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T he Motorcyc le Diaries

Contents Sep.2016




THE TALK 010 / The Full Package

Foreigners need to up their game

011 / The Big Five

September in Vietnam

BRIEFINGS 12 / The Party of the Century Word celebrates 100 issues

14 / The Burger Challenge

Can you eat a 2kg burger in less than 30 minutes? Owen Salisbury couldn’t

16 / Shutta

It’s not Flappy Bird, but it’s been developed in Vietnam

20 / The Best Bus in Hanoi

Just in case you wanted to use public transport

2 | Word September 2016 |

24 / Battling the Sharks

Vietnam trials 4G. Will it make a difference?

INSIDER 52 / Keeping it in the Family Three generations, one business

116 / Top Eats Hanoi

This month: Don’s Tay Ho

118 / Banh My Pho Hue

Banh my without all the bling

120/ Mystery Diner HCMC Monsoon gets the thumbs up

58 / The Homestay Experience 122 / A Taste from the Past In search of authenticity

Pho sold as it used to be

64 / The Motorcycle Diaries Che Guevara would have been proud. Well, maybe not

96 / The District 2 Special

There’s something a-brewing over Saigon Bridge

EAT & DRINK 110 / Hidden Gems

Our favourite dishes in our favourite places

122 | September 2016 Word | 3

Contents Sep.2016





38 / Just In

124 / The Art & Architecture of Georgetown

164 / HCMC City Guide

A trip to multicultural Penang

178 / Bar Stool

132 / The Abandoned Valley

182 / Coffee Cup

Phong Nha gets a new day trip. It’s breathtaking

HANOI 42 / To-Do List 48 / Just In 144 / Hanoi City Guide 152 / Bar Stool 154 / Coffee Cup 162 / City Map HCMC 32 / To-Do List

4 | Word September 2016 |

186 / Top Eats 192 / City Map COLUMNS 148 / The Alchemist 150 / The Therapist 158 / Medical Buff

172 / Location, Location, Location 190 / Know Your City FINAL SAY 194 / Bike to the Future? Can anything dethrone the motorbike?

198 / Road Tripping

10 ways to keep your road trip from falling apart

200 / Ten 10

Business owner and travel industry pioneer, Ben Mitchell

160 / A World of Good 161 / Book Buff 170 / Body and Temple 200


This month we asked our team to tell us about their best travel experience in Vietnam HARRY HODGE Contributor I went to Hanoi for what was supposed to be a three-day weekend and ended up spending a month there filming a travel show. I stayed in the Old Quarter and walked past Hoan Kiem Lake to work every day, and spent Tet there too. It was an unexpected working holiday, and gave me a good memory of the city.

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


VU HA KIM VY Editorial Manager

MADS MONSEN Creative Director

JULIE VOLA Photo Editor

SIAN KAVANAGH Staff Writer Kayaking in Halong Bay. The scenery was breathtaking and beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. It was such a thrill to explore the islands and caves.

BAO ZOAN Staff Photographer


RODNEY HUGHES Staff Photographer


JULIE VOLA Photo Editor No trip is completely perfect, but for me it would have to be that time when I went to the Mekong Delta, but you know what? You can read all about it in our cover story. :)

JESSE MEADOWS Staff Writer (Hanoi)

NGUYEN LOC Layout Designer

MADS MONSEN Creative Director When I first moved to Vietnam, my dad came over and we went on an epic trip, just the two of us together. Wonderful memories, including standing on the back of a jeep in Dalat and almost getting decapitated by a wire as the driver did not realise that tall Norwegians are even taller than the jeep when forced to stand behind it. It all went well in the end. JESSE MEADOWS Staff Writer Swimming in Pongour Falls near Dalat, one of those places that feels like a dream. I still swoon when I think about it. ZOE OSBORNE Contributor The first time I went back to my boyfriend’s hometown. I had never been in the Mekong Delta before and when I came to Tra Vinh his beautiful family totally immersed me in their way of life — it was my first time preparing canh chua, eating dog, looking after cows, etc. I learnt how to fish like his family, and we cooked cashew nuts by the river.


TRANG LE Chief Accountant


CHAU GIANG Office Assistant



For advertising enquiries please call Ms Bao on +84 938 609689 or Ms Trinh on +84 936 269244

Special thanks to Pullman Hotel, Shutta, Zoe Osborne, Bennett Murray, Theo Lowenstein, Vietnam Coracle, Harry Hodge, Edward Dalton, Tan My, Over the Saigon Bridge, Matthew Cowan, Tran Cam Thu, Vi Pham, Jungle Boss, Karen Gay, Douglas Howerda, Lantern Lounge, Typograf Cafe, Bpris Lopatin, Dr. Brian McNaul, Dana McNairn, Truong Hoang, Phil Kelly, Greg Ohan, Piu Piu, Michael Palumbo, 5Ku Station, Ed Haysom, Ben Mitchell and David Legard

Word is a registered trademark. No content may be reproduced in any form without prior authorisation of the owners.

NICK ROSS Chief Editor Undoubtedly my trip to Hang En, the third largest cave in the world. Sleeping on a beach in a cave home to 100,000 swallows was sublime.

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

CHUYÊN ĐỀ DU LỊCH & ẨM THỰC ISBN: 978-604-77-2498-7

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hile I was travelling this month I heard an excellent quote that sums up the expat experience. “As an expat you’ve got all the freedom but no rights, at home you’ve got all the rights but no freedom.” Credited to a Hoi Anbased American expat, Karl Christ, for me the ultimate evocation of that freedom is the road trip. There is something thrilling about having

horrendous injuries. The day before I left Phong Nha for my own road trip, one of the guests in the place I was staying had an accident. They were with a group of friends who that morning had hired motorbikes for the first time. Advice is constantly dished out in Phong Nha about safety on a motorbike; don’t wear flip-flops, put on proper shoes; make sure you have on long sleeves and long trousers; put on sunscreen; make sure you drink lots of water; don’t drive drunk. And so on. Yet sometimes expats seem unwilling to give up that notion of ‘freedom’ and, young people being young people, ignore every aspect of safety. In this

instance, the person who had that accident broke their leg and left in a taxi to the international hospital in Hue with their foot hanging off. If you’ve lived in Vietnam for some time you will likely know someone who’s had a bike accident or will have had one yourself. You may even know people who’ve been killed — I unfortunately know well over 10. So if you are going to do a road trip, and if you are going to stimulate that sense of freedom evoked by the open road, take care. Your life is valuable. So don’t throw it away. Unless you’re a cat or believe in reincarnation, you only have one of them. — Nick Ross, Chief Editor


T he Motorcyc le Diaries



the wind in your eyes and hair, and driving down country roads surrounded by untouched jungle and soaring mountains. Anyone who has been on a motorbike trip themselves, or watched the Top Gear Vietnam Special or The Motorcycle Diaries will understand what I mean. The biggest danger in a road trip, of course, is the possibility of having an accident. Statistically, you’re 40 times more likely to be killed on a motorbike than you are in a car. Time and time again you hear stories of backpackers — motopackers we now call them — getting on a bike for the first time to ride from North to South or South to North, and coming away with


THIS MONTH'S COVER Design by DH Advertising Photo by Nick Ross

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

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

Time to Fact Check

Get it Right, Please

Pages 130 and 160, August 2016 “At Dalat’s 200-year-old railway station, you can climb aboard a steam locomotive bound for Trai Mat 7km away; a great little ride for steam train nuts like me.” Just thought I should point out that Dalat station was built in 1936, not 1816. The French weren’t even here then and Stephenson didn’t build his Rocket until 1829. Also, there are no working steam locomotives in Dalat, the trains are hauled by diesels. — Tim Doling

Notes From Another City, page 130, August 2016 I find Don Wills’ article about Dalat misrepresentational for a couple of reasons. The ‘flowery’ reputation of Dalat has been over-ramped by local culture, rather like stolen or over Photoshopped photos of food on a menu, which are then followed by food that disappoints as it arrives. In Asia, ritual seeps through all aspects of a life, and the fantasy of climbing up to the plateau of flowers, fresh air, the lakes and marriage photos provide an airy dream for people to look forward to. Dalat provides holidaymakers’ basics — an affordable bed, street food and the night market. Authenticity isn’t their goal. Rather, a place for relief and endless hanging out with friends, family or the [betrothed]. The authorities like that. It’s manageable. Dalat also comes with a diverse history and a range of things worthy of note. The Dalat Palace Hotel, for example, is believed by some to be

Word is usually an excellent read for the factual local tripper. However, your August issue contained some glaring errors. Page 130, Dalat Railway Station. It’s 78 years old and operates a diesel train to Trai Mat, not a steam train. Page 160, “Strikes East of Saigon to Thai Son”. Thai Son is northwest of Saigon, not east. — Chris Evans

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Dalat Train Station

Full Steam Ahead

The once-upon-a-time hub of the cog railway that ran from Dalat to Phan Rang

Inside the steam train running from Dalat to Trai Mat


’m in two minds about Dalat. Sure it’s been dubbed ‘Le Petit Paris’ and ‘The City of Eternal Spring’, the scenery is spectacular, and it’s Vietnam’s most popular honeymoon spot, but as I explored the region I kept thinking to myself that maybe I’d have been better off going to Sa Pa or Mui Ne or Nha Trang instead. Perhaps if I’d been on my honeymoon I’d have had a different perspective on things. It’s not that I particularly disliked the place; it’s just that I didn’t particularly fall in love with it either. Dalat is situated on a 1,500-metre high plateau in the central highlands of Vietnam, seven hours from Ho Chi Minh City. Its surrounding mountains have prompted many people to liken the area to the French Alps. Fields of flowers, waterfalls, coffee and tea plantations, hectares of pine forests (‘The City of 1000 Pines’ is yet another of Dalat’s names), vegetable gardens and fruit plantations are among the things that draw many visitors to the region. The area attracts 800,000 domestic tourists a year, and a smaller number of foreign

130 | Word August 2016 |

tourists — 80,000 to be exact. The climate is temperate all year round, the air is fresh, the skies are blue, and the rolling foothills of the countryside are lush and green.

Big Attractions

By Don Wills

The city is renowned for its marigold, hydrangea and orchid gardens. In the centre of the city is the artificial Xuan Huong Lake, created in the mid-1980s. Dalat’s attractions include the market, the Domaine de Marie Convent where a pink church sits atop a hill, the Valley of Love, the Lake of Sighs, Thien Vien Truc Lam Monastery which can be accessed by cable car, and Tuyen Lam Lake, also man-made. At Dalat’s 200-year-old railway station, you can climb aboard a steam locomotive bound for Trai Mat 7km away; a great little ride for steam train nuts like me. In the centre of the city there’s a surreal building dubbed The Crazy House. It is actually a guest-house, and resembles a cross between a medieval castle and a troglodyte’s abode. The interior is every bit as out-of-this-world as the exterior. Dalat City has many buildings with



You’ve Been Flagged


A train attendant manages the crossing in the village of Trai Mat

Dalat is famous for its coffee, flowers, fruit and vegetables

French-era architecture, hotels from two-star and up, Vietnamese and ethnic restaurants, bars, and a few nightclubs and discos. Dalat’s nightlife is best described as muted. What little excitement there is fizzles out by around 10.30pm, which is kind of surprising for a city that attracts so many visitors. Fun City, it ain’t.

Big Game Back in the 1950s, Dalat was a Mecca for big-game hunters. Deer, roe, wild boar, black bear, wildcats, panthers, tigers, gaurs and elephants were all in abundance, and were eagerly hunted down by gun-happy sportsmen from across the world. Now all of the animals have now been wiped out. The only present-day reminder of the big-game era is a few mounted heads you’ll see on walls here and there. Sad, but a situation that’s happened all too often in many countries. To my mind, Dalat is worth spending one or two days in, but more than that — not for me, thanks. On a rating of one to ten, I’d give it… ooh… a four. If it wasn’t for the steam train I’d give it a three.

So how come I’m not as enthused with Dalat as most visitors seem to be? It’s difficult to put a finger on it. When I was there I kept looking for something more, something unique, something memorable, that would have me gasping “Oooh! Ahh! Wow! This I’ve gotta tell the folks back home about!” But none of that happened. The place left me vaguely dissatisfied. I don’t know about you, but artificial lakes and

vegetable gardens don’t push any of my buttons. Nor do acres of pine trees, for that matter. OK, the flower gardens are good, but only for about five minutes. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m all travelled-out this year. I might just have to go back and give the place a second try next year. Born in New Zealand, Don Wills lives in Vung Tau. He’s been writing his way round the region for decades

Dalat City has many buildings with French-era architecture, hotels from two-star and up, Vietnamese and ethnic restaurants, bars, and a few nightclubs and discos. Dalat’s nightlife is best described as muted | August 2016 Word | 131

the first building in Dalat. It’s ornate, art nouveau and although it was later stripped to simplicity and renamed, the inside was beautifully restored by Larry Hillblom from DHL. There’s a whole story in that as well. The point is there’s a lot of history in Dalat: the lonely Ankroet Power Station, Buddhas carved from wood over 600 years ago in one of the local temples; the old Lycee Francaise; the personal collection of local tools, weapons, instruments of anthropologist Pierre Morere (his grandfather was the first person to plant coffee trees in Dalat). The depth of Dalat is disguised and it takes time to see the actuality. — Tim Carson | September 2016 Word | 9

Talk Lead O

nce upon a time, Asia was The Wild East, where misfits could recreate themselves overnight, even at a corporate level. Remember the label FILTH, or Failed in London, Try Hong Kong? That doesn’t wash any more. Asia might have been a bolthole for corporate no-hopers back then, but with economic and social development now so rapid, demands on expats to measure up have increased, and the places where you can go to be a screw-up have shrunk. The Wild East is being tamed, country by country, province by province. Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia now make it clear that they want quality, contributing expats, not malfunctioning eyesores who knock down the local culture while embarrassing their own. The openness of Thailand has meant that it has long been a hospice for unrepentant losers, but even that is changing under the present regime. Visa runs for the serial tourist? Not any more, my friend. See that big red stamp in your passport?

Papers, Please Word sees a lot of the downside, being in the journalism business — one of the ‘soft’ options. Sure, they say, I can write. Sure, I can take photos, and, being a world citizen as well as a Western male, I have no problems taking orders from your female, Vietnamese, editorial manager. They can write, but not what you asked for; they can take photos, but not the ones you wanted, and as for being subordinate to our editorial manager, forget it. They can’t do it. Worse, they then deny it’s an issue. “I have 100 staff, of whom two are foreigners,” said one (actually several) of the business owners we’ve talked to. “We spend more time dealing with the issues of working with the foreigners than with the rest of the staff put together.” Foreigners with skills are still needed

10 | Word September 2016 |



The Full Package Vietnam’s rapid development is forcing foreigners to up their game and indeed embraced in Vietnam, but expats with only one attribute — a sense of personal entitlement — are going to find the going here increasingly sticky. Vietnam is changing so quickly, it’s not surprising that the role of expats here is also changing. Many of us remember the brigades of charming losers to be seen sitting outside on stools in Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon or in the dive bars in Hanoi, drinking cheap beer until it was time for their next English teaching class. Many of them were delightful people, full of entertaining yarns and unhealed regrets, and most of them were totally useless, which was perhaps how they preferred it. But modern economic times don’t have much space for them. Regulations have tightened and enforcement improved, leaving expats the choice of shaping up or shipping out, as they say. To get on here, there are three broad categories.

Walk The Talk First, you can still make it as an Englishlanguage teacher — the formal requirement now is that you have a university degree and a TEFL or CELTA certificate. But if you don’t

take your work seriously, and everyone sees that you treat teaching as simply a chore, and a way to earn beer money, expect to find yourself out on your ear within a few months. Second, you go for gainful employment in a different sector. But to survive you’ve got to be the full package. This doesn’t just mean showing talent; you must be a good communicator, you need a tolerance of how things are done here, you’ve got to be dynamic and responsible, and you must demonstrate you’re worth the salary. The final option, which is increasingly attractive in what is more than ever a land of opportunity, is to go into business for yourself. Increasing numbers of foreigners are taking this route. Some succeed, some fail, and some are just lucky. The issue here is not just finding the right niche, but exploiting that niche to its full. This is no longer the Wild East, where anything goes, and as Vietnam grows more confident and outward-looking, and as its people gain more worldly experience, unless you’re the full package or you decide to go it on your own, you will struggle to make it here. — David Legard / Nick Ross

Big5 The

British bigwigs, dance festivals, German movies and a run for charity





Lord Mandelson

Lord Mandelson weighs up the pros and cons of Brexit

Kaiser Souzai are big, so big they’ve even got their own genre

This year’s Hanoi Dance Festival will be staged both in the capital and Ho Chi Minh City




Le Meridien Saigon, HCMC Thursday, Sep. 8 Once known us the spin doctor who pulled strings for Tony Blair, Lord Mandelson will be in Saigon this month to provide his own perspective on Brexit. Industry experts will also be on hand at this joint BBGV and Eurocham function to discuss the Vietnamese and regional implications of the vote. For anyone intrigued by the impact of the decisions made by the world’s fifth largest economy, this should be afascinating event. Global Implications of Brexit: A Special Talk with Lord Mandelson will take place from 11.45am to 1.30pm on Sep. 8, 2016. For further info and to book your place, turn to page 32

The German Film Festival Hanoi, Hai Phong, Hue, Danang and HCMC 2 Sep. 8 to Sep. 25 Eight films will be screened at this year’s German Film Festival, offering a versatile mix of dramas, thrillers, comedies and children’s movies. A highlight is expected to be the emotionally charged 2015 film Victoria from director Sebastian Schipper, with its heavy use of improvisation by the actors and its real-time emphasis. Now in its seventh year, the festival will be shown in five cities: Hanoi, Hai Phong, Hue, Danang

and Ho Chi Minh City. Tickets are free and the films are screened in German with English and Vietnamese subtitles. For information on the complete schedule in all cities visit german-filmfestival-vietnam


Kaiser Souzai Hanoi Rock City, Hanoi Saturday, Sep. 10

Courtesy of Luminous Showcase, Hanoi Rock City will be the venue for an international DJ duo that have made waves both on the Berlin underground and more recently internationally with their live performances. With a name that has echoes of the fictional character, Keyser Söze, from the cult 1995 movie The Usual Suspects, over the years Kaiser Souzai have established a musical genre all of their own — Art-rock Tech. Drawing influence from 1970s greats such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, while keeping to their roots of deep and progressive techno, their sound hit dancefloors across the globe by storm in 2014 and 2015. The journey saw them end their New Zealand tour headlining alongside the legendary Carl Cox. Kaiser Souzai are big. But will they be big enough for Hanoi Rock City (27/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi)? Find out on Sep. 10. Entrance is VND150,000 (VND130,000 concessions) and includes a free welcome drink.

Europe Dances Into Asia 4

Hanoi and HCMC Sep. 21 to Sep. 27

The sixth Hanoi Dance Festival, coordinated by the Goethe-Institut, has as this year’s theme “Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance”. Over six days, audiences in Hanoi can experience contemporary dance in a variety of styles from different countries: Germany, France, Israel, Japan, Austria as well as the host country Vietnam. The festival will then move to Ho Chi Minh City for three days from Sep. 25 to Sep. 27. Tickets cost VND100,000 and information about each day’s programme is available at

BBGV Fun Run 5

Phu My Hung, HCMC Sunday, Sep. 25

Now in its 16th year, The BBGV Annual Charity Fun Run is back to raise money for disadvantaged people throughout Vietnam. The perfect opportunity for team building, bonding with friends or family, all the while assisting the disadvantaged and elderly, this year’s 4km run will take place in Phu My Hung and 9,000 runners are expected to take part. For more information about how to get involved contact Nga at nga., call (08) 3829 8430 or go to The run takes place from 7am to 10.30am and will start at Tan Trao, Phu My Hung, Q7, HCMC | September 2016 Word | 11

Briefings National

The Party of the Century


t Word we’re known for our modesty, which is why to celebrate 100 issues of our humble publication we staged the party of all parties at the end of July. We called it The Party of the Century. The venue? Boudoir Lounge in the Sofitel Plaza Saigon. The invitees? Clients, readers, friends and in fact anyone who has a connection to our beautiful magazine. The outcome? A night of great

12 | Word September 2016 |

food, freeflow beer, prosecco provided by Red Apron (it went fast) and Bols vodka and John Henry mixers courtesy of Alchemy. In all, a wild night infused with the Latin rock tunes of Bad Neighbor and fueled by the hedonistic party desires of our guests. But a step back. 100 issues. We hit the century of monthly deadlines and monthly copies of Word back in April. In retrospect, the feat is quite hard to get our heads around

— the late nights, the stress, the pain, the laughter, the fun, the fatigue. Not once, twice or 10 times. But 100. That’s a lot of sleepless nights. Dear reader, we couldn’t have done this without you. Dear client, you too. And dear members of the team at Word both past and present. Without you all and all your sweat, we wouldn’t have been doing this for almost nine years. Time to make it a decade.

PHOTOS BY WORD VIETNAM | September 2016 Word | 13

Briefings The Burger Challenge HCMC


t’s time.” The bearer walks in to cheers and groans. Flags flutter from the burden she carries. My fellow competitors and I share a look of mixed anticipation and desperation. “We,” I say, “are definitely screwed.” Today, I’m a gladiator, and my enemy is two kilograms of burger, bun, bacon and cheese. And I am totally screwed. Food competitions are not my thing. I’ve never gotten the idea of competitive eating, preferring to enjoy the taste of my food rather than having to purge it all back up. It seems a waste, and frankly unpleasant to endure. So naturally when Word’s publisher asked me if I wanted to do the Pullman Hotel’s challenge at their new pop-up Burger Bar, I said yes immediately. Why else work at a magazine if not to do stuff outside your comfort zone?

The Fight of My Life Once I’ve accepted, I’m unsure how to proceed, and I spend an instructive several

14 | Word September 2016 |

Can you eat a 2kg burger in 30 minutes?

days researching how to stretch one’s stomach, open one’s throat, and cram potentially fatal amounts of food down the latter and into the former. I discover “Prince” Kobayashi Takeru, the skinny little Japanese rock-star of global eating contests, who once put away 62 slices of pizza in 12 minutes. He embodies the Japanese national spirit of taking things way too far, but I study his technique and expand my stomach with water and my mind with gruelling YouTube sessions. The day arrives. I show up at the Pullman, and meet the other competitors, each hopeful of earning a year’s worth of free burgers. There are two other expats — one an American, the other an MMA fighter who has been in Vietnam for all of two weeks — and one chubby Vietnamese guy who doesn’t speak English. We chat nervously until The Moment. After that, it’s all business.

