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VIETNAM | January 2018 Word | 1

Contents january 2018


BRIEFINGS 10/ Orientalism

22 / The Heat Is On

New coach. New players. A new season for the Saigon Heat

Telling people what to do or think can be a mistake


12 / Cleaning Hoan Kiem Lake

42 / Street Portrait: The Ghetto

Hanoi’s iconic body of water gets a facelift

A foray into Saigon's very own version of Little Japan

14 / Behind The Iron Curtain

48 / Hanoi Gets McDonald’s

A Soviet-era motorcycle collection revealed

But are Hanoians really lovin' it?

16 / The Tattoo Artist

Two world-famous tattoo artists, one parlour, one city

Happy hours, set lunches, things to do with kids and even dating spots. The best this country has to offer

18 / The Liquid Rice Dinner

78 / Saigon’s Water Bus

Who needs wine dinners when you can say it with rice wine?

Who needs a metro system when you can go by boat?

20 / The Grand Finale

84 / A Helping Hand

A pioneer of the restaurant scene in Tay Ho has closed its doors

2 | Word January 2018 |

90 / Bun Cha Obama

Is it really worth all the hype?

92 / Bot Chien

Fried carrot cake, anyone? style via Germany

54 / The Best Of Vietnam

When it all goes wrong, who you gonna call?


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130 / Medical Buff

96 / 10 Places to Visit in 2018

26 / To Do List

138 / Know Your City

30 / Just In

139 / Terrence Taylor's Saigon Stories

Forget Hoi An, Sapa and Halong. That's where all the tourists go


124 / HCMC City Guide

34 / To Do List

136 / Top Eats


36 / Just In


140 / Keeping Up with the Jones’s

110 / Hanoi City Guide

112 / The Therapist

118 / Top Eats

114/ Book Buff

120 / Bar Stool

116/ Women's Fitness 128 / Body & Temple

4 | Word January 2018 |

Vietnam's tourism sector is booming, but it's still got a way to go

144 / Ten 10

Last month he was our cover model. This month we hear from the man himself, TK Nguyen



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

his month we forced Word contributors to tell us the one thing people must do while visiting Vietnam.

There are many charming streets and alleys that hold so many surprises. It’s definitely worth getting lost in some of these and discovering something unexpected. — Olga Rozenbajgier, Staff Photographer Visit Yen Tu, the Buddhist mountain temple complex. It’s not something you’d see in a guidebook, yet the mountain is full of intricate pagodas, statues and trails — all topped off with a bronze pagoda shrouded in clouds. If you don’t like climbing, you can take the cable car to the top! — Billy Gray, Staff Writer I’d tell them to hail a xe om to take them around Saigon, from the wide roads to the narrow alleys, so they get to see the city in a different light. — JB Jance, Contributor A sunrise walk or jog around Hoan Kiem Lake. Before the tourists clog the sidewalks, a ballet of tai chi and other morning exercises unfolds. It’s a tranquil thrill to experience. — Mary Warner, Contributor Stay up for 24 hours and do the best and worst of Saigon: breakfast at Pho Hoa, visit the Reunification Palace, coffee at Propaganda, Vespa Adventure tour, lunch at Shri, massage in the ghetto, craft beer at Heart of Darkness, happy hour at Layla, dinner at SH Garden, beers on Bui Vien, tattoo at Saigon Ink, dance at Apo then Go2, eat dim sum at Tan Hai Van then take it from there. — Matt Cowan, Managing Editor


6 | Word January 2018 |

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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THE TALK the prelude



Purple Rain album my older brother unveiled at home one day, and the propensity of old ladies to ‘blue rinse’ their silver hair only to have it turn a light shade of purple when it dried. And of course my jumper. So it’s with interest I’ve discovered that ultraviolet (a shade of purple) has been announced as the colour of 2018 by Pantone, a company famous for its colour

guides and swatches that help designers colour-match the colours in their designs. Supposedly ultraviolet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. It lights the way of what is yet to come. And that’s what we hope our cover story this month The Best Of... achieves — that it shows you the way to some of the best

Vietnam has to offer. We hope it spurs you to try out some of the best things to do with your kids or visitors, what to eat for lunch, where to drink during happy hours, and spots to take someone on a date. In whatever direction you decide to take this year, we at Word hope you find a ‘purple patch’ along the way which brings you happiness and prosperity. Have a great 2018! — Matt Cowan, Managing Editor





s a kid I asked my mother for a purple-coloured knitted jumper. To this day I don’t know why. What was I thinking? Purple hasn’t had much of a place in my life since, although I can connect periods of my life with it: a rival football team I played against, the bubblegum a school friend would bring me from his parent’s shop, the flowering Scotch thistles on the family farm, Prince’s


THIS MONTH'S COVER Design by DH Advertising

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.

(p52, December 2017) If you live in the West, you're used to the press doing recaps of the year just gone. In Vietnam, never. A refreshing read. Reminded me of the key things that happened in this country over the past 12 months. Just hoping that 2018 is better than 2017. — AB

Just picked up a copy of the Word. Yes, it's still out there, not just online. Pleasantly surprised when I read the magazine this month. Some great info. — EDC 2017. What a shit year. Did you have to go and remind me about it? — MF Cover Story

Loved the layout for this. Very appealing. Very eyecatching. The articles were short, too, which made them easy to read. — TN Once again that old story about the underwater internet cables reared its irritating head. Do you think it's deliberate that the internet is slow in Vietnam? Or is it just bad luck? — CL

This is the year that was

2017. A year when cables split, superstars cancelled concerts, dengue fever spread like wildfire, and the country got hit by not one but three tropical storms. It doesn't make good reading, right? But take a look back at the events of the past 12 months and there's a lot of good to add to the bad — positive changes that may well have huge ramifications for the future of Vietnam. Over the next few pages we revisit 16 events that have been the talking point of Vietnam over the past year. It's not comprehensive by any means — as we were putting this together it became clear that we were leaving a lot of things out. APEC anyone? The rise of Grab and Uber? The decline of ANZ in Vietnam?


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.

This is the Year That Was



But it's certainly been an interesting 12 months. Now that it's almost over, though, time to bring on 2018.

52 | Word December 2017 | | December 2017 Word | 53

three cables down

The magazine's looking good at the moment. Great design. Particularly liked the story about the major events of 2017. — MR

Simultaneous break causes internet traffic jam

the saigon water bus New public transport service about to float your boat




8 | Word January 2018 |

he internet came to a grinding halt for a large number of users in August when three out of four internet undersea cables linked to Vietnam quit functioning. Viettel, the country’s largest internet provider, confirmed the they were the SEA’s Asia-America Gateway (AAG) and Intra Asia (TGN-IA) undersea cables, with breaks in both lines near the cable station in Hong Kong, and the SEA-ME-WE3 (SMW3) cable line, whose break was eventually determined to be between Perth and Singapore. Accounting for 60 percent of the internet connection between Vietnam and the rest of the world,

62 | Word December 2017 |

the AAG line is one of the longest submarine cables in the world, stretching more than 20,000 km across the Pacific Ocean. While the TGN-IA cable is nearly a third of the length of the AAG line, it’s responsible for connecting five Asian countries and their territories including Vietnam, Singapore, the Philippines, Japan and Hong Kong. The final line, SMW3, connects the three regions of East Asia, the Middle East, and Western Europe.

Up but not running

The incident in August was remarkable in that it involved the simultaneous breaking of all three submarine lines. Experts cited the

tropical storms and typhoons that had recently passed through the area for the cause of the problem, but nothing was ever confirmed. In the past, shipping vessels, underwater salvage or even sharks have been blamed for damage to the undersea cables. Repair to the cables lines takes months and contribute to an overall slow-down of the internet in most parts of Asia. There’s no telling when another break will happen. Case in point: In November, the AAG line broke again — for the fifth time this year — just weeks after its last repair. In other words, don’t get too hooked on fast download speeds. Sabotage, anyone? — Mary Warner


y the time you read this, Saigon’s new water bus service will have launched. Initially planned to begin operations in June, the service has been highly anticipated; in some quarters heralded (or hexed?) as a panacea for the city’s increasingly congested streets and motorways (cross fingers, look to the sky). The first phase (Route 1) is an 11km, seven-stop service that will take commuters from Bach Dang Wharf in District 1 on Ton Duc Thang to Linh Dong Ward in Thu Duc. The second phase (Route 2) is 10km long and will pass through the canals of Ben Nghe and Tau Hu via Districts 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8. Rumours that a route to District 7 will open up in 2018 were also

confirmed by a spokesperson for the project just days prior to the Nov. 25 launch. The price of a ticket is a flat VND15,000 per person, whether commuters ride one stop or go the full distance. Up to 10 boats that can comfortably accommodate 60 passengers each will be part of the phase one rollout.

Sneak Peek

Word was invited to a media event prior to the official Nov. 25 launch to experience the Route 1 service from Bach Dang Wharf to Kinh Dong Ward and back. The powerful twin diesel engine, twin-hulled vessels are spacious inside with practical seating and ample headroom for most

commuters. There are bathroom facilities onboard with rumours that light snacks will also be available. Inside the cabin there is plenty of standing room and space for commuters travelling with luggage and strollers. However, it’s unclear as to whether cyclists will be able to transport their bikes onboard. There’s no doubting the potential for the water bus service with people living along Route 1 the lucky ones to test it out first. The two routes are expected to serve up to 5,000 passengers a day, a small drop in the ocean compared to the number of commuters coming in and out of Saigon. But it’s a massive step forward towards finding a solution to the gridlock that currently chokes the city. — Matt Cowan

11/17 | December 2017 Word | 63

THE TALK comment


10 | Word January 2018 |




Telling people what to do or think can be a mistake

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?


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

THE TALK briefings


12 | Word January 2018 |


Cleaning Hoan Kiem Lake


Hanoi’s iconic body of water gets a facelift

On Jan. 19, 2016, Cu Rua, ‘Great-Grandfather Turtle’, died in Hoan Kiem Lake. The turtle was believed by many to be centuries old, and its spiritual significance for Vietnam was profound as it was closely linked to the myth of the founding of Hanoi, when the fifth-century emperor Le Loi was given a golden sword by the turtle god to defeat the Chinese. Cu Rua’s death marked what is believed to be the extinction of the rafetus leloii species of soft-shell turtle.

Turning the Page

The turtle’s death, and numerous ecological disasters that have hit the country since, have put the spotlight on the effects of pollution. As a result, the authorities are keen to show their dedication in cleaning up the mess left by urban development. With this in mind they have decided to clean Hanoi’s iconic Hoan Kiem Lake. Taking place between Dec. 1 and Feb. 7, the VND29 billion (US$1.3 million) operation will dredge 57,400 cubic metres of mud from the lake, and remove all waste. The city’s Municipal People’s Committee approved the project, which will be carried out by the Hanoi Sewerage and Draining Company. The deadline means that it is scheduled to be completed before the start of Tet 2018. Given that Hoan Kiem Lake is at the heart of tourism in Hanoi, the cleaning will only take place late at night and early in the morning to ensure minimal disturbance. Although with all the piping and dredging machinery along its banks and in the water itself, the lake is certainly a lot less romantic than it was in the past.

A Long Road Ahead

Anyone who has seen much of Hanoi will attest that the canals and lakes around the city are generally fetid. Some of them have such a horrid smell that it’s difficult to go near them. To Lich river is a particularly notorious case of this: “They call it the dead river,” says business management student Phuong.

“They tried to clean it before but they couldn’t. It used to be a lot worse, growing up next to that was the worst thing.” The authorities have been making an effort to reverse this — there has been dredging in other lakes such as Truc Bach Lake in recent months, and efforts are being made to re-oxidize West Lake after the mass fish death in 2016. However, research conducted by CECR (The Center for Environmental and Community Research) revealed that only 2 percent of Hanoi province’s 200 lakes, ponds and rivers meet safe water standards. This is 13 years after the authorities first proposed cleaning them up. That being said, the cleaning of Hoan Kiem Lake is an obvious step in the right direction, and is being carried out earlier than planned. This suggests the authorities are getting serious about tackling water pollution.

Necessary Action

This isn’t the first attempt made at tackling various forms of pollution in the capital. The launch of the US$53 million ‘fast-bus’ project in 2016, and the ongoing aim to plant a million trees by the year 2020 are other examples of the authorities’ attempts to reign in pollution and make the city greener. Yet many remain sceptical as to whether this will make a difference. “They’re cleaning the lake, which is good,” says businessman Hung. “But they need to make more public transport available to reduce the amount of vehicles causing air pollution.” As the city moves forward into the 21st century it seeks solutions to an evergrowing problem, with air quality at times worse than that in Beijing. But to tackle the full force of this issue means fighting on a multitude of fronts. In the end, giving the lake at the heart of Hanoi a clean-up is a step in the right direction. It’s just a shame Cu Rua will not be there to enjoy the consequences. — Billy Gray | January 2018 Word | 13

THE TALK briefings


From Behind The Iron Curtain


A Soviet-era motorcycle collection revealed

Collectors are insatiable. They don’t rest until they’ve got what they want. Once they’ve got it, the search begins again in earnest for the next thing on their list. Take the case of Linh Nguyen, a 39-year-old Hanoian who’s been living in Saigon since 2004. Since starting his Soviet-era motorcycle collection 13 years ago, Linh has accumulated 20 motorcycles manufactured in the former USSR, valuable remnants of the former Communist bloc’s support of North Vietnam during the American War; every one of them restored close to their original condition. Linh was introduced to motorbikes by his father, who used to work at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport in the 1970s after the war. On the odd weekend he would plonk his young son on the tank of his

14 | Word January 2018 |

Czech-made 350cc Jawa and take him to work on it. “I can remember the Jawa’s colour,” recalls Linh. “It was orange with a little bit of red. And the smoke. Because it had a two-stroke engine, it blew a lot of smoke and I’ve carried that memory with me ever since. That is the memory I will always have of that time — the smoke and the sound of that twostroke engine.”

A Story Is Telling

Collectors become obsessed with the story behind the piece as much as the actual piece itself that they spend vast amounts of time and money on pursuing. “It not enough to be beautiful, original and rare,” says Linh. “It has to tell a story.” After the war finished in 1975,

most of the motorcycles in Vietnam originated from what was then the Eastern Bloc; the north in particular was home to motorcycles manufactured in what is presentday Russia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary. Motorcycles manufactured in China were also common. One common sight in Hanoi at the time was the Ural motorcycle, with its trademark sidecar, its origins linked to the eastern front during World War 2 after the Soviet Union acquired the design and production techniques for BMW motorcycles from the Nazis. Also common were Dnepr (pronounced neeper) motorcycles, named after one of the major rivers of Europe that flows through Kiev in Ukraine, along with Izh motorcycles from the maker of the AK-47 assault rifle,


which for a time enjoyed the same reputation as the AK-47 for being reliable in harsh conditions. Linh has one of these on display on the ground floor of his bistro — Biker Shield — in District 1.

The Chase

While over a relatively short period of time, Linh has built a collection that is among the most impressive in Vietnam, he’s selective. “If the motorcycle is 100 years old but not a rare make, doesn’t catch my eye or doesn’t have any historic value, then it’s just an old bike and I’m not interested,” he says. To reinforce his point, Linh points in the direction of one of the motorcycles on display on the second floor that I now suddenly find myself dying to touch, perhaps

even sneaking a quick sit on when he’s not looking. “That’s a Triumph Werke Nurnberg built in Germany,” he explains. “After 1957, the Triumph factory in Germany closed down and stopped manufacturing them so it’s extremely rare, and as far as I know, I own one of only five left in Vietnam.” But paradoxically, the motorcycle in Linh’s collection that perhaps has the most moving story to tell is his Innocenti Lambretta, also on display on the second floor. Linh has been reliably told that it’s the most original Lambretta in Vietnam and has been ridden for just 3,000km. It’s first owner was a South Vietnam soldier who was killed during the war and whose family kept it through the 1980s as a keepsake but eventually sold it to a family friend

who Linh then acquired it from after a long chase. “When he handed it over to me, he cried,” says Linh. And that just about sums up the lot of the collector. Linh says that he doesn’t sleep for at least three days after acquiring a new addition to his collection. Only then can he look over every detail of the motorcycle to the point where he’s confident he knows every single part of it. And what collectible has he got on his mind right now? “I’ve just put a deposit on a 1946 Izh 350 and I’ve just heard that there are some Norton Commandos in the Ukraine still in their boxes from the 1970s that were destined for the United States. That’s what’s on my mind.” — Matt Cowan For more info, go to mybikershield. | January 2018 Word | 15


The Tattoo Artist Two world-famous tattoo artists, one parlour, one city

The Wedding Present A scene from inside Saigon Ink. On the far right, Crez is at work on Danis, the tattoo shop's owner

16 |



A message comes through on my phone. It’s from Italian tattoo artist Massimiliano Freguja who’s in town visiting his friend and fellow World Atlas of Tattoo inductee Danis Nguyen in Saigon. There are just 100 tattoo artists of thousands globally who earned the right to be included in Anna Felicity Friedman’s 400-page tome published in 2015 that recognises the most influential practitioners in the history of tattooing. Entry affords artists Michelin star-like acclaim within the tattoo industry and it’s a rare opportunity to have two entrants in the same room together in Vietnam. Here’s my chance to rub shoulders with tattoo royalty. “I’m about to start on Danis,” the message reads. We had arranged earlier that when Massimiliano — or Crez as he’s more widely known — was ready to lay down the stencil for the tattoo he was giving Danis as a wedding present, a message would be my cue to get to Saigon Ink and

2018 |

see him give his friend one of the more unusual gifts I’ve seen — a tattoo of a bull’s head on the chest.

Indian Ink

Growing up, Crez didn’t get to see his merchant sailor father as often as he would have liked, still his father managed to leave a lasting impression on him because of his tattoos — an eagle and a tiger — that he got on a whim when his ship was docked in India one time. “He regretted getting those tattoos,” says Crez over the buzz of his tattoo gun. “He was the only person I knew who had tattoos, but I was fascinated by them and the stories he told about his travels around the world.” In those days, when ships would dock, tattooists would climb up onto them with their equipment, tattoo the sailors and receive a lobster or some other catch of the day as payment. “I was fascinated by that story, firstly because it was in India, somewhere far off

I didn’t know, and secondly, because of the little guy with a suitcase and his gear in it going to tattoo all the sailors, it was really magical for me.” Crez soon made up his mind as to what he wanted to do with his life. By the time he was nine years old, he had already given himself a tattoo and when he turned 17, he started tattooing professionally at a time in Italy when tattoos were seen as markers of petty criminals and what he endearingly calls “white trash” — the dregs of society. “I tattooed punk rockers, drug dealers and small time criminals,” he says. “It was a time when if you wanted to demonstrate being outside of mainstream society and how much you disliked it, you got a tattoo,” he explains. “Now it’s different, people get tattoos to be part of a group, it’s fashionable to have one.”

Master in the Art

Crez has developed a reputation for being a traditionalist, something which prompted his compadre Danis to make contact with

him when he was holidaying in Venice a couple of years ago. “He only does classic tattoos in an era where artists are mixing styles — I respect that and that’s why I wanted a tattoo from him,” says Danis during a break from receiving his painful wedding gift. Crez responds with a compliment of his own. “Danis impressed me immediately. Here was a guy from Vietnam asking around my neighbourhood for me,” he recalls. “I live in the ghetto of Venice in a place called Marghera, so when someone bothers going there (Crez paints a picture of a neighbourhood quite the opposite of the romantic images of Venice with its canals and gondolas we’re used to) and wants to talk to me, why not find out what they want, right?” When he’s not working in his own studio, Crez spends a month or so every year in Japan, something he’s done since 2003, and it is where he met the late Hideo Kakimoto, better known as Horihide, considered the

master of Japanese tattooing. In his lifetime, he’s credited for doing more than 600 bodysuits (full-body pieces), was arrested numerous times (tattooing is outlawed in Japan), and opened Crez’ eyes to the spirit of tattooing which involves the exchange of energy between tattooist and client. “There are many tattooists who are technically very good artists and can produce great, colourful portraits, but tattoos need to have a soul, we aren’t just canvases, we’re human,” Crez explains. “Getting tattooed by someone like Horihide is a life-long experience because you carry it with you for the rest of your life. I adhere to that philosophy with my own work.” This philosophy is something that Crez sees catching on here in Vietnam, too. “I’ve been in Vietnam for just a few days and what I’ve noticed already is that unlike in many other parts of Southeast Asia where tattoos are just for tourists, here it’s a real culture and you can get world-class tattoos done in places like Saigon Ink.” — Matt Cowan. | January 2018 Word | 17

THE TALK briefings



The Liquid Rice Dinner Who needs wine dinners when you can say it with rice wine?

You’ve tried wine pairing. Now try rice wine pairing. The idea of pairing food with liquor isn’t something straight off the boat. It’s been going on for a couple of centuries and several top-end restaurants in Vietnam’s major cities have been giving it a go for years. Now Vietnam, a country that frequently demonstrates its ability to take on the rest of the world, is remaking this gastronomic staple in the most Vietnamese way possible.

Mot. Hai. Ba…

Pairing Vietnamese cuisine with rice liquor is extremely common in the ‘let’s chug this plastic bottle of moonshine with our barbeque’ kind of way; but careful, deliberate flavour pairing… not so much. The team at Highway 4 restaurant didn’t let this demoralize them, however, as they set about creating a seven-course Liquid Rice Dinner in mid-December. The dinner was not only paired with their signature Son Tinh rice liquor, but cooked with it as well. The event was a first of its kind. Each course was taken straight out of the Vietnamese list of classics, and each dish was paired with one of their 12 different varieties of liquor to bring out the special flavours in each bite.

