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h g u a L m 'E Make y r C m 'E e k a M t i a W m 'E e k Ma



QUI - Cuisine Mixology managed by VISE Hospitality brings its unique concept of a dining lounge to the beach front of Nha Trang city with a sleek and luxurious warm tone of wood furnishings that is not only contemporary but also elegant | February 2018 Word | 1

Contents february 2018


BRIEFINGS 8/ The Year of the Dog

Out with the rooster, in with the dog

10 / Ultra Running Machine

22 / The HCMC Marathon The showpiece of a booming industry


90 / Banh Hoi

Noodles and pork, anyone?

92 / My Van Than

Yes, it's wonton noodles again. But this time it's the Hanoi version

The top female ultra-marathon runner in Asia

38 / Street Portrait: Ma May

The tourist heart of the Old Quarter


12 / Robo Cafe

44 / Doug Stanhope

The much-loved American comedian performs in Vietnam

96 / The Elephant Valley

Who needs real waiters when a robot will do instead?

14 / Deplasticize

48 / Make 'Em Laugh


Tackling the waste

16 / Feeding on Scraps

Recycling discarded war munitions is an industry

18 / Vietnam Balloons To infinity and beyond

20 / Capturing Form

Life drawing for everyone

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Stand-up comedy in Vietnam and the people who make it happen

76 / The Helmet Law

Ten years on from the law that's saved thousands of lives

82 / Epizode

Eleven days of partying and DJs on Phu Quoc

Providing sanctuary to the endangered Asian elephant

138 / From Craft to Draft

Will craft beer ever replace bia hoi? We hope not

144 / Ten10

Mike Ellis has played a key role in the development of Hanoi's comedy scene

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his month we asked our contributors tell us about their funniest moment in Vietnam.

One of my young students maybe around seven or eight years old started doing a full on gangster dance, gun fingers and everything, to a nursery rhyme. — Olga Rozenbajgier, Staff Photographer Probably the first time I had a friend come and visit. I let him have a go on my Honda wave around a car park... remembering him come around the corner in first gear yelling something about the brakes before leaping off the bike always makes me chuckle. — Billy Gray, Staff Writer I was on a shoot in the countryside with a model and a large crew. We had created a large crowd of children and a few adults. I needed to get closer to my model and the only way was to wade into a stream. Of course I tripped and ended up waist deep in the stream. The kids really enjoyed my mishap, but I’m sure they wished I had gone completely under. — Marcus Lacey, Photographer A fellow expat who was a little nervous about riding bikes decided to give it a go on a friend’s one. He literally went round the corner, wiggled around a bit and crashed into a stationary car. He didn’t take it up after that. — George Schooling, Contributor

EDITORIAL BAO ZOAN Staff Photographer

NICK ROSS Chief Editor

AIMEE DUONG Graphic Designer

BILLY GRAY Staff Writer (Hanoi)

OLGA ROZENBAJGIER Staff Photographer

MATTHEW COWAN Managing Editor



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It was years ago when I got my Vietnamese pronunciation wrong. Instead of asking the ao dai-clad office administrator for a piece of paper, I asked her for a piece of... something quite different altogether. I realised as soon as I’d said it, but it was too late. We couldn’t stop laughing. — Nick Ross, Chief Editor


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THE TALK the prelude

complete strangers into our homes and lives through social media and reveal more about ourselves than we probably should, and we’re exposed to news that is perhaps harder to determine if it’s in fact real despite our access to greater information. Sometimes it’s all just a bit too Dark Mirror and we forget to laugh. One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is the way laughing makes us feel. It’s said to decrease stress and increase our ability to fight off illness. It

releases endorphins — our body’s natural feel-good chemicals — and improves our sense of well-being. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine after all. So for that reason, we’ve decided to feature some of the comics and promoters of Vietnam’s emerging comedy scene for our cover story this month. We’ve gone along to their gigs, laughed at their gags and endeavoured to find out what makes them tick. While they are a disparate bunch

of personalities and characters leading different lifestyles, they’re all connected by the same desire, to spin a good yarn and make people laugh. We hope you get a laugh, too. Finally, this is my last issue with Word. Thank you to everyone I’ve met during my time with the magazine, with special thanks to Nick Ross for having faith in me to be able to do the job. I’ve learnt a lot, messed up a lot, but laughed a lot, too. — Matt Cowan, Managing Editor




Make 'Em Laugh Make 'Em Cry Make 'Em Wait



aving a good laugh is as important as it’s ever been, especially given the break-neck speed at which we seem to be hurtling into the future. While technology has evolved so that pretty much every facet of our lives has improved, it also places greater pressures and demands on us like never before. Living our lives online means we have fewer excuses for not responding to our bosses out of hours, we invite

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Have Your Say We know you’ve got feedback. So let us know on Facebook — — or via Twitter, @wordvietnam. No matter how positive or negative your thoughts, we look forward to hearing from you.

inbox Do you have any comments that you would like to air? If so, reach out and touch us at matt@ wordvietnam. com — we’re at your fingertips.

The Best of Vietnam (January, 2018) I haven't liked your last few issues so much. They haven't had the articles that I've enjoyed reading for so many years. The January issue, however, is back to form. Thank you! — ET Good front cover this month! — AB Good issue. An enjoyable read. — RR I liked your Best of Vietnam idea. I just reckon there is so much more you could have covered. Having said that, I guess when it comes to Best Of articles, the options are limitless. — GL

C**t — Laurence Tang (student at LSE) You dissing expats again, Nick Ross? What a load of BS — RF Agree. It's difficult to know whethere you should or should not give people here the benefit of your experience. Personally I've given up. In one ear, out the other. — JC Vietnam will never learn from the experiences and mistakes of other countries. Forget even trying. — ZG THE TALK comment NATIONAL


The recent online spat over the opening of McDonald’s in Hanoi demonstrated the gulf between the perspectives of ‘us’ and ‘them’ — local Vietnamese versus people from overseas. While many local Hanoians greeted the arrival of the fast-food behemoth with glee, a large number of expats treated the inauguration with disdain. “The Vietnamese should not eat this junk,” wrote one expat. While according to another, McDonald’s should “stay away from spoiling an innocent country.” This gap in world views creates an interesting conundrum. Expats with their knowledge of the outside world and experience of working in a more global environment have something to give Vietnam. Whether it’s skill transfer, education, consultancy or business, the presence of foreigners and foreign ideas in this country adds value. Yet Vietnamese see things differently. This is their country, land that they fought for for hundreds of years. Time and again they’ve rid themselves of unwanted foreign influence and fought off invaders. So when foreigners tell them what to do or think, or that the arrival of McDonald’s in Hanoi is bad, why should they listen?

Orientalism (January, 2018, page 10) Really good article. Right on the mark. — AB



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Telling people what to do or think can be a mistake

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In his 1978 work, Orientalism, Edward Said argued that Western writings and thought on ‘The Orient’ were dominated by a need to establish European imperial domination over non-European societies. In doing so, the westerner, or Orientalist, claims to have more essential and definitive knowledge about the Orient than Orientals do themselves. Applied to modern-day Vietnam, this can translate to expats telling Vietnamese that “having McDonald’s in Vietnam is bad for Vietnam”, or that the Vietnamese

“need to stop destroying their environment” or need to adopt the modern, liberal teaching practices espoused elsewhere. It can emerge in many forms, from talk about corruption to human rights to driving motorbikes correctly to how tourism should be done. Orientalists as we know them today are nonVietnamese, mainly expats or Viet Kieu, telling Vietnamese what to do because their knowledge of life and how things work is more ‘worldly’ or superior. Yet, as an expat, when I look at Vietnam there is so much I feel I can give this country. Take tourism. In the early to mid-noughties I lived in Vung Tau, a seaside tourist town southeast of Saigon. While I loved the lifestyle and the tropical sea air, I was constantly irritated by the beachfront. From the ramshackle businesses lining the sea to the litter on the beach, it was a mess. For years I had this desire to take key people from the local tourism authorities on an all-expenses paid trip to Mediterranean Europe to ‘show them how it was done’. I was missing the point. Every weekend the city was packed out with Vietnamese taking a break by the sea. Tourism was working, so why change it? Yet 15 years later, this city is off the tourist radar and is missing out on all those tourist dollars that are heading to destinations elsewhere. Do I feel vindicated? Yes, of course I do. Even though this is not my country, my opinions and ideas are still valid. That they’re not is frustrating — not just for myself but many other long-termers who live in Vietnam.

Black and White

Yet, no matter how valid, expats need to be careful about how they impose their ideas on Vietnam. One reason is hypocrisy. It’s okay to promote craft beer to Vietnam, an American creation that

most expats approve of. Indeed, how often have you seen online comments like “educating locals on craft beer”? Yet, that other American creation, McDonald’s elicits a different response. There are almost 40,000 McDonald’s restaurants on this planet. So, why shouldn’t a few of them be in Hanoi? And anyway, if McDonald’s is good enough for everyone else, why shouldn’t it be good enough for Vietnam? So, when people express their anger at this fast-food chain or their love of craft beer, are they really concerned about Vietnam? In many instances, no. Instead they’re airing their own feelings towards a particular phenomenon. Another reason to be careful is understanding how things work here. Some years ago a financial analyst explained to me how he saw negotiation in Vietnam. Negotiation, he said, is never black and white. It’s constantly moving, constantly changing — a bit like the traffic — with nothing set in stone. If you accept this, he explained, then you can be a successful negotiator. You understand that there are no boundaries and that everything is changeable. But if you try to impose a Western, absolutist sense of negotiation on the Vietnamese, then you will fail. It’s the same in terms of perspectives. If as an expat you accept that Vietnam has its own worldview, one that may never be influenced by your own, then you’ve already made half the journey. And if you do want to make change, then any ideas you have must fit into that worldview. If you’re mindful, then people will listen. But the moment you try and impose your own, foreign perspective on Vietnam, you will fail. So, are you an Orientalist? — Nick Ross

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THE TALK comment


The Year of the Dog Out with the rooster, in with the dog


uring the war, many families in the north would call their noisy, unpleasant guard dog Nick. Short for Nixon, who naturally wasn’t held in great esteem, whack the dog and you were whacking Nixon. The fact that dogs could be kicked, poked and shouted at, and the fact they could be given names like Nixon and even Johnson — yes, LBJ was also a popular figure of dog-naming hate — shows how low these animals were viewed in Vietnamese society. These days it’s different. Dogs are increasingly seen as pets, especially among the nouveau riche, and growing numbers of Vietnamese are shying away from eating dog meat. Yet call someone a dog, or a cho in Vietnam, and you are asking for a fight. Even if the comment is made in jest. Which brings us onto 2018 and the Year of the Dog, the 11th animal in the zodiac. Kicking off on Friday, Feb. 16, with all the negative connotations associated with canines and former American presidents, this year is going to be turbulent. Or at least, that’s what the pundits say.

A Man’s Best Friend?

Dogs are normally seen as a symbol of intelligence and protection, yet dog years can bring many changes,

both good and bad. On the economic front they are growth years: although according to the pundit Daniel Hanna on the website, the next 12 months might just bring a “collapse of major institutions and large adjustments in the economy like stock markets and values of currency”. Which means, he says, you should take care with your investments. Which is exactly what we were told last year. And last year was the Year of the Rooster. Daniel Hanna, however, is a 20-year veteran when it comes to writing about the Chinese zodiac. So, he should know what he’s on about. And one of his most important predictions for 2018 is that this will be a year of immense change, both on a personal and national level. Expect some turmoil. On a personal front, he explains, we will “see changes in our view on diet, smoking, drinking and junk food”. This will be aided by the inception of new laws designed to let the general public know the true dangers associated with eating and drinking. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s? You’ve been warned. On a national level, he continues, 2018 will be a “fragile year and we could see many uprisings throughout the world including countries in the Middle East and North Korea, with the demand for fairness and a better

8 | Word February 2018 |

standard of living.”. He adds: “It is a year of less affluent areas of the world coming together and introducing new ways to help the less fortunate. Hopefully we will see more fair balance between the rich and poor.” As for other signs of the zodiac, 2018 will be a difficult year for ‘conflict’ animals, those animals that don’t get along with dogs. So dragons, goats and roosters, beware. Conversely, tigers, rabbits and horses could have a storming year. As for everyone else, all you buffaloes, monkeys, snakes, pigs and rats out there, not a clue.

All in a Name

Which all brings us back to the complicated business of naming dogs. Considering that 2018 is going to be a year of turbulence, best to name your newly acquired pet after one of the main arbiters of change on the world stage. Putin, Kim Jong Un or Trump anyone? But as for calling your dog Nick, here at Word we think you should shy away from that one. Not only is the Nixon factor a thing of the past but name your dog Nick and you never know who you might offend. — Nick Ross.

THE TALK the big five Tet, an annual fun run and lots ‘n lots of stand-up comedy

Tet Holidays

Feb. 15 to Feb. 20 Everywhere in Vietnam Farewell the Year of the Rooster and welcome the Year of the Dog. That is the theme this Tet, a festival dating back thousands of years that was originally celebrated by Vietnamese farmers to thank the gods for the arrival of Spring. These days everyone celebrates it, with the national holidays kicking off with New Year’s Eve on Thursday, Feb. 15. Usually the party culminates with fireworks displays in the major cities which families on motorbikes cram city centres to come and see. This year’s Tet break goes through the weekend until Tuesday, Feb. 20, with everything expected to get back into full-swing on Wednesday, Feb. 21. Expected to… If you’re staying home, best to stock up beforehand because not much is open. So grab a good book to read or get that subscription to Netflix you’ve been putting off.

Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition Finals

Friday, Mar. 9 Standing Bar, Hanoi The culmination of blood, sweat, beers and cheers. The six remaining comics in the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition face off in the final at Standing Bar in Hanoi for the opportunity of a lifetime to make something of themselves as comics. Sponsored by Heart of Darkness, from Saigon Uy

Le, Keith Howard and Vu Minh Tu will take on the comedic might of Glyn Richards, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Sara Butryn from Hanoi. Who’s going to take the title? Hit Standing Bar on Mar. 9 to find out. Standing Bar is at 170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi. For more info, go to or facebook. com/saigoninternationalcomedy. Entrance is VND150,000 and includes a free Heart of Darkness beer. Doors are at 8pm

La Course du Printemps

Sunday, Mar. 11 Vietnam Golf & Country Club, Q9 The French International High School Marguerite Duras is holding a fun run at the Vietnam Golf & Country Club in District 9. There will be three events being held to cater for different age groups: — a 10km race for participants over 15 years old starting at 7am — a 5km race for participants over eight years old starting at 8am — a 2km race for participants aged between six and 10 years old starting at 9am Tickets to participate are VND350,000 for children and adults, and can be purchased at The Vietnam Golf & Country Club is at Road 11, Long Binh, Q9, HCMC.

Doug Stanhope

Wednesday, Mar. 14 Caravelle Saigon Acclaimed US comic Doug Stanhope comes to HCMC as part of his debut Asia tour, which is also taking in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok, and Tokyo.

Stanhope has been compared to such fearless comic revolutionaries as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Bill Hicks. He’s appeared at multiple major comedy festivals around the world and has been described as having “a genuinely original comic voice, albeit a gleefully vulgar one.” Performing as part of the Magners International Comedy Festival, tickets range in price from VND700,000 to VND1.8 million for VIP seats. For more info and tickets, go to

Bill Bailey

Wednesday, Apr. 4 Caravelle Saigon Acclaimed English comic Bill Bailey lands in Saigon in April as part of the Magners International Comedy Festival starting in March. Bailey has been voted one of Britain’s funniest acts multiple times over a long career and arrives in Vietnam off the back of his latest set of shows in the UK called Larks in Transit — a compendium of travellers’ tales and shenanigans of 20 years as a travelling comic. Bailey tackles politics, philosophy and the pursuit of happiness with musical virtuosity, surreal tangents and trademark intelligence. The Daily Telegraph has described him as “the brainiest comic of his generation”, while The Herald Sun in Melbourne has called him “a genuine marvel”. Tickets cost from VND800,000 (in advance) and are available via facebook. com/saigoninternationalcomedy.

THE TALK briefings


Ultra Running Machine Saigon-based Kim Matthews is the top female ultra-marathon runner in Asia


or most of us, just the thought of running 42.2km — the official length of a marathon — churns the stomach. It’s a long way to run, so it’s not uncommon for marathoners to suffer from heat stroke, dehydration and exhaustion. Some hit what is known in running as ‘the wall’, often at around the half-way mark when their bodies run out of carbohydrates and start burning fat just to keep going. That unforgettable moment at the end of the inaugural women’s marathon at the LA Olympics back in 1984 when Swiss marathoner Gabriela Andersen-Schiess fell across the finish line demonstrates the physical trauma a marathon can cause. Some even go into meltdown when their muscles literally melt. Yet, there are people out there who participate in ultra-marathons, running races far longer than 42km. Typically the races are around 160km, but it’s not unheard of for races to be twice that distance. Remarkably, Ho Chi Minh City is home to the best female ultra-marathoner in Asia — 35-year-old Australian, Kim Matthews. Kim has just been crowned 2017 Asia Trail Master Champion after competing in six races last year at distances of 100km that each took around 18 hours to complete. She won five of them, coming second in another. She started running ultra-marathons just over two years ago, at a 50km race in Australia. “I loved it and I was hooked instantly,” says Kim of her first ultra-marathon. “It’s

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about setting a goal and achieving it. It’s a great feeling.”

Singing Her Praises

The Asia Trail Master series consists of around 30 races across Asia in 12 different countries where runners earn points throughout the year for finishing and for the position they finish in a race. Runners can run as many races as they please. However, it’s their top five results which go towards their overall ranking and which ultimately determines the champion. Kim was the first female overall in the Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa in September last year which took her 18 hours. Apart from the distances, ultra-marathons are different from marathons in that they are a time trial where runners set off at different times, and they take place over hills and mountains along lightly marked trails. “I can go hours without seeing anyone,” she says. “I’ve been lost many times because the trails are not always clearly marked. Sometimes my mind wanders so I have to constantly tell myself to be strong, that I’ve got to keep doing this, and that it’s going to be worth it in the end. Singing helps because in ultra, you’re usually running by yourself, so I can sing out loud.”

Happy Little Vegemite

Training for ultra-marathons requires plenty of preparation. Currently Kim is running up to 130km per week in training which means she can only work part-time as a speech therapist, and when big marathons

are on like the recent HCMC Marathon, she’s hired by the timing company that keeps time for the runners. “I know that running in Saigon isn’t good for me,” says Kim when asked how the recent unsafe air conditions in the city have affected her training. “But the thing I’m more concerned about is that Saigon is flat; it’s not the best preparation for running in the hills. Also, the traffic, there just aren’t many places to train without traffic.” The fact that Kim is more concerned about the flat terrain than the quality of air, demonstrates how badly people like her want to do what they do. “You can’t force yourself to do it. If you don’t enjoy it, there’s no point,” she explains. “You just have to keep setting goals for yourself, whether it’s 10km this time, a half marathon next time. It’s not like I’ve achieved what I have overnight, it’s taken a long time.” With so much of Kim’s time and energy devoted to meeting her running goals, it’s surprising to learn that there’s still room in her life to share some of the finer things with her husband, Danny, a keen runner himself. “You still have to live,” she says. “I go out and have a wine, I eat cake and icecream, and I don’t restrict myself very much, although I’m vegan but that’s for ethical and health reasons, not running.” So what does she eat when she’s hours into a 100km trail? “Sometimes I’ll pack a banh mi with Vegemite.” — Matt Cowan Follow Kim’s trails at RunEatWorld.


THE TALK briefings


ROBO Café Who needs real waiters when a robot will do instead?


udgment Day is upon us, only instead of a T-1000, Hanoi’s tech-induced apocalypse is beginning with a robot waiter called

Mortar. The robot is the newest employee at Robo Café and has been drawing in customers due to his charming pre-programmed voice clips, and his resemblance to something out of a 1960s sci-fi movie. The robot’s creators, also the proprietors of Robo café, are Nguyen Quoc Phi, and electrical engineer Do Trung Thanh. As of yet the two display no visible connections to Skynet.

Rise of the Machines

While a trip out to Robo café in Hai Ba Trung District does provide some laughs, it has to be said that Mortar the robot might need some tweaking before taking on civilization. “It looks like something my nephew could put together in his

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bathroom in 15 minutes,” notes our photographer. Admittedly Mortar could do with a bit of a facelift. The robot is limited to serving in just one of three rooms in the café, following aluminum strips taped to the floor. His fellow human employees load up his tray and then use his iPad face to select a table for him to deliver to. There is also the issue that Mortar moves rather slowly. Once the initial buzz of being greeted by a 130cm iPad wears off, you’re left feeling little more than pity for Mortar while he painstakingly moves across the floor, praying he doesn’t get blocked in by a chair leg. “It’s just a tablet on a skateboard,” continues our photographer. While Mortar does sort of remind you of a post-rehab Wall-E, you do have to hand it to his creators. The shell was made using 3D printing techniques, and he can say several

phrases like “Boiling water, boiling water, give way to me, please!” On top of that, he winks at you. Be careful when bringing a date to Robo café, Mortar might just outcharm you!

Onwards and Upwards

The original inspiration for Mortar came while Phi was on a trip to Japan, where he visited several cafés that utilize robot serving staff. Phi decided to create his own robot, and although the initial investment was high, Phi is confident that the boost in efficiency will tip the scales in his favour in the long run. “I’m very keen on including robots in daily life, so I didn’t hesitate when investing,” says Phi. “This is also a novelty so I hope customers will be curious to visit the café.” Phi and Thanh are looking to make improvements to Mortar, before hitting the drawing board and making more robot minions.

The niche is indeed paying off, and the café is being visited by reporters as well as being featured on national television. All the attention can only do good things for the unassuming little café south of the city centre.

I-Pad Robot

Admittedly, we can’t help but find it all very exciting — robots serving you coffee, it’s like we’re finally stepping into the world that sci-fi culture envisaged fifty years ago. Soon we’ll all be unemployed, living off universal basic income while robots take over the service industry. We at Word are particularly excited to be replaced by walking fax machines — finally we’ll have the time we’ve longed for to play with our hoverboards. Whether or not Mortar starts a city-wide trend, we’ll just have to wait and see. — Billy Gray Robo café is located at 98 Lac Trung, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi.

PHOTOS BY MARCUS LACEY | February 2018 Word | 13

THE TALK briefings


Deplasticize Tackling the waste


n 2015, Vietnam was named as one of the five countries — alongside China, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines — that dump more plastic into the ocean every year than the rest of the world combined. The rapid urbanization of Vietnam, combined with soaring GDP growth, has seen the amount of waste disposed every year skyrocket to 12 million tons in 2014. This is expected to reach 22 million tons by 2020. But while GDP grows, funding for waste management infrastructure struggles to keep up. Often, sorting for recyclable waste is left to local door-to-door collectors, known as nguoi luom ve chai. However, only 20% of plastic waste is considered valuable enough for them to pick up, while the rest is generally sent off to a landfill. In fact, even the government’s well intentioned ‘3 Rs Campaign’ — reduce, reuse, recycle — was marred in scandal after it became apparent that, once collected, recycled waste was often just thrown into the same landfill as non-recyclable waste. In the fight back, the government has implemented the National Waste Management Strategy. By 2025 the strategy aims to collect and treat 90% of solid waste in urban areas, 85% of which will be reused or recycled to produce energy or organic fertilizer. The problem is that the facilities to achieve this goal do not yet exist.

Localized Response

Deplasticize is a group based in Hanoi that aims to fight the issue of single-use plastic trash by raising awareness and incentivizing businesses to steer clear of relying on plastic. “The majority of people we interview admit that they use single-use plastic because of its convenience,” says Thanh Nguyen, the leader of Deplasticize. “It makes people lazy to bring their own reusable bottle or bag — but the hidden cost is health, for people and the environment. Most people just don’t see the bigger picture.”

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While education on recycling is included in the school curriculum, many young Vietnamese remain ignorant of the severity that untreated plastic waste has on the environment. “At the moment we’re running workshops at Hanoi National University,” says Thanh, “to educate the students about the negative effects of single-use plastic trash. We’re also making reusable bags from recycled clothes, and giving them to the students at the university. We spoke to the shop owners on the campus and they agreed that if we supply them with cloth bags for free, then the students who reuse them will receive a store discount.” He adds: “We’re also working with other local organizations to petition Highlands Coffee to use paper cups for takeaway, instead of the plastic ones that they now use.”

From the Bottom Up

One only has to look at similar examples of petitioning businesses to see the potential. Starbucks were pressured into using only fair-trade coffee partly due to petitioning from its customers. Action in such everyday environments helps to cement the issue into the public consciousness, and will add to the pressure already mounting on the authorities to take more assertive action on the issue of untreated plastic waste. “If we want change, we have to educate people,” says Thanh. “We have to provide them with proper knowledge on single-use plastic trash so that they can be aware of its negative impacts on their health, the environment, and on animals.” He continues: “Working in this field is quite challenging for us, we all acknowledge that. We have to change people’s mindsets, and we have to do it gradually, over a long time.” — Billy Gray To find out more about Deplasticize, and the issue of single use plastic trash in Vietnam, visit their Facebook page — Deplasticize. | February 2018 Word | 15

THE TALK briefings


n o g n i d e e F s p a r c S ed war d r a c s i d g Recyclin s an industry ns i munitio


overty takes on many forms. But when it requires you to take your life in your own hands, it becomes more than just dangerous. It becomes a

killer. Such was the case in early January when an explosion at a scrap warehouse in Bac Ninh Province in northern Vietnam killed two children and injured seven. The facility, which was located in the village of Quan Do in Van Mon, Yen Phong, was being used to store seven tons of old bullets that had been bought by the scraphouse owner, Nguyen Van Tien. Tien had bought the munitions to extract scrap metal. Quan Do has been a ‘scrap village’ for many years — 500 households earn a living from the industry. In the search for a quick buck, however, the scrap metal purchases often come from dubious sources, including munitions and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from past wars.

The Real Victims

In October 2012, I visited the house of Bui

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Manh Thang, a resident of Nai Cuu Phong, a small village in Quang Tri Province close to the former DMZ. The afternoon before, Thang had been dismantling war-time munitions on his porch. During the war the US dropped over 8 million tons of ordnance on Vietnam and Laos, of which the Pentagon has said about 10 percent did not detonate. Suddenly there was an explosion. The blast was heard by neighbours who rushed to his house to find him seriously wounded. Fortunately, none of his family was at home. The 67-year-old was transferred to Quang Tri Hospital for advanced trauma care. Surgeons had to amputate his right hand. He also suffered severe injuries to his left hand, neck, jawbone, left knee and both feet. When a local NGO, Project Renew, visited Thang’s house the following morning, they found over 200 pieces of UXO buried in the garden, much of it in easy reach of Thang’s grandchildren, who would often play at the house while their

grandfather was dismantling the munitions. According to Thang’s daughter, Bui Thi Thu Hoai, Thang had been scavenging scrap ordnance for years as a way to get extra income. “Almost everyone in the village has to scavenge [for scrap metal],” added Hoai. “We are really poor. We need the money from the scrap for extra income.” Every time the family needed money, Thang would dismantle munitions and sell the metal for scrap. According to Project Renew, which is working with the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) on a project to clear Quang Tri and the former DMZ of unexploded ordnance, back in 2012 between 50 and 70 people in the province died as a result of UXO. Many more were injured. Some were unlucky — they stepped on an unexploded mine or cluster bomb while working in the fields or trekking through the jungle. Others, armed with metal detectors, died while they searched for scrap. And then there were those who died in the process of dismantling the ordnance.

Back to Bac Ninh

The day after the explosion in Bac Ninh, which destroyed four houses in the vicinity of the warehouse and damaged many more, Nguyen Van Tien and his wife were arrested by local authorities. The munitions, it turns out, had been purchased in December 2016 and stored for over a year. While Tien was doing what so many others successfully do in this country — recycling and repurposing waste — there has to be a limit. And that limit needs to be when the scrap for recycling comes from dangerous sources. If there wasn’t a market for purchasing scrap from recycled and repurposed munitions, then people like Bui Manh Thang wouldn’t collect and dismantle it, and people wouldn’t be killed and injured like they were in the village of Quan Do. But while people like Nguyen Van Tien are out there offering money, the cycle will continue. — Nick Ross | February 2018 Word | 17

THE TALK briefings


Vietnam Balloons To infinity and beyond


s far as we know, just about every square inch of Vietnam has been documented by travel blogs and magazines like ours, with the lion’s share, of course, done by us. Just when we thought we had everything covered on the ground, something new above it has taken off — hot-air ballooning. Thanks to a new adventure company, Vietnam Balloons — which made its maiden flight in April last year — you can now explore the terrain surrounding Phan Thiet and the beachside destination of Mui Ne from more than half a kilometre up in the air. The area has some of Vietnam’s most stunning landscapes, including its enormous red-and-white sand dunes, a peculiarity in a country that is better known for its temperate mountains, tropical jungles and networks of waterways.