2 Kilos of Heaven Let’s get something out of the way: the

burger is excellent in every respect. It’s a kilo of prime Wagyu beef, juicy and rich, with 250 grams each of crispy bacon and sharp, melted cheddar, with lettuce, tomato and bun making up the rest. Were it a normal size, I’d have happily chowed the whole thing down. But the sheer mass intimidates me. It looks as big as a hubcap. However, this is for a noble purpose, so I get to work. At first, I shovel away, but quickly flag. The Vietnamese guy slows drastically, too, the only one to do worse than I. Beef flies into the mouth of the other American at an amazing clip. The MMA fighter works his burger with fork and knife. I quickly run into a problem of mechanics. I simply can’t chew and swallow fast enough. Used to long, luxurious meals, my jaw muscles are clearly not up to the task. My pace slows. We soon gather a crowd. A middleaged Indian fellow starts taking bets. I get


terrible odds, partly because I waste time and jaw-power bantering with him. Six minutes in, I realize there’s no way on Earth I will win. Being fully accurate, I realised that the moment I signed up, but I retained the faintest spark of hope I’d get out with my pride intact. At a generous estimate, I manage about 400 grams, mostly beef and cheese. I barely touch the bacon, hewn from the belly of a mighty swine. The bun is a mountain of carbs, the cheese a heart-stopping mass of warm, melted cheddar. The patty is a wheel of Wagyu beef the size, as I said, of a monster truck’s hubcap, and for all my massive bites and frantic chewing, I’ve done barely a fifth of it. The lettuce, though: I eat all the lettuce, because I will not be beaten by a vegetable (the unfinished mound of tomatoes are technically fruits. Take that, doubters.)

A Victor Emerges But the other American — he does it. I’m

stunned and proud; I feel honoured to stand in the same room as Mr. Charles Raezer, who ate 2,000 grams of food in 32.5 minutes. Raezer, a longtime Ho Chi Minh City resident, didn’t train. He simply didn’t eat for 24 hours before, and then managed to push through the pain. The crowd cheers. I see men shaking hands, women crying and hugging. The Pullman staff salute Charles, who not only wins a free burger a month for the next year, but also doesn’t have to pay one million dong for the burger like us losers. He shakes the hand of the Pullman Hotel’s managers; marketing, assistant, the main man himself. I watch and occasionally take cruddy pictures on my phone.

Aftermath I notice the MMA guy is still picking at his food long after the competition ends. He seems to be enjoying himself. My burger is still there, mocking me

with how much is left. “Hey,” says the MMA fighter. “Can I take your bacon?” Since I can’t imagine ever eating again, I allow him to stuff all 250 grams into a doggie bag and saunter off. He looks happy. Competitive eating is not for the faint nor unhealthy of heart, and I’m not likely to ever venture into it again, but I’ve learnt something from the experience. It is this: I cannot eat two kilos of food in 30 minutes, not even such a fantastic burger. Not even with training. Kobayashi-san would be so disappointed, but at least I’m not in the Darwin Awards. And yes, I loved every bite. — Owen Salisbury Think you can do better? The challenge is ongoing and you can also check out the Burger Bar’s massive array of burgers on the ground floor of the Pullman Hotel, 148 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, HCMC. The challenge costs VND999,000 unless you finish the burger in less than 30 minutes. Then it’s free of charge | September 2016 Word | 15

Briefings National

Shutta An app developed in Vietnam that’s created a storm


n an online world dominated by the social media giants Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, it’s hard to imagine developing a new social platform. But the team at Shutta have discovered, with the right idea in the right place at the right time, anything can happen. Their app allows for beautifully captured moments of intense action, something that not every smartphone user can achieve purely with the device in their hand, even using the burst function. During the 2013 Festival of Colours in Tarifa, Spain, James Shimell was trying to capture the perfect photograph on his smartphone but kept missing the moment. “I decided to shoot video and extract the perfect photo that way,” says James. “Though I realised there was no effective way to capture the perfect photograph from a video without losing quality of the still.” So James decided to create his own tool to capture images from video, and Shutta was born. Shutta really came to life during beta testing in early 2015, and has since grown from an initial audience of 7,000 to a current community of 700,000. The app has been present on the iPhone market for the past 15 months, and last month they finished up their Android release.

Intensity “The Android uptake has been good but challenging,” says Barbara Ximenez, cofounder of Shutta. “Purely because there are so many devices and screens you have to design for.” Even so, the intense Android

development has paid off, as Shutta is the only video-to-photo extraction app available on multiple platforms. What started as a standalone tool for photo extraction became a community after user feedback. Users were asking for editing capabilities as well as a built-in platform to share their stills. “This was a time before Snapchat, Periscope or Facebook Live had really taken off,” says Barbara. “It wasn’t common for people to be predominantly shooting video, but the act of scrolling through video in slomo is extremely addictive.” James, Barbara and the Shutta project eventually came to find their home in Vietnam. “Coming [to Vietnam] helped us get inspired and continue with what we were doing,” says James. “Everyone here has a project and there is this contagious energy.” Vietnam is also home to many talented, young developers, with 14 universities in Ho Chi Minh City alone offering computer science degrees.

Mission Alert A unique feature of the app is the missions which are designed to give users motivation and rewards for posting. Each mission offers a unique prize for the best photograph, and they cover different themes and events. For their Android release, they gave away a Samsung Galaxy S7, as one of the hundreds of models they spent so much time developing for. When you talk to any of the team members, you can tell that the day job is still their passion project. Every opportunity they

have to discuss, explain and use the app is well used. “The app is fantastic, but it’s the team that is truly remarkable,” says Barbara. “The people behind Shutta are all co-parenting the project with the same pride and dedication.” At a recent event at Saigon Outcast, the team turned up together, cameras and phones in hand, shooting plenty of footage to be used for social media posts later on. They spent their day sipping beer and playing games while filming each other and joking around. They were working, but to the untrained eye this was just a group of friends enjoying an afternoon together. “It’s all really clicked,” says James. “It makes working easier when you’re being silly and having a laugh, and it’s difficult to convince our users that we’re out there having fun if we’re really not.” Part of the laid-back work culture is the weekly BBQ gathering that the Shutta team hosts. They’ve nicknamed themselves the Not Yet Dead Poets Society and bring over their friends every Friday to celebrate the weekend with food and cold beer. Now, they want to expand the fun across the globe; firstly by taking ‘Poets’ to Hawaii, and inviting some of their most active users to a regular community party to thank them for their participation in the development of Shutta. When you download Shutta you get an app that offers the ease of having beautiful photos without the stress of perfect timing, and a new community of active, excited and engaged photographers. — Siân Kavanagh To learn more about the app go to


Briefings HCMC

The Boat Trip I Heading down the canal into District 3

t is about 3.15pm when we get to the Nhieu Loc River. The Dien Bien Phu bridge lies inconspicuously across the water; there is nothing remarkable about this place. The city around us is typically Saigon — the people stare as they always do, the pastel buildings bake in the sun and the air is thick and warm. The Saigon Boat Tour Company manages a series of boat trips and cruises that run for various lengths along the Nhieu Loc — Thi Nghe Canal, passing through four central districts. According to our tour guide, Thuong: “When the water level is low you can watch the fish dance, and when it is high you can see the city around you.” There seems to be about 10 too many people on the staff here. The pace is slow, no one rushes, and as we sit, a tall man takes two fresh, wet coconuts out of a room and down to the water.

The Black The Nhieu Loc was once known as the Black Canal. During the war, many people

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from the provinces moved to the city for work, and at the time there was no proper drainage system on Saigon’s rivers, so the canal soon became badly polluted. “It was named for its smell and its colour,” Thuong says, but as we bob upstream, oared by a stringy young man at the back of the boat, the water is more pleasant green-brown than black. “The government made a new initiative to clean all the river systems here, and the river is beautiful now.” In 2001 the World Bank’s HCMC Environmental Sanitation Project installed and replaced over 400km of sewers around the city, adding a 9km wastewater interceptor to the canal system. “It was a big project,” Thuong smiles, “and now there is a rubbish boat that comes twice every day.” As she speaks a fresh plastic box of just-nibbled noodles floats past us downstream. It must be hard to keep such a huge stretch of water clean when so many people live around it. Our boat is low to the water. We sit on

a large square seat under a small canopy, equipped with a life jacket and a bright white non la straw hat for each guest. As we move so does the photographer — up and down the craft trying to get the best shot and the best angle. Locals flop their limbs over the railings at the edge of the water and young boys squat close to the bank with fishing rods. “Fishing is illegal here,” Thuong says. “If the police catch them they take the nets and rods — and the fish.” As the minutes pass we make a slow trail round a bend in the canal. On our right is a little alley of water, full of stilted slum shacks and makeshift shanties. Who knows how many of the inhabitants are not on the state records. We turn the corner, and another long boat sits in front of us. Traditional Vietnamese music emanates from its sides and three musicians sit on its deck, playing to each other in impossible Asian modalities. We pull up to their boat and listen for a while, before floating lazily

up the river again as the sun slaps the canopy above our heads. Soon it is time to turn around, and with the wind behind us the journey back is easy. We nudge our way up to the boat house, take our bags and step back onto dry land. It’s almost 4.30pm and rain is in the air. Time to go home. — Zoe Osborne For more information, click on saigonboat. com or call (08) 3911 8987

Information The boat leaves from Hoang Sa Park, opposite 1 Hoang Sa, Q1, Ho Chi Minh City. The trip costs VND220,000 per person (minimum of three people, maximum of five) and lasts up to 90 minutes, depending on the tide. The cost of the guide, music and light refreshments is included in the price and boats run daily from 8am to 8pm. Bring sun screen, and book an evening tour for a cooler, more romantic experience. | September 2016 Word | 19

Briefings Hanoi

The Best Bus in Hanoi Just when you thought it would never happen, the airport’s got a new bus route 20 | Word September 2016 |



ity transportation should be like a formulaic kids’ movie; boring, predictable, and no deaths. Hanoi’s new bus line to and from the train station to the airport ticks all three. We paid VND30,000 each on a test run, logged into the free WiFi and watched the city go past, between checking tweets on our phones. It was a completely uneventful journey with absolutely no cause for concern nor amusement, as a bus journey should be. The passengers were largely indifferent to the experience. “This bus is easier than a motorbike,” said Nguyen Hua, a salesman on his way to Nha Trang. “Why?” Hua shrugged, not particularly enthused by our small talk.

The Best Bus? The bus first stopped at the domestic terminal before completing its journey at the international. It was the end of the line,

we were told, but we shook our heads and asked to stay onboard. They had no objections. “This is a high-quality bus, the best bus,” said a bored conductor as we waited for the round journey. “The best in Hanoi?” “Yes,” he replied, evidently unaccustomed to being interrogated by customers. “Is it more comfortable?” “It is the best bus.”

Who Needs a Metro? Getting to and from the airport has never been fun but, unfortunately, not always boring. Taxi fares run well into six figures, while the minibuses keep unpredictable time schedules and prices. Until two months ago, no bus regularly ferried customers between Noi Bai and the city. Buses, of course, appear everywhere in the city. From city bus lines to international coaches with Laotian license plates, every casual Hanoi driver is well accustomed to navigating around the omnipresent,

cumbersome hulks of steel careening down razor-thin side streets. The airport bus line, however, takes a more reasonable approach. Hop on at the train station and you’ll get to Noi Bai in about 45 minutes. No planning is required — the first bus leaves downtown at 5.05am and the service keeps going until 9.40pm. You can catch a ride even later if you’re coming from the airport, with the last bus leaving at 11pm. Hanoi’s got big plans for shuttling its residents around town in a more orderly fashion. Construction of the much-anticipated metro system is visible throughout the city, while the municipality mulls over the possibility of banning motorbikes in the Old Quarter. The problem is no joke. Air pollution is beginning to compete with Beijing for toxicity, while crash fatalities constantly tick upward. In the meantime, however, the Hanoibus company has found a solution to one transit problem using the humble bus. — Bennett Murray | September 2016 Word | 21

Briefings National

Vietnam Coracle The country by motorbike, one province at a time


om is the London-born motorbiker behind independent travel blog Vietnam Coracle. Having visited all of the country’s 58 provinces and five municipalities, he’s amassed a huge database of guides to travelling Vietnam, and he’s still not done. Word got his views on motorbike machismo, sustainable tourism and where to find the best food.

You first visited Vietnam as a teenager in 1999. What do you remember about that trip? Bicycles! In 1999, this was my first impression of Vietnam, while riding in a taxi from Tan Son Nhat Airport to the city centre. There were thousands of them: not motorbikes, not cars; bicycles.

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Where have you lived in Vietnam? I’ve paid rent in Saigon ever since I arrived, 10 years ago. I’m certainly not nomadic — I’ve always had a solid base; family, friends and a place to call ‘home’ — but I am a restless traveller, always thinking about my next trip.

I was a bit shocked to discover that you drive a Yamaha Nuovo, which I always consider a bike for the city more than rural adventures. Ah yes, Stavros, my trusty motorbike. 150,000km over eight years, and I’ve rarely had any serious problems. It’s done everything I’ve asked of it; it’s smooth to ride; it rarely breaks down; and it has character, more so the older it gets.

You focus a lot on food in your guides. What have been your favorite food finds on the road? The best food in Vietnam is nearly always found in the unlikeliest of places. The first time I ate hen, those little tiny clams in lemongrass and chilli, was in a corrugated iron shack, 30km inland from Vinh, not far from Ho Chi Minh’s birth place in Kim Lien. Often, food tastes better precisely because of the unusual nature of the surroundings. I’m always suspicious of places that have clearly spent a lot of time and money on their decor and interior design: have they paid the same amount of attention to their food?

Tourism in Vietnam is rapidly developing. Which destinations have you seen change the most?


Phu Quoc stands out the most. When I first visited, there was only one paved road on the island. Now there are wide blades of tarmac leading in all directions. The southern end of Long Beach and Dai Beach, in the northwest of the island, were sublime spots, where you really were the only person on a long, golden stretch of sand. They are both subject to huge development projects now.

What do you think Vietnam needs to do to sustainably develop this industry? I like the initiatives that work with local people to promote tourism. Mai Chau did this well; encouraging the White Thai people, who live in that pretty valley, to open their traditional homes and way of life to foreign tourists in the form of homestays. Foreign travellers love this,

because it fits their romantic idea of what rural Vietnam should be. But, increasingly, young, urban Vietnamese, pining for the countryside and nostalgic for a way of life that belonged to former generations, also love it. Of course there are problems with this kind of tourism, too. These projects subsidise a traditional way of life that many rural people want to leave behind. But at least it works with local people, plays to their strengths by focusing on skills they already have, and they are the ones who benefit from it.

What has been the most rewarding thing about keeping your blog? Now my travels have a purpose. Because of this, I am more engaged with Vietnam: its food, people,

culture, history, landscape and language. And, because many of my guides focus of less trodden parts of Vietnam, I like to think that Vietnam’s tourist buck is spread out a little more evenly.

Where are you headed on your next trip? I just got back from a road trip to the western Mekong Delta, so now I’m in need of some mountains or coast. On some trips, I have a clear idea of where I’m going and what I’m going to write about; other times, I take it as it comes and see where it leads me. I have more ideas than I have time for, and I’m certainly not worried that I’ll run out of things to do and places to see in Vietnam, ever. — Jesse Meadows To see Tom’s blog, click on | September 2016 Word | 23

Briefings Battling the Sharks National

Is 4G the solution to Vietnam’s connectivity woes?


any internet users in Vietnam have found themselves replugging their WiFi routers, trying to get a signal, before giving up and switching to their smartphone’s 3G. While tethering your laptop can be inconvenient — and expensive — will it be worth it when 4G finally arrives in Vietnam? At present the nation’s connectivity continues to expand and improve. Vietnam’s average connection speed in the first quarter of 2016 was 5.0 megabytes per second (Mbps) according to the US-based Akami tech firm. Yet this is still below Thailand, which ranks at 10.8Mbps and South Korea, a whopping 29Mbps. Mobile connection is also low at 2.6Mbps, ranking just below Syria’s 2.7Mbps. Signs of progress abound — Vietnam’s mobile connectivity rose 30.8 per cent in the first quarter. Viettel has reported it is already piloting 4G on a trial basis around the country. With potential speeds ten times that of 3G, is better wireless a viable replacement for spotty WiFi? First, a disclaimer; 4G connections are only as fast as the infrastructure allows. If overburdened, 4G networks can actually be slower than 3G. There are also trade-offs in ditching routers for SIM cards and dongles. Unlimited data plans are the exception worldwide rather than the rule for wireless.

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At its maximum performance, however, 4G easily beats Vietnam’s typical WiFi speed.

The Myanmar Solution Go to Myanmar to find an example of a country that has largely dumped WiFi for mobile networks, albeit in the 3G era, where WiFi connectivity averages 3.7 Mbps. “I have sat in cafés that proudly advertise a WiFi connection, tethering my phone to my laptop to use 3G because the proudly advertised WiFi connection is either too weak to sustain a connection, or out altogether, or still aspirational,” says Eli Meixler, online editor at the Yangon-based Myanmar Times newspaper. He adds that few people have WiFi routers, which cost hundreds of dollars to install thanks to a monopoly in the market. While he did have one provided by his employer at his former apartment, he said he’d usually forego WiFi in favour of 3G. “It’s often easier or faster to just use a phone connected to 3G to send a quick email, post to social media, or check a reference resource, than it is to wait for a hard-lined connection to kick into gear,” he explains. Meixler says he had so little faith in Myanmar’s connectivity that he had been ready to rely on a multitude of 3G services while uploading live updates during last November’s historic election. He bought half a dozen SIM cards

representing every telco in the country just in case his fibre-optic line failed, he adds. Thanks to an influx of smartphones in recent years, Meixler says wireless connections make the most sense for Myanmar. “I think that telco and wireless data networks are far better suited to meet Myanmar’s needs, from the perspective of consumers and in terms of technological infrastructure, than broadband connection, at least at this juncture,” he says.

Smartphones are the future Vietnam isn’t Myanmar, where even regular SIM cards were virtually nonexistent before 2013. But with even a cheap laptop still priced at a good chunk of personal income, the future of Vietnamese connectivity probably won’t be focused on broadband. Anh-Minh Do, a Vietnamese-American tech blogger currently based in Singapore, says consumer sentiment is on the side of technology suitable for smartphones. “I think it’s the trend because more people will be willing to buy a phone over a computer, especially in the countryside,” he explains. “It’s really just an issue of why would I get WiFi and a laptop when I can just have the internet in my pocket?” Regardless of whether 4G is a solution to dysfunctional WiFi, market forces appear to be on the side of developing wireless. — Bennett Murray


Understanding Your Body The beauty market is big business, which is why it pays to seek out providers by reputation and transparency as well as price


t’s not an uncommon tale — a Facebook page selling whitening cream, a customer ordering it, and finding, to their distress, that not only does the cream not work, but it is actually damaging. One such case last year in Vietnam made it to a VTV documentary. The customer, Vu Minh Thi, applied the cream which quickly caused her skin to break out in an itchy rash. “I decided to stop using the cream but it got worse,” she told VTV. Eventually, after unsuccessfully trying to get restitution from the supplier, she filed a lawsuit. Then there was 22-year-old Ngoc Bich, who was persuaded to try a trendy new beauty method called skin needling, supposedly the skin smoothing technique favoured by Angelina Jolie and Kim Kardashian. It involves moving a small roller fitted with around 200 surgical needles across the skin, the idea being that this stimulates the beneficial production of collagen and elastin and removes blemishes through the skin’s natural repair process. In Ngoc Bich’s case, it merely led to a nasty facial infection.

A Cutting Edge Unsurprisingly, Vietnam’s cosmetic market

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is noted for lax regulation, products of dubious origin, and so-called beauty salons on every corner. “The most important thing is that you have to keep your mind sharp,” advises Valencia Tran, a veteran of the cosmetic market who is managing director of Thea Beauty Solutions. “Most cheap products don’t have clear labels of origin. Cheap services are usually conducted by inexperienced staff with cheap products and old technologies. Say no to them.” Valencia speaks from personal experience — she admits she tried everything to make herself look her best. Her advice? Get recommendations from friends, and above all, keep yourself informed. “Before buying a beauty product or going for surgery, you have to get reviews of that product or salon from friends and the media,” she explains. “Then you have to study this industry to understand how that product or process works.” Her experiences have also taught her that short-term solutions are a waste of time — you need to treat your health and beauty as an ongoing project. “Most importantly, you have to understand what your body needs and have

a long-term plan to take care of your health and beauty. Be wise for your beauty.”

A Personal Solution It is with this in mind that in 2013 Valencia established Thea Beauty Solutions. A Singapore-based company operating a chain of skincare and aesthetic clinics in Ho Chi Minh City, Thea Beauty offers a wide range of products and services including aesthetic surgery, cosmetic dermatology and other procedures like botox, snoring and apnea treatment, and hair removal. Also, to ensure standards remain high, Valencia has employed qualified beauty experts and doctors from Thailand, Korea and the US. Their Vietnamese doctors are well-trained and fully qualified. In a market that lacks enforced regulations, for Valencia the key is to be self-regulating and ensure that all treatments are top-notch and are conducted with the long-term in mind. — Vu Ha Kim Vy Thea Beauty Solutions can be found at Ground Floor Somerset Chancellor Court, 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, HCMC; 9C Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC and CR1-06 Crescent Residence, 103 Ton Dat Tien, Q7, HCMC. For info call their hotline on 0911 489797 or click on | September 2016 Word | 27

Sports Digest

Vietnam’s First Gold The wait is over for Olympic glory, with Vietnam’s Hoang Xuan Vinh shooting to the top of the podium in Rio last month. Words by Harry Hodge


Vietnamese shooting star has struck gold, literally and figuratively. Hoang Xuan Vinh, a 41-yearold serving army colonel who first learnt to shoot with an AK47 rifle, made national history in Rio when a near-perfect final shot in the men’s 10-metre air pistol clinched him gold, the first Olympic title for any Vietnamese athlete ever in any sport. Vinh’s victory swept aside Brazil’s Felipe Almeida Wu and China’s Pang Wei into second and third respectively, something that was seized on by overjoyed Vietnamese fans. He followed that up by winning silver behind South Korea’s Jin Jong-oh in the Olympic men’s 50-metre pistol event four days later, becoming the first Vietnamese athlete in history to win multiple Olympic medals, capping a huge week.

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Vinh has won many medals in tournaments in the country and in the SEA Games as well as Asian and world events. But losing out on medals in the Asian Games in 2010 and 2014 and the London Olympics in 2012, where he was 0.1 points off the podium at one point, all made him a dark horse to grab a medal in Rio. Vietnamese state media reported that Vinh would receive US$100,000 (VND2.2 billion) from the state on his return. Media outlets said he learnt how to shoot in the military which he joined in 1991, initially practicing on AK47 rifles. His feat is all the more remarkable considering the lack of resources Vietnamese shooters face, often having do without ammunition in training sessions. It stands to reason he will cash in more than any Vietnamese amateur athlete has in the past. Prior to the Games, swimmer Nguyen

Thi Anh Vien was splashed across Vietnam Airlines ads among other endorsements. The 20-year-old from Can Tho failed to advance beyond the heats in her various events. Shooter Vinh has already singlehandedly produced as many medals for Vietnam as the last two Games combined, where Vietnam bagged two in Beijing in 2008 and came back empty-handed from London. The title of Olympic champion is among the most revered in sports, joining legends such as American Michael Phelps and Jamaican Usain Bolt. Vietnam competed in multiple disciplines in Rio, including shooting, badminton, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, judo, wrestling, fencing, rowing and athletics. With more Vietnamese athletes getting opportunities to train abroad and focus full-time on their sports, officials hope medal hauls will be even bigger in the future.

Hai Phong ends five-year drought against Hanoi T&T Hai Phong ended their losing record against Hanoi T&T with a win last month in the V.League’s round 20 on their home turf at Lach Tray Stadium, writes Vietnam News. Hai Phong had not beaten Hanoi T&T in the last five years. They came from behind to record a 2-1 victory, with two goals by Nguyen Dinh Bao and Le Xuan Hung in the second half. Hoang Vu Samson opened the score for the visitors on the 30th minute with a straight shot. Hai Phong stands strongly on top of the league with 45 points, five more than Hanoi T&T and six more than third-placed SHB Da Nang, who unexpectedly lost 3-4 to Quang Nam, despite playing at home.