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Yet it didn’t just start and end with the pairings. Using liquor as a cooking ingredient unlocks a world of possibilities, and adding it to the cuisine created an extra sense of flair. The flavours in Son Tinh liquor are derived from Vietnamese herbs and fruits, as well as beans and rice. This makes them the ideal ingredient for infusion into Vietnamese cuisine.

Boozy Infusions.

The dishes had taste aplenty. The grilled fillet of seabass was cooked with kumquat, and Son Tinh Chanh Leo (passion fruit) liquor sauce. The simple fillet was turned into a mouth-watering meal with the presence of the sweet, fruity liquor. A stronger and more aromatic Son Tinh Nhat Da was used in the dressing of a buffalo salad. The strong flavours in both the dressing and the buffalo meat balanced to the point where drinking a shot of the liquor alongside the dish didn’t feel the least bit invasive. The fusion of juices from the meat and the herbal liquor left on the plate made for a fiendishly good finish — you pick up on the booze in the juices, and it’s a match made in heaven. “People make the mistake of thinking that when you cook with alcohol, the booze disappears,” says Dan Dockery, the brains behind the

dinner and the owner of Highway 4. “That’s actually not true. It takes four hours of braising to get it down to 5 percent.” Another interesting infusion was the crab soup with Son Tinh Nep Phu Loc. This is Son Tinh’s original liquor, and the closest to traditional Vietnamese rice wine created by the distillery. Its presence in the crab soup was interesting. The rice wine retained its strong notes, especially once you got to the bottom of the bowl, where most of the liquor had sunk to.

Ants in Your… Cocktail.

Vietnam’s finest rice liquor doesn’t just work well in your food. Highway 4 have created a whole bunch of cocktails using the stuff as well, including our aperitif, the Highway #25. This exotic concoction mixed Son Tinh Nep Phu Loc with tamarind sauce, and was rimmed with salted ants. The three ingredients worked perfectly together, the ants giving a salty kick that balances out the tamarind. — Billy Gray The Liquid Rice Dinner was a first for Highway 4, but they intend to host more of these events. To keep yourself updated visit their Facebook page. No ants were harmed in the writing of this article.


THE TALK briefings


The Grand Finale


A pioneer of the restaurant scene in Tay Ho has closed its doors

Some endings are happy, some are sad. Some come with a bang, while others with a whimper. In the case of the closure of Don’s Bistro in Hanoi, there is only one way to describe its sudden ending; dramatic. While the dispute that caused the restobar’s demise had been going on for years, it came to a head in midDecember as the wining and dining Christmas season was in full swing. One of the partners behind this Canadian-themed, mid-to-top-end comfort food restaurant padlocked the doors. An argument over profit share between the investors had been bubbling behind the scenes. Now someone was taking action. As the quarrel heated up it became public. Men driving xe thuong binh — the tuk-tuk-like motorised vehicles given to war heroes — blocked the door, turning customers away. Signs were erected telling the world about the dispute, and the authorities were called in. But, with so many opposing stories, there was little they could do. The argument then found its way onto Facebook, and the war of words continued for all to see. With Christmas approaching and the dispute spiralling out of control, a decision was made. The lease was up in March, anyway. It was better to close up, move on and figure out

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what can or cannot be resolved.

Founding Father

Restaurants and bars are a dime a dozen in the West Lake area of Hanoi, opening and closing with the wind. But Don’s Bistro has a strong claim to be regarded differently. When Donald Berger and his partners started constructing their tour de force in 2009, there wasn’t a road running the whole way around West Lake. It was still being built. Only a couple of other restaurants and bars graced the area and if you lived out in West Lake, and wanted to go out for the night, you went into town. These days you stay put. Yet, Donald’s love affair with the area goes back much further. When Donald first started plying his trade in West Lake, as a founding partner of Vine Restaurant and Bar, it was still a village. A few pho shops or late-night eateries served up food on Xuan Dieu, but beyond that, there was nothing. At night the street lights turned off early. By 9pm the whole area was bathed in darkness. Yet, the exodus from downtown Hanoi had already started. NGO and UN workers were moving into serviced apartments on Xuan Dieu, expat families were renting out villas behind the Sheraton, and on To Ngoc

Van the infamous Almaz Building had been repurposed and sliced up into apartments. Suddenly there was a clientele, but with nowhere to go. Opening in 2003, Vine Restaurant and Wine Bar was an instant success, and Donald Berger was a big part of it. So, when he moved onto his next venture in 2009, he came with a reputation for all things good in life — quality dining, excellent wine, Cuban cigars and good conversation. It was this that he carried forward to his bistro and bar overlooking West Lake.

Lest We Forget

Time, they say, is a great healer. And over time, whatever endgame pressures Donald and his business partners are having to endure will somehow be resolved. But time also has the ability to bury recollections, to relegate the undocumented to the long-forgotten annals of time. A decade ago, West Lake wasn’t the booming food and drink destination that it is today. Nor was it the wealthy suburb, or the fastdeveloping urban area just outside the Old Quarter that we now know. The people behind Don’s Bistro were pioneers, and we have a lot to thank them for. Without them, West Lake might not have become the place it is today. — Nick Ross. | January 2018 Word | 21


THE TALK sports digest

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The Heat Is On


New coach. New players. New season for the Saigon Heat. Words by Harry Hodge

After three seasons of making the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) playoffs but failing to go beyond the first round, the Saigon Heat may be poised for a breakout season. Out with the old, in with the new. Gone are former bench boss Tony Garbelotto, star player Lenny Daniel, former league MVP Christien Charles and many of the team’s domestic players from last season. In come Canadian coach Kyle Julius, import players Travele Jones and Akeem Scott, and numerous call-ups from Vietnam’s domestic league. And after their first two home games of the season, it looks like it may all come up roses. The home opener against Lenny Daniel and his new team, the Formosa Dreamers, was going well until the team fizzled out in the fourth quarter and dropped an 80-75 decision. While it was an entertaining affair, Julius

acknowledged the season had started with the team behind the eight-ball. “Some of the stuff that went well for us during the game was the simple fact that I was able to experience some of the ABL character and culture that I was not able to prepare for,” Julius said. “Things like officiating and the way the Saigon Heat is viewed and treated will now allow me to better prepare the team moving forward. “We only dressed seven players and that was our first real competition after having a shorthanded training camp. So now I have a better feel for the entire process.” “I don't think we competed the way I wanted to for 40 minutes so that was disappointing. However, fatigue and lack of substitutions attributed to a lower battle level than we had hoped for.” Their next game was against

Thailand’s Mono Vampire, and it was a statement victory as the Heat unleashed an array of threepointers, making a league record in the process. “The first win is good because I was [tough] on the guys,” Julius said. “We worked hard, I constantly challenged them and pushed them. We didn't skip any steps and they responded. “I'm happy for the guys. There were no adjustments made. We just did the same stuff much better.” Julius said it’s important for the team to improve and continue to work with that same energy daily. “We are officially two months behind the rest of the league,” Julius said. “Every other team has had exhibition games and much longer preparation. As a result, we need time to continue to get better.” For info on the next Heat home game, check out their website or visit their Facebook page. | January 2018 Word | 23

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THE TALK the big five Comedy, Australia Day the HCMC Marathon and yes, you guessed it, more comedy. The top events this month

Vietnam Amateur Stand-Up Competition

Heart of Darkness, HCMC; Standing Bar, Hanoi, Friday, Jan. 12 Can you get up on stage for five minutes and make people laugh? And can you impress the judges on the night who will be marking your every move? That’s the challenge for over 20 local comedians who will all be vying for prize money and a spot at the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Finals in Hanoi in early March. Sponsored by craft beer brewery Heart of Darkness, this will be the third amateur comedy competition in Saigon, and the second in Hanoi. Entrance is VND150,000 on the night and includes of free glass of Heart of Darkness craft beer. Doors are at 8pm. Heart of Darkness is at 31D Ly Tu Trong, Q1, HCMC and Standing Bar is 170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

HCMC Marathon

District 7, HCMC Sunday, Jan. 14 It’s now five years since the first edition of the HCMC Run. Incorporating the HCMC Marathon — last year saw the first full 42km run to take place in Saigon since the early 1990s — the race has continued to go from strength to strength to become Vietnam’s most popular event for running enthusiasts. This year close to 8,000 runners will lace up to pound the pavement over distances of 3km, 5km, 10km, 21km and 42km. The event is so popular that starting places were sold out two weeks

prior to the event with an annual waiting list of 1,000 runners. For more info about the race, go to or

Gina Yashere

Heart of Darkness, HCMC Standing Bar, Hanoi Jan. 22 & 23 (HCMC) and Jan. 24 (Hanoi) If you’re wondering why there is so much comedy this month, it’s because of an upcoming comedy festival in Southeast Asia and the comedy festivals in Australia and New Zealand. Few venues, though, will complain if the comedian gracing their space is the indomitable British comic, Gina Yashere. The British correspondent for Comedy Central’s Daily Show, and about to be featured in the Netflix series, Standups Season 2, Gina is hitting big time at the moment. So big that when she’s back in her native London she’s playing to audiences of over 2,000. Here it will be 100. The Saigon show will take place over two nights at Heart of Darkness (31D Ly Tu Trong, Q1, HCMC) while in Hanoi she will be gracing the stage at Standing Bar (170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi). Entrance is VND250,000 (VND200,000 in advance). For info and ticketing click on the Facebook pages of Saigon International Comedy or Stand-Up Hanoi

Australia Day Family Event

Sunday, Jan. 28 RMIT Vietnam, Q7 The second HCMC Australia Day Family Event will be held on Jan. 28 showcasing the best Australia has to offer and celebrating Australia in Vietnam. The family day will be

held at the RMIT Saigon South Campus in District 7 from 1pm to 6pm and will feature plenty of interactive sports, activities and games. Musical performances by school students and local bands will keep everyone entertained as they feast on iconic Aussie dishes and a barbecue prepared by some of Ho Chi Minh City’s leading restaurants and Aussie chefs. For more info and ticketing, please turn to page 28

US Comedian Doug Stanhope

Wednesday, Mar. 14 Caravelle Saigon, HCMC Acclaimed US comedian Doug Stanhope will terrorise Vietnam with his debut Asia tour in March 2018, dishing out his incomparable brand of acerbic social commentary for local audiences. Stanhope has been compared to such fearless comic revolutionaries as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks. But his work makes it abundantly clear that he’s a complete original, vital in a field crowded with conformists and copycats. Here’s what the press says: “Much of what’s wrong with the world melts away in Stanhope’s flame... comedy with brains and guts and heart.” — The Guardian “ acidic blend of prickly hostility, elaborately articulated self-loathing and righteous anger.” — New York Times Tickets can either be bought online via or from Saigon International Comedy by emailing nick@saigoncomedy. com. Tickets start at VND700,000 and rise to VND1,800,000 for the VIP option which includes a meet and greet after party at the Caravelle rooftop bar. | January 2018 Word | 25

THE TALK to do list / hCMC Comedy, Network Girls, Australia Day, a number of exhibitions and much, much more. This month in Saigon

The artist behind the forthcoming exhibition, Variations of Joy, Shanghai-born artist Howard Qiu uses a mix of art and music to explore the intersection between music, emotions and nature. Through this he creates abstract art that is both aural and visual. Variations of Joy explores the sensory commonalities between visual art and sound creation, presenting an ode to joy. Here's a short interview with the artist. How did you get into art? I’ve always loved art. It started when I was a little boy. Both my parents were architects and I got a lot of influence from them. What gave you the idea of combining music with art? Music is a form of audio art, painting is a form of visual art. These two formats constitute the majority of the art forms. I am inspired by visual and aural, so I have tried to combine both elements. How difficult is it to get colour to represent music? It’s not hard to get colours to represent

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Vietnam Amateur Stand-Up Competition

Heart of Darkness, Q1 Friday, Jan. 12 Can you get up on stage for five minutes and make people laugh? Can you do even better and make them cry, fall off their seats, double up in hysterics? And can you impress the judges on the night who will be marking your every move? That’s the challenge for 12 local comedians who will all be vying for prize money and a spot at the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Finals in Hanoi in early March. Sponsored by craft beer brewery Heart of Darkness, this will be the third amateur comedy competition in Saigon. So come along and support the growing roster of local talent; there’s a lot of it. All entrance fees come with a free glass of super tasty Heart of Darkness craft beer and lots of laughs thrown in, too! Even better, you’ll have a say in who will go through to the all-expenses-paid finals in early March in Hanoi. Entrance is VND150,000 on the night and doors are at 8pm. Heart of Darkness is at 31D Ly Tu Trong, Q1, HCMC. For info, click on facebook. com/saigoninternationalcomedy or email nick@

music. I am just thinking about nature when I paint, then I think about rainbows. How do you represent tone and rhythm in your work? I imagine visual and aural. I compose them in a visual way and then paint. How easy is it for musicians to follow the instructions in your work? The visuals of my work are like a code of sound. You need to read it, understand it, imagine it, and practice it. Then you can see the music in your mind. What can we expect from your forthcoming exhibition in Saigon? You will be able to see a combination of music and nature. We will have local musician play the music though out the opening to express my love of both art and music. Howard Qiu’s exhibition, Variatons of Joy, will open at Vin Gallery (6 Le Van Mien, Q2, HCMC) on Friday, Jan. 12. It will run until Feb. 10. For more info, click on

Ngo Hong Quang ft. Trung Bao

The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Q2 Thursday, Jan. 11 In this show, Ngo Hong Quang will introduce songs from his latest album Nam Nhi an ode to quan ho — a popular form of romantic antiphonal folk singing from Bac Ninh and Bac Giang provinces in northern Vietnam — and northern Vietnamese mountain folk music featuring beatboxer Tung Bao. By bringing together traditional materials and newly-created contemporary elements, Quang has freed himself from singing in original styles through working with a beatboxer, but still following the lyrical expressions that exist in the northern provinces of Vietnam. For fans of northern Vietnamese folk music, this performance will offer a fresh take on familiar melodies. For those new to the genre, it will be an interesting exploration. The performance is from 7pm to 8.30pm. Tickets are VND400,000 per person and can be purchased online at or by calling (028) 3744 2589. The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre is at 15 Nguyen U Di, Q2.

Guerilla Tactics Solo Exhibition

MoT+++ Art Space, Binh Thanh Jan. 11 to Feb. 28 MoT+++ (a new concept from the art space formerly known as Dia Projects) and San Art present Guerilla Tactics, the first solo exhibition of ceramics by Vietnamese artist Nguyen Quoc Chanh. Chanh is an acclaimed Vietnamese poet, having published his first collection of poems in 1990 with them translated into multiple languages. His lesser-known ceramic work has caught the eye of notable Vietnamese artists for its play between traditional techniques and materials and contemporary form. In his latest series of ceramic sculptures, Chanh aligns them with the idea of a ‘guerilla mentality’, which is to place them firmly within Vietnamese history and cultural memory. To understand this process, interchange the image of a jungle soldier living opportunistically within their environment and replace it with an artist whose materials are ‘found and requisitioned’. The opening reception is on Thursday, Jan. 11 from 6pm to 9pm. MoT+++ is at Saigon Domaine, 1057 Binh Quoi, Binh Thanh and is open Monday to Friday 10am to 6pm. For more info, go to or call (028) 3556 2859

Network Girls Breakfast

Thursday, Jan. 25 Jaspas, Q1 Network Girls kicks off 2018 with a breakfast at newly-renovated Jaspas on Dong Khoi, a great place to check out the new space over coffee while meeting the ladies of HCMC. Network Girls is a monthly event at pivotal venues in HCMC that gives expatriate and local female working professionals a channel to meet each other and exchange ideas on life in the city, employment and business. The breakfast is from 7.30am until 9am at Jaspas, 33 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC. To attend, contact Van at For more info, go to networkgirlshcmc


Gina Yashere

Heart of Darkness, Q1 Jan. 22 & 23 If you’re wondering why there is so much comedy this month, it’s because of the Southeast Asian circuit, an upcoming comedy festival in the region and the comedy festivals in Australia and New Zealand, all of which take place about now. Few venues, though, will complain if the comedian gracing their space is the indomitable British comic, Gina Yashere. Having already performed in Vietnam to sellout audiences — last year she took both Hanoi and Saigon by storm — once again Gina will be on a mission: to make you laugh. The British correspondent for Comedy Central’s Daily Show, and about to be featured in the Netflix series, Standups Season 2, Gina is hitting big time at the moment. So big that when she’s back in her native London she’s playing to audiences of over 2,000. Here it will be 100. Even better, support will come from the superlative US comic Turner Sparks. This will be a big ‘un. So big that there will be two shows. Best to book your tickets in advance. The Saigon show will take place over two nights at Heart of Darkness (31D Ly Tu Trong, Q1, HCMC). Entrance is VND250,000 (VND200,000 in advance). For info and ticketing click on the Facebook page of Saigon International Comedy or email Doors are at 7.30pm

Australia Day Family Event

Sunday, Jan. 28 RMIT Vietnam, Q7 The second HCMC Australia Day Family Event will be held on Jan. 28 showcasing the best Australia has to offer and celebrating Australia in Vietnam. The event also marks the beginning of year-long celebrations for the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Vietnam. The family day will be held at the RMIT Saigon South Campus in District 7 from 1pm to 6pm and will feature plenty of interactive sports, activities and games — including cricket, rugby, zorb ball, soccer and Aussie Rules football, as well as facepainting, a bouncy castle and a slip and slide for the kids. Musical performances by school students and local bands will keep everyone entertained as they feast on iconic Aussie dishes and a barbecue prepared by some of Ho Chi Minh City’s leading hotels, restaurants and Aussie chefs. There’s also the chance to win fabulous prizes — including a barbecue — for dressing up. Tickets cost VND250,000 (adults) with children under 12 years old costing VND150,000. Family tickets (two adults, two children) go for VND750,000. Tickets include food and beverage vouchers and are available from The Caravelle Saigon (District 1), Mekong Merchant (District 2) and Meatworks Butchery (District 7).

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Doug Stanhope

Caravelle Saigon, Q1 Wednesday, Mar. 14 Acclaimed US comedian Doug Stanhope will terrorise Southeast Asia with his debut Asia tour in March 2018, dishing out his incomparable brand of acerbic social commentary for local audiences on a seven-show run in Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Manila. Stanhope has been compared to such fearless comic revolutionaries as Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks. But his work makes it abundantly clear that he’s a complete original. In a field crowded with conformists and copycats, Stanhope is a genuinely original comic voice, albeit a gleefully vulgar one. “A visionary douchebag.” — The Times “Much of what’s wrong with the world melts away in Stanhope’s flame... comedy with brains and guts and heart.” — The Guardian “...the most fearless man in comedy.” — Esquire “ acidic blend of prickly hostility, elaborately articulated self-loathing and righteous anger.” — New York Times Tickets can either be bought online via or from Saigon International Comedy by emailing Tickets start at VND700,000 for seats at the back of the room and rise to VND1,800,000 for the VIP option which includes a meet and greet after party at the Caravelle rooftop bar.