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The balloons follow two distinct flight paths depending on the weather, most of the time taking off northeast of Mui Ne and passing over the famous white sand dunes. Alternatively, they follow the coastline toward Ke Ga lighthouse to the south of Phan Thiet. Flights take from 45 minutes to an hour and fly at different altitudes between 500 and 1,000 metres, offering passengers multiple experiences in the one trip. According to Tomas Valiukas, the director of Vietnam Balloons, the balloons sometimes fly low enough so that passengers can actually touch the treetops brushing by as they come in to land, or they go high enough so that on cloudy days they fly above the clouds long enough to experience the feeling of “walking on the clouds”. However, it’s the shortest flights caused by stronger winds that are perhaps the most exhilarating. “The shortest flights that we make are the more stunning ones and they

are the ones our passengers tend to be most happy with,” says Tomas, a Lithuanian who first came to Vietnam in the mid-2000s. “When there are strong winds, we usually have very few clouds, so the sunrises are extremely beautiful. The sun adds a lot to the whole experience. It’s really something to witness the sunrise from a balloon.”

As Safe as Houses

Tomas is keenly aware of the safety concerns that potential customers of his may have given that products and services in Vietnam aren’t noted for their high level of quality or safety. “Statistically speaking, ballooning is safer than driving a car, and it’s definitely safer than riding a motorbike in Vietnam,” he explains. “We are totally confident in our balloons and our European pilots. The balloons undergo annual maintenance by specialists who fly in from Europe (there are currently no such specialists


in Vietnam) and once they are checked, nothing will malfunction with them.” The balloons that Vietnam Balloons own take six to eight passengers per flight and are designed to carry five times the weight that they actually do on any given flight. For a balloon to crash, at least 12 of the 24 stainless steel cables that are embedded in the envelope, otherwise known as the bag — or what most of us would call the balloon — would have to simultaneously snap. “Typically it’s high-voltage power lines that are the biggest threat to hot-air balloons, but in Mui Ne where we fly, there aren’t any,” says Tomas. “There are power lines that stretch for a couple of hundred metres in the area, but they don’t carry any electricity through them.” At first, the cost of US$165 (VND3.76 million) per person for a one-hour flight might appear expensive, however, as Tomas says,

when people see the price of things, they like to compare them with other available options. For a balloon flight over Myanmar’s Bagan temple complex in a VIP balloon which carries six to eight people and have the same configuration as Vietnam Balloons’, it could cost close to US$480 per person. A flight in a much bigger basket — something which Tomas says is akin to the “size of a bus” — that holds between 20 to 30 people, would cost around US$310 per person. Vietnam Balloons also caters for people who have experienced everything there is to do and see in Mui Ne. As a result, flights for people celebrating special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries are popular, and they’ve already had their first marriage proposal onboard. Fortunately, she said yes. — Matt Cowan For information, go to VietBalloon or | February 2018 Word | 19


Capturing Form Life drawing for everyone

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ike a military drill sergeant, Lilly Wong lets her charges know there is just 10 seconds left on the clock. Her charges, all 20 of them, an even split of male and female, have paid VND250,000 to participate in Lilly’s life drawing class called Capturing Form. They are sitting in a circle around Joy, their model for the evening, sketching her naked form. Once time is up, Lilly gives the orders and the participants pass their work onto the next person to their right who then has another 90 seconds to add to the creation before them. This goes on for about 30 minutes until Lilly stops the clock for a final time, Joy breaks her pose and casually reaches for something to cover herself, and the participants display their work for everyone to see and compare.

Naked Ambition

Although Lilly’s approach appears strict for this first pose of the evening — of which there will be four with each lasting somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes — her clock watching is the extent of anything remotely like boot camp during the session. In fact, the experience is the complete opposite. Participants are encouraged to sip on a beer or glass of wine while they sketch. They are also actively encouraged to share their ideas and thoughts as they do so. After all, the idea is for things to feel relaxed and friendly with a strong sense of community. “My approach is different from my predecessors,” says Lilly who studied at

the London University of the Arts, formerly known as Central Saint Martins. “My classes are undirected, but I offer on-thespot support for individuals who feel like they need it. I believe sharing ideas and experiences is the best way to learn.” The striking thing about the works produced during the evening is that they are surprisingly good. Participants range in levels from beginner to advanced, and while there are some obvious standouts, in some cases it’s difficult to determine whether a novice or an expert has completed the work. “There’s no strict structure to the session,” Lilly says. “People just need to bring themselves and an open mind.”

Discovering Yourself

For the second pose of the evening, Lilly encourages her participants to “find their own style, explore and develop it.” Someone’s style might simply be the colours they choose or how they shade the form. Whatever it is, Lilly is on hand, roving around the circle adding her point of view as she goes. “I encourage people to develop their own individual style over technical ability because this approach removes the misconception that to draw, you have to be a master of drawing and painting,” explains Lilly during a break before the third pose. “Anyone can learn how to draw by taking classes, but I feel they’re usually rigid and can put a lot of unnecessary pressure on individuals which can crush their confidence in the process.”

By the time Joy sets her pose for the third time with some direction from Lilly, the group has grown to 25 people. It’s a humid evening and while I had been thinking earlier that suddenly finding yourself naked in front of a group of strangers is the stuff of nightmares, the heat now had me contemplating stripping down myself. In fact, Lilly is always looking for models and on this night, I politely decline Lilly’s suggestion that I join Joy in the next pose. It’s Lilly’s sense of humour and vibrant personality that is contributing to the success of Capturing Form, including its increase in attendees. “I’m passionate about life drawing and the results of Capturing Form demonstrate diversity in the works of attendees, which makes it interesting and exciting for everyone to see.” As a result, Lilly plans to hold the first ever life drawing exhibition in Saigon (and possibly Vietnam) in the near future that will showcase the works of artists from Capturing Form, something she hopes will become an annual exhibition. “Diversity and individualism is in much need of celebration here in Vietnam,” she says before marshalling the troops for the final pose of the night, a classical pose that results in some amazing pieces of work. — Matt Cowan Capturing Form is held every Tuesday night from 7pm to 9pm at Saigon Outcast, 188 Nguyen Van Huong, Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC. For more info, go to capturingformsaigon. | February 2018 Word | 21

THE TALK sports digest

Sports in Brief Mekong United to Take Part in TBSL

Mekong United will be Vietnam’s representative at the Thailand Basketball Super League this season. Under coach Kevin Yurkus, Mekong United will present familiar faces to supporters, such as Tam Dinh, Sang Dinh and Nguyen Le Quoc Cuong. They will be joined by Thai players Kevin Lane Dasom, Anasawee Klaewnarong and Richard Latham, along with two foreigners Matt Van Pelt and Mike Earl. Yurkus in 2017 guided the Cantho Catfish to the Vietnam Basketball Association League’s second position after losing to Thang Long Warriors in a thrilling final. TBSL will see six clubs from Thailand and three from the ASEAN region. The two other foreign teams are Kabayan of the Philippines and Adroit of Singapore. TBSL kicked off at the end of January, and the final will be held in March.

HCMC Football Club Signs Former Man Utd Midfielder

Ho Chi Minh City F.C. have reached an agreement to sign a former Manchester United midfielder. No details about the terms between the Ho Chi Minh City-based club and Brazilian midfielder Rodrigo Pereira Possebon have been disclosed so far. Possebon, who turns 29 this February, was recruited by Manchester United in 2008, but eventually made only three appearances with the English Premier League side in the 2008-9 season. He was part of the Manchester United squad that won the 2008 FA Community Shield and the 2009 League Cup. The player then went on loan to Braga of Portugal for the first half of the 2009-10 season and later joined various clubs before agreeing to the present deal in 2018.


Jungle Marathon set for April

The Vietnam Jungle Marathon (VJM) is set to start in Pu Luong Nature Reserve in the central province of Thanh Hoa from Apr. 13 to Apr. 15. Participants will compete on 25km, 42km and 70km routes, which traverse through the lush jungles, limestone cliffs and rice paddies. On their trails, runners will meet with ethnic minorities and buffaloes, before celebrating with a special party at Ban Hang Village after the race. The VJM is an official Ultra-Trail du MontBlanc (UTMB) qualifying race. UTMB is a race of the Ultra-trail world tour. So, the event will provide a great opportunity for runners to gain points to join the UTMB. — Harry Hodge Runners can register via the website


he route has been cleared, the podium put away. And runners in both Ho Chi Minh City and Vietnam as a whole are already filling their race calendars. Vietnamese runner Ngo Dung won the men’s professional 42km category of the Ho Chi Minh City International Marathon, with a time of two hours and 42 minutes. Compatriot Pha Le took the women’s title, winning in three hours and eight minutes. Fellow Vietnamese Phuc Cao finished first in the men’s half-marathon, while it was Phuong Nguyen winning the women’s pool. The fifth edition of the marathon saw the largest-ever number of participants with more than 8,000, a sharp increase compared to the first version of the race in 2013, which lured 5,000 runners. But one expat remembers when the state of running in this country was very different.

Changing Times


The HCMC Marathon

Held in its present form for just the second time, this year's marathon attracted more runners than ever before. Yet although running is booming, it wasn’t always that way

Dutchman Marcel Lennartz has been living in Vietnam for over 20 years. He has been heavily involved in the growth of the running culture in Ho Chi Minh City, organizing runs in different districts over the past few years, running full and halfmarathons in the city as well as Danang, and helping with organization elements in Phu Quoc and Hanoi. “The number of running groups throughout the country has rapidly increased over the last four years. With that, the number of events and the number of runners joining a club, or running individually has boomed,” he observed. “A few years ago, we were looking forward to one race in a year. Now there are plenty of races to choose from.” He said that organisers often struggle to find the right balance between interesting new routes and routes that avoid traffic and the sun. As well, last-minute changes due to unannounced construction works causes route distances to be inaccurate or a run over unexpected grounds which can cause trouble, such as for barefoot runners. But he observed that volunteers often spend hours in the heat to cheer participants. “The events improve each year,” Lennartz said. “More government support is needed to ensure safe and successful events. Also, traffic is a major issue when deciding on a race route.”— Harry Hodge For more info, click on

THE TALK to do list / hCMC Exhibitions, comedy, live music, a spring run, theatre and the New Zealand Wine and Food Festival

Jack Clayton Exhibition

Feb. 1 to 14 Soma Art Café, Q2 A series of woodcuts and illustrations inspired by street culture in Vietnam will be exhibited by artist Jack Clayton at Soma Art Café in District 2 until Feb. 14. From London, Clayton is an illustrator and printmaker who specialises in woodcut printmaking. He relief prints his blocks by hand and often uses the reduction method to add multiple layers of colour from a single block of wood. Recently Clayton has been looking at modern Vietnamese culture and traditions that he experiences in while living in Ho Chi Minh City. His recent series of woodcuts draws inspiration from the streets of Vietnam’s biggest city, in particular street sellers, children’s games, cafes, drinking culture, expressions and sayings. Soma Art Café is at 6b Le Van Mien, Q2, HCMC. For more info on the exhibition, go to events/1527055474056865


Friday, Mar. 16 The Lighthouse, Q1 Once more Heartbeat’s line up is cemented by two techno heavyweights hitting our shores. Swedish techno-hero, Marcus Henriksson (aka Son Kite, Minoloque, Nobody Home), will lead the way. With eight albums, 80 singles and 25 years’ experience under his belt, his set promises to be a cracker. Henriksson will be supported by London-based Italian techno giant Marco Lenzi. Doors open at 9pm. Entrance is VND100,000 after 10pm. The Lighthouse is at 104 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1, HCMC. For more info, go to events/1765503413758366

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New Zealand Wine & Food Festival

Saturday, Mar. 24 RMIT University, Q7 Enjoy a taste of New Zealand with the return of the NZ Wine & Food Festival. Sip a pinot noir paired with some lamb, or savour a crisp sauvignon blanc with green lipped mussels all the while relaxing on the lawn listening to live music. The festival will showcase over 30 different Kiwi wines and some of the best produce from New Zealand prepared by the city’s finest chefs. Eat-Drink-Give is the theme for 2018, with the event raising funds for Ba Chieu Home for girls, which provides education and a safe haven for girls. Tickets go on-sale on Monday, Feb. 26 for VND2million. For more info, go to wineandfoodnewzealandhcmc

The Magners International Comedy Festival


Apr. 2 to Apr. 4 Caravelle Saigon, Q1 After last year's amazing show at the Caravelle Saigon, the comedy festival returns, this time with three nights of laughter courtesy of both amateur and professional comedians. The extravaganza kicks off on Apr. 2 with the regional finals of the Amateur Comedy Competition. With contestants from Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Bangkok, this will be a chance to cheer on the local comics we've all come to love. This is followed by a gala show on Apr. 3 with big name comics including Craig Campbell (CAN), Aidan Killian (IRE), Tom Rhodes (US) and Thenjiwe Mosely (RSA). And then the big one. Yes, you guessed it. The one and only Bill Bailey (UK) with his one-man show on Apr. 4. Tickets will go on sale for the festival just after Tet. For info click For an article on the festival turn to page 72 | February 2018 Word | 25

Doug Stanhope

Wednesday, Mar. 14 Caravelle Saigon Acclaimed US comic Doug Stanhope comes to Saigon as part of his debut Asia tour, which is also taking in Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Tokyo. Stanhope has been compared to such fearless comic revolutionaries as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, and Bill Hicks. He’s appeared at multiple major comedy festivals around the world and has been described as having “a genuinely original comic voice, albeit a gleefully vulgar one.” And this: “Much of what’s wrong with the world melts away in Stanhope’s flame… comedy with brains and guts of heart…” — The Guardian “…the most fearless man in comedy.” — Esquire “…an acidic blend of prickly hostility, elaborately articulated self-loathing and righteous anger.” — New York Times Doug Stanhope is performing as part of the Magners International Comedy Festival. Tickets range in prices from VND700,000 to VND1.8 million for VIP seats. For more info and tickets, go to or click on saigoninternationalcomedy

La Course du Printemps

Sunday, Mar. 11 Vietnam Golf & Country Club, Q9 The French International High School Marguerite Duras is holding a fun run at the Vietnam Golf & Country Club in District 9. There will be three events being held to cater for different age groups: — 10km race for participants over 15 years old starting at 7am — 5km race for participants over 8 years old starting at 8am — 2km race for participants aged between 6 and 10 years old starting at 9am An awards ceremony will be held at 10am. Tickets to participate are VND350,000 for children an adults and can be purchased at The Vietnam Golf & Country Club is at Road 11, Long Binh, Q9, HCMC. For more info and to register, click on and search for La Course Du Printemps 2018

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The Snap Café Live Music

Feb. 3, 10 & 24 Snap Cafe, Q2 The Snap Café in District 2 continues with its live music offerings in February with the following bands playing from 5.30pm to 8.30pm on Saturdays. Feb. 3 — Plug N’ Play: a trio specialising in R&B, jazz standards, soul and hip-hop Feb. 10 — Nola Blues Club: a club for lovers of blues and the New Orleans music scene Feb. 24 — Smogtown Rats: Irish trio based in Saigon that plays a mix of rock, blues, pop and folk The Snap Café is at 32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Q2, HCMC. For more info, go to TheSnapCafe

Shakespeare in Saigon Mar. 15, 16 & 17 Minh Nhi Theatre — Koi Café, Q1 The Saigon Players latest production, Shakespeare in Saigon, will be staged in an exciting new location at the intimate Minh Nhi Theatre in District 1 in March. A soon-to-be retired English literature teacher is sent off to retirement in style by his students and friends, but when he returns home to his wife of 30 years, he discovers some terrible news, which results in his turning to the bottle for solace. Suddenly a young female arrivee from Vietnam knocks at his door, but communication is impossible. The teacher helps the young lady by teaching her English, but not the kind that you would expect — Elizabethan English, the language of Shakespeare. Tickets are VND300,000 (students VND100,000 with ID) and can be purchased by emailing saigonplayerstickets@gmail. com or from Scott & Jeremy’s restaurant in District 1. All proceeds will go to Saigon Children’s Charity. Minh Nhi Theatre — Koi Café is at 26/6A Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1, HCMC. For more info, go to or

THE TALK just in / hCMC Doggie cushion covers, Thai restaurants and a new wellness resort

Alba Wellness Resort Soft-Opening

Alba Wellness Resort located just north of Hue has opened its doors in its soft-opening phase making it the first ever, complete wellness resort in Vietnam. Nestled at the foot of Truong Son Mountain with natural mineral hot springs, Alba Wellness Resort is a five-start resort featuring indoor and outdoor onsen and spas, 56 eco-friendly rooms, suites and bungalows, three restaurants and bars, swimming pool and more. To mark the occasion, Alba Wellness Resort is offering a special package for the softopening period, valid from Feb. 1 to May 31 this year. For a two-day/one-night stay pay US$270, or stay three days/two nights and pay US$475. The package includes accommodation in a Premium Deluxe room, daily breakfast for two people, daily yoga, one 60-minute spa treatment per day, access to onsen and hot springs, and a 10% discount on food and beverages. For more info and bookings, call 0935 208208

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A Dog's World!

Throughout February, and in celebration of the forthcoming Year of the Dog, Anupa Boutique is running a sale of the British-made Age of Reason cushion covers. Celebrating a love of dogs and of course a love of the UK, one piece now costs VND2.5 million (down from VND3.5 million), with two pieces going for VND4 million, and three pieces for VND4.5 million. Anupa Boutique is at 9 Dong Du, Q1, HCMC and in the lobby of the Sheraton Hotel, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC. For further info click on

The Publik House Launches

The Publik House is a collaboration from executive Chefs and restauranteurs — Josh McGechaen (The Kafe, Union Jacks) and Calvin Bui (Sanchos Cantina) and is celebrating its soft-opening now. Located at Winking Seal Beer Co. in District 1, The Publik House serves bar bites, sharing plates, and charcuterie (cured meats) and cheese boards. The thoughtful food menu takes a seasonal, farm-to-table approach with dishes that draw on local flavours and ingredients with influence from the chefs’ travels around the world. Pairing perfectly with the food, Winking Seal Beer Co. provides craft beer adventures, which create that moment of lift off when atoms and art collide in a glass igniting a perfect storm. The Publik House can be experienced at Winking Seal Beer Co. which is at 50 Dang Thu Nhu, Q1, HCMC. For more info, go to or click on thepublikhousehcmc

Thai Street Calmette

Following the success of the original Thai Street in Thao Dien, the owners have opened Thai Street Calmette in District 1. To celebrate the opening, Thai Street is offering a special lunch promotion for VND120,000. The promotion includes one main, two sides, one dessert and a drink. Thai Street Calmette is at 171 Calmette, Q1, HCMC and is open daily from 11am to 1pm. For more info, go to ThaiStreetCalmette or

THE TALK to Do list / hanoi Comedy, DJs, and a carvedwood exhibition put on by the Japanese Foundation. This month in Hanoi

Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition Finals Friday, Mar. 9 Standing Bar, Hanoi

The culmination of blood, sweat, beers and cheers. The six remaining comics in the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition face off in the final at Standing Bar in Hanoi for the opportunity of a lifetime to make something of themselves as comics. Sponsored by Heart of Darkness, from Saigon Uy Le, Keith Howard and Vu Minh Tu will take on the comedic might of Glyn Richards, Nguyen Tuan Anh and Sara Butryn from Hanoi. Who’s going to walk away with the title? Hit Standing Bar on Mar. 9 to find out. Standing Bar is at 170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi. For more info, go to facebook. com/standuphanoi or saigoninternationalcomedy. Entrance is VND150,000 and includes a free Heart of Darkness beer. Doors are at 8pm

Contemporary Wood-Carved Netsuke

Japan Foundation, Hoan Kiem Until Mar. 15 In celebration of the 45th Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Vietnam, The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam, in cooperation with Embassy of Japan in Vietnam present a travelling exhibition: Contemporary Wood-Carved Netsuke. Contemporary Wood-Carved Netsuke is an innovative contemporary crafts exhibition presenting 65 works by contemporary netsuke carvers and artists. A netsuke is a non-slip toggle that has been used since the Edo period (1603-1868) to secure small personal items such as money pouches, medicine containers or tobacco containers worn suspended on cords from the obi, a sash worn with a kimono. These practical objects were created by and for the common people and greatly enjoyed by them. As Western clothing was adopted from the Meiji period (1868-1911), however, netsuke disappeared from daily life in Japan. This exhibition focuses on contemporary netsuke and focuses on the highly artistic skills and playfulness embodied in the netsuke of today. The exhibition runs daily from 8.30am to 6pm except for during Tet (Feb. 13 to Feb. 21). It is being shown at The Japan Foundation Center for Cultural Exchange, 27 Quang Trung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Entrance is free of charge.

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Snug Night

Savage, Tay Ho Saturday, Feb. 10 That monthly, cosy and welcoming night described by Savage as being for the “fabulous, dancers, kissers, huggers, homos, queers, posers, bitches, flexible, curious, tops, bottoms and in betweens,” returns with an extravaganza of DJs taking to the decks. With a focus on dancing, and joining the community together over good drinks and good company, the line-up this month will include Jacob Meehan, Sfire, Bézier and Ouissam Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Entrance is free before 11pm and VND100,000 after. For more info click on

Tinh Te

Savage, Tay Ho Friday, Feb. 23 Since they first opened, Savage has made it their mission to promote Vietnamese DJs, and Tinh Te, a night of underground beats played by local talent is part of this mission. With Tet just over with, what better time to show off their skills than now. Showcasing the deck-based skills of Huygnut, Quan, TrungD, Hime, DJ 2T, Min8 and Nguyen Cong, expect a smorgasbord of sounds to have you dancing into the early hours. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Entrance is free before 11pm and VND100,000 after. For more info click on | February 2018 Word | 31

THE TALK just in / hanoi Rum bars, soul bars, bars with views, an Italian fusion restaurant and African cuisine

Corto Reopening

After closing down in October, lakeside chill out spot Corto has reopened under new management. The second incarnation of the café / bar has kept the interior the same, while adding more sofa chairs outside, along the front of the lake. Corto plays a selection of hip hop and jazz, and is an ideal spot to chill out while watching the sun set over West Lake. The menu has been upgraded to include a comprehensive coffee selection as well as teas, smoothies and fruit juices. Four beers are available including Platinum and an IPA, and they’ll soon be serving a variety of baguettes, snacks and even some Malagasy cuisine. On warmer days they’ll also have a BBQ. Currently in the soft opening phase, Corto will have a grand reopening in March. Corto is located at 162 Tu Hoa Cong Chua, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Opening hours are 10am to midnight.

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Soul Bar Located on Dang Thai Mai, Soul Bar is a jazz and blues bar with a busy schedule of live music and carefully curated playlists dedicated to the worlds of jazz, blues, folk, soul and swing. Owners Jeremy and Hien, also involved in Quest festival, opened the bar last month with a packed out party, serving cocktails, wine and beers. Live music is to be expected weekly, and the bar team are trained to whip up tasty cocktails, at affordable prices. The entertainment schedule has so far

Cana de Azucar

Sat on Truc Bach Lake, just down from Standing Bar, is Cana de Azucar. The name is Spanish for sugarcane — a fitting name for a rum bar. The menu has a section dedicated to rum which includes Havana Club 7-years for VND75,000 a glass, Captain Morgan’s Spiced for VND65,000 and Kraken Dark Spiced for VND115,000. Cigars can also be purchased at the bar. Also on the menu is a good sized selection of tiki cocktails, all for VND90,000. Truc Bach beer is VND25,000 per bottle, and house wine is VND110,000 a glass. On Wednesdays and Thursdays all rums are buy one get one free, all day. Every day from noon till 5pm all drinks are 20% off, and every day 5pm to 9pm all wines are half price. There’s also a small but to the point food menu, serving Caribbean steaks, sandwiches and pasta dishes, all for reasonable prices. Co-owner Chau plans to expand the menu to include more high quality rums, as well as more tropical cocktails. Cana de Azucar is located at 126 Tran Vu, Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Hanoi. Opening hours are 12pm to midnight, every day.

included nights such as psychedelic jazz, playing a collection of 60s/70s avante garde jazz and a future jazz night, which focused on jazz / hip hop crossovers. They’ve also hosted a ‘gypsy & Balkan bonanza’ which included live music and DJs playing gypsy, Balkan and folk music. With a management that have close ties to the music scene in Hanoi, you can expect Soul Bar to continue hosting live performances into the new year. Soul Bar is located at 21, Alley 12, Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Opening hours are 9am to 1am.

Metropole Named in Condé Nast Traveler Gold List 2018

Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi has made Condé Nast Traveler’s highly influential list of the best hotels in the world for 2018. The property was hailed as the top hotel in Hanoi by the editors of the American travel publication. Spanning six continents and 54 countries, the annual Condé Nast Traveler Gold List 2018 recognises hotels around the world that editors and contributors of the publication visit time and time again, and talk about about long after checkout. In October 2017, the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi emerged from voting, by more than 300,000 readers of Condé Nast Traveler, as the 21st best hotel in Asia.

Ciao 40

Italian cuisine fused with oriental flavours. That’s the concept behind the recently opened Italian fusion restaurant, Ciao 40. Located in Trung Hoa inside the space occupied by Gardenista Café — a shop inside a shop, so to speak — the cuisine here is cooked up by executive chef, WJ Lee. All the dishes are put together using top quality ingredients and cooking techniques. Ciao 40 is located at B40 Nguyen Thi Dinh, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi

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Highway4 New Menu

Vietnamese restaurant Highway4 has introduced a new menu, offering more Vietnamese style dishes, and an insect section — for those brave diners out there. Highway4 serves up cuisine from all corners of Vietnam, with the aim of bringing the country’s palate to your plate. The new menu has done away with some of the least popular dishes, while adding new ones such as Phan Thiet baby squid stuffed with pork (VND155,000), rice eel served with chilli and salt (VND130,000), and pork and ant eggs served with rice crackers (VND98,000). Other new additions include the Highway #25 cocktail (VND70,000) made with tamarind juice, Son Tinh liquor and salted ants, and the Burning Man cocktail (VND50,000) — rosemary infused red plum liquor. Highway4 is located at 5 Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi; 25 Bat Su, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi; 101 Tran Thai Tong, Cau Giay. Hanoi; 575 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Hanoi.

African Cuisine — Home Delivery

African Cuisine serves home cooked Nigerian dishes and delivers them to your door. Nigerian born Evans Osinga lived in Malaysia for ten years prior to settling in Hanoi, and it was there that his friends started suggesting that he open a restaurant. When Evans moved to Hanoi, the lack of availability of African-style food or spices drove Evans to take his friends up on their suggestion. At the moment African Cuisine doesn’t have a restaurant venue, instead all meals are cooked fresh and delivered to your door. Popular dishes include jollof rice (VND80,000), egusi soup (VND80,000) and moi moi (VND50,000). Vegetarian options are also available. Evans started cooking when he was five years old, assisting his mother in the kitchen, nowadays he is passionate about sharing the food of his country with anyone who wants to try it. You can place your orders via the Facebook page — African Cuisine or call 01659 911721.

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Street Portrait: ma may / doug stanhope / make 'em laugh, make 'em cry, make 'em wait / the helmet law / epizode / my van than / banh hoi

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insider street portrait


Ma May One of the most intensely busy streets of the Old Quarter, when it comes to eating, drinking, buying and selling, Ma May stands all on its own. Words by Billy Gray. Photos by Marcus Lacey

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insider street portrait

Hang Ma, Hang May

Originally two small streets called Hang Ma and Hang May, what is now a melting pot of entertainment and local cuisine was, in the past, a centre of local trade and commerce. The streets were located on the banks of the Red River, close to a pier. Nowadays the river bank has been built over and is much further back from the street. At the turn of the 19th century the two streets were combined to make Ma May. It was famous for selling products made from rattan and bamboo. During the French occupation, the street was renamed again to Quan Co Den (black flag street). It was a hub of trade between local and foreign businessmen. Today, there’s lots of evidence of the street’s past. Many of the colonial era buildings still stand, including the famous ‘ancient house’ — a popular tourist destination. The Ancient House located at 87 Ma May was built in the 19th century and used as a private residence

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by a shopkeeper’s family. In the mid-20th century the house was requisitioned by the authorities, and used to house five families until being converted into a museum in 1999. It was in 1999 that Ma May began to transform into what we now see today. After the opening up of the economy Vietnam’s tourism began growing, particularly in the form of unshaven backpackers in flip-flops.