Controversial end for women’s soccer Thailand’s female football team emerged victorious from the 2016 AFF Women’s Championship after a controversial penalty shootout against their Vietnamese opponents last month, writes Tuoi Tre. Women from the Vietnamese and Thai national football teams battled it out in the finals of the Southeast Asian football tournament in Mandalay, Myanmar. The official 90 minutes ended in a 1-1 draw, followed by a goalless extra time that led to a penalty shootout to determine the winning team. Vietnamese midfielder Nguyen Thi Lieu from Vietnam stepped up with the score at 3-3 hoping to help her team snatch the gold medal. Lieu’s strike was partially blocked by Thai goalie Waraporn Boonsing, causing the ball to spin, drop, and roll its way towards the goal line before being hacked away by the goalkeeper. Assuming the ball had crossed the goal line, Lieu,

along with her teammates and coaches stormed the field to celebrate their victory before an interjection by the assisting referees. Thailand went on to win the match.

Vietnamese mixed martial artist locks up win in Malaysia Mixed martial artist Tran Quang Loc won the Mixed Martial Arts’s Grand Prix Warriors FC recently in Malaysia, according to Loc, who is the first Vietnamese competing in an international MMA event, knocked out Farid Arif of Malaysia in the final match of the featherweight category. The 27-year-old from Dong Nai Province earlier defeated Shareh Nasrullah, another Malaysian, while Arif beat Nursultan Amangeldiev of Kazakhstan. Loc started competing in MMA four years ago and has dominated in the national championship for the past three years.

Vietnamese tennis star drops dramatic match on home turf Ly Hoang Nam was outsted from the Vietnam F3 Men’s Futures tennis tournament last month in Binh Duong Province, writes Vietnam News. The host athlete lost 6-7, 5-7 to Japanese Ito Yuichi who ranks No. 813 in the world, 49 places higher than Nam, in the second round. Nam took the first break point of the first set but Ito worked hard and won the crucial game when 5-6 down, bringing the set to the tie break where he successfully won 7-3. The second set was nearly the same but Ito went up in the decisive moments to take it 7-5.

s date p u d r Sen out you p or ab g grou @ in ry sportnt to har .com m e ev vietna word | September 2016 Word | 29

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ToDo list HCMC

It’s September and the busy season has returned. So, if you want to retain a modicum of inner peace, look away now!


3 1

TAL Everything Something Nothing Flying Papers SEP16.jpg. Caption: Nomad will be bringing their production,


Everything, Something, Nothing to Saigon Outcast

Italian DJ Marco Shuttle will be playing Observatory this month

A documentary on art, music and creativity in the former West Berlin will be screen on Sep. 9

Chef Jack Lee will be in charge of the kitchen at the fundraiser for KOTO



Lord Peter Mandelson will be speaking at a BBGV event in September



Two of the artworks on sale at affordable art fair, One Grand Show


One Grand Show Craig Thomas Gallery, Q1 Until Sep. 21 Craig Thomas Gallery is hosting One Grand Show, a group exhibition for 50 smaller sized works by 20 Vietnamese visual artists. The exhibit is modeled on the affordable art fair format; with the aim being to open up possibilities for collectors of all budgets to begin their acquisition of Vietnamese contemporary art. One Grand Show will be held at Craig Thomas Gallery from Aug 26. through to Sep. 21. For more information, please visit cthomasgallery. com. Craig Thomas Gallery is at 165 Calmette, Q1, HCMC

Small Things Exhibition Vin Gallery, Q2 Until Oct. 15 Coming Nov. 25 to Vin Gallery in Thao Dien is the latest Small Things exhibit; a collection of miniscule artworks created by local and international artists. Small Things is a recurring exhibition and showcases new artists every year featuring oil paintings, sculpture, photography and prints. To apply to be in the exhibition, you must

32 | Word September 2016 |

submit your application by Oct. 15 at the link below. For more information, please visit or call 0907 729846. Applications for the exhibition are available online at and Vin Gallery is at 6 Le Van Mien, Q2, HCMC

Lord Mandelson Le Meridien Saigon, Q1 Thursday, Sep. 8 EuroCham and BBGV are welcoming Lord Mandelson to Saigon this month to have him share his business perspectives surrounding the recent Brexit referendum, including observations from the past three months since the vote, and a predicted long-term forecast. There will also be industry experts speaking about the Vietnamese and regional implications of the vote, as well as a panel discussion. Global Implications of Brexit: A Special Talk with Lord Mandelson will take place from 11.45am to 1.30pm on Sep. 8, 2016. Entrance costs VND1,300,000 for members and VND1,600,000 for non-members. For more information, please email nga. Le Meridien Saigon is at 3C Ton Duc Thang, Q1, HCMC

KOTO One Reverie, Q1 Friday, Sep. 9 KOTO, the hospitality training centre and restaurant, will be holding a star-studded fundraiser at The Reverie Saigon on Friday, Sep. 9 to help them raise US$250,000 towards the costs of running their operations. The first legally incorporated social enterprise in Vietnam, KOTO gives disadvantaged youth the possibility to learn and strive in their lives. In the past 15 years they have trained and supported the welfare of over 600 students in the hospitality industry in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. This year’s fundraiser, KOTO One, will team up the talents of celebrity chef Jack Lee with a range of well-known Vietnamese singers and dancers. An auction will be staged by auctioneer Justin Gisz, with auction items including two signed Manchester United jerseys of French footballer Anthony Martial, business class return flights to Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific including five-star accommodation, a Mercedes Benz and much more. 400 people are expected to attend.





Tickets for the event are US$150 (VND3.35 million) a head. To book, please call 0903 441850 / 0903 077225 or pop into KOTO Kumho on the top floor of Kumho Plaza, cnr. Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, Q1, HCMC. The Reverie Saigon is at 2236 Nguyen Hue, Q1, HCMC and the event runs from 7pm to 10pm

Marco Shuttle The Observatory, Q4 Friday, Sep. 9 Renowned Italian DJ Marco Shuttle will be bringing his techno niche to Saigon this September for a session at everyone’s favourite late-night venue, The Observatory. Organised by Heart Beat Saigon, Shuttle has been described as devilishly distilled and expertly organic, focusing on form and function in equal measure. Supported by Chris Wolter and Oko, you can expect an evening of fantastic music and dancing. The show will be preceding by a documentary screening at 7.30pm curated by Onion Cellar. Entrance is free before 11pm and VND150,000 thereafter. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC

Onion Cellar The Observatory, Q4 Friday, Sep. 9 The Onion Cellar is proud to host a screening of B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West Berlin (1979 to 1989) for its official Vietnamese premiere. This intense documentary uses unreleased film footage to create a fast-paced collage of the art, music and creative insanity during the last decade under the shadow of the Wall. Starring Mark Reeder, Nick Cave, Gudrun Gut and many others, this movie is a dive into the cheap and trashy, glitzy and glamorous, punk and techno melting pot that was 1980s Berlin. Immediately following the screening is a party by Heart Beat Saigon, featuring Marco Shuttle. Screening tickets are VND50,000. Combined movie and party tickets are VND150,000. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4 and the screening takes place at 7.30pm

Art Jam Soft Opening VinSpace, Q2 Sep. 9 VinSpace is launching a new

creative evening to help you tune into your inner artist, no matter what budget you’re on. Starting Sep. 9 at 6pm, they are promising a host of free activities as well as live music, craft beer and an opportunity to mingle with other creative minded people in Saigon. Art Jam is free to the public. For more information please visit or call 0907 229846. VinSpace is at 4 Le Van Mien, Q2, HCMC

Everything, Something, Nothing Saigon Outcast, Q2 Sep. 13 to 16 Everything, Something, Nothing is a brand new physical theatre performance put on by the Nomad Theatre Company that will be making its debut over the course of four days in mid-September. Before the performances start at 7pm, there will be an exhibition of painters, sculptors, musicians, videographers, dancers and actors from across Saigon to help showcase the city’s creativity in a week of art. Nomad Theatre Company

MAD House D7 E V E R Y D AY


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MAD House D2 E V E R Y D AY


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08 3519 4009

ToDo list HCMC

lives as it is named, from place to place, and they are currently on a world tour with their work inspired by their experiences across the globe. Entrance to Everything, Something, Nothing is free of charge. For more info email or visit Saigon Outcast is at 188/1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, HCMC

Sweet B Observatory, Q4 Saturday, Sep. 17


French duo Sweet B will play alongside Youss and Dimitri for a night of music that synthesizes the best of house, disco and techno. Back by popular demand for their third appearance together, come check out the musical madness these partners spin out. Entrance is free before 10pm and VND100,000 thereafter. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC

Clay of Thought Fine Arts Museum, Q1 Sep. 22 to Oct. 1

Yes, he’s back! It’s Alex from Tokyo again!

Last year’s BBGV Fun Run. The 2016 edition takes place on Sep. 25

Fancy a ride around town to raise money for charity, old chap?


Cora will be spinning tunes at Observatory this month



Ceramic arts will come into focus this month at the Fine Arts Museum



French duo Sweet B returns to Observatory


The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is hosting Clay of Thought, an exhibition of contemporary ceramics created by an art collective based in Bien Hoa. Entitled Dat Nghi in Vietnamese, the showcase displays the work of 14 artists who, by pooling their energy, talents and ideals, have formed a collective to rethink Vietnamese ceramics, its heritage and its future. The exhibition has been curated by Vo Hong Chuong Dai and Frederic Dialynas Sanchez. Clay of Thought will have its opening night on Thursday, Sep. 22 at the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City. For more information, please email frederic.joseph. or The Fine Arts Museum of HCMC is at 97 Pho Duc Chinh, Q1, HCMC

Cora and Kin Observatory, Q4 Thursday, Sep. 22 Cora and Kin are coming, bringing a melange of house and techno to lead the dance floor through the deepest, darkest valleys of the electronic landscape. Entrance is free of charge and the show starts at 9pm. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC

Alex From Tokyo Observatory, Q4 Friday, Sep. 23 Alex From Tokyo returns for his third Observatory performance. Come see this legend of the

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underground sound move the room with music cut like diamonds. Entrance is free before 10pm and VND150,000 thereafter. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC

BBGV Fun Run Phu My Huong, Q7 Sunday, Sep. 25 The BBGV Annual Charity Fun Run is back for its 16th edition. Since starting in 2000, the fun run has been a popular event to break a sweat and raise some money for disadvantaged people throughout Vietnam. This is the perfect opportunity for team building, bonding with friends or family, all the while assisting the disadvantaged and elderly. This year’s 4km run will take place in Phu My Hung and 9,000 runners are expected to take part. The BBGV are hoping to raise VND1 billion in support of charitable projects. Recent beneficiaries have included the Ben San Leprosy Centre. For more information about how to get involved in the BBGV Fun Run please contact Nga at nga.nguyen@, call (08) 3829 8430 or go to The run takes place from 7am to 10.30am and will start at Tan Trao, Phu My Hung, Q7, HCMC

Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride Sunday, Sep. 26 Around HCMC I say! You, dear reader, display the very countenance of distinguishment itself. No doubt you are thusly aware of the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride, a grand opportunity to promenade in your finest Savile Row suit and demonstrate the charitable persuasion so befitting your station. Come with classic and vintage motor-operated cyclo-mobiles and ride with other gentlemen and ladies to raise awareness about the health issues of all good gentlemen around the world. Many charities will benefit from your noblesse oblige, specifically those that research prostate cancer and seek to prevent male suicide. If you wish to participate in the Distinguished Gentlemen’s annual ride here in HCMC, contact Vietnam Vespa Adventures on 01222 993585 / 09385 00997 or email lets@ More info can be found at and on the event page at events/1210637482289374. The ride kicks off at 2pm




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ToDo list HCMC

Quoc Cham Cassia Cottage, Phu Quoc Wednesday, Sep. 28 Co-sponsored by the Australian Chamber of Commerce Vietnam and Visit Phu Quoc, Quoc Cham is Phu Quoc’s only business networking event. Held on the last Wednesday of the month, and loosely modelled on Spam Cham in Saigon, the event is an opportunity to socialise with people whose business involves the fast-changing metropolis, sorry, island of Phu Quoc. Each month features a guest speaker, a main topic, cheap drinks and free snacks. For more information, email Rohan Barker at The September meet-up runs from 5.30pm to 8pm and is being held at Cassia Cottage, Khu Pho 1, Duong Dong, Phu Quoc



Eluize and Gratts Observatory, Q4 Friday, Sep. 30 Eluize and Gratts are joined by Hibiya Line, returning after a redhot performance earlier in the year, to deliver another night of their house/disco/techno fusion. Send off the month in finest underground style — don’t miss this party! Entrance is free before 10pm and VND150,000 thereafter. The Observatory is at 5 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, HCMC

Grand Final Golf Scramble

Phu Quoc is not all just beaches, clear blue sea and construction, don’t you know?

Who needs to stay in the office when you’ve got Auscham’s annual golf scramble?

Start-up incubator Hatch Fair enters Saigon for the first time next month

Oktoberfest returns for its 11th outing

Images from last year’s Heart Institute Gala






5 Locations Across Vietnam Friday, Sep. 30 Every year, AusCham brings members of the business community together outside the office at their Grand Final Golf Scramble. Taking place simultaneously in five locations across Vietnam on Sep. 30 on the eve of the AFL Grand Final, the event is for anyone who has a business tie to Australia. The goal is to strengthen the community and to heighten awareness of Australia as a place where businesses thrive. Come join the fun at the Vietnam Golf and Country Club in Ho Chi Minh City, the BRG Legend Hill Golf Resort in Hanoi, Laguna Lang Co near Danang, Vinpearl Golf in Nha Trang or at Vinpeal Golf in Phu Quoc to get your respectable business-class Ozzie Ozzie Oy Oy on. Any profits will be donated to charity. To learn more, email events@ or visit the Australian Chamber of Commerce Vietnam website at

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Hatch Fair Grand Palace, Tan Binh Oct. 7 and Oct. 8 Hatch, the most established start up incubator in Vietnam is bringing its fourth annual Hatch fair to Ho Chi Minh City for the first time. This October, we can expect a full two days of start-up development, conferences, social innovation and networking. Previous Hatch fairs have drawn crowds of up to 2,500 people all curious about the start-up climate in Vietnam and developing their own entrepreneurial ideas. For more information, please email or visit their website at The Grand Palace is at 142/18 Cong Hoa, Tan Binh, HCMC

Oktoberfest Windsor Plaza Hotel, Q5 Oct. 12 to Oct. 15 Oktoberfest is coming back to Saigon for its eleventh annual outing. Touching down on Oct. 12, four days of beer, food and music will follow in a true celebration of all things Bavarian. Free flow beer, classic pretzels, German sausages and traditional music will get party-goers in the Oktoberfest mood, and every guest will receive their own collectable bierstein as well as an opportunity to win a Mercedes C200 and a Vespa LX.

The parties run from 6pm to Midnight. On Wednesday, Oct. 12 and Thursday, Oct. 13, tickets cost VND1,000,000. On Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15 they go for VND1,300,000. There is a 30 percent early bird discount available until Sep. 30. Tickets are available online at or via telephone on 0908 477489. Windsor Plaza Hotel is at 18 An Duong Vuong, Q5, HCMC

The Heart Institute Charity Gala The Reverie, Q1 Saturday, Oct. 15 The Heart Institute of Ho Chi Minh City and the International Medical Center (CMI) are hosting the 6th Heart Institute Gala at The Reverie Saigon. This year the dress code is chic and glamourous, and the evening will consist of five courses of FrenchVietnamese cuisine cooked up by Chef Sakal, as well as live and silent auctions, live performances and entertainment. All proceeds of the gala will fund cardiac surgeries for children in desperate need of heart surgery. The Heart Insitute Gala will take place at The Reverie Saigon on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 6.30pm. Tickets cost VND3,900,000 for one person or VND35,000,000 for a table of 10. For more information, email or call (08) 3827 2366. The Reverie Saigon is at 22-36 Nguyen Hue, Q1, HCMC


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Dumpling houses, Mexican restaurants, skiing in Japan, new butcher shops and a book of short stories. All that's vien d’arrivé in Saigon



Anupa has a line of weekend bags, perfect for anyone travelling in style

Saigon Artbook publishes its sixth edition this month

Hats off to the ISHCMC Class of 2016



Asian-inspired fare comes to Thao Dien courtesy of Phat’s Dumpling House



Sancho Cantina: Bui Vien has finally got itself a decent Mexican


Sancho Cantina The brains behind Pop Fries, Calvin Bui, has opened his newest concept, a restaurant with a Mexican kitchen on Bui Vien that includes craft beer as part of the theme. Set in a friendly and cozy atmosphere, Sancho Cantina serves up tacos (VND40,000), nachos (VND170,000), flautas (VND100,000), carne asada fries (VND170,000) and burritos (VND180,000 for an extra large). What makes Sancho Cantina different from other Tex-Mex pretenders is that everything is made in house. “Every morning, I come in and start making tortillas and sauces for the day. I feel like an abuela!” says Calvin. Craft beer on tap comes from Phat Rooster Ales and includes Saigon Blonde (VND35,000 for 330ml), Phat Shiv IPA (VBD50,000) and Band Unkel (VND50,000). Sancho Cantina is at 207 Bui Vien, Q1, HCMC. Visit sanchocantina for more info

Phat’s Dumpling House Thao Dien has just welcomed a new Asian-inspired restaurant, Phat’s Dumpling House, a door over from its sister restaurant, Relish & Sons. Painted all in white with large glass windows and branded with a chubby face of Phat next to the restaurant’s

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name, the restaurant is small but neat, decorated with Asian movie posters on the walls and furnished with wooden tables and stools. The menu consists of about 40 dishes including banh bao (VND70,000 for roasted duck bao), dumplings (VND55,000 for pork & prawn dumpling), soups (VND90,000 for roasted duck noodles), and fries (VND50,000 for prawn sesame toast). The drinks list has three main categories and includes juices and soft drinks, tea and coffee (VND35,000 for oolong tea) and alcoholic drinks (VND55,000 for a Tiger). Phat’s Dumpling House is at 111 Xuan Thuy, Q1, HCMC. Visit facebook. com/phatsdumplinghouse for info

Loop Set Lunch The Loop on Thao Dien, has just released a new ‘wholesome’ set lunch menu and it looks awesome. With two options, either two or three courses, this affordable lunch will get you through any working day. The two-course meal will set you back VND199,000 while the three-course version costs only VND239,000. Dishes include Ezogelin soup, Parma ham and anchovy salad, garlic herb roasted salmon, tomato spinach lasagna, pork cotoletta and Italian gelato, and you get to pick your own

combinations The Loop Café is located at 49 Thao Dien, Q2, HCMC and is open from 7am to 9pm, seven days a week. For info click on

Saigon Artbook Saigon Artbook is back for its sixth edition with a launch party at the Factory Contemporary Arts Center on Sep. 16. A number of artists are included in the new book including Nguyen Ngoc Vu, Word photographer Boa Zoan, Nguyen Duc Diem, Nathan Larson and Kumkum Fernando. All will exhibit their work at the launch which will be an eclectic range of installations, origami, photography, painting and print works. Saigon Artbook is a non-profit organisation that utilises their artbook format as a platform to host a variety of events across the city, including workshops, exhibitions and art talks. The Factory Contemporary Arts Center (FCAC) is located at 15 Nguyen U Di, Q2, HCMC and the launch will run from 8pm to midnight. For more information or to order your copy of Saigon Artbook, click on

Anupa Travel in style — stop by Anupa and



5 get one of their weekender bags, just right for air travel. Matching accessories include belts, passport covers, luggage labels and washbags. Or pick up one of their stunning Jules passport covers for VND1.3 million, designed to fit all standard international passport sizes, and watch even immigration officers smile. Anupa is 9 Dong Du, Q1, HCMC or online at

International School Ho Chi Minh City’s Class of 2016 The Class of 2016 at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has set the new highest average IB diploma score in the institution’s history. In addition, more than half the class earned the IB Bilingual Diploma, maintaining the school’s reputation for excellence. 19 nationalities are represented in this year’s class of 60 students, marking ISHCMC as a truly international school. Graduates will be attending further education in places as far flung as New York University, Seoul National University, University College London, UCLA and California Berkeley. For more info click on






Phu My Hung gets itself a Meatworks

Fancy some skiing, anyone?

The latest novel by Hoi An-based author, Elka Ray




Meatworks That District 2 butcher, Meatworks, that has lined the fridges and stomachs of so many a resident in Thao Dien, is opening a new location next month in the heart of Phu My Hung in District 7. Featuring the same quality range of premium imported Australian beef and lamb, gourmet locallysourced pork and chicken, as well as their own phenomenal home-made sausages, Meatworks offers online shopping and home-delivery. The new shop is next door to Carl’s Junior at 401 Pham Thai Buong, My Khanh 3-H11-2, Q7, HCMC. You can visit them online at

Go Skiing In Japan ‘Tis the end of the summer, the perfect time to start thinking about your next holiday. And naturally homegrown travel agency, Exo Travel, has got an idea to get you

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reaching for your credit card and booking time off work: a snowcation in Hokkaido. Or, as other people might say, skiing in Japan. Shred some of the best powder in the world, feast on authentic Hokkaido cuisine, and get a taste of pure sybaritic bliss this winter at Club Med Sahoro, Hokkaido, Japan. The holiday package features a stay for as low as VND4.816 million per person per night and includes lift passes and lessons. If you are travelling between Dec. 2, 2016 and April 9, 2017, book early to get the best deals or, as Exo is asking, book before Sep. 16. To learn more email saigonagency@ or call (08) 3519 4111. If you’re in Hanoi, call (04) 3718 5555 or email

What You Don’t Know Hoi An-based novelist Elka Ray is back with her latest title, What

You Don’t Know: Tales of Obsession, Mystery & Muder in Southeast Asia. An American lawyer dreams of murdering his Thai trophy wife. A Vietnamese soldier encounters madness in a haunted forest. Tragedy rocks a bereaved mother’s trip to Cambodia. This collection of 10 short, gripping and eerie stories journeys from Sumatran jungles to the seedy bars of Bangkok to the superficially sedate streets of Singapore. Travelling with you is a black brew of fear, greed, grief, jealousy, lust and wrath. And your final destination? What you don’t know… This collection is darker than Elka Ray’s first novel, Hanoi Jane, and takes readers on a journey from the macabre to the blackly humorous. What You Don’t Know is available in paperback or on Kindle via Amazon. com. Elka Ray has been living in Vietnam for 20 years. For more info click on



Film and dance, bigname DJs, Basque musicians and corporate hippies. Hanoi’s got a bit of everything this month


The German Film Festival

1. An image from the movie Victoria, a highlight of the German Film Festival 2. Basque musician Fermin Muguruza will play the Rec Room 3. German duo Kaiser Souzai are descending on HRC 4. Market is back for the new season

Goethe-Institut Vietnam, Ba Dinh Sep. 8 to Sep. 16 Eight films are on the list for this year’s German Film Festival, offering a versatile mix of dramas, thrillers, comedies and children’s movies. A highlight is expected to be the emo-tionally charged 2015 film Victoria from director Sebastian Schipper, with its heavy use of improvisation by the actors and its real-time emphasis. Now in its seventh year, the festival also features a quiz, where visitors can win prizes by answering questions about the films which are screened. Tickets are free and the films are screened in German with English and Vietnamese subtitles. For the quiz and more information on the complete schedule in all cities visit The festival will also hit Hai Phong, Hue, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City. GoetheInstitut Vietnam is at 56-58 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Dinh, Hanoi

Fermin Muguruza Rec Room, Hai Ba Trung Friday, Sep. 9 One of the most influential and charismatic artists from the Basque musical scene, over the past 20 years

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Fermin Muguruza has played in almost every corner of the world. Now he will perform for the first time in Vietnam. From the bands Kortatu and Negu Gorriak to his new project with Japanese DJ Txako, expect a sound system influenced night of ska, punk and dub. Support will come from MiNombreEsDolores! (Chile) and Emiin Crew (Vietnam). Entrance is VND100,000 and Rec Room is at Floor 20, Hanoi Creative City, 1 Luong Yen, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi

Kaiser Souzai Hanoi Rock City, Tay Ho Saturday, Sep. 10 Luminous Showcase, a night by GingerWork, will be returning for the second of their series of events headlined by a well-known DJ or act from overseas. With a night that includes a film screening, the video mapping installations of GingerWork and Nikolaj Svennevig, supporting DJs, a colouring corner and a top notch sound system, for the Sep. 10 event Luminous Showcase will be bringing in the Berlin Underground duo, Kaiser Souzai. Making concrete waves throughout the Berlin underground and carving a reputation internationally with their live

performances, Kaiser Souzai initially began as a music collaboration that established their own musical genre, Art-rock Tech, drawing influence from 1970s greats such as Pink Floyd, Genesis and Yes, while keeping to their roots of deep and progressive techno. The result has been an ever-evolving set that has electrified dancefloors across the globe. In 2014 and 2015 the duo travelled from Belgium to New Zealand, Thailand to Berlin; the end of their New Zealand tour saw them headline alongside the legendary Carl Cox. Kaiser Souzai are big. Find out if they are worth the hype by heading down to Hanoi Rock City (27/52 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi) on Sep. 10. Entrance is VND150,000 (VND130,000 concessions) and includes a free welcome drink

Maison Market Season Opener Maison de Tet Decor, Tay Ho Sunday, Sep. 11 The stalls of Maison Market are back in full swing this month, with a collection of vendors selling products including edgy designs, handmade crafts, jewellery, vintage garments as well as an organic farmers’ market hosted at Maison de Tet Décor’s French villa on the banks of West Lake.