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THE TALK just in / hCMC A chance to experience more of Hoi An, art exhibition launches, and Vietjet starts flying to Phuket and Chiang Mai

Vietnamese Contemporary Art Launch

Salon Saigon has launch its new permanent collection dedicated to Vietnamese contemporary art. The collection pays tribute to contemporary Vietnamese artists through the permanent collection that enriches understandings of present and future Vietnamese heritage. Based on the idea of promoting Vietnamese

New Year Sale at Luxury Apartment Danang

To start a prosperous 2018, Luxury Apartment Danang are offering guests a special deal with a 30% discount on room rates (starting from only US$102++/ night). Located by the beach and replete with an on-site gym, an infinity swimming pool and breakfast cooked by an internationally trained chef, Luxury Apartment is a great option both for a business trip or a vacation in Danang. To take advantage of this discount, quote the code Luxury_ WordVietnam. The discount is available until Feb. 15, 2018 for stays before Mar. 31, 2018. The offer is applicable for direct booking via email, telephone and walk-in. For info, email stay.luxuryDN@ or call (023) 6268 7979. Luxury Apartment Danang is at 120 Vo Nguyen Giap (Intersection of Tran Huu Tuoc and Vo Nguyen Giap), Phuoc My, Son Tra, Danang

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culture through contemporary art production, this collection gathers works from locally and internationally recognised Vietnamese artists working today. Salon Saigon is at 6D Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Q3. For more info, go to or email The permanent collection can be viewed on Tuesdays from 9am to 6pm and from Wednesday to Saturday by appointment

New Space for Galerie Quynh

Following the closure of its downtown location six months ago, Galerie Quynh has opened its new space in the centre of Dakao in District 1 and is celebrating with the first solo exhibition in four years of Vietnam’s foremost abstract painter, Tran Van Thao, called the line. the line finds Tran in a contemplative mood. While previous bodies of work took inspiration from his surrounding environments and the little joys found in everyday life, his new paintings are stylistically sparser and utilise a more muted palette, yet with a larger thematic scope. They are sombre ponderings on life’s passages and trajectories. the line runs until Jan. 20. Galerie Quynh is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and by appointment. For more info, go to or go to

Experience Hoi An

Inside Asia Tours has a couple of exciting new trips and experiences in the pipeline for 2018. The first is a brand new Insider Experience in Hoi An — Hoi An through the Eyes of a Conservation Expert. This is an architecture tour and walk through a protected neighbourhood with a local expert who will explain the ongoing conservation efforts to preserve the historical heritage of Hoi An, and can be incorporated into any tailor-made trip with Inside Asia. The second is an exciting new small group tour that will be launching towards the end of 2018 — a 15-night Hands of Indochina tour. The trip starts in Cambodia and finishes in Vietnam and includes a visit to a social enterprise in HCMC, traditional painting and lantern making workshops in Hoi An, cooking classes, bicycle rides and a behind-the-scenes look at water puppetry in Hanoi. For more info on this all-inclusive Vietnam experience, click on or email

HCMC to Phuket & Chiang Mai with Vietjet

Vietnamese budget carrier Vietjet has begun direct flights to Phuket and Chiang Mai in Thailand from HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat Airport. Both of these routes serve the transportation and travel demands of local travellers and foreign tourists while contributing to the promotion of trade and integration in the region. The HCMC to Phuket route operates a return flight every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday with a flight time of around two hours. Flights depart HCMC at 10.15am and arrive in Phuket at 12.10pm. Return flights take off at 1.05pm from Phuket and land in HCMC at 3.10pm. The HCMC – Chiang Mai route operates a return flight every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday with a flight time of just under two hours. Flights depart HCMC at 11.35am and arrive in Chiang Mai at 1.30pm. Return flights take off at 2.20pm from Chiang Mai and land in HCMC at 4.25pm. For more info, go to vietjetvietnam or

Pizza Logic Promotion

Japanese-run pizza and pasta restaurant, Pizza Logic, has launched a new combo menu for two that includes three courses and costs just VND468,000+ all in. Called the Pre-Fix menu, diners get a choice of starter that includes a range of salads and prosciutto, a pizza or pasta dish as the second course and a half rotisserie chicken for mains. In addition, the eatery has introduced a freeflow-style drinks menu where for 90 minutes and costing just VND240,000+ per person, diners can get a freeflow of beer (four types are included), highballs, cocktails, soft drinks or tea and coffee. Pizza Logic is at L5-18, Floor 5, Saigon Centre, 92-94 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1, HCMC or online at

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THE TALK to Do list / hanoi Comedy, DJs, comedy and celebrations for Tet. This month in Hanoi

Vietnam Amateur Stand-Up Competition Standing Bar, Hanoi Friday, Jan. 12

Can you overcome your nerves? Can you get up on stage for five minutes and make people laugh? Can you do even better and make them cry, fall off their seats, double up in hysterics? And can you impress the judges on the night who will be marking your every move? That’s the challenge for over 12 local comedians who will all be vying for prize money and a spot at the Vietnam Amateur Comedy Finals in Hanoi in early March. Sponsored by craft beer brewery Heart of Darkness, this will be the second amateur comedy competition in Hanoi and will be run in conjunction with a Heart of Darkness tap takeover at Standing Bar. All entrance fees come with a free glass of super tasty Heart of Darkness craft beer and lots of laughs thrown in, too! Entrance is VND150,000 on the night and doors are at 8pm. Standing Bar is 170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Gina Yashere

Standing Bar, Ba Dinh Wednesday, Jan. 24 If you’re wondering why there is so much comedy this month, it’s because of an upcoming comedy festival in the region and the comedy festivals in Australia and New Zealand, all of which take place about now. Few venues, though, will complain if the comedian gracing their space is the indomitable British comic, Gina Yashere. Having already performed in Hanoi to sellout audiences — last year she took the capital by storm — once again Gina will be on a mission: to make you laugh. The British correspondent for Comedy Central’s Daily Show, and about to be featured in the Netflix series, Standups Season 2, Gina is hitting big time at the moment. So big that when she’s back in her native London she’s playing to audiences of over 2,000. Here it will be 100. This will be a big ‘un. So best to book your tickets in advance. The Hanoi show will be at Standing Bar (170 Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi). Entrance is VND250,000 (VND200,000 in advance). For info and ticketing click on the Facebook page for Stand-Up Hanoi or email

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Thomas Von Party

Savage, Tay Ho Saturday, Jan. 27 Color returns to Savage on Jan. 27 with the psychedelic partynight tunes of Montreal-based DJ, producer and venue owner, Thomas Von Party. The impresario behind the Turbo and Multi Culti record labels, and owner of Datcha, one of the coolest clubs in Montreal, expect a mixture of psychedelic sounds mixed with electro and a touch of everything else. Support on the night comes from Color resident DJ, Graz. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Entrance is free before 11pm and VND100,000 after. For more info click on


Annual Tet Celebration

Bookworm and HCC, Ba Dinh Sunday, Jan. 28 Hanoi Cooking Centre and Bookworm will be putting on an afternoon of jazzy music, traditional banh chung (Tet cake), cake making and to he sculpting as part of their annual celebrations in the run-up to Tet. With an expert Tet calligrapher and Tet horoscope print maker on-site, as well as free mulled Tet wine, Tet-themed sangria and Tet sweet treats, this is one for the diary. Even better, throughout the day of celebrations there will be 15% off all books and stock at Bookworm, as well 10% off all HCC cookbooks and cooking class vouchers. Bookworm and Hanoi Cooking Centre are at 44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi. The celebrations will kick off at 2pm

Savage, Tay Ho Friday, Jan. 26 Despite releasing only a handful of records since his eponymous white-label debut in 2011, Objekt has quickly become one of the most consistently lauded producers of recent years. The Berlin-based artist has garnered an enviable reputation for attention to detail, evocative arrangements and inventive, effervescent sound design, coaxing sonic features from the most unlikely of places. Performing at Savage with Ali and Njuns, expect a night of techno that frequently moves between breakneck electro, acid, noise, house, EBM and everything else in between. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi. Entrance is free before 11pm and VND100,000 after. For more info click on | January 2018 Word | 35

THE TALK just in / hanoi Gourmet restaurants, a venue with your own sound system, Westernsize shoes and an authentic Chinese resto

Khang Audio Venue

This venue offers three rooms full of massive vintage speakers, piles of CDs, and wires to connect phones or laptops. You rent the room by the hour for VND250,000 for the first hour and VND150,000 for each subsequent hour. Simply turn up, plug in, and enjoy your music blasting out of the sound system while you and your friends relax on the sofa with a bottle of wine and some spaghetti bolognaise. The venue serves a small but good quality food menu including cold platters, sot vang (Vietnamese beef stew) and snacks. They also have a satisfactory wine menu where you can buy wine by the bottle. The intricate cabinets that house the speakers were all handcrafted by Khang himself, and everything in the rooms is up for private auction. Khang Audio Venue is located at 154 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Hanoi. For more info, go to

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Nha Hang Cua Em

Nha Hang Cua Em serves authentic Chinese food in a casual setting in Cau Giay. Both the owner and the head chef are Chinese, and have lived in Hanoi for several years, so you can expect proper Chinese cuisine that’s otherwise difficult to find in Hanoi. The restaurant is situated over four floors of dining space, and includes several large round tables, as well as cozy tables for couples. The menu is extensive and includes a lunch buffet option from 11am to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday for VND75,000. With a large selection of dry pots, hot pots and meat and vegetable dishes — perfect for sharing — it’s an ideal place to bring a group for lunch or dinner. Portions are large, prices are reasonable, and the ingredients are fresh. Nha Hang Cua Em is a welcome addition to the capital’s eateries, and further diversifies the range of dinner options available. Nha Hang Cua Em is at 33 Ngo 100 Dich Vong Hau, Cau Giay, Hanoi

The Clover at Ngoc Thuy

Hanoi’s best kept secret. The Clover is an upscale gourmet restaurant offering innovative French cuisine in a grand colonial-style villa at the end of a small lane in Long Bien District. Situated on the banks of the Red River, the location offers elegance, unmatched views, and fresh air. It boasts an inside fine dining area, a garden dining area, multiple function rooms, and the rooftop Sunset Bar, with an uninterrupted view of historic Long Bien Bridge and the Hanoi skyline. Diners can relax in the Sunset Bar while sipping on signature cocktails and watch the sunset over the river before heading downstairs to enjoy their meal. With over 400 international fine wines to select from, and three sommeliers on duty to provide recommendations for food and wine pairings, diners can expect nothing less than the best service Hanoi has to offer. The Clover is located 14, Lane 53, Ngoc Thuy, Long Bien, Hanoi. Lunch is served between 11.30am and 2.30pm, and dinner from 6.30pm to 11.00pm. The Sunset Bar is open from 5pm to midnight. For more info, go to TheCloveratNgocThuy

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TinyToes Shoes

Finally, a shoe shop with ‘Western-size’ shoes. With pairs up to size 52 (EU), the ironically named TinyToes Shoes in Hoan Kiem sells brands like Boxfresh, Doctor Martens, Ted Baker and more in a range of sizes. Their stock is impressive and includes casual wear, hiking boots and everything in between, all sold at reasonable prices — averaging around VND600,000 per pair. The shop is located in a small room above

a travel agent’s, and is hard to miss if you don’t notice the sign on the door. Just go in and ask the receptionist — they have some shoes on display downstairs so you’ll know if you’re in the right place. TinyToes started out as an online venture, taking orders via Facebook and delivering them to customers by motorbike. Their new retail outlet is a welcome and much needed addition to Hanoi’s shopping options! TinyToes Shoes is located at 32 Hang Giay, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Chopsticks Restaurant

Offering you everyday Vietnamese cuisine with a twist, Chopsticks serves up the classics like bun cha, pho and nem, only unlike your average street food joint, they make sure to cook each plate to a fine standard. Of course, this means that the meals have a higher price tag than their plasticstool bearing counterparts, but the urban style setting of the restaurant, with craft beers such as Pasteur Street Jasmine IPA on tap, makes it a welcome change of pace for Vietnamese dining. The gourmet style Vietnamese restaurant is ideal for groups to have a bite to eat before heading out in the Old Quarter, given its convenient location close to Ma May and Hang Buom. Chopsticks is located at 15 Dao Duy Tu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. For more info, go to

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Street Portrait: the ghetto / hanoi gets its first mcdonald's / the best of / saigon's water bus / a helping hand / bun cha obama / bot chien

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insider street portrait

The calm before the storm. It’s just after dusk and one of the alleys in the ghetto awaits it first set of customers

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The Ghetto

Once the area where Westerners of all sorts found accommodation in Saigon, over the past 15 years, The Ghetto has become home to the city’s expat Japanese. Words by Matt Cowan. Photos by Olga Rozenbajgier


It’s the stuff of B-grade Hollywood martial arts films from the 80s — a Japanese enclave in the heart of a heaving city in the Far East with dark alleyways lit by flickering neon lights, dingy little noodle shops and seedy massage parlours open till the wee hours of the morning. Well, it’s not quite that bad, but Saigon’s own Japan Town in the heart of District 1 is close enough. Hemmed in by Thai Van Lung, Le Thanh Ton and Ngo Van Nam streets in District 1, the alleyways and roads which make up the ironically named Ghetto by day are a sleepy hollow. By night, they’re an energetic above-ground warren of food, drink and entertainment options catering mostly for Japanese clientele who miss the comforts of home. We present The Ghetto. Dozo! | January 2018 Word | 43

A hive of activity. The ghetto isn’t just Japanese hostess bars and sozzled salarymen. There are some excellent izakayas and coffee shops worth searching out with friends

After dark. It’s not hard to find a massage joint around the clock in the ghetto from regular Vietnamese joints to cheeky Japanese cosplay ones

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Behind closed doors. The ghetto is a multicultural enclave so it’s common to find young Vietnamese cooks and chefs learning the fine art of Japanese cuisine and greeting customers in Japanese with Irasshaimase!

Free flow. Hiding behind nooks and crannies are plenty of hideaways for dinner or an evening snack with friends. Look for places offering a nomihodai — something we would call ‘free flow drinks | January 2018 Word | 45

Kaunta ba. The ghetto is densely populated with small karaoke joints and what the Japanese call kaunta ba — in English ‘counter bar’ — small bars where patrons sit up at the bar and order drinks directly from a hostess

On the street. A Japan Town wouldn’t even be close to authentic without takoyaki — fried octopus balls. These little gems are an Osaka speciality typically bought right out of a shop front window on the street like this one just off Le Thanh Ton

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The bare necessities. A late night convenience store — or kombini in Japanese — in the ghetto where the proprietor misses nothing

Life goes on. There are scores of places to hide from the world in the ghetto until you’re ready to come out | January 2018 Word | 47

insider feature


Hanoi Gets Its First McDonald’s

But are Hanoians really ‘lovin’ it? And what will be the effect on the bottom line? Words by Mary Warner. Photos by Teigue John Blokpoel

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About the same time Vietnam declared its independence in 1945, America began a love affair with the burger. Seventytwo years later, the burger has made its home in the capital of Vietnam, with the opening of the city’s first McDonald’s. Criticism abounds, as it did with the franchise’s arrival in 2014 in Ho Chi Minh City. But how much of the commentary is based on outdated modes of thinking?

In fact, the first iteration of the burger can be traced to the Mongols who, as John T. Edge, New York Times contributing writer and author of Hamburger & Fries, explains, was a result of horsemen storing “raw mutton scraps in the gap between the horse’s flank and the saddle” to eat between pillaging villages. The burger has come a long way since it has returned to roost in the East, and so has the sentiment attached to it. “It’s a food that’s a symbol of capitalism and food as a literal buy-in to capitalism,” said Edge in a recent telephone interview, “and it carries with it all those ideas of Americanism.”

Condiment Cachet

Part and parcel of the American burger joint of the 1940s was the drive-thru. Whereas in Ho Chi Minh City, motorcycle lanes replace the automobile corral, the new franchise location on Hoan Kiem Lake, an area that’s a tourist destination and auto-free on the weekend, features a walk-up counter. A few weeks following its grand opening on Dec. 2, which included a requisite ribboncutting and meet-and-greet with Ronald

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McDonald, McDonald’s still hums with activity. While there are no lines out of the door today, after a busy morning, the staff scramble to regroup before the lunch rush. At half-past eleven, queues form and staff direct the crowds like air traffic controllers as counter crew exchange patrons' receipts for goods. While the Big Mac, fries, and Happy Meals are near carbon copies of their Western counterparts, a few items on the Hanoi franchise’s menu reveals at least one thing McDonald’s excels in — adaptability. “Their product remains the hamburger,” says Edge, “but the accoutrements applied to it and its trappings very much reflect a smart assimilation and adaptability of a very agile company.” Fried chicken and banh my are just a few of the things that highlight the Vietnamese version of the menu. But it’s the condiments that are the real winners. “I love this condiment,” says Kim, 22, a Vietnamese woman who’s just finished eating, and points to a translucent ochrecoloured dip alongside ketchup, the brand’s better-known staple. It’s her first visit to a McDonald’s, and she’s joined by her friend, | January 2018 Word | 51

In Vietnam, while it’s true that McDonald’s is a convenience food accessible to a more affluent socioeconomic group, there is something else that will limit the growth of the country’s waistline — mothers. It is the mother who holds court over the food her family eats

Van Anh, 21, a veteran McDonald’s patron. “I had a lot of expectations of the experience,” says Kim, who followed her friend’s lead and ordered a Big Mac meal. “It’s not what I expected. But I love the fries!”

A Domino Effect

Adapting and assimilating are part of McDonald’s arsenal of marketing tactics, but where they have become less flexible these days is their approach to supply chain and food safety standards. McDonald’s, much like another American behemoth, Wal-Mart, has integrated local buying and organic foods as part of their business model, as well as adopting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program, a partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. McDonald’s requires its franchises to follow these and other standards on a global level, a fact that’s made McDonald’s expansion within Vietnam more difficult, though not impossible. Henry Nguyen, managing partner of IDG Ventures Vietnam, which owns the Vietnamese franchises, called the process a “headache” in an article published in 2014. The demand for better products, however, has had the added benefit of an increased supply of quality food and food safety awareness.

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The brand has a lot to lose financially by not enforcing strict guidelines. In 2014, according to a Reuters report: “McDonald’s increased the number of audits of its suppliers in China” after a food safety scare hit sales. A year later, Japanese suppliers fell under the same scrutiny. Those years marked significant financial losses for the brand. For McDonald’s in Vietnam to maintain its rapport with patrons, and even more importantly, their bottom line, food safety, both within their franchises and among their local suppliers, is of utmost importance. Word of mouth still matters. There’s a golden lining to an emphasis on food safety in a developing country. In 2016, a report co-authored by the World Bank and partners at the request of the Government of Vietnam concluded that: “International experience provides many tested ideas which, in the right combination, should gradually improve levels of food safety.” With McDonald’s high standard of practices for which everyone is held accountable, there is a domino effect. Vietnamese workers, many of whom are unfamiliar with issues such as crosscontamination, will bring these practices home, and if they continue in the food industry, they will take them to their next job, too. And that’s a win for everybody.

Women As “Fry” Keepers

“Get ready for fat, lazy, unhealthy sick kids,”

quipped one Twitter user about the arrival of McDonald’s in Hanoi. The most damning argument within Super Size Me, the acclaimed documentary by Morgan Spurlock, was the argued correlation between the effect of McDonald’s advertising to children and their obesity rate. Obesity rates of American children were at an all-time high when the film was released in 2004. According to Children’s Data Bank, statistical figures suggest that since then, the number of obese and overweight children has decreased or at least remained unchanged. Following the release of the film, McDonald’s rolled out the GoActive Happy Meal, offered the option of replacing fries with apple slices — and most tellingly of how the brand responds to consumer backlash — nixed the “super size” meal upgrade across the board. McDonald’s denies that these changes were made in response to criticism, unsurprisingly, because a confession could expose them to legal claims. Regardless, the changes were made. While McDonald’s cannot be held solely responsible for the increase in obesity rates, its response to criticism should be lauded. According to a 2013 study by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, with the exception of some outliers, marketing fast food to kids has improved. Numerous companies have done their part to roll out

healthier food options, but ultimately the responsibility to make better food choices falls where it should — on the parent. “I wouldn’t take my kid here,” says Kim, who, as of yet, doesn’t have children. “I wouldn’t even want it to be a treat for my children because they would always want McDonald’s. I’d want to make them normal everyday food.” Kim’s foresight is something that Americans, in particular, lacked in the 1940s. Driven by a desire to get dinner on the table in a growing economy, parents have helped their children become addicted to the tantalizing allure of golden fries and a toy that’s quickly relegated to the rubbish bin. In Vietnam, while it’s true that McDonald’s is a convenience food accessible to a more affluent socio-economic group, there is something else that will limit the growth of the country’s waistline — mothers. It is the mother who holds court over the food her family eats. If most Vietnamese women think like Kim and her friend Van Anh, we can expect that McDonald’s won’t be a welcome guest at the everyday table any time soon.

A Golden Future?

While the current American administration is rolling back government regulation, it’s no match for the grassroots efforts that strive for decency like those developed

by programmes such as food coalitions, farming cooperatives, or organizations like Southern Foodways Alliance, also spearheaded by John T. Edge, and which preserves and researches “foodways”, defined as “the cultural, social, and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food.” “I think that there are other measures of a food that are more telling that are not about the blunt force of the arrival of a mega company,” says Edge, whose area of research focuses on the permeability of foodways between cultures. “It’s about the genuine exchange of foods and the like.” Instead, McDonald’s in Vietnam is a story about a mega marketing giant’s arrival to a new landscape, and whose impact will affect the Vietnamese economy for years to come, and will shape its food industry. As long as the country’s matrons remain at the head of the table, waistlines should remain unchanged, too. Also, smaller Vietnamese companies, such as Naturally Vietnam in Hanoi, which opened its doors 10 years ago, or Hanoi Small Goods, a meat delivery service, will benefit from the arrival of McDonald’s, as more Vietnamese people become aware of and concerned with what’s in their food. Instead of burgers and fries, what we can expect people to be “lovin’” will be access to safe, healthy food, and a society that benefits from eating it. | January 2018 Word | 53


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Humans have an obsession with lists. From shopping lists to bucket lists, from things that need to be completed in record time, to lists of top try scorers or people who've cycled the most kilometres in a year. All fulfil a basic need we have to order the chaotic world around us. In an attempt to bring order to the chaos that is Vietnam, over the following pages we have come up with our own nice selection of lists based around the theme of 'The Best Of'. Where are the best happy hours in Hanoi and Saigon? What about set lunches? Maybe you're looking for the best dating spots to take your date on a night or afternoon out, or perhaps you simply want somewhere to bring the kids so they can cool off for an hour or two.

With the country scoured and no stone left unturned, we bring you The Best Of Vietnam. Words by Matt Cowan, Billy Gray and Mary Warner | January 2018 Word | 55




Game, set... lunch. Always the bridesmaid of meals, until now. Dinner has met its match.


For more info, go to itchenfactory

Somewhere down a side street in an industrial zone of District 7 is Q.itchen Factory, a tapas bar and restaurant that offers a locavore experience. The locavore movement aims to connect local farmers and food producers to the people, and with local ingredients, apply modern cooking techniques for new dining experiences. The set lunch menu changes regularly, usually with a choice of two (VND190,000) or three (VND220,000) courses. An example of the three-course menu is a crispy baby squid with garlic aioli starter (magic), grilled pork belly (smoky and tender) with crushed potatoes and Tonkin blossoms as a main, and a Calvados apple tart with chantilly cream for dessert (dangerous). For VND220,000, this set lunch is excellent value, served by prompt, professional staff in a new and modern industrial-like restaurant with an open kitchen. If this place doesn’t take off, I’ll eat my non la and throw open my job to anyone who wants it. Open for lunch from 11am to 2pm.