Eat, Drink, Sleep, Repeat

Ma May has transformed into a nightlife hotspot with practically every other shop selling bia hoi on the street for VND5,000 a glass. Throw that into the mix alongside the infamous Bia Hoi Corner and a multitude of bars and restaurants, and you have yourself one of Hanoi’s best locations to feast and drink the night away. Of course, with beer flowing that cheap, it's no surprise that the street quickly got colonized by young budget travellers, and Ma May is now abuzz with slurred variations of English. The presence of naïve travellers who don't know the local currency value well enough has also made it a hotspot for shoe-shiners, children selling small wares, and old ladies selling stale doughnuts. Take up a seat outside any one of the street’s BBQ joints, street food stores or bars

Having such a concentration of locals, travellers and tourists in one place ensures that there’s enough of a market for just about every business going.


nce a thriving centre of local trade and commerce, Ma May Street is now synonymous with nightlife, street food, and hordes of backpackers. This is the Old Quarter’s beating heart, and on Friday night its pulse is high. | February 2018 Word | 41


Having such a concentration of locals, travellers and tourists in one place ensures that there’s enough of a market for just about every business going. Postcards, jewellery, Bia Hanoi t-shirts, beads, lighters, wallets, chewing gum, conical hats, banana patterned shirts… all of it can be purchased here. Expect some

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serious haggling to take place unless you’re comfortable paying VND200,000 for a lighter that’ll break after the first few uses. Taking shelter in one of Ma May’s many souvenir shops reveals a story about Vietnam that you can’t read on the streets. Handmade clothes from the Hmong tribe are sold in several stores, alongside supposedly ancient coins, and an array of decorative pipes, knives, chess sets and more. It’s often easy to dismiss these shops as just selling the same old tourist tat — but upon closer inspection you never know what you might find.

Social Melting Pot

For many locals and expats in Hanoi, Ma May is a place to go and meet new people. It’s not uncommon to join tables together at a streetside bia hoi. Locals often visit the area with the intention of meeting some international buddies, and of course, there’s always a sizeable bunch on both sides looking to get lucky. In recent years, much of the Old Quarter has begun to look similar to Ma May. The increasing amount of tourism in the area and the growing local demand for nightlife is, for better or worse, turning much of Hoan Kiem into a designated party zone every weekend. Ma May was one of the earlier developments of this trend, and has managed to hold on to its own unique personality.

Today, there’s lots of evidence of the street’s past. Many of the colonial era buildings still stand, including the famous ‘ancient house’ — a popular tourist destination.

and make a note of how many times you’re approached by someone stubbornly trying to sell you something — increase one level for every 10 times you’re approached. Ma May’s street food is generally a good bet, with a range of different spots selling local delicacies such as hot pot, stir fried noodles and Vietnamese steak with egg. If you’re looking for something with more of a gourmet touch then The Blue Butterfly (69 Ma May) and Duong’s Restaurant (101 Ma May) both serve up elegant Vietnamese cuisine. Both have extensive wine lists and a cooking class. Prices here are more mid-range, but are still cheap in comparison to other restaurants in town of the same standard. Ma May is a truly Vietnamese street. The food is local, the drinks are local, and the atmosphere perfectly captures Hanoi at its most hectic. Yet if you want a romantic evening in Ma May, the selection of restaurants and cafés such as Cong Café (54 Ma May) and the vintage Nola Café next to the ancient house are there to cater for you. | February 2018 Word | 43

insider many faces

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Doug Stanhope In mid-March, audiences are set for an amazing night of comedy when America’s very own ‘Deadbeat Hero’ brings his acerbic wit to Saigon. Words by Nick Ross. Photos by Brian Hennigan.


hil Nichol, John Robertson, JoJo Smith, Phil Kay, Gina Yashere, Dana Alexander, Andre King, Ron Josol. Comedy-going audiences in Hanoi and HCMC have been blessed with some fine comedians over the past year. Yet when veteran US comic Doug Stanhope appears on Wednesday, Mar. 14 at Caravelle Saigon, they will be treated to something on a different level. Stanhope is a true comedic superstar. But not a superstar in the traditional sense — this man is a visionary, someone with the ability to twist logic and make it logical, and to communicate dark irony that takes on the meaning of truth. There’s no celebrity or photos on showbiz websites, no hyped-up chatter, or magazine gossip about his latest podcasts or Tweets. Instead he’s the anti-celebrity. Famed for his smoking and his penchant

for vodka, club soda and grapefruit juice, his humour does something remarkable. He takes a banal subject, twists it and paints that same topic in a completely different way. Outrageous, darkly funny, confrontational and at times grotesque, it is a persona that has kept audiences laughing for almost 30 years. His quotes tell the story: If you really believe that death leads to eternal bliss, then why are you wearing a seatbelt? Life is like animal porn. It’s not for everyone. At least black people knew when they were slaves; you remain clueless. Put your camera away, you stupid… tourist of life! There’s a whole generation of shitheads just filming every… thing they do. ‘I’m gonna film my entire life and watch it later!’ So when, after waiting for 10 days I get my interview with Doug Stanhope, I am jangling with nerves.

On Tour

It’s 2am my time when I speak to Doug and I’ve taken the advice of his manager. “Call him on the phone, don’t use Skype. He hates the delay… Talk to him about Vietnam… Try and get him in a conversation. He likes conversations.” I start with Vietnam, tell him about the Magners-sponsored comedy festival and the amateur comedy competition that has been running here, but we get stuck. The only material he’s ever done related to this country is about Vietnam Vets. “You got f**ked over by your own government and then you wear a hat, celebrating it?” So we move onto his forthcoming tour of Asia — at present the material he’s writing for it is “a work in progress”. By the time he finally gets on the stage in Singapore in early March, except for three warm-up gigs in San Diego, he “won’t have performed for five months.” | February 2018 Word | 45

He adds: “Maybe I should enter that [amateur comedy competition you] talked about so that it can motivate me.” He’s on a roll. “You know, I’m afraid to bring prescription drugs on this trip,” he continues. “In some places you get beheaded for having drugs. Prescription? Well, they don’t recognise that here. Wait, I have a layover in Malaysia and they search your bags. I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of nervous breakfasts.” “But I love long flights,” he continues. “I went to Singapore last year to get air miles. I never left the airport. So, I walked around, stretched my legs, Changi is always voted the best airport. Had a cocktail and got on a flight back home.” So, what else do you like about touring, I start to ask, but he’s in full flow. “I always get a comfort from sleeping while I’m moving. Whether it’s on a train or as a teenager in the back of a tracker trailer, it gives you a sense of progress while you’re doing nothing at all. And I love that. I really love doing nothing, except for

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the guilt. With flying you feel like you’ve accomplished a goal while you were getting drunk and taking Xanax. Hey I’m here! I made it!” Do you enjoy going to different places, seeing different venues? “No, I never leave the airport! I just love to be on long-distance flights. I sleep better than anywhere else. I don’t do anything and I don’t have any interests. I mean, I don’t need to climb Machu Picchu, I can just look at a picture! “You know when I travel, I like to find a good bar. And I don’t like to eat, because I don’t want to take any chances.” So no streetfood then? “Well, if you’re hammered enough, you’d do it as a dare.” He continues: “I mean these rules apply for the UK as much as they do Vietnam. When I’m in London I call Subway the embassy because I know I can eat it. I mean if I go out to dinner, take a chance and it’s awful, I still have to drink on an empty stomach during a show, and that’s not going to be good.

New Material

Over the next half hour we meander through a range of topics. In the moments when the comedy stops, Doug admits that he’s struggling with writing material about the #MeToo campaign. He’s also avoided all talk about Trump — simply because everyone’s doing it and it bores him. I mention to him a piece he did about the BBC series, Have I Got News For You, in a recent tour of the UK. Someone from the programme’s team wrote Doug an email trying to blag tickets for his show “with a view on getting his availability for the upcoming series. Is it possible to ask for six tickets?” “No,” he shouts to the audience having read out the email. “You’ve got a TV show. It makes me sick what media has to do to panhandle for tickets.” I’ve now watched the clip a number of times. It never fails to make me laugh.


As 3am nears and my concentration wanes, a strange thought crosses my mind. What’s he wearing? Is he sitting there in his underwear wearing a jacket, shirt and tie like in one of his press photos, with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other? Is he shaven or unshaven? Is he at home in his office, sat behind an iMac surrounded by his own personal library, or is he relaxing outdoors on an armchair on an empty road in the desert like in his The Voice of America clips? Some of the stuff Doug has said to me over the past 45 minutes is true — the normal subject matter of interviews — but most of it is comedy and much is ad-libbed. I’ve been given my very own one-man show. I’ve used the word before and I’ll use it again. It’s a treat. Doug will bring his one-man show to Caravelle Saigon on Wednesday, Mar. 14 as part of the Magners International Comedy Festival. For ticketing information, click on or

Outrageous, darkly funny, confrontational and at times grotesque, [Stanhope's] persona has kept audiences laughing for almost 30 years.

“Now when it comes to cocktails, I’ll take more chances than with food. Because I can always order another cocktail.” | February 2018 Word | 47

Make 'Em Laugh Make 'Em Cry Make 'Em Wait 48 | Word February 2018 |

It's taken a bit of time, but Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City now have a comedy scene. Amateur comics are taking to the stage to appreciative audiences while international gagmeisters continue to fly into this country in an attempt to bring down the house. With a festival on the horizon, a countrywide amateur comedy competition and some big names about to grace the stages of Vietnam, a lot is happening when it comes to comedy. Here's a lowdown on this burgeoning scene | February 2018 Word | 49


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The Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition In early January, Heart of Darkness brewery sponsored the heats of the third annual Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition. For the wider comedy scene, this year’s tournament marked a watershed. Words by Billy Gray and Nick Ross | February 2018 Word | 51



hen Vietnamese comedian Uy Le came first in the 2018 Ho Chi Minh City heats of the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition in early January, there was a sense of jubilation. Uy had performed in the competition for two years running and had finished in the top three each time. This time round marked a watershed. He had come first. Yet he remains modest. “Three years ago I started as an outsider, particularly with the language and the cultural nuances,” he says. “I have worked hard to improve what I bring to the stage.” What makes this special is that here you have a Vietnamese

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comedian performing stand-up comedy in his non-native language, English.

A Growing Presence

In terms of Vietnamese comics, Uy wasn’t alone. In the Ho Chi Minh City heats, which were organized by Saigon International Comedy, Vu Minh Tu finished an excellent third, while in Hanoi, put on by Stand-Up Hanoi, another seasoned Vietnamese performer, Nguyen Tuan Anh (Alex) came second. Although none of these comics has made the transition from amateur to professional — the scene in this country is still in its infancy — over time the opportunity is certainly there. Head to places like Singapore,

and comedians such as Jinx Yeo, Rishi Budhrani, Fakkah Fuzz and Sharul Channa have emerged out of the local scene. This is to name but a few. Then there are pro comics like Turner Sparks (US), William Childress (US) and Brian Aylward (CAN) who cut their teeth in the comedy scenes in this region. Yet in Vietnam, stand-up comedy remains unassuming. Unlike Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong, there are no dedicated comedy clubs. Until three years ago, the comedy festivals overlooked Vietnam, and even now the focus of this year’s Magners International Comedy Festival in March and April is Ho Chi Minh City. The promoters tend to put on shows once a month, and while | February 2018 Word | 53


some big professional names are starting to come through this country — most recently Phil Kay, Jojo Smith, Phil Nicol and Gina Yashere — audiences are still small. The most Saigon International Comedy has ever managed to get through the door is 180. Normally they hope for 80 to 120. Stand-Up Hanoi shoots for similar audience numbers. Yet the tide is turning for this hemmed-in little haven of organised chaos. It was around 2011 that comedy in Vietnam started to take its first steps, with amateur comedy emerging in Saigon and two promoters in Hanoi and Saigon bringing in pro comics from overseas. Since then it’s grown from

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strength to strength, with international acts allowing amateurs to increase exposure, and new nights at venues around Hanoi and Saigon giving much needed stage time to comedians.

Laughs, Sweat and Tears

It’s Friday, Jan. 12 and 22 amateur comedians are preparing to take to the stage at Standing Bar in Hanoi. The tournament sponsor, Heart of Darkness, has done a tap takeover, with 19 of their finest craft beers flowing through the pumps. What could possibly go wrong? Grown men and women getting up on stage to talk about fisting, sea horses and religion… that’s what. “The comedy scene, like most things in Hanoi, is very fluid,” says

Nathan Sproule, winner of the Hanoi heats at last year’s Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition. “It changes all the time, but that’s because people change all the time.” “Lots of new evenings are being set up by people all over,” he continues, “and more of us are starting to do the open mics at various events around town. “It’s a very safe audience for comedy. People seem to appreciate it a lot that you have a talent and are generally getting on board with you.”

Sky is the Limit

Stand-Up Hanoi together with Saigon International Comedy have been booking international acts for a number of years. By allowing amateur comics to perform on the

The Results The top three comedians from each city will perform in the finals to be held at Standing Bar in Hanoi on Friday, Mar. 9

Ho Chi Minh City

First place — Uy Le Second place — Keith Howard Third place — Vu Minh Tu


First place — Glyn Richards Second place — Nguyen Tuan Anh (Alex) Third place — Sara Butryn | February 2018 Word | 55


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same stage as seasoned pros, this has helped the local scene get recognition, and much needed stage time. “The scene’s still embryonic, but it’s giving birth around now,” says Dan Dockery, the founder of Stand-Up Hanoi. “We’ve had a phenomenal year. A lot of people regionally were like, ‘How the hell did you do that?’” The most fundamental reason for the scene growing so quickly is the promoters and comedians that keep putting on more shows, or perhaps it’s down to the audiences who keep showing up, getting drunk, and laughing at dick jokes. “The fact that there are willing audiences is the most important thing,” says Fred Le, a contender at the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition in Hanoi. “So, people doing comedy are encouraged to keep doing it. Without audiences, we wouldn’t do it.”

If the present is anything to go by, then the future of comedy in this country is bright. The talent displayed by the 34 amateur comedians who graced the stage in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City at last month’s competition is evidence enough. Now the top three comedians from each city have to think about performing in the finals which will be held at Standing Bar in Hanoi on Friday, Mar. 9. “I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous),” says Uy Le. “I’m expecting a night full of surprises, as I’ve heard that the comedians from Hanoi have very unique styles. It’s also a great chance for me to immerse myself in a new scene. I can’t wait.” For more information on the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition, go to the Facebook page of Stand-Up Hanoi or Saigon International Comedy. The tournament is sponsored by Heart of Darkness.

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makers and shakers The growth of the comedy scene comes down to the work of a number of individuals in both Hanoi and Saigon. Here are a few of them.


Dan Dockery Promoter Hanoi


ince settling in Hanoi 20 years ago, Dan Dockery has been prolific in bringing performers to the stage. From international musicians and DJs as a member of CAMA, to magicians and comics who performed House of Son Tinh, CAMA ATK and now Standing Bar. Here is a man who’s been nurturing Hanoi’s live entertainment two decades. However, although he’s been bringing in comedians from overseas since 2011 — the first headliner was Roger Rooney — Dan only started backing the comedy scene two years ago when he made the decision to

brand his comedy nights under Stand-Up Hanoi.

Supporting the Local Scene

Since the formation of Hanoi’s premier comedy promoting vehicle, Dan has been busy booking international comedians to perform in the city, as well as helping amateurs based in Hanoi to get stage time. The bottom line is that he respects the comedy as an art, which is what comedians want in a promoter. “I’d never talk anyone down who’s been on stage,” says Dan. “It’s not something I’d do.” Dockery’s ambition for the future of comedy in Hanoi is to bring more Vietnamese into the circuit, both as audience members and performers. “For comedy to develop in Vietnam it’s essential to harness the local community,”

says Dan. “It was great to see one of the Vietnamese comedians [at the Hanoi heats of the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition] in the top three.”

Plans for the Future

Dan and the team at Stand-Up Hanoi have earnt the respect of the comedians in Hanoi for their efforts in supporting the scene, but in his own eyes, there’s still a way to go yet. “Everyone who comes to one of these shows wants to come back,” says Dan. “A few drinks with your mates and a good craic, what’s not to love? The biggest problem is getting people to come down for the first time.” — Billy Gray For info, visit the Stand-Up Hanoi Facebook page. Stand-Up Hanoi will host the finals of the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition on Friday, Mar. 9 at Standing Bar. The competition is sponsored by Heart of Darkness.


keith howard comedian / Promoter saigon


n a brief sentence, American comic Keith Howard describes himself as a contrarian who likes to cook, especially Texanstyle ribs. It’s somewhat a surprising choice given that he’s been doing stand-up since 2014, making the 35-year old a veteran on Saigon’s emerging comedy scene. “I started doing stand-up in Brisbane because the only thing that’s free to do there is open-mic at places like the Paddo Tavern, Stone’s Corner and Logan, but it was horrible,” he recalls of his time as a university student short on cash. “The first time I ever hosted was my 10th gig and it was in Logan where an Australian farm ‘lady’ threw her muddy boot at my head. This was five minutes into the show. There

was another hour and a half to go.” While having a muddy boot tossed at him remains the most extreme an audience member has gone to express their sentiment at one of Keith’s shows, he is wellaccustomed to being heckled while performing. “I always get heckled, everywhere. My humour bothers people, not because it’s rude, but because it’s odd.”

On the Podium

Despite his claim, however, Keith recently enjoyed a heckle-free night at Saigon International Comedy’s amateur comedy competition at Heart of Darkness when he came runner-up from a roster of 12 comics in front of a packed house. His brief five-minute

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routine had the hallmarks of a seasoned campaigner, drawing laughs at regular intervals and eventually turning out to be one of the highlight performances of the night. “I like the crowds here, they’re fun and you can get away with anything here, unlike in America where you can’t get away with anything any more. When you say you can’t do this or you can’t do that, it tends to kill the originality of it and people just end up doing Trump jokes again, and again, and again.” — Matt Cowan Keith Howard runs the monthly Johama Comedy Night (Johama Bar, 341 Cao Dat, Q5, HCMC). His next show will be in March and will be headlined by Mary Bourke and Simon Clayton. For more info, follow Keithy Howard on Facebook.


adam palmeter comedian / Promoter saigon


f all the comics that have passed through Ho Chi Minh City in the last couple of years that American comic and artist Adam Palmeter has MCd for, three names stand out. “Phil Nichol, John Robertson and Gina Yashere,” he says. “Phil was on 1,000% for his entire set. He has charisma that’s so natural, he could’ve sold a car to everyone in that crowd. John Robertson’s Dark Room show was an incredibly successful blend of crowd interaction, character development and comedy all infused with technology. His dedication to his vision and performance are topnotch and I had a chance backstage to discuss it with him as he prepared.

And Gina is one of the coolest comics working. It’s something special to see someone who seemingly doesn’t have to try. That’s when you are in the presence of something great.”

From Korea With Love

It all started for Adam in Seoul in 2011 where he began hosting shows and doing comedy, but it wasn’t until he started producing shows in New York City that it became a regular gig. “After moving to Saigon, I started booking shows so more comedians could get consistent stage time to improve, including myself,” he says. “I kind of forced hosting everything on myself. Surprisingly, it’s been fairly tame in my experience. When I’m hosting, I personally don’t mind

hecklers to a point. Most of the time I can do something funny off it, but when someone keeps chiming in on every joke, I want to hit them with a chair.” During his time here, Adam has had a front-row seat watching the development of local comics like 19-year-old Phuc Nguyen, who speaks like he’s from Missouri, but has never left Vietnam. “I’d keep my eyes peeled for him,” says Adam. “I think as locals go, his English skills and grasp of Western comedy is just about the best and his writing is consistently getting better.”— Matt Cowan Adam is shortly leaving Vietnam, but you can keep track of Adam as he embarks on his trip across Europe by clicking on | February 2018 Word | 63


ben betterby comedian / promoter saigon


merican comedian Ben Betterby first took to the Ho Chi Minh City stage in 2012. Since then, despite other promoters and comedians trying to take up the comedic mantle, the person who is here all these years later is Ben. In the process he has single-handedly had the most influence on the amateur comedy scene in Saigon. “A friend, Dan Murray, and I came here in 2012 and saw that there weren’t any comedy shows,” he recalls. “We started putting them on under the name of Stand-Up Saigon. He left two years later, and I began running workshops to find other people who were interested in performing.”

Working the Audience

The focus on the workshops has paid off — in particular in terms of audience numbers. “Our first 10 shows had less than 10 people,” says James. Now under the moniker of Comedy Saigon, his regular shows at Pingoling draw in crowds of 100. The workshops have also helped create a growing quorum of Vietnam-based, amateur comedians. “[The workshops] help people discover their own voice in the art form of stand-up comedy,” explains Ben, who works in the ELT profession during the day. “They are set up in a ‘zero to hero’ style that introduces participants to the

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basics of stand-up and prepares them for their first performance.” Over the past year the workshops have encouraged participations by Vietnamese. It’s a strategy that’s paid off. Two of the top three comics in this year’s Saigon heats of the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition were local. Despite his foray into the world of comedy workshops, Ben still has a passion for being on stage. “I love having the opportunity to be in a room full of strangers, all laughing at the same time,” he says. — Nick Ross For more information on Comedy Saigon’s workshops and shows, click on | February 2018 Word | 65


sara butryn comedian / Promoter Hanoi



t’s a boys’ club,” says Sara Butryn, runner-up in last month’s Hanoi amateur comedy heats, when asked about her biggest challenge performing stand up. “There have been a few women in and out, which is wonderful, but right now the only one who’s performing regularly.” Sara arrived in Vietnam in August 2016, and spent the first 10 months of her time here living 120 miles northwest of Hanoi in Viet Tri, travelling to Hanoi on weekends to perform comedy.

Journey to the Stage

“Before coming to Vietnam I was in a long-distance relationship in the US. I was supposed to move to California after finishing my master’s degree,” says Sara. “I hadn’t really thought much about what I was doing after grad school, and then we broke up.” “I was going [to a comedy club] two or three times a week because it was the only thing that was making me feel better, and then I started writing, and then one day I was like, ah, let’s do this.” Setting comedy as her creative goal, Sara later moved to Vietnam where she now runs the monthly event Mouth Off, which brings a number of comedians to the stage, hosted by a different musician every month.


Since relocating to Hanoi last year, Sara has been a prominent figure in the city’s standup circuit, regularly performing at events on top of running Mouth Off. As a female comedian Sara is in the minority. “You know, it’s not very often you get a woman who says, ‘I’m so confident and I have 10 minutes worth of things that everybody wants to hear’,” she says. But although outnumbered, she remains undaunted and makes up for lack of numbers with raw comedic talent. She has quickly become a respected figure on Hanoi’s comedy scene. — Billy Gray.

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glyn richards comedian Hanoi


n early January Glyn Richards, from Southampton, UK took first prize in the Hanoi heats for the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition. This means that he’ll be one of the six comedians to go head to head in the finals — to be held in Hanoi in March. Glyn owes his victory to his alter-ego, Henry the Seahorse. Henry is a seahorse who faces ridicule from his aquatic mates due to the fact that he is a male who can get pregnant. Henry the Seahorse endures the torment until he can take no more, finally telling his mates to eff off, much to the amusement of the packed audience in Standing Bar. “The seahorse part was actually one of the first routines I did, but it never had any punch-lines,” says Glyn. “Now it has three strong finishes that build on each other.”

The Society


Glyn got his first taste of stand-up as a student and has become increasingly involved in the Hanoi comedy scene since arriving in the city last September. “Southampton University had a comedy society and I’d embarrassed myself in front of them, so I went away and wrote some jokes to prove that I wasn’t a prat,” says Glyn. Glyn’s routine shook the roof off at the tournament and earnt him VND5 million prize money in the process. “I’m looking forward to seeing how Alex, Sara and I [the top three in Hanoi] compare to the Saigon lot in March. It’ll be a good show,” says Glyn. We can only speculate what other wildlife will be brought into Glyn’s riotous routine in the next round. Perhaps Henry the Seahorse will make another appearance. — Billy Gray. | February 2018 Word | 67

Vu Minh Tu comedian / Saigon


u Minh Tu, or Tu as she prefers to be known on-stage, is one of the new batch of female Vietnamese comics beginning to shine on Saigon’s comedy scene. The diminutive 30-year-old from Saigon only recently took up stand-up after she was introduced to it by fellow Vietnamese comic Uy Le. “I met Uy Le when we were doing some yoga and meditation workshops together and we became friends,” she explains. “I asked him if there was anything fun to do so that I could feel better about myself and could help me with public speaking. He told me there was something perfect for me.” After completing one of Ben Betterby’s courses, Tu hit the stage at an open-mic night and has since built a reputation for what she calls “aggressive humour”.

Taking on the Audience

On stage, Tu demands attention with her acerbic wit and no-holds-barred confrontational approach towards the audience. In a recent performance at the heats of the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Competition at Heart of Darkness — where she placed third among 12 other comics — Tu squared off at the audience at one point by calling them “f***ers” and told them to stop bitching about their love lives. She’s not afraid to tee off on white, expat males, either. “I used to think men were quite complex, but they’re not, they are as simple-minded as,” she says. “But it doesn’t mean that they’re not smart. Men are super smart. They just operate in a way that’s so predictable it’s hard to imagine.” Tu’s material signals a refreshing departure from meek personas and cutesy repartee that aims to win the hearts and minds of audiences that are largely Englishspeaking and foreign. — Matt Cowan.



joe Nguyen promoter/ Saigon


hen Joe Nguyen went to the gala night at the 2017 instalment of the Magners International Comedy Festival, he was blown away. Five comedians took to the stage in an extravaganza of laughter that despite Joe’s international upbringing — he is halfVietnamese, half-Malay and went to university in Hong Kong — he’d yet to encounter. Since then, thanks to his close relationship with Nick Ross, the founder of Saigon International Comedy (SIC), he’s become involved in the scene. He now does the logistics for SIC, meeting and greeting comedians at the airport, looking after them while they’re in town, selling tickets and running the shows on the night. It’s a departure for this 20-something Saigon socialite who by trade is an accounting auditor. “No-one believes me when I tell them what I do,” says Joe. Yet, it’s a departure that he loves. “I love my role in putting on these shows,” he says. “It’s a challenge and can often be quite tough, especially when I have to sort things out in difficult circumstances. But at the end of it you have the shows, and the audience laughing, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.”

Making 'Em Laugh

Key, however, is the comedy. “I love the colourful way the comedians bring entertainment to the audience,” he says. “Their jokes are based on their character, culture, life experience and lifestyle. So, each of them brings unique colour to the stage.” In the past year, however, two comedians have stood out for Joe. “I loved Phil Kay,” he says. Phil Kay performed in Saigon and Hanoi in November 2017. “He’s a man from the 1960s living in 2018 — he doesn’t even have a cellphone. It’s just him and his guitar and he can make you laugh for hours.” The other comic is the much-loved British stand-up, Gina Yashere, who performed in January. “I collected her and her best friend, Lyla, at the airport. The three of us just clicked. It was very funny.” For more information on Saigon International Comedy, click on saigoninternationalcomedy.

The Festival For the third year running, in March and April Ho Chi Minh City will play host to the Magners International Comedy Festival. This year the extravaganza will be bigger and better than ever. Words by Nick Ross

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Doug Stanhope


t’s March 2017 and the ballroom in Caravelle Saigon has been set up with theatre-style seating and a stage. The organisers wait on, nervous. Thumbs twiddle. Stomachs rumble. Beads of sweat appear on foreheads. Will they have a full house, or will this show, the gala show of the 2017 edition of the Magners International Comedy Festival be only half full? Despite reasonable advance ticket sales, it’s impossible to tell. Stand-up comedy in Vietnam is in its infancy and has so far only played to small audiences — the largest head count to ever attend a show in Vietnam was 180. Now the organisers are aiming to more than double that to 400. As the audience turns up, the concerns evaporate. The ballroom is filling up, even though it’s a Wednesday night. And as the comedians take to the stage — Lars Calleiou, Matthew Giffen, Dana Alexander, Andre King and John Robertson — the

atmosphere of anticipation turns to one of laughter, hysterics, mirth, joy and fun. At the end of the night everyone leaves the venue with a smile on their face. The first theatrestyle comedy show in Vietnam has been a resounding success.

Growing the Scene

Co-organiser of this year’s festival, Aidan Killian, has seen the development of comedy scenes in Southeast Asia first hand. Quitting a lucrative banking job in Tokyo 10 years ago to take up stand-up comedy, he initially returned to Ireland to cut his teeth in the local scene. Yet so fed up was he with scrambling for five and 10-minute slots that he eventually set up his own club, a 50-seater venue in Dublin called the Anseo Comedy Club that still runs to this day. Then four years ago a family bereavement saw him move to Bangkok. “My uncle who lived in Thailand passed away,” he explains. “So, I came out to sort | February 2018 Word | 73


British comic Bill Bailey

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Tom Rhodes Thengiwe Mosely

out his affairs. That took a year. While I was sorting out his stuff I started looking for gigs, but there was very little at the time. There was one comedy club in Bangkok where I performed — I was their first ever international headliner. They would run shows every three months or if anyone was passing through.” Now just three years later, Bangkok is host to weekly gigs and last November the city held its first fringe festival, which was headlined by Joe Rooney of Father Ted fame, Phil Kay and Danny O’ Brien, and was organised by Aidan. “I love comedy, I care about comedy,” he says. “I like to see it run really well. So, for me [organising festivals is the] dream job.”