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1. The C-Gap Project will run a programme on awareness, balance and empowerment at Clickspace 2. The Hanoi Dance Festival returns for its sixth outing 3. Resident DJs Graz and Ouissam will be spinning tunes at the Savage Opening Party 4. Tvfrom86 aka Thomas Zander will take over the decks at ATK 5. Proceeds from the Blossom River Run will go to HSCV’s Blossom House for Girls

2 Visitors have the opportunity to chat with the artists directly, pick up some great quality items at bargain prices, and enjoy the local community atmosphere. Healthy food and drinks are available on Maison’s cosy balconies The market runs from 10am to 4pm and Maison de Tet Décor is at Villa 156 Tu Hoa, Tay Ho, Hanoi

email or click on Clickspace is at 76 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Hanoi

Vision Thing

The sixth Hanoi Dance Festival, coordinated by the Goethe-Institut, has as this year’s theme “Europe meets Asia in Contemporary Dance”. Over six days, audiences can experience contemporary dance in a variety of styles from different countries: Germany, France, Israel, Japan, Austria as well as the host country Vietnam. A highlight is the co-production of German dancer and choreographer Riki von Falken and the moving-image artist Nguyen Trinh Thi from Hanoi. Tickets cost VND100,000. Information about each day’s programme is available at The Hanoi Dance Festival will be staged at the National Youth Theatre, 11 Ngo Thi Nham, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi and Star Galaxy Theatre, 87 Lang Ha, Dong Da, Hanoi

Clickspace, Tay Ho Sunday, Sep. 11 A challenging life skills course answering the question “What’s The Point?” will land in Hanoi early next month. The course, known as the C-GAP Project, describes itself as a “no-bullshit approach to living an aware, balanced and empowered life with improved out-comes for all involved.” Run by former Hanoi expat, Tim McMahon, the course is intended to enable people to tap into their awareness, balance and empowerment, and unearth hidden potential at the per-sonal and corporate levels. The course runs from 1pm to 5pm. More information call 0969 401941,

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Europe Dances Into Asia National Youth Theatre, Hai Ba Trung and Star Galaxy Theatre, Dong Da Sep. 21 to Sep. 25

Savage Opening Party Savage, Tay Ho Friday, Sep. 23 The latest venue to open up in Tay Ho will be staging its official opening party on Friday, Sep. 23 with club residents, Graz and Ouissam, spinning the tunes back-to-back, all night long. Growing up in Byron Bay, Australia, Graz has worked for prestige fashion clients like Louis Vuitton and Stella McCartney, set the stage for legends like Prince, spun at festivals such as the Big Day Out and Splendour, and rocked every disco den worth sweating at. Ouissam Mokretar, a Frenchman who until recently resided in Hong Kong, is the founder of Cliché Records and is also a promoter and a music curator. Ouissam DJs himself, which of course is the foundation of all his endeavours, and is a regular at multiple top underground clubs in Southeast Asia. He was also one of the key DJs at Clicheé events in Hong Kong, which have gained a loyal following. Savage has already got tongues wagging and butts dancing. So expect this night to be a big ‘un. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho,


5 Hanoi or online at

TvFrom86 CAMA ATK, Hai Ba Trung Saturday, Sep. 24 After the release of his first EP, Losing You on Roche Musique in April 2013, Tvfrom86 aka Thomas Zander gained well-earned fame with the release reaching 400,000 clicks on Spotify. He has since worked with Parisian label Popcorn Records and at the end of October 2014, released

the EP, Purple People. Known for his great use of samples and unique interpretations of electro funk mixed with house, expect this to be a unique night of Parisian-influenced beats. Doors are at 8pm and entrance is VND80,000. CAMA ATK is at 73 Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi

Blossom River Run VIP Bikes, Tay Ho Sunday, Sep. 25 Humanitarian Services for Children

of Vietnam (HSCV) and VIP Bikes have teamed up for a motorbike day out on Sep. 25 called the Blossom River Run. Tour guides will set off from VIP Bikes in West Lake in the late morning and head over the river for a scenic drive along the Red River, stopping along the way at historical sites and spectacular pagodas for photo opportunities. A buffet lunch will be served at La Bodega, and after the run, there will be a BBQ at a loca-tion in the Tay Ho area. | September 2016 Word | 45



The price is VND200,000 per rider, with proceeds going to HSCV’s Blossom House for Girls. Buffet and BBQ are not included in this price. Registration and information are available at or at VIP Bikes, 17 Ve Ho, Tay Ho, Hanoi

Lust in Wild West Berlin Goethe-Institut, Ba Dinh Tuesday, Sep. 27 The chaotic and wild music and arts scene in 1980s West Berlin is the subject of the docu-mentary film B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin, that will be screened by Onion Cellar. The angst-ridden fast living of the frenzied but creative time and place are recalled through the antics of well-known figures such as Mark Reeder, Blixa Bargeld, Nick Cave, Gudrun Gut, Joy Division, Die Toten Hosen and WestBam. The 92-minute film has dialogue in English and German, with subtitles in Vietnamese and English. Tickets on the door cost VND50,000 or VND40,000 with a valid student ID. The film will be screened at 7.30pm. The Goethe-Institut is at 56-58 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Dinh, Hanoi


Gratts and Eluize

1. A still from the documentary B-Movie: Lust and Sound in West Berlin 2. Gratts and Eluize (pictured) will play at Savage 3. Bolivian-based DJ Paul Jove will bring his unique sound to CAMA ATK 4. The British Embassy will commemorate 100 years since the Battle of the Somme with a BBQ at Moose & Roo

Savage, Tay Ho Friday, Sep. 30 Savage will continue their first month as the newest club in West Lake with two DJs from overseas — Gratts (BEL) and Eluize (AUS). An Australian born DJ, producer and vocalist, Eluize’s night time explorations traverse house, techno, disco and acid. Drawing inspiration from all corners of the globe, she has a passion for combining the music she uncovers and creates to shape soundtracks for all hours on the dance floor. Gratts aka Tristan Jong has spent the best part of two decades lugging bags of records around Europe, and latterly Asia and Australia. First biting the bug for good-time house, techno and disco in the late 1990s, he honed his craft as part of the We Play House gang throughout the following decade. His deep knowledge of groove-heavy, dancefloor-ready music affords him versatility on the decks. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi or online at

Paul Jove CAMA ATK, Hai Ba Trung Friday, Sep. 30 Paul Jove, a professional musician

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2 turned DJ, started creating music in 1990 and has been a professional DJ since 2003. Growing up biculturally in the US and Bolivia, he started with rock/alternative bands as a guitarist. He later realised that electronic music had infinite possibilities, and wasn’t just limited to the coldness of machines making sequences. He currently resides in La Paz, Bolivia, where he spreads the groove around at clubs and parties as a DJ. He also runs a netlabel, San Pedro Music, which he uses to showcase con-temporary electronic music of Bolivia. His appearance at CAMA ATK will be his first

ven-ture into the organized chaos that is Vietnam. Doors are at 8pm and entrance is VND50,000. CAMA ATK is at 73 Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi

Festival of Aromes Sofitel Metropole, Hoan Kiem Oct. 10 to Oct. 29 October will feature a host of special culinary events at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel under the title Les Aromes Festival. The festival kicks off at Angelina on Oct. 10 with an authentically rustic menu created by Italian chef Paolo Vitaletti, while Spices Garden

is hosting an exchange promotion with Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich, to offer the best of Chinese cuisine. Later in the month, French cheese master Gerard Poulard arrives with his autumn cheese selection, and pastry chef Christophe Grilo runs a bread master class, with the duo teaming up for a bread, cheese and wine event at La Veranda. The festivities conclude on Oct. 29 at L’Orangerie with a Burgundy Premier & Grand Cru wine dinner with William Fevre / Bouchard Pere & Fils priced at VND2.4 million per per-son. The Sofitel Metropole Legend is at 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. For more info email

Remembrance BBQ 3


Moose & Roo Smokehouse, Hoan Kiem Friday, Nov. 18 In commemoration of the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the British Embassy will be hosting a Remembrance BBQ at Moose & Roo Smokehouse on Friday, Nov. 18 at 5pm with all money raised going to The Royal British Legion. Come and enjoy this family friendly afternoon with a traditional BBQ and a raffle with fan-tastic prizes. The Royal British Legion is a leading charity in the United Kingdom which takes care of injured soldiers, their families both past and present, and is also responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the Commonwealth war graves. Tickets cost VND200,000 and can be purchased directly through the Embassy. For more information or to purchase tickets please contact Kayla Bragg or Nguyen Thanh Binh on (04) 3936 0500. Moose & Roo Smokehouse is at 21 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi | September 2016 Word | 47


Just Hanoi


Health guides, golf training, new nightclubs and some spice from Peru. What’s new in the capital


Hanoi Holistic Health Guide Fall 2016 A primary and comprehensive directory of holistic health and wellness services in Hanoi.


1. The latest edition of the Hanoi Holistic Health Guide is now out 2. Bana Hills Golf Club claims to have the most advanced golf training facility in Vietnam 3. Le Club in the Metropole reopens after a two-month refurbishment 4. Entrants to the Targeted Innovation Challenge will have to solve an environmental and conservation problem 5. Tay Ho gets a new bakery 6. Fancy a Peruvian, anyone? Well, let’s head to Picante Latino 7. Newly opened Savage is set to shake up the DJ scene in Hanoi 8. Cousins opens a second location in Ba Dinh


Hanoi Holistic Health Guide The recently updated Autumn edition of the Hanoi Holistic Health Guide is now available online. Containing listings of holistic and wellness practitioners in Hanoi, the comprehensive directory is an indispensable resource for those looking to optimize their physical, mental and spiritual health. A free download of the guide is available at hanoiholistichealth

Tracking for Success Bana Hills Golf Club in Danang has opened what it says is the most advanced golf training facility in Vietnam, using the TrackMan 4 radar-assisted technology to assess players’ swings and the path of the ball. This will enable club professional Mathew Pryke to accelerate the learning process. The club is committed to growing the game by bringing these training techniques to new golfers of all ages, according to Jack Hedges, the club’s general manager.

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The club has also built a fullylit, 310-yard driving range with 18 covered, fan-cooled hitting bays and five, bunker-guarded target greens simulating on-course conditions. For more information click on

Le Club Reopens One of Hanoi’s oldest bars, Le Club at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel, has reopened after a twomonth makeover. New features include a live cooking station, a new marble bar and a seating capacity expanded from 90 to 120 in a faithful re-creation of a 1920s style speakeasy. With the new bar, there is a new voice. Zoey Jones steps up as the hotel’s new ‘jazz diva,’ singing five nights per week at Le Club through December. The Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel is at 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi

Entrepreneurship Challenge A group of companies including

Frontier Law & Advisory (Frontier), Da Nang Entrepreneurship Support Co., Ltd. (DNES), Marco Polo Studios, Evergreen Labs and Vinatuna are organising an entrepreneurship initiative called the Targeted Innovation Challenge (TIC). The challenge for entrants is to solve an environmental and conservation problem where the solution will have a commercial value. The TIC will involve small teams of inventors competing in developing a solution with the best team and runner-up receiving US$1,000 (VND22.5 million) and US$400, respectively, along with a chance to commercialize their product. The competition will start with the soft launch in Danang on Sep. 10, with registration opening by Sep. 5. The competition will last six weeks, and the registered teams will be provided with a mentor to assist the teams in meeting the milestones required to complete the competition. For more info click on


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or, or contact Simon Johansson on

Home Bread The couple behind Thanh Phuc Bread, which has been supplying Tay Ho’s minimarts and shops with fresh bread since 2009, has just opened a sandwich shop and bakery off Dang Thai Mai. Open daily from 8am to 4pm, the shop bakes their goods fresh every day, with loaves starting at VND45,000, and sandwiches costing from VND50,000 to VND90,000 a go. Home Bread is at 13/57 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Hanoi

Picante Latino There’s a new burrito in town — and at VND95,000, it could be Tay Ho’s most affordable. Add a killer rooftop view of West Lake, and a cozy date night atmosphere, and you’ve

got Picante Latino, the newest venture of Chef Charles Guislain and St. Honore. The menu features Peruvian dishes like ceviche and lomo saltado, Mexican favourites like quesadillas and enchiladas, and a selection of Spanish tapas, with prices ranging from VND55,000 to VND250,000. Picante Latino is at 5 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi, just above St. Honore

Savage Cliche Records has already rocked Hong Kong with a wave of international DJs, and now they’re dropping into Hanoi with their new venue, Savage. Kicking off on Sep. 16 with a showcase by The Observatory from Saigon, the intimate club will focus on bumping quality underground electronic acts from around the world through their Funktion-One soundsystem, and will be invite crews from across Asia to throw

monthly parties. The grand opening weekend is officially slated for the Sep. 23 and Sep. 24, with a VND100,000 cover, but get there before 10pm to dance for free. Savage is at 112 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi

New Cousins Location The Tay Ho-based restaurant Cousins has opened a new location in Ba Dinh, a welcome addition to a neighbourhood that still lacks quality Western eateries. The new venue is larger than their first and is better-equipped to host events. The food will stay the same for now, but a more familystyle menu is in the works. Prices range from VND75,000 to VND260,000 a dish, and happy hour offers VND50,000 cocktails during the week from 4pm to 6pm. Cousins’ second location is at #7 Ngo 58, Dao Tan, Ba Dinh, Hanoi


Keeping it in the Family / The Homestay Experience / The Motorcycle Diaries / Over the Bridge / Mui Den Do / Hidden Gems / Top Eats Hanoi / Banh My Pho Hue / Mystery Diner HCMC / A Taste from the Past / The Art and Architecture of George Town / The Abandoned Valley Photo of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park by Nick Ross 50 | Word September 2016 | | September 2016 Word | 51


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Keeping it in the Family | September 2016 Word | 53

Like so many other businesses in Hanoi, Tan My is one of those that is all about the family. In this instance, three generations of family. Words by Edward Dalton. Photos by Theo Lowenstein


anoi is brimming with little family businesses, where subsequent generations inherit a new set of skills along with a shop to peddle them in. Two of the finest shops on Hang Gai, the famous Silk Street, Tan My (66 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem) and its newer sister shop Tan My Design (61 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem) epitomise the spirit of family business. I pulled up a chair to hear the stories of the three women who have overseen the enduring success of the business, since its humble beginnings as a seller of embroidered handkerchiefs and pillow cases, to an haute designer of clothing, jewellery, home décor, and assorted linens.

Grandma Knows Best The story begins a long time ago when tradition and strife were the only things everyone possessed in equal measure.

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The war was in full swing, and business opportunities were few and far between. Bach Thi Ngai, now 92 years old, recognised that some things don’t stop just because there’s a war to be getting on with. “People still needed to get married,” she says. “That meant they needed pillow cases.” In one of the oldest Vietnamese marriage traditions, newlyweds would go to bed on their wedding night using pillowcases embroidered with their initials. Young men, including two of Ngai’s own brothers, left to serve in the army. Sweethearts would share a final moment together before the girl slipped an embroidered handkerchief into the young soldier’s hand, a symbol of her love, loyalty and commitment. “The handkerchiefs had messages embroidered onto them, such as chung thuy or doi cho,” continues Ngai, which roughly translate as “I’ll be faithful” and “I’ll wait

for you”. When Ngai started her business in 1969, the traditional pillowcases and sentimental handkerchiefs were the two pillars upon which she would build her success. In the earliest days, Ngai did all the embroidery herself. Once things started to take off in a bigger way, her daughter, Do Thanh Huong, would come home from school and have to finish stitching two pillow cases every day. “It was really hard work,” Huong recalls. “We still had to use food stamps to survive; we only got 300 grams of meat every month.”

Like Mother Like Daughter These days, however, Ngai spends most of her time either relaxing around Hoan Kiem Lake, or relaxing at home. About 20 years ago, Huong took over the reins and started to modernise the company, moving it away from relying solely on embroidery. “It’s the only thing we ever fought about,” Huong says, smiling at her mum. “She wanted to keep things traditional, but I was trying to think about the future.” It’s clear to see the similarities as they sit together, looking resplendent in their ao dai. “I’m not as beautiful as her,” laments

“The story begins a long time ago when… the war was in full swing, and business opportunities were few and far between. Bach Thi Ngai, now 92 years old, recognised that some things don’t stop just because there’s a war to be getting on with” | September 2016 Word | 55

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Huong. “But she taught me to be hardworking and tidy.” The first little shop they owned was just up the road from the current embroidery shop, Tan My. Huong’s son helps out with managing it, when he’s not busy running his own restaurant. “Tan My means ‘New Beauty’, so that’s where we keep the products we’re most proud of — the embroidery,” says Huong. The newer shop, Tan My Design, opened opposite the old one around seven years ago. This was the culmination of Huong’s plan to modernise the business. “Customers kept coming in and asking if we did clothes and other things, so we needed a bigger space.” But two shops is enough, Huong believes. “We want Tan My to be an exclusive brand,” she says. “So we will continue to export, but we won’t open any more shops, or expand into southern Vietnam.” This exclusivity is what gives their business an edge over their rivals, many of whom are neighbours in Hang Gai. Huong’s family, unusually for Vietnam, is a working matriarchy. “My mum is the head of the family, so other family members will only travel far if it’s to pay respect to her,” Huong says, before laughing and confessing: “She always tried to make sure I had an advantage over the boys in the family.”

Bright Future The penultimate link in the chain is Nguyen Thi Linh, Huong’s daughter and the current general director of Tan My Design. However, I’m more inclined to believe that Linh’s five-year-old daughter, Kitty, is the real boss around here, as I watch her confidently striding around the store to explain products to foreign customers. “She’s exactly the same as me when I was that age,” Linh says proudly. “Except I also used to stand in the doorway and shout at people to come inside.” Linh used to have the same dream as her mum, when she was very young — they both wanted to be teachers. “Getting a job in Hanoi as a teacher was too difficult, so it was better to work for the family business,” she remembers. I ask Linh if she would bother with the family business if she won US$10 million in a lottery tomorrow. “I would never sell the business, I love it too much,” she says firmly. Huong jokes that if they won the lottery, they’d just buy a bigger shop for Tan My. Linh says that designing products, managing the business and being with customers are the things she loves the most, and can’t imagine not working for Tan My in the future. “I’d never force my daughter to continue the business if she didn’t want to,” just as her own mum didn’t force her. “You can see how happy she is to be here, she loves the customers, too.” Huong believes that any family business,

“‘In a family business, if you fail, you’ve let your family down; there’s more responsibility for everyone involved. We depend on each other’” not only theirs, is far more special than a huge, faceless corporation. “We work here because we love it, we built it. It has our personal touch, and the customers appreciate the character of our products,” she says. Linh nods her head in agreement, adding: “In a family business, if you fail, you’ve let your family down; there’s more responsibility for everyone involved. We depend on each other.”

The Next Generation While Huong is preparing how best to retire, or at least take a step back from direct involvement, Linh is waiting with her hand outstretched, ready to take the baton and run.

“I want to introduce Tan My, and Vietnamese embroidery to as much of the world as possible,” Linh says. “It’s such a beautiful form of art, and we hope more people can know about it.” Linh is even considering expanding Tan My Design to include more artwork, because she thinks that there are many talented Vietnamese artists who lack the opportunity to share their creations. With Ngai’s desire to build her own business, Huong’s vision to modernise and Linh’s passion for sharing their products, it’s easy to see how Tan My is such a successful and enduring family business. With Kitty waiting in the wings, it’s clear that this is one family whose legacy is going to continue growing for quite some time yet. | September 2016 Word | 57



The Homestay Experience

“Accustomed to cable TV, mattresses and air-conditioning, staying with a family in rural Vietnam makes it very apparent how much more we have in life. But it also shows us how much we don’t really need any of it” 58 | Word September 2016 | | September 2016 Word | 59

Stay in a five-star or boutique hotel, and you got one type of experience. Stay in a homestay and you get something altogether quite different. Words and photos by Jesse Meadows


hen I am old and I reminisce on the days I spent adventuring in Vietnam, what I will remember most are the nights I laid on a bamboo floor in a stilt house, listening to the music of frogs that wafted in through open windows and the giant mystery bugs that flitted against my mosquito net in the dark. I will inhale the scent of coming rain, and be transported to that moment on my back in the breeze of the standing fan, watching the strobe light sky flicker purple behind the mountains, feeling the whole house tremble with thunder around me.