Road 7, Tan Thuan Dong, Q7, HCMC

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23rd Floor, Centec Tower, 72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, HCMC Shri is classy without being pretentious, and the views across the city are amazing. The wait staff here are well-trained, and the attention to detail is probably unsurpassed in Saigon. The new Executive Grill Menu at VND250,000 served from 11am to 3pm Monday to Friday offers an inexpensive window into what this place is capable of. My experience started with a rich and tasty potato soup with crunchy croutons partnered with a sundried tomato and olive focaccia followed by a steak (choice of short ribs, ribeye, flank or cheeks) served with sides. I then tried the pan-seared grouper pieces elegantly stacked in a shallow pool of green pea pure and topped with a small selection of roasted vegetables and garnished with taro chips. Okay, I don’t recommend you eat two dishes for yourself (I had some help) because the portions

are spot-on anyway, but this is seriously excellent value for money. The other choices in the set lunch are a chicken supreme with pesto, and a black Atlantic cod baked in a romescu sauce. The set lunch comes with a refreshing aloe vera drink, but if you need something sweet to wrap things up, go for the dessert of the day for an extra VND80,000. For more info, go to restaurant


158/10 Nguyen Cong Tru, Q1, HCMC Located within a French-era courtyard of apartments and small businesses, Biker Shield offers a Vietnamese set lunch special from Monday to Friday between 11.30am and 1.30pm for VND120,000. There are six options to choose from: com ga teriyaki (teriyaki chicken), com ca sot la ca ri (fish curry), com bo luc lac (beef stir-fry), com tom su sot XO (black tiger shrimp stir-fry), com heo xien nuong (pork skewers), or com suon non ham tao xanh (stewed pork ribs with apple). They all come with a soup of the day, fruit and a choice of coffee or soft drink.

Biker Shield’s owner, Linh, has painstakingly restored this two-floor hideaway with courtyard and turned it into a meeting place not just for lovers of all things motorcycles but also for people looking for an inexpensive, tasty Vietnamese lunch in an atmosphere that successfully marries American street culture with French colonial-era accents in the middle of Saigon. For more info, go to mybikershield


44 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, HCMC Stoker has a set lunch menu that rivals any other around town and serves it up in a bar and lounge that doffs the hat to British hunt clubs of yore but is adapted to fit the idiosyncratic nooks and crannies of inner city Saigon’s narrow architecture. There are a couple of options for lunch; a starter with a main (VND200,000) or a starter, main and dessert for VND240,000. Things start with a soup of the day which changes daily, followed by three main course choices: herb crusted basa with

charred leeks, or a 12-hour smoked beef brisket with house-made pickles and BBQ sauce with toasted bread, or for VND75,000 extra a 150g grain-fed Aussie steak with a choice of mash, wood oven vegetables or chips and either a chimichurri or bearnaise sauce to lather it in. My smokey beef brisket choice was super tender and just when I thought I couldn’t be impressed any more, I discovered a pinch of Murray River pink salt to the side, that combined with Stoker’s house-made BBQ sauce sent my tongue into a tingling frenzy. Dessert — cheekily named ‘happy ending’ — also changes daily and on this day it was a choice of a bread and butter pudding with berries and custard, or a banana custard tart with coffee cream, bookended with a Lavazza coffee or tea. Lunch is served from Monday to Friday between 11.30am and 2.30pm. For more info, go to stokerwoodfiredgrill


33 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC After a recent refurb, Jaspas is now airy

and bright (and very white) with better access from both streets. It’s hard these days walking past without wanting to set foot in the place, and the service is some of the best this city has to offer, too. Jaspa’s executive set lunch menu from Monday to Friday between 11am and 2pm is just the tonic for that long-overdue catch-up or business meeting over lunch. This set lunch is best done among friends or colleagues because if you buy one (VND245,000), you get a second one for VND50,000. The three-course set has a choice of three starters (soup of the day, open Californian tacos, Vietnamese pork belly salad), four main courses (seared tuna and quinoa salad, mini burger board, steak medallions or roasted lime crusted chicken) finished off with either a banoffi pie (possibly the best in Saigon) or panna cotta capped with coffee or tea. Jaspas has long been a player in the F&B scene and its revamp makes it stand out even more in a street that is not only getting a facelift itself, but is also receiving a daily injection of vibrancy and change. For more info, go to | January 2018 Word | 57




36-38 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi Italian-American eatery Linguini Fini is no stranger to solid pasta dishes. Its set lunch menu pulls no punches in bringing the best to the plate. A two-course lunch (starter and main) including a soft drink or beer is VND198,000 for the classic option, and VND288,000 for the premium upgrade. The classic option consists of five pastas and lots of speciality Italian dishes, while the premium option includes bolognese, mushroom fettuccine, ravioli and a choice of 12-inch pizzas. All of the food is fresh and homemade. For more info, go to linguinifinihanoi


59 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Hanoi Serving up Indian fare since 2002, Foodshop 45 has long been a favourite with expats and locals in Hanoi. The set lunch is a fixed weekly menu, with a different option every day. Consisting of one vegetarian curry and one meat-based curry, rice, salad, a naan bread and a poppadum, this lunch is sure to fill a hole in your belly. The food is distinguished, and the service is professional and warm. Also, the restaurant's location on Truc Bach Lake and its comfortable dĂŠcor with an open front overlooking the lake make it an ideal spot to escape the lunchtime rush. Monday to Friday the lunch set costs VND120,000, while at the weekend it costs VND160,000, because of extra starters added to the weekend menu. For more info, go to


110 D1, Tran Huy Lieu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi If you live in Ba Dinh, then you might find yourself stuck for western-style cuisine at lunchtime. EMM’s is the solution.

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High quality, reasonably priced food and a laid-back atmosphere is what defines EMM’s. Its set lunch is simple with a choice of two or three courses costing VND200,000 and VND230,000 respectively. Starters include devilled eggs, salad caprese and tabouleh. Mains is a choice of the English favourite, shepherd’s pie or cordon bleu, and the extra VND30,000 gives you a choice of desserts too. For more info, go to


4 Quang An, Tay Ho; 12 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem; 56 Pham Huy Thong, Ba Dinh The burger is the indisputable king of lunch. So it’s only appropriate that we include Chops on our list. They do do good burgers, after all. The Monday to Friday set lunch gets you one of a selection of burgers with salad, plus a side and a drink for VND160,000. The set lunch runs between 12.00pm and 2.00pm. Chops has made it big in Hanoi since opening in 2015, and now has three locations in the city. So you’re never far from burger bliss. For more info, go to Chopsvietnam


18c Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Hanoi May Taste has a sturdy reputation for using clean ingredients — homegrown where possible — to cook up tasty Vietnamese dishes. The lunch menu runs from 11am to 3pm Monday to Friday and costs VND65,000. Included in the menu are grilled chicken and lemon leaves, Nam Bo beef noodles, and even pad thai. If you’re looking for premium homecooked Vietnamese food for a reasonable price, then look no further than here. For more info, go to | January 2018 Word | 59




The search for a good happy hour has gone on since time immemorial. Fortunately Saigon and Hanoi are pulling up their socks and getting with the times — there seems to be a happy hour (or hours) just about everywhere these days. So it seems it’s not so much the question of whether places have a happy hour or not, but rather, is the happy hour good and how long does it go for?


231 Au Co, Tay Ho, Hanoi The one with the free… everything. Sidewalk just love to treat you — it’s not two-for-one, it’s just free. Between 6pm and midnight, Wednesday to Monday, Sidewalk have some kind of discount of free drinks giveaway, usually lasting between one and two hours. On Fridays it’s free beer 8pm to 9pm, then VND50,000 for a spirit and mixer, followed by three tequila shots for VND100,000, and that’s not even all of it. How the bartenders remember the offers at any given time is beyond us. Saturdays are more or less the same, and Sundays is two-for-one on all drinks. Weekdays mainly focus on discounts, although Wednesday is free wine between 9pm and 10pm. For more info, go to sidewalkhanoi


100 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi Situated on Xuan Dieu, the Tavern is part of Dalcheeni Restaurant — one of Hanoi’s

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most popular Indian eateries. The happy hour runs every day from 6pm to 8pm and includes a selection of cocktails, spirits, beers and wine. Drinks are buy one, get one free. While the bar is currently in the basement, the owners intend to move it to the roof, which has an uninterrupted view of West Lake. As if this wasn’t enough, the added bonus of having an Indian restaurant just a flight of stairs away will be sure to put the cherry on top of your night. For more info, go to Dalcheenivn


6 Dao Duy Tu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi Everyone loves tacos. Right? So what better than a happy hour that takes in drinks and tacos? Well, Hanoi Taco Bar has got you covered. Every day from 5pm to 7pm customers can enjoy two-for-one on all tacos and margaritas. If that doesn’t get you excited then you probably have no taste buds. Margaritas cost between VND100,000 to VND120,000 per glass or VND350,000

to VND400,000 for a pitcher. Tacos cost between VND35,000 and VND65,000. The spot is on Dao Duy Tu, smack bang in the Old Quarter, so options to go out after are plentiful. They’ve also got an extensive tequila menu. What could possibly go wrong? For more info, go to


22 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem & 18/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi The mother of all happy hours. Anyone who’s familiar with the Green Mango Restaurant knows what’s coming. They say save the best till last, and this 11-hour–long happy hour is without doubt the best for value, and for making you late for work the next day. Running from 1pm to midnight, Monday to Sunday, all cocktails, spirits and house wines are included in the deal which runs in their two Hanoi locations, plus their location on Cat Ba Island. If you’re looking for a productive way to start your unproductive day, this is it. For more info, go to greenmangohanoii





Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Cong Truong Lam Son, Q1, HCMC 2 Lam Son is nudging 10 years old, quite a feat in a market where bars on average have the lifespan of a hamster. Admittedly, 2 Lam Son, or Martini Bar as it’s more commonly known, has the luxury of being part of the five-star Park Hyatt Saigon, which means it’s less sensitive to the market than the privately owned bars around town. The Vietnamese Flower Tea (VND390,000) is worth dusting off the dinner jacket for, with its heady vapours of Hennessy VSOP, three kinds of tea and a glob of honey left to soak and infuse for 24 hours with a lotus flower. There’s also the Saigon Coffee Martini (VND310,000) that’s worth breaking your midday coffee curfew for with Belvedere vodka, Kahlua and Vietnamese coffee floating upon a shot of condensed milk topped with a half-inch fluffy head of homemade coconut foam. The decor is tasteful and comfortable which makes for a

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pleasant contrast from what goes on outside on the streets between the happy hours of 5pm and 8pm. 2 Lam Son is on the Ground Floor of the Park Hyatt Saigon. Happy Hour (51% off) is from 5pm to 8pm Monday to Saturday, and from 3pm to 8pm on Sundays. Call (028) 3824 1234


63 Dong Du, Q1, HCMC Layla is worth the discovery, even though it makes you work for your drinks before finding it. Be warned. Charting a course through the motorbikes and touts on the street, hauling your backside up three flights of stairs and then running the gauntlet of a massage place or three makes a treacherous start to your visit. Layla has a robust warehouse look with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto famous Dong Khoi Street below, and manages to marry modernity with history and place. Between the happy hours of 5pm and 8pm Monday to Saturday, select cocktails are VND95,000 — a steal really.

Drinks to remember include a Viking Funeral which sees a passionfruit ‘boat’ doused in absinthe, set alight then set adrift across a sea of Grey Goose vodka, peach liqueur, freshly pressed passionfruit juice and a dash of sugar syrup. Or the Licky Tiki Mai Tai that numbs the pain receptors of the brain and blocks out those workinduced headaches we all know too well. Layla is on the 2nd floor at 63 Dong Du, Q1, HCMC. For more info, go to


28 Cao Ba Quat, Q1, HCMC My House is less than a year old and is gaining a reputation for its quality drinks in a no-frills, no-fuss environment. It’s a quaint place down a quiet side street just a stumble away from the Park Hyatt Saigon. You’ve probably driven past the street My House is on hundreds of times but never noticed because you’ve failed to bother looking to your right. Happy hour runs daily from 4pm


to 8pm with classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned made with Knob Creek bourbon marked down to VND110,000 (usually VND170,000). It’s a small thing, but worth noting — the ice they use here is the purest thing I’ve seen in this town for a long time. My House also makes a thing called an Aviation (VND170,000) with Gifford Creme de Violette as its base — its undeniable floral notes and smell of spring should particularly appeal to the more delicate of palates. During happy hour, glasses of house white, red and prosecco are VND100,000, and if you buy one Heineken, you get another free. The clientele mix is typically 70% foreign and 30% local. For more info, go to myhousebar.saigon


44-46 Pasteur, Q1, HCMC Number 5 Bar’s colourful history goes back as far as anyone dares remember. If they do remember, it’s usually with a smile.

Originally it started at the bottom end of Pasteur Street near the canal, at number five, hence the name Number 5. Since those days (when its current staff were just starting primary school), Bar 5 as it’s better known, has survived multiple changes of location thanks to an ultra-simple but effective concept — cheap beer, lots and lots of it, and of course good-looking women. Bar 5 is classified as a sports bar, and true, there are some TVs about the place televising sport, but you can bet most sets of eyes are firmly fixed on the good sports serving the free-flow happy hour beers between 3pm and 7pm daily for just VND130,000. That’s four hours of power for about US$6, or two or three tanks of fuel for the motorbike. Apart from those two main attractions this bar is famous for, there’s a pool table and most nights a live band to keep you firmly fixed to your spot. Get there early for a seat at the bar. For more info, go to bar5saigon or


This mightn’t be the most obvious inclusion on our list, but we reckon this is a decent happy hour. And given that it’s likely you’re going to get pinned in central Saigon’s snarling ket xe (traffic jam) at some stage, why not pull out of the gridlock and wait for it to subside at Liberty Central’s street-side bar? Granted, you may need to do it with a face mask on, but you can always move things indoors if the air quality and noise pollution levels rise too high. From 5pm to 7pm, gloat in front of simmering traffic-jammed commuters with a two-for-one cocktail deal. Just imagine having a Quick Fu$k by the side of the street right under the noses of the passing public. Beers are usually priced at VND90,000 and under, but they get the happy hour treatment as do all spirits by the glass on The Bistro’s menu. For more info, go to LCP.Hotel. | January 2018 Word | 65




It’s important to keep that nest on your head in check. Vietnam’s classic barbers are iconic; setting up shop on the side of the street, nailing a mirror to a tree and getting on with trimming. In recent years the locals have become more stylish by trimming, colouring and gelling — many have become indistinguishable from K-Pop stars. So here’s our list of the best barbershops and hair stylists in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, just to ensure that you don’t end up looking like they do. BROTHERS MEN’S SALON 157 Dong Khoi, Q1, HCMC

Brothers has taken going to get a short back and sides to a whole new level. Here blokes can get a great haircut, a traditional wet shave, facial treatments and the requisite hair and face wash followed by a quick head and shoulder massage thrown in. Located in the centre of town on the second floor between the two L’Usine Cafes, Brothers is accessed through photographer Rehahn’s gallery. It’s a salon that’s great for a quick trim on the run, or if you’ve got the time, somewhere the ‘bros’ can partake in some bromance over a craft beer or a single malt whiskey and a choof on a Cuban cigar on the balcony overlooking the Opera House on historic Dong Khoi Street. Expect to pay around VND380,000 for a quick trim or VND580,000 for a signature cut with all the extras. About the only service that Brothers doesn’t offer is a full-body wax (in case you were wondering). For more info, go to brothersmensalon or


Uncle’s is tucked away in a neighbourhood

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down a narrow alley in District 5 not far from the Nguyen Van Cu and Tran Hung Dao intersection. Access is easy via Nguyen Bieu Street, however. Owner Marsu started his first barber shop in 2015 in his uncle’s house, hence the name Uncle, and recently took over the location where Hurricane Barber Shop used to be. Despite numerous requests for Google to update the address, it hasn’t been done, so don’t be surprised if your search turns up as Hurricane still at this address. Uncle’s has a small crew of three or four barbers, it’s clean, the staff are superfriendly and enthusiastic with good Englishspeaking skills and they offer a range of different cut styles — specifically ‘hip-hop’ style — not just the Chicano-style of short back and sides and quiff at the top that Liem Barber Shop and others tend to specialise in. Expect to pay VND100,000 for a haircut, which includes a hairwash and styling; get the beard trimmed for an extra VND30,000. For more info, go to theuncle2015


This place has to be seen to be believed. No less than 10 tattooed barbers dressed right out of the 1920s complete with vintage

tweed caps shape a new Chicano-style cut on their clientele (overwhelmingly Vietnamese 20-somethings) from 11am to 7pm daily. Sundays the shop is packed and humming, and not just to the sound of hair clippers. Bi, the owner, says his salon knocks out about 120 haircuts a day at VND60,000 a pop, so expect to wait in line for a while. The walls and benches are covered in photos, memorabilia, caps, boxing gloves, bulls horns, and traffic cones among other blokey barber shop paraphernalia, while the floor leaves no doubt as to how many heads get shorn in a day — black hair lies everywhere; it’s quite a scene. Liem’s is a little tricky to find, being down an alley barely wide enough for motorcycles to pass, but it’s not too far from Pham Ngu Lao Street and just a few streets parallel from Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street. If only to see the place, Liem’s is well worth a visit. For more info, go to liembarbershop or

4RAU BARBER SHOP 634 Dien Bien Phu, Q10, HCMC

Another barber shop inspired by 1920s and 1930s American culture, again just a short ride from Pham Ngu Lao Street. Don’t let that it’s in District 10 turn you off, it’s right

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on the border of District 3 and arguably in the best location to find. 4RAU — rau means beard in Vietnamese — is extremely popular with the young hipsters of Saigon. On Sundays, expect to see the back wall lined with clients patiently waiting their turn in the barber’s chair. There are at least eight barbers working at any given time daily from 10am to 8pm offering a cut and style for just VND60,000 — no wonder they do on average 200 cuts per day. The staff here are ultra-friendly and look as though they take great pride in the sculptures they create. The atmosphere and decor finds a happy medium somewhere between Brothers and Liem and is definitely another place worth checking out. For more info, go to


This is another super-cool little find down another narrow alley off Le Hong Phong Street towards the intersection with 3 Thang 2 Street. This is probably the furthest and trickiest to find, but it’s a fun discovery. Much smaller than the other barber shops, Saigon Clippers has four barbers wielding the scissors and clippers daily from 10am to 8pm. Things are less hectic but they still manage to punch out around 60 haircuts a day at VND60,000. Saigon Clippers is less ostentatious than the other places on our list — indeed there’s barely enough room to swing a fully shaven cat — but that doesn’t mean it lacks in confidence and style. For more info, go to SAIGONCLIPPERS

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HOUSE OF BAARBARD 36 Hang Chao, Dong Da, Hanoi

Hanoi’s premiere barbershop and men’s hideaway. Bringing the barber traditions from 1930s Amsterdam, Dutchmen Tom and Guido have built a team of pro barbers to make you look awesome. Bringing back the old-style barber shop qualities, Baarbard is a place where you can go not only to get a haircut, but also to have a glass of whisky, a cigar, a wet towel shave and a chat to one of their friendly and professional barbers. Company policy explicitly states that the barber should spend one hour with each customer to ensure that they make the most from their time there. Even if this means relaxing on a leather sofa in the bar area for a drink and a snack. A haircut is VND400,000 and a gentlemen’s shave is VND200,000. Both bought together earns you a VND50,000 discount. While your hair is being made to look like something worthy of civilization, the staff will also wash your motorbike for free, meaning you leave feeling real suave! For more info, go to housebarbaard


104 A2 Lac Chinh, Truc Bach, Hanoi Enter, Hanoi’s accidental hairdresser. 54-yearold Mitch Brookman moved to Hanoi from Texas to pursue a life as a hairdresser after a chance encounter changed the course of his life. The self-styled “eccentric expat” is an established artist who has been commissioned by celebrities like Johnny Depp and Willie Nelson for his sought-after ceramic portraits. During a visit to Vietnam, Mitch met a young woman who wanted a haircut, the girl posted her new look on the Facebook group Hanoi Beautiful and became an overnight sensation. Recognizing the gap in the market for experienced foreign hair stylists, Mitch took up shop in a salon next to Truc Bach Lake – after declining an offer from an upscale hairdressers in Hanoi Tower. To the joy of beautiful Hanoians, Mitch has no intention of leaving any time soon.


There’s no school like it. Sometimes you can find everything you need on the street – a shave and trim for VND50,000 isn’t something to look down your nose at, although results may vary. In the end, it’s testament to Hanoians whose love of all things hair that these guys still operate en masse, often with a queue lined up. Given that so many Hanoians place their hair in the hands of these industrialist barbers, you should feel safe in their wisdom and give them a go at least once. | January 2018 Word | 69





Dating — it’s a jungle out there, especially in the middle of the city. Different country, different culture, different rules. Whether or not you know how to play, here is a list of places to give you the best chance to impress.

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FLOWER VALLEY Nhat Chieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi

Nothing says, ‘I like you’ like a bouquet of flowers, so how about a stadium of flowers? Welcome to Flower Valley, a vision decked out with millions of blooms intricately and cleverly planted that would make Hieronymus Bosch proud. Pack a picnic and disappear into tufts of buckwheat flowers and candy-coloured cosmos. Wine optional. Entry for adults is VND80,000. For directions, go to thunglunghoahotay

QUANG BA FLOWER MARKET Au Co, Nhat Tan, Tay Ho, Hanoi

Want to prolong an exceptional evening, and send your date home with thoughts of you? Consider a late-night excursion to make a DIY bouquet procured from Hanoi’s famed flower market. The later you arrive, the better to see the action. Watch tomorrow’s flower peddlers pack bundles of blooms onto bikes and impress your date with your negotiating skills.


14 Phan Huy Ich, Ba Dinh, Hanoi Manzi recently partnered with Work Room Four, a print shop (as in printmaking) and art space, to host a stellar survey of affordable art at their Old Quarter location. When art openings aren’t happening, this converted French colonial building is home to a cafe serving alcohol and coffee drinks. When you run out of things to talk about, the gallery’s punchy contemporary art work makes for great conversation starters. For more info, go to

SOPHIE’S ART TOURS HANOI Hanoi is a city famous for many things, not least of all its rich history of Vietnamese art makers. Begun in Ho Chi Minh City, Sophie’s Art Tour expanded to Hanoi where walking excursions reveal Vietnamese artists’ reflections of the 20th and 21st century. The tour includes unfettered access to private collections, museums, and contemporary art spaces. You’ll be sure to impress your date with the tour’s VIP vibes. For more info, go to

VIETNAMESE WOMEN’S MUSEUM 36 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Arguably the year of the woman, 2017 gave us a new perspective of the ladies in our lives. Celebrate that fact with your gal via a trip to the Women’s History Museum. With exhibitions that illuminate women’s contributions to the American War, and the various Vietnamese ethnic minorities, you’ll walk away with a historical perspective of why women are the backbone of Vietnam — and understand how women are on their way to running the world one day. Entry is VND30,000. | January 2018 Word | 71


Entrance to The Refinery, 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC How good is this?! Tinder date nothing like the photo? Should’ve swiped left? Messy eater? Well, those first date anxieties are put to bed with Noir — dining in the dark. The menu, like any random date, is full of mysteries. What you’ve eaten, isn’t revealed until it’s too late. It’s just you and your senses — four of them at least — left to work it all out. The set menu from the East is VND560,000 per person, which in the past has included items like edamame soup; slow-cooked octopus with fermented miso cucumber and fennel creme; pan-seared seabass with grilled okra and shallot crisps; and pan-fried duck in five spices with shiitake sticky rice. While the set menu from the West is VND650,000 and has included dishes such as a seafood bouillabaisse consomme with shellfish tortellini and parsley oil; a smokerubbed beef steak with grilled banana, rocket and a hazelnut dressing; and a slow-roasted chicken thigh with corn jalapeno salsa and a mushroom jus. Fumbling around in the dark takes on a whole new meaning here, but there’s just one potential problem — if the date goes pearshaped, there’s no telling where the door is. But if it goes well, heck, the possibilities are endless. So you’re not left in the dark, go to facebook. com/noirdininginthedark or noirdininginthedark. com


A visit to the Fine Arts Museum can be done in the morning followed by a coffee and a chocolate treat nearby at Maison Marou. Alternatively, it can be followed by a stroll down antiques street — Le Cong Kieu — across the way, then a spot of lunch at any of the Vietnamese eateries on Nguyen Thai Binh Street. Equally, it can be done in the afternoon followed by a happy hour drink at Winking Seal on Dang Thi Nhu or, if you have to make a quick getaway, a gelato at Ralf’s Artisan Gelato just across the street. Either way, the Fine Arts Museum is a versatile choice for a date, which especially suits those who already have

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quite a full dance card — there are plenty of opportunities for a sneaky, early exit if things aren’t quite going to plan. The museum, you can tell your date, contains three floors of national treasures from different artistic and historical eras of Vietnam, including archaeological exhibits to modern art. If you run out of things to talk about or want to impress further, throw in that the building has one of Saigon’s oldest lifts, the staircase is made of marble, and that it only became an art museum in 1987. If that doesn’t do the trick, play the ghost card and tell them that the building is haunted and that you must stick close together. Opening hours are from 8am to 6pm daily and the entry cost for adults is a measly VND10,000.


Cau Mong Pier, Ben Van Don, Q4, HCMC Saigon is a river city, so a list of date spot options wouldn’t be complete without a ride on a boat to a destination that does a nice sunset cocktail. Villa Song is a 23-room hotel, restaurant and spa on the Saigon River in District 2 which has its own shuttle boat service that departs six times a day between 9am to 6pm from Cau Mong Pier right by the Cau Mong Bridge. The bridge was built in 1882 by Gustave Eiffel, who went on to bigger things in Paris. The bridge is that greenish-blue one at the end of Pasteur Street on the District 1 side and spans across to District 4. The shuttle is free for guests staying at Villa Song, but if you contact them in advance, you never know, you might be able to snaffle a cheap 15-minute ride on the Saigon River past Bach Dang Wharf and the city to the hotel’s private jetty. For more info on how not to miss the boat, go to hotel-shuttle-boat-transportation


For anyone who has the flair, vision, cashola and balls, there are untold riches awaiting if they can get the F&B mix right, or so the story goes. But there’s a catch. It’s harder to hoodwink the Vietnamese now. They are far better travelled than before and more knowledgeable of the finer things in life. They

can select from the shelves a good pinot gris among a rack of aging vinegar, and they’ve discovered just how well a bottle of classic Vang Dalat plonk goes in elevating the flavour of a red wine jus drowning an old lamb shank. To that end, AuMy Wine Cellar’s opening has been timed to perfection. Almost two floors underground beneath a bank down by the canal, this place probably isn’t for the claustrophobic or those with an aversion to dungeons, but it nevertheless has a great deal of charm and should prove a winner on date night. AuMy was actually a real bank vault in colonial times and retains vestiges of its past life, such as the cast-iron vault door on one of its walls. The cellar has around 1,000 bottles of wine to choose from, ranging in price from about VND400,000 up to VND10 million. The dining menu includes both Western and Vietnamese dishes that won’t, er, break the bank, and you can pay with cash or card. While it’s not the drawcard of the catacombs of Paris, AuMy is well worth going down for. To find out more about what lies beneath, go to


You’ve arrived at the end game and you’ve played your (credit) cards right. And now you are looking for somewhere to consummate your date. Where better to go than a Japanesestyle love hotel? Unlike its brothers and sisters in Japan, Hotel Bonita Grand is decked out less like a Las Vegas penthouse and more like the set of a teenage wet dream with the Dreams Classroom suite complete with a tantra chair (great for those difficult to get at spots), free HD movies, free Wifi for those selfies, a queen-size bed, and depending on how well the night has gone, the option of a single or double dancing pole to writhe up and down on, all for just over VND600,000. One of the “classrooms” even has a blackboard, student table and chair in case you need your homework checked. In all, there are 10 room types to choose from with the most expensive being the Emperor Suite for around VND1.2 million. With end-of-year office parties coming up, why not try out the Fantasy Office room for just over VND1 million? BYO photocopier. For a cheeky night out, go to bonitahotel or



It's in the stars. If you're a scorpio and fancy saying how much you care over some unusual, Saigonese cuisine, then head to Luong Son on Ly Tu Trong. You and your partner might just have the same astrology. | January 2018 Word | 73


2 Street 9, Tan Hung, Q7, HCMC Artinus is a 3D art gallery where kids (and big kids) can place themselves in scenes to create 3D photographs of themselves. Kids get to explore the difference between optical illusion art and interactive art, which requires the viewer’s participation to complete the artwork. There are nine ‘zones’ for kids to explore: Aqua Zone (imaginary world under water with aquatic animals), Animal Zone, Masterpiece Zone (human civilisations, history and a chance to become one of the main characters in the paintings), Vietnam Zone, Egypt Adventure Zone, Fantasy Zone (fairy homelands, fairy wings and giant trees), Giant Zone (get caught by a cat or kid), Strange House Zone, and of course, a Love Zone — my favourite. Dads, there’s a coffee shop right outside. Artinus is open 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday (VND200,000), and 9am to 8pm on weekends and holidays (VND250,000). For more info, go to or


Follow the signs to Hoang Dieu, Q4, HCMC Don’t let the tired-looking facade of Kizciti and its creepy small-town feel freak you

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out because by all reports, kids love it. When I asked a parent who was watching her three daughters undertake beautician ‘training’ in a miniature salon along the ‘main street’, she said her kids beg her to come here all the time and prefer Kizciti over the more Truman Show-like set of the much flashier Vietopia down the road in District 7. Kizciti is billed as a ‘City of Careers’ and turns out to be a pioneer in vocational education for children aged between three and 12 years old. Kids get to be grown ups for the day and become ‘citizens’ in an (almost) fantasy world — they can ‘become’ pilots, doctors, farmers, models, policemen and even engineers. While I was there a building caught alight (make believe of course) but fortunately the fire brigade arrived just in time in their small firetruck and doused it with water and a whole lot of laughs. Kizciti is open Tuesday to Friday from 8am to 3.30pm. Entry for kids from three to 12 years old is VND180,000. At weekends and school holidays, opening hours are from 8.30am to 7.30pm and entry is VND220,000. Entry for parents is VND20,000 while kids under three get in for free. For more info, go to or


2-4 Street 9, Tan Hung, Q7, HCMC This place is a children’s vocational ‘edutraction’ like Kizciti, but much bigger. If Kizciti is your average small-town fairground, then Vietopia is Disneyland. Everything is bigger, cleaner and newer but so is the in-your-face advertising by the sponsors of each pavillion — their branding is everywhere. While I was there I tried my hand in the aircraft flight simulator (sponsored by Turkish Airways) but after I crashed on take-off for the upteenth time, my instructor leaned in and suggested I not give up my day job. I couldn’t help but feel the entire time I was there that I might be part of the Vietnamese version of the Truman Show, especially when I landed on the ‘moon’ and felt like I was being watched. The Vietopia greeting with fingers in a V across the heart only adds to the kookiness. Vietopia is closed Mondays but is open Tuesday to Friday from 8am to 4pm. At weekends it’s open from 9am to 7pm. Entry for kids on weekdays is VND190,000 but goes up to VND280,000 at weekends and holidays. Parents get in for VND90,000. For more info, go to or





How can you spend more ‘quality’ time with your kids? Here are a few ideas that will get your kids out of the house and offline for a couple of hours.


For more info, go to or

Now you think Millennials are precious, so one wonders what generation of softies we’re engineering these days with baby spas. Kawaii (Japanese for ‘cute’) is a small chain of ‘baby and mommy spas’ that are trending among toddlers at the moment. Babies come in — usually wheeled by their parents of course — and spend anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour luxuriating (in some cases urinating) in their very own jacuzzi. The experience isn’t too unlike that of grown-ups’ except that a blow-up ring to pop the kid’s head through to keep them afloat is complimentary, not a cup of warm green tea and some ginger drops. Also, while we would typically slip into a cozy dressing gown afterwards, these little blighters slip into a nice new nappy. It must be bliss. If mums feel like they need a break from their little tyke for an hour or so, they can slip out for their own massage and entrust Kawaii’s staff with ensuring their little bundle of joy doesn’t end up on the bottom. Babies can also enjoy a massage after their jacuzzi, but if they are indeed like the rest of us, they would probably prefer a big feed instead. There are four Kawaii baby spas across the city in Districts 2, 3, 7 and Binh Tan.


Q2, 3, 7 & Binh Tan, HCMC

Saigon Outcast, 188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, HCMC Push started out in a small shop in Skygarden 3 in District 7 around 2011 with limited space and equipment and a small clientele of mostly school kids wondering what the hell it was like to scamper up a wall. Since then Push has ‘pushed’ on to much greater heights with a more professional outfit on the grounds of Saigon Outcast in District 2. Push caters for beginners right through to experienced climbers. Kids can undertake a basic top rope belay course where they learn the basics of belaying — techniques used to exert tension on a climbing rope so a climber doesn’t fall too far. This basic course teaches kids all they need to know to be able to operate the ropes and equipment for themselves and others climbing with them. Hourly climbing rates start at VND100,000. rental equipment not included, and then VND50,000 for every additional hour after that. A day pass is VND200,000 rental equipment not included. There are

also group and monthly memberships available. Push is open daily from 10am to 10pm. For more info, go to pushrockclimbing or


63 Xa Lo Hanoi, Q2, HCMC Leap, soar, spring, bound, fly... no it’s not the tagline of a new budget airline flying out of Saigon, it’s what you can do at Jump Arena, a venue in Thao Dien where kids (and families) can propel themselves or be propelled into the air in all manner of stomach-churning ways. Activities include the Free Jump (trampolining for you kids of the 70s and 80s), the Leap Of Fate where kids can jump from the top of the climbing wall and plummet into an inflated airbag and the Sky Ladder that extends all the way to the ceiling. There’s climbing on a Spider Wall, Dodge-Ball, Super Slam for MJ-like slam dunks, The Wall that kids can just bounce into, and the Foam Pit. Prices for toddlers start at VND50,000 and go up to VND140,000 for bigger kids for 60 minutes of fun on weeknights from 5pm and Saturdays and Sundays. For more info, go to or | January 2018 Word | 75


28A Dien Bien Phu, Ba Dinh, Hanoi Show all the other parents whose boss by kitting out your child in a plastic Land Rover Defender. Let no other child stand in your offspring’s path as they speed around the stone tiles overlooked by the first leader of the Soviet Union. Lenin Square stands opposite the Hanoi flag tower, and honors the late leader of the communist bloc. For unexplained reasons it now attracts hundreds of families every evening who come with miniature cars for their kids to cruise around in. This is parenting on overdrive, what will the other kids at school think if your youngest turns up in a plastic KIA? Will they make it through their pre-adolescent years without only the best plastic automobile? Perhaps it’s this early driving experience that makes Vietnamese motorists so competent on the road.


458 Minh Khai, Times City, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi What child doesn’t love sharks, penguins, and crocodiles? The aquarium in the Vincom building in

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Times City has all three of those animals and more. Considering the rather unlikely location of the facility, it’s surprisingly impressive. Walking around the aquarium offers close ups of tropical fish, reptiles, and some creepy crawlies (enter, giant spider crabs) for good measure. The final leg of the tour takes you through an underwater tunnel where you can observe reef sharks and giant stingrays. Each exhibit in the facility comes with detailed information about the species and its habitat. The aquarium is aimed more at children than any other age group, and goes lengths to ensure that the experience is as educational as possible, making it an ideal spot to bring the kids on a weekend. Opening hours are 9.30am to 10pm

One point here is that the place could do with some renovation, and don’t go during peak time. Opening hours are 7.00am to 5.30pm


Around Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi Stop being so lazy and go for a walk. There really is a lot to be said for Hoan Kiem’s weekend ‘walking street’. From markets to games, coffee and food to live music. The street has just about everything you need to keep a child busy, and as a bonus, you can keep yourself entertained as well. From 7.00pm Friday to midnight Sunday



Royal City, 72A Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan, Hanoi

Situated in 29 hectares, Thu Le Zoo is a stone’s throw from the Lotte tower, hiding in plain sight. The zoo keeps elephants, tigers, monkeys and all sorts of exotic animals, and while it can’t be considered on-par with world class zoos, the entrance is cheap and it’s centrality is very convenient.

On floor B1 of Vincom Mega Mall Royal City is Vietnam’s first ice rink that meets international standards and is made from natural ice. The 3 square kilometre ice rink offers ice-skating courses ranging from beginner levels to advanced. You can rent all equipment by the hour. Opening hours are 9.30am to 10.00pm.

Thu Le Park (off Kim Ma), Ba Dinh, Hanoi

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insider feature


A Commute on Saigon’s Water Bus Rarely do projects garner as much talk as the Saigon WaterBus. Now it’s up and running, George Schooling does the commute. What’s it like and what are its prospects for the future? Words by George Schooling. Photos by Bao Zoan

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Officially launched in November 2017, Saigon’s new water bus service is being promoted as being a way to avoid the city’s notorious traffic problems. While it has a long way to go to match the likes of Sydney, Bangkok or Hong Kong, there are green shoots. | January 2018 Word | 79

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irst, it is undoubtedly a much more pleasant way to commute to town from one of Saigon’s northeastern districts. Starting in Thu Duc, the route follows the Saigon River to Binh Thanh and District Two before finishing at Bach Dang Wharf in District One. At this early stage, there are plenty of seats available to take in the impressive cityscape, as it sweeps past Vinhomes Central Park in Binh Thanh and District One comes into view. It’s also proving a hit for passengers who are already using this service. “It’s a peaceful way to get into town,” says Australian expat Sue Wire, who adds, “no motorbikes.” Having taken the journey once, it’s not difficult to see the appeal.

Avoiding the Congestion

Sitting back on the boat and being cooled by the natural breeze off the river, there is a slightly smug feeling about skipping the worst of the pollution and congestion. Even sitting at the stop in Thanh Da offers an oasis of tranquillity at the peak of the morning rush hour. At VND15,000 it’s more expensive than an average bus ride but still much cheaper than taking a xe om. There is also the argument the price difference with the buses is offset by the comfort of the journey. An assertion made by local commuter Phuong who insists that the boat is “better than travelling by bus.” It’s safer, too. There is relatively little traffic on the river, except for some of the bigger, slow-moving cargo boats which are easily overtaken. There’s no danger of being hit by an inattentive driver here. The other big factor is the speed of the journey. While it may take up to an hour from Thanh Da to central Saigon by bike on a good day, the boat takes a mere 30 minutes. With little traffic on the river, that is unlikely to change. | January 2018 Word | 81

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Challenges Ahead

The authorities have high hopes for this service as a means to relieve the increasing congestion on Saigon’s roads. Yet they accept they still have some way to go. At present, the service only operates six return trips a day. The first arrives at Bach Dang at 8am, and the last leaves at 5.30pm — hardly convenient for many commuters. Also, the route serves just five stops — though plans are in place for a total of 12. There are other challenges too. The presence of duckweed and litter pose a risk to the boat’s propellers. Until those issues are resolved, there is a limit to how much traffic can go on the river. Also, the boat was only about one-third full, despite the high-profile publicity. A common theme was that the stops were within walking distances of the passengers’ homes, which suggests the water bus holds little appeal for those who live further away. These challenges will undoubtedly be met over time. There are plans afoot to integrate the water bus with a normal bus service so passengers can seamlessly transfer to their destinations. Passenger numbers will also increase with the number of stops opening. And with a Route 2 from District 1 to District 8 already in the pipeline, it has the potential to become an integral part of Saigon’s transport network.

As the city’s skyline continues to develop, there’s also space in the market for tourists. According to Sue Wire, the 5.30pm service from Bach Dang wharf is “full of tourists” wanting to take in the views.

Will it be a Success?

Sitting back on the boat and being cooled by the natural breeze off the river, there is a slightly smug feeling about skipping the worst of the pollution and congestion

Simply put by office worker Vinh, it’s a “great” way to commute to work.

The overriding verdict from the passengers is positive. There is an acknowledgement of the current limitations but you sense they would rather keep it that way. At the moment, it’s a very calm, spacious way to head into the city. No crowds, no jostling for space or seats and no need to worry about accidents. But they understand in order to succeed, the water bus needs more passengers. Given time and support to grow, there is no doubt the Saigon water bus can thrive. In a sense, it’s a wonder it had taken so long to get to this point. The river has long been underused and undervalued. The additional stops will help with the vitality of the service and plans to integrate it with other forms of transport will make it appealing for more people. As well as making those additional stops operational, the water bus should have more services. Six return trips a day is simply not enough. Even some of the passengers who take the trip in the morning still have to take the normal bus back home. Still, I went to work that day with a smile on my face. For more information on the service and the timetable, click on | January 2018 Word | 83

insider mental health

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A Helping Han


u’re us. Perhaps yo io x n a r o n w o s. You’re feeling d nship problem o ti la re g in v a h ’re stressed or you eling suicidal. fe is rs u o y f o nd Or maybe a frie s by Nick Ross rd o W . le b a il a v Help is a | January 2018 Word | 85


In late October and early November, two expats living in Saigon passed away. One committed suicide, while the other who suffered from bipolar disorder drank and drugged himself up into oblivion, a binge which led to coma and then death. At the same time, another expat was holed up in her hotel in Bui Vien, unable to work, too scared to go outside. These are extreme cases. They certainly aren’t the first of this type in Vietnam, and won’t be the last. Whether you are Vietnamese or foreign, we are all susceptible to the same problem — our mind, and what goes on inside ourselves. The human mind is a cavern of calm, order, disorder and chaos. When things go wrong, they can go very wrong.

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Unfortunately, Vietnam doesn’t have the same governmentstructured safety net in place as in most countries in the West. It also lacks a hotline operated by the likes of the Samaritans. However, help is certainly out there and is available for people suffering from a range of issues. According to Saigon-based therapist and hypnotherapist, Naomi Taylor, clients come to her for a wide range of reasons. These include trauma; relationship and couples counselling; transitions; anxiety and stress; bereavement; suicidal thoughts; self-harm; unhealthy relationships with food, substances, alcohol, sex or porn; gender identity; sexual

dysfunction; family dynamics; workplace stress; fears and phobias; sexual assault; and some “simply to be heard”. We speak to two therapists and one psychiatrist to get a picture of what’s available and what to expect.

Douglas Holwerda Psychotherapist Based in Hanoi

“People come to a therapist when they feel their problems are too difficult for them to deal with alone or with the help of friends and family,” says Hanoi-based therapist and Word columnist, Douglas Holwerda. A psychotherapist since

1996, Douglas has practised in Vietnam for a number of years and works through the Family Medical Practice. According to Douglas, except in the case of thoughts of committing suicide or even homicide, the setting for all therapy includes confidentiality. It also includes the non-judgmental and unconditional positive regard for the client. “The process is one of trying to understand, gain insight, and to sort through the changes that a person can make in order to reduce or eliminate the problems that they are experiencing,” he explains. “Therapy can last from one session to several years. Many find that three months is about right.”