This Year’s Shows

For Aidan, the 2018 edition of the Magner’s International Comedy Festival, which will be held in March and April across seven countries, is not only the chance to instil this passion on the stand-up scene in the region, but more importantly is the opportunity to provide great entertainment. To do this, he’s putting on four shows in Ho Chi Minh City, all at Caravelle Saigon. On Monday, Apr. 2, Saigon will host the regional finals of the Magners International Comedy Competition, with amateur comedians representing Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Bangkok. The show will be headlined by South African comic, Thengiwe Mosely, who Aidan describes as “a sensation”. He adds: “She’s got millions

of hits online and is a funny, funny woman.” This will be followed on the Tuesday by the gala show which will include Thengiwe as well as other huge acts: Tom Rhodes (US), Craig Campbell (Canada), Carvin Goldstone (South Africa), Aidan himself and possibly one or two more acts who have yet to be announced. And then on the Wednesday, a one-man show with the phenomenal British comic Bill Bailey, a musician and stand-up who is presently one of the top comedians in the world. This is not to forget the little matter of an additional show two weeks earlier on Wednesday, Mar. 14 with one of the comedic geniuses of the modern age — Doug Stanhope. For the audiences, says Aidan, this festival is huge. “They may every month or every three months get the opportunity to see one, big headliner act,” he explains. “But when do they see three massive international headliners all at once, or four or five, like at the gala show, people who’ve done hourlong shows all over the world?” He adds: “That would be like going to the Edinburgh festival, and getting to see five great comedians. But instead of having to do that, you can see the best of Edinburgh right at home in Saigon.” To read more about Doug Stanhope, please turn to page 42. Further information on the festival can be found at or

the schedule A Night with Doug Stanhope

Wednesday, Mar. 14 Tickets from VND700,000 Available via or facebook. com/saigoninternationalcomedy

Magners International Comedy Competition: The Regional Finals

Monday, Apr. 2 Tickets VND200,000 (in advance) / VND300,000 Available via saigoninternationalcomedy

The Gala Show

Featuring Craig Campbell, Tom Rhodes and Thengiwe Mosely Tuesday, Apr. 3 Tickets VND400,000 (in advance) / VND600,000 Available via saigoninternationalcomedy

A Night with Bill Bailey

Wednesday, Apr. 4 Tickets from VND800,000 (in advance) Available via saigoninternationalcomedy | February 2018 Word | 75

insider feature


The Helmet Law: Ten Years On In December 2017, the helmet law came into effect. A decade later, and there’s still headroom to grow. Words by Mary Warner


raffic was at a standstill. Pedestrian spectators pointed their phones at a grisly scene; a motorcycle had t-boned a car. A spider web of glass across the car’s windshield revealed the point of impact. Based on the severe damage to the car and mangled frame of the motorcycle, there should have been blood, but there wasn’t. A motorcycle helmet perched on the hood of the car may have explained why. According to a bulletin published in 2009 by the World Health Organization, wearing a helmet in Vietnam reduces the risk of death by 42%. Since Vietnam introduced the helmet law 10 years ago, AIP Foundation has estimated more than 15,000 fatalities and 500,000 injuries have been prevented, and those figures continue to grow. The road to preventing fatalities and injuries has been long and riddled with obstacles,

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but with the support of organizations like AIP Foundation and the Center for Global Development, individuals, government agencies — and even unsuspecting partners — 100% use of helmets is on the horizon.

Malleable Minds

Fifteen years ago, Tram Mai’s uncle was driving around Hanoi on his motorcycle. He was involved in a collision and fell off of his bike. For two years, a head injury that he sustained during the accident resulted in severe pain. Then one day, he suddenly died. “He wasn’t wearing a helmet when he was in the accident,” explained Tram, now 26, who wears her helmet everywhere she goes. A few years later, on December 15, 2007, the Vietnamese government enacted Resolution 32, which is more commonly known as the helmet law. Key features of the

law included a five-fold increase of fines for not wearing a helmet and mandatory helmet use by all drivers and passengers on every road. If children comprise the most precious of cargoes, the law enacted did not reflect their value. Whereas in many Western countries a parent can be fined if their child is found not wearing a seat belt, in Vietnam, existing legislation prohibits imposing a penalty against a parent whose child passenger is not following the law. Financial penalties apply for children aged 16 to 18 years, but at half the rates for adults and it is undetermined how often children pay them. “Wearing a helmet and enforcing helmet laws is acknowledged as one of the main contributors to reducing road fatalities and injuries,” said Mirjam Sidik, Chief Executive Officer of AIP Foundation, an organization on the front line fighting the rising number | February 2018 Word | 77

of road-crash injuries and fatalities for nearly two decades. In 2000, former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, and AIP Foundation rolled out “Helmets for Kids”, a signature programme of the foundation that provides school children and teachers with quality helmets and road safety education. A year later, Vietnam adopted a child-specific helmet standard and, soon after, AIP Foundation created a roadsafety curriculum, which schools adopted nationwide. Despite the initial education, rumours of helmets causing neck injuries to children were prevalent, and helmets to protect the growing heads of children were widely unavailable. By 2015, many children remained without helmets because of inaccurate information about injuries they might sustain while wearing them. In response, the government launched a National Child Helmet Action Plan (NCHAP). The integrated plan included three

critical components; a public awareness campaign, police enforcement, and a strong network of road-safety partners to support and further the plan. Credited with having accelerated the passage of the [2007] helmet law because of their “Wear A Helmet. There Are No Excuses” campaign, AIP Foundation was the natural choice to lead a public awareness strategy that would target the next generation of Vietnamese drivers, but also the most malleable of minds.

Value Life Over Fines

Tam Dang, 37, is a teacher’s assistant at a local private school. The staff at her school check to see that the students are wearing helmets when parents drop off and pick up their children. Things don’t always go smoothly. Sometimes a child will have only one helmet to use, so when a different parent picks them up, they are without a way to protect their head. Tam sees this as a problem, but she finds it a challenge to address the parents about it.

Tam has two daughters, ages six and nine, who attend public school in Hanoi, and always wear helmets. In the public school system, helmet education is a part of the classroom experience. “During every assembly on Monday morning, the use of helmets is talked about,” said Tam. “Sometimes the school even gives away helmets as a prize for different things.” She credits Protec, the social enterprise arm of AIP Foundation, for coming to the school and demonstrating to people what a safe helmet looks like and how to use it not only on motorcycles but bicycles, too. Presentations don’t focus on selling the brand — although they are one of the most highly regarded brands available — they focus on saving lives. Currently, the market remains flooded with flimsy helmets designed for vanity, not for protection. With increased awareness of what a good helmet looks like and how it’s built, they hope, there will be less demand for those that aren’t safe.


Since Vietnam introduced the helmet law 10 years ago, AIP Foundation has estimated more than 15,000 fatalities and 500,000 injuries have been prevented, and those figures continue to grow.


Ultimately, it’s parents’ behaviour that is an indicator of progress. According to research by AIP Foundation, “by May 2016, 95% of parents reported awareness of the child helmet law, and 97% [of them] stated that the reason they had their children wear helmets was that they worry about potential head injuries.” Unfortunately, only 45% of parents the organization polled admitted to consistently putting a helmet on their child. From excuses like “I am not driving far” — crashes happen more frequently close to home than elsewhere, according to a New Zealand study — to not being able to find a child-sized helmet, there are many reasons why that number remains high. “As adults, we don’t think about protecting ourselves when we wear a helmet,” Tram said explaining the widespread use of vanity helmets. “We think about protecting ourselves from the fine.” To change this mindset, Tram and Tam believe that people need multi-generational education that places a value on life. The burden doesn’t have to rest solely on children.

Covert Peer Pressure

There are new, unintentional, advocates of the helmet law in Vietnam. People see them every day in the cities, and increasingly in smaller Vietnamese towns: it’s the rideshare companies. In 2017, Uber and Grab introduced motorcycle taxis. Since then, the number of motorcyclists working full or part-time for the companies, continues to grow. Unlike traditional xe om drivers, they stand out because of their flashy helmets. It’s a stunning visual to witness on packed morning and evening commutes. “The safety of both driver partners and riders are a top priority at Uber,” said a company spokesperson of their helmet policy, which follows Vietnamese law. Uber gives their uberMoto drivers two free, high-quality helmets that have met rigorous safety testing — one for the driver and one for the passenger — and offers drivers a free replacement helmet when theirs have become worn or damaged. While Uber encourages the use of their

branded gear, wearing a helmet, period, is a non-negotiable requirement for both driver and passenger for a ride to commence. This sort of branded “covert peer pressure” which Charles Duhigg writes about in The Power of Habit, is yet another way the helmet law is being implemented across Vietnam. “By encouraging driver partners and riders to wear helmets,” said Uber’s spokesperson, “we hope it helps raise awareness of road safety in the driver and rider community, in particular, and the Vietnam community, in general.” Neither Uber nor Grab signed up to become official partners in support of the helmet law, but they have inadvertently become helmet ambassadors, their flashy green and blue swag testament to change, and maybe coolness. Ongoing research in behavioural economics suggests that brands can positively affect our behaviour. What better place to form a good habit than with protecting our heads.

the market remains flooded with flimsy helmets designed for vanity, not for protection. With increased awareness of what a good helmet looks like and how it’s built, they hope, there will be less demand for those that aren’t safe.

insider photo essay

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In early January, 11 days of uninhibited music, sun and play came to an end in Phu Quoc. The reason for it all? A certain music festival called Epizode. Photos by Olga Rozenbajgier | February 2018 Word | 83

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hen Vietnam gets music festivals, they take place over a weekend, or perhaps three days. This year’s instalment of Epizode took proceedings to the extreme, giving revellers on the pristine beaches and clear seas of Phu Quoc 11 days of music. Yes, 11 days. Located on a beach a stone’s throw from the airport, the festivities kicked off on New Year’s Eve with a show headlined by veteran British DJ, Carl Cox. Over the next 10 days the likes of Richie Hawtin, Ricardo Villalobos, Jamie Jones, Luciano, Ame and Dixon took to the stage, in a non-stop extravaganza that has surely rocketed this festival to the top of the Asian music scene. Jointly put together by Nikita Marshunok, the creator of KaZantip — an annual music festival that until 2013 was held in the Crimea — and Moscow entertainment giants Sagrado Corp, the vision for Epizode was brought to life with three stages and an infusion of art, music and culture that were united together in a dizzying array of colours and sounds. Yet it wasn’t all about international, household name DJs. Asian-based DJs were also given a chance to make their mark. And many of the acts played multiple, unplanned sets. This year’s festival was huge. Which only makes us wonder what Epizode III will be like. | February 2018 Word | 85

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eat & Drink Street Snacker HCMC

Banh Hoi


The skinniest rice noodles of the lot, banh hoi goes great with barbecued pork. Words by JB Jance. Photos by Bao Zoan

anh hoi is a dish eaten any time of the day or any day of the week. It originates from Binh Dinh Province in south-central Vietnam and has spread in various forms to different parts of the country. This dish is a mixture of different flavours; savoury, fresh, sweet, and sometimes comes with a kick. It has some similarities to bun thit nuong; the noodles, the meat, the greens, and the fish sauce. The main difference is the noodles. Banh hoi noodles are thinner, and are often cut in square or rectangles, and sometimes even rolled. This is then topped with scallion oil, which makes it moist. The grilled meat is placed on top and can be eaten as is or rolled in vegetables or rice paper before dipping it into fish sauce.

Bun Thit Nuong Chi Tuyen 175 Co Giang, Q1, HCMC

Be ready to wait or share a table with a stranger when dining at this streetside restaurant. This eatery is in a two-storey building, which is also the owner, Chi Tuyen’s house. The menu is plastered all over the half-lavender, half-tiled walls, so customers can either point then sit or vice versa. There is also a menu with photos. The place isn’t difficult to find. It is

almost at the end of Co Giang Street; once you smell and see smoke and numerous motorcycles that come and go, you’ve reached your destination. A plate of banh hoi includes the precooked fine rice noodles topped with scallion oil, three skewed grilled pork topped with crushed peanuts, and served with a dipping sauce. This costs VND40,000. If you want an extra platter of vegetables to wrap with the meat and noodles, pay VND10,000 more. The meat is tender, the leafy vegetables and mung beans add crunch and freshness to this savoury dish. The version of nuoc mam has a light sweetness to it and complements the meat well. The 40-year-old business is now run by Chi Tuyen, who has taken over from her mother. She is helped by family members in running the business, especially at peak hours. Around 700 takeaway orders are made in a day. It is open every day from 7am to 9pm. Try to come before 11 am or after 2 pm as patrons flock the area for their daily dose of banh hoi or bun thit nuong at lunchtime.

Co Ba — Bun Thit Nuong 287/68 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3

Saigon has a lot of hem gems, and you can add Co Ba — Bun Thit Nuong to the

list, which lies along an alley filled with stores selling a variety of products from vegetables to school supplies. Owner Le Phuoc An inherited his grandmother’s recipe for banh hoi, bun thit nuong, and cha gio. He then decided to open the eatery which has been going well for about 20 years. This small place draws a lot of locals and some expats for eating in, takeaways, or deliveries. He only has a small grill outside, but it gets refilled almost every 15 minutes. At around 3pm on a Saturday, not many people were dining in, but the orders for takeaways and deliveries were being made one after another. The banh hoi here is quite distinctive as they add fried spring rolls and another skewed sausage-like meat similar to nem nuong into the mix. The rice noodles are softer as there is more oil coming from the scallion oil and grilled meat. A separate plate filled with greens, rice paper, and their fish sauce, which is sweet with a hint of spice, makes their version of banh hoi complete. It costs VND52,000, and is well worth it as it is filling. Aside from the grill, their makeshift kitchen will also welcome you at the entrance of the eatery. You can opt to order before entering or choose a table first. The place fills up from 4pm to 8pm, so either avoid those times or have your meal to go. It is open daily from 12.30pm until 9pm. | February 2018 Word | 91

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eat & Drink Street Snacker


My Van Than

Wonton noodle soup, Hanoi and Colonel Kiem. Words by Edward Dalton. Photos by Julie Vola


f you think of wonton noodle soup in Vietnam, then thanks to its million-strong population of Chinese, you tend to associate the dish with Ho Chi Minh City and in particular Cholon, or Chinatown. However, first appearing down south in the 1930s, when merchants from Guangdong immigrated to Vietnam, the dish quickly made its way up north, developing its own distinct taste and even its own separate name; in Saigon the noodles are called mi hoanh thanh while in Hanoi they’re known as my van than. Far from being just another noodle soup, my van than has everything missing from pho; a rich, flavourful broth, an abundance of varied toppings and a clear origin story. Despite being sold in the capital for over 80 years, there are just a handful of sellers in Hanoi worth their salt.

Colonel Noodles

One of the most reputable joints in Hanoi is My Van Than — Sui Cao Tom Tuoi (40 Tue Tinh, Hai Ba Trung). “I fought in [Vietnam’s wars] until 1987,” says owner Dang Ko Kiem, 73. “I went from being a colonel to a wonton seller.” There’s no doubt, however, that Kiem

brings more smiles to more people in his newer profession. His mother, a Chinese immigrant from Guangdong, taught him the secret to the perfect bowl of wonton noodles. “It’s one of the most difficult soups to make well,” claims Kiem. “Our soup only uses natural flavouring; seafood, pork ribs plus a selection of herbs and spices.” As well as preparing a broth requiring many hours of simmering, the noodles and wonton wrappers are all homemade daily, using simple ingredients (flour and eggs) and expert hands. “The versions down south are artificially sweet,” says Kiem. “I try to keep mine as authentic as possible; it’s not changed to suit Hanoian tastes at all.”


A bowl of wonton noodles at Kiem’s place will set you back VND40,000 — a little bit more than other restaurants, but he insists the little extra is worth it for the much bigger payoff. “There’s only a few restaurants in Hanoi that can make this dish well,” he says. “We’ve had journalists and TV crews coming here for years to report about mine, though.” The recipe is such a closely guarded secret, he hasn’t even shared it with his own son

— despite the fact his son helps out with the business every day. “Maybe one day,” laughs Kiem, “if I think he’s serious enough about the business.” Every bowl comes loaded with a few minced pork and shrimp-stuffed wontons, a quarter of an egg, thin slices of Chinesestyle pork, a couple of fresh prawns, a few chunks of liver, and a generous handful of spring onions. The soup, even without any additional condiments, is bursting with flavour — it’s savoury, with a very fine balance between salty and sweet. Chuck in some of the freshly made roasted shallots and a squirt of homemade chilli sauce, however, and it becomes a whole different animal. For a further VND5,000, you can get three pieces of quay, the deep-fried bread sticks which put Vietnam in danger of toppling Scotland for country with the worst diet in the world. Left to soak up some of that broth, though, and they are impossible to resist. My Van Than — Sui Cao Tom Tuoi is located at 40 Tue Tinh, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi and is open daily from 8am until 10pm. For other options try Phuong Beo (19 Hang Chieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi), Lan Mi (6 Nguyen Bieu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi) and Hoan Map (107E2 Thai Thinh, Dong Da, Hanoi). | February 2018 Word | 93



the elephant valley / listings

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travel feature

The Eleph ant Valley NATIONAL

Thanks to the work o f a dedicate a project in d group of eastern Ca individuals mbodia pro endangered , vides sanct Asian eleph uary to the ant. Words Rozenbajg and photos by Olga ier | February 2018 Word | 97

travel feature


here are only 81,000 Asian elephants left on our planet, a blip compared to the 7 billion humans populating the earth. Which could be a good enough reason by itself to protect this giant mammal. At the end of 2017, I was lucky enough to spend three days with these amazing creatures and the team at the Elephant Valley Project (EVP) in Cambodia. This short adventure left me with an appreciation for what organizations like this manage to accomplish, and the work they do not only for the animals but for the community around them.

Protecting the Elephants

Located in Mondulkiri Province in

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eastern Cambodia and close to the land border with Vietnam, in the valleys of Sen Monorom lies the sanctuary for captive elephants. Due to deforestation, war, poaching and logging, the elephant population in Cambodia has drastically decreased. Now there are only 400 to 600 elephants in the wild and 72 in captivity; 10 of them are kept at the Elephant Valley Project. Five of these elephants are rescue elephants and five are former working elephants who have been signed over to the project on a contract. These are mainly signed over by owners who can no longer look after them, but cannot let them go as they have been with them for their whole lives and are part of their family. The elephants are placed into groups to avoid conflict,

and for them to learn from one another. Some have very little social awareness as they may not have seen another member of their species for most of their lives.

Building Community

The Elephant Valley Project has come a long way since it first opened in 2006 with only the founder, British-born Jack Highwood, three vets and a dog. Jack wanted to make sure that the project would be working closely with the Pnong (also known as Bunong) community, who wished to protect the forest, have land, and more jobs for its people. The Pnong are an ethnic minority of Cambodia who have beliefs rooted in the forests and the spirits who dwell in them, so preserving them is of great | February 2018 Word | 99

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Due to deforestation, war, poaching and logging, the elephant population in Cambodia has drastically decreased. Now there are only 400 to 600 elephants in the wild and 72 in captivity

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travel feature

importance to their culture. As the EVP grew, Jack and his team were able to generate jobs for local people, create universal health cover for all workers, and scholarship programmes which have already produced graduates in nursing and teaching. In addition, they have sponsored the hiring of more rangers to enable law enforcement in the forests to stop logging and poaching. While it hasn’t completely eradicated the issue — the forest is rich in many sought-after woods such as Siamese rosewood — it has certainly helped with the preservation of the local ecosystem. The project encompasses five valleys taking up 1,500 hectares, and is surrounded by protected

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forest and farmland. This gives the mahouts, the elephant carers, plenty of space to look after their elephants with minimal human disturbance. They will check them for scratches, bites and any other ailments, as captive elephants have lowered immune systems compared to wild elephants, meaning their wounds can fester and get infected if not properly treated. The staff of EVP work closely with the mahouts to ensure the wellbeing of the elephants is closely monitored with regular health checks that are carried out with the help of volunteers. Yet, the presence of volunteers and tourists is essential to the continuation of the work that EVP does. It allows for the upkeep of the elephants and their huge dietary

and health requirements, protecting the forests, and taking on the staff who make this all happen.

Helping Out

My time in The Elephant Valley was short but definitely sweet. Bamboo was sawed, bed frames were made, banana trees were cut down. But mainly it was a great joy to get back to nature and see these animals in their natural environment, interacting with each other and doing what they should be doing, being elephants. No rides, no tricks, just elephants. For more info, click on The sanctuary is open for visits from half days through to over a week or more. They also accept volunteers. | February 2018 Word | 103

travel where to stay DALAT DALAT GREEN CITY HOTEL 172 Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat, Tel: (0263) 382 7999 Located in central Dalat, this is the perfect place for budget travellers. Quiet, newly refurbished with beautiful mountain and city views from the rooftop, features free Wi-Fi, a TV and snack bar in all rooms with a downstairs coffee shop and computers in the lobby for guest use.

DALAT PALACE $$$$ 12 Ho Tung Mau, Dalat, Tel: (0263) 382 5444

DALAT TRAIN VILLA Villa 3, 1 Quang Trung, Dalat, Tel: (0263) 381 6365 Located near the Dalat Train Station, the Dalat Train Villa is a beautifully restored, colonial era, two-storey villa. In its grounds is a 1910 train carriage which has been renovated into a bar and cafe. Located within 10 minutes of most major attractions in Dalat.

HANOI DAEWOO HOTEL $$$ 360 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh,

Tel: (024) 3831 5555

over the lake. Great gym and health club.



$ 48 Ngo Huyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3828 5372 hanoibackpackershostel. com Probably the cheapest, European-style hostel in town, with bunk-style beds mixed or single-sex dorms starting at VND150,000, plus a couple of double suites from VND250,000. A place to meet like-minded fold in the Old Quarter.

HILTON HANOI OPERA $$$$$ 1 Le Thanh Tong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (024) 3933 0500 Situated next to the iconic Hanoi Opera House and a short stroll from the Old Quarter, this five-star hotel is a Hanoi landmark. With 269 fully-equipped rooms and suites, there’s plenty for the discerning business and leisure traveller to choose from.

INTERCONTINENTAL HANOI WESTLAKE $$$$$ 1A Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 6270 8888 This stunning property built over West Lake falls in between a hotel and a resort. Beautiful views, great balcony areas, comfortable, top-end accommodation and all the mod-cons make up the mix here together with the resort’s three inhouse restaurants and the Sunset Bar, a watering hole located on a thoroughfare

$$ 5 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (024) 3938 1048 Located next to the cathedral, this popular well-appointed, airy and spacious boutique hotel mixes comfort with a nice ambience and great Western or Vietnamese breakfasts. Modern amenities at reasonable prices.

JW MARRIOTT HANOI $$$$$ 8, Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Hanoi, Tel: (024) 3833 5588 From the expressive architecture outside to the authentic signature JW Marriott services inside, this Marriott hotel in Hanoi is the new definition of contemporary luxury. Lies next door to the National Convention Centre.

MAISON D’HANOI HANOVA HOTEL $$$ 35-37 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3938 0999 A minute from Hoan Kiem Lake, this glowing pearl in the heart of Hanoi provides tranquility with an art gallery and piano bar.

MELIA HANOI $$$$ 44B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3934 3343 Excellently located in central Hanoi, Melia Hanoi draws plenty of business travellers and is also a popular


41, Thao Dien, Q2. Tel (028) 3519 4111, Ext. 15/17/19 reliable and experienced travel company operating through Southeast Asia, Exotissimo brings you personalized tours across the region, many including insights into culinary customs, handicrafts and humanitarian initiatives.


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venue for conferences and wedding receptions. Stateof-the-art rooms, elegant restaurants, stylish bars, fully equipped fitness centre with sophisticated service always make in-house guests satisfied.

PAN PACIFIC HANOI $$$$ 1 Thanh Nien Road, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3823 8888 Boasting Hanoi’s best views of West Lake, Truc Bach Lake and the Red River, Pan Pacific Hanoi soars 20 storeys above the city skyline. Each of the 329 rooms, suites and serviced suites is furnished with stylish interiors, modern amenities and magnificent views, while the 56 serviced suites offer fully equipped kitchens and separate living spaces for the comfort and convenience of the extended-stay traveller.

minutes from downtown. In addition to the luxurious rooms, the hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool and great relaxation and fitness facilities, including a tennis court and spa. There are well equipped conference rooms and a newly refurbished Executive Club Lounge.

Equatorial also has an onsite casino.



15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3826 6919 The finest hotel of the French colonial period is probably still the finest in today’s Hanoi. Anyone who is (or was) anyone has stayed at this elegant oasis of charm, where the service is impeccable and the luxurious facilities complement the ambiance of a bygone era. Definitely the place to put the Comtessa up for a night.


INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON $$$$$ Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3520 9999 intercontinental. com/saigon

$$$$S 3C Ton Duc Thang, Q1, HCMC Tel: (028) 6263 6688 Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City next to the Saigon River, the property is close to the metropolis's entertainment and commercial areas, making it an ideal base for exploring the local culture and community. Experience this cosmopolitan city in stimulating surroundings.




$$$$ 40 Cat Linh, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3733 0688 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.

$$$$ 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 4999 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.



$$$$ K5 Nghi Tam, 11 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3719 9000 Surrounded by lush gardens, sweeping lawns and tranquil courtyards, this peaceful property features picturesque views of West Lake and is less than 10

$$$ 242 Tran Binh Trong, Q5, Tel: (028) 3839 7777 This massive property boasts seven dining and entertainment outlets, a business centre, meeting rooms and a comprehensive fitness centre and spa. The

$$$$ 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 8888 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.

PARK HYATT $$$$$ 2 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (028) 3824 1234 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



$$$$$ 148 Tran Hung Dao, Q1 Tel: (028) 3838 8686 his upscale, contemporary property boasts 306 signature rooms combining design, comfort and connectivity. Innovative cuisine, a great downtown location and high-tech meeting venues able to host up to 600 guests make up the mix.

169A De Tham, Q1, Tel: 01222 993585 espa 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.



has the landscaped pool.

RENAISSANCE RIVERSIDE HOTEL SAIGON $$$$ 8-15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 1117 T h i s d i s t i n c t F re n c h a rc h i t e c t u r a l w o n d e r offers complimentary WiFi, airport pickup or drop off, a first-floor ballroom, and authentic Vietnamese cuisine at the River Restaurant.

SHERATON $$$$$ 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2828 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.

SOFITEL SAIGON PLAZA $$$$ 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3824 1555 This 20–storey building in downtown Saigon, caters to upscale business and leisure travelers seeking a classic yet contemporary stay in Saigon.

VILLA SONG SAIGON $$$ 197/2 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 6090 Deliberately located away from the city centre in Thao Dien, this riverside boutique villa-style hotel is a sanctuary of peace and calm — a rarity in Ho Chi Minh City. Beautiful, Indochineinfluenced design, a great setting and good drinking and dining options make

this a great, non-city centre choice.

HOI AN & DANANG LUXURY APARTMENT DANANG $$$ 120 Vo Nguyen Giap (Intersection of Tran Huu Tuoc and Vo Nguyen Giap), Phuoc My, Son Tra, Danang, Tel: (+84) 236 268 7979 Centrally located on My Khe Beach with  spacious 1 to 2-bedroom apartments. Daily breakfast, fully equipped kitchens, free internet, gym, spectacular views and a helpful concierge. We are a sanctuary for the business traveller who wishes to experience peace after a long day of meetings.

CUA DAI $ 544, Cua Dai, Hoi An, Tel: (0235) 386 2231

DANANG BEACH RESORT $$$ Truong Sa, Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang, Tel: (0236) 396 1800

PULLMAN DANANG BEACH RESORT $$$$ Vo Nguyen Giap, Khue My, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang Tel: (0236) 395 8888

THE NAM HAI $$$$ Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Quang Nam, Tel: (0235) 394 0000 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.

HUE & LANG CO ANGSANA LANG CO $$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien Hue, Tel: (0234) 369 5800 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.

BANYAN TREE LANG CO $$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien, Hue, Tel: (0234) 369 5888 en/lang_co 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.

LA RESIDENCE $$$$ 5 Le Loi, Hue, Tel: (0234) 383 7475 la–residence–

NHA TRANG COSTA NHA TRANG HOTEL & RESIDENCES 32 – 34 Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Tel: (0258) 3737 222 Located in the heart of the city, The Costa Nha Trang Hotel & Residences is a symbol of modern living thanks to its luxury

oceanfront residences. From a beautiful day on the beach to the great nightlife of Tran Phu Street, this is the perfect place to experience the best of Nha Trang.

EVASON ANA MANDARA AND SIX SENSES SPA $$$$ Beachside Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (0258) 352 2222 destination

JUNGLE BEACH RESORT $ Ninh Phuoc, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (0258) 362 2384 On a secluded promontory north of Nha Trang, this budget place is all about hammocks, the sea, the jungle and nature.

SIX SENSES HIDEAWAY NINH VAN BAY $$$$ Ninh Van Bay, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (0258) 372 8222 ninh-van-bay/destination The upmarket Tatler magazine voted top hotel of 2006. The location is stunning, on a bay accessible only by boat.

SHERATON NHA TRANG HOTEL AND SPA $$$$ 26 – 28 Tran Phu, Tel: (0258) 388 0000

PHAN THIET & MUI NE COCO BEACH $$$$ 58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu,

Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: (0252) 384 7111 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.

JOE’S GARDEN RESORT $$ 86 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Tel: (0252) 384 7177 A leafy, seafront bungalow resort and café with nightly live music all in one. Reminiscent of the type of places you’d find on the Thai islands, an international and Asian food menu together with a cheap happy hour on beer make up the relaxing mix.

VICTORIA PHAN THIET RESORT AND SPA $$$$ Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet, Tel: (0252) 381 3000 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.

PHONG NHA EASY TIGER AND JUNGLE BAR $ Son Trach, Bo Trach, Quang Binh, Tel: (0252) 367 7844 easytigerphongnha@ A hostel and street-front bar all in one. Has a pleasant, airy atmosphere in the bar and restaurant area while the 52 dorm beds — four beds to a room — go for US$8 (VND168,000) each a


HO KHANH'S HOMESTAY $$ Son Trach, Bo Trach, Quang Binh, Tel: 01299 597182

PHONG NHA FARMSTAY $$ Hoa Son, Cu Nam, Bo Trach, Quang Binh, Tel: (0232) 367 5135 The first western-run farmstay in Phong Nha, this well-appointed travellers’ joint has a great bar and restaurant area, a swimming pool out back and views overlooking paddy fields and mountains. Rooms start at VND600,000 for a twin or double, with a family room for five costing VND1.4 million a night.

PHU QUOC BEACH CLUB RESORT $$ Ap Cua Lap, Xa Duong To, Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Tel: (0297) 398 0998 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.

MANGO BAY $$$ 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. | February 2018 Word | 105



the therapist / book buff / women's fitness / top eats / bar stool

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the therapist // teenage self-esteem by douglas holwerda

Dear Douglas, The counsellor at my daughter’s school said she thinks my daughter has low selfesteem. I have noticed that my daughter is spending a lot of time in her bedroom on her computer and is not interested in the other members of her family in ways that she used to be. She is 14 years old and going through an awkward growth stage and is often irritable. Whenever I have tried to ask her about how she is doing she says she is fine and does what she can to avoid any further conversation about herself. My husband says I should leave her alone and that she is just being a teenager. I am not sure what to do and feel somewhat worried that there is more to it than that. Any suggestions Douglas? — Worried and Confused Hello Worried and Confused, While it is true that teenagers tend to distance themselves from the adults in their lives and, in general, are less likely to open up to talk to parents than before, it seems your daughter could use some additional attention. Something is going on. Low self-esteem is actually a belief system that can undermine a person’s experience of living and lead to making choices that can be self damaging. Low self-esteem comes when we measure our performance or our appearance or our popularity in ways that come up short of our expectations, our standards or in comparison to others. The inner critic becomes activated and we start to believe we are “a failure”, “not good enough”, “not loveable or likeable”, and that this is a permanent condition. Self-hatred and self-loathing can be part of what a person

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thinks of themselves and guilt and shame are often the subtext of what they feel. Two aspects are most significant. The first is that it has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which means that the more we believe we are no good the more we behave in ways that demonstrate the truth of it. It becomes part of a fixed mindset that looks for reinforcements to what we believe rather than seeing life as a set of opportunities to learn and grow and change in ways that make life better. The second is that someone with low esteem can rarely hear and integrate compliments or achievements, while at the same time amplifying criticisms or negative feedback. Compliments are dismissed; criticisms are taken as reinforcement to what is already held as a belief. This can play out as depression, a helpless feeling that life will not improve or desperate attempts to seek approval. Not good, and completely part of a belief system that is interpreted as being the truth. As adults and teachers we unwittingly collude in creating belief systems that put too much importance on performance, appearance, grades and outward measures of behaviour. We can easily forget that a person’s value is intrinsically deeper and not related to measures of success. It is easy to see this in an infant or young child, but how quickly we start rewarding behaviours we want to see and punishing those we don’t. Children learn to seek approval rather than to feel comfortable within themselves, allowed to make mistakes and learn life as they go. Even those who appear to find success often discover later in life that it proves to be illusive and never satisfying. They are prime candidates for mid-life issues later.

I would suggest that you and your husband look at the messages that you are giving your daughter about herself and what you value in her. It is not always parents who can influence one’s self esteem. Peer groups can be difficult to navigate when they are competitive and pecking orders take shape. Teens can be really hard on one another. I suggest that you take a bigger step in trying to get through to her that you are concerned and that you care about her wellbeing. One idea is a special day (or more), where the two of you go off on your own to do things that you know she likes to do. Sometimes when adolescents get away from the familiar routines they might open up to talk about the difficult things that they would rather avoid. Also, consider therapy for your daughter. She might benefit from a confidential setting where she can talk freely about how she feels and what is going on in her life that affects her. Take it seriously. Intervention now prevents the belief system from becoming entrenched and more difficult to deal with later. I hope this is helpful, — Douglas Do you have a question you would like Douglas’s help with? You can email him at Personal details will not be printed

hanoi essentials





ALTERNATIVE HEALTH A-ROAMING BODYWORKER Provides various holistic healing modalities. Services include craniosacral therapy, deep tissue massage, prenatal massage, healing stones massage, as well as energy healing including Reiki and Jin Shin Jyutsu. Workshops are also available.

4th Floor, InterContinental Hanoi, 1A Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3934 2790

AUSCHAM 4th Floor, 100 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung Tel: 0909 710994 hanoiholistichealth A guide to various holistic health practitioners in Hanoi. Only available online, but a great information source.



193B Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung Tel: (024) 6674 0945

Pan Pacific Hanoi, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 2229

M M M HOSPITALS & MEDICAL CLINICS AMERICAN CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC (ACC) CHIROPRACTORS & PHYSIOTHERAPISTS 44 Nguyen Du, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (4) 3265 6888 ACC provides effective chiropractic, physiotherapy and foot care treatments through the use of cutting edge technology for back, neck and knee pain, sports injuries as well as all types of foot related problems.

PEACE DENTAL CLINIC DENTAL CLINIC 2nd floor, 51A Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 2286 peacedentalclinic.

EUROCHAM Pan Pacific Hanoi, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 2228

ICHAM BOOK SHOP 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 3711 Bookworm has been the cornerstone of Hanoi’s literary scene since 2001. It has been around the block quite a bit and now shares a space with Hanoi Cooking Centre. With over 15,000 new and second-hand fiction and nonfiction titles in stock, the shop also buys used books and offers free travel advice.

AUSTRALIAN DENTAL CLINIC DENTAL CLINIC 3 Nguyen Du, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: 0906 200434


COOKING CENTRE 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 0088 Hanoi Cooking Centre is a school, retail outlet and café, where you can find classes on not just Vietnamese cooking, but international cuisine, held in a beautiful setting. They also offer culinary tours.





The Westcoast International Dental Clinic is composed of dental professionals who deliver modern, high-level dental services throughout Vi e t n a m . T h e c l i n i c provides the highest quality technology, comfort and after-service care to patients.


Sofitel Plaza, Ground floor, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3715 2229

DENTAL CLINIC 19 Nguyen Truong To, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0989 067888



Business Center Fortuna Hotel, 6B Lang Ha, Ba Dinh

FAMILY MEDICAL PRACTICE MEDICAL CLINIC 298 I Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3843 0748

FRENCH HOSPITAL INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL 1 Phuong Mai, Dong Da, Tel: (024) 3577 1100


DENTAL CLINIC 2nd Fl, Syrena Center, 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3710 0555 westcoastinternational. com

MEDICAL / DENTAL CLINIC 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3934 0666 Well-known medical clinic also known for its quality emergency services. Doctors and consultants also provide a range of services from

standard GP-style checkups through to vaccinations, paediatrics and specialist care.


M M M INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS CONCORDIA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HANOI Van Tri Golf Compound, Kim No, Dong Anh. Tel: (024) 3795 8878 A non-profit entity, Concordia has highly performing schools in both Hong Kong and Shanghai at the top tier of the educational system. All instructors and teachers are native English speakers and admission applications are accepted throughout the year.

HANOI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 48 Lieu Giai , Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3832 8140 With schooling available for students studying at elementary through to secondary levels of education, HIS is one of the few private, international education options in the capital. Offers Cambridge IGCSE and IB Diploma for students at the secondary level.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF VIETNAM 6-7 Nguyen Cong Thai, Dai Kim Urban Area,


19th Floor, VCCI tower, 9 Dao Duy Anh, Dong Da, Tel: (024) 7308 6699 acific Cross Vietnam brings a first class level of service and expertise to the health and travel insurance market in Vietnam. Part of the Pacific Cross group of companies with over 60 years’ experience providing health and travel insurance to people who call Asia home, their reputation for transparent, honest and reliable service means they are the strength behind your insurance. Contact them now for a free quote.


41A Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3938 8762 worldwide leader in international removals and relocations, with 130 offices globally. Have the capacity to move property to and from any location. Has offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh CIty.


Dinh Cong, Hoang Mai, Tel: (024) 3540 9183 A not-for-profit, prekindergarten to Grade 12 school serving the international and local community of Hanoi. ISV accepts students of any nationality aged 3 and up. Highly qualified and experienced international educators are supported by a 21st-century campus with the latest in educational technology plus excellent resources for learning. Class sizes are small.

KINDERWORLD INTERNATIONAL KINDERGARTEN Unit 9 – 10, Shophouse CT17, Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel (024) 3743 0306; 3rd Floor, 49 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel (024) 3934 7243; C5 – C11, 1st floor, The Manor Building, My Dinh, Tu Liem, Tel (024) 3764 0209 Classes are kept small with a foreign teacher leading the class with the assistance of a Vietnamese teacher according to the teacherstudent ratio. KinderWorld provides pre school education for children from 18 months to below 6 years.

SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 2D Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, 46 Van Bao, Ba Dinh, Tel (024) 3726 1601; Block C3, Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel (024) 3758 2664; Road 2, Gamuda Gardens, Km 4.4 Phap Van, Hoang Mai, Tel (024) 6666 1818 Provides an international education for students from primary up to university level. A strong curriculum


Hoa Lan Road, Vinhomes Riverside, Long Bien, Tel: (024) 3946 0435 selective, independent, coeducational day school. Provides a British-style education following the National Curriculum for England, with students taking IGCSE and A Level. Also offers the IB programme.


Suite 821, 8th floor, Vietnam Trade Union Hotel, 14 Tran Binh Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3941 0805 ith over 150 offices around the world, Santa Fe offers local and international moving, pet transportation, relocation services including home search, orientation, cultural training, immigration services and records management.

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book buff //

classics for pleasure by truong hoang

“Classics are classics not because they are educational but because people have found them worth reading generation after generation, century after century. More than anything else great books speak to us of our own all-too-real feelings, confusions and daydreams.” These are the first sentences in Michael Dirda’s exceptional book, Classics for Pleasure. Dirda is one of America’s most respected book reviewers and essayists, and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for literary criticism. Dirda began reading as a young boy and cut his teeth as a fifth-grader on Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes classic, The Hound of The Baskervilles, which is included in Classics for Pleasure. First printed in 2010, Dirda’s book has become one of my favourite, and essential, reading companions. In it Dirda writes 100 essays. He ignores the most famous classics — because enough has been printed about those — and concentrates his conversational style on authors and titles that may be familiar to us, and some obscure. Many will be taken aback to see some included that they’ve previously categorized as run-of-the-mill. Dirda collates his short essays under eleven themes: Playful Imaginations, Heroes of Their Time, Love’s Mysteries, Words From the Wise, Everyday Magic, Lives of Consequence, The Dark Side, Tales of Travelers, The Way We Live Now, Realms of Adventure, and Encyclopaedic Visions. In these thematic areas the authors and books are presented chronologically. The reviews read as though Dirda has invited you out to coffee, and he can’t wait to gush about this great new author he’s discovered. I accept Dirda’s invitation frequently. In the past month he’s introduced me to some exciting women.


There was the very sensual poetry of the ancient Greek woman Sappho who lived on the island of Lesbos around 600 BC and whose poetry was discovered on fragments of papyrus. Nowadays she is held up as a

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feminist heroine or a gay role model. But Sappho is no ordinary poet. One researcher noted that she has always been hounded by controversy about her work and her sexuality. In those times, she was praised for her sublime style by literary critics but comic playwrights made fun of her allegedly loose morals. Apparently, the early Christian church burnt her works as belonging to ‘a sex-crazed whore who sings of her own wantonness’. In Victorian times scholars tried to explain away her erotic predilections. Today experts argue whether her poems celebrated or subverted accepted conventions of love and marriage. Reading Sappho: A New Translation of the Complete Works, you are often left breathless by sensuous word images that you wish you’d written, when young, about a lover or someone you lusted for: You came, I yearned for you, and you cooled my senses that burned with desire and love shook my senses like wind crashing on mountain oaks or Once again Love, that loosener of limbs, bittersweet and inescapable, crawling thing, seizes me. Sappho’s sexuality, which for modern readers is the most famous thing about her, has been controversial from the start. “When we hear lesbianism today we think of love between two women whereas when the ancient Greeks heard the word they thought of blow jobs. In classical Greek, the verb lesbiazein — to act like someone from Lesbos — meant performing fellatio, an activity for which inhabitants of the island were thought to have a particular penchant.”

Georgette Heyer

Another writer I visited was Georgette

Heyer, the author of Georgian and Regency romances as exampled by the stories in the Georgette Heyer Books: Georgian & Regency Romance Collection. Dirda explains her inclusion as being because she invented the modern romance genre. Author Harriet Evans says: “I think what makes her so unique is the rare combination of totally gripping stories, historical detail that is spot-on yet illuminating, characters that are so enjoyable, romantic storylines that are, genuinely, heart-stopping and gorgeous and finally and most importantly all wrapped up and told by someone with a cynical eye. She is not fluffy, or prone to flummery (an excellent Heyer word).” Among her legion of fans are AS Byatt, Germaine Greer and Queen Elizabeth.


As I’d never touched on the novels of Edith Nesbit I decided to examine why Dirda had included her. It soon became clear that she was an important progenitor of modern children’s literature in that she placed her characters in very real and tough environments instead of in the fantasy worlds of her predecessors such as Lewis Carroll and Kenneth Grahame. Dirda presents The Railway Children as his Nesbit classic. Written in 1905 it references real issues such as the miscarriage of justice in the Dreyfus Affair, refugees from persecution in Europe, and the Russo-Japanese war and the sides taken by the British ruling class (pro-Czarist Russia) and the workers (pro-Japanese). Nesbit, a Fabian socialist, wrote about strong-willed children and Roberta, Peter and Phyllis reflect her faith in the resourcefulness, the capacity for adventure and the instinctive heroism of the young. Enid Blyton probably stole the recipe — minus the socialist tendencies — for her more upper-class adventure series. Truong Hoang is behind the bookshop, Bookworm. For more info click on bookwormhanoi. com or visit their shop at 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Khu Do Thi Bac AnKhanh, An Khanh, HoaiDuc, Tel: (024) 3399 6464 St. Paul Hanoi has developed a strong reputation for providing a high quality American education. An international school that collaborates with schools around the globe to set high expectations and align with rigorous standards so that students will have a wonderful opportunity to attend a great university in the future.

UNITED NATIONS INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (UNIS) G9 Ciputra, Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3758 1551 Established in 1988, 1,050 students from 60 nationalities follow the IB programme from aged 3 through to aged 18. A not-for-profit entity, UNIS aims for its students to emerge as responsible stewards of our global society and natural environment.

M M M PROPERTY RENTALS FAIR REAL ESTATE RENTALS 6 Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 6332

GIA LONG HOUSING RENTALS R714, Blg CT13B Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3743 0589

HANOI RENTING RENTALS No. 809, Ct13b building, Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho Tel: (024) 6294 4828

LANLINH PROPERTY RENTALS 38 Hang Hom, Hoan Kiem, Tel: Tel: 0933 534999


RENTALS 21 Alley 1/22 Au Co, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 5203

MID-RANGE FITNESS CENTRE 5th Floor, 71 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 6266 0495




YOGA & WELLNESS 5th Fl, 135 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung. Tel: (024) 6263.1515

Room 302, 12A Ho Xuan Huong, Tel: (024) 3943 1511 The largest home moving company in the world, Allied Pickfords moves over 1,000 families in over 175 countries every day. Has a full range of services — domestic moves, office moves and storage — both inside and outside of Vietnam.

JVK INDOCHINA MOVERS 6 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (024)3826 0334 Focused primarily on the international and local movement of household goods, JVK is currently a leader in the field. Has offices in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

M M M SPORTS & FITNESS BODY&SOUL SPA SPA House 71, Ngach 2 Dam Tri, Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Tel: 0904 241314 Body&Soul Spa Hanoi is located in a relaxing environment on the lotus ponds of West Lake, away from the confusion of Hanoi’s busy streets. Provides treatments including oriental ritual, massage, facial and waxing.

ELITE FITNESS TOP-END HEALTH CENTRE 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 6281 The luxury gym features top-of-the-line fitness equipment, separate cardio and spinning areas and an indoor swimming pool with a retractable roof. The spacious studios and natural light make it a welcoming place to squeeze in a work out, but be prepared to pay. This place is top of the range.






THE FITNESS VILLAGE 68, Alley 50, Lane 310 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: 01627 333078 Set in a tranquil garden, The Fitness Village is Hanoi’s most unique gym. Offers fitness, dance, yoga, and Pilates classes along with a fitness room and a swimming pool a few minutes from West Lake.

VIETCLIMB CLIMBING CENTRE 40 Ngo 76 An Duong, Tay Ho, Tel: 0914 143185 Although a little hard to find, VietClimb is a French-owned, 200-meter climbing gym with state-of-the-art courses. There are 100 different climbing routes within the gym that are changed every few months. They offer clinics, classes and children’s events. Membership and group rates are available, but be sure to check out the three-month pass.

ZENITH YOGA HANOI YOGA & PILATES 247 Au Co, Tay Ho; Floor 6, No. 2 Lane 371 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh Tel: (024) 3266 8125 The oldest and most professional Yoga Studio in Hanoi, Zenith offers a vast variety of classes and levels in Iyengar, Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga and Pilates while also offering Restorative, Prenatal & Postnatal Yoga, Meditation sessions, and Kundalini classes. Also have a yogic shop offering incense, clothes and yoga props, as well as a café serving up the homemade vegetarian meals, cakes and coffee.








Make 'Em Laugh Make 'Em Cry Make 'Em Wait





provides core subjects from the Singaporean and Vietnamese curricula, as well as specialist programmes from Britain, America and Canada, all taught by qualified teachers.


Word is Stopping Subscriptions Our magazines are disappearing fast out of our distribution outlets. So fast in fact that as a result we have decided to stop all subscriptions. We don’t have enough copies. Anyone who is an existing subscriber will continue to receive their monthly copy of the magazine. So no need to worry! And for everyone else, you can see a list of our distribution outlets by clicking on: Alternatively, you can find the digital version of our magazine online at: Once again, a big thank you for all your support. It’s you, the reader, who allows us to make this magazine happen.

Any questions or queries, please drop us a line on | February 2018 Word | 111

women's fitness // control your eating by amazin le thi


aving the willpower and self-discipline to control your eating even when you emotionally don’t want to is paramount to not feeling like you are falling off the bandwagon during Tet. Self-discipline around food over Tet can be particularly tricky with social and family events throughout the holiday period. As a personal trainer who has trained Olympic athletes, special forces, special operations from different military units and the general public, I know first-hand that even the most highly disciplined person can still fall off the wagon around the festive holiday season without having a big enough reason and specific goals to stay on track. A recent American website study stated that 18% of people during the holidays said that it was very hard to have the self-discipline to eat healthy food during the festive season because they didn’t want to miss out on all the food they loved to eat during this time. Enjoying Tet parties isn’t about learning new Wonder Woman willpower, self-control skills and denying yourself of your favourite party food. You can still avoid holiday weight gain and indulge in your favourite food, as long as you are mindful about your eating. A global study in 2017 stated that Vietnam had the lowest rate of adult obesity with only 1% of Vietnamese adults being obese but childhood obesity is on the rise with Saigon and Hanoi having the highest number of overweight children. In 1996, the prevalence of childhood obesity in Hanoi and Saigon was only 12%. According to latest reports it has jumped to 50%. Children tend to mirror their parent’s eating behavioural patterns, so it’s not just about developing self-discipline and a

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healthy relationship around food for yourself, but also being an example for your children. Below are my two tips for developing selfdiscipline to control your eating during Tet.

Resist Temptation With ‘Why’

Finding your big ‘Why’ becomes powerful motivation to resist temptation and maintain self-discipline around food during Tet. This is why with your health and fitness plan, it’s vital from the beginning to set out very specific short, mid and long-term achievable goals. It’s not enough to say “I want to lose weight by summer”. This isn’t specific enough and nor does it provide enough emotional motivation to achieve self-discipline around Tet. No matter how much self-discipline you think you possess you can’t make yourself resist temptation if you haven’t given yourself a big enough reason. If you changed this vague wish to “I want to lose 10 pounds by summer so I can wear a bikini on my beach vacation to Da Nang,” that is a far better specific goal.

Your Social Circle

Various studies about obesity suggest your social influence is a major factor when it comes to self-discipline around eating. Renowned American motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. American performance coach Jairek Robbins says: “Every person you meet in life is either a warning or an example — a warning of what not to do or an example of what to do.” Think about who you surround yourself with when it comes to Tet. Does your social circle and family encourage and support you to make positive choices when it comes to

food and responsible drinking? Or do they challenge your willpower and negatively influence your eating habits? Finding a social circle that is like-minded with similar interests in eating well and exercising regularly will encourage you to keep on track with your own self-discipline to control your eating habits. Tet isn’t about depriving yourself by banning all your favourite treats in sight. This can become counterproductive in the end as it can lead to overeating and food cravings later. If you really want that cake and a glass of wine don’t feel like you are losing self-control over your diet by giving in. Just be mindful of your holiday eating along with reminding yourself of your long-term health and fitness goal and the big “Why”, as that one slice of chocolate cake isn’t going to tip the scale. It’s all about moderation with an occasional indulgence. Amazin is a Prana Samyana meditation Yin Yoga teacher and performance coach having trained Olympic athletes to special forces. She is also a former natural competitive bodybuilder and the first Vietnamese internationally published health and fitness author and DNA fitness trainer. For more info, click on and

hanoi on the town

BARS +84 BAR CONTEMPORARY DECOR BAR 23 Ngo Van So, Hoan Kiem Housed in a colonial building, bare brick, comfortable sofalike seating and grungy decor related to a past make up the mix at this venue put together by the people behind Barbetta.

88 LOUNGE CONTEMPORARY WINE BAR 88 Xuan Dieu, Tay ho, Tel: (024) 3718 8029 A wine bar with a difference, this mainstay on the watering hole scene in West Lake mixes contemporary design, black ceilings, subtle lighting and an international aesthetic with one of the best wine lists in town. Not surprisingly it is developing a faithful clientele. Well worth a visit.

BARBETTA ARTSY BAR & CAFE 34C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3734 9134 Set in a colonial villa, when it comes to design, the funky but comfortable Barbetta with its roof terrace is difficult to beat. A great place for coffee, beer or even a bite to eat.

ETE BAR FRENCH LOUNGE 95 Giang Van Minh, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0976 751331 A favourite among those who roam further west of the city centre, this multistorey restobar has been going strong for more than two years. It has balconies, mezzanine seating and a long bar guarding exactly 50 different cocktails. For many the Ete burger is right on the mark as are the sandwiches, tartines and salads. It’s always crowded — especially during the weekends. Amiable staff, pleasant vibes.

FURBREW CRAFT BEER BAR 8B/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho You like your home-style brews and you have a craving for an IPA, a pale ale or a wheat beer that you can’t get anywhere else. Furbrew is your answer. Six craft beers from the tap, all brewed by the venue, with a pleasant West Lake-like vibe to match.

HANOI ROCK CITY LIVE MUSIC VENUE 27/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: 01633 166170 Has a downstairs, Englishstyle pub garden area and an upstairs space dedicated

to live music and live production. Weekly live events feature bands and DJs both from Vietnam and overseas — established and up and coming.

plates. Relaxing sofas, high tables, a terrace area and an event space, this popular venue is also the home of comedy shows organised by Stand-Up Hanoi.



LATE-NIGHT GRUNGE BAR 7 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3926 3104

POLITE PUB LONG BAR 5 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3825 0959 5pm to 2am Probably the closest thing Hanoi has to an authentic English-style pub, Polite is frequented by a steady mix of locals and expats who find solace in the nightly conversations at the long bar, pool and live football matches.

RED RIVER TEA ROOM LAKESIDE WATERING HOLE 19 Xom Chua Kim Lien, Ngo 1 Au Co, Tay Ho Red-River-Tea-Room Recently relocated to a quiet alley past the InterCon and Kim Lien Pagoda, this unpretentious wine pub with a social conscience continues to offer reasonably-priced beer, wine, whiskey and cider served by the same happy staff.

ROCKSTORE LIVE MUSIC BAR 61 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 01653 336087 RockstoreHanoi

SAVAGE HANOI BAR & CLUB 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho Located in West Lake, Savage is a club, bar and hang out for the musically enthused. One of the top house and techno clubs pioneering the underground scene in the region, Savage is known for hosting some of the world’s best international DJs alongside a roster of talented local residents. All within the confines of West Lake. Check their Facebook page for event info.

SIDEWALK HANOI DIY BAR & EVENTS VENUE 199D Nghi Tam, Tay Ho sidewalkhanoi

STANDING BAR CRAFT BEER / EVENT SPACE 170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh Located in Truc Bach, this craft beer drinking haunt has 16 craft beers on tap together with a daily changing menu of tapas dishes and small

ARTS BAR / EVENT SPACE 24B Tong Dan, Hoan Kiem Located close to the Opera House, this alternative, arty bar is garnished in red and white on the outside, with warm brown and tones of blue on the inside. Creating an atmosphere merging Shanghai and San Francisco, engaging contemporary artwork lines the walls at the latest incarnation of this wellknown and well-loved space.


Sip on a blended cup of joe with beans from the Central Highlands, knock back one of the many different types of tea available or sip on freshly squeezed juice from the Spartan cups in one of the hippest café chains in town.

DUY TRI VIETNAMESE CAFÉ 43 Yen Phu, Tay Ho The longest-running café in the capital, this 1936-established, threefloored space is simplicity at its finest. Even the coffee here sticks to its roots — it’s made using the same blend of Arabica and Robusta cooked up by its founders. Unpretentious, endearing and old-fashioned.


MODERN SPORTS BAR 7A Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: 0904 010116 A contemporary mid-range bar and eatery showing live sport and boasting a convivial atmosphere. Has a creative comfort food menu, excellent breakfasts, daily specials and a popular second-floor outdoor terrace.

URBAN CAFÉ & BRASSERIE 110 D1 Tran Huy Lieu, Giang Vo, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 6293 6361 An urban café and brasserie serving international and French-Mediterranean cuisine in a casual and cozy atmosphere. A popular social hub in Ba Dinh District featuring a wide selection of coffees and wines from around the world.



ANNAM CAFE DELI / INTERNATIONAL CAFE Syrena Tower, 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho A trendy, deli-style café connected to Annam Gourmet next door. Bright and fresh décor is complemented by shelves stocked with imported gourmet goods and cafeteria-style furniture. An eye-catching temptation for weary shoppers.

COFFEE BEAN & TEA LEAF INTERNATIONAL COFFEE HOUSE 28 Thanh Nien, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3715 4240 This American-style chain cafe is a multilevel, indoor/ outdoor café overlooking Westlake. With its LA coffee and office feel, when you walk in you might just forget that you’re in Hanoi.

CONG CAPHE LEFTIST ARTSY CAFE 152D Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung; 32 Dien Bien Phu, Ba Dinh; 27 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem; 15 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh; 100A Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho With a kitsch, communistdriven theme saturating this quaint cafe, most patrons are young Vietnamese bohemians and artsy expats.

COURTYARD CAFE 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh Relax in a leafy courtyard, air-con dining room or under a covered roof terrace with a Vietnamese ca phe, Italian coffee, beer, wine or freshly squeezed juice. Order from a seasonally changing menu or try one of the allday breakfast specials for VND110,000, including juice and coffee or tea.

HANOI HOUSE HIDEAWAY CAFE 2nd Floor, 47A Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem Set in a colonial-era building with equally colonial-era styled furnishings, this hidden away family house café is one of those gems synonymous with Hanoi. Quiet, intimate and simple, the staff will treat you like you’re a guest in their home.

in 2009. Joma contributes 2 percent of each sale to charitable organisations.

KAFEVILLE COFFEE SPECIALIST & CAFE 22 Nguyen TrungTruc, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0906 221030 If you like your coffee brewed in different styles and made with hard-to-find blends, this on-the-edge of the Old Quarter cafe is a dream. When it comes to good old caffeine, this small yet homely, vintage-styled cafe stands on its own. Also boasts and excellent selection of teas.

KINH DO PATISSERIE / SIMPLE CAFE 252 Hang Bong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3825 0216 One of the longest-running cafes in town, this hole-inthe-wall, no frills café-cumrestaurant home-makes its patisseries and is renowned for its excellent yoghurt.

MANZI ARTSPACE ARTS CAFÉ & GALLERY 14 Phan Huy Ich, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3716 3397 A stunningly designed contemporary café and events space that screams out the words ‘modern art’. Housed in a converted colonialera villa, a continuous flow of exhibitions, talks, experimental music and game shows make up the mix here. Great cuisine, too.

MAISON DE TET DÉCOR LIFESTYLE CAFE 36 Tu Hoa, Nghi Tam Village, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3823 9722 On-site coffee roasting, comfortable seating arrangements, rustic style furnishings and décor, and a focus on healthy, nonprocessed foods. This is the concept behind Maison de Tet Décor, and it’s a popular one, too, as witnessed by the size of the clientele. Also run occasional farmers’ markets.



CAFE / INTERNATIONAL 14-16 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem. (024) 3825 6334

COFFEE/BAKERY 22 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3747 3388; 43 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 6071 Popular café with a contemporary western feel to the counter-style service and atmosphere. The food is all there, too: breakfasts, salads, soups, ice cream, muffins, cakes, cereals and bagels. Starting in Laos in 1996, Joma moved to Hanoi

INTERNATIONAL / CAFE 16-18 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3938 1745 This spacious spot on Food Street is open around the clock, offering Aussieinspired comfort food along with more eclectic Irish nachos, cottage pies and pan-Asian fare. Upstairs is fit for social gatherings and live music while the nosmoking downstairs space

PUKU | February 2018 Word | 113

Top eats // hanoi


alcheeni, meaning cinnamon, is the name of one of Hanoi’s most popular Indian restaurants. Dalcheeni has built a reputation among locals and expats alike, not least Hanoi’s small Indian community. Indians can often be seen dining here, testament to the authenticity of the food. Located on Xuan Dieu and boasting an uninterrupted view of West Lake and the Hanoi skyline, this is certainly a place with atmosphere. Dalcheeni has all the comforts of a luxury hotel, and feels cozy and warm inside. The space is decorated with browns and creams, adorned with colourful decorations and tables laid ready for a fine dining experience.

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Royal Indian Flair

Indian restaurants outside of their home country often fall into the category of not being authentic — and while Dalcheeni admit that they do tone the spice down a little to cater for non-Indian customers, the flavours in their dishes are certainly an honest representation of Indian cooking. The menu is arranged by region and cooking style, with an emphasis on North Indian cuisine. An interesting addition are the nawab dishes, which originate from the city of Lucknow, east of New Delhi. The nawab dishes will please anyone with a fondness for Indian flair who hasn’t had the opportunity to explore beyond the usual dishes

found in Indian restaurants in the West.

A Delectable Feast

Head chef Shaan Mohammad, himself born and raised in India, earned his stripes in the Sheraton Delhi and has since stacked up 20 years of experience in the kitchen. Handling operations, and also from India, is Arun Biswal. Arun’s career has seen him working in restaurants and hotels around the world, including one of India’s most prestigious — Caperberry in Bangalore. We were looking to experience the full range of the menu, so we warmed up with the lamb shammi kebab (VND180,000), a mix of lamb and



wheat, ground together and cooked on the griddle. The end result had a soft texture and subtle heat. Next we tried the tandoori pomfret (VND200,000) — a generous serving of well-cooked fish, marinated for a day before being cooked, and utterly bursting with flavour. This dish is only available on weekends. After polishing off the pomfret we tried the tangari kebab (VND120,000), which consists of two chicken drumsticks marinated in cashew paste, hung curb and spices, and grilled in tandoor. The chicken was tender, and the bones are wrapped in foil to make for minimal mess when eating. Next up came the moradabadi biryani (VND150,000), a generous

portion of spicy chicken cooked with basmati rice and split whole green chilli, touched up with excellent decoration. This was accompanied by a well-cooked naan bread — slightly crispy and a good size (VND40,000), and a Greek-style Indian salad with Indian cottage cheese (VND80,000). Our final plate to arrive, and in our opinion the best, was the murgh makhni, or butter chicken (VND140,000). The chicken had a smoky flavour, and the sauce had strong hints of paprika. It comes with a whole lot of sauce, ideal for scooping up with a naan bread.

Dining, Catering, Delivery

The top floor can be booked for out

private functions, or alternatively you can arrange for catering services at a private venue of your choice. Having crafted a reputation for excellent food, Dalcheeni now caters for the annual Holi and Diwali festivities — held last year in the JW Marriott in Tu Liem. Overall, the food is mouthwatering, the portions are big, and the service is exactly what you’d expect from a team with backgrounds working in top-end restaurants and hotels. — Billy Gray Dalcheeni is located at 100 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Opening hours are 11am to 2pm, and 6pm to 10pm. For delivery call (024) 3266 8453. Minimum order is VND200,000. | February 2018 Word | 115

bar stool // hanoi



stablished in May 2017 by New Yorker Brett Zweiman, DeN continues to solidify its reputation as a bohemian hub within Hanoi’s creative community. Brett’s vision is to create a community gathering space where creativity can be allowed to flourish. A space where anyone can come and receive support for developing and sharing their craft. “If people want to come in here and play, then we want them,” says Brett. “It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want to plug in and try it out then come.” The space is well kitted out for live performances, and frequently hosts both local and international acts. It boasts a well-built stage complete with red curtains, and a professional sound system, lighting

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rig and recording studio.

Busy Calendar

Since opening last year, DeN has hosted hundreds of events and workshops with live performances ranging from as far afield as death metal to ancient Vietnamese ca tru vocal performers — and just about everything in between. “I’m a sound guy by trade,” says Brett, who can often be seen tweaking the PA and the lighting during performances. “That’s one thing that’s given us good notoriety — we care about sound.” On top of this Brett operates a recording studio on the third floor, which has been used to record the albums of several Hanoi-based bands, including newcomers Shes, and Rabbit Punch.

“We recently started hosting ‘rehearshows’ where bands can come to rehearse in front of an audience,” says Brett. “Although it’s a rehearsal, the band has to treat it as a live performance, so they can’t stop midway to discuss it, because there’s an audience there.” Brett and his team have gained the respect of artists from dancers, poets and painters. Art is exhibited on the walls, and the spoken-word and comedy group Mouth hold their get-togethers here.

Communal Creativity

Alongside all the live music and dancers that frequent the stage at DeN, drop-in activities throughout the day are also a key component of the concept. Free drop-in yoga sessions are held four mornings a

DeN week, and every Wednesday Brett hosts the Audiohm music and meditation event. “We want this to be somewhere where you can come any time of the day and know that something creative is happening,” says Brett. Keeping to the theme of community-based creativity, the team at DeN also host weekly drum circles using Brett’s extensive collection of percussion instruments. “It started as a few of us,” says Brett, “and then this lady turned up with her kid, then the next time her friends came with their kids so now it’s this great experience where there’s kids running around, and everyone is getting taken over by their instruments.”

Craft Cocktails and Pizza

The menu offers a good variety of beer including both Barett Red Smoky and Pacific Pilsner (VND60,000), Truc Bach, and Dai Viet (VND40,000). The house cocktail list features some clever concoctions using ingredients like Vietnamese basil and honey, Chinese liquorice, and Indian ivy-rue pepper. All cocktails cost VND110,000. A range of fruit smoothies is also on sale from between VND50,000 to VND75,000. Pizzas are also available including classic Italian pancetta and mozzarella (VND85,000) and South American black bean and avocado (VND85,000). Other snacks include hummus (VND120,000) and rice balls with cheese (VND45,000). Brett has high hopes for the future of DeN. Even having already put it on the map for having one of Hanoi’s busiest entertainment calendars, new ideas for bi-weekly nights continue to spill out of his brain. “I’ve been putting on shows like this for years,” he says. “I love it, it’s what I do.” — Billy Gray DeN is located at 49 Lang Yen Phu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Opening hours are 10am to midnight. | February 2018 Word | 117

hanoi on the town

is filled with people working and socialising. Serves as community centre, especially late at night.

SAINT HONORE CAFE / BOULANGERIE 5 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3933 2355 This cafe and French-style boulangerie is best visited in the morning when that Gallic, fresh-cooked bakery aroma hits you as you walk through the door. The downstairs space is split into the bakery on one side with a small non-smoking dining space on the other. The upstairs lounge area has standard tables as well as sofa seating. Simple but tasty French and international fare is served at meal times.

SPACEBAR COWORKING CAFE Nha 15, 76 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho A pleasant, ground floor cafe with an outdoor terrace that sits below offices and a coworking space. Serves up coffee, juices, breakfasts and western-style cafe fare. Perfect for work, Wifi, a bite to eat and coffee.

THE HANOI SOCIAL CLUB CAFÉ / CONTEMPORARY EATERY 6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3938 2117 thehanoisocialclub A cozy midsize café/ restaurant where you can forget the heat and bustle of Hanoi. The atmosphere is relaxed and here you can imagine, for a second, that you’re sitting in a European café. The ood is fresh and internationally inspired, and has an excellent top-floor terrace.

YOLO FUNKY LIVE MUSIC CAFE 32C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh YoloCoffeeShops

ZENITH VEGETARIAN CAFE VEGETARIAN / VEGAN 247 Au Co, Tay Ho, Tel: 0904 356561 A vegetarian and vegan cafe respecting the philosophy of yoga — simple living, mindful thinking. Using 100 percent natural ingredients, the cuisine has no additional additives or MSG and is cooked using the minimal amount of oil. The stress is instead on eating whole food in its natural state.


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EAT — CHINESE MAY MAN CHINESE CUISINE PAN-CHINESE Fortuna Hotel, 6B Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3831 3333 Elegant and luxurious, May Man has long been regarded as one of the best Chinese restaurants in Hanoi. Showcasing a selection of authentic Chinese fare together with dim sum, May Man boasts extensive a la carte menus, dim sum menus and set menus. Reservations recommended.

M M M EAT — FRENCH FRENCH GRILL TOP-END GRILL JW Marriott Hanoi, 8 Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Tel: (024) 3833 5588 W i t h u n i q u e d e c o r, contemporary ambience, a walk-in wine cooler and a delectable seafood bar, this classy restaurant offers guests a service experience with crafted food difficult to find in the capital.

GREEN TANGERINE FRENCH / VIETNAMESE FUSION 48 Hang Be, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3825 1286

LA BADIANE CONTEMPORARY FRENCH 10 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3942 4509 On entering La Badiane, you are instantly caught by the multitude aromas coming from the open front kitchen. Then, surrounded by leaf plants, and predominantly white walls, the customer is struck by this venue’s calm and elegance. Although the dining experience at la Badiane is about the food, great attention is also paid to the ambience so you can enjoy every aspect of your meal. Voted one of Miele Guide’s Top 500 Restaurants in Asia.

LA VERTICALE CONTEMPORARY FRENCH 19 Ngo Van So, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (024) 3944 6317 Situated in an art-deco villa, this establishment is run by the most famous French chef in the country. With modestly priced set lunches and subtle Vietnamese touches on the dishes, the up market establishment lures in its high class customers with quality Vietnamese-French fusion cuisine.

LE BEAULIEU CLASSIC FRENCH / BUFFET Sofitel Metropole Legend, 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3826 6919 The Metropole’s signature restaurant serving up both classic and contemporary French fare. Buffet options mix with an a la carte menu and an ambience that could be straight out of Paris.

MILLENIUM-CAFÉ DES ARTS PAN-FRENCH 11 Hang Hanh, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3828 7207 A contemporary and chic three-storey restaurant with a terrace and views over one of Hanoi’s best-known alleys. Serves up quality French cuisine such as: snails, foie gras, lobster, scallops, chateaubriand and tournedos Rossini. Does an excellent set menu and also has a daily specials board.

M M M EAT — INDIAN FOODSHOP 45 INTERNATIONAL INDIAN 59 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3716 2959 Lakeside location and low bamboo seating, this eatery is one of the most popular Indians in town. Selling an international version of the mighty curry — they even sell pork and beef here — the menu keeps to the northern part of the subcontinent with masala, dopiaza, korma and the more Goan vindaloo taking centre stage.

INDIA PALACE NORTH INDIAN 10B Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: 01247 668668

NAMASTE HANOI PAN-INDIAN 46 Tho Nhuom, Hanoi, Tel: (024) 3935 2400 The well-loved Namaste specialises in dishes from both northern and southern India — using Halal meat throughout. Hosted by the gregarious Gopi, a meal will cost you between VND150,000 and VND300,000 and everything is there, from curries and breads to soups and desserts.

NAN N KABAB INDIAN & AFGHAN 49 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: 0922 087799



AMATO TAPAS / FRENCH CUISINE 1A Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 01227 367470 Located next to Binh Minh Jazz Club, Amato is a fusion tapas bar by night and a French restaurant during the day. Tiny, hip and yet surprisingly spacious, Amato offers an international dining and drinking experience in the heart of Hanoi.

AU LAC DO BRAZIL BRAZILIAN 6A Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3845 5224

CHOPS GOURMET BURGER & CRAFT BEER 4 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 6292 1044 Finally Hanoi has a dedicated gourmet burger joint, and this West Lake eatery with its fan-cooled atmosphere get it just about right. This is comfort food at its finest. Served up with locally brewed craft beer, and this one’s a bit of a winner.

COUSINS CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL 3 Quang Ba, Tay Ho, Tel: 01238 670098; 7 ngo 58, Dao Tan, Ba Dinh cousins.hanoi A contemporary, Frenchinfluenced restaurant selling international cuisine at reasonable prices in a spacious, airy atmosphere. Blackboards, whitewashed, bare-brick walls, period tiles, a well-chosen wine list and an outdoor terrace overlooking the lake make up the formula. Has a second restaurant in Ba Dinh.

DON’S TAY HO CONTEMPORARY NORTH AMERICAN 16 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3719 3719 This lake-facing venue with its top floor Oyster Bar is the work of charismatic Canadian restaurateur and wine connoisseur Donald Berger. Focusing on comfort food done well, the main restaurant menu includes anything from wood-grilled rare tuna steak with fragrant Chinese black bean beurre noir to gourmet pizza and pasta dishes Excellent range of imported oysters, great

breakfasts and an extensive wine list.

EMM CAFE URBAN CAFÉ & BRASSERIE 110 D1 Tran Huy Lieu, Giang Vo, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 6293 6361 An urban café and brasserie serving international and French-Mediterranean cuisine in a casual and cozy atmosphere. A popular social hub in Ba Dinh District featuring a wide selection of coffees and wines from around the world.

EL GAUCHO STEAKHOUSE ARGENTINIAN STEAKHOUSE 11 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3824 7280; 99 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 6991 With venues in Saigon and Bangkok, the essence of El Gaucho is quality top grade meats off the grill. Steak is the mainstay — the USDA cuts are to die for — but everything from chicken, pork and seafood is also up for grabs. Add to this a backdrop of low Latin music, low, subtle lighting, an extensive wine list and slick service. There’s a reason El Gaucho is so successful — everything’s being taken care of.

J.A.F.A. INTERNATIONAL G2-G3 Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3758 2400 J.A.F.A. is a great place for drinking cocktails by the pool. The beverages are not the cheapest, but this is made up for by service and ambiance. They also have a full menu featuring familiar western dishes such as pizza and cheeseburgers and cater for large parties or dinner functions. Periodic buffets and drink specials are also offered.

JACKSON’S STEAKHOUSE STEAKHOUSE / GRILL 23J Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3938 8388

JASPA’S INTERNATIONAL / AUSTRALIAN Hanoi Towers, 49 Hai Ba Trung (4th Floor), Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3934 8325

KOTO ON VAN MIEU RESTAURANT / CAFÉ / BAR 59 Van Mieu, Dong Da, Tel: (024) 3747 0337 The restaurant arm of Koto, an F&B training school for disadvantaged youth. Authentic Asian and European cuisine is served over four big

floors of restaurant space. It’s cushioned, comfortable and has a rooftop terrace, too. Wrap it yourself nem, bun bo Nam bo, Koto burgers, pastas, fish and chips, chicken Kievs and sandwiches all under one homely roof.

LA SALSA IBERIAN / MEDITERANEAN 5 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (024) 3995 0950

MOOSE AND ROO CANADIAN / AUSTRALIAN RESTAURANT 42B Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Tel:(024) 3200 1289 Contemporary Australian and Canadian comfort food in a pleasant setting together with a nice bar area. Best known for their Scotch egg, poutine and burgers. Clever changing imagery on the walls.

MOOSE AND ROO SMOKEHOUSE AMERICAN GRILL The American Club, 19-21 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3939 2470 There’s a reason for Smokehouse’s popularity — the excellent, on-site smoked meats together with all the typical, American-style sides. Set in the American Club, dining is both indoors and out, and comes with the best bourbon selection in town.

NINETEEN 11 INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN The Opera House, 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3933 4801 Named after the completion date of the Hanoi Opera House, this upscale yet casual restaurant maintains an ambience of elegance, luxury and mystery. The cuisine mixes international fare with twists on Vietnamese cuisine and comes complete with a formidable wine list and an in-house sommelier.

PIZZA 4P’S JAPANESE PIZZA JOINT 24 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 01208 034444 Famed for its home-made mozzarella and Japaneseinspired pizzas that break all the rules, the Hanoi outlet of Pizza 4P’s is as popular as its Saigon branch, a restaurant that has been greeted by accolades by all asunder. All pizzas are cooked in a woodfired oven and use fresh, local ingredients.

THE CART SANDWICH SHOP / CAFÉ 8B, Lane 1, Au Co, Nghi Tam Village, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3938 2513 Small cozy café and sandwich bar hidden away in Nghi Tam Village. Serves and delivers tasty baguettes, homemade juices, quiches, pies, muffins and cakes. The delivery service is quick and reliable, which makes this lunchtime favourite ideal for when you need to eat at the desk.

WANNAWAFFLE WAFFLES 27 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem; 138 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung; Unit 108, Indochina Plaza, 241 Xuan Thuy, Cau Giay wannawaffle Waffles, but not as you know it. Here it’s about taking this humble dish and recreating it in a contemporary environment in as many ways as is humanly possible. Ever had a matcha waffle? What about a waffle stuffed with cream cheese and smoked salmon? How about a banoffee pie or a pizza waffle? Wannawaffle serves up all these creations and much more.

ZENITH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT HOLISTIC VEGETARIAN 247Au Co, Tay Ho, Tel: 0904 356561 zenithyogavietnam.

com/zenith-cafe A vegetarian and vegan café connected to Zenith Yoga that respects yoga philosophy. Simple living, mindful thinking and 100 percent natural ingredients, all the food here is served up without additional additives or MSG and using only fresh seasonal products. All dishes are made in house.

M M M EAT — ITALIAN DA PAOLO CLASSIC ITALIAN 18 Lane 50/59/17 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3718 6317 This airy, contemporary looking Italian restaurant next to the famed lawn chair and coconut café on West Lake has all the right ingredients to become a classic. Run by the long time former manager of Luna D’Autunno, it features scrumptious wood-fired oven pizzas from VND120,000 and other Italian delicacies. Open every day for lunch and dinner, delivery is also available.

LINGUINI FINI ITALIAN-AMERICAN 36-38 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (024) 3266 8968 With branches in Hong Kong and Manilla, the contemporary ItalianAmerican Linguini Fini pulls no punches with its first outlet in Vietnam. Sleek modern décor, high quality cuisine, home-made pasta, reasonable prices and dishes cooked up with the freshest ingredients available are part of the deal, as are some damn fine pizzas.

LUNA D’AUTUNNO CLASSIC ITALIAN 27 Nam Ngu, Tel: (024) 3823 7338 This old-favourite Italian uses traditional wood ovens

to prepare some of the city’s finest pizzas, which range from VND100,000 to buildyour-own-skies-the-limit. Set inside a large, thoughtful space seasoned chefs also make fresh pastas, soups and cheeses. Has regular live music and a great Italian wine list.

MEDITERRANEO PAN-ITALIAN 23 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3826 6288

PANE E VINO PAN-ITALIAN 3 Nguyen Khac Can, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3826 9080

M M M EAT — JAPANESE ASAHI SUSHI SUSHI RESTAURANT 288 Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (024) 3974 5945

KY Y JAPANESE RICE EATERY 166 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (024) 3978 1386 Not to be mistake for a sushi joint, this wonderful restaurant is your typical, Japanese working person’s rice eatery. Has a bar area downstairs and booth-like seating on the upper floors.




GOURMET VIETNAMESE 4 Ton That Thiep, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3747 8337 Gordon Ramsay once filmed a show at this restaurant in a renovated French villa and now the ribs carry his namesake. But it’s the twist on old world favourites, think fried snail spring rolls and miniature vegetarian banh xeo, all in a casually elegant setting that make this spot near the train tracks a standout.

BUN CHA 1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem; 67 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem


PHO CUON 26 Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh

CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE 57 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (024) 3944 0204 Brought to you by a group of former disadvantaged youth from Hanoi’s own KOTO, this unique fine dining restaurant, bar and lounge blends the old with the new. Vietnamese fusion cuisine, like profiteroles with green tea and café fillings, a private chef’s table with a kitchen view, and an extensive wine list combined with modern formal styling bring a unique experience to Hanoi.


PHO BO CU CHIEU PHO BO 48 Hang Dong, Hoan Kiem


PHO GA BA LAM PHO GA 7 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem

PHO GA HANG DIEU PHO GA 1 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem


PHO LY QUOC SU PHO BO 10 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem



PHO GA / BUN BO NAM BO / COM 18 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho



VIETNAMESE / ETHNIC 5 Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3926 4200; 25 Bat Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (024) 3926 0639; 575 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Tel: (024) 3771 6372 The home of Son Tinh liquor, Highway 4 is also known for its communal dining and ethnic food menu taking in dishes from around the regions of northern Vietnam. Try out their catfish spring rolls. Phenomenal!


BANH CUON 14 Hang Ga, Hoan Kiem




SAUTEED BEEF PHO 13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung

PHO TRON MIXED PHO 5 Phu Doan, Hoan Kiem; 47 Ma May, Hoan Kiem; 2 Hang Hom, Hoan Kiem; 6 Luong Van Can, Hoan Kiem

PHO TU LUN PHO BO 23 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem


BUN BO NAM BO BUN BO NAM BO 67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem



ho Chi minh city


body & Temple / medical buff / top eats / bar stool / know your city

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hcmc essentials

BUSINESS GROUPS AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (AMCHAM) New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (028) 3824 3562

2nd Floor, Eximland Building, 179EF Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3, Tel: (028) 3832 9912

BRITISH BUSINESS GROUP OF VIETNAM (BBGV) 25 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 8430

MD6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (028) 5410 0100 10 Tran Phu, Q5, Tel: (028) 3832 1843 107B Truong Dinh, Q3, Tel: (028) 3930 0498 aple Healthcare is a chiropractic clinic with chiropractors who are experts in providing effective treatments in patient healthcare. Uses the latest technology, techniques and practice to ensure top results.


STAMFORD SKIN CENTRE DERMATOLOGY CLINIC 99 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1, Tel: (028) 3925 1990 tamford 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.



Room 305, New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (028) 3824 3754


NORDCHAM 17th Floor, Petroland Tower, 12 Tan Trao, Q7, Tel: (028) 5416 0922




PHILIPPINES BUSINESS GROUP VIETNAM 40/4 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (028) 3518 0045

SINGAPORE BUSINESS GROUP 6th Floor, Unit 601, Tran Quy Building, 57 Le Thi Hong, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 3046


INTERNATIONAL DENTAL CLINIC Norfolk Mansion, 17-19-21 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (028) 3825 6999 Thao Dien Clinic, 27 Nguyen Ba Lan, Q.2, Tel: (028) 35 191 777 n 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.



INTERNATIONAL DENTAL CLINIC 167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (028) 3829 8424 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.

STARLIGHT DENTAL CLINIC INTERNATIONAL DENTAL CLINIC 2 Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, Q3, Tel: (028) 3822 6222 24, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 6282 8822

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.

M M M GALLERIES COULEURS D'ASIE BY RÉHAHN Floor 1, 151/7 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (028) 6889 4376 dAsie.Saigon Couleurs d'Asie is a permanent gallery featuring the work of French photographet, Réhahn, from his time in Vietnam and the region. Located next to L’Usine Café, the gallery is open every day from 7.30am to 10.30pm.


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HOSPITALS & MEDICAL CLINICS AMERICAN CHIROPRACTIC CLINIC CHIROPRACTOR 161-161A Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (028) 3939 3930 ACC provides effective chiropractic, physiotherapy, acupuncture and foot care treatments through the use of cutting edge technology for back, neck and knee pain, sports injuries as well as all types of foot related problems without the need of drugs or surgery.

AMERICAN EYE CENTER 5th Floor, Crescent Plaza, 105 Ton Dat Tien, Q7 Tel: 5413 6758 / 5413 6759


INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL 6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South Parkway, Q7, Tel: (028) 5411 3333 Emergency: (028) 5411 3500 V Hospital is one of Vietnam’s leading, healthcare facilities, receiving international recognition from the global leader of accreditation, the JCI (Joint Commission International). With over 950 service staff, including 130 doctors, FV Hospital provides care in over 30 medical specialties in a complete, one-stop modern hospital.



246 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 2335 nspected and approved by the British Government, BIS provides a British style curriculum for an international student body from pre-school to Year 13. The school is staffed by British qualified and trained teachers with recent UK experience. Fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and a member of FOBISIA, BIS is the largest international school in Vietnam.


6th Floor, Fimexco Building, 231-233 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Hotline: 0909 240809 |


worldwide mover with offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam Moving is one of the fastest growing moving companies in Vietnam. Services include office relocation, household moving, warehousing and storage, truck leasing, office furniture liquidation and office reinstatement. With Vietnam Moving you will minimise costs and headaches, while maximising trust and satisfaction.

SIAN SKINCARE CLINIC SKIN CARE / COSMETICS 27 Nguyen Trung Truc, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 6999 he 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.


body & temple //

after pregnancy: PART 2 by phil kelly


ontinuing from last month’s article here are some excellent tips that are proven to get you back to your prepregnancy shape, or better, in no time:

It’s a Matter of Movement

All of us need to move as much as possible and exercise just enough. This is easier said than done with a newborn baby and the sleep deprivation that comes with it. It is an overwhelming time and many mothers can’t even think of exercise. However, the detrimental effects of not moving, and sitting for long periods are far worse. New mothers must take it easy… a good place to start is to simply walk around the block. If this feels okay then walk a little bit further the next day. Catch up on sleep by napping at the same time as your baby and move and play with them when they are awake. Do this until your doctor clears you to be able to do more (generally around six to 12 weeks).

Core Rehab

The abdominal muscles become highly stretched and weakened due to pregnancy. As the foetus grows, the abdominals are put under a lot of tension. So much so that the left and right sides of a women’s abdominal muscle (rectus abdominis) usually separate a few centimeters. This gap needs to reduce and heal before you can perform strenuous

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abdominal exercise. You must ‘mind the gap’ before you start those crunches or you’ll risk abdominal and spinal injury. The muscles to focus on to rehabilitate your core and achieve the best tone and shape of your torso are the transverse abdominis and pelvic floor muscles. These are your deep inner unit abs. They are responsible for stabilizing the spine, supporting your organs and structure as well as enable the other abdominal muscles to work properly. The pelvic floor muscles support your uterus, bladder, small intestine, and rectum. Kegels (or pelvic floor exercises) can help you avoid embarrassing accidents, like bladder leakage and passing gas by accident after delivery. They can also improve your sex life. The pelvic floor muscles are the muscles you use to start and stop peeing. Squeeze these muscles as if you were trying to stop urinating. You should feel the muscles inside your vagina ‘lift’. You just did one Kegel. Relax the muscle and do it again. Begin slowly… try squeezing your pelvic floor muscles for three seconds, then release for three seconds. Do this 10 times in a row. That’s one set. If you can’t do 10, do as many as you can and build up over time. Try to work up to two or three sets of 10 Kegels two to three times a day.

Exercises for the Abdominals

The transverse abdominis (TVA) is the deepest of the abdominal muscles. The TVA has a corset-like effect within the body, narrowing and flattening the abdomen. Its primary function is to stabilise the lumbar spine and pelvis before any movement of the limbs happen. The TVA is activated by pulling the belly button inward towards the spine; called abdominal hollowing. Abdominal hollowing is probably easiest when in an all-fours position, kneeling on your hands and knees. Completely relax your abdomen, then pull your belly button up and in towards the spine, ‘hollowing the stomach’ without changing the position of your black and pelvis. As with the pelvic floor exercises start with holding for three seconds and then gradually build upon this time, reps and sets. Other positions in which to practice this exercise include sitting, lying on your back with your arms down by your hips and lying on your stomach with your arms overhead. It is essential to rebuild your inner unit strength before doing any crunches or other abdominal exercises. These muscles are crucial for good function and without them you are susceptible to injury. Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763, at his website or through Star Fitness (

hcmc essentials

CENTRE MEDICAL INTERNATIONALE (CMI) FRENCH MEDICAL CLINIC 1 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2366 This French medical clinic provides general practice and a range of specialties including cardiology, gynecology, psychotherapy, ophthalmology, paediatrics and acupuncture.

FAMILY MEDICAL PRACTICE INTERNATIONAL CLINIC 34 Le Duan Street, Q1; 95 Thao Dien Q2, Tel: (028) 3822 7848 Family Medical Practice (FMP) is the largest and one of the oldest foreign, privatelyowned, international health care providers in Vietnam. As the only health care provider that can offer a countrywide network of integrated clinics for foreign and local populations, FMP’s main specialties include family medicine, pediatrics and emergency medicine as well as health checks and work permit health-tests.

FV SAIGON CLINIC INTERNATIONAL CLINIC 3rd Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 6290 6167 FV Saigon Clinic offers international standard primary care for patients of all ages right in the heart of District 1 in the iconic Bitexco Financial Tower. The clinic provides consultations in a variety of specialities; as well as vaccinations, blood tests, and diagnostic imaging.

HANH PHUC INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL Binh Duong Boulevard, Thuan An District, Binh Duong Tel: (0650) 363 6068

INTERNATIONAL SOS HCMC MEDICAL CLINIC INTERNATIONAL CLINIC / MEDIVAC 167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (028) 3829 8424 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.

STD WALK IN CLINIC INTERNATIONAL CLINIC Family Medical Practice, 34 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 7848 vietnammedicalpractice. com Family Medical Practice offers confidential walk-in and appointment service for STI / STD consultations. Private testing, lab analysis, diagnosis, and treatment are also available at their D1, D2 and Care 1 clinics. Call for more information.



M M M INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS ABC INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (ABCIS) Saigon South Campus 1 (Primary & Secondary), Tel: (028) 5431 1833/34/35/36; Saigon South Campus 2 (Foundation Stage & Early Primary), Tel: (028) 5431 1833/34/35/36 Rated as ‘outstanding’ by British Government Inspectors, academic results puts ABCIS among the top 8% of schools worldwide. ABCIS is accredited by CIE, AQA and the Education Development Trust, and are members of COBIS and FOBISIA. Provides education for two to 18 year olds in a supportive and friendly environment.

CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 7 Road 23, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (028) 5412 3456

KIDS CLUB SAIGON 79/7 Pham Thai Buong, Q7; 27/3 Ha Huy Tap, Q7, Tel: (028) 5412 5944 Early childhood centres in Phu My Hung offering creative play-based programmes for children ages two to five. Known for unique facilities, experienced staff, highquality learning resources, and small class sizes.

EUROPEAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HO CHI MINH CITY (EIS) 730 F-G-K Le Van Mien, Q2, Vietnam, Tel: (028) 7300 7257 The European International School offers a supportive and challenging academic education from Early Years to Grade 12 based on the IB curriculum. EIS is a Nobel Talent School and is part of the Nobel Education Network. The school educates global citizens to enjoy learning, inquiring and caring for others.

MONTESSORI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 42/1 Ngo Quang Huy, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 2639 Aiming to encourage children’s engagement with their surroundings, MIS offers children from age three to 12 a classic Montessori education as well as a variety of extra–curricular activities.

RENAISSANCE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL SAIGON 74 Nguyen Thi Thap, Q7, Tel: (028)3773 33171 ext 120/121/122 Renaissance is an International British school providing an inclusive curriculum based upon the British curriculum complemented by the International Primary Curriculum and International Baccalaureate. It is a family school with first-class facilities including a 350seat theatre, swimming pool, mini-pool, play-areas, gymnasium, IT labs, music and drama rooms, science labs and an all-weather pitch.

SAIGON KIDS EDUCATIONAL CHILDCARE CENTRE 15 Street 12, Q2, Tel: (028) 3740 8081 saigonkidskindergarten. com SKECC has evolved over 10 years to create a creative, playful learning environment for children ages two to six. Limited class sizes and highly engaged teachers ensure personal attention for all students.

M M M PROPERTY RENTALS CHUM’S HOUSE 121/21 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3920 7237

EASY SAIGON Tel: 0932 112694


SAIGON STAR INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Residential Area No. 5, Thanh My Loi, Q2, Tel: (028) 3742 7827 Established in 2006, Saigon Star is a British School and one of only four schools in Vietnam to adopt the International Primary Curriculum (IPC). A combination of experienced, UK qualified teachers and a maximum of 16 students per class means learners receive the individual attention they deserve. A secondary school is opening in August 2017.

SMARTKIDS 1172 Thao Dien Compound, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 6076; 26, Street Nr. 10, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3898 9816; 15 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3519 4236

THE AMERICAN SCHOOL 172-180 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0903 952223 Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), TAS represents 20 nationalities and provides an Americanbased curriculum with rigorous performance standards and a variety of academic offerings. Runs advanced placement courses and university credit courses through their partnership with Missouri State University, as well as an Intensive ESL Program for English Language Learners.

32-34 Ngo Duc Ke, Suite 701, Q1, Tel: 01659 419916

RESIDENT VIETNAM Unit 601 48 Hoa Su, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (028) 2226 8855

SNAP 32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3519 4282

THE NEST 216/4 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0938 580800

M M M RELOCATION AGENTS ALLIED PICKFORDS 12th floor, Miss Ao Dai Building, 21 Nguyen Trung Ngan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3910 1220

ASIAN TIGERS MOBILITY Unit 9.3, Floor 9, Ree Tower, 9 Doan Van Bo, Ward 12, District 4, HCMC, Tel: (028) 3 826 7799

JVK INTERNATIONAL MOVERS 1st Floor, Saigon Port Building, 3 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, Tel: (028) 3826 7655 Focused primarily on the international and local movement of household goods, JVK is a leader in the field. | February 2018 Word | 125

medical buff // psychiatry by dr. miguel seixas


uman suffering comes in many forms, and emotional suffering affects almost everybody at one point or another. In some cases, that suffering can be so profound and have such an overwhelming impact on everyday life that it’s vital to get help. What prevents many people from seeking critical support or medical treatment for their mental health, however, is not knowing when their emotional state is serious enough to endanger their mental wellbeing. In terms of getting help, I often say that if you’re waiting until things get dangerous, you’re probably leaving it too late already. There are all kinds of reasons why someone might have a low mood — and having low moods is actually part of the spectrum of normality. The difference between that and what would be called clinical depression is sometimes very difficult to distinguish. A case of serious depression will occur over a longer period of at least two weeks and will be accompanied by other symptoms. As well as feeling generally low emotionally, someone with depression may experience a lack of energy, lost interest in regular activities, lost ability to experience pleasure, changes in sleep patterns, and changes in appetite, in concentration, and in motivation.

The Role of the Psychiatrist

Psychiatrists used to make a distinction between cases of depression primarily caused by internal biological factors (endogenous depression) and those primarily caused by external psychological factors (reactive depression). According to this understanding, endogenous depression would explain cases

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where, for no apparent reason, a person would experience one or more depressive episodes. Reactive depression would occur in reaction to some kind of tangible life event. If you lose your job or feel trapped by your daily circumstances, for example, it’s only expected that this will have an impact on your mood. But if that impact ends up lasting for a long period of time and affecting other areas of your life and your ability to function, then that’s when you’re dealing with depression rather than just an adjustment to a life difficulty. Sometimes it’s part of a normal adjustment that people do have thoughts of “ending it all” as a way of escaping. It’s still worth discussing these thoughts with somebody and trying to find a better way of managing. Most of the work on prevention of suicide that we psychiatrists engage in, needs to happen early, because recovery is often about how you manage your own mental health, as opposed to treating a mental illness.

The Overseas Factor

People living in a foreign country are classically exposed to experiencing alienation and loneliness, which are significant risk factors to mental wellbeing. What is often difficult to adjust to in the expat experience is the lack of the familiar support networks that might exist in their own countries. This is especially true in a country like Vietnam, which does not currently have the kind of established health system that can provide a safety net for people suffering from mental illness. Most foreign residents here have left

behind friends in a different time zone on a different continent, people who could otherwise give you a good word of advice or “grab you by the neck” when you need it. When people are put in extreme circumstances where their familiar sources of support are not there, then they will be at risk of suffering from major depression, a serious mental illness that can affect multiple aspects of a person’s life and dictate the need for treatment. While this can involve medication, I am an advocate of people having some kind of a plan to manage their condition in the long term. These “wellbeing plans” should take note of what circumstances can have a positive or negative impact on your mental health; what the symptoms of depression are and what to do when they occur, when to panic and when not to panic, and who to call at each stage — including who knows about your condition and what would constitute an emergency. It’s different for every person. It has been my practice in the past to treat my patients for an acute episode, and then, when things started getting better, help them to form their own wellbeing plan, with strategies to manage going forward and carrying on with good mental health. Such a plan helps a person to manage, and that in itself greatly reduces the risk of relapses. Family Medical Practice Psychiatrist Dr. Miguel Seixas is a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and has treated people suffering from depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and those who have been diagnosed with mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia.

hcmc essentials

LOGICAL MOVES — VIETNAM 396/4 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, Tel: (028) 3941 5322

M M M SPORTS & FITNESS BODY AND MIND BOXING / FITNESS 49A Xa Lo Ha Noi, Q2, Tel: 0947 771326 This sports centre in An Phu, started by fitness guru Cyril, features the same personalised mentorship Cyril's clients love. Includes yoga, boxing and fitness for kids and adults every day. No membership fees. Pay for classes. All activities are safe and run by Cyril and his trained staff.


Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2828

GENERAL FITNESS 34 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 6672 A well-appointed gym also offering fitness classes and personal training with excellent facilities. Group classes include power yoga, pilates, circuit training, martial arts and spinning. Also has a restaurant serving calorie–calibrated meals.

HEALTH CLUB & GYM 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3824 1555 A small but well-appointed gym with regular fitness classes, a steam room and sauna. Has a small but consistent membership.


STAR FITNESS GYM Sunday 2pm sharp, Caravelle hotel. Bus out to the county with a walk, usually 4km and a run around 8km. VND150,000 for locals and VND220,000 for expats. Bus, water, snacks and freeflow beer after the run.

SHERATON FITNESS HEALTH CLUB & GYM Level 5, Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers, 88


28 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (028) 3898 9100 SHCMC is a leading IB school with a rich history, yet is always innovating. Students from over 50 nationalities are taught in modern learning environments, developing a passion for searching beyond what is asked in the classroom, and becoming adults equipped for the future. The 2017/18 academic school year will see the new Secondary Campus open and the continued refurbishment in the Primary Campus.



4th/12th Floor Rubyl Tower, 81-85 Ham Nghi, Q1 Tel: (028) 3821 9908 acific Cross Vietnam brings a first class level of service and expertise to the health and travel insurance market in Vietnam. Part of the Pacific Cross group of companies with over 60 years’ experience providing health and travel insurance to people who call Asia home, their reputation for transparent, honest and reliable service means they are the strength behind your insurance. Contact them now for a free quote.



VERTICAL ACADEMY CLIMBING GYM Truc Duong, Q2, Tel: 0966 920612


HEALTH CLUB & GYM Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (028) 3514 0253


THE LANDMARK CLUB GYM, POOL, SQUASH The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 2098 ext. 176 In addition to the squash court, facilities include a

124A Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 2505

SAIGON PET VETERINARY CLINIC 33 Street 41, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: 0909 063267


16 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (028) 3898 9100 SHCMC — American Academy is a U.S. curriculum secondary school for students aged 11 to 18 years old. Early university credits, a 1:1 University Counseling Program, and an extensive EAL program set our graduates on the road to 100% acceptance rate at overseas universities and a US$1 million scholarship fund.



8FL, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3, Tel: (028) 3933 0065 ith over 150 offices around the world, Santa Fe offers local and international moving, pet transportation, relocation services including home search, orientation, cultural training, immigration services and records management. Email for info.

fully–equipped gym room, a rooftop swimming pool and separate male and female saunas.


92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (028) 2222 7788/99 ietnam’s only international school offering a U.S. curriculum for children aged 18 months to 11 years old. With 100% English language immersion, a library containing over 13,500 English books and more than 60% of students achieving above grade level English, ISSP students are well prepared for secondary school at ISHCMC or ISHCMC - American Academy.



5th Floor, Lafayette De Saigon, 8A Phung Khac Khoan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3521 0071 global leader in international removals and relocations, with 130 offices globally, we can move your property to and from any location. Has offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.


BODY AND MIND FITNESS 9A Xa Lo Ha Noi, Q2, Tel: 0947 771326 his sports centre in An Phu, started by fitness guru Cyril, features the same personalised mentorship Cyril's clients love. Includes yoga, boxing and fitness for kids and adults every day. No membership fees. Pay for classes. All activities are safe and run by Cyril and his trained staff.

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BARS 2 LAM SON (MARTINI BAR) TOP-END INTERNATIONAL Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

ACOUSTIC BAR LIVE MUSIC 6E Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Q3, Tel: (028) 3930 2239

APOCALYPSE NOW DANCE / NIGHTCLUB 2B-C-D Thi Sach, Q1, Tel: (028) 3825 6124

BIA CRAFT CRAFT BEER BAR 90 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 2588; 1 Le Ngo Cat, Q3 As craft beer continues to take over watering holes

around Ho Chi Minh City, so bars dedicated to all things ‘craft’ and ‘real ale’ are pretty sensible, right? With wooden tables perfect for sharing, and beer both on tap and by the bottle, Bia Craft sells up a delectable range of the good stuff. Looking for Tiger? Go take a hike. Also has a decent food menu.


GASTROPUB / CRAFT BEER 159 Nguyen Van Thu, Q1, Tel: (028) 3910 0485 TheBelgianCraftBeerBrewery Located within a lion’s roar of Saigon Zoo and a block or two from Dien Bien Phu, Belgo is a craft beer pub specialising in Belgian beer and food. With barebrick walls and decor with an industrial edge, Belgo also caters for parties, is good for groups, and has outdoor seating.



CONTEMPORARY THAI RESTOBAR 12-14 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel (028) 6253 7711 he Racha Room delivers Thai accented Pan-Asian cuisine with a focus on high quality ingredients. Racha features a large selection of spirits at a seated bar and high table to ensure drinking along with eating remains central to the experience. The current and future of Asian-inspired drinking and dining is right here at the Racha Room.



CONTEMPORARY STEAKHOUSE 44 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel (028) 3826 8691 ne of the world’s oldest culinary techniques — grilling over a wood fire. Stoker kitchen uses different woods to infuse foods with different smoky flavours. These techniques revolutionize live fire cooking by providing precise heat control through the use of a grilling surface that can be adjusted to different cooking heights above the hot coals.


MAD COW WINE & GRILL WINE & GRILL Pullman Saigon Centre, 148 Tran 30th Floor, Pullman Saigon Centre, 148 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (028) 3838 8639 five-star setting with breathtaking views of Saigon provides mouthwatering steaks together with handpicked wines at retail prices. The Mad Cow signature dishes include Grass Fed Angus Beef Tartar, served tableside, Lamb Gnocchi, BBQ Whole Seabass, Black Angus Beef Rib and the Mad Beef Burger.


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Tel: (028) 3836 8452

BROMA, NOT A BAR COCKTAILS / ROOFTOP 41 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 6838

BUDDHA BAR RESTOBAR 7 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3345 6345 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.

CHILL SKYBAR TOP-END BAR & TERRACE Rooftop, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2372 For the spectacular views alone, Chill Skybar remains the place to go to mix topend, outdoor terrace drinking around an oval-shaped bar with cityscapes of Saigon. One of the top watering holes in the city.

SPORTS BAR 55, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 5453 What does the Thao Dien area of Saigon seriously lack? A sports bar. And this is the Al Fresco Group’s answer to a distinct shortage hole in the market. Sleek lines, modern décor, elegant and spacious, dartboards and of course, lots of large screens to watch the televised sports. Check out their daily food specials.

DUBLIN GATE IRISH PUB & RESTAURANT 19 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (028) 6656 1103 irishpubsaigon Typical of Irish pubs the world over, The Dublin Gate has a fun, welcoming atmosphere and offers a break from the craft beer scene taking a hold over the city. The Dublin Gate is just a short walk from the Opera House, is open from 7.30am and has a pool table for a break between football matches, live bands and all that Irish charm.


GOURMET BURGER BAR 44 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: 01207 214294; 105-107 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: 0909 004294 elish & Sons burgers are lovingly made with a healthy food philosophy in mind and fresh high quality ingredients. The beef patties are 100% Australian grass-fed; the buns are made with a reduced sugar and salt content. Burger relishes such as chutneys are all made in-house from scratch.



APPAREL COMPANY 1870/3G An Phu Dong 3, Q12, Tel: (028) 3719 9588 p p a re l c o m p a n y o ff e r i n g personalised sport garments for companies, schools and professional sports clubs using the latest printing technology with a design team from Barcelona. Score-Tech controls the whole production process from fabric production and printing to sewing. Big and small orders for all sporting and commercial needs.


EAST WEST BREWING CO. VENUE & BREWERY 181-185 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 If you love craft beer and want to catch a glimpse of the brewing process in a contemporary yet vast and thoughtfully constructed environment, head to East West. A tasty range of on-site brewed craft beer mixes with an excellent food menu and an impressive vibe.

EON HELI BAR LOUNGE BAR Level 52, Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 6291 8750

ENVY NIGHTCLUB 76 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1, Tel: (028) 3913 8168 envyclubsaigon Located a short stroll from Ben Thanh Market, Envy has taken nightlife in Saigon to a whole new level with its


BUTCHERS 1 Street 2, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 2565; 401 Pham Thai Buong H11-2, My Khanh 3, Q7, Tel: (028) 5412 5228 ocusing on the retail trade, the meat at this Australian-managed butcher comes pre-prepared and, if you so wish, pre-marinated. Sells up some of the best imported meats in town together with homemade sausages, free-range products and excellent Australian grass-fed steak.


theatrical performances and beautiful people swinging by the ankles tethered from the ceiling. Attracts international DJs and the rich and famous, but expect to pay for the experience.

GAME ON SPORTS BAR 115 Ho Tung Mau, Q1 Tel: (028) 6251 9898 A fresh feel thanks to the large space and light-wood tables makes this Australian-influenced watering hole a popular bar for televised sports, pub food, darts, pool and more.


night off or end it in a chilled atmosphere.

46-48 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1


EXPAT BAR 44 Pasteur, Q1 The original expat bar, this institution of a place gets packed every night thanks to its drinking hall atmosphere, attractive bar staff and German food menu. Has regular live music.

CUBAN / MUSIC BAR 152 Le Lai, Q1, HCMC, Tel: (028) 3925 9838 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 Wiener schnitzel. Located just across the park from De Tham, this popular watering hole brings in expats and tourists alike.


CRAFT BEER PUB 31D Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: 0903 017596 heartofdarknessbrewery The home of its eponymously named craft beer, Heart of Darkness features up to 20 different beers on tap at any given time with each one having a name that pays homage to Joseph Conrad’s novel. There’s also a sports bar and a space for live shows with pizzas cooked onsite by 4Ps. Enter the darkness.

BAR & EATERY 63 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2279 LaylaEateryandBarHCM Housed on the 2nd floor of a former apartment overlooking Dong Khoi, Layla is a nice option for a bottle of wine, a few cocktails and carefully crafted sharing dishes. Here you can lounge after work on a comfy couch or pull a surprise party for a loved one. Behind the 11-metre-long bar mixologists create their magic.



CZECH BREWHOUSE 28 Mac Dinh Chi, Q1, Tel: (028) 3825 8605 The original microbrewery, this large, wooden-panelled, brasskegged Czech Brewhouse is as popular as it was 15 years ago when it was first opened. Does a great food menu to accompany the home-brewed beer.

INDIKA BAR, CAFÉ & RESTAURANT 43 Nguyen Van Giai, Q1, Tel: 0122 3994260 IndikaSaigon From movie screenings, DJs, acoustic sessions, and open mics, Indika just about has it covered for all types throughout the week. Located just away from the inner city mangle, Indika is still close enough to kick your

AFTERHOURS LOUNGE 59 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

LE PUB INTERNATIONAL / RESTOBAR 175/22 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (028) 3837 7679

LONG PHI FRENCH / RESTOBAR 207 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3837 2704



O’BRIEN’S IRISH BAR / INTERNATIONAL 74/A3 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

PHATTY’S AUSTRALIAN / SPORTS 46-48 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 0796 From its roots as the famed Café Latin, Phatty’s has become the go-to, Aussie beer-guzzling / sports viewing emporium, showing everything from international cricket to Aussie rules and serving an array of pub grub favourites.

PITCHERS SPORTS AND GRILL SPORTS BAR & GRILL RESTAURANT C0.01 Riverside Residence C, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (028) 6274 1520 Located in the heart of Phu My Hung, this spacious restobar with an affection for showing televised sports has a family friendly edge thanks to its kids play area. Does a great grill menu and of course, lots of very cold beer for those developing a thirst in the Saigon heat.

QUI LOUNGE INTERNATIONAL BAR & LOUNGE 22 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 3828 8828 A recently opened, stylish top-

end bar with a house DJ that is the plaything of Saigon’s jetset and anyone who is prepared to pay for atmosphere and one of the most hedonistic venues in town. Has an excellent food menu and a tasty brunch.

ROGUE SAIGON CRAFT BEER PUB 13 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: 0902 365780 Hidden on the upper floors of a crumbly old building in the heart of the city, Rogue Saigon is a hideout for craft beer lovers. Tricky to find, once you’re at the address, look up and you’ll see it. There’s a rooftop bar with excellent views of the neighbourhood and plenty of local craft brews on tap. Finger food tops off a chilled atmosphere with live music out in the open air.

RUBY SOHO CARTOON BAR S52-1 Sky Garden 2, Q7, Tel: (028) 5410 3900 A Phu My Hung mainstay thanks to its cartoon décor and light but fun ambience. Has a reasonable food menu to complement the drinks.

SAIGON SOUL POOL PARTY POOL & DAY CLUB New World Saigon Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1 The ultimate in poolside entertainment, Saigon Soul is defined by its great party atmosphere. Booming house music, cold drinks and beautiful people. What better way to spend a Saturday? Runs every Saturday from late November until mid May.

SAIGON OUTCAST EVENTS / MAKESHIFT CAFÉ BAR 188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0902 365780 Up-cycling and innovative design form the foundation for this bar / arts venue / mini-skate park and graffiti space. Home to numerous events and markets, Saigon Outcast also houses a | February 2018 Word | 129

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Push outdoor climbing wall, providing courses and a variety of climbimg activities.


5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 9698 vespersaigon

renders a great spot to relax. The mouth-watering western menu is well-priced and maintains a creative flair.



ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT 5/7 Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 7300 0559 saigonranger

MUSIC & SPORTS BAR 70 Pasteur, Q1 Tel: 0907 890623

CONTEMPORARY CAFE 34D Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 2910




LIVE MUSIC / ROOFTOP BAR 9th Floor, Caravelle Saigon, 19-23 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 4999



CAFÉ / LOUNGE BAR 71-75 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

DANISH / INTERNATIONAL 5B Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 4738




BAR, ART & DJ SPACE 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, (Opposite Elisa Boat) Known for its late night parties and focus on international artists, Observatory is now at a bigger space in District 4. Complete with a new balcony overlooking the Saigon River and an even larger sound system, The Observatory is a key node in the Asian underground music circuit.

THE SOCIETY GRILL AND LOUNGE BAR 99 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (028) 3914 3999 TheSocietyHCM Designed as a Lanewaystyle restobar, the kind of place found in Hong Kong, London, New York or Central Melbourne, thanks to its indoor and outdoor ambience, The Society brings dining and drinking to a new level. Phenomenal cocktails, steaks, grilled fare and seafood make this a place to go for drinks, a full-blown meal or a mixture of both.


EXPAT & SPORTS BAR R2-24 Hung Gia 3, Bui Bang Doan, Q7, Tel: (028) 5410 3900 The first bar established in Saigon South, great food, great music and loads of laughs. Has regular live music nights, theme nights and a variety of live sports events to please everybody. Big screens and outdoor seating add to the mix, with BBQs available for parties and events.


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DALAT COFFEE HOUSE 11A-B Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 6281 9772 A cozy and comfortable cafe in Thao Dien serving excellent fresh coffee from Dalat, smoothies, juices, homemade desserts. Offers up tasty breakfasts, lunch and dinner all the way through until 9pm.


159A Nguyen Van Thu, Q1, Tel: 0918 115657


INTERNATIONAL 157-159 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Q1; Metropolitan Building, 235 Dong Khoi, Q1 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.

GUANABANA SMOOTHIES CONTEMPORARY JUICE BAR 23 Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: 0909 824830 An American-style juice bar and café dedicated to healthy, nutricious smoothies that avoid the local obsession with sugar and condensed milk. A pleasant, contemporary environment adds to the theme.

HIDEAWAY INTERNATIONAL 41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3, Tel: (028) 3822 4222 Hidden in a colonial building with an outdoor courtyard, the ample soft, sofa seating

CAFE AND ON-SITE ROASTING 40 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (028) 6685 4160

L’USINE CONTEMPORARY / FRENCH First Floor, 151 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (028) 6674 9565; 70B Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (028) 3521 0703 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. Second location on Le Loi.

MOCKINGBIRD CAFE 4th Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: 0935 293400 mockingbirdcoffee

THE LOOP HEALTHY CAFÉ FARE / BAGELS 49 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel. (028) 3602 6385 Low-key yet nice-on-theeye décor helps create the café-style atmosphere at this European-influenced café and restaurant. Sells excellent coffee and if you like bagels, here you’ll be in heaven.

THE MORNING CAFE 2nd Floor, 36 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: 0938 383330

THE OTHER PERSON CAFE 2nd Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: 0909 670272 TheOtherPersonCafe

THE PRINT ROOM CONTEMPORARY CAFE 158 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 4990

THINGS CAFE 1st Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: (028) 6678 6205

M M M EAT - CHINESE KABIN CANTONESE Renaissance Riverside Hotel, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang.

Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 0033

SAN FU LOU CANTONESE KITCHEN Ground Floor, AB Building, 76A Le Lai, Q1 Tel: (028) 3823 9513

SHANG PALACE RESTAURANT PAN-CHINESE / CANTONESE Norfolk Mansion, 1719-21 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 2221

YU CHU TOP-END PAN-CHINESE 1st Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, crn.of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (028) 3520 9999 intercontinental. com/saigon

EAT – FRENCH L’OLIVIER FRENCH/MEDITERRANEAN Sofitel Saigon Plaza, 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 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 promotions and an award winning pastry team.

BABA’S KITCHEN NORTH / SOUTH INDIAN 164 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3838 6661 This pleasant, airy Indian does 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. Has a delivery outlet in District 2.

GANESH PAN-INDIAN 74 A2 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 38229366 padamjivietnam@ Located opposite Martini Bar, this relative newcomer to the dining scene with its bright decor serves up mainly North Indian cuisine with a large vegetarian selection as well as South Indian curries, dosa, vada and uthapam.Meat curries cost from VND100,000 to VND120,000.


FRENCH / MEDITERRANEAN 48 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 2229 8882

INTERNATIONAL 27 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (028) 38238424 The downtown outlet of one of Vietnam’s most successful restaurant chains, Al Fresco’s offers international, Australianinfluenced comfort fare in a pleasant environment with efficient, friendly service to match. Also has an excellent garden-style branch at 89 Xuan Thuy, Q2.




CONTEMPORARY FRENCH 5D Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 0671 Open for lunch and set dinner, this beautifully designed restaurant and bar seamlessly mixes contemporary and with classic. With a menu cooked up by reputed chef Sakal Phoeung, and with a contemporary twist to traditional French fare, this is a place to enjoy the luxuries of fine cuisine and even finer wine.

LE JARDIN CLASSIC FRENCH 31 Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (028) 3825 8465

EAT – INDIAN ASHOKA NORTH INDIAN / CHINESE INDIAN 17/10 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 1372; 33 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel : (028) 3744 4177 ashokaindianrestaurant. com

BRAZILIAN CHURRASCO 238 Pasteur, Q3, Tel: (028) 3820 7157

AU PARC EUROPEAN / CAFÉ 23 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (028) 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 greentiled décor.

BOAT HOUSE AUSTRALIAN / INTERNATIONAL 40 Lily Road, An Phu Superior Compound, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (028) 3744 6790 A revamp has seen this riverside restaurant get a new management and a new menu — think American-style burgers, sliders and Tex-Mex together with soup and salad and you’ll get the idea. Excellent nachos and frozen margaritas.



INTERNATIONAL / GRILL CR2 3-4, 107 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (028) 5413 6592

INTERNATIONAL FUSION The Square, 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

CHI’S CAFÉ INTERNATIONAL / VIETNAMESE 40/31 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3837 2502 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.

CORSO STEAKHOUSE / INTERNATIONAL 117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 5368

ELBOW ROOM AMERICAN 52 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 4327

EL GAUCHO ARGENTINIAN STEAKHOUSE 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 3827 2090; Unit CR1-12, The Crescent, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (028) 5413 6909

EON51 FINE DINING TOP-END EUROPEAN / ASIAN Level 51, Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 6291 8750

HOG’S BREATH CAFÉ AUSTRALIAN / INTERNATIONAL Ground Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (028) 3915 6066

LA HABANA CUBAN / GERMAN 152 Le Lai, Q1, HCMC, Tel: (028) 3925 9838 Although themed as a Cuban restaurant, this long-running local favourite also serves up hard-to-get German favourites such as curry wurst and Wiener schnitzel. With a food menu that combines Cuban dishes with Spanish-style tapas, and a bar that serves up great mojitos, La Habana attracts an eclectic crowd of tourists and expats.

LU BU CONTEMPORARY MEDITERRANEAN 97B Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (028) 6281 8371 Drawing inspiration from the great cuisines of Europe, The Mediterranean and The Orient, this contemporary, Australian-run restaurant bathed in white focuses on wholesome, fresh ingredients, with breads, cheeses, pickles, pastas and preserves made on site daily from scratch. A well-conceived wine list supplements the excellent fare.

MAD HOUSE CONTEMPORARY CAFE, BAR, RESTAURANT 6/1/2 Nguyen U Di, Q2, Tel: (028) 3519 4009; Duong C — Bac, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (028) 5417 1234 Set over a pool in a leafy, tropical garden, the beautiful rustic décor is matched by a darkwood, aircon interior. Subtle lighting and an attention to details is matched by some of the best contemporary cuisine in the city, all with a European influence. Also has an extensive wine list, a good selection of imported beers and a happy hour. Has a second restaurant in Phu My Hung.

NINETEEN INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN Ground floor, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 4999

PITCHERS SPORTS AND GRILL SPORTS BAR & GRILL RESTAURANT C0.01 Riverside Residence C, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (028) 6274 1520 Located in the heart of Phu My Hung, this spacious restobar with an affection for showing televised sports has a family friendly edge thanks to its kids play area. Does a great grill menu and of course, lots of very cold beer for those developing a thirst in the Saigon heat.

Pizza LOGiC L5-18, Floor 5, Saigon Centre, 92-94 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1, HCMC Tel: (028) 3821 8319 “Pizza is not meant to be tasted, but to be eaten”. At Pizza LOGiC, we aim to make pizza a more familiar dish in Vietnam. Come and try our specialties: pizzas cooked in a wood-fired oven, roasted chicken prepared in a rotisserie oven, mouthwatering beef, or pasta dishes for crab lovers. The Number 1 Pizza In The World.

PIZZA 4P’S EUROPEAN/ASIAN FUSION 8/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 9838

QUAN UT UT US-STYLE BARBECUE 168 Vo Van Kiet, Q1, Tel: (028) 3914 4500

REFINERY FRENCH BISTRO / INTERNATIONAL The Square, 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

RIVERSIDE CAFÉ INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN Renaissance Riverside, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 0033

SAIGON CAFÉ INTERNATIONAL / BUFFET Level 1, Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (028) 3827 2828

SANCHO CANTINA TEX-MEX 207 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: 0901 268226 sanchocantina This hole-in-the-wall sized Mexican cantina is located bang on party street Bui Vien towards the Cong Quynh end. It maybe small, but it’s big in flavour. Sancho’s will quell those Mexicali cravings once and for all — the burritos are huge. It’s also an excellent place to watch the mayhem unfolding on the street over

a craft beer or three.

SKEWERS INTERNATIONAL / MEDITERRANEAN 9A Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 4798

SHRI CONTEMPORARY EUROPEAN 23rd Floor, Centec Tower, 72– 74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3, Tel: (028) 3827 9631

THE SOCIETY GRILL AND LOUNGE BAR 99 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (028) 3914 3999 TheSocietyHCM Designed as a Lanewaystyle restobar, the kind of place found in Hong Kong, London, New York or Central Melbourne, thanks to its indoor and outdoor ambience, The Society brings dining and drinking to a new level. Phenomenal cocktails, steaks, grilled fare and seafood make this a place to go for drinks, a full-blown meal or a mixture of both.

VESPER GOURMET LOUNGE INTERNATIONAL Landmark Building, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 9698 vespersaigon Headed up by well-known chef Andy Ertle, Vesper is a sophisticated yet downto-earth cocktail bar and restaurant with subtle lighting and a great spirit selection. Serves creative, Japanese and German-influenced cuisine to supplement the drinks and has a separate dining space.

ZOOM CAFÉ AMERICAN / TEX-MEX 169A Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3920 3897 vietnamvespaadventures.

com/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.

EAT – ITALIAN CIAO BELLA NEW YORK-ITALIAN 11 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 3329 saigonrestaurantgroup. com

PENDOLASCO PAN-ITALIAN 87 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 8181; 36 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel: (028) 6253 282 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. Has a second branch in District 2.

EAT – JAPANESE INAHO SUSHI / SASHIMI 4 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 0326

OSAKA RAMEN JAPANESE NOODLES 18 Thai Van Lung, Q1; SD04, Lo H29-2, KP My Phat, Phu My Hung, Q7

SORAE SUSHI SAKE LOUNGE Level 24, AB Tower, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: 0938 687689 Set over two floors, this astonishing, no-expensespared Japanese restaurant and lounge brings to Saigon the type of environment and | February 2018 Word | 131

Top eats // HCMC


oke Saigon has only been in the food and drink business for about a year, but it has already gathered a following among locals, expats, travellers, and tourists. Poke (pronounced ‘poh-keh’) is a Hawaiian raw fish salad which became popular in the Bay Area of California as the newest health food option. Vietnam is already rich in healthy food options, whether it be restaurant food or street food, but what sets Poke Saigon apart is the consistency. The restaurant has been consistently in the top five best restaurants in Saigon on Tripadvisor.

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The team behind Poke Saigon makes sure that all ingredients consumed are fresh, daily. Some vegetables are from Dalat, the salmon is from Norway, and the tuna is from New Zealand. A set costs VND150,000, which includes a base — rice or salad, two scoops of your chosen seafood, a variety of toppings, and sauce. Pay an extra VND30,000 for another scoop of seafood. Many firsttimers get overwhelmed with the abundance of choices and flavours, so the team came up with a list of recommendations. This list includes the Hawaiian set, which includes ahi tuna, soy sauce,

onion, cucumber, wakame salad, pineapple and mushroom, all topped with shallots and sesame seeds. The Saigonese is another on the list which includes shrimp, gomae sauce, cucumber, pomelo, tomatoes, spring onions, shallots, chilli and coriander, which is topped with togarashi (a Japanese spice mixture). A new addition to their menu is the pitaya bowl (VND100,000). It is a breakfast, snack, or dessert option consisting of frozen cubed pitaya or red dragon fruit, mango, banana, blueberries, and coconut water. The taste and the pink and purplish colour of the red dragon fruit goes well with the neutral coloured

poke saigon


coconut chips, chia seeds, and banana slices toppings. It is quite cool when served, which suits the hot Saigon weather.

Clean, Casual & Chill

There is something about a do-ityourself kind of meal that draws people in. At Poke Saigon, you get to customize your bowl without any hassle. The second and newest branch is found on the first floor of a residential-turned-business building along Ly Tu Trong. Here, there is more room for dining, perfect for a casual or business meeting in the day or date place at night.

The whole restaurant can seat about 45 diners. During the day, you can opt to eat indoors as it is air-conditioned. The walls are painted white with black beachthemed doodles which adhere to the overall ambiance of the restaurant. Wooden tables and seats match, which is also accented with flowers and palm tree-print cushions. Rattan chairs and tables occupy a side of the restaurant, which will give diners a lot of island or beach vibes. This part of the restaurant is best for groups as it has a bench on one side, and a sofa on the other. The chalkboard menu has the stepby-step procedure on how to order,

the price, suggested combinations, and the ingredient of the day. Their enthusiastic staff will also explain how it works and put together your bowl. You just have to pick and point. Outdoor seating is available with wooden tables, a wooden bench, and black garden chairs. Lines of fairy lights are hung and are turned on at night for a nice, intimate feel, apt for a date night. — JB Jance Poke Saigon is at 1st floor, 42 Ly Tu Trong (next to La Fenetre Soleil), Q1, HCMC and is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 9pm. For more information, visit pokesaigon. | February 2018 Word | 133

bar stool // HCMC


ituated on the corner of Ly Long Truong and Nguyen Duc Canh, Saigon Craft is a relatively new addition to the eating and drinking scene in Phu My Hung. Yet since its opening in April 2017, it has become a hub for the local community. On a rainy Thursday night, trade was bustling. This was exactly what Matthew Scofield and his wife Thuy envisaged when they set out to create a pub “we wanted to come to”. Remarkably, they turned a former Japanese restaurant into a fully fledged bar in just three weeks. Passionate about good beer,

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Matthew is well connected with the craft breweries that are popping up in Vietnam. As a result, Saigon Craft has 24 unbranded taps so the bar can retain its full independence about which beer to offer. The affable New Zealander is full of optimism about the future of craft beer in Vietnam. “It’s very early days for the Vietnam craft beer scene,” he says. “It’s only just starting to enter the Vietnamese consciousness.” He firmly believes there is plenty more room for development and growth in the market. Another aspect Matthew enjoys is the “huge amount of

experimenting” by craft breweries leading to distinctive beers.

A Sharp Tipple

To kick things off, Matthew introduced me to the International Bitterness Index (IBU). In basic terms, it measures the level of acidity in a beer, which creates the bitter taste associated with some craft ales. The higher the number, the higher the bitterness. If you’re still a little uncertain over the menu, the staff are all trained to advise according to the customer’s requirements. We first tried the house beer, the Lolo Pilsner (ABV: 5.4%

saigon craft


VND100,000) which is brewed in collaboration with Tropic Thunder. It’s a light and easy-to-drink offering with a refreshing after-taste. A perfect accompaniment to any pub grub. Next up was Loose Rivet IPA from Heart of Darkness (ABV: 7% VND105,000). The low IBU of 61 means this fruity, New England-style beer went down a treat. Moving onto probably the most well-known of the Saigon craft breweries, the Pasteur Street Brewing Company. Their Jasmine IPA (ABV: 6.5% VND95,000) can be found across the major Vietnamese cities. There’s no mistaking the

distinctive hoppy taste, packed full of flavour. Then we finished off with the Excited Magpie Irish stout from Heart of Darkness (ABV: 4.8% VND105,000). Matthew couldn’t have put it better: “A Guinness without being a Guinness.” There’s the old saying that a “Guinness just isn’t the same outside of Ireland”. That may be true, but Heart of Darkness gives it a damn good shot. As ever with a good, dark stout, it looks like it’s going to be a heavy drink. Yet it remains light and has a low IBU of 34. A pleasant, flavoursome beer.

Gastro Plus

And on a rainy Thursday, plenty of patrons were enjoying the gastropub style food menu. One particular highlight is the jacket potato with bacon and cheese (VND70,000). It was superb comfort food. Matthew and Thuy have established themselves in Phu My Hung with a friendly community bar, offering quality ales. Happy hour takes place between 4pm and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday — 20% off all beer and wine. All drink prices are for a 330ml glass. — George Schooling Saigon Craft is at 68 Ly Long Tuong, Phu My Hung, Q7, HCMC. | February 2018 Word | 135

know your city // tet is coming by archie pizzini


his year, the Lunar New Year will start on Feb. 16 and the city will regress to the relatively traffic-free state that was normal only a few years ago. Catch it quick, this laid-back street situation will evaporate by day four or five. The holiday season is also a great opportunity to witness some of the wonderful quirky sights, places and events that this city is home to. One nexus of Tet activity is the flower market by the old canal, called the Arroyo Chinois in French times, that separates District 8 from District 5. The influx of boats seems to get smaller each year and their stay in the city more brief as well, but the scene will blossom again for a few days just before the new year arrives and the boats evaporate overnight as Tet begins. Even just a few years ago it was a small floating city of flowers that coagulated in the canal with each boat bearing a rooftop garden to add to the patchwork Versailles strung out along the waterway. This is a good time to witness the startling sight of trees riding motorbikes through the city, delivering themselves, their kumquats and their hoa mai blossoms to patrons eager for new year’s blessings. Everything in Vietnam, it seems, rides a motorbike.


I gravitate to Cholon at this time of year, taking in the chaos along the canal shore in District 8 in the run-up to Tet and then witnessing the late-night card games between old friends that happen on the sidewalks in District 5 in the first few evenings of the new year. As you travel the main thoroughfares to Cholon, you should take notice of the small details you may have missed before. On Tran Hung Dao Street, there is a lovely confection of an Italianate mausoleum at the end of hem 472 that faces out onto the main road. The mausoleum itself apparently houses the ancestors of the people who run the soup stand in the alley, and the tombs sometimes serve as the work tables for the descendant dishwashers who use the mausoleum as a support space for the restaurant. Family continues to help family; the ties don’t end with death. Just a few metres further on at the corner

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A city of quirks. This mausoleum is located in Chinatown, just off Tran Hung Dao. It's one of the many discoveries Archie has made in the area

of Tran Hung Dao and Tran Binh Trong is a small churchyard with several lovely tombs clustered around the octagonal mausoleum of Petrus Ky, the Vietnamese scholar and linguist seminal to the popularization of the written Vietnamese script used today. If you are travelling along the canal, be sure to look for the concrete boat at the connection point of the three arms of the “Y” bridge that connects Districts 8, District 1 and District 7 across the intersection of two canals. Look carefully, it tends to blend in with the bridge, but it is actually a separate small building that appears to be in the shape of a tugboat. There has been much written about the bridge itself, but the origin of the tug remains a mystery to me. Its placement directly in front of the

bridge intersection suggests to me that it was put there as a warning marker, like a lighthouse, to remind boat pilots of the canal split at that point and to keep boats from running into the bridge. Now, it’s another mysterious detail in a city full of quirky question marks descended from those who lived here before. Take some time to enjoy the city in this relaxed, but brief, window of the holiday period. Archie Pizzini, PhD, is a design principal at Hoanh Tran Archie Pizzini Architects and has practiced and taught in Ho Chi Minh City for several years. He studies the urban landscape of Vietnam with a special focus on making and improvisation. Archie can be contacted at archie.

hcmc essentials ambience you’d expect of New York, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. With the décor comes a modern take on Japanese fare. A place to see and be seen.

EAT – THAI CORIANDER THAI / VIETNAMESE 16 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (028) 3837 1311 A small, homely Vietnameseowned Thai restaurant that over the past decade has quite rightly gained a strong local and expat following. Try their pad thai — to die for.

KOH THAI CONTEMPORARY THAI FUSION Level 1, Kumho Link, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

EAT – VIETNAMESE 3T QUAN NUONG VIETNAMESE BBQ Top Floor, 29 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 1631 The original, on-the-table barbecue restaurant still goes strong thanks to its rooftop atmosphere, excellent service and even better fish, seafood and meats. An institution.

CAFÉ IF VIETNAMESE FRENCH 38 Dang Dung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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.

a lime leaf marinade.

HOANG YEN PAN-VIETNAMESE 7 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1, Tel: (028) 3823 1101; The Crescent, 103 Ton Dat Tien, Q7, Tel: (028) 2210 2304 If you’re looking for midrange, aircon Vietnamese restaurants that just seem to do every dish perfectly, then Hoang Yen really is the place to go. The atmosphere may be a bit sterile, but its amply made up for by the efficient service and excellent cuisine. Now with a number of restaurants around town.

KOTO TRAINING RESTAURANT CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE 3rd Floor Rooftop, Kumho Link, 39 Le Duan, Q1. Tel: (028) 3822 9357 The restaurant associated with the KOTO vocational training school. All the staff — from bar tenders and waiting staff through to the chefs — come from disadvantaged backgrounds and are being trained on the jon in hospitality. Serves up tasty Vietnamese cuisine, to boot!

LUONG SON PAN-VIETNAMESE 31 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (028) 3825 1330 A typical Vietnamese-style quan nhau, this fan-cooled downtown eating and drinking haunt is famed for two things: it’s on the table, grill-it-yourself bo tung xeo (marinated beef) and oddities such as sautéed scorpion. A great place to take out-of-town guests.

NAM GIAO HUE CUISINE 136/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (028) 38 250261; 116 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1, Tel: (028) 3925 9996 If you want to take friends, relatives or people out of town to eat Hue-style street food in a hygienic yet downto-earth environment, Nam Giao is the place. Not only is it well-priced, but the bun bo Hue, bun thit nuong, com hen, banh bot loc and other such dishes are excellent.

HOA TUC CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE The Square, 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 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


17A Ngo Van Nam, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 1515

TEMPLE CLUB PAN-VIETNAMESE 29-31 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 9244


200 Bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3; 157 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (028) 3930 3917

BUN CHA HA NOI BUN CHA 26/1A Le Thanh Ton, Q1


VEGAN 9 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 2538




62 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (028) 3822 2166; 111 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 8971; 226 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (028) 3837 5097


Wo r d s : H a r r y H o d g e Art: Nguyen Nha

I don’t think you’ll make it to work with this traffic jam!

I know! Get me to the Water Bus!


COM TAM 40A COM TAM 40A Quoc Huong, Q2 9:54


MI QUANG 38 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1



BUN BO HUE 189 Bis Bui Vien, Q1

BO KHO Alleyway to the left of 162 Tran Nhan Tong, Q10










SAIGON RIVER Wow! This is fast! Just need to get a xich lo when I get to Bach Dang. Class at 10:30!

PHO BO 288/M1 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3

PHO HOA PHO BO & PHO GA 260C Pasteur, Q3


PHO LE PHO BO 413-415 Nguyen Trai, Q5

Di Happy Language School! Nhanh len!

PHO PHU GIA PHO BO 146E Ly Chinh Thang, Q3

PHO PHU VUONG PHO BO 339 Le Van Sy, Tan Binh

SUSHI KO STREET SUSHI 122/37/15 Vinh Khanh, Q4




I made it! Which classroom?

Oh, they cancelled that class. You can have a coffee until 1.

HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE 67 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1, Tel: (028) 3821 7751Orum



BANH TAM 271 Nguyen Trai, Q1

TRADITIONAL VIETNAMESE 8 Nguyen Van Nguyen, Q1, Tel: (028) 3602 2241;


10:30 | February 2018 Word | 137

the final say comment


From Craft to Draft A country of beer drinkers, Vietnam has had a long love affair with bia hoi. With the local beer market going through a sea change, how does this affect that most quintessential of Vietnamese drinks? Words by Hai Vu


ietnamese beer culture is about to get even more interesting. With the announcement that the two largest state-run beverage companies, Hanoi’s Habeco (Hanoi Alcohol Beer and Beverage Corporation) and Ho Chi Minh City’s Sabeco, will be selling off the majority of their market shares, a series of multinational breweries, among them Carlsberg, Heineken and Anheuser-Busch are lining up to stake a claim in the lucrative Vietnamese beer drinking market. Vietnam has always had a strong culture of beer drinking. But with the population experiencing a surge in income, the increase of disposable income is immediately reflected in the country’s social life. Annual beer sales in Vietnam have been rising steadily for over a decade. Currently the country ranks third in Asia for overall beer

consumption, bested only by South Korea and Japan. 2017 saw Vietnam consume over 4 billion litres of ale, which is a remarkable 41% rise from 2010. Habeco and Sabeco’s total combined net worth is valued at over US$6 billion, with Sabeco earning nearly five times that of its northern cousin. They are also one of the few major brewing companies remaining in the world which are not already controlled by an international investor, making the two beverage powerhouses highly sought after. Dutch beer giants, Heineken, acquired 5% of Sabeco shares in 2008, while the Danish owned, Carlsberg has maintained 17% of holdings in Habeco since 2009. Currently Carlsberg reserves priority purchasing rights to 60% of Habeco shares when the state finally plans to make them public. Putting numbers aside, it’s easy to see why Vietnam ranks so predominantly in

beer sales. On any given weekend, Hanoi’s famous bia hoi corner from Luong Ngoc Quyen to Ta Hien and Saigon’s Bui Vien are awash with local and foreign beer companies advertising their presence. They pander to the crowded mix of locals, expats and tourists with street advertisements, live music events and promotional girls wearing dresses sporting logos for Heineken, Carlsberg, Tiger and Sapporo. With such a crowded marketplace, is there room for more?

Enter Craft Beer

The inception of Vietnamese craft beer in the American format can be dated officially as Jan. 2, 2015. The honour goes to two Americans, John Reid and Alex Violette, when the pair opened the Pasteur Street Brewing Company in Ho Chi Minh City. The Pasteur Street Brewing Company | February 2018 Word | 139

may have the distinction of being Vietnam’s first craft brewery, but since then, the floodgates have opened, as other trendy microbreweries, with names such as Fuzzy Logic, Rooster Beers and Heart of Darkness have begun gaining momentum in the country. There is even a Pho Essence craft beer, which tastes exactly as it sounds. Hanoi was quick to follow Saigon’s lead. First, with Barett microbrewery, followed by Furbrew Craft Beer, which now holds two locations in the Westlake area of Hanoi. Furbrew’s co-founder Thomas Bilgram, a native of Denmark, along with his

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Vietnamese partner Phan Thanh Trung currently offer over 20 different flavours of craft since opening in 2016. But are the Vietnamese embracing craft beer, with a snifter of a hoppy IPA on average costing upwards of 10 to 15 times the price of a glass of bia hoi? “It’s a lot of foreigners on a weekend,” Thomas says. “On weekdays we have a more equal distribution. I’m quite optimistic about craft beer being open to the Vietnamese market. I always thought, and rightfully so, that Vietnamese people don’t mind spending money on drinking.”

Survival of the Cheapest

With bia hoi, bottles and now craft, choices for beer in Vietnam hit on all price points, making it possible for all types to coexist. Bia hoi also has its devoted loyalists. “I love bia hoi,” Thomas says enthusiastically. “We are not trying to compete with that market. I think good bia hoi beer is the best value for the money of any beer in the world.” At VND5,000 for a glass of bia hoi, it is not always easy to coax customers away from Vietnam’s traditional draft. Translated as “fresh beer” or “air beer” this very light (3% alcohol) golden lager is cheaper than water.

With that in mind, the draft has also long been subject to rumours about its quality, whether it’s for cleanliness or for reported toxins found in the beer itself. It also doesn’t help matters that established brands Heineken, Tiger, Tuborg and Sapporo have all opened breweries in Vietnam, driving the prices of their own products down substantially. Despite all of this, bia hoi still has managed to survive. Partly due to staying true to its original formula, which grew in popularity during the 1950s, shortly after the authorities restricted households from producing their own home-brewed

alcohol. Bia hoi became the cheap and legal alternative.

Quality Control

We asked a table of office workers sitting at the Bia Hoi Hanoi Lien Doan (212 Hao Nam, Dong Da, Hanoi) what their thoughts were on bia hoi’s bad press. “This is our history,” Cuong, 36, explains. “The rumours [of the beer’s quality] are false. I don’t get headaches. Maybe I’ve been drinking it so much, I have become immune,” he laughs. Cuong and his colleagues often frequent Bia Hoi Lien Doan after work. I asked him further about his

thoughts on craft beer. “I have not tried it. I don’t have to… because I know that bia hoi beer is the best. Bottled beers are full of preservatives. [Bia hoi beer] is the freshest and purest you can buy. Once the beer leaves the brewery, it must be finished the same day, because it will spoil in 24 hours, because it has no preservatives.” Most of the bia hoi draft beer served throughout Hanoi is brewed and shipped daily from the large Habeco brewery on Hoang Hoa Tham. Demand is sometimes so high that the brewery often does not produce enough beer to last a night. The owner of the Bia Hoi Hanoi Lien | February 2018 Word | 141



[Vietnam] ranks third in Asia for overall beer consumption, bested only by South Korea and Japan. 2017 saw [this country] consume over 4 billion litres of ale, which is a remarkable 41% rise from 2010.

Doan assures us of the quality of the beer he sells by showing us the serial numbers labelled on each keg, which coincides with a list kept at the brewery. “This guarantees that the beer is not fake or watered down. There is also a test that you can perform,” he continues. “If you pour a glass of bia hoi beer, let it sit for 10 minutes. If after that time it tastes bitter, it is fake. 100 percent bia hoi beer should still be sweet-tasting in the throat.” The décor at Bia Hoi Lien Doan looks as though it has not changed since the day it opened. Modern bar trends need not apply here. There are no droll signs proclaiming “save

water, drink beer” or “free beer tomorrow”. Bia hoi is bia hoi, what you see is what you get. A world away from craft, where beers can be chosen by their ABV (alcohol content), IBU (bitterness level) and EBC (colour profile).

An Uncertain Future

It may seem that every pint of craft beer has its own tale, but the biggest and most important story for Vietnamese beer moving forward is how the divesting of Habeco/Sabeco shares will affect its drinkers. The answer may still be unclear, but Thomas from Furbrew remains optimistic.

“It is more about what will happen backstage,” he says. “The infrastructure of suppliers might change, but I don’t think it’ll affect the actual beer, beer prices or the drinking culture here.” Will bia hoi continue to stay as cheap or even exist at all? Will more acquisitions allow for even more diverse imported beer brands to enter Vietnam’s market? Will the balance which has made Vietnam such a popular beer drinking country stay intact? The beer market has changed so much in this country in the past 10 years, that don’t be surprised if more changes are in the offing. | February 2018 Word | 143

the final say ten10 HANOI

Mike Ellis The MC at Stand-Up Hanoi, Mike Ellis has played a key role in the development of stand-up comedy in Hanoi What brought you to Vietnam?

I moved to Vietnam in 2011 because, well, staying in the UK seemed very bleak.

How did you get into stand-up comedy?

I used to work as a tour guide in Edinburgh — working for tips. The best way to get good tips was to make people laugh. So, I honed a three-hour stand-up set about Scottish history. Then I moved into management and really missed the interaction so decided to give stand-up a go. I sucked in the UK, but have had plenty of opportunity for practice in Vietnam.

When and why did you co-found the Hanoi Comedy Collective? We used to have a bunch of Hong Kong comedians coming through to perform and I saw the opportunity for local acts to support these shows. We wanted the local support to be a key part of these shows, so we banded together. Local support is still an important part of the Stand-Up Hanoi shows.

Why was it so important for the amateur comedy scene in Hanoi? What about now?

A comedian can’t go it alone. Performing comedy in a music or spoken word space can be quite challenging so you need to come together a create a comedy space. Now the scene is great. We have several comedians doing their own things and several bars want a piece of the comedy action.

When did you get involved in StandUp Hanoi? Dan Dockery was leaving to South America in January 2017 for three months and needed someone running the shows while he was away. It’s been a great year of shows and really nice to have made a tangible contribution to the scene.


As Stand-Up Hanoi’s resident MC, what have been your best moments?

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Opening for Gina Yashere and Phil Nichol was pretty special. I love the Standing Bar

stage; you get such a good view of the packed room and it’s very easy to feel connected.

What have been your worst moments?

Not opening for Tom Rhodes. I put myself down for 10 minutes and for whatever reason material didn’t come to me in the days leading up to the show. I ended up on the night just getting up, thanking everyone for coming and welcoming Tom to the stage.

How do you see the comedy scene developing in Vietnam this year?

I think we’ll get more big names coming through. Stand-Up Hanoi together with our co-organisers Saigon International Comedy down south are getting some attention among global comedians who like the idea of an Asian tour. And with such a solid base of local acts it’s easy to put on a killer show. I hope that we can get more Vietnamese acts up on stage and have a fully Vietnamese bill.

What advice would you give to anyone who’s interested in getting up on stage and performing?

Do it. 1) You’re probably an English teacher so you are comfortable with public speaking and that is half the battle. If you can hold someone’s attention and be interesting it’s hard to completely bomb. 2) Find yourself funny. If you’re happy with your material and the audience don’t like it, it’s their problem — not yours. 3) Don’t be scared of the audience.

You’re about to leave Vietnam. Will you continue doing stand-up? What plans do you have?

Absolutely. But I’m scared because comedy is about a shared frame of reference and that is very easy to tap into in Hanoi — we’re all the same. In a new place I will be an outsider. I’m also scared because I think expectations will be higher. I’m desperately trying to think of ways to explain Vietnam things to a western audience. For more info on Stand-Up Hanoi, click on


Word Vietnam February 2018  

Thanks to both amateur and pro comedians, a festival and an ongoing comedy competition, the stand-up scene in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is...

Word Vietnam February 2018  

Thanks to both amateur and pro comedians, a festival and an ongoing comedy competition, the stand-up scene in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is...