999 Famous for its day–long rotating–menu buffets, the Duxton deserves luxury appellation with a pool, gym, spa, and fine dining.


cana and Pan-Asian cuisine.


$$$$ 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: 0838 228888 Former guests include U.S. presidents — two Bushes, Clinton — and K-Pop sensation Bi Rain. An ongoing event as well as a hotel, New World is one of the best luxury stops in town.



$$$$ 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: 0838 241555 This 20–story building in downtown Saigon, caters to upscale business and leisure travelers seeking a classic yet contemporary stay in Saigon.


$$$ 242 Tran Binh Trong, Q5, Tel: 0838 397777 This massive property boasts seven dining and entertainment outlets, a business centre, meeting rooms and a comprehensive fitness centre and spa. The Equatorial also has an on-site casino.

$$$$$ 2 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: 0838 241234 Fabulous in style, prime in location, everything one would expect from the Hyatt. The Square One and Italian-themed Opera restaurants have garnered an excellent reputation, as has the landscaped pool.

$$$$ Tel: 0933 446542 The Au Co offers a continuous three-day voyage in the Gulf of Tonkin. The firstclass twin vessels feature: 32 luxury cabins, private balconies, nature-inspired cuisine, spa treatments, and a jacuzzi.



$$$ 18 An Duong Vuong, Q5, Tel: 0838 336688 The full ensemble with its own shopping hub (including a bank), fine dining, a sauna, health club, and superb panoramic views of the cityscape. Also hosts the largest Oktoberfest in the region.

$$$$$ 235 Nguyen Van Cu, Q1, Tel: 0839 257777 The five-star hotel and serviced apartment complex offers: 14 instant offices, seven meeting rooms, a 600-capacity ballroom, spa, outdoor swimming pool, a gym, 24-hour fine dining, 24-hours room service, and limousine services.


$$$$$ Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, Q1, Tel: 0835 209999 In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, resides the Asiana with signature dining options, an innovative cocktail bar, exclusive spa and health club, together with luxury boutique arcade.


$$$$ 2A–4A Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: 0838 233333 Immaculate architecture, spacious rooms, and a fine selection of fine dining, with buffets specialising in Ameri-

$$$$$ 18–19-20 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: 0838 251417 This distinct French architectural wonder offers complimentary Wi-Fi, airport pickup or drop off, a 4th floor ballroom, and authentic Vietnamese cuisine at the River Restaurant.


$$$$ 141 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: 0838 292185 Brimming with history the Rex’s open–air fifth–floor bar is Saigon highlight. A recent renovation, of this now fivestar property, boasts designer fashion and a shopping arcade.


$$$$$ 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: 0838 272828 Sheraton boasts one of the best locations in town, with first–class facilities, an open–air restaurant 23 floors above the city and a live music venue on the same floor.



$$$ 132-134 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: 0838 299201 This charming old hotel has been fêted in literature and in film. In the heart of Saigon, this is the first choice to highlight Vietnamese culture .


$$$ 1 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: 0838 295517 Since 1925 this vintage hotel encompasses the beauty that is Vietnam. Overlooking the Saigon River, its unique atmosphere makes it that much more majestic.

and fine dining, the Norfolk Hotel is sleek, sexy, and infamous for its steakhouse, Corso.



ly-lit exterior guarantees that you’ll never be lost at night. Enjoy executive jacuzzis and use online booking for discounted promotions.


$$ 73 Hoang Van Thai, Phu My Hung, Tan Phu, Q7. Tel: 5410 1111 The first International three star hotel in Saigon, Ibis Hotel is within walking distance of global corporate offices, FV hospital, other medical centers and shopping malls. It features 140 stylishly designed rooms with timber floors, complimentary Wi-Fi internet access, a restaurant, bar and three meeting rooms. A free return Ibis scheduled shuttle bus is available from the hotel to major corporate offices as well as into the city center. The open restaurant serves a variety of pasta, grilled food and a touch of Asian cuisine prepared in front of you as you eat. There is something for everyone at affordable prices. There is also an option to create your own recipe from the items listed on the menu. Ibis Saigon South is located in front of Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre (SECC) and is 15 minutes from the city centre.

$$$ 167 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: 0838 224866 Novotel Saigon Centre has a contemporary feel, an international buffet — The Square — a rooftop bar, and a wellness centre including a swimming pool, gym, sauna and spa.

$$$ 46 and 73-75 Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: 0838 227926 Centrally located near the Ben Thanh Market, the two hotels are juxtaposed on opposite sides of Thu Khoa Huan. Lan Lan 1 and 2 offer a homely feel at affordable prices.




$$$ 144 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 0839 998888, The newly-built hotel is near Tan Son Nhat International Airport. With spectacular city views and a comfortablydesigned outdoor swimming pool, there is little reason not to choose this shining star.

$$$ 656/52 Cach Mang Thang 8, Q3, Tel: 0838 460263 The hotel features 12 luxurious rooms designed to capture the warmth of the French countryside. The Little Bistro Restaurant serves Asian and European signature dishes for in-house guests.


$$$ 117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: 0838 295368 Located minutes from famous landmarks, designer shops,

$$$ 323 Le Van Sy, Q3, Tel: 0838 439999 A four–star business class hotel, The Ramana boasts 293 guestrooms and suites while offering: a business centre, a well–equipped fitness room, an outdoor swimming pool, and the Sawasdee Health Club.


$$$ 24 Noi Khu Hung, Gia 4, PMH, Q7 , Tel: 0854 161000 On a quiet, tree–lined street in Phu My Hung, the Sabena is equipped with the latest in–room technology. For the international businessperson, this is a good choice away from downtown Saigon.



$$ 133 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: 0838 225914 Perched on one of the city’s major boulevards, the bright-

$$ 195 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0837 442222 A colonial–style hotel and spa offers fine Italian, Thai and Japanese dining. Manicured gardens and a view that overlook the bank of the Saigon River, this is truly someplace special.


$$$ 133A Nguyen Dinh Chinh, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 0862 569966 Architectural elegance, and timeless style, this literal library themed inn is nestled in a charming and quiet neighborhood. Their fine selection of literature waits to be read, atop the rooftop terrace.


$ 171A Co Bac, Q1, Tel: 3837 8885 Always buzzing with activity, the California Guest House offers a communal kitchen, and free laundry. Book early, as this guesthouse is highly popular and has limited numbers vacancies.


$ 656 Cach Mang Thang 8, Q3, Tel: 3993 1587 With 24-hour security, cable

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television and ADSL Internet access, this clean and comfortable hotel offers peace of mind and affordable studio apartments.

Free Wi–Fi offered in every room. Low prices, friendly staff, clean rooms. This modern oasis is only a few steps from the backpacker’s area.



$ 195 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: 0839 206992

ECO LODGES Looking to increase your greenness and lessen your carbon footprint when travelling through Vietnam? These eco-lodges offer environmentally friendly alternatives to standard hotels and resorts


Soc Son Tel: 0164 387 6594 (Lain)


Cat Tien National Park, Tan Phu, Dong Nai Tel: 061 366 9890 www.vietnamforesthotel. com

$ 167 Pham Ngu Lao Q1, Tel: 0838 373699 With its communal kitchen and a TV room, a stay here will make you appreciate the pleasure of being a guest rather than just a customer.


$ 185/28 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: 0838 361915 It’s always hard to get a room here without booking, and no wonder, since this tucked-away little spot is on a par with anything else in the area — attractive, comfortable, friendly and more.


$ 157 Nguyen Du Q1, Tel: 3827 4648 Free breakfast, free computer usage, motorbike rental, and discounts for long term stay, the Sinh Huong Hotel is one of the few guesthouses to accept credit cards.


Nha Trang Tel: 058 362 2384


Yen Bai Tel: 04 3926 2743


Ong lang Beach, Phu Quoc Tel: 077 398 1693 www.mangobayphuquoc. com


An Hoa, Dong Hoa Hiep, Cai Be, Tien Giang Tel: 3811 4863


Bai Dong, Cam Hai Dong, Cam Lam, Khanh Hoa Tel: 0918 821633

PAN HOU ECO LODGE VILLAGE RESORT Ha Giang Tel: 0219 3833 3565


Ninh Van bay, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa Tel: 058 372 8222


$ 18A Cua Dai, Hoi An, Tel: 5103 862231 Hoi An’s best kept secret is a family–run hotel with a charming colonial air located between the town and the beach, complete with a pool garden and air–conditioned rooms.


$$$ Son Tra – Dien Ngoc, Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang, Tel: 5113 961800 20 minutes from Danang airport, this resort is comprised of six villas, a 33–floor twin tower, three five–star hotels, a convention / commercial centre, a 36–hole golf course and a culture village.


$$$$ 68 Ho Xuan Huong, Danang, Tel: 5113 847888 This venue has stunning beachside location. The smallest room measures 40 square meters — with a general air of refined luxury, as typified by the Cafe Indochine restaurant and the Lagoon poolside bar.


$ 73 Phan Boi Chau, Hoi An, Tel: 5113 936741 A mere 0.025km from the city centre, in addition to simple and comfortable rooms. Truly an excellent base for exploring the old town.


$$$$ Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Da Nang, Tel: 5113 981234 The Hyatt Regency Danang Resort and Spa is beachfront with a stunning view of the Marble Mountains. There are 182 luxurious residences and 27 private ocean villas, each with a private pool.


$$$$ Bai Bac, Son Tra Peninsula, Danang , Tel: 8884 246835 With its own private bay on the Son Tra Peninsula, the Bill Bensley-designed hotel is nestled within one the region’s most exquisite locations.


$$$ Tam Hai Island, Thon 4, Nui Thanh, Quang Nam, Tel: 5103 545105 Located to the south of Hoi An, the secluded sand island of Tam Hai houses a dozen modern villas with private gardens. There are endless beaches and an abundance of fresh seafood.


$$$$ Truong Sa, Ngu Hanh Son, Da Nang, Tel: 5113 958888 Located on Bac My An Beach, this exquisite resort has been carefully designed to immerse guests in luxury and seclusion.


$$$ 1 Pham Hong Thai, Hoi An, Tel: 5103 914555 This award–winning resort is located close to the bustling Old Town. With an emphasis on wellness and pampering, its spa combines traditional Chinese medicine, tai chi, touch and hot stone therapies.


$$$ Lot A1 Zone Green Island, Hoa Cuong Bac, Hai Chau, Danang, Tel: 5113 797777

Want to be in touch with what’s happening in this city? Check us out online at

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Located on Green Island, in the heart of Da Nang city, the Mercure Danang offers modern style reflecting local Vietnamese culture. All day dining is offered at their brasserie and Chinese restaurant.


$$$$ Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Quang Nam, Tel: 5103 940000 Includes three massive swimming pools, a gourmet restaurant and elegant spa on a lotus pond. Each massive room has its own espresso machine, pre–programmed iPod and both indoor and outdoor showers.


Cua Dai Beach, Tel: 5103 927040 This charming resort replicates a traditional fishing village, ponds, and village houses, all upon a private beach. Eat at the Annam Asian restaurant or relax with Thai or Swedish massage.


$$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien Hue, Tel: 0543 695800 Located on Vietnam’s South Central Coast, Angsana Lang Co commands an unrivalled beach frontage of the shimmering East Sea. Traditional Vietnamese design encompasses the resort’s contemporary buildings and chic interiors.


$$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien, Hue, Tel: 0543 695888 Built on a crescent bay, The Banyan Tree offers privacy and unparalleled exclusivity with all-pool villas reflecting the cultural and historical legacy of past Vietnamese dynastic periods.


$$ 10 Pham Ngu Lao, Hue, Tel: 0543 826567 Housed in a breezy, colonial villa complete with bunk beds, in same or mixedsexed dorms, pool tables, and darts. This is the place to meet international travelers.


$$$ 10 Hung Vuong, Hue, Tel: 0543 882222 The Forbidden City meets modern luxury. This high– rise hotel has great city views, a fine selection of restaurants, a piano bar and the sumptuous Royal Spa.


$$$$ 5 Le Loi, Hue, Tel: 0543 837475 la–residence– Built around the former colonial governor’s mansion, with a nautical modern style, this is one of Hue’s unique experiences. Throw in an excellent restaurant with river views and you’re in paradise.


$ 48/3 Le Loi, Hue, Tel: 0543 826736 A budget option hotel, the Phuong Hoang offers reliable service and comfort, in additional to superb views of the Perfume River.


$ Chay Lap Village, Phong Nha-Ke Bang, Quang Binh Near the Phong Nha–Ke Bang National Park, this eco lodge is accessible by public transport. Activities include biking, kayaking, trekking and cave diving. SUN SPA RESORT $$ My Canh, Bao Ninh, Dong Hoi, Quang Binh, Tel: 0523 842999 Three hours north of Hue, this top–end resort offers elegant, comfortable pool villas and bungalows. An ideal base for trips to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Phong Nha caves.


$$$$ Beachside, Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Tel: 0583 522222 2.6 hectares of private beachside gardens and villa–style accommodation furnished in traditional native woods, this resort offers verandah dining, a pool bar and the signature Six Senses Spa.


$ Ninh Phuoc, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: 0583 622384 On a secluded promontory north of Nha Trang, this budget place is all about hammocks, the sea, the

jungle and nature.


$$$$ Bai Dong, Cam Hai Dong, Cam Lam, Khanh Hoa, Tel: 0918 821633 Nestled in the mountain pass between Cam Ranh Airport and Nha Trang, this sanctuary has its own private beach. With eco-friendly principles, Mia boasts rooftops studded with manicured grass and shrubs.


$$$ 50 Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Tel: 0586 256900 This four-star hotel with 154 guestrooms, all with a terrace and sea view. Complete with a pool, spa, restaurant, bar and meeting room that caters for up to 200 delegates.


$$$$ Van Dang Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: 0583 728222 The upmarket Tatler magazine voted top hotel of 2006. The location is stunning, on a bay accessible only by boat.


$$$$ 26 – 28 Tran Phu, Tel: 0583 880000 A sleek beach-front property with six restaurants and bars, the Shine Spa with nine treatment rooms, an outdoor swimming pool a fitness centre, a kid’s club, business centre, and a cooking school.


$$$ 12–14 Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Tel: 0583 820999 Awarded in Expedia’s World’s Top one percent of hotels 2009, the Sunrise Nha Trang Beach Hotel and Spa is ideal for the diamond lifestyle. All rooms have a view of the sea.


$$ Tel: 0583 840501 This remote and unspoiled island 60km north of Nha Trang is a stylish getaway, with traditional bamboo bungalows on the beach and an excellent seafood restaurant.


$$$ Dong Cat, Ninh Hai, Ninh Hoa District, Tel: 0583 670670 Overlooking the ocean upon a 600–metre beach front,

this four–star resort has 54 rooms, four restaurants, a swimming pool and a spa.


$$$$ 8 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 743777 This resort offers exotic Bali– style, thatched roof “honeymoon” villas, 55 spacious suites, deluxe rooms, fresh seafood, Vietnamese cuisine, Thai and international cuisine, kite surfing and parasailing.


$$$$ 54 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 847322 Under Life Resorts management, the Blue Ocean Resort includes a large swimming pool and swim–up pool bar, a children’s activity playground, and an Irish bar.


$$$$ 58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 847111 With charming wooden bungalows, a private beach, a swimming pool (both with attached bars) and a French restaurant, Coco Beach continues to be run by those who opened it in 1995.


$$$ 24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Tel: 0623 847440 / 2 Choose between bungalows with either open-air bathrooms or enclosed gardens, or beachfront bungalows overlooking the East Sea.

DU PARC PHAN THIET OCEAN DUNES AND GOLF RESORT $$$ 1 Ton Duc Thang, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 822393

A first–class international golf course designed by golf legend Nick Faldo, great food and service is offered at this 123–room escape destination with private balconies and ocean or golf views.


$$$$ Khu Hon Lan, Xa Tan Thanh, Ham Thuan Nam, Binh Thuan, Tel: 0623 682222 Set on Ke Ga Bay, with a sumptuous spa, original architecture, eight swimming pools and 24–hour butler service, this is one of the most well-appointed resorts in the country.


$$$ Khu 1, Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 743237 Beachfront apartments and studios with a luxurious outdoor pool and jacuzzi, and entertainment options including windsurfing, kite surfing, antique sidecars, bike tours and dune buggy rides.


$$$$ Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet, Tel: 0623 813000 Another beachfront Victoria chain, the thatched–roof bungalows and family villas are set in exotic gardens with an infinity swimming pool, a seafood restaurant, spa, beauty salon and jacuzzi.


$$$ 60A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Tel: 0623 741660 Villa Aria Mui Ne provides warm service, 22 spacious guestrooms, and one suite. The resort includes a pool overlooking the beachfront, and an alfresco dining lounge serving authentic Phan Thiet cuisine




$$ Ap Cua Lap, Xa Duong To, Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Tel: 0773 980998 A quaint and popular island guesthouse featuring a beachside restaurant, and includes free Wi-Fi. Motorbike rental, boat trips and tours are easily arranged. Discount rates during rainy season.


$$ Ong Lang Bay, Phu Quoc Island, Tel: 0773 986142 An eco-lodge with no televisions or air–conditioning, 18 bungalows offer views of the beach and bay. The beachside restaurant serves traditional Vietnamese cuisine with a classic ‘French touch.’


$$$$ Bai Xep, Ong Lang, Cua Duong, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang, Tel: 0773 995895 This 37–bungalow boutique resort provides a serene atmosphere along with first– class spa treatment and a Mediterranean–themed restaurant.


$$$$ Ward 1, Duong Dong Beach, Phu Quoc, Tel: 0773 982988 Among exotic greenery and a white sand beach, the M Gallery brand has beautifully–designed rooms, a stunning swimming pool, an all–natural spa, a beach grill and a fine fusion restaurant.

PHU QUOC RESORT THANG LOI $$ Ong Lang Beach, Phu Quoc, Tel: 0918 073494 / 0773 985002 Secluded budget bungalows lie within a beachside coconut palm plantation. The restaurant serves fresh seafood, the resort is laid–back and simple.


$$ Cat Cat Road, Tel: 0203 871218 The best view in town from its bar restaurant, the Cat Cat Guesthouse is paradise at very reasonable rates. The rooms have big windows, balconies, and log fireplaces.


$$ 24 Muong Hoa, Sapa, Tel: 0203 872404 For the environmentally conscientious, 25 individual lodges rest on hills overlooking valleys. Employing solar technology and a wastewater facility, the Topas also organises treks and bicycle tours.

VICTORIA SAPA $$$ Tel: 0203 871522

Topping the list of Sapa resorts, the Victoria include satellite TV, in–room coffeemakers, a hilltop health club, tennis court, and pool. The entire resort has panoramic views of the town below.


$$$$ 1 Tran Phu, Vung Tau, Tel: 0643 351553 Perched on a cliff face, this Imperial Vietnam-styled resort has traditionally designed and furnished rooms and villas, seaside pools, fine dining, and a bar strategically located to watch the sunset.


$$ Nguyen Duc Thuan, Con Dao, Vung Tau ,Tel: 0643 830939 Seated at the heart of Con Son Island this beachfront resort has mini-golf, kayaking, and sightseeing tours via trams.


$$$$ Tel: 0643 781525 This attractive property is the ideal getaway from Ho Chi

Minh City. 63 uniquely bungalows and villas promise a local experience complete with an excellent spa and two swimming pools.


$$$$ Ho Tram, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tel: 0643 781631 The spacious villas come with their own pool and have direct access to the beach. Extras include tennis courts, a mini supermarket, and cycling and motorbike tours.


$$ 1 Le Quy Don, Vung Tau, Tel: 0643 852135 Built in 1972, this popular seafront hotel still maintains its 1970s–style architecture and room fittings. Amenities include a pool, two bars, a massage parlour and a karaoke lounge.


$$$$ Dat Doc Beach, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tel : 0643 831222 50 wooden-framed bamboo pool villas stretch along the curved bay, each with an unencumbered view of the sea. Also has a fitness centre, two restaurants, diving facilities and free bicycle usage.


$$ Ong Lang Beach, Phu Quoc, Tel: 0903 382207 An eco–friendly approach with a gorgeous beachside location, the bungalows are made of rammed earth, no TVs or telephones (although Wi-Fi is available). Excellent sunsets from the beach bar.

Viet Nam

Phan Thiet - Mui Ne Bay Tel.: +(84) 62 384 71 11 / 2 Fax.: +(84) 62 384 71 15

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Man Xa

The home of Vietnam’s family recycling business, the pollution and waste from smelting aluminium and producing new products is putting this one-industry village under threat. Words by Hoa Le. Photos by Aaron Joel Santos

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hen a baby turns one in Korea the parents often host a special party to celebrate. The most important ritual of the party is when the child is seated in front of a table covered with various objects that are said to predict his or her future. If the baby picks up a thread, it is believed they will live a long and healthy life. Money suggests that the child will be wealthy. And if the baby picks up a toothbrush it is thought that they will become a dentist. While the objects that are placed on the table vary from family to family, the custom represents not only the expectations, but the love parents feel for their children. But in a small village in the Delta, in the northern part of Vietnam, where a clear

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“Chimneys from the local households omit vigorous black fumes and the uncomfortable aroma of the burning process tinges the air. It is a smell hard to describe… Even the rice fields are covered with the dark residue” unpolluted river once ran through the green fields, there is a place in which babies receive the same love from their parents yet have their futures mapped out even before birth. It’s because their career path is one that is passed down from one generation to the next. The grandparents followed the same career, the parents do it, and when the baby grows up, they too are expected to carry on the tradition. That village is named Man Xa. Lying along the banks of Vu Huyen Khe River in Bac Ninh Province, it borders Hanoi in the north. Even today, hundreds of households recycle aluminium scrap and make pots to sell to the market or aluminium ingots to sell to construction firms. The activities involve everything from collecting, sorting, processing and preparing the materials to melting and moulding them into new products. Every day a portion of those villagers scour the country to collect aluminium scrap. Once brought back to Man Xa, the recycling process is carried out inside each house using simple facilities and equipment. The villagers here have been recycling metal for over 50 years. But it looks

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like it’s about to change.

Meltdown “I was born in a family doing this. I grew up stirring the metal pots. And so did my children,” says Huan about the family business. Now in her 60s, a typical winter day sees Huan getting up at 5am and hurrying to start her work. She sits down on a tiny wooden stool in her front yard and uses a small electric screwdriver to take out every screw and other non-aluminium part from aluminium door frames and anything else that can be recycled. She is preparing the materials for another worker to put them in a melting furnace, which is simply a big pot placed on top of a waist-high brick oven in the back yard. Looking at the aluminium scrap stocked up in a pile as high as the height of two humans, Huan says she will finish the preparation work in about two days. The discarded aluminium has been collected by Huan’s offspring using their own trucks. She can’t hide the pride she has for her children — all are succeeding in their work. She points to the big concrete,

three-storey house next door. “That is my daughter’s house. [The money to build it] all came from this job.” It’s a Saturday afternoon and in another house, the inhabitants are working meticulously. Located a few doors down from Huan, a woman named Thoa is examining the contents of dozens of big plastic bags that contain a colourful array of used beverage cans that have been crushed and neatly stored. She is checking if they are all dry and correctly weighed. Thoa says that everything that contains aluminium is collected and melted, not just beverage cans. Sometimes her family even buys the parts of out-of-service military aircraft or a train carriage from close by Quan Do Village, to melt it all down and get the aluminium. The roads, walls and roofs of every house and even the few trees in Man Xa Village are all covered in the greyish ash that is left over from the molten aluminium process. Chimneys from the local households omit vigorous black fumes and the uncomfortable aroma of the burning process tinges the air. It is a smell hard to describe but easily felt and makes anyone passing through the

village wrinkle their noses or roll up their scarves to block out the stench. Even the rice fields are covered with the dark residue and so is the dyke road along the river. It is not a town where many would choose to live, yet it is home for several generations of families.

Dangerous Work “It’s hard work, but we are so used to it now,” says Huan. “When you work and live here for a long time, you don’t notice the smell any more. And the ash is so familiar that we don’t see it anymore.” She then turns to me and asks if visitors like myself would feel uncomfortable coming out here. She is so busy that she rarely considers the polluted and toxic environment in which her family lives. “Everyone in my family is healthy,” she adds. “No one has been sick from this.” In another three-storey house in the village, Phu and his two sons are working on their latest aluminium haul. The three men are bare-footed, stepping back and forth over a carpet of sand and metal residue. They are pouring a silver-coloured liquid which has been heated to several thousand degrees centigrade into wooden covered moulds to make cooking pots and lids. It is a terrifying process and it is easy to imagine the worst case scenario, spilt liquid falling on uncovered parts of the body. Phu, though, is unperturbed. “It’s great to do this job in bare feet during the winter,” he says. “In the summer,

we have to wear shoes because the sand underneath is really hot.” He admits to having made mistakes in the past and being burnt on a number of occasions. But he can’t recall how many scars he’s got — instead he’s confident that he won’t have any more accidents. “It happened a lot when I first started doing this,” he explains. “Now I’m so used to the job that I never get burned.” His family makes aluminium pots, kettles, and basins to sell to the market. His two sons — one 18 and one 20 — are both helping him with the business and Phu has no complaints about that.

A Changing Future The lives of his family and those of other villagers were all set to continue in the same fashion until recently, when the media began reporting on the alarming levels of pollution and toxic waste in Man Xa. Now questions are being asked and it’s under threat. As we’re taking a few photos at one house, a small voice asks us: “Are you coming to film the pollution in our village?” It is a young girl, probably no more than 10 years old, on a bicycle standing next to a group of friends. I smile at her and ask back: “Will you do this job when you grow up?” She smiles and shakes her head in a resounding “no”. Then she bikes away with her friends. Her shadow gradually fades away on the grey and dusty road.

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Tiêng viêt michel roux

Ăn tối với các ngôi sao Thông tin Michel Roux nổi tiếng thế giới sẽ đến Đà Nẵng để mở một nhà hàng trong thời gian sắp tới, điều này đồng nghĩa là sẽ có một đầu bếp 3 sao Michelin bắt tay vào kinh doanh ở Việt Nam. Nhưng liệu nó có thành công? Bài viết bởi Derek Milroy. Minh họa bởi Melanie Elfert.


gành nhà hàng khách sạn của cả nước không chỉ ngạc nhiên và quan tâm, mà còn choáng ngợp khi khách sạn InterContinental Đà Nẵng công bố rằng,vào cuối năm ngoái họ đã mời được đầu bếp 3 sao Michelin Michel Roux OBE đến làm việc cho nhà hàng chính của họ: La Maison 1888. Được cho là đầu bếp giỏi nhất thế giới, Roux – người đã từng hướng dẫn cho Gordon Ramsay và Marco Pierre White –hai trong số những người đã làm nên tên tuổi dưới sự dẫn dắt của ông. Thông tin bên lề cho biết, Roux đã kí hợp đồng khoảng US$200,000 (4.2 tỉ đồng), tính riêng lương hàng tháng của đội ngũ bếp trưởng nước ngoài là khoảng 200 triệu đồng –một con số khá thực tế khi mức lương trung bình của cả nước chỉ ở mức 2 triệu đồng. Nhiều nhà phê bình trong nước nghĩ rằng, đây chỉ là một tin đồn giả khi Roux tới Đà Nẵng, thành phố lớn thứ ba trong nước, chứ ko phải là Sài Gòn hay Hà Nội. Và họ đặt ra câu hỏi, liệu người ta có chịu đi xa đến như vậy chỉ để được một đầu bếp huyền thoại người Pháp phục vụ?

Phong cách ẩm thực độc đáo

Tuy nhiên, người đại diện Hoàng Thùy Trang khẳng định rằng, họ chỉ đơn thuần làm theo những gì mà Roux đã làm khi ông khởi đầu cuộc cách mạng ẩm thực Anh của mình. “Để giải thích về địa điểm, chúng ta có thể nhìn lại câu chuyện của nhà hàng Waterside Inn,” cô giải thích. “Khi Roux mở nhà hàng của mình ở Bray, một ngôi làng nhỏ cách London 40 km, người ta vẫn ghé thăm nhà hàng nổi tiếng danh giá đó. Vì vậy ông cũng hy vọng điều tương tự với La Maison 1888. Thực tế, địa điểm rất quan trọng, nhưng nó không nhất thiết phải ở một thành phố

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rực rỡ và đông đúc. La Maison 1888 có vị trí rất đẹp và độc đáo. Miễn là chúng tôi tạo cho khách hàng một không khí ẩm thực khác biệt, người ta sẽ đến và xem chúng tôi còn có những gì nữa.” Chiêu mộ được tài năng không sánh được của Roux là một thành công vượt bậc –nói theo kiểu bóng đá thì nó giống như câu lạc bộ đá bóng Đà Nẵng kí được hợp đồng với cầu thủ số một Lionel Messi của Barcelona. Song, khu nghỉ dưỡng đã có con át chủ bài của mình khi họ mời được giám đốc F&B Christian Fumado và quản lý nhà hàng Matteo Portioli –những người đã từng làm với Roux tại Waterside Inn. Sự trùng hợp, hay là nước cờ được tính trước đã có hiệu quả. “Roux biết và tin tưởng những người ông sẽ cộng tác,” Trang nói thêm. “Đây luôn là sự khởi đầu tốt cho bất kì quá trình hợp tác nào. Thương hiệu InterContinental và khu nghỉ dưỡng cũng chính là lý do khiến ông đồng ý gia nhập với chúng tôi. Chúng tôi rất phấn khích và vinh dự khi có ông làm việc cùng.” Nhưng, liệu Việt Nam đã sẵn sàng cho một nhà hàng đạt tiêu chuẩn sao của Michelin chưa? Đội ngũ nhà hàng đáp lại rằng“Vâng chúng tôi có thể”. Trang còn cười về những ý kiến cho là triệu phú Roux đến Đà Nẵng với một công việc nhẹ nhàng. “Chúng tôi không cố gắng đạt tiêu chuẩn sao Michelin ngay lúc này,” cô nói. “Sẽ phải tốn thời gian và nhiều công sức. Chúng tôi sẽ không dùng những nguyên liệu mắc tiền xa xỉ, nhưng chắc chắn chúng luôn là những thứ tươi ngon và sạch nhất. Michel Roux và các cộng sự của mình sẽ huấn luyện cho một đội ngũ nhân viên Việt Nam với sức trẻ và sự nhiệt huyết, hướng dẫn họ cách nấu, nếm thức ăn và theo tiêu chuẩn của một nhà hàng sang trọng. Chúng tôi không thể khẳng định

chính xác về mức lương của Michel Roux. Nhưng chúng tôi có thể khẳng định việc này không phải vì tiền. Roux muốn tìm kiếm thách thức mới trong sự nghiệp của mình.

Đào tạo ở Pháp, nổi danh ở Anh

Theo chân anh mình là Albert để trở thành đầu bếp làm bánh, Roux đến Anh lúc 27 tuổi để mở nhà hàng đầu tiên của họ : nhà hàng Le Gavroche ở phố Lower Sloane. Nhờ danh tiếng khi nhà hàng của họ được Charlie Chaplin và Ava Gardner đến dự khai trương, vào năm 1972, họ tiếp tục phát triển sự nghiệp của mình với việc thành lập nhà hàng Waterside Inn. Hai năm sau, khi những ngôi sao Michelin đầu tiên được trao ở Anh, Le Gavroche và Waterside Inn đều ở trong số những nhà hàng giành được chúng, và ngay khi một số nhà hàng bắt đầu giành được hai sao Michelin vào năm 1977, thì cả hai nhà hàng của Roux cũng đều nằm trong danh sách đó. Sau đó, họ cũng tiếp tục góp mặt trong hạng mục ba sao Michelin vào những năm 1980. Cả hai anh em Roux được miêu tả như “cha đẻ của ẩm thực hiện đại tại Anh”. Việc được phong hàm tước OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) trong tên của mình được xem như là một thành tựu khá lớn cho một người Pháp tại một nước có quan hệ không mấy tốt đẹp với người hàng xóm này, anh chàng Roux trẻ tuổi đã trở thành gương mặt quen thuộc trên kênh truyền hình Anh. Nhưng quá khứ đã là quá khứ, vào thời điểm hiện tại, đầu bếp ba sao Michelin này rất hứng khởi cho việc bắt tay vào chăm lo cho đứa con mới của mình ở Đà Nẵng. Ông thừa nhận mình yêu Việt Nam và cảm thấy mọi người đều bị hấp dẫn bởi vùng đất này.

“Việt Nam sẽ thu hút rất nhiều người, những người sẽ tới đất nước này và khu vực này của thế giới” ông nói. “Mọi người trên thế giới đều thích quãng thời gian khi họ ở đây. Việt Nam có dân số trẻ và quãng thời gian thú vị sắp tới. Về ẩm thực, thật tuyệt vời, tôi phải nói là đúng thứ tôi rất thích. Tốt cho sức khỏe, nhẹ nhàng và tươi –nước phở và các loại bún thật tuyệt.” Với La Maison 1888, Roux không chỉ muốn nó là nhà hàng bậc nhất Việt Nam, mà còn muốn đào tạo những bếp trưởng trẻ người Việt giỏi nhất nước, sau đó là nhất Châu Á. Ông thừa nhận rằng, đào tạo những người trẻ chỉ đòi hỏi duy nhất một điều – sự kiên nhẫn. “Tôi muốn những đầu bếp của mình giống như miếng bọt biển,” Roux – người bắt đầu sự nghiệp ẩm thực khi mới 14 tuổi nói. “Tôi sẽ dạy họ cách tiếp xúc với công việc. Tôi thích du lịch và khi tôi đến một nơi nào đó, tôi đi thẳng tới chợ vì tôi muốn biết người dân địa phương ăn gì. Cảm hứng nấu ăn của tôi đến từ các khu chợ. Tôi nghĩ nấu ăn là một màn biểu diễn. Nhà bếp là nhịp tim, và nhà hàng chính là rạp hát.” Ông cười khi mọi người nghĩ phong cách ẩm thực của ông là kiểu Pháp cổ điển thay vì trên thực tế nó theo kiểu hiện đại và thư giãn. Thức ăn, ông nhấn mạnh, được làm ra để thưởng thức – nhà hàng của ông không chỉ nổi tiếng về tiêu chuẩn cao mà còn có không khí thư giãn thoải mái. Sau khi đã bán được hàng triệu bản từ 12 cuốn sách nấu ăn của mình, hiện tại cuốn thứ 13 đang trong qúa trình xuất bản, Roux khẳng định nó chỉ vì một điều duy nhất : “Tôi làm việc này vì mọi người; thức ăn dành cho tất cả mọi người. Người nghèo, dân lao động, người giàu có, cực kì giàu có –Tôi nấu ăn cho tất cả mọi người.”


“All these acts came within a two-hour flight of Ho Chi Minh City, and none got on that plane. It’s an old story, one in which ‘Southeast Asia’ only refers to Bangkok or Singapore”

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Dead End on the

Global Circuit

Why do Asian tours have a built-in ‘skip’ where Vietnam is concerned? Words Ed Weinberg. Photos by Ellen Gleeson and GMM Grammy


ustice is headed to Europe after a blip on the Asian radar. Gotye is zigging Tokyo-wards, while some of his Laneway Festival mates are zagging closer to where their festival circuit ends, in New Zealand and Australia. Snoop Dogg is headed straight back to the US, presumably only led so far afield by rumours of Thai sticks, and — oh yeah! — his first Indian tour ever. All these acts came within a two-hour flight of Ho Chi Minh City, and none got on that plane. It’s an old story, one

in which ‘Southeast Asia’ only refers to Bangkok or Singapore in touring band iconography, and the old cover-band-only clichés have gained an overwhelming, indisputable logic. Yet, Bangkok has the same cover band pitfalls. So it’s fair to ask — What is Bangkok doing right that Ho Chi Minh City isn’t?

The Money Angle In 2011 when Bob Dylan came to town, the tickets went half-sold. There were a variety of issues that hindered the sale — from the

usual intransigence on the side of the talent, to not converting the Vietnamese concertgoing majority into Dylan fans — but promoter Saigon Sound System eventually had to offer discounted tickets to a once-ina-lifetime event. They lost on it, although they’d like to think of this as an investment. This kind of investment is something they built on at SoundFest a year later, Vietnam’s largest music festival ever by the numbers. And then they had help, too — Coca-Cola and Samsung were the event’s two co-sponsors.

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“Up in Hanoi they’ve been doing some trailblazing of their own with the annual CAMA Festival, the six-year-running independent music festival that’s attracted some 70 international artists to Vietnam. But like it or not, Ho Chi Minh City is a bigger ticket, with more mainstream expectations” Festivals are the thinking man’s tour stop, which is why so many touring bands come through Asia on one. They concentrate everything in the same place, particularly — if you’re a niche band travelling half a world away — an audience. And if you’re thinking more altruistically, they do something for a music scene that smaller gigs have a hard time achieving. They pave the way for an exchange of music traditions, and they provide insulated audiences with a different kind of showgoing experience.

CASE-IN-POINT 1 Culture ONE — Bangkok’s Dance Music Festival Culture ONE recently celebrated its fifth year with a mega-production — Dash Berlin helming a US$150,000 soundstage. From an observer’s standpoint, the profitability of the THB2,000 to THB4,000 (VND1.4 million to VND2.8 million) per ticket festival looked to be in doubt, until Berlin took the stage and the scene coalesced around his swirling, ecstatic brand of trance. Girls wore sparkles and body paint, and fluorescent shirts streaked the dance floor. 5,000 people filled the warehouse-sized room, even after all the part-timers had gone home. This culmination of a five-stage, 32-DJ act and nine-indie band festival made it all work — the indie headliner Young Knives flown out from the UK to play to an audience of 100, the other stages with less people than that at various points in the night, the three drink tents at the back of the room Berlin would eventually play, sitting unattended, each with their own dedicated spectrum pulsing UV light from above. Yet there were things that made the festival profitable, like

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the cans of Shark energy drink, the other energy drink with varieties like ‘Virgin’ and ‘Foreplay’, the kitted-out Prius — but Berlin helped it all make sense, helped the crowd feel like they played a part in something more than a marketing exercise, maybe even something they’ll be able to think back on in years as a key to their misspent youth.

CASE-IN-POINT 2 Big Mountain Music Festival 4 As far as festivals go, this one was a doozy. 150+ artists performing on eight stages over two days, to an estimated crowd of 40,000. There were hydraulic cow’s heads and hovering UFOs, not to be outdone by the “crazy crying purple baby stage”. Evidently BMMF has a reputation for excess, and they didn’t slow down this year, outfitting the Ferris Wheel Stage with a total of five rideable ferris wheels, incredibly positioned behind the stage at which the event’s biggest headliners played, such as the Rolling Stones-huge Carabao. Even the non-rainy season kicked in a torrent of rain, helping the event inch closer towards the title of ‘Thailand’s Glastonbury’. This one had things clicking on every level, and it was hard to see a connection between this manifestation and the primitive level I’d been hearing Thai festivals were at five years back. There were fully-formed tent cities — filled with specially-branded BMMF4 tents, and their own stake bargainpriced at THB900 (VND630,000) — and an incredible “omelet city” — comprising 10 different omelet varietals locked into battle for your taste buds, and honour. At Culture ONE, I had an interesting conversation on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, with M. Satawin, a beatboxer turned

investor and programmer. He seemed to think Thailand was well behind where it needs to be on the goals curve. Money was the primary motivator — which is a common thing for emerging economies such as Thailand, or Vietnam for that matter — and that showed in any number of things, from respectable occupations, to the way that a festival is put together. Although Satawin felt Culture ONE was compromised, BMMF seemed free of all that. If Culture ONE showed any sign of being a marketing tool, BMMF transcended such a designation, firmly landed in the realm of true experience.

The Way Forward In Culture ONE and BMMF we can see two directions to follow. We just need to put together the pieces to follow one of them — tight concept or atmospherically bloated blowout. Up in Hanoi they’ve been doing some trailblazing of their own with the annual CAMA Festival, the six-year-running independent music festival that’s attracted some 70 international artists to Vietnam. But like it or not, Ho Chi Minh City is a bigger ticket, with more mainstream expectations. Saigon Sound System is now in discussions to bring Deep Purple here, one of the pioneers of heavy metal. Though this isn’t the floodgates opening onto some psychedelic pantheon powwow, it’s another brick in the wall of Vietnamese global legitimacy. Rod Quinton, the general manager of Saigon Sound System, is encouraged by this, and sees a method in all the previous investment that led here — “[The band’s booker] wouldn’t be calling me if we hadn’t done what we’ve done.”

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Part 8: The Killer’s Lair


hile Kemp searched Gerard Prinsloo’s apartment, Duong telephoned Captain Le at Dakao Ward police station to inform him of developments. Ten minutes later the captain strode into the reception in an authoritative manner. First he glared at Duong then he dispersed his men throughout the building. “The captain has ordered them to question the other residents,” Nguyen Ba Hoa translated for Kemp. Ba Hoa is the twin sister of one of Prinsloo’s victims, and the reason Kemp had come to Vietnam in the first place. Over to one side, Captain Le began haranguing Duong in a loud voice. The ex-detective, however, seemed untouched by the other’s outburst and continued to puff away at his cigarette, merely squinting back at him through the smoke. Eventually, the captain grunted angrily and moved away, and a smiling Duong

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walked over to where the other two were waiting for him. “He angry we not tell him before,” he said. “Tell him what?” Kemp asked. “Tell about Gerar’ Prinsloo.” “But we had no proof…” Duong, who seemed to have found the whole affair amusing, was now grinning broadly, displaying in the process a mouthful of tobacco-stained teeth. “I use be his boss,” he confided. “Now he want be mine.” An hour later, the detectives had done their work and had interviewed anyone they found in the building, though without any success. A police officer would remain on duty at reception throughout the evening to question anyone they had missed. Back at the Dakao Ward police station Captain Le commandeered a meeting room and took charge of proceedings. Priority number one he explained was to establish

where the killer had gone with the young woman from the apartment block. To this end he had had copies made of a photograph showing Prinsloo shaking hands with an unknown man and then sent half a dozen of his officers back out into the streets. By seven o’clock, the initial flurry of frenetic activity had slipped into retarded motion. One by one, the detectives returned empty handed. By nine o’clock most of them had signed off until the next morning. Captain Le, however, remained steadfastly at his desk. In the corridor outside the captain’s office, Kemp was standing at a window looking down into an empty exercise yard: a patch of bare concrete surrounded by tall walls on every side. “We must be missing something,” he said. Duong had stepped out of the building for a smoke, but Nguyen Ba Hoa was slumped on

a bench nearby. “I can’t stop thinking about the poor girl who has gone with him,” she said, looking up.

Betrayal Gazing out into the darkness it struck Kemp that this was how crises always were: disjointed conversations with no centre, action one moment and nervous idleness the next. He studied her face, which was reflected in the glass. It occurred to him that she seemed more beautiful every time he looked at her, but he made a conscious effort to bring his mind back to the present. It seemed like a betrayal of some kind to be thinking such thoughts when an innocent woman’s life could be in danger. “Maybe she’s working with him?” Kemp remarked, though without conviction. “Helping him to choose his victims, I mean.” Ba Hoa looked up at him, shook her head. “No, that’s

Russell Kemp, an ex-Captain in the South African Police Service and now a Private Detective, has teamed up with a former detective — Tran Hai Duong. The two men are on the trail of Gerard Prinsloo, a South African serial murderer operating in Vietnam. They have finally found the killer’s apartment, only to discover that he left a few minutes earlier in the company of a beautiful young Vietnamese woman. By Rob Marsh


not possible.” Then with less assurance, “Is it?” Stranger things had happened, though according to the caretaker, Miss Bich hadn’t moved into the apartment block until after the killings had started. Before that she had lived in Hanoi. “I don’t know. Either way, I think she’s now in danger.” “In the company of a madman, you mean?” Ba Hoa said. “More than a madman,” Kemp corrected her. “A killer.”

District 2 Gerard rode down a narrow alleyway between two houses and pulled up at a gate where the girl dismounted. After he had unfastened the padlock he pushed his motorbike inside the property and parked it against a wall. While he found the key to the house, the girl walked to the end of the small garden and studied the river, listened to its whisper in the darkness.

“Ver’ beautifu’,” she said. He opened a sliding door, stepped into a kitchen and flicked a switch. A soft yellow light began to glow on the patio. “Yes, I know,” he said finally. She came back to the house and for a moment they stood together quietly, both absorbing the stillness, though Gerard’s thoughts were elsewhere. In his imagination he had seen in her expression a smirk of condescension, but he gave no indication that he knew the inner workings of her mind because that would spoil his fun, ruin all his plans. I am playing the game by your rules, he thought: duplicity and deceit. Your rules. The girl glanced at him. He behaved strangely at times, she thought, but maybe that was just because he was a westerner. “What you thinking?” she asked, trying hard for cheeriness. He was thinking that she had betrayed him to the police; he was thinking that he had taken a great risk in bringing her here;

he was thinking that now that he had showed her his hideaway he couldn’t let her leave. “I’m thinking that it’s good to have you here,” he said.

Alarm It took her a time to translate in her mind what he had said. She registered the first vague stirrings of alarm. There was something about the way he was staring at her that made her feel uncomfortable, something in his voice that the words weren’t saying, a message that she couldn’t quite decipher. For reasons she couldn’t put words to she suddenly felt alone, like the man that she had left her apartment with had gone away and left her abandoned with a stranger. “Would you like me to show you around?” he asked. Suddenly, she was scared to go into the house with him. “I look the water agai’,” she said and moved away towards the river.

Standing on the riverbank she thought about the way he had looked at her earlier that afternoon in the apartment when they were waiting for the lift to arrive — and then just a moment before, when she had stepped up to the house. She had always regarded herself as someone who could take care of herself, but now she felt weak and helpless because this man frightened her. He frightened her very much… Part 9 of Dead Heat will be published in the March 2013 issue of Word. This is a work of fiction. All names, characters and incidents are invented. Rob Marsh is the author of 30 published books (both fiction and non-fiction). He has a special interest in matters crime-related and is the author of Famous South African Crimes and With Criminal Intent: The Changing Face of Crime in South Africa. He currently lives in Ho Chi Minh City.

February 2013 Word | 143

the LAST CALL ROCK MUSIC... is my main inspiration after

listening to the vinyl records of my father from a young age. I love indie rock from the UK, especially The Libertines, Babyshambles and Franz Ferdinand.

THE MEN IN MY FAMILY... are the cooks. I love nothing better than coming home late and making some nice food for my wife. I LEARNED... how to become a top DJ from producer/remixer Paul T in Singapore. I went there on and off for two years and it was priceless. I learned so much. BECOMING A FATHER... was the best day of my life. My son is my pride and joy. He is just three months old. DURING THE RAINY SEASON... I take four months off to take care of my wife and spend time with my family. I work seven days a week solid for eight months and then enjoy my time off. I DON’T LIKE... to eat out. I love to cook and only cook fresh food. So my passion is to cook at home. I don’t let my wife cook. I HAVE A TATTOO... of my wife’s name Vy on my hand. I am a lucky man, she is great. FAMILY LIFE... is heaven for me. I am so

happy when I spend time with my loved ones.

MY NAME... comes from the fact that Kaiser means 'king without a crown' in German and T is for Tu, my real name. MY DAY... starts at 10am when I go to the

market and buy food to cook for my wife. At 2pm I prepare for DJing for four hours. Then at 6pm I go to work and come home at 2am. Then the cycle starts again.

MY DREAM... at university was to be a rock star. Maybe I still have time.

From humble roots to national acclaim and fatherhood, DJ Kaiser T has had quite a year after becoming Vietnam’s 2012 Pioneer DJ champion. Photo by Alexandre Garel

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Word Ho Chi Minh City February 2013  

The what's on guide to Ho Chi Minh City and beyond.