While the vast majority of cases can be treated in Vietnam, according to Douglas, at present treatment facilities are not available for those who are dealing with severe mental health issues like mania, psychosis, schizophrenia, paranoia, or addiction-related problems. “It is never a small decision to recommend people return to their home countries,” he says. “But sometimes it is the most realistic way for people to get the help they need.” The Hanoi Counseling Psychology group has a website — hanoicounselingpsychology. com — which offers bios and contact information to the Western-trained

psychotherapists who practice in Hanoi. Alternatively, you can contact Douglas on douglasholwerda@hotmail. com

Naomi Taylor

Counselling and Hypnotherapy Based in Saigon Each time she has a new client, Saigon-based therapist Naomi Taylor starts with an assessment, so as to ascertain what the individual or couple are expecting from the therapy. “Sometimes I need to add some clarity so that [the clients] understand what is possible and that miracles are not my speciality,” she explains. | January 2018 Word | 87

A Friend in Need

“Some [people] are worried about sharing what a friend has said in confidence,” says Naomi Taylor. “The reality is that it is better to have a friend who is angry with you as opposed to a dead friend.” Says Douglas: “For friends, share the contact information [of the therapist or psychiatrist] and encourage them to give it a try.” He adds: “Sometimes it is the person who needs support in dealing with a friend who is struggling as well.” Which all suggests one thing. If you have a friend who is talking to you in confidence, and needs help, then go and speak to someone. Even if it is only for advice on how you can help your friend.

'I often compare therapy to a language lesson; if you attend a class for one hour per week and do not give yourself time to practice and reflect on your learnings, then the following week you find yourself in the same place and not moving forward. Therapy is similar'

Naomi, Douglas and Dr. Miguel, all agree on one thing. If you have a friend who needs help, then it’s better to say something than to keep silent.

The problem, says Naomi, is that many believe therapy will be the ‘fix’. In particular they have the expectation that hypnotherapy will be a quick fix. “Neither of these are true,” she says. “What takes place in the therapy room is relatively minimal compared to what transforms outside of the room. I often compare therapy to a language lesson; if you attend a class for one hour per week and do not give yourself time to practice and reflect on your learnings, then the following week you find yourself in the same place and not moving forward. Therapy is similar.” Having worked in Jakarta and Beijing, Naomi qualified as a counsellor in 2005, and is trained in a wide range of techniques including transactional analysis, gestalt therapy, narrative therapy and hypnotherapy. Besides doing a lot of work on relationships, stress and anxiety, her training enables her to offer help with quitting smoking or developing a healthier relationship with food or alcohol. However, she has also had to deal with a number of cases where people are in extreme distress. “It hurts to see another in distress,” she says. “[However,] therapy is one safe place where people can explore this, usually, without the risk of being judged.” You can find out more about Naomi Taylor by clicking on To contact her, email counsellingwithnaomi@ or call 01635 425211

Dr. Miguel de Seixas Psychiatrist Based in Saigon

A doctor and psychiatrist, Dr. Miguel de Seixas has just come off a 14-year stint working for the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. New to Vietnam — he started his role as psychiatrist at Family Medical Practice in Saigon this January — over the years Dr. Miguel has treated people suffering from depression, anxiety,

self-harm, suicidal tendencies, and people who have established mental health conditions like bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and schizophrenia. “The main thing is to find out how this person has been affected by the condition they have,” he explains. “So, I would try to work out how is that illness impacting them and when, and will then come up with a treatment plan depending on the extremeness of their illness.” The key, however, is that the patient can reach a stage where they can manage their own mental health both now and into the future. “So, they will know when to get worried,” he says. “They will know when to seek help, to have a backup plan so that at each stage they will activate something like call friends or take a sleeping tablet or take some time off, rather than wait until the situation is unmanageable and it’s much more difficult to treat.” One type of case that Dr. Miguel will be working with is with children from mixedrace families. During his stint in Cambridge as a community psychiatrist, Dr. Miguel spent time with a number of teenagers from Southeast Asia and the Far East who had been sent to boarding school in the UK. Now in Vietnam this experience will be transferred to issues impacting children from mixed race families. The main problem is that these children — usually with a western father and a Vietnamese mother — find that they don’t quite fit. “They’re having problems because the cultures collide sometimes, and they don’t quite align with either a Vietnamese culture or a Western culture,” he says. “This leaves them somewhat adrift. They’re also under significant pressure on an academic level to succeed. There is a strong culture of pushing [in Vietnam].” To contact Dr. Miguel, email or call (028) 3822 7848. | January 2018 Word | 89


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eat & Drink Street Snacker


Bun Cha Obama

Thanks to the attentions of a certain former American president, one bun cha joint has got itself a reputation. So Billy Gray decided to try it out for himself. Photos by Teigue John Blokpoel


t’s a rip-off, but you were expecting that. Still, it’s a good bun cha. If only the incumbent president had such capable chopstick skills. Obama chowing on a bun cha with Anthony Bourdain during his 2016 state visit to Vietnam brought joy to Hanoians, and also made the noodle spot a must-try for tourists and locals alike. The logical conclusion of course is that the price went up and everyone started moaning about how the bun cha was sub-standard. So, we decided to try it for ourselves. Is it really as killer as Obama proclaimed, or just an overpriced disappointment?

Fitting Meal for a President

Indeed, the bun cha at Bun Cha Huong Lien (or, ‘Bun Cha Obama’) is far from disappointing. Actually, it’s a very interesting take on the staple Hanoian lunch. The most important element of a good bun cha is the sauce, and at Bun Cha Obama it’s obvious that a lot of time has gone into perfecting their own signature flavour. The balance of herbs and fish sauce is amongst the best around town, and the meat signals good quality. The noodles, usually cold and sticky with this dish are actually warm here — even though on his show Anthony Bourdain declared them cold. The major disappointment here are the nem — deep-fried spring rolls. At VND7,000 a piece they’re embarrassingly small. The bun cha itself is a more modest VND40,000, though this is still more

expensive than you usually pay (unless you include the tourist-favourite restaurant Bun Cha Dac Kim, where the prices are astronomical). What’s also frustrating is that they automatically charge you VND3,000 for a wet wipe which is pointless, and VND5,000 for parking on the pavement, something that’s not even commonplace in this upmarket part of town. The owners have obviously spent some time in Saigon where both practices are increasingly common. Overall, our bill came to VND54,000 for a bun cha and two nem.

Bun Cha Trump?

No, that doesn’t exist. But it would be great if it did — a massive open space Bun Cha Trump restaurant — and Obama’s gonna pay for it! It is however worth noting that there is a restaurant called Bun Cha Obama on Ma May in the Old Quarter. The former president only went to one noodle joint for lunch, he didn’t do a culinary tour. So to avoid getting totally ripped off, don’t get confused by this one… or the one in Ho Chi Minh City, or the one in Danang, or… you get the picture. In fact, you have to hand it to Huong Lien for keeping their original name, and this is a genuine testament to their reputation. At 11am (just before peak lunch time) the place is full, with more customers arriving. The service is prepared — quick serving, hot portions, and a bill on the table

which you take outside to the counter once you’re finished. Portraits of the owners embracing the president, and of him dining, adorn the walls, although none of the diners seem fussed. They’ve come here for the food by the looks of things — regulars or curious tourists, the place can cater to both.

Bun Cha Putin…

Again, no this doesn’t exist — although there is a Café Putin in Mai Chau, and a Putin / Obama-themed printing shop in the Dong Anh District of Hanoi. As of writing this article there’s no Merkelthemed anything in Vietnam that we know of. Bun cha is one of those things where if you step outside the box too much, you’re going to risk getting slated. Huong Lien keep to the classic flavour, but they put a bit more prep into it — it’s sort of what you’d imagine the dish to taste like if you got it in a Vietnamese restaurant abroad. The bowls are nice, the salad is fresh and comes on a big plate. As mentioned, the nem fail, but the service is efficient and you could be sitting on the same chair that Obama sat on. In all, you can’t knock it until you try it, and it’s worth trying to get a feel for different approaches to this classic Hanoi dish. Bun Cha Huong Lien is located at 24 Le Van Huu, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi. Opening hours are 9am to 9pm. | January 2018 Word | 91

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eat & Drink Street Snacker


Bot Chien

Known in Singapore and Malaysia as carrot cake, the local version of this classic dish is one of the most underrated streetfood dishes in Saigon. Words by JB Jance. Photos by Bao Zoan


late afternoon or a pre-dinner snack, bot chien is a staple street food. It is fried rice-flour cake with egg and usually topped with chives. This dish is popular among the locals, but only a few expats and tourists are familiar with it. The recipe isn’t complicated, but the texture and flavour are distinctive. The texture of the rice-flour cake and the taste of the soy sauce make the difference in this rather simple dish. The shapes of the rice-flour cake also differ. Some places offer it in thick strips, while others have it in cubes. One common ingredient is the fried egg, which keeps the cakes together. Bot chien is often topped with chives for more colour and taste. It is also served with a side of papaya strips and a dipping bowl filled with soy sauce. Bot chien literally translates to fried dough. It is often likened to popular dishes from nearby Asian countries like the chai tow kway of Singapore or char koay kak of Penang, Malaysia. Places that offer this light dish are scattered around Saigon. I visited one in District 5 and another in District 3. Both eateries offer the same meal, but come with different stories and tastes. The locations of these places are quite interesting as they are the odd ones out in their area. One is along a strip of accessories and decoration shops, while the other is between several clothing stores.

Bot Chien Dat Thanh 277 Vo Van Tan, Q3, HCMC

A family business that started on the sidewalk is now one of the most prominent go-to places in Saigon for bot chien. Weekend afternoons to evenings see this eatery packed with locals and travellers. Unlike most restaurants, this place has the kitchen at the front. With this setup, passers-by

end up having a plate of their bot chien unplanned as the smell of the fried rice cake and egg fills the air along Vo Van Tan. A plate of bot chien is priced at VND26,000. The rice-flour cakes are fried until they turn golden brown, which makes them crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside. It is served with a side plate of shredded papaya, a small bowl of their sauce, and is topped with green onions. Add VND4,000 if you want an extra egg. According to Khanh, the granddaughter of the owner of the restaurant, bot chien is best eaten as your pre-dinner meal. She suggests that it should be mixed with the papaya shreds and tossed together with the soy sauce. When asked about what makes their bot chien different from the others, she says that it’s the sauce. True to her word, the dip that went with my order tasted lighter and sweeter than the usual soy sauce

bought at supermarkets or convenience stores. No need to worry about ordering as they hand out laminated menus with pictures once seated. Bot Chien Dat Thanh is open every day from 2pm to 11pm.

Bot Chien 190

190 Hai Thuong Lan Ong, Q5 You know you’re in for both a struggle and a treat when you search for a place and there isn’t a name for you to look for, just the address. A good thing then that this bot chien stand is right next to a roundabout, which helps in finding this streetfood gem of a place. There is no menu for you to choose from, but it is not a problem as they only serve one dish. This establishment has been selling bot chien for over 30 years. The recipe comes from the owner’s Chinese husband, and her neighbours help her run the business. Unlike most bot chien restaurants that serve the cakes in cubes, here the cakes are cut into thick strips before being cooked on a flat skillet over a charcoal grill. Owner Nguyen Thi Anh Loan then uses oil from pork fat as the egg, garlic with salt, and spring onions are added. A plate of bot chien here is priced at VND27,000. The outside of the rice-flour cakes are a bit crispy. It also has a faint meaty taste coming from the oil. The sauce they provide is also distinctive; chilli is already added to the mix. While a takeaway portion is served on a banana leaf inside a foam food container with an extra bag of shredded papaya, for those who want to indulge in the complete experience, this is all about choosing an outdoor spot on the plastic red tables and chairs that overlook the roundabout. They are open Monday to Saturday from 4pm, and from 2pm on Sundays. | January 2018 Word | 93



10 places to visit in 2018 / listings

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travel feature


10 Places to Visit in 2018

Who needs all those hotspot tourist destinations when there’s so much more to see in Vietnam? Here’s a list of 10 alternative places to visit over the coming year. Words by Nick Ross

01 Ha Giang

It feels like we write the same line every year, and we will write it again: Ha Giang, Vietnam’s most northerly province, is also its most beautiful. The problem with this line is that it doesn’t do the place justice. Covered in heavily forested limestone and granite mountains, and top off with altitude karst plateaus, Ha Giang is populated by a diverse mix of ethnic minorities. Driving along the winding, hairpin bend roads of this province is like entering a time warp. Little has changed since the French first came here over a hundred years ago and built a hill station at Dong Van. Well, that’s not quite true. The hill station is a little run down these days. The rest of the highlands, however, are stunning.

Because getting around requires either hiring a motorbike or renting a car from Ha Giang City, and because getting to Ha Giang City requires doing a 320km trip by road north out of Hanoi, few of this country’s 13 million annual foreign tourists ever make it here. Which means it really is quite untouched. Go to Ha Giang. It’s breathtaking and you won’t regret it. Getting There: Hard. Think overnight sleeper bus. Getting around? Even harder, unless you don’t mind hiring a motorcycle or a four-wheel-drive jeep. Accommodation Watch: Erm... Well... They’ve got guesthouses in the towns. Just don’t expect creature comforts. | January 2018 Word | 97

Ninh Thuan


Vietnam’s desert province gets passed by so often on that journey from Mui Ne to Nha Trang that it gets forgotten. Which is why visiting this rocky, waterless, arid part of Central Vietnam is a must. Once the heartland of Champa, the remnants of this past empire remain in the form of the Cham temples scattered around the province and in the city of Thap Cham, and the modernday mosques worshipped at by the mainly Muslim Cham people who still populate the area to this day. Yet it’s not just the beauty of the plains and the cultural element that should bring you here, but the coastline. A couple of years ago we visited Amanoi, one of a sprinkling of exclusive five-star resorts nestled away on the coast. We were struck not just by the resort itself but the beauty of the location. Rocky shorelines, crystal clear sea, untarnished yellow sand, tropical fauna. The pictures tell it all. Getting There: Cam Ranh Airport in the next province up provides a good gateway to Ninh Thuan. Alternatively, get a bus. Accommodation Watch: If you can’t afford the likes of Amanoi, then head to the main city of Phan Rang and the area around Ninh Chu Bay

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Ninh Binh and Nam Dinh

A couple of hours south of Hanoi, these two neighbouring province are as similar as they are different, but both are worthy of a two to three-day trip. For Vietnamese history and Halong Bay on land — yes, the area around Tam Coc really does look like that — start in Ninh Binh with a trip to the grottoes of Trang An, the temples of Hoa Lu, the ancient capital of Vietnam, a trip to Cuc Phuong National Park and a boat ride in the eerie Van Long Nature Reserve. Then head south to Phat Diem Cathedral for an astonishing mix of Gothic and Vietnamese architecture, before going crosscountry to Nam Dinh. The southern, Delta end of Nam Dinh is flat and at sea level, yet sticking up above the treeline you will see cathedral-sized church after cathedral-sized church, each battling for prominence. This province is obsessed with religion, so obsessed that every hamlet has its own massive monument

to God. But for the real deal head to Hai Ly. There you will see the church that’s been washed away by the sea. It’s still standing — just. Walk along the beach and over the course of a few hundred meters you will find the ruins of two more churches, which have now collapsed. According to locals the sea has come in by well over 100m over the past century. The new versions of the collapsed churches have been built further inland. Getting There: To do this trip properly you need wheels — two is certainly better than four. But the train from Hanoi to Ninh Binh Station or the Open Tour bus is also an option here. Accommodation Watch: The full range of accommodation is available, but our favourite due to its idyllic location and traditional Vietnamese village-like bungalows is Emeralda, just next to Van Long Nature Reserve | January 2018 Word | 99

Phong Nha

You may not be able to visit Son Doong, the largest cave in the world — for preservation and safety purposes, entrance is both restricted and expensive. You also need to book with the operator, Oxalis, well in advance. But the other caves are well worth the journey, and as we write this the first tours to two new caves have started, run by Jungle Boss. Apparently the experience is second only to Son Doong. Among our favourites are the water caves of Tu Lan. There’s something Harrison Ford about this place as you swim through the grottos in the pitch black and end up in a hidden outdoor lake. Just don’t expect any mummified remains shooting out poisoned arrows at you. And then there’s Hang En, home to 100,000 swallows with its indoor beach and subterranean mystique. Part of a national park, the limestone karsts and jungle give Phong Nha an extra aura, and with a town developing faster than the speed of a construction truck flying down Highway 1, this is becoming a place to hang out as well. Ever heard of the Pub With Cold Beer? Go to Phong Nha and you might just. Ever wanted to cycle down back roads through the rolling Vietnamese countryside? Go to Phong Nha and it’s at your fingertips. Getting There: Flights from Hanoi go to Dong Hoi, the area’s only city. You can also hit the train or even take a bus from Hue. If you fly, make sure you know your taxi fare first. VND500,000 from the airport to Phong Nha can be hard to swallow. Accommodation Watch: No five-stars here yet, but the recently opened Victory Road Villa adds a boutique edge to what’s available. Chay Lap close to the entrance of the National Park is also a great place to relax. Plus, there are a lot of excellent homestay-style options with idyllic scenery — in this respect, Phong Nha Farmstay is a keeper. Want to stay at the home of Ho Khanh, the person who discovered the world’s largest cave? Well even he’s got a riverside homestay these days. We’ve stayed there. It’s nice!

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05 Hue

The former Imperial capital of Vietnam should be on every Ron, Mick and Mary’s bucket list, but thanks to the nearby charms and more tourist-friendly meccas of Hoi An and Danang, this tranquil yet endearing city gets overlooked. The problem? Yes, it’s got a citadel and tombs and museums and beautiful countryside and bridges and boat cruises and nice restaurants and all that, but it’s just not by the sea, there are no tailors and there’s nothing to buy — unless you like food, ‘cos Hue is good at that. And antiques. Now we at Word love Hue. It’s a city of artisans and culture, and

travel inland and the jungleclad mountains are the stuff of war movies. Real war movies, not pretend ones shot in the Philippines. So should you go there? Hell, yes! This is culture, with great scenery thrown in, too. Getting There: Yes, Hue’s got an airport. It’s also on the Open Tour bus route and the northsouth train line. Woohoo! Accommodation Watch: If you like 1920s elegance, then La Residence is oh-so ooh-la-la. There’s a lot of budget around, too, especially close to the Pham Ngu Lao area. | January 2018 Word | 101

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06 Quy Nhon

Picture a city built by the French that looks like Danang, but much smaller. Combine it with a metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City, but with the atmosphere of Vietnam at the Millennium, and then add in some of the best beaches in this country and almost definitely the finest seafood (sorry Phu Quoc). This is Quy Nhon. Often passed over for Danang to the north and Nha Trang to the south, Quy Nhon is Vietnam as it once was, without the razzmatazz, rooftop bars and bling. Instead, this is a deckchairs-on-the-promenade-by-thebeach kind of place, with late-night outdoor drinking on plastic stools and the occasional five-star or four-star hotel thrown in for fun. Add in the Cham temples — they litter the area surrounding Quy Nhon — deserted beaches and Bai Xep to the south, a travellers’ haven that no-one knows about, and this is an area worth exploring. We’ve done it twice and we’re still in love. Getting There: The local airport, Phu Cat, serves flights from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Then there’s the north-south train. The only problem? Many of the Open-Tour buses stop here in the middle of the night. Accommodation Watch: Here there’s the full gamut, although don’t expect Hyatt and InterCon-style five-stars. But for dormitory accommodation and beach-style four-star resorts, head to Bai Xep — the place is a little slice of heaven. | January 2018 Word | 103

Con Dao


The islands of Con Dao are wild. That is the best way to describe this archipelago to the southeast of mainland Vietnam. Formerly called Poulo Condore when it was used by the French as the Indochinese version of Devil’s Island — the old prisons are all still here — these days it’s the Vietnamese army presence that is noticeable. Not that this is a bad thing. With the army and navy controlling huge swathes of the land, it means the islands are protected, protected from the encroachment of man, and protected from over-development. Word has been here twice and we love the scenery — so much of it is untouched. We also love the fishing ports, the weather — here you can get four seasons within a day — and the sense that this is a place where nature rules, not man. The National Park, night-time turtle hatching on Bay Canh, great diving, stunning beaches, good seafood, and of course one of the best fivestars in Vietnam, Six Senses Con Dao. Need we say more? Yes, actually, one more thing. You need to have transport. Whether it’s a motorbike around the main island or boat transport out to the islands. Otherwise your Con Dao experience will be greatly diminished. Getting There: A ferry goes from Vung Tau to Con Dao, but you’d be mad to go that way as there are numerous daily flights from Ho Chi Minh City. Accommodation Watch: Six Senses Con Dao. Six Senses Con Dao. Six Senses Con Dao. (there are also some well-appointed guesthouses in the main town, Con Son).

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Chau Doc

The Mekong Delta has many destinations worth visiting, but for cultural and geographic contrasts, the border town of Chau Doc has to be the most interesting. Located at the confluence of three rivers, on one side you have the mosques and kampong-style villages of the Muslim Cham. On the other is the main city, with its pagodas, markets and obsession with fish (the canh chua ca or sweet and sour broth with fish is exceptional). Overlooking it all is Sam Mountain, home to one of the great religious pilgrimages of Vietnam. And surrounding the city are paddy fields, canals, small lanes and rickety bridges, perfect for a bit of cycling. Head south and you pass through Khmer villages with their Theravada pagodas and sugar palms. And a few kilometres further on you come to Tra Su bird sanctuary, a twitcher’s paradise, especially when the water is high. Imagine taking a canoe, in complete silence through fields of lotus, while about you birds flap and search for food. Surrounding you are vines, strange mosses, mangrove trees with gnarled roots, and odd flowers peaking out of the gloom. That’s Tra Su. Getting There: A five-hour bus ride from Saigon, the other option is by boat from My Tho. You may have to take the Victoria Hotels boat service, but it’s worth every penny as you get to see the Mekong. Chau Doc is also the gateway to Cambodia. Accommodation Watch: Victoria Hotels has two properties here. One in town on the river, and another, Nui Sam Lodge, on Sam Mountain. There are also a number of guesthouses right in town. | January 2018 Word | 105

Nam Cat Tien


Vietnam really doesn’t quite get it right when it tries to combine jungle with tourism, especially compared to what’s on offer elsewhere in the region. However, Nam Cat Tien remains the one stand-out. With a main base around the park HQ — a number of pretty cool homestays have sprung up next to the river — this is a place where you can trek and see animals in the wild. On our last trip we spotted douc langurs, peacocks, lizards, gaurs and deer, most at sunset. It’s also a good place to go cycling — Ta Lai Longhouse has bikes for rent for the 12km track to the main park area. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some elephant dung. We did, which meant staying vigilant. Nothing worse than a rampaging elephant when you’re a-wondering through the jungle and all that. Getting There: You’re gonna need a bus for this one, from Mien Dong Bus Station in Saigon. It’s a three-hour ride. Motorbike — we would recommend against it. The roads are dangerous. Accommodation Watch: We love Ta Lai Longhouse. Communal sleeping accommodation, communal eating, a great lake for swimming and kayaking. But the homestays near the park HQ are also worth checking out.

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10Ganh Da Dia

Jusangjeolli in South Korea, Garni Gorge in Armenia, Ganh Da Dia in Vietnam, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and the Devil’s Postpile in the US. What do all these places have in common? All are famous for their strange, column-like basalt formations that look like piles of stacked up coins. When we first discovered Ganh Da Dia, just under 10 years ago, this nondescript piece of beach surrounded by cacti in Phu Yen Province was unknown. No-one had heard of it. And certainly no-one visited it. When you rode up there on your motorbike the only people in the vicinity were fishermen. Even finding the place was bizarre. We heard about it by chance — the place was rumoured to exist in Phu Yen Province, north of Nha Trang. But no-one knew its name or quite where it was located. So, we got on a motorbike and went in search of it. A number of wrong turns and lots of driving later, when we pulled up above the cliffs of Ganh Da Dia, we were stunned. These days, since Ganh Da Dia is the main topic of conversation every time someone mentions Phu Yen; the place is heaving with tourists. Which means getting that money shot, the photo we got all those years ago, is almost impossible. But, it’s still worth a visit as next to the limestone karsts of Halong Bay and Ninh Binh, this is one of the natural wonders of Vietnam. Getting There: Unless you’re on a coach tour, you’ll need wheels. Or a taxi. Ganh Da Dia is about 15km north of Tuy Hoa. Accommodation Watch: Despite being in the middle of nowhere, Phu Yen Province does actually have a provincial capital. It’s called Tuy Hoa. It even has places to stay and some of these places have even got stars. | January 2018 Word | 107

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.


pre–programmed iPod and both indoor and outdoor showers.


$$$ 120 Vo Nguyen Giap (Intersection of Tran Huu Tuoc and Vo Nguyen Giap), Phuoc My, Son Tra, Danang, Tel: (+84) 236 268 7979 With beautiful views of My Khe Beach, the Danang CBD, and the Son Tra peninsula, Luxury Apartment is perfect for both long and short-stay guests. The one to twobedroom apartments come with a kitchen and all the amenities needed for a great time in Danang city.

$$$$ 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.


$$$$ 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.

$ 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,


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. | January 2018 Word | 109



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

110 | Word January 2018 | | January 2018 Word | 111

the therapist // a constant worry by douglas holwerda

Dear Douglas, My mother worries a lot. Our family has fights over how we should deal with it. My dad argues with her about how irrational she is, which upsets her more. My older sister either avoids her when she can tell that my mom is starting to get worked up or patronizes her when she is talking about what could go wrong… agreeing in a way that is meant to help her stop. I can’t take it anymore. She finds something wrong with every idea I have, and keeps me from going out and living life. She has always been someone who is fearful of what can happen, but now she is driving everyone crazy with her constant worrying. — Tired Teen Dear Tired Teen, Thank you for sharing the frustration you have with your mom’s excessive worry and how it affects your family. Worry is produced by anxiety. Anxiety is the emotion and worry is the thinking. It usually has to do with the future and since the future only can exist in our imagination it is a bad combination — anxiety plus imagination. The core of it is fear. Anxiety is a certain kind of fear, actually the fear of the feeling of fear. While a reasonable amount of fear can help us to be alert and prepared if we can see a potential danger or threat, too

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much anxiety or fear starts to dominate our thinking and to generate more of the thinking that creates more fear. It is often called the domino effect… one thought leads to the next, each an amplified version of the anxiety of the one before. They get strung together and lead to a sense of catastrophe; a story of a horrible outcome. A trigger of something that would be a relatively small concern can lead to thinking that is of a disastrous outcome. When a person is in the process they do not see that their imagination is running away with them because in the future anything can happen. They are unable to recognize that because it could happen it is not likely to happen. The fear of the disaster gets in the way of seeing the likeliness of it happening. The thoughts are irrational, distorted by the strength of the emotion. Intense emotions almost always distort our perception of reality, whether anger, guilt or anxiety. People who have high anxiety levels can learn how to see the influence their anxiety has on their thinking through psychotherapy. Rather than focusing on the idea, the future that is imagined in the mind of the anxious person, therapy helps a person focus on the feeling —how intense the feeling is. Once a person learns how to become aware of the feelings they are having and to register how strong those feelings are they can begin to regulate their feelings and bring the intensity down. We all think different thoughts when we

are calm than when we are emotionally worked up. It is not easy at first to practice shifting from believing what we think to listening to what we feel, but with practice we can learn to gain a calmer and more relaxed perspective. We need some fear to be aware of the dangers that exist around us. We need to use it to guide us into good choices. But without an ability to take risks and to trust in the goodness of life, we will be more limited in the living of life than we need to be. Your mother needs help. You can all help her by learning to talk to her about the feelings she is having, rather than the thoughts she is thinking. It is helpful to use a number system… say a scale of one to 10. You might say: “It looks like your anxiety is quite high right now. How high is it?” It can also help to talk about risks and identify to her risks that you are willing to take. It usually does not work to argue with her about who is right. Her feelings are facts and can be honoured, without believing what these feelings cause her to think. If she learns this from a psychotherapist, it will be easier for her family to support her at home. I wish you all wellness, — 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.

W | January 2018 Word | 113

book buff //

counterpoints to western thought by truong hoang

Great Thinkers of the Eastern World by Ian P McGreal was first published in 1995 and is still relevant. It chronologically summarizes the major works and theoretical ideas of more than 100 outstanding thinkers of the Eastern world — focussing on those from China, India, Japan, Korea, and the World of Islam. An average of five pages is allotted to each influential thinker, both male and female, from 600BC until the present. Included are philosophers like Confucius, mystic theologians like India’s Aurobindo, and political and social thinkers such as Gandhi and Mao Tse-tung. In many Western countries, a right-wing mindset is associated with an increasingly inward-looking, fortress attitude towards ideas from the outside world. Some right-wing ideologists are pushing for an emphasis in schools on studies of western civilization and Judeo-Christian values and McGrealy’s companion tome, Great Thinkers of the Western World, is perfect for those studies. Wider-ranging educational establishments will continue to cherish books about thinkers from Africa, South and Central America, and Oceania. Another important McGrealy work is Great Literature of the Eastern World.

Optimism and Reality

A new fiction release that tackles the identity crises that some of those western countries are experiencing is Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West which was short-listed for the 2016 Booker Prize. In his book Hamid skips the traumatic migrant journey from catastrophized homelands to new refuge and goes straight to the collision of cultures which results when refugees appear to be becoming overwhelming to the native inhabitants.

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In the novel the angst and anger gradually gives way to a new and richer world once the migrants settle — though in reality, as Hamid says in a Guardian interview: “Most migrants are kept at bay in camps, in what I see as an attempt to impose a condition that humanity has never known before, which is an end to migration.” The only way to achieve that goal, he says, is to militarise borders and “mete out on the migrants a level of horror that counterbalances the horror facing them where they’re from so they don’t come any more.” Hamid says that such controls reveal the limits of the western humanist notion of universal equality. “We say we believe that if you’re black or white, you’re equal, or if you’re male or female, you’re equal, if you’re gay or straight, you’re equal. But one of the subversive questions that fiction can ask, and that Exit West in particular tries to ask, is why are the child born in Mogadishu, and the one born in Milan or Minneapolis, not equal?” Hamid argues that humanity will see a movement for migrants’ rights, similar to those for women, African-Americans and gay people and that the alternative will wreak such monstrous havoc both on migrants and those denying them their rights, that it becomes unsustainable. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is Hamid’s other thoughtful novel.

Young Refugees

Children’s novels and picture stories about the universal migration movement often focus on Hamid’s optimistic premise that migrant settlement influences a new and richer experience for both migrant and natives.

One young adult novel, Outcasts United: The Story of a refugee soccer team that changed a town, by Warren St John, tackles this theme. It’s adapted from a true story. Set in small town Georgia, US — an area to which fiction often attaches a label of intolerance and where a group of ‘good ol’ boys’ attempts to promote discrimination — a team of recent, adolescent, immigrant refugees from war-torn places in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, form a winning football team, the Fugees. The coach is a Jordanian woman who brings this mob of unruly boys under control and influences their futures and the attitudes of white townsfolk. The intended feeling promoted by the book is one of optimistic fuzziness — as is the movie made from the book. But a quote from the pastor of a major church in the town encapsulates the theme of acceptance: “Jesus says heaven is a place for people of all nations. So if you don’t like Clarkston, you won’t like heaven.”

Two Wild Ducks

An award-winning picture book by Australian, David Miller, tries to explain the refugee migration trauma to young kids. Two wild ducks become Refugees when their swamp is drained. Their journey in search of a safe refuge exposes them to danger, rejection and violence before compassion provides them a new place to live The three-dimensional, paper cut-out illustrations are distinctive and immersive for both kids and adults. 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.










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 | January 2018 Word | 115

women's fitness // pha training for tet by amazin le thi

Over the summer you were able to lose weight by sticking to your bikini diet. But as we head into the Tet festive season in February, it’s time to kick-start the Lunar New Year and overcome your health and fitness plateau with the PHA workout. Even with superwoman willpower, overeating during Christmas and Tet is a challenge for anyone. Staying on track with your healthy eating plan while trying to find the time to exercise regularly during the holiday season can feel like a daunting task when your Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties role into Tet. As we all know, none of us want to start the New Year all over again having to shed those excess pounds from a few weeks of festivities.

What is PHA Training?

PHA training — Peripheral Heart Action Training — is a system of resistance conditioning developed in the 1940s by Dr. Arthur Steinhaus, an American physical fitness and sport physiologist. It was made popular in the world of bodybuilding during the 1960s by former Mr. America and Mr. Universe bodybuilder Bob Gajda. The key to fat-burning that lasts hours beyond your workout and overcoming plateaus is by constantly challenging your body. This is done by progressively overloading it with new resistance workout techniques and changing your routine every four to six weeks. Unlike conventional circuit training, the PHA workout turns your regular circuit into a fat-burning super circuit. This is

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done by a sequence of exercises alternating upper and lower-body muscle groups to decrease lactic acid buildup so you can train harder throughout the circuit without your muscle groups becoming over-worked and exhausted. Like an aerobic workout, the PHA workout is a dynamic form of resistance training that is designed to increase the strength of your muscles by making your heart pump faster by keeping blood circulating throughout the whole body. During the workout, smaller muscles around the heart are worked first before the larger muscles around the body’s periphery.

Why implement PHA for Tet?

Off the back of Christmas and New Year’s Eve with no time to spare, January becomes a busy time of year for everyone leading into Tet. PHA is great for the busy person on the go as it reduces your time in the gym by half, with your entire workout lasting between 30 and 40 minutes. For those that shy away from monotonous cardio exercise, PHA is great to overcome boredom as it’s the all-in-one workout that combines anaerobic and aerobic training. If your Tet New Year’s resolution is to start a weight-training routine for the first time, then PHA is for you. PHA is great for the absolute beginner since you learn how to work your entire body in one routine while kick-starting your body to burn fat more readily without training to exhaustion. You finish your session feeling invigorated and energized for the day ahead.

The PHA Mini-Gym Workout

The benefit of the PHA workout is that it is versatile, and is an effective and convenient workout for the home, outdoors, travel or in the gym. I suggest training in mini PHA cycles with upper and lower body exercise equipment in close proximity of each other. Start off with two PHA mini-cycles working up to three. Choose three exercises with a weight that will allow you to complete 12 to 15 reps. Rest for around 30 to 40 seconds between completing each mini-cycle before doing another set. Do both PHA mini-cycles twice. PHA Mini-Cycle Workout 1 Seated barbell front presses: 12 to 15 reps Barbell or machine squats: 12 to 15 reps Floor abdominal crunch: 20 to 25 reps PHA Mini-Cycle Workout 2 Lat machine pulldowns: 12 to 15 reps Machine leg press: 12 to 15 reps Barbell or dumbbell lying bench chest press: 12 to 15 reps PHA Mini-Cycle Workout 3 Seated machine cable back rows: 12 to 15 reps Floor abdominal crunch: 20 to 25 reps Floor bodyweight push-ups: 12 to 15 reps 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

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 | January 2018 Word | 117

Top eats // hanoi


anoi has restaurants aplenty. As it moves ever closer to being a culinary hub, the choice of where to eat on a Friday or Saturday night gets bigger by the day. Yet we thought we’d try something different this month, something to add a different angle on where you eat. Vietnamese che desserts are popular in Vietnam, yet hardly ever make the menu in a proper sit-down restaurant. Vietnamese che is a staple dessert that generally consists of a mix of fruit, jelly, beans, sticky rice, and coconut cream, and is extremely popular with young Vietnamese. The variations are endless.

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Keeping Traditions Alive

Lutulata Dessert Café serves che, as well as tofu-based desserts and drinks in an old townhouse on the edge of the Old Quarter. The building is decorated as it would have been back in a time before motorbikes and glass towers came to prominence. The desserts sold here keep to old recipes, the ones used for sweet snacks by the street vendors who would sell to the owners when they were kids. “This place reminds us of our childhood, and when older people come here it reminds them of the old days,” says Phuong. Lutulata is a family business. Phuong is studying at university and

helps out where she can, while her brother Hung works in the café. Her mother selects all of the ingredients, ensuring only fresh and good quality fruit and tofu is used. Her sister-in-law makes the mix during the morning. “If you arrive in the morning you can see my sister-in-law making all of our che on the second floor,” says Phuong. “People like to come and see that it’s fresh.” You can tell when you walk through the door that this is a family business — the staff are friendly and obviously close to each other, they’re laughing away behind the counter throughout our visit. The whole of the third floor is outside, sheltered by tarpaulin, and

lutulata dessert cafÉ


decorated with plants, wooden benches and tea lights. It’s an ideal atmosphere to escape and get some work done, or perhaps bring a date in the evening. It’s also worth having a look through the selection of ceramics on sale between VND50,000 and VND100,000.

For the Sweet Tooth

The menu is easily readable; che is the main dish served — we try the Lutulata Special (VND35,000), a mix of three kinds of sweet potato accompanied by banana in coconut milk and topped with fresh and dry coconut. This is a filling dessert. The potato pairs well with the coconut,

while the aftertaste brings hints of banana. Next, we try the cassava soup (VND28,000). Also based in coconut milk, the woody cassava root is complemented by ginger and is best enjoyed hot. “The cassava soup is very popular in this cool weather,” says Phuong. “A hot soup with ginger is the best at this time.” Lastly comes the most enjoyable of the desserts; yoghurt with jackfruit, jelly, and hat dac (VND32,000). Hat dac is a small, chewy fruit native to Nha Trang and is certainly worth trying. This dessert is best eaten with crushed ice to better bring out each flavour. The space lends itself to cosy

winter evenings — there’s something inherently homely about the atmosphere here. It’s generally filled with groups of people chatting, working and painting, and young couples enjoying their desserts together. Che brings out a part of Vietnamese food culture that visitors often overlook. While dining in Italian restaurants and gourmet burger joints is always a pleasure, making a trip to Lutulata will give you a deeper understanding of Vietnamese food culture and traditions. And it won’t hurt your wallet. — Billy Gray Lutulata is at 39 Hang Cot, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Opening hours are 8am to 11pm. | January 2018 Word | 119

bar stool // hanoi


rom the people who brought you Rockstore, Craft Beer Pub, and more, comes Westlake Station. This latest addition to Hanoi’s weekend roster is far from subtle. Situated at the top of To Ngoc Van, the towering yellow villa has been kitted out with a bar, a pool table, an electronic dart board, a spacious outdoor area, and a restaurant dining area. In other words, they’ve got your evening covered. The décor follows a similar style to the owner’s other bars around town — the use of red brick, classy pictures and artwork, and lots of light wood gives the space a warm and comfortable feel. Olivier, one

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of the men behind the scenes, used to practice woodwork in his native France before he embarked on a life in Hanoi. In fact, most of the space was designed and built by the team themselves — including a wood-fire pizza oven that can have a pizza cooked in around three minutes. Pizzas cost between VND139,000 and VND239,000.

From Belgium with Love

The drinks selection is comprehensive, with a range of local craft beers including Barret Red Lager (VND85,000) and Ho Tay V.P.A (VND95,000). The selection of Belgian beers is a welcome addition to the menu, with

a bottled selection of go-to names like Hoegaarden (VND89,000), Duvel and Chimay Red (both VND149,000). On tap they have the carnivore’s wet dream, Liquid Bacon — a Belgian Dubbel, 8.2% (VND95,000). Their French roots are on display in the impressive wine list, with bottles costing between VND399,000 and VND1.49 million. Yet the cocktail menu is inconspicuous with just seven options ranging between VND75,000 to VND95,000. This is one area that could perhaps do with some work.

Grandma’s Cooking

One thing that makes Westlake Station stand out is its food menu.

westlake station


French chef Morgane Carte specializes in ‘grandma-style’ countryside French food adding to the homely atmosphere. The winter menu is ideal for cold Hanoi evenings. The burgers pair excellently with a glass of Belgian beer, and the portion sizes are generous. They also serve French classics like carbonnade flamande and a variety of sharer platters. The second floor boasts a dining area that can rival most restaurants in the area. It’s family friendly and has a balcony area with a long table that overlooks To Ngoc Van. The main bar area hosts a good size and quality pool table, and a booth area with a long table

and an electronic dart board. The space is ideal for large groups, and reservations for tables can be made in advance. It’s worth making the most of the happy hour which runs Monday to Friday from 5pm until 7pm where all drinks are two for one — with the exception of Belgian beers. Thursday night has a special on mussels which come with a free flow of French fries for VND239,000.

Background Noise

Another fine addition is the outside garden area, which few bars around town can hope to contend with. The space is big enough to fit 50 people and has wooden benches,

gas lamps, the pizza oven, and is surrounded by tall trees. The garden area plus the food makes this an ideal spot to bring a date, especially if you like to have some background noise on your outings. Perfect for those moments when the small talk isn’t going all that well. Overall, the atmosphere is lively, the music sits in harmony with the character of the bar, and the food is delicious. Throw this in the pot alongside a comprehensive drinks menu and a killer space, and you’ve got yourself a new addition to the top players on Hanoi’s bar scene. — Billy Gray Westlake Station is located at 24 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi | January 2018 Word | 121

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 / know your city

124 | Word January 2018 | | January 2018 Word | 125

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



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


25 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (028) 3829 8430


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.


126 | Word January 2018 |

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 by phil kelly



number of our friends and clients are expecting their first baby in early 2018, so I thought this a good time to write a series on How to Get Back in Shape After Pregnancy. One of the most natural things in this world is to raise a family. For women, having children is both an amazing experience and a challenging physical event. The female body transforms while pregnant, undergoing a myriad of hormonal and postural changes. After being pregnant for nine months, many mothers are anxious to get their bodies back into shape. It is very important to do this correctly, as a new mother’s body has gone through many changes that leave them venerable to injuries.



Hormones to Understand





Physical Changes 01

Tightness through neck and upper back

Upper/mid back muscles get weak 02 and loose Chest muscles get tight, intercos03 tal muscles get tight


04 Stiff lower back, pain may occur Transverse abdominal (TVA) is 05 overstretched and weak Weakened glutes and overactive 06 hamstrings Very tight hip flexors, weak 07 quadriceps

08 Calves get very tight 128 | Word January 2018 |

Before discussing how to get back in shape it is important to understand what the basic changes are that have happened to your body, which relate to exercise and physical activity. There are a large number of hormonal changes that are essential for a successful pregnancy but they also make exercise both during and after pregnancy more difficult. A large amount of oestrogen is released (during one pregnancy more oestrogen is produced than an entire lifetime when not pregnant) along with progesterone, which makes most things become bigger. It quickly becomes uncomfortable to move, as weight increases, breasts become bigger, and posture, along with the centre of gravity, changes. The posture changes affect the joint positions and length-tension relations of the musculature surrounding the pelvis, lumbar and thoracic spine (lower and upper back) as well as the neck. When joints are out of alignment the surrounding musculature is placed under greater strain leading to a higher rise of injury. These joint positions (posture) and muscle length-tension relationship must be returned to normal to minimise risk of injury, avoid aches and pains and to function correctly. The diagram shows the major muscles that become stiff and tight and their counterparts that become lengthened and weak. Restoring the length (tighten loosened muscles and loosen muscles that have become stiff) and tension (strengthen muscles that have become weak) relationship is the key to restoring posture and protecting against potential future injuries. It is not just the muscles that get affected during pregnancy. The biggest concerns for exercise after giving birth are due to the

increased levels of the hormone relaxin. Relaxin causes loosening of the ligaments. Ligaments are what connect the joints (bone to bone) and hold them in place. When ligaments are loosened, joints are very vulnerable to injury.

Focus on Posture

The weight of the baby, the changing centre of gravity, the loosening and stiffening of joints and muscles means a woman’s body after giving birth can feel and operate quite differently than before. The diagram highlights the main areas to focus on for correcting your posture and function. You need to perform exercises that do the following: — Stretch and lengthen the following muscles — calves, hip flexors, lower back, pectorals (chest), intercostals (ribs) and upper traps (back of neck) — The muscles that need strengthening are the: quadriceps, glutes (buttocks), abdominals (particularly the transversus abdominis or TVA, upper back muscles (rhomboids, lower traps, posterior deltoid and external rotator cuffs) as well as the neck flexors (longus capitis, longus colli) There are a large number of exercises available to stretch the short and strengthen the weak muscles. To reduce or avoid pain and limit your risk of injury selecting exercises that focus on the above outcomes are the best to choose. It is also extremely important that the exercises you use are low impact with moderate resistance/weight to ensure the safety of your joints. Bodyweight movements (or callisthenics) are the best option because there is no external load to control. Bodyweight exercises improve coordination, proprio-perception (self body awareness), balance, proper function and full range of movement. However, before you do anything, work closely with your doctor, or a qualified postnatal exercise professional, to make sure everything is safe and to determine a proper workout plan. A general rule is to not return to exercise or conduct strenuous physical activity until six weeks after a normal birth. If you have a caesarean delivery (C-Section) you would be advised to wait 12 weeks before beginning an exercise routine. Next month I will explain how to rehabilitate your core after giving birth. 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. | January 2018 Word | 129

medical buff //

homosexuality & health by dr. serge gradstein


et’s leave questions of discrimination aside for a moment and take a look at actual medical issues known to affect men who have sex with men. It’s a statistical truth that homosexual males are subject to a much higher potential of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than straight people and gay women are. Gay Vietnamese men often fear that disclosing their sexual orientation could be damaging to themselves and to their families, and so they are less likely to consult a doctor about their HIV status or about other STIs — being more worried about the impact of the diagnosis than they are about carrying any particular disease itself. It’s in part this reluctance to take the first step in getting a check-up or seeking medical advice that increases the risk of transmission.


There is also a statistically higher tendency among gay males to engage in sex and drug combinations. This dramatically increases the risk of contracting infection, because the drugs can mask the inhibitions that restrain people from risky behaviour, including sexual contact without protection. Many recreational drugs bring on a sense of invulnerability, distorting the way a user appreciates risks in general. Because of this lack of screening and protection, the prevalence of HIV is very high in the gay population in this country, leaving homosexual men with a higher risk of being infected by HIV and other STIs than any other group in Vietnam. A good example of this problem is syphilis. Medical professionals generally

130 | Word January 2018 |

regard this as a historical disease, but syphilis is now making a big comeback, especially among the gay community. I’ve treated many gay patients with primary or secondary syphilis, and I believe many more cases are never diagnosed — especially as the symptoms are easy to miss. Unfortunately, tertiary syphilis is quite an insidious disease that can disfigure an infected patient. My impression is that the prevalence of syphilis in Saigon, and maybe more so in other cities such as Haiphong, is very high. For anatomical reasons, anal sex puts people at a higher risk of contracting HIV, largely because of the breakage of small blood vessels in anal sex compared to vaginal sex. The risk of contracting HIV comes from the quantity of the virus coming in from the infecting side. It depends on the surface exposed and the length of time these surfaces are exposed to the infecting fluid. With anal sex, the receptive side is exposed to infectious body fluid over a longer period of time, which makes the risk of contracting the disease higher. Being a larger mucosal surface, there are more exposed cells that are apt to receive the virus.


Anal sex can be practiced safely with the use of a condom. However, whenever there is an accident such as breakage (or if one is not used) then there is still the possibility to abort an infection by seeking a kind of treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP. In addition, people who are aware of their potential for risk in advance may ask

for PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a combination of two antiretroviral drugs (typically tenofovir and lamivudine under the brand name “Truvada”), taken before there is any contact. Although this is not yet recognized as a treatment in Vietnam, in other countries it is considered to have the potential to end the HIV epidemic. It’s a sad fact that despite good logic and proper education, people still engage in risky sexual behaviour, whether for psychological reasons or because they are under the influence of drugs. Medical opinion abroad holds that with people who do engage in high-risk sexual behaviour, preventive treatment is a worthwhile consideration. In Western countries it is now common practice for doctors to give Truvada to their gay patients, at least those who are obviously at risk. However, the PEP treatment is currently available in Vietnam and is highly effective. It must be taken for 28 days and started as soon as possible after possible exposure — at least within 72 hours, and the sooner the better in terms of efficiency. While this is an effective treatment, correct condom use remains the best defence against the transmission of HIV in both homosexual and heterosexual couples. As is often the case in medicine, prevention is much better than cure. Dr. Serge Gradstein specialises in sexually transmitted infectious diseases following his work at Kaplan Hospital’s largest HIV centre in Israel. He runs a confidential walk-in STI clinic at the Family Medical Practice. For more information on STI screening, please visit or download FMP’s newsletter at

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 | January 2018 Word | 133

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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 | January 2018 Word | 135

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fter three months’ worth of renovation, Square One in Park Hyatt Saigon has reopened to cater once more to its customers’ cravings for artful French cuisine and upscale Vietnamese fare. Two distinct cultures are meshed in a well-designed dining setting achieved by their team of chefs lead by Chef Alexandre Durand and Chef Tran Van Son. Chef Alexandre heads the French bill of fare, having put together a menu which includes their signature dish pâté en croûte (pork and foie gras terrine) for VND280,000, escargots en persillade (snails in parsley butter) that sets you back VND480,000 for six pieces and VND950,000 for a dozen, and quenelles de poisson sauce

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nantua (fish quenelle nantua sauce) priced at VND540,000. Chef Tran Van Son celebrates local flavours in his portion of the menu. Among his favourite dishes and best sellers are the ca hoi Na Uy kho to (Norwegian salmon cooked in a clay pot with Phu Quoc pepper, caramel fish sauce, spring onions, and steamed rice) for VND580,000 and the goi ca hoang de tai chanh (lime-marinated king fish salad with young coconut, red onion, and daikon) which is priced at VND320,000. The starter — rare salmon fillet with Phu Quoc pepper crust, pickled ginger, kumquat fish sauce (ca hoi tam tieu Phu Quoc ap chao tai) sets you back VND295,000. If you are into local Vietnamese

flavours, the the rare salmon with kumquat fish sauce starter is a must. The fish is fresh and soft, while the sweetened ginger and kumquat sauce is refreshing, perfectly complementing the salmon with its subtle, tangy flavour. On the French end, the snails in parsley butter is another best seller; it is light and tasty. Snail tongs and forks are given to avoid a mess making the dish simple yet satisfying. The pâté en croûte is literally translated as pie crust; it is filled with terrine made up of pork, pork jelly, and foie gras, and is an original recipe of Chef Alexandre’s grandfather. The texture of the terrine and crust is unique and goes well with the side salad.

square one


Modern Intimate

Located on the first floor of Park Hyatt Saigon, the entrance to Square One is simple and chic. Once inside, a wide selection of wine is on display to the delight of wine connoisseurs. Next to it is the Cellar Room, one of the three private rooms available at the restaurant. Here, the atmosphere is quite youthful. A long, live edge walnut table is at the centre and could cater to 18 people for a private meeting or gathering. The other two private rooms are called the Kitchen Room as it is next to the kitchen, and the Library Room as it has shelves filled with books. These rooms are for those looking for utmost privacy as they are located at

the far end of the dining area. For the main dining room, choose among their well-styled leather or wooden seats. Here, diners have a view of the separated Vietnamese and French open-kitchens. At the centre sits a bar where you can taste signature cocktails. The drinks have touches of Vietnam as they include ingredients that are abundant in the country like star anise and pineapple. With earthy colours like orange, white, tan, black and hints of gold and silver, Square One sticks to a theme that is at once modern and intimate. The lights coming from the stylish chandeliers are quite dim, but they are contrasted by the

French glass windows and doors that lead to the open-air seating on the balcony. Besides its main menu, Square One at Park Hyatt Saigon serves up set lunches that differ every day. Their set menus also offer a wine list curated and selected by their sommelier, Marie-Charlotte LeGouil. It is available from 11am to 2.30pm and is priced at VND520,000. Dinner is served from 6pm to 10.30pm. — JB Jance Square One is located on the Mezzanine floor of Park Hyatt Saigon, 2 Lam Son Square, Q1. For reservations, call (028) 3824 1234, or email squareone. All prices are subject to 5% service charge and 10% VAT. | January 2018 Word | 137

know your city //

un-franchising saigon by hoanh tran, Ph. D.


pparently the international fast food chains are failing in Saigon. Some have closed their restaurants or cafés and some do not plan to expand, at least in the near future. For me, that is good news on many levels; health, social, cultural and architectural. With a few exceptions, many of these places provide unhealthy food filled with an unhealthy amount of fat, salt and sugar. They displace independent restaurant owners. They compromise our culinary culture and they homogenize our cities.

Franchised Businesses Homogenize Saigon

With an emphasis on efficiency and predictability, franchised restaurants force us to consume predictable food while inhabiting predictable space. Similar to the way the menu and the food recipes are dictated by company headquarters, the architecture must be designed and built according to predetermined designs. Therefore, with a few exceptions, every franchised restaurant must look and smell and feel identical to each other in every way. If Saigon welcomes franchised restaurants and other types of franchised businesses, soon our city would be filled with not only the international McDonald’s and Burger Kings and Subways, but also local franchises like Mon Hue and Pho 24. Soon these big corporations will quickly replace our independent business owners because the corporations can afford the rising rent while the independent business owners cannot afford to double or triple their monthly rent. As a result, Saigon would look and feel just like every other city in the developed world that has given up its character and identity.

Independent Businesses Maintain Saigon’s Heterogeneity Fortunately, for various reasons, many independent cafés, bars and restaurants thrive in Saigon. Without any control from any headquarters, the independent owners compete with one another by providing better products and better designs. The independent businesses are not limited to those catering to Vietnamese food and drinks. Many are locally owned

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An independent look. Maison Marou is an artisanal chocolatier. Their shop was designed by HTA+Pizzini Architects

burger restaurants, pizzerias, gelaterias and microbreweries. There is even a chocolatier making chocolate on the spot using Vietnamese cacao. The designs of these places are distinct. Each place is designed and built specifically to promote the sale of the products the business makes. If Saigon welcomes this type of small independent business, our streets will be occupied by context-specific designed shops. The result is we will continue to enjoy the heterogeneity that Saigon is known for.

Independent Businesses are Sold to Corporations Ironically, some of these successful home-growns are being bought by the

corporations. The economic gain from the selling out must be substantial enough to attract these independent entrepreneurs. L’Usine and 4P’s are examples of good quality businesses being sold to international corporations. How long can they remain good and distinctive? Meanwhile there are still many small independent businesses in Saigon that we can still enjoy. We may have to pay a little extra for their products, but it is a small price to pay to keep Saigon a place filled with choices and possibilities. Hoanh Tran, PhD is a design principal of Hoanh Tran Archie Pizzini Architects. Educated in the US, Hoanh now lives, practices and teaches in Ho Chi Minh City. He can be contacted at

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 | January 2018 Word | 139

the final say tourism


Keeping Up with the Jones’s Vietnam’s tourism sector is booming. Yet to catch up with its near neighbours, much needs to be done. Words by Nick Ross


By the time you read this, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) will have announced its figures for 2017. Based on stats for the year up to November 2017, just short of 13 million tourists will have entered Vietnam in the last 12 months. That means that in five years, numbers have almost doubled. It’s an incredible change. Yet, compared to neighbours like Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong, Vietnam is playing catch-up. According to Euromonitor International, this year Singapore hit 17.6 million visitors. Hong Kong, the most visited city in the world, was up at 25.7 million, with Bangkok a close second at 23.3 million. Cities in Thailand such as Phuket (12.1 million) and Pattaya (7.3 million) were more successful in attracting foreign tourists than Ho Chi Minh

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City (5.5 million) and Hanoi (4.3 million). Over 2 million jobs in Vietnam are connected to the tourism industry, and the industry accounts for 10% of the country’s total GDP. All making tourism vital to the economic health of Vietnam. Yet looking at the success of Vietnam’s neighbours it’s clear that this country can achieve much more. Here are some ideas on what needs to be done to improve the figures.

PHOTO BY JESS MEADOWS | January 2018 Word | 141

Substantial improvements have been made to this country’s roads. A number of expressways have been built, shortening travel times particularly to places like Sapa. However, travel times remain slow and the roads are dangerous, making it difficult to link up with regional cities in Vietnam. This restricts the majority of tourism to the key hubs up and down Highway 1. Thailand and Malaysia have dealt with this problem by improving their highways. Access between cities in both countries is now fast and hassle-free, opening up a number of new destinations to tourism. The more options there are for tourists, the more likely they are to come back.

2) Ease visa restrictions

That small barrier to entering Vietnam can put people off, even if it only means paying US$45 to get across the border. So do the same as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and give people from a wide range of nations 30-day visa free entry to Vietnam. The country will see an instant increase in visitors. Yes, a visa waiver is in the pipeline for tourists flying direct to Phu Quoc, but it’s not enough. Nor is the 15-day visa-free entry for nationals from countries like the UK, Russia and Germany. With only two weeks to spare, they skip out the minor destinations and spend less money in Vietnam.


3) Air travel

The present-day aviation sector in Vietnam is a success story. More international airlines are flying into Vietnam, the national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, is working hard to up its game, and budget carriers like VietJet Air and Jetstar are opening up new routes. However, to really bring in the tourists, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi need to become regional flight hubs. At present this is impossible due to airport capacity. Noi Bai in Hanoi is built to handle 25 million passengers; in 2016 it hit close to 21 million. In the same 12-month period, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok was handling 56 million passengers while Hong Kong Airport was at 70.5 million. There’s no room for expansion. Tan Son Nhat is presently operating over capacity, leading to huge queues and flight congestion. Fortunately, over the next seven or eight years, two new terminals will be added enabling the airport to increase its passenger capacity to 53 million. This will give Ho Chi Minh City the potential to become an international transport hub. However, it’s not just capacity that’s important. More competition needs to be allowed in the aviation market, meaning more airlines operating domestic and international flights to and from Vietnam. And expensive flight routes from places like Hanoi to Vientiane and Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh need to be deregulated. On this front, present changes augur well.

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According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association in 2016, of the 90 percent of foreign visitors to Vietnam who are first-timers, only six percent visit again. Thailand’s return rate is 50 percent

1) Improve Road Travel

explain what’s in a dish or a cocktail. But rarely do service staff give you surly looks or treat you with disdain; you’re far more likely to get a smile. And these days, rarely do you see restaurants serving up ‘hambuggers’ or ‘fried crap with noodle’. Unfortunately, except for people like ourselves who always wax lyrical about this country’s cuisine, little effort is made to promote it as a reason to visit this country. One of the pleasures of travelling to Vietnam is the food. Market the hell out of it!

6) Events and Business

In the last 12 months VietJet Air has opened up routes to Phnom Penh and Hong Kong, adding budget options to journeys that costwise have been prohibitive.

4) Reasons to Come

Forget the innuendos. The ‘Hidden Charm’ marketing of the past 15 years has served Vietnam well. By marketing Vietnam as a cultural destination with beautiful scenery, tourists come once, see, experience, do Vietnam and never come back. According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) in 2016, of the 90 percent of foreign visitors to Vietnam who are first-timers, only six percent visit again. Thailand’s return rate is 50 percent. What Vietnam needs is a hook, something to make people return. Why do people travel to the Mediterranean, Bali, the Caribbean or Thailand for their holidays? It’s the holiday, beachside lifestyle. The parties, the food and drink, the sunsets, the quality of the facilities, the shopping. It’s all here, particularly in places like Hoi An, Nha Trang and Phu Quoc, but outside of Russia, South Korea and China, people overseas don’t really know about it. The ‘Hidden Charm’ marketing is important, but so is lifestyle marketing. If the authorities can start pushing the lifestyle, then return rates will increase substantially.

How many people fly into Vietnam to, let’s say, run a marathon, or go and see an A-list singer or band perform to 50,000 people? Very few. Instead, they’ll fly to Singapore or Bangkok. Is there a Disneyland or a Universal Studios like there is in Hong Kong and Singapore? What about the Formula 1? And what about work? How many multinationals use Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi for their main offices in Southeast Asia? Not many. Instead, as a way to live long-term in Vietnam, increasing numbers of expats are setting up their own businesses. Make it easier for large foreign companies to set up and operate a business in Vietnam. Change the process for granting licenses for ‘cultural events’. Support more largescale events like marathons and sporting competitions, and you have a knock-on effect on tourism. This also has an indirect effect on GDP. This country has a lot going for it. Yet, to become one of the hottest tourist destinations in the region, Vietnam needs to make many changes. The more quality attractions this country has that can not only attract people in the first place, but keep them coming back, the better it will be for tourism, and more importantly, the economy of Vietnam.

5) Mon An Viet Nam

Anyone who’s travelled extensively in this region will tell you that in terms of street food, Vietnam is up there with Thailand and Malaysia. It’s cheap, it’s tasty, and if you know where to go, it’s hygienic, too. Yes, service can sometimes be an issue — especially in terms of staff being able to | January 2018 Word | 143

the final say ten10 NHA TRANG

TK Nguyen One of the brains behind Skylight in Nha Trang, TK Nguyen talks F&B and his adopted hometown. What’s your working background?


I started in 2002 as a hip-hop dancer at shows and clubs around San Diego. In 2004, I started promoting nightclubs tying in the dance community and party goers and eventually took over Victory Nightlife to work with many of the key nightclubs in San Diego’s Gaslamp District. In 2009, I became the ambassador for Hennessy in Hollywood. At 26 years old, it was my dream job. Doors opened, I started emceeing large shows, doing national commercial spots for Pizza Hut and Nissan, and throwing exclusive parties. I was always interested in the hospitality industry. So, when I was 30, I changed careers and got work as an intern at the W Hotel Hollywood. It was a humbling experience going from being Mr. Hennessy to being an intern in the housekeeping department. From there I knew I wanted to become a hotelier.

What brought you to Nha Trang?

I went to Nha Trang to open up a boutique hotel. However, that quickly changed in 2014 once I stepped foot on the vacant rooftop of Havana Nha Trang Hotel.

Where did you get the idea for Skylight from?

All the major cities around Asia have iconic rooftop destinations. Nha Trang needed one, too. Despite my goal at the time, the nightlife industry was where my expertise lay. When we first discovered Havana Nha Trang Hotel’s rooftop, we instantly fell in love. We saw the property on the Monday and signed the lease on the Friday.

What makes Skylight so unique?

Yes. Wherever you go, people always want to visit the tallest buildings with the most spectacular views.

How do you keep Skylight ‘fresh’ so that customers want to come back again and again?

It’s all about our team — they are the ones who create the memorable experiences that make our guest want to return. We tell our staff, it’s “easy” to get people to come to your place once, but how do you get them to come back? That’s the difference between being just another skybar and becoming a premier destination in Southeast Asia.

If you were to be showing someone around Nha Trang, where would you take them?

If I had 24 hours, I would start by visiting Long Son Pagoda and Po Nagar Temple. I would grab lunch at LIVINCollective before heading over to the mud baths at iResort. I would get a deep tissue massage afterwards at Pure Vietnam Beauty & Spa, then make my way over to Chef’s Club at Skylight for dinner followed by drinks at the Rooftop Beach Club. Eventually I would head to the after-party at Sailing Club before ending the night with some late-night pho across from Nha Trang train station.

How well is Nha Trang competing for tourist dollars?

With the addition of world class venues and hospitality brands, standards here are on the up and the city is evolving thanks to projects like Ana Marina Yacht Club and JW Marriott.

What actions have people taken to increase the number of tourists coming to the city?

The biggest impact will be felt once the new International Airport Terminal at Cam Ranh opens up in April 2018. Not only will it open up more direct flights and expand our existing marketing, but it’ll enable Nha Trang to welcome over 5 million tourists every year.

How bright is the future of tourism in Nha Trang? I wouldn’t have moved to Nha Trang if I didn’t believe in its future.

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Although there are plenty of skybars in Vietnam, Skylight Nha Trang is the first rooftop beach club. Our goal was to bring the beach to new heights by providing an elevated nightlife experience in the sky. Skylight is made up of three different areas: a 360-degree Skydeck, a Chef’s Club Restaurant, and a Rooftop Beach Club. This is what makes it so unique.

Was it your intention to make the viewing deck at Skylight a tourist attraction?


Word Vietnam January 2018  
Word Vietnam January 2018  

Happy hours, set lunches, destinations for 2018, barbers, things to do with kids and so much more. The best of Vietnam