Authenticity Homestays offer an embedded cultural experience. You get to eat and drink with a local family, sleep in their house, and play with their children. It’s this ‘authentic’ travel that so many tourists fantasize about. But homestays offer something else, too — a

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refreshing return to simplicity. Henry David Thoreau said: “Our life is frittered away by detail.” The more you have, the more you have to worry about. In the same way a five-star resort may handle these details for you, a homestay simply does away with them. There are few amenities, nothing to do, and no distractions. There’s nowhere to be. Days are spent swaying in a hammock on the porch, ‘night life’ is dinner in a circle on the floor, pouring shots of homemade ruou, or rice wine, from a bucket. Accustomed to cable TV, mattresses and air-conditioning, staying with a family in rural Vietnam makes it very apparent how much more we have in life. But it also shows us how much we don’t really need any of it. It’s a reminder that happiness doesn’t come from the things we own, but the experiences we have, and the people we share them with. | September 2016 Word | 61

“Homestays offer an embedded cultural experience. You get to eat and drink with a local family, sleep in their house, and play with their children. It’s this ‘authentic’ travel that so many tourists fantasize about” 62 | Word September 2016 | | September 2016 Word | 63

Cover Story 1




Nick Ross


Julie Vola


Jesse Meadows 7

Vu Ha Kim Vy

Zoe Osborne

Siân Kavanagh

Rodney Hughes

The Motorcycle Diaries Che Guevara liked biking through long countries. So do we.





n January 1952, the then 23-yearold Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and his biochemist friend, Alberto Granado, left Buenos Aires on a single-cylinder 1939 Norton 500cc motorbike to explore South America. The 8,000km journey had a profound impact on Guevara, who had been born to an upper-middle-class family. Encountering first-hand poverty, exploitation, illness and suffering, it created a political and social awakening that led him to fight and die for the cause of the poor, and dream of a united Latin America. He became one of the bestknown guerrilla leaders in history. During our own road trips we have covered just half that amount — 4,000km — yet our travels have taken us the length and skinny breadth of Vietnam. While we have encountered experiences both good and bad, exhilarating and frustrating, we can promise that not one of us has returned a revolutionary. This is not to detract from our own little feat, from the very northern tip of this country to the very far southeast is quite a journey. So, we split it up into parts, each writer and photographer taking on a section all of their own. But like Che Guevara we all experienced something profound — the elation and freedom of being on the open road. In the 1950s Jack Kerouac crossed and re-crossed America by car. It induced him to pen one of the most influential novels of the last century, On The Road. Our own stories won’t be nearly as significant and not one of us is a beatnik, but we hope they will make you think. Parts of this country are stunningly beautiful. Yet to see it you need to get out there and leave the city behind. It’s worth every breakdown, every bit of discomfort to your behind, every downpour and every kilometre of wanting a hot shower or a place just to lie down and relax. We know. Because we’ve been there, done it, and have survived to tell the story. So here in all its glory we present to you, The Motorcycle Diaries.


Hoang Sa


Phu Quoc


Truong Sa


Con Dao | September 2016 Word | 65


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Day 2: Yen Minh, Lung Cu and Dong Van


he scenery here is breathtaking. It is Ha Giang, after all, the most beautiful province in Vietnam. Yet two days into our trip it still defies words. You can describe it, yes — rolling hills, dark mountains, black rock, deep green foliage, terraced fields, winding roads, alpine furs, adobe houses — and with a roll of the tongue you can add colour, verbiage for all the foliage, flowers for all the mountains. Words can only capture the emotion this place evokes, not the place itself. Everything that is not the mountains is tiny, a dot on an imposing horizon. Man is just a speck of dirt on the majesty of nature. But here, in the space where Vietnam sticks up into China like a sore thumb, we’re about to experience something else. That country up north. Leaving Highway 182B we meander along the crumbling road towards the border. We pass through small rickety villages, stare down at immense valleys, and watch the scenery change. It starts off as black rock, an unearthly black rock, but then the trees and grasses return in different shades of green and after 20km

of ungainly bends we are at the border. Not for the first time today, we see marijuana growing wild by the side of the road and then we pass an old man leading two albino buffaloes. He is alone, using a stick for support. Further on, we see another old man dressed all in black, his back stooped under the weight of leaves and grasses. Lung Cu is known for its tower, a mountain-top column and flagpole overlooking the border. On its top flaps a Vietnamese flag, placed as if to remind the northern hordes beyond of that resilient nation to the south. It’s on the tip of the nail, the pointed nail of that thumb, and the tower and flag loom resplendent below the imposing sky. As we climb the first set of steps — there are 270 to get to the base of the tower — Communist Party music drifts out of the speakers. It’s imposing and yet soothing, peace-breaking yet relevant. For the whole of the 1980s, Vietnam fought off the Chinese on its northern border. The Chinese managed to get no more than a kilometre into Vietnam. With an already war-hardened army and

border lands like these, it’s no surprise. At the base of the tower the question is asked again and again. “Where is China?” No sign marks it out. I think it’s to the north, but when I look later on Google Maps, it’s to the east and west as well, no more than two kilometres either way. From where we stand, there are villages on the other side of the border that can only be reached by road from Vietnam. Apparently you can cross without a visa and then come back again. But at this moment we don’t know that, and climbing to the top of the tower — another 144 steps — we ask again. Where’s China? This time the answer comes with the wind. It soars here in blusters, hitting you in the face. Beyond the valleys below, China is everywhere you look, but it’s not here. Certainly not here. We have a different vantage point at the top of the tower to the one we see on the road. And we could stand here and soak in the effect of man and nature for hours. But we have to move on. It’s late afternoon and we have to get on to Dong Van before dark. — Nick Ross

Diary Entry #1: The Cross-Eyed Ghost We’re talking about the village we just passed through on the way to Lung Cu. Is it Má Lé, meaning ‘cross-eyed mother’ or Ma Lé — ‘cross-eyed ghost’? We’re so tired from our rain-drenched, motorbike drive, which has meandered through grandiose mountain passes and regal valleys, that we’ve lost the ability to think. When we settle on ‘cross-eyed ghost’, we don’t discuss its strangeness. Later on Google Maps I discover that it could actually be Mã Lé, meaning cross-eyed flying horse. | September 2016 Word | 67


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Day 1: Hanoi to La Vie Vu Linh


e were supposed to set off early to Ba Be Lake to ensure we completed the 230km trip in a day, but because of mechanical gremlins, our departure gets put back. The contingency plan is to make a first stop at Thac Ba Lake, 150km away in the village of Vu Linh in Yen Bai. The road from Hanoi is fairly easy, and quite scenic when you get deep into the Vietnamese countryside, with rice paddies and a bit of mountain road. We also drive through tea plantations, which make a

welcome change of scenery. From Hanoi we head towards Tam Dao and stay on TL340 then QL2C; at km134 we turn left onto QL37 and follow the road until we reach Vu Linh. There are a couple of homestays spread around and tourism is not yet developed around Thac Ba Lake; the main player in the area is La Vie Vu Linh, a lakefront eco-lodge that promotes tourism in harmony with the locals and the environment. The lake created by the Thac Ba hydroelectric project in 1970 is one of the

largest artificial bodies of water in Vietnam, covering a total of 23.4 hectares. 1,331 islands rear their heads above its surface, causing some to call it a miniature Ha Long Bay. The villages in the area have a large ethnic population, mainly composed of Dzao and Tay and it is possible to hire a boat for a tour of the lake, visiting caves like Thuy Tien cave, which was the base for the Yen Bai provincial committee during the war. With clear, blue water the lake is also perfect for a swim.

Diary Entry #1: Traditions We arrive at La Vie Vu Linh unannounced; luckily we are the only guests. It is a special night for the staff, as one of the young French volunteers will be leaving the next day, and so tonight it’s his going-away party. We share a delicious family-style meal around the same table. The moonshine is out and ready. Following the Dzao tradition every time someone offers to drink a glass down in one you shake their hand and say thank you. I thank the same person multiple times for over an hour. | September 2016 Word | 69

Day 2: La Vie Vu Linh to Ba Be lake


scenic route going through many mountain passes runs north of Tuyen Quang Province towards Viet Quang, then follows the southern border of Ha Giang Province. This trip was recommended by the Vietnamese staff at La Vie Vu Linh but Google Maps estimates it would take over seven hours in a car, so tack a couple more on for a motorbike convoy. We decide against it, and cut straight through Tuyen Quang Province. Going through Vietnamese rural landscape is never boring, the bucolic farm life picturesque even though the area is visibly poor. Beware if you’re using Google Maps, as it doesn’t discriminate between highways, countryside roads or mountain dirt roads, which could set you back an hour or two if you're unlucky. We learnt that one the hard way. After 120km of a quiet drive through the

countryside, Google Maps suggested that we take a left towards the mountain, along a road carrying a Restricted Area sign. Twenty minutes in, the road changes from paved to dirt with big rocks and small rain gullies and rising steeply to one side. That isn't too bad, but the steep downgrades are intimidating. On the way down, I notice my travelling companion, Richard’s, backpack is gone. He decides to walk back to retrieve it, walking up and down the road for a good 30 minutes under the sun. Back on his motorbike he continues on down quicker than me, and I lose sight of him. When I catch up, I find him sitting under the shade of some small bushes. He isn’t well, light-headed, possible heatstroke, from the combination of the walk under the sun, the lack of water and the fumes from his motorbike tank. He drinks what water

we have left, but it isn’t enough. When it becomes clear he isn’t able to stand up and ride his motorbike, I have to leave him there and go get some help. Luckily we are almost done with the dirt mountain road and within 10 minutes I reach a house. A farmer is outside, sees my distress, understands something has gone wrong on the road; he probably thinks my friend had an accident. When we get back, Richard is still not able to stand and is on the verge of passing out. The farmer assesses the situation, and barefoot drives his motorbike back down the road, parks it and walks back up, so he can drive Richard’s motorbike down to the main road. We finally get Richard to a roadside shop with two big bottles of water, shade and sugar. He recovers and two hours later we get back on the road.

Diary Entry #2: In the Spotlight After the mayhem of the drive to Ba Be, we are back on the road trying to take it easy. It’s already late, though, and night is falling fast, so we get ready to do the last section in the dark. Then we realize Richard's front light doesn’t work, probably because of a slight fall in the morning. We fix his phone to the handlebars and turn on its flashlight; Richard follows me closely for the last 10km. The day has become ludicrous.

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Day 3: Ba Be Lake


a Be National Park, established in 1992 in Bac Kan Province, is set up to protect the largest natural freshwater lake in Vietnam and the surrounding limestone and evergreen forest. Ba Be meaning Three Lakes refers to Pe Leng, Pe Lu and Pe Lam, three lakes, each connected to the next. The park is a wildlife sanctuary for 447

different kinds of mammals, birds and fish species and 354 species of butterfly. Three villages surround the lakeshore, Bo Lu, Ba Be and Pac Ngoi, all offering a large choice of homestays. A couple of piers around the lake allow you to hire a boat independently to visit local attractions (Puong Caves, Widow Island, Dau Dang Waterfall and

more). If you enjoy trekking, the National Park offers a multitude of trails for the day or for a few nights with tours organised by Ba Be Tourism or Linh’s Adventure Travel and Homestay. The place is idyllic. A thankful final destination to a not so thankful journey. — Julie Vola

Diary Entry #3: Afternoon Glow One thing I love is the 4pm to 6pm window. In Vietnam the light at these hours is beautiful, golden and rich. In the countryside it is also the time people go back to the fields after avoiding the perils of the midday heat. It is the time when people light fires to burn waste, and it is during this time of the day when I am out taking photos that I feel the most at home in Vietnam. | September 2016 Word | 71

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South of Hanoi PHOTOS BY JESSE MEADOWS | September 2016 Word | 73

Day 1: Hanoi to Mai Chau


he worst part of road tripping south out of the city is the dusty construction you must first pass on Highway 13. It’s a sort of toll for the beauty you’ll see soon. About an hour out of the city centre, the landscape starts to improve. Limestone mammoths appear, surrounded by green fields and glassy lakes. This is Hoa Binh Province, home to caves that once sheltered some of the very first Vietnamese civilisations.

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Stop in Hoa Binh town for lunch (and a trip to the mechanic, if your bike chain falls off like mine did). There’s not much to see here, but it’s a nice halfway point. Back on Highway 13, the drive goes from good to spectacular pretty quickly. Winding in and out of switchbacks, the road climbs up and down for a couple hours until making a final descent into the valley that cradles Mai Chau. The area is mostly populated by the White

Thai ethnic minority, skilled weavers who sheltered the Vietnamese army on their way to the famous battle against the French at Dien Bien Phu. Their traditional wooden stilt houses — originally built to survive flooding — have now been converted into homestays for tourists. Mai Chau is a serene, relaxing and successful experiment in grassroots tourist development, but it’s now a regular stop on most itineraries, and true adventure is scarce.

Day 2: Mai Chau to Pu Luong


y travel companion and I debated leaving this lazy refuge, but the idea of a place that you’ve never been is a strong motivator. Leaving Mai Chau town, Road 15 snakes south towards Pu Luong Nature Reserve; hang left when the road splits and cross the border into Thanh Hoa Province, climbing the spine of the reserve’s western mountain ridge. This province — one of the country’s largest — was home to the Dong Son culture during the Bronze Age, and the birthplace of the

famed Ba Trieu, a fierce female warrior in the third century who led a rebellion against the Chinese from the back of an elephant. On an empty road, it’s easy to imagine a time more ancient, as small waterfalls gush down the slope to your right, and glassy rice terraces descend to your left into the deep valley below. In the distance, green gives way to layers of mountains in ascending shades of blue. Besides a recently-built boutique resort

(a sign of development to come), the only places to rest here are the homestays of local villagers, who will happily make dinner and prepare a bed for you. The food is all grown, picked and killed by hand, as fresh as it gets, and the views are vast and unparalleled. It would be easy to spend a week here, getting lost on the dirt roads that lead to hidden villages, but despite my steady diet of coconut water and pickled chillis, I’d begun to feel bleak, so we decided to head back into civilisation early.

Diary Entry #1: Hanoi A day on the highway in Hanoi is a day of extremes. Loud, fast, bright, hot. Sweat dripping down the middle of your back as three old Vietnamese men fiddle with the wires in your motorbike. But they couldn’t fix it, grew bored, and wandered off, so my travelling partner started her bike and pushed me 15km home with her right foot. We almost made it to the outskirts of the city but her tentacles pulled us right back in. We’ll try again tomorrow. | September 2016 Word | 75

Day 3: Pu Luong to Lang Chanh


oming down out of the reserve, we encounter the Ma River; this massive, slow-moving brown beast that has sustained the region for centuries. After we cross the bridge, the road follows the river for a while, before the landscape changes into verdant bamboo forests and mountains carpeted in greenery.

It’s a short ride, and it’s entirely possible to pass through Lang Chanh, unless, like me, you’ve grown deathly ill by some cruel twist of fate. It’s remote and pastoral, and if I hadn’t felt like dying, I would have stopped to explore the lush bamboo that lines the gently sloping road. There’s a turn-off to the right for Lang

Chanh Town, a small but bustling little place with a couple of hotels on the main drag. It’s one of those middle-of-nowhere settlements that somehow stick in your memories of road trips. The locals are friendly, and over dinner, they’ll offer up directions to Thac Ma Hao, a waterfall 10km outside of town.

Diary Entry #2: Pu Luong Tonight we taught some little girls from the village how to play Uno, and marvelled as the sun set behind the mountains outside our window. Dinner with the family was quiet and the father, who already smelled strongly of alcohol when we met him that afternoon, tried to ply us with rice wine. I declined, feeling sicker by the minute, and chewed on some chilli instead. As we climbed into bed, he watched us far too long for comfort. “Are we safe?” my travel companion keeps asking. I think so. We’re together, at least. Groups of men have tailed us on the highway, they’ve filmed us with their phones even after we asked them not to, they’ve leered in ways they never do when I travel with male companions.

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Day 4: Lang Chanh to Cuc Phuong National Park


night of sleep worked its magic, and we woke up the next day in high spirits, ready to find that waterfall. I guess in a way we got what we wanted; we drove straight into a monsoon. Over coffee with some giggly women who couldn’t resist a cell phone photoshoot with the foreigners in town, we waited for the downpour to slow, before taking Road 15 to the Ho Chi Minh Highway. A source of national pride, this 1,200-kilometre road runs the length of the country, and a particularly beautiful

stretch cuts straight through Cuc Phuong National Park. Anointed by Ho Chi Minh himself in 1962, the park is Vietnam’s largest, and remains from prehistoric humans have even been found in some of its caves. After a road trip that pelted me with rain from the outside and malady from the inside, pulling up to my favourite homestay in Vietnam was a relief. Quan Duc is close to the highway, and run by a family of four sisters. They have beautiful children and three furry puppies.

It’s the perfect balance of home and stay, really — trading English words for Vietnamese over coffee in the morning, dancing with the kids in the afternoon, and retreating to our own wooden loft space in the evening. A dirt track next to the homestay will take you into the mountains, where waterfalls abound, goats graze along the road, and buffalo herders amble along with their brutes. Under the definition of ‘happy place’, there’s a photograph of Cuc Phuong. — Jesse Meadows

Diary Entry #3: Cuc Phuong “Get me out of here!” my companion laughs, as we reminisce on the past few days. It’s been one misfortune after another, and now we’re lying on a bamboo mat, listening to rain patter on a tin roof as the wooden house around us shakes with thunder. She’s scared, but thunderstorms always remind me of home. It’s the most relaxation I’ve had all week. Grandma comes up the stairs, puts buckets in the places where she knows the roof will leak, and replaces the bananas on the family altar. I smile and wave goodnight to her, watching the raindrops outside flicker in the light of passing trucks. Even when it all goes wrong, there’s still beauty to be found. You just have to laugh. | September 2016 Word | 77

Day 1: Phong Nha to Khe Sanh


t started off as a road trip just for two; Ben Mitchell from Phong Nha Farmstay and I. Yet by the time we departed Phong Nha in Quang Binh early one August morning, our ranks had swollen to eight. Three Australians, two Brits, one German, one Irishman and one Vietnamese. I’d like to flatter myself that this sudden interest was because of the company. Perhaps it was partly so. The other was definitely the journey itself, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail West

now known as Highway 15. While Ha Giang is hands down the most beautiful province in Vietnam, when it comes to roads, the drive from Phong Nha to Khe Sanh in the next province down, Quang Tri, has to be the most stunning. According to the United States National Security Agency's version of the war, the system of paths that made up the Ho Chi Minh Trail was “one of the great achievements of military engineering of the 20th century”. Used to transport both

soldiers and supplies from north to south, look at the terrain that Highway 15, paved in the early 2000s, weaves through and you’ll understand the accolade. Vietnam has over 90 million people, of whom the majority are squeezed into approximately 20 percent of the country’s land area. This means large swathes of this country are sparsely inhabited. But here, even sparse doesn’t describe what you see. For the first 80km there is not one house along the road. Not one ranger station, not


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one shop, café or gas station. This is unadulterated countryside, a rural form of Vietnam made up of limestone mountains carpeted with green jungle, all but untouched. The hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese soldiers who would have plied this route would have found it treacherous. The road, too, is representative of the terrain. Up and down, pass after pass, hairpin bend after ever-more-challenging hairpin bend, the going is slow. Yet riding a motorbike through the cool air of the

mountain valleys with a backdrop of a world untouched by man is difficult to beat. It’s exhilarating.

Civilisation The first sign of human life is at the junction with provincial highway TL563 at an area known as Rinh Rinh. Suddenly there is a trickle of motorbikes travelling the opposite way. Ten kilometres further on, the houses begin to appear, the ethnic minority stilt houses of the Van Kieu. And then after another 10km a village, Long

Son. Yet almost as quickly as the presence of civilization appears, it disappears again, not re-emerging until we are 50km or so from Khe Sanh. This time it comes with livestock — buffalo, cows, goats, chickens and even pigs wandering along the road. And finally Khe Sanh, the first real town in 240km. Located just 15km from the border with Laos, this dusty, end-ofthe-road conglomeration of houses is best known for its wartime air base, Ta Con, which we plan to visit the next day.

Diary Entry #1: Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls We’ve been talking about heading to this waterfall we’ve been told about and now the three guys, including the midget, are heading off the road to the Promised Land. I’ll follow them, I tell everyone, and I get on my bike and drive down the track. But 1km in and my path is blocked so I park my bike and go on by foot. They show me the waterfall — tuyet voi, says one, amazing. But when I get there it’s just rocks jutting out of a flowing river. So I head back to the ranger station, but when I arrive, everyone else has left, also in search of the waterfall. I wait, wait and wait. They will be disappointed. | September 2016 Word | 79

Day 2: Khe Sanh, Lao Bao, Dong Ha and Hue


here is an abandoned church in Quang Tri on the main road from Dong Ha to Hue. When we arrive, my memory is of the photos taken three years ago by our then staff photographer, Francis Roux. Bullet holes rip through the side of the church’s ornate walls and decorative carvings, and the building has lost its roof; today it’s at the mercy of the elements. This for me is war; its ability to destroy all that’s good and beautiful. Even places

of God get caught up in the carnage. And in this part of Vietnam, the strip of land north and south of the former Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), today the monstrous acts of more than 40 years ago continue to affect its people. There is so much unexploded ordnance (UXO) in the area that, for fear of digging up dangerous explosives, farmers only practice light farming — the main crop is acacia trees. And every year, while the numbers of fatalities are declining and

organisations like MAG and Project Renew work to clear the land of munitions, scores of people either die or get injured through accidental contact with the UXO. We start our second day on the road with another reminder of the past, this time the brutality of colonisation. At Lao Bao on the border with Laos is a French-built prison that is off most tourist itineraries. The penitentiary is mainly in ruins now, but three of the old blocks remain, including the

Diary Entry #2: Speak Vietnamese, Why Don't You? The receptionist in Khe Sanh just refuses to speak to me in Vietnamese, and every time I say something she replies in bad English. Terrible English. I know she wants to practice her language skills, but please, all we’re trying to do is arrange dinner. Please! Let’s just arrange it, okay? Don’t you get it? There’s a reason why so many foreigners have problems speaking your language. It’s because you make it so difficult for them. But no, she continues on.

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solitary confinement area. Most striking is a tree with thorns, a bit like a rose bush but with the spikes climbing up the trunk. “Prisoners were made to climb up this tree as a form of punishment,” says our guide. I wince at the savagery. Our next stop — with our numbers whittled down from eight to five, and later just two — is the former US Air Base at Ta Con in Khe Sanh. Filled with rusting tanks, helicopters, people carriers, munitions, an air carrier and a reconstructed bunker system,

last time I visited there was a freshness to the place. Even the museum, with its photo imagery, models, maps and weapons, felt alive with history. Yet now the place is staid. No upgrades. No care. A bunker system overgrown with weeds. This should be one of the key war sites in the country, but it isn’t. It needs an overhaul. And then, via the road to Dong Ha and an ethnic minority village given an NGO makeover that had failed to bring in tourists — even the hot spring baths, a key

part of any visit, were cracked and out of use. Now lunch and then the church, Long Hung. Finally, in late afternoon, to Hue and into the Imperial citadel for dinner at Les Jardins de la Carambole. As I sit with my one remaining travel companion, Ben, we go over again and again the journey of the past two days. There are some road trips that lodge in your memory, some that you will hope to forget. Surrounded by the spectre of the past, this is one that will remain fresh. — Nick Ross

Diary Entry #3: Pig Ears and Chao The suckling pig arrives on the table, all skin, fat, bone and only a little meat. We start eating, then suddenly I realise I’m eating the ear. No, can’t do that one. For a second I want to retch and I subtly put the piece with ear it on it back on the sharing plate. I don’t want anyone to notice. Then the chao arrives, chao with seaweed, my saviour. But this is the Quang Tri version and instead of rice congee it comes with little, oneinch long pieces of oblong shaped, glutinous noodles. A bit like banh canh. We dig in. It’s delicious! I forget about the ear. | September 2016 Word | 81

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The Central Highlands PHOTOS BY VU HA KIM VY | September 2016 Word | 83

Day 1: Dalat to Lak Lake


he bus rips its way along the winding road, narrowly missing its ghost-like cousins as they spin past through the mist. It is as though the forest is hungry. The road to Dalat is a shoelace — slender and impossibly twisted, rising up through the clouds to a city of crisp, pale skies and feathery flowers. This place is famous for a reason. Originally a French settlement, Dalat has the kind of delicate elegance that you might expect from the South of France, but with Vietnam’s signature tang of time and culture. It sits around Xuan Huong Lake, spreading its arms out over the hills around it. Quaint, pastel-coloured houses cling to the hillside among the coffee plantations, and the air is sweet with flowers and pine. It tastes fresh, and impossibly clean.

There are two roads leading out of Dalat towards Dak Lak. They join together about 28km from the city, bumping noses at national highway QL27 and spinning back up into the mountains. Over mounds of deepest green, the road soon opens out into a wide bridge. A time-wrinkled woman stands at its edge, gazing into the water below, a patterned cloth around her soft, curling hair. K’mot is a cow herder. She cannot remember her age, and as she pads along the damp tarmac her eyes tell more stories than the stars. “It’s going to rain,” she smiles. The road to Lak Lake is like a story. It winds past big gated houses, brick box cottages and rustic wooden cabins sitting next to each other in a somehow harmonious paradox, a little way back from the tarmac. People squat outside, their lives bared to

whoever is driving past. Farmland rolls with the hills, dipping into the leafy forest around it as though someone had shaved off a chunk of the mountain and planted crops on its scalp. Dust-footed children watch, eyes wide. Eventually, QL27 falls down from the hills, pausing at a quiet, lakeside mountain town. The Lak Lake community sits around its namesake, a famous expanse of shimmering water dotted with reeds and blurry-eyed fishermen. The lake is covered in soft, gentle mist in the mornings, and turns to gold with the sun. Ethnic Jun Village sits a little to the north. It’s a tourist hotspot, and as you weave through the beautiful wooden stilt houses you can’t help but wonder what it would be like to live your whole life on show.

Diary Entry #1: The Village We’ve almost reached Lak Lake, taking a break over a fresh, flowing river before we move on. A village of people have built their homes to float on the water, patching their lives together from whatever they could find. Poverty is harsh when you can’t even afford a patch of land to live on. We talk to a man on the hill beside our bridge. He is lugging long strips of bamboo down to the river bank, lifting one and standing hunched on his bare feet to throw it downhill before turning back for another. He is building a new river house. We watch his wife adjust her worn, pink jumper and pull up the bottoms of her leggings, see his little twig-like son play in the muddy river reeds, and wonder what life would be like on water, with nothing but each other.

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Day 2: Lak Lake to Pleiku


eaving Lak Lake for Pleiku, QL27 runs next to the water for a while, snaking over green-gold rice paddies. Giang Re, another big body of still water backed by pock-marked hills, lies about 16km from Lak Lake. Just after Ea Krong Ana, an old broken Catholic Church sits back from the road, forgotten, lying in a field of gold. Sit under the bronzed stone pillars and dream of the stories in its cold, wet stone. From here the highway is a lot straighter.

A red clay track spits off from the main road at Ea M’T’A, skirting the edge of Buon Ma Thuot. Lanky pepper trees line the road and gangly young boys rip past on mopeds, loose hair rippling in the wind. The road here is full of scars and holes, the air is strangely fragrant, almost bitter, and all is wet with the promise of rain. Soon the red blends to grey again, turning right onto the AH17. The land here is quite bland. Giant, imposing quarries line the road like gashes

of blood-orange in the mountain’s green. Drive on, to Pleiku. Compared to its lush surroundings, the bustling town of Pleiku is a fairly characterless place. Just before you reach the town, climb the wide track to the top of Nui Ham Rong — the gateway to Pleiku. Get up to see the sun rise. In wet weather the mountain is smothered in mist, swallowing the track as it stretches out its fingers, feeling for its way.

Diary Entry #2: Sunrise at the Lake We get up before the sun and head down to the lake — we want to see the sunrise. As we drive along the bank of that vast stretch of crystal grey, groups of Lak Lake locals power walk past in early-morning exercise gear. Fishermen glide through the water in their long, slender crafts, rubbing the sleep from their eyes. There is such a beautiful paradox of people here — a mother in pretty new jogging shoes guides her son on the smooth tarmac, while a wife squats in the dust beside the lake to clean the fish her husband caught, and a sister walks barefoot beside the road wearing bright, ethnic colours on her golden brown skin. The sun shifts but stays hidden behind the billowing clouds that have followed from Dalat. It will rain today.

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Day 3: Pleiku to Kon Tum


rive through Pleiku on AH17 — the road to Kon Tum is broad and smooth. Bien Ho sits on the right of the highway, hidden down a forest track. The trees thin with the road and the magnificent breadth of water behind them winks through the leaves, showing its face at the Bien Ho lookout. As you reach Phu Hoa, about one third into your journey, turn left on the TL673 and follow it up to Ya Ly. This massive

expanse of water, larger than Kon Tum city, looks incredible on the map, but unfortunately access by main road is denied unless you are driving a car. The lake is, however, surrounded by dirt tracks that link a network of ethnic farming communities. Making a careful triangle back to the main road, turn left onto a dirt track about 6km back down the TL673 and follow its curves and sharp twists back to AH17.

The hills lie like snakes as you enter Kon Tum, wrapping around golden green rice paddies and tickling the road with their noses. This city is truly charming. It’s home to an almost impossible number of churches, while just outside it there are more ethnic groups living totally separate lives, preserving their beautiful language and culture. Drive through Kon K’lor and Kon Knam, smile with the people and share life with them for a day. — Zoe Osborne

Diary Entry #3: The Reservoir We take a detour from Pleiku to Kon Tum, slipping off the main road for a glimpse of the vast Yaly Reservoir. We are stopped at the gate — we can’t go in. As we head back to AH17, we turn left. Twisting and turning in dusty abandon, the country track that joins the highway beyond Yaly Lake is possibly one of the most exquisite parts of our journey yet. Our poor city bike struggles on the mottled clay track, now slick with the rain that has just slapped the highlands. We fall, slide into the mud. Around us is an expanse of incredible green and gold, rice fields, pepper plains and rich, dense paddocks of coffee, and rusty wooden cabins dot the road. An ethnic village unfolds. Pretty eyed cows walk with us, and their surprised herders watch us with wide eyes as we scrape the mud from our wheels. | September 2016 Word | 87

Day 1: Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre


eaving Ho Chi Minh City is a trip of its own — between finding our way out, and the traffic, it takes us more than an hour to get out of the city. Driving on Highway 1 is dreadful, so we look for small roads heading the same way. Ending up on a back road, even if for a short time, into rural countryside following a quiet little river is a welcome intermission from busy and dusty Highway 1. Distances between towns are relatively short in the Mekong Delta. You can easily drive from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho in half a day and then slowly make your way

back to the metropolis through the twist and turns of the delta. First stop, My Tho, is an unremarkable but bustling city, one of the main destinations for tourists on the one-day boat trip tours into the delta’s canals. We stop for a fresh drink by the harbour and watch the different boats on the river carrying the tourists heading for Thoi Son Island. We hoped to take a ferry for our first encounter with the river but we are told there are no longer any ferries in My Tho and that we have to take the cable-stayed Rach Mieu Bridge. These new bridges over

the different arms of the Mekong are most impressive — not beautiful but spectacular. They impose themselves on the landscape as major engineering landmarks. One after another, the concrete giants speed up the socio-economic and touristic development of the region, and slowly replace the network of ferries that run across the rivers. We arrive in Ben Tre by the end of the day and check into a clean, new hotel overlooking the river. In the fresh evening air we take a long stroll on the riverside promenade, watching locals on their last errands of the day.


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nother way to discover the delta is by boat. Avoiding My Tho’s assembly line of tourists and boats, at Ben Tre’s Oasis Hotel, you can book half-day boat trips through the canals of the island, with the typical features like a coconut candy factory stop, honey tea and tropical fruits, but also an additional bicycle tour through the small alleyways between people’s houses, farms and orchards. It’s a highlight. It feels like you’re entering a secret garden, zigzagging under the palm tree

Day 2: Ben Tre to Vinh Long

shade where the sunshine pierces the green leaves. Time is suspended; everything is quiet, only interrupted by the laughter of children playing with a dog or the tinkle of a bell on a bicycle. From Ben Tre to Vinh Long there is still a ferry line that connects the two islands more conveniently placed than the bridge. The waiting in line to get on the ferry is a dire experience where a gas mask would be a useful accessory to ward off exhaust fumes. Once on the ferry, nobody moves, ready

to start again as soon as the ferry touches the bank. The air from the river is a relief in the heat of the late daylight hours. There is nothing much to see in Vinh Long, the interest lies elsewhere. There are a lot of homestay options on An Binh Island just across the river. There, in the middle of farmland we get our dose of rural hospitality.

Diary Entry #1: The Lord of the Flowers Flowers are everywhere in the south of Vietnam. I am amazed. Bougainvillea are a long-time favourite of mine, and it seems like they grow like weeds here. The sight makes me so happy, I am almost jealous. Why can’t we have this in Hanoi? The air is infused with a fragrant smell of flowers, and all I can think of is it’s time to get my balcony smelling just like that. | September 2016 Word | 89

Day 3: Vinh Long to Can Tho


n Binh island is densely cultivated with rice paddies and fruit orchards. The air smells of sweet-blossomed flowers. After breakfast we borrow the homestay’s bicycles and take off for the whole morning continuing our exploration of the Mekong Delta’s deep countryside. The best way to discover this quiet, picturesque, paradise is to get lost in the narrow lanes, passing by luxuriant bougainvillea bushes, cycling on small fragrant roads boarded by orchards, houses, and cute stone or wood bridges. On this peaceful morning, southern Vietnam begins to grow on me; this is my

favourite part of the trip so far. Well into the afternoon, we head towards Sa Dec to visit the house of Huynh Thuy Le, the son of a rich Chinese family, and lover of the French writer Marguerite Duras. Duras immortalised the ill-fated affair in her novel The Lover. The 119-year-old house at 255A Nguyen Hue is open for visits. Its structure conforms to traditional Vietnamese design but is combined with western influence on the façade and in the Renaissance-style ceilings. The interior is all dark wood, a strong contrast to the white stones of the exterior, and in the first room you can see

all kinds of photos on the wall, some of Huynh Thuy Le himself with his wife and children, and on the other side, photos of Duras. It’s a bit disappointing, though. You’d expect some sort of romantic ambience, but the way the house and museum is set up, it’s strangely absent. We arrive in Can Tho late that afternoon after cruising around Vinh Long Province. We find a nice guesthouse by the riverside, and in what is becoming a little ritual after dinner we take a stroll on the promenade. We stop to visit Ong Temple, an exquisite and devout pagoda with an immense incense coil snaking down the ceiling.

Diary Entry #2: Fish On our cycle trip around An Binh Island we find a small pond — my friend reckons it’s an aquafarm. Inside are lots and lots of koi fish. The owner of the farm sees us and instead of chasing us away shows us where the food is and demonstrates one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen in my life. As the food hits the water hundreds upon hundreds of fish emerge and fight for the scraps. Watching the mayhem is mesmerizing.

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Day 4: Can Tho to Ho Chi Minh City


an Tho is the main city of the Mekong delta. After the last days exploring the countryside, none of the towns we spend time in seem enjoyable whatever their reputation might be. Still, one thing to do in Can Tho is to visit the floating market. You can rent boats on the pier, but prepare to haggle. We decide to go by bike, and to

stand on the bridge to see it all. Unluckily, the time of the year we decide to go south is the time when there is no market, just a few boats here and there, and a lot more boats with disappointed tourists. Back on the road we try to stay off the main highways and enjoy the last bit of countryside before hitting the metropolis.

If it wasn’t for the last 70km on Highway 1 between My Tho and HCMC on a Sunday evening when everybody else goes back to the city, it would have been the perfect ride. A few days is enough for us two girls living in Hanoi to fall in love with the south. — Julie Vola

Diary Entry #3: The Sunglasses Lady Traversing on the giant bridges stresses me out. People drive fast and as the wind picks up, the bike I’ve rented doesn’t feel secure. Someone passes me a bit too close and I am furious, nasty words come out of my mouth. I regret it instantly. I need to stop and get my breathing back in order. A Vietnamese couple smile at me and ask to take photos. I oblige and turn my camera towards them, that’s when the sunglasses lady sees me and comes towards us; she looks incredible carrying all of her wares on her body. She is covered from head to toe, just her fingertips exposed. | September 2016 Word | 91


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Day 1: Chua Hang to Ha Tien


o the east of the Cambodian border in southern Vietnam is Kien Giang Province; a stretch of coastline filled with magnificent rock faces, beaches created by the silt flowing out of The Mekong, and caves to explore, many marked with scars from past wars. The far southwest, the District of Ha Tien, is home to almost 45,000 people, most condensed into the town, but many farmers and fishermen have made their homes away from the town along the coastline and throughout the paddy fields. Chua Hang Pagoda in Hon Chong is 40km from Ha Tien along QL80 with a long stretch of beach, home to a pagoda inside a cave. The ocean air is salty and refreshing compared to the pollution of Saigon, and the road towards it winds and dips with the sprawling landscape. Located on a dead-end street lined with vendors selling beer and beach snacks, as well as souvenirs and tourist fare, tucked away inside an unassuming building you will find the stairs down to the cave shrines; a sanctuary from the midday heat and illuminated only in neon green. The cave leads to a tunnel opening out onto the

beach, with smaller shrines dotted along the walkway and tucked away within the limestone. Though the region is predominantly Buddhist, Catholic worshippers make up 30 percent of the local people. It is interesting to observe how even in this region, where it is rumoured that Buddaghosa passed through in 450 AD, the Catholic practices borrow elements of Buddhist worship, especially at the shrines. Moso cave, located north-east of Chua Hang was a hideout of the Viet Cong during the war. To find Moso cave, we drive north along QL80, through Ba Hon fishing village, and keep our eyes peeled for the sign; it is subtle and easy to miss. The cave tour takes approximately 45 minutes, costs VND100,000 per person and demands the use of a head light for the majority of the tour. Though it is maintained for visitors, prepare to get your feet wet and slip about on the smooth rocks. Once we leave Moso cave, we continue north on the winding coast road, overshoot Ha Tien by 4km and find ourselves at Mui Nai Beach. This strip of sand is filled with Vietnamese tourists despite the rough waves

and grey clouds. Familiar tourist tarps are laid out on the concrete with snacks, beer and karaoke machines, overlooking the sea, Phu Quoc and the high mountains of Cambodia in the distance. Ha Tien town is a place many people see only in transit; but the small town divided in two by the Giang Thanh River has its own attractions. “Ha Tien has some of the best seafood, landscapes, and connections, so it is so easy to visit and explore, though many people only visit for one or two days at a time,” local tour guide Trinh Ngoc The explains. Now 57 years old, for almost two decades he was the only English-speaking tour guide in the area. One of the proudest figures of Ha Tien history is Mac Cuu who managed to claim a huge swathe of the southern portion of the Mekong Delta for the Vietnamese in the 1700s from Cambodia. We visit the Mac family mausoleum on the west border of Ha Tien town for a peaceful retreat and an opportunity to learn about some of the region’s rich history. To this day Mac Cuu and his family are revered, and their shrine in Ha Tien is a place of pilgrimage. | September 2016 Word | 93

Diary Entry #1: The Essence of a Motorbike Trip Throughout the day we have been reflecting on the essence of a motorbike trip. After our experience, we decided that the true crux of any two-wheeled journey is being soaked in sweat, rain and seawater, with a numb bum, sunburnt skin, and an insatiable need for ice-cold beer. We found one shop in Ha Tien with five 333 beers for sale and a bag of ice, which we enjoyed at the hotel discussing the amount we had achieved in the past 24 hours; an eight-hour overnight bus trip, 100km clocked on the bike, half a tank of petrol, and more pagodas and temples than we could count. We both passed out without a second thought, dreaming of night buses, motorbike rides and our next adventure.

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Day 2: Ha Tien to Duong Hoa


he sky doesn’t allow for much sun during rainy season; the thick clouds on the eastern horizon cling to the hilltops and caves protect them fiercely, though the regular showers don't last long. Arriving at Chua Xa Xia, we are greeted by two cows enjoying the soft sunlight. The temple was originally in Cambodia but the movement of borders now places it in Vietnam. The infrastructure is crumbling, but the shrines are well-maintained, with incense, fruit and cigarette offerings placed carefully at the feet of Buddha. Bullet holes, the physical wounds of war, pierce the walls. In January 1978, Pol Pot, determined to take the Mekong Delta for Cambodia, sent

troops into Ha Tien. Clashes followed and despite attempts at diplomacy, in April two Cambodian divisions were sent across the border to Ba Chuc, a village 40km northeast of Ha Tien. 3,000 people were massacred in one night. It is unclear whether Xa Xia was involved in those January 1978 clashes; the bullet holes and the personal stories of locals suggest it was, but double-checking online there is no evidence either way. The fact that we don’t know for sure is a testament to the richness of this area, to how much history there is in and around Ha Tien that has yet to be explored and unearthed. Today, the two countries are at peace, and both sides of the border are starting to

thrive. As we drive around this little enclave of land that was once the source of so much antipathy, we breathe in the freshness of the air, cocoon ourselves in the lush and fertile greenery that surrounds us on all sides. Despite growing levels of tourism, and an economy that thrives on seafood, cement and construction, life continues on at its own pace; relaxed, never too chaotic, never concerned with the pressures of the big city. Yet change has also had a negative effect. Three decades ago, when the border region was still heavily forested, tigers and elephants roamed free. Now, man has taken over and the wildlife that once subsisted with its two-legged cousins has all but disappeared. — Siân Kavanagh

Diary Entry #2: Temples, Temples, Temples We had optimistically set our alarm for 5.45am in the hope of shooting the sunrise over Giang Thanh River, which splits Ha Tien in two, only to awake to thick grey clouds, drizzle, and not so much a sunrise but a sky gradually brightening. We opt for a couple more hours in bed instead of trying to shoot in the rain. By 8am we are up and hop aboard the bike to make our way towards the Cambodian border, in search of an old Buddhist temple. Our hearts beat with the speed of hummingbirds as we approach the temple. We are still in Vietnam, but very close to the border, with our passports safely back at the hotel. No escape here. | September 2016 Word | 95




Over the Bridge From sleepy backwater to one of the most innovative and creative areas in Saigon, Thao Dien is in lift-off mode. Nick Ross crosses the Saigon Bridge to investigate a village-like enclave with its sights firmly set on the future. Photos by Bao Zoan and Vu Ha Kim Vy


here’s a map of District 2 doing the rounds of the internet, a plan which projects what this fast-changing area will look like in 2020. Look at the bottom right and you’ll see the purple and mauves of Cat Lai Industrial Zone, with its port area, factories and warehouses. Move your eyes to the centre and you’ll notice Thanh My Loi and Binh Trung Tay, residential areas covered in light and dark brown. Dark brown means already developed, light brown means new developments. Based on the map, by the end of the decade the majority of this area will be

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made up of new building complexes; highrises and villas. Little Singapore in unwieldy, large and boisterous Saigon. Then look up to the top left and you’ll spy An Binh and Thao Dien. Most of the An Binh developments are new. Thao Dien, however, has already been developed. One of the few sections of District 2 — then part of Thu Duc — that was populated before 1975, the justout-of-town village atmosphere that has long existed in this area first tempted non-local residents out here in the 1990s. In the last five years the interest in both living, work, eating, drinking and shopping here has gone into overdrive. Much has been

written about the impending transformation of Thu Thiem, the vast swampland area in District 2, just opposite downtown Saigon. Touted as the new financial centre of the city, a space that pitches residential and commercial accommodation side-by-side, and an area that could be the face of future Vietnam, it’s only now that construction is starting to take place. In the meantime, the area that is showing its muscle is Thao Dien.

Time and Place In early 2008 Dragon’s Nest was launched. Located opposite what is now Thao Dien

1. Thao Dien Park 2. The Deck 3. NTFQ 2

Village and Villa Song, the multi-storey, purpose-built villa was German-invested and stood on its own, surrounded by fields. Featuring a spa that mixed together a restaurant and bar concept with an outdoor pool, Dragon’s Nest came onto the Thao Dien scene, with publicity and chatter following its every move. Parties were even brought there with APE, one of the earliest promoters in the city, staging their first birthday celebrations on site. That was in April 2010. Yet its location was too far out of the way and there were just not enough people living in the area to make the business venture work. At the time there was not enough reason for people not living in District 2 to make the then long journey over the bridge to go to a spa and restaurant. In the summer of 2010, Dragon’s Nest finally closed its doors. The investors had had enough. Compare that to today and on almost every road in Thao Dien, new businesses are popping up. As a number of people we spoke to pointed out, the business climate is still not perfect. Yet, the knowledge that this area has immense potential is enough for erstwhile entrepreneurs to take the risk. The number of people shortly due to be living in the area adds to this confidence. About 10,000 apartment units are currently being built in Thao Dien, and across the highway in An Phu. Almost 5,000 will be finished in the Masteri alone by December. The Ascent, Estella Heights, The Nassim, Gateway and Tropic Garden; all are presently being extended or built. This means 20,000 to 25,000 more people living in the area by early next year. And that’s not to mention what will happen when the metro is finished in 2019. It is no surprise then that business owners in Thao Dien are optimistic. Yet they know that to really bring in the clientele they need to make this village-like enclave into a destination, a place that will draw people out of other areas of Saigon to make that short journey over the bridge.

On the Ground Soren Husted and Pia Normann set up Copenhagen Delights in 2011, a family business specialising in clothes and accessories for babies and children aged up to about 11 or 12. According to Soren they




“Many people do not realise what a great destination District 2 is as there are so many lovely unique, independent businesses out here.” — Anupa Horvil, Anupa Boutique | September 2016 Word | 97





“[Thao Dien] has a village character with strong connectivity; word of mouth travels super-fast. The area also has a strong appeal to Vietnamese — it’s a desired location to live now or in the future.” — Eckart Dutz, Uncle Bill’s and The Loop 4. Thao Dien Coffee 5. Austin Home 6. The Loop 7. The Deck 8. Linh Furniture 9. The Deck 10. Metiseko 11. Mekong Merchant

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opened their shop in District 2 “to reach the affluent Vietnamese customers as well as the expat community living in the area.” Using imported fabrics and sewing the garments at their own facilities in Hanoi, Soren has seen first-hand how the area has developed into a “great shopping destination.” “There are many high quality shops located here,” he explains. “It is not far from the centre of the city. The calm atmosphere in the streets and the presence of the river provides a more relaxed and authentic shopping experience.” Jim Okuley from Nutrifort also sees the value of the ambience in Thao Dien. Opened eight years ago, his business NTFQ2 was the

first fitness centre located outside one of the compounds. “[Thao Dien] is small, compact and a family oriented community, like a village,” he says. “Over the years District 2 has grown to have great restaurants and bars, lots of shops, markets and spas. Now with Vincom close by [there is] great entertainment for all ages.” Boasting a state-of-the-art fitness centre set in what Jim describes as a “unique facility”, an old converted warehouse with a restaurant attached, the architecture and design provides an open and airy environment yet a very cozy feel. “NTFQ2 is a modern and timeless space that combines a fitness centre, with a healthy





“[We set up in District 2] because this is one of the most international living spaces in Ho Chi Minh City. We see Americans, Europeans, Japanese and Koreans, all living in harmony here. That’s really something that inspires us.” — Duc Nguyen, Vesta Bookstore restaurant Good Eats,” he explains, “which caters to people who want the alternative option to regular fares around town, but still love delicious food.” Boat House is another Thao Dien staple that benefits from the environment, in this instance, the leafy setting of APSC Compound and the Saigon River. The kind of place where you can relax and not hear a car or motorbike horn for hours, it’s one of the most peaceful locations in the city. Jeff Puchalski and his wife, Maggie, took over the management of the restaurant just over a year ago and have since transformed it into a casual, ‘go-to’ place with “something for everyone.” Serving up a growing assortment of

American and Mexican cuisine, salads, wings, sharing plates and “some of the best drinks in the city”, what makes Boat House stand out for Jeff is “the beautiful view on the edge of the Saigon River” and the al fresco dining. He’s also added another element to the formula; live music five nights a week. In the past year he’s noticed a change in his clientele. “More and more people are gravitating this way for the first time,” he says. “Residents of District 2 have always made the 20-minute journey into the city for a good meal, so we hope we can make the trip [the opposite way] worth it for anyone around Ho Chi Minh City.” He adds: “District 2 has always been seen

as an enigma or a place that is too expensive for the average person. This is not true at all.”

A Short Walk in Thao Dien It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and I decide to spy out some of the businesses I’ve never been to before. So, braving the Hanoi Highway, I drive over to the main drag of Thao Dien. Down Nguyen Dang Giai is Austin Home. Set up nine years ago, with the likes of Mekong Merchant, which was originally a furniture outlet, and the long-running Linh Furniture, Austin Home was one of the first furniture showrooms to move into the area. It sells mostly top-end American brands that are produced in Vietnam; walk into the villa and you are struck by how grandiose and | September 2016 Word | 99

colourful the place is, how comfortable it all feels. Everything here is put together with a certain type of lifestyle in mind. “We get a lot of designers and architects [shopping here],” says Austin Home’s McNeill Shiner. “Also, individuals who are looking to furnish their homes. We offer a free design consultation, so a lot of people take advantage of that. But we tend to attract people buying for the long term, not just for a few years while they’re here.” One change Austin Home has noticed over the years is the nature of the clientele. Once almost exclusively expat, now, 90 percent are Vietnamese or mixed Vietnamese-expat couples, McNeill says. This change is something I notice on my next stop at Nam An Market. One of the better top-end, boutique-style grocery stores in the area — now there are loads — besides the standard grocery store-style products, Nam An has a butcher’s counter selling imported meats, a charcuterie and cheese section, and a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. Except for one expat lady, the rest of the clientele are Vietnamese or Asian. A few years ago in an equivalent type of store it would have been exclusively foreign. I then head down the road next to Mon Hue and find myself at the much-loved Tama River. With its sushi bar area, this two-floored eatery with a mezzanine level is decked out in lots of wood, the décor created in different shades of brown. Serving up a wide range of Japanese cuisine including sushi, sashimi, tempura, yakitori, udon, soba and authentic izakaya cuisine, according to Chung, the husband of the owner, besides having the ability to attract both Japanese and non-Japanese customers, there are many reasons why Tama River stands out not just in Thao Dien, but in Saigon. “There are many Japanese restaurants in District 1,” he says. “But they usually don’t have an English menu and you may find it difficult to choose what you want to eat. Our menu includes English language and pictures.” He adds: “Our restaurant is suitable for everyone and any occasion — a sushi bar

12. Amai 13. MAD House 14. Quan Bui Garden 15. Vesta Bookstorew 16. Boat House

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“It’s close to District 1 — you can escape from the bustle of the city, feel more relaxed, and yet pick up the vibe of the many small and interesting eateries that are opening up in District 2.” — Chung, Tama River 12




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“It would be great if they could sort out the flooding in the area, but I think that is Saigon in general. There needs to be more paths so people can walk around easily, and it would be great to get some parks.” — Adrian Scott, The Deck and Mekong Merchant for a solo diner or for couples, tables for family dinner or business dinner, and a large Japanese-style private room for group gatherings.”

Bring on the Style My next stop is at another Japaneseinfluenced business, this time Thao Dien Coffee. A newcomer to the area, like so many other restaurants and cafés here, from the rustic décor of Mekong Merchant and the garden-style dining at Quan Bui, to the more industrial design of Kokois or the more European set-up of The Loop, Thao Dien Coffee has been designed with taste and style. Boasting two gardens created with triangular and octagonal seating and table tops flanked by lush tropical foliage, indoors is air-conditioned with white painted, bare brick walls, wooden table tops, cream upholstered chairs, an open kitchen and an atmosphere that is at once elegant and

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relaxing. And out front is a separate coffee bar, perfect for anyone searching for a quick takeaway. What it shows is simple — with more money and people coming into the area, clientele are expecting the local businesses to have quality. As with other relatively recent additions such as Lubu and MAD House, the bar here has been set very high. It is, after all, located opposite Les Trois Gourmands, a restaurant rated by many as the top French eatery in Saigon. After trying out the Nepalese curry at Thao Dien Coffee, I drive a few doors down to check out the communal space at Snap Café. When the idea of inviting other businesses to share their space came along, it took a while for the set-up to work — there was a period where it felt like the space was constantly being redesigned. But now 11 shops sell their wares in the banana leafroofed Creative Village Space at Snap. One such place is Amai, a shop dedicated to an innovative yet reasonably priced

selection of crockery. Crafted in a range of colours from pastel through to greys, blues and pinks, the cups, saucers, plates and mugs have something a little unique about them — they’re round but not quite. With its concrete grey flooring, like the neighbouring clothing shops Chula and Metiseko, Amai is representative of a more chic, more contemporary Saigon, something on display almost everywhere I visit in Thao Dien. Metiseko fits perfectly into this ilk with its floral designs and beautiful fabrics, crafted into clothing and accessories designed for the tropics or a European summer. According to Erwan Petzo, the brains behind the brand, the designs “take inspiration from Vietnamese traditions and landscapes [to create] original fabric that captures the essence of this fascinating country while remaining stylish and desirable.” Based in Hoi An, when Erwan decided to expand to Saigon he chose District 2 to set up shop because “it is a beautiful area filled

17. Even District 2 has its share of graffiti 18. The bridge between Nguyen U Di and Vo Truong Toan is presently closed 19. Polite roadwork signage 20. Copenhagen Delights

“[Thao Dien] is a great place to do business because of the other great businesses that are here. The more quality and variety in offerings, the better it is for all of us. I think one challenge is that it’s still thought of by many as an expat enclave, when really there’s something here for everyone.” — McNeill Shiner, Austin Home Working Together 20

with nice shops, bars and restaurants.” “District 2 is booming with innovative ideas and rent can be much less expensive than in District 1,” he explains. “[The key is] to make people, especially tourists, understand that District 2 is like a village within a city with a nice ambiance and places to stay, eat and shop.” Indeed with places like Vesta Bookstore opening up, a centre that sells gifts, magazines, books, stationery and art supplies, and also runs art classes for both adults and children, there is also a growing cultural element to the area. Add to this Saigon Outcast, The Factory and Vin Space, and the trendy, village-like, cultural oasis that everyone is talking about is now a reality.

Teething Problems As I drive back home I encounter one of the main irritations that affects the lifestyle out here — the roads. At present the bridge connecting the main drag of Thao Dien with the next area down that is home to Riverside Apartments and the International School of

Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) is closed; it’s being rebuilt. Due to the construction of the metro and the apartment complex Masteri, the slip road running past Vincom is also cut off. This means to get to Riverside or the Vista I have to drive back to Saigon Bridge and then all the way up the Hanoi Highway. It’s a round trip of almost 6km. By the end of the year this will be resolved; the blocked roads are part of the reconstruction of this area. Look at that map of District 2 and you can see that in 2020 a new road structure will be in place. Including a bridge to Thanh Da Island and through roads linking up the at-present cut off sections of Thao Dien, the transport connections should in theory alleviate rushhour traffic and mean that you can get to all sections of the area without having to resort to the highway. In the meantime, residents of the area have to suffer. It’s frustrating, yet there is so much positivity about the future of Thao Dien Village that for now the residents and business owners are prepared to grit their teeth and bear it.

A number of businesses in Thao Dien have teamed up to create a map of the area. The map is hand-drawn by Bridget March and is available at the following locations: Amai Austin Home Interiors Boathouse Copenhagen Delights Home in Saigon Real Estate Instore Furniture Linh’s Furniture MAD House Mekong Merchant Metiseko Nam An Market NTFQ 2 Quan Bui Garden Tama River Thao Dien Coffee The Deck The Loop Uncle Bill’s Vesta Bookstore

For further info, please email Anupa on | September 2016 Word | 103



Mui Den Do

The development in Saigon is not just eating up green land and turning it into high-rises, it’s also annihilating the city’s history. Words by Matthew Cowan

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“‘The site has a quite high ecological value, so it will be a big loss to the environment’“ | September 2016 Word | 105

“At the site, where apparently a network of underground tunnels once existed, three young guerrillas — Nguyen Van Ba, Le Van San and Ho Van Nhai — are immortalised as martyrs”


f you look to the right as you cross Phu My Bridge from District 7, you’ll see a triangle of land jutting out into the Saigon River. It’s just about the only large parcel of land surviving that hasn’t fully met the wrath of the bulldozer. Given the more scenic vista of the Saigon skyline on the opposite side of the bridge, this landmark tends to go unnoticed. But if you do look, you’ll see verdant swatches of mangroves, swamps and coconut palms clinging to life amid the growing squeeze of development and heavy industry. If high-rise apartments are the bullies, then nature is surely the bullied as development’s march to the river is approaching its final phase. Now, the Van Thinh Phat Investment Company (VTP) plans a US$6 billion modern urban development over 118 hectares called Saigon Peninsula, which will include a theme park, luxury riverfront villas, premium apartment complexes, office buildings, a deluxe hotel, shopping centres and an international cruise terminal. VTP has partnered up with Malaysian developers Pavilion Group and Genting Group to bring the plan to fruition. “The site has a quite high ecological value,” says Dang Thanh Long, executive director of Vietnam Green Building Council, referring to the mangroves lining the riverbanks. “So it will be a big loss to the environment.”

Racing the Dozer I decided to get a closer look before the bulldozer beat me to it, after a tip-off from a friend who told me the site had once been

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a US naval base. From a distance, there’s nothing obvious to suggest there was ever a base here, although from the bridge, a small outpost at the river mouth, visible to the naked eye, hints at otherwise. Hoping there might be evidence of the war at ground level that can’t be seen from a height, I set out on a mission. My mission would eventually take me three attempts. The first one was viewing it from Phu My Bridge. The second was across land by motorbike, which turned out a fruitless pursuit as the few remaining tracks eventually led to very swampy dead ends. And the third by boat, thanks to the kindness of some local fishermen curious as to why a foreigner would be so eager to ride a boat past shipyards, piledrivers and dredgers.

On the Other Side At the very tip of this triangular-shaped headland there’s a small navigational tower — number 62 to be precise — painted in familiar red and white stripes with a red beacon on top that signals to vessels in the night they’re entering or leaving the Saigon River. The tower stands in the garden of a small dwelling. The dwelling could be the home of a live-in caretaker, but most likely it’s an office of some kind. Detached from the dwelling stands a small enclosed tower, maybe a crow’s nest, or a place where a government official might take up position during a storm to keep watch for emergencies among the boats plying the river. On this day, the regularly scheduled afternoon storm clouds that roll in across

the city this time of year were still far away, offering one possible explanation as to why there wasn’t anyone there. The garden is well-kept and from the outside, the buildings seem well-maintained. Someone obviously cares for the place. From memory there were flowers in bloom and the usual assortment of tropical plants, bananas and coconuts, with their fronds flapping in the gentle morning breeze. Among them I recognised some flame trees, but I could be wrong as they were without their distinct fire-coloured flowers that give them their name. Still, this little point at the confluence of the Saigon and Lon Tau Rivers, idyllic as it

zone, especially the Lon Tau River, controlled the flow of supplies coming in and out of the Port of Saigon.

Go O Moi

sounds, won’t be making the top 10 list of travel websites any time soon.

Mui Den Do This place, known as Mui Den Do, is the perfect vantage point for surveying the river traffic from the East Sea or from any of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of waterways that make up the pastiche of the Mekong Delta. During the war, the Americans recognised Mui Den Do’s strategic position and commandeered it. In fact, half a century ago this year, the site became a US naval base and was known as Nha Be US Naval Support Activity Base.

At that time, Mui Den Do was at the northern-most point of what was known as the Rung Sac Special Zone. It stretched down to Can Gio and included what is now known as the Can Gio Mangrove Forest. In total, it covered 1,256 square kilometres of tidal mangrove swamp and close to 5,000 kilometres of connected waterways. The road down to Can Gio is still called Rung Sac to this day. The zone was a heavily contested swathe of territory because of its strategic location. The waters of its rivers and estuaries, flowed out past Vung Tau, as they still do, before emptying into the East Sea only to return on the changing tide. Anyone controlling the

Just as I’d almost given up hope of finding war-related remnants at Mui Den Do, I happened upon a historic site not 200 metres from the Saigon Peninsula development security gate on a road called Depot Dao Tri. Its name is Go O Moi, or in English Go O Mound. On the morning of Nov. 23, 1966, it was the site of a battle between US-backed forces and heavily outnumbered resistance fighters — one side 400 strong, with helicopter support; the other a minor detachment of men with small arms. At the site, where apparently a network of underground tunnels once existed, three young guerrillas — Nguyen Van Ba, Le Van San and Ho Van Nhai — are immortalised as martyrs who fought back and killed six of the attacking force, but were eventually outnumbered and overcome. A moving tribute inscribed on the monument reads: The heroes fall, the spirit will shine, the battle of O Moi mound showed the bravery of Nha Be’s soldiers and people who never backed down to fight for our country’s liberation.

Finding What Matters Although I wouldn’t realise it until later, at Go O Moi I had found what I was looking for. It wasn’t the remains of an old military sign or building left over from the war. It was something more profound hidden | September 2016 Word | 107

“‘It’s about the local population and what they want… Any developing country wants to see that their country is advancing, developing and getting closer to the developed nations. This type of project is a symbol that their country is getting better’” 108 | Word September 2016 |

behind a clutch of nipa palms where the din of development is muffled by thick vegetation and given over to the sounds of a few remaining bird species and critters that inhabit the place. It occurred to me that here still remains a place of battle after all these years. Fifty years ago the three local Nha Be soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice fighting in a battle for what they believed in. Today, it appears battles are still being waged. Not of life and death such as those that confronted the martyrs on that fateful day in 1966 — nor should they be compared as such — but battles shaping livelihoods, the environment and Vietnam’s development. Families living and working here do so amid a different kind of enemy. Container trucks and cement mixers rumble past around the clock spewing carbon monoxide and dust particles into the air and into lungs. Unsealed roads have become quagmires from monsoonal rains. Some sections look as though small artillery shells have detonated, such is the width and depth of crater-sized potholes. To make matters worse, with every passing vehicle, a grey slurry of cement, oil and dirt threatens to cover anything or anyone within range. When I stopped for a drink, one trader selling meat lain out on a trestle just a metre or so from a passing cement mixer, shook her head and pointed to the road in front of her shop and told me it was ugly and dirty. Yet, Nhan Nguyen, founder of local nonprofit organisation Green and Clean, offered an alternative perspective when asked what the general feeling might be among the Vietnamese people towards projects like Saigon Peninsula. “It’s about the local population and what they want,” he said. “I think that any developing country — the government and population — want to see that their country is advancing, developing and getting closer to the developed nations. I think the Vietnamese really like this type of project because it’s a symbol that their country is getting better.”

Symbols That evening at home, I found myself pondering over my experience and arrived at the symbolism of the three martyrs lying in the Go O Moi memorial. Half a century on, they’re still playing a role. To me, they symbolise the past, present and future of Vietnam. Of the battles against the odds, the battles for a decent livelihood, and the battles going on over the environment and development. On a banner that hangs at the Go O Moi monument it says: Always remember those heroes, invalids and martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the liberation, protection and building of our country. As the new Vietnam relentlessly builds on its past, literally and figuratively, it’s worth taking the time to consider the words on the banner and hope that the developers of Mui Den Do, 50 years after the battle at Go O Moi, remember them too. | September 2016 Word | 109

Food and Drink



Hidden Gems

When it comes to good food, each of the team at Word has their little secrets, restaurants or streetfood joints they go to get a certain fix. Here's a selection.

Bun Thit Nuong Chi Tuyen

Com Ga Hai Nam

195 Co Giang, Q1

67 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1



he sheer size of the dish means I can never finish a bowl of bun thit nuong at this place. It’s a big bowl of noodles, grilled pork, stir-fried pork, deep fried spring rolls, pickles and vegetables. The lean pork is marinated with the right amount of spices and then grilled well enough to get the brownish colour and smoky aroma. The spring rolls contain ground pork, shredded jicama, wood ear mushrooms and mung beans, creating a perfect mixed taste. The dipping sauce is made from exact

portions of ingredients to match the right sweetness, sourness and saltiness. No wonder it costs VND45,000 per bowl. If your stomach still has space, steamed banh mi with stir-fried beef would be another good choice. It comes served with a tray of lettuce, cucumber and some herbs used to cover the banh mi and the beef, which you then dip in the sauce. This is also priced at VND45,000 per plate. Lots of places serve up bun thit nuong in this city, but Chi Tuyen is one of the best. — Vu Ha Kim Vy

his chicken rice joint isn’t exactly a secret — somehow it’s got itself into the tourist guidebooks — and yet when it comes to Hainanese chicken rice, the most famous export from the island located in the Gulf of Tonkin, this joint excels. Give me a plate of rice with boiled chicken and char sieu (xa xiu) pork and my stomach is purring for days. The chicken is tender and rich, the pork sweet and yet not overwhelming, the rice flavoursome from being cooked in chicken stock, the dipping sauces a perfect match for the moreish fare. Best, it costs under VND50,000 a go. Yet Singaporeans, those people from the land that has adopted chicken rice as their national dish, don’t seem to like this place. “The chicken rice is really poor,” said one after I mentioned the eatery to them in a bar. Another agreed. I was surprised.

The problem is that Com Ga Hai Nam unashamedly state they do their chicken rice Singaporeanstyle. Yet they don’t. Like almost every imported streetfood dish, the fare has been adapted to the local palate. Perhaps the reason for the claim is to distinguish themselves from other versions of chicken rice found in Vietnam — com ga from Hoi An and com ga from Tam Ky, two towns in Quang Nam that have taken this dish imported by seafaring Chinese merchants and adapted it to taste. In that sense this joint is certainly different. Yet, whatever the Singaporeans say, I love this place. There are other dishes on the menu, too. Roasted pork and duck plus a whole host of Chinese and Vietnamese staples. But come rain or deadly Saigon shine, it’s the chicken rice that I always end up coming back for. — Nick Ross | September 2016 Word | 111

Viet Chay Restaurant Vinh Nghiem Pagoda, 339 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3


eing set inside one of Saigon’s most famous landmarks doesn’t really make Viet Chay a secret hideaway. Yet, the never-ending stream of tourists entering the courtyard hardly stop by. Most head to the statue of Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, to say their prayers, while others take a selfie in front of the pagoda or the standard postcard shot. Yet if you venture to the left of Quan Am, past a large tree, you arrive at one of the best vegetarian restaurants in town.

With only three tables outdoors you’d better be early. Otherwise you’ll be sitting inside. This is Viet Chay, vegetarian eatery, a place I go for breakfast. They have two options daily and every day they rotate the menu. How about a bowl of mi quang or bun bo Hue? Come on Sunday morning and you can get both, served with complimentary tea. I recommend the hot version, tra nong. Brewed with tea leaves from the north and occasionally mixed

with ginger, a mug goes down fast. Sit and enjoy the view. Watch Saigon’s best-fed pigeons wobble around. So used to the traffic, they don’t even bother to lift their wings when motorbikes arrive, only quicken their pace a bit. Filter out the traffic noises from the road and you can listen to the monks; their daily morning chants can be heard all the way to your breakfast table. A pleasant, tasty and healthy way to start the day. — Mads Monsen

Bun Mam Phan Boi Chau 22 Phan Boi Chau, Q1



ocated opposite the East Gate of Ben Thanh Market, this place has been running for more than 40 years. Although it’s quite pricy (VND65,000 per bowl), the joint has been my favourite option for bun mam since the day I first found it. A bowl contains a combination of ingredients including rice noodles, shrimp, fish slices, roasted pork and fish cake, yet while normal bun mam is pungent and unappealing, here it’s surprisingly aromatic. The reason, according to the owner, is the use of fresh, quality ingredients — this gets rid of the fishy smell. Add some bitter herbs and vegetables to boost the combination of bitterness and sweetness from the fish paste, and you have heaven in a bowl. The charm of bun mam is this combination sweet and bitter — the broth is the vital element of the dish. Apart from bun mam, the place also serves up banh canh cua (crab tapioca noodle soup), fresh spring rolls, papaya salad, and lotus stem salad. All highly recommended. — Vu Ha Kim Vy

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Pagoda Mi Quang Chua T.T. An Hoa, Cnr. Quoc Huong and Duong 65, Thao Dien, Q2


ext to the pagoda on Quoc Huong in District 2 is a little, chicken-wire windowed joint that serves up bun bo Hue on plastic tables atop a concrete floor. But it’s not the bun bo I go there for, which is probably the best you’ll get in Thao Dien, but the mi quang, which is sublime. The problem with the mi quang is how quickly it sells out. Get there by 8am and it will all be gone, by 7.30am and you’ll be

just about okay. That’s how popular this Quang Nam, thick yellow noodle dish is at this eatery. Served up with pork, shrimp, cha, rice crackers, peanuts, chopped spring onions, a mixture of white and yellow noodles and that to-die-for spicy sauce that is the making of every good mi quang, for me it’s the best version available in Saigon. It only costs VND25,000 a bowl as well (including free iced tea), not bad for

probably the wealthiest area in the city. What I also love about this eatery is how clean it is. Walk in and it looks like every other streetfood joint in this country — basic with its silver stools and plastic tables. Yet, look closely and the place is spotless and well-organised. When I eat streetfood, I always look for three things; taste, cleanliness and price. This place ticks all the boxes and more. — Nick Ross | September 2016 Word | 113


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Oc Muoi

Banh Mi Kebab

168/45 Nguyen Cu Trinh, Q1

Banh Mi Nhu Lan, 50 Ham Nghi, Q1


ucked in an alley on Nguyen Cu Trinh, Oc Muoi has been my favourite seafood place for many years. Set up outside under the porch roof with plastic stools and tables, the place has a wide range of snails and shellfish displayed in stainless trays. The most interesting thing about this place is that most dishes are priced at VND20,000. The portions, which could be stir-fried sweet snails with tamarind, grilled scallops with cheese or spicy steamed clams with lemongrass, are not big, but enough for two people. Crabs are also served for VND45,000 each with three options including stir-fried with tamarind, stir-fried with salt and chilli, and boiled. There is a bakery next door, where you can find hot breads to dip in the butter or tamarind sauce from the dishes. Open from 11am to 9pm, the place is my top choice for seafood because of its cheapness and freshness. All snails and shellfish are purchased and sold on the same day. Crabs are kept alive and put in a big basin for clients to choose and decide how to have them cooked. For enjoy this place best, order beer — a perfect complement to these salty and spicy dishes. It definitely brightens your day. — Vu Ha Kim Vy


perating for over four decades, the 24-hour Banh Mi Nhu Lan isn't quite a secret. Located diagonally opposite the Bitexco Tower, it also boasts one of the best locations in town. However, there is one type of banh mi that this joint sells that is not only to die for — it’s my favourite snack food when I’ve got early evening hunger pangs — but is not so well known by its customers. Yes, it’s the infamous banh mi kebab. The Vietnamese take on the Turkish kebab is hardly new to either Saigon or Hanoi. However, Nhu Lan’s version is certainly the tastiest I’ve come across. Barbecued on a spit, the pork here is fatty, tasty and succulent, without that feeling of being greasy. And added into a traditional banh mi with all the accoutrements — butter, pate, pickled carrot and radish, chilli, coriander and cucumber — the final version is just, well, moreish. It’s cheap, too — VND25,000 a go, VND35,000 if you add extra meat in there. For a while Nhu Lan was actually serving up the humble kebab in its own, home-made flatbread. Toasted in a Breville, I loved it. But it seems the mainly Vietnamese customers didn’t, and on my last two visits I was told they didn’t sell the flatbread any more. Not to worry, though, the banh mi version tastes just as good. — Nick Ross | September 2016 Word | 115

Food and Drink



Don’s Tay Ho One of the first restaurants in Tay Ho, according to Word, Don's is still one of the best. Words by Bennett Murray. Photos by Julie Vola


ummertime in Hanoi has brought generous set lunches and brunches to Don’s, where diners are invited to overdose on a menu featuring the best of the globetrotting namesake’s eclectic menu. Don Berger, originally from Montreal, worked in kitchens from Shanghai to Monte Carlo before moving to Vietnam 17 years ago. Like a seasoned traveller with a living room decorated with oddities, Berger’s menu items are inspired from each locale that at one time or another he has called home. “There’s a lot of different things on offer here, and you can come here and spend a lot of money if you order a really nice bottle of wine and truffles… but you can be out of here for about US$10 a head,” says Don.

A Global Affair The summer luncheon includes 16 mains ranging from BBQ sea bass and salmon salad to the beef taco grande.

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Of particular noteworthiness are the Hawaiian fried chicken sliders, which were inspired by a stint in the American state. Each slider is cooked with a savoury Korean BBQ sauce, giving an elegant twist to a dish perhaps more associated with Harold and Kumar. While the buns are small, each slider packs more chicken than meets the eye. The lunch specials, which include a free drink and dessert, are VND289,000. Weekends feature a two-course brunch special served from 11am to 5pm. Options, which comprise 24 combinations, include the smoked salmon bagel in the Montreal style. “Montreal is mad about bagels, it’s really a passion,” says Don. “And there are two very famous bagel factories with wood burning ovens. Ours are exactly the same because I’ve worked on perfecting it.” The Canadian lobster, crab and avocado salad is also a winner. With live lobsters imported from the Nova Scotian coast, the cold water shellfish is far superior to its

tropical counterpart. For real seafood aficionados, combine your lobster with a first course of oysters — you have a choice between three baked oysters with goat’s cheese, sundried tomatoes, spinach and bacon or the trio of one live, one fried and one baked. The brunch, which also includes a free drink and dessert, is VND349,000.

Making the Grade Restaurants that try to do everything usually fall short. Chefs who try to balance menu items from across the cuisines often find themselves spread too thin, with ingredients being subpar and staff unable to cope with the variety. But with a kitchen staff of 35, state-ofthe-art gear and decades of experience, Don’s doesn’t have that problem. “I like to eat, and not all the same things all the time,” says Don. “And it’s reflective of what I’ve learnt and what I know how to do.” | September 2016 Word | 117



Banh My Pho Hue Banh my is everywhere in Hanoi, but one eatery on Pho Hue serves the Vietnamese baguette the way it used to be made. Words by Tran Cam Thu. Photos by Julie Vola


ith so many shops offering twists on Vietnamese the breakfast staple banh my: banh my thit nuong, banh my kebab, banh my chao, a newcomer to Hanoi and probably anyone born in the city after 1990 might start to wonder what the original flavour of banh my is. Look no further than Banh My Pho Hue, a shop that still sells banh my the way most people who grew up in Hanoi in the 1980s remember it. Situated on busy Pho Hue, this unassuming shop can be easily overlooked even by locals who frequent this street. Yet the word of its goodness spreads as far as to Saigon — whose version of banh mi (note the different spelling) made its way to the Oxford English dictionary in 2011 thanks to the flow of southern Vietnamese immigrating overseas and bringing along their favourite breakfast/snack.

In Touch with Tradition The shop offers three versions of banh my; its signature banh my pate, Hanoi longtime favourite banh my trung (omelette baguette), and banh my pate trung (pate

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omelette baguette) — a twist on the omelette baguette. For the signature banh my pate, the banh my is first warmed and toasted in a simple oven. This step is not taken lightly since the bread should not be too crunchy that it crumbles at the very first bite yet the baguette needs to be hot enough to melt away the butter and pate. A thin layer of butter is then spread on both inner sides of the banh my, paving the way for the grand entrance of liver pate that is generously applied right after. Then comes thinly sliced Vietnamese sausages and char siu pork that is deftly mixed with salt and pepper right before being stuffed into the baguette. Finally, pork floss, sliced cucumber and optional house chilli gravy seal the deal. As the name suggests, banh my pate puts a stronger focus on pate, the make-or-break ingredient in this sandwich. Interestingly enough, the recipe for good pate includes bread crumbs. Similarly, banh my thit or banh my Saigon, as Hanoians call it, is more of a symphony of multiple kinds of hams and spiced pork whereas pate plays a supporting role. For spreads, Hanoians prefer soft butter rather

than mayonnaise. For vegetables, only a few slices of cucumber and occasionally one or two stems of cilantro are added, while in Saigon it’s pickled vegetables and spring onions. The reason is to maintain the crunchiness of the bread and to not overpower the main pate flavour. For dressing, only a pinch of salt and pepper is sprinkled instead of soy sauce, so as not to soften the bread inside.

Passing Fads In the early 2000s, banh my Nhu Lan hailing from Saigon made waves in Hanoi thanks to its meaty and fresh take on the onedimensional (in the words of BBC Travel) banh my Hanoi. So did banh my kebab and many other trends that followed. Yet after fads come and go, banh my fans are happy to return to establishments such as the 40-plus-year-old Banh my pho Hue, which never fails to deliver that solid goodness of banh my pate that made them fall in love with banh my in the first place. Banh My Pho Hue is at 118 Pho Hue, Hai Ba Trung, Hanoi. It is open from 6.30am to 7pm daily | September 2016 Word | 119

Food and Drink



Monsoon Restaurant and Bar Saigon A purveyor of Southeast Asian cuisine, in recent times Monsoon has switched its focus to all things Thai. So how does this colonial villa Saigon staple fare? Photos by Rodney Hughes


ust a stone’s throw away from Bui Vien and Nguyen Cu Trinh, this staple of Saigon’s culinary scene has been home to many flavours over the years. Decorated with beautiful, Hoi An-style lanterns and large mirrors, the large space appears even larger at first, yet is fantastically intimate. The lighting is lush and low without losing visibility, creating a beautiful atmosphere. Upon arrival, my date and I were greeted with two refreshing glasses of lemongrass juice which was a nice touch, and the simplicity of the spicy nuts served as a light snack were super delicious.

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We opted for soft drinks instead of the usual beer (Tiger or Saigon would set you back VND45,000) to accompany our Thai food. I ordered the orchid soda (VND70,000), a slightly sour and fabulously thirst-quenching drink, while my date opted for the aloe vera juice (VND45,000).

Multiple Choice While Monsoon offers Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian and Burmese cuisine — we decided to focus our efforts on Thai food. We ordered fried catfish and mango salad (VND130,000), tom yum goong soup (VND140,000), green chicken curry with Thai sticky rice (VND130,000),

and pad Thai (VND150,000). The service staff at Monsoon were attentive and friendly, offering to answer any questions to the best of their ability, and they started bringing out our drinks and orders as soon as they were available. The one issue was, however, with the amount we had ordered — our two-person table was quickly taken over by plates, bowls, and containers of rice. The crunchy fried catfish paired with the spicy and tart mango salad proved to be a delight for the taste buds, the combination of textures and flavours working together in a beautiful harmony. The fried catfish was unlike any fried protein I’d tried






before, as the texture was so light and savoury in contrast with the fleshy, sweet mango salad.

All Harmony Tom yum goong soup is a prime example of delicious Thai food with the lovely light spice, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. An authentic tom yum goong should not overwhelm the dish with any of these flavours, but play them in harmony, and the result from the Monsoon kitchen was lovely. Green curry with chicken was served alone, we had to order the side of Thai sticky rice as an extra, and it was needed to dilute the intense flavours. As with a good

green curry the kaffir lime leaves and fish sauce lead the way on the palette, however the curry paste was rather grainy. The dish was served with tender slices of chicken and small fat onions which were a textural delight. What Thai meal would be complete without sampling the pad Thai? A good pad Thai must, like all Asian food, find the perfect balance of spices, textures and flavours. The Monsoon version was a delight, with tiny, dried shrimp and tofu pieces, as well as larger fresh shrimps, the noodles were perfectly textured against the peanuts and bean sprouts. After our feast of food, we still

decided that we would have to order dessert. The fried banana and vanilla ice cream (VND80,000) was the consensus of the table and whithin minutes there wasn’t a morsel left to eat, even though just 10 minutes earlier we’d been complaining about how full we were. The fried banana wasn’t overly sweet by any means, and the savoury, warm batter provided the perfect backdrop for the vanilla ice cream to end our meal. We had a feast of five dishes for two at a cost of VND1.07 million which, considering the quality of the food, seems perfectly reasonable for such a centrally located restaurant. Monsoon Restaurant and Bar is at 1 Cao Ba Nha, Q1, HCMC

Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15. 13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection 10 — 12.5 very good to excellent 8 — 9.5 good to very good 5 — 7.5 fair to good 0 — 4.5 poor to fair The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals

Food and Drink

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A Taste from the Past Pho, the closest Vietnam has to a national dish, is now mainly found in off-street eateries. But look carefully, and you may be able to find it in the location from where it came — the streets. Words by Vi Pham. Photos by Sian Kavanagh


any people were dubious when I told them I was going in search of pho ganh, that is, pho sold from a cart. As the dish’s reputation has grown, it is more likely to be found in air-conditioned restaurants than from pots slung between two bamboo poles. Or perhaps the reason is that new trends in street food have made selling pho ganh a tough business, especially as its sellers get older, and Saigon’s unpredictable weather gets no better. But occasionally — it may be on Mac Dinh Chi or Nguyen Thai Hoc — you can find the survivors keeping this old tradition alive.

Once upon a time In poorer times, bamboo poles were the way that pho was originally introduced to Saigon, as the sellers back then designed their carrying poles with specialised bamboo boxes to carry the whole ‘restaurant’ on their shoulder. Also, pho, as old as it is, did not start with a lot of adds-on in the bowl. Pho ganh’s sellers used to simplify the recipe by

keeping only the main ingredients, using nothing but vegetables for the broth and making it easier to move around with less kitchen tools. This lowered the price of a bowl of pho and at that time, pho was affordable, tasty and nutritious, making it the best friend of blue-collar workers. Some vendors were strong enough to carry a small bench or some stools, but some did not even have these things, so customers had to eat pho standing up. One of the most successful pho places in Saigon that still remains popular among foodies communities is located on Mac Dinh Chi. The chef there is full of interesting stories. “My father started off selling pho on a cart with four wheels,” the chef says about Phon, the founder of the restaurant and also the man who adopted her. “Despite rolling the cart around every day without staying at any particular spot, his place used to have all kinds of customers, from office workers to American soldiers.” “My father says pho ganh and the pho cart

faded away from Saigon streets because most sellers are not young any more to carry on such a business that depends too much on the weather,” says the chef while preparing me a bowl.

And still going I was also lucky, on my motorbike one rainy night, when a pho ganh seller chose a spot on Nguyen Thai Hoc street to place her stall, right under a rusted roof of a closed mobile phone shop. I remember how the heat from the steam pot and the slices of chilli warmed me up. That night brought me the chance to experience something that most people thought had disappeared forever from the Saigon street. It might not be exactly the same as the first pho ganh or pho cart on Saigon’s streets, but I am sure the feeling of living in the old days could not get any better. If you are into this back-to-the-past adventure, check out the pho carts on Hong Bang, Q5 and down the alleys of Ngo Gia Tu, Q10. Also, if you are lucky, you might find one on the sidewalk opposite 39 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 | September 2016 Word | 123




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of George Town | September 2016 Word | 125

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A former British-settled port town, George Town in Malaysia is known for its multicultural heritage and vibrant street food scene. Yet it has something else to attract the erstwhile traveller — architecture and art. Words by Edward Dalton. Photos by Julie Vola and Edward Dalton


here are not many places in the world which can compete with Penang on the street food scene. Regularly popping up in the top three of Best Street Food lists, Penang is already well known as a culinary capital of the world. This is why I’m not interested in Penang’s street food — I’m easily put off by hype, and generally find myself wanting to explore alternatives. Thankfully, Penang is more than just a few hawker centres selling hygienically questionable paper plates of noodles and satay. To borrow a cliché, it’s one of the great cultural melting pots, and the evidence for this extends far beyond dinner options. Focusing on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of George Town, I spent a few days ambling around the characterful streets, casting my amateur eye over the eclectic mix of Chinese, Indian, Malay and British Raj-era style architecture. More recently, colourful murals and informative sculptures can be found adorning the walls of many of George

Town’s dilapidated houses and shops. My visit therefore doubled as a treasure hunt, creeping around corners with my camera to find the next trove of artistic expression.

Once Upon a Time Prince of Wales Island, as Penang was temporarily named, was claimed by Captain Francis Light in 1786, upon which he founded the settlement of George Town in honour of his British king. However, prior to this British imperial adventure, centuries of cross-cultural assimilation had already helped mould Penang into one of the most diverse societies of its age. Centuries of intermingling by Malay, Chinese and Arab settlers, traders and immigrants led UNESCO to declare George Town as having “a unique architectural and cultural townscape without parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.” There are Taoist temples in Little India, Hindu shrines in Chinatown, and towering skyscrapers looming over old British halls and fortifications. The centre of historic George Town is home to rows of Chinese

shophouses, each one different from the next, but still somehow appearing uniform.

Like Toy Houses The first thing that strikes many visitors to George Town is the colour. The Chinese shophouses, for example, look like layers of mismatched Lego bricks stacked side by side. This style of building was introduced throughout Southeast Asia by Chinese migrants in the 19th century. A single house

Getting to George Town From Hanoi there are no direct flights to George Town in Penang. Transfers are available via Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. The airlines with the most flights and quickest transfers are Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, and the quickest journey time is just over six hours. From Ho Chi Minh City, AirAsia have a direct flight four times a week with a total flight time of just under two hours. | September 2016 Word | 127

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“While not as ancient as the shophouses nor as culturally significant as the mosques or temples, [the paintings and sculptures] are an attraction in their own right” might have features in white, pink, green and yellow. The most customising seems to be the shutters on the windows, which can vary from neighbour to neighbour. Aside from the colour, there is also a great variety in the air vents which sit just above the downstairs windows. Some of them are no more elaborate than a simple rectangle, while others curve into shapes resembling bats or leaves. The most uniform feature shared by nearly all of these famed shophouses is the presence of a terracotta roof. The cross-cultural impact on architecture can best be seen in the heritage buildings built by Westerners, but blended with styles from Islamic, Malay, Chinese and Indian structural traditions. In their book, Architecture and Heritage Buildings in George Town Penang, Ahmad Sanusi Hassan and

Shaiful Rizal Che Yahaya give examples of this blending of architectural styles. “Adjustments from Western, European architecture to local architecture such as the Malay traditional house are manifested with overhanging roof structures, maximum window openings, cantilever veranda and big roof construction,” they wrote. According to Hassan and Yahaya, the Chinese shophouse became dominant in George Town due to its practicality and suitability for small-scale family enterprise. The aesthetically pleasing friezes, columns and cornices which adorn the exteriors are a beautiful by-product which provoke dozens of photos from visitors to the town centre.

Better Than Banksy After getting my fill of architecture, and

Penang Quick Guide Penang is a state on the northwest coast Malaysia, comprising Penang Island and Seberang Perai on the mainland. George Town is the capital of Penang state, and is situated on the northeast coast of Penang Island. Famous for its street food, Penang has long been a destination popular with foodies, although is equally appealing to couples, families and backpackers, with a variety of boutique, budget or resort hotels. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old centre of George Town enjoys a protected status, ensuring its richly diverse mix of cultural heritage survives untarnished by modern development. | September 2016 Word | 129

“Penang is more than just a few hawker centres selling… paper plates of noodles and satay. To borrow a cliché, it’s one of the great cultural melting pots, and the evidence for this extends far beyond dinner options”

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armed with a map and a decent pair of walking shoes, I went on a hunt for the paintings and sculptures littered around the city. While not as ancient as the shophouses nor as culturally significant as the mosques or temples, they are an attraction in their own right. In 2010, the inaugural George Town Festival was launched in honour of the town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two years after the inaugural event, festival organisers invited Ernest Zacharevic, a young Lithuanian artist, to create a collection of murals depicting local culture. Some of his most famous murals are 3D installations, such as the Children on a Bicycle and Boy on Motorcycle which include tangible props. My personal favourite was actually the first one I found, featuring 10

giant cigarettes sticking out of the wall, with a child in a gas mask; a strong anti-pollution message. Zacharevic’s murals became popular so quickly that Penang’s street art scene exploded into life, with more contributors adding their work all the time. In 2013, various artists from the group Artists for Stray Animals created the 101 Lost Kittens project, painting multiple cat-themed murals around George Town, to heighten awareness of stray animals around the city. Local artists have jumped on the creative bandwagon, taking advantage of an audience of tourists delivered to their door in annually increasing numbers. One of the most impressive murals, The Awaiting Trishaw Paddler, was created by Desmond Yeo, and spans an enormous wall overlooking the Red Garden Food Paradise Car Park.

The Marking George Town project, commissioned by the State Government of Penang, saw the addition of 52 wroughtiron caricatures peppered around the town. Each one features a scene with a caption, providing a bit of humour or trivia about the street or building it’s located at. Penang is one of those places that literally has everything. It’s a haven for foodies to fill their stomachs and Instagram accounts. It’s a paradise for culture vultures to stand with their heads cocked to one side, saying ‘hmm…’ a lot. I’ve even heard from couples who chose Penang as their honeymoon destination, spending days on the beach and nights in the bars. Penang can be all things to all people, so why don’t you stop reading and book yourself a few days off to visit this fantastic little island in Malaysia; I promise you won’t regret it. | September 2016 Word | 131


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The Abandoned Valley | September 2016 Word | 133

Set up in late 2015, Phong Nha has a new day trip for those not lucky enough to get on the tour to the largest cave in the world. It’s worth every penny. Words and photos by Nick Ross


ntil a couple of years ago, the problem with heading to Phong Nha, the home to the largest cave in the world, was the lack of cave visiting options that were available. There were a couple of two-, one- or half-day alternatives to Son Doong — Phong Nha Cave, Dark Cave, Paradise Cave and Tu Lan — the two-day trip to the third-largest cave in the world, Hang En, and of course the visit to the monster cavern itself, a five-day tour that costs VND67.5 million. Yet places are so limited that getting on this trip is a lottery. Fortunately, with new caves opening up to the public, the travel industry has found a remedy. Caves such as Hang Va and Hang Tien can now be visited with local tour operator Oxalis, and other trekking-cumcaving options are on their way. A day trip that has received rave reviews is to the Abandoned Valley. Once an integral part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the supply line used to transport supplies and soldiers from north to south during the war, when the trail was paved in the early 2000s, this little section was left off the grid, leaving it to merge back into the jungle.

The tour includes four hours’ worth of jungle trekking, a 300-metre foray into the front end of Dark Cave, a barbecue and then a swim into E Cave, one of the most accessible river caves in the area. Based on my own experience of visiting the Abandoned Valley, it’s one of the best tours around.

No Pain I’ve now done four treks in the Phong Nha area and each time I ask myself the same question: Why am I paying to put myself through such pain? Described in the brochures as “challenging”, the trek in the Abandoned Valley requires descending and then at the end, ascending the side of a mountain, while the 300-metre excursion into Dark Cave sees you scrambling over razor-sharp rocks and through a murky underground river. It requires a reasonable level of fitness. Yet despite bring drenched in my own sweat (my body doesn’t do heat), it’s worth every laboured step, every moment of wondering how you are going to make it back to the top. As I discovered, it wasn’t just me who was having such thoughts.

The game-changer here is the river cave. Normally groups of between eight and 10 people reach the cave by 1pm, just in time for lunch. But we were in a group of 16 and the going was slow. When we arrived at the river cave, Hang E, just before 3pm, we were ravenous, hot and exhausted. Trekking during the middle of the day, even with the jungle for shade, is hot work. Yet the river is icy cold, and that plunge into its depths and then later the swim into the pitch-black cave is the perfect tonic for both the heat and exertion. There is a reason why marathon runners like to submerge themselves in an ice-cold bath after 42.195km of pain — it cools the body and relaxes the muscles. I had been dreading the final ascent out of the valley, but after the ice-cold river I felt so refreshed that it was easy. Three years before I had tried a similar ascent at the end of a

The Trip The Abandoned Valley tour is organised by J UNGLE B OSS and costs VND1,500,000 per person. The fee includes safety equipment, lunch, pick up and drop off at the hotel, snacks and water. Due to poison ivy along one part of the route, Jungle Boss recommends that trekkers wear long sleeves and long trousers. For more information click on or call (094) 374 8041. | September 2016 Word | 135

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“The game-changer here is the river cave… The river is icy cold, and that plunge into its depths and then later the swim into the pitch-black cave is the perfect tonic for both the heat and exertion”

Getting There Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is located in Quang Binh, about four hours north of Hue. Regular daily flights with Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air now serve the main provincial city, Dong Hoi, from both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Alternatively, you can take an overnight train from Hanoi or hop on the Open Tour bus from Ninh Binh or Hue. The cost of a taxi from the airport to Phong Nha is VND500,000. | September 2016 Word | 137

“The tour includes four hours’ worth of jungle trekking, a 300-metre foray into the front end of Dark Cave, a barbecue and then a swim into E Cave, one of the most accessible river caves in the area”

three-hour trek coming back from Hang En. My knee collapsed. Ashamed and broken, I crawled my way to the top. This time I finished the trip with energy to spare.

On Our Doorstep People travel thousands of miles to experience the tropical lure of Vietnam, yet most who live here have never heard of Phong Nha, let alone been there. The experience — the jungle trekking, the caving, the swimming in crystal clear pools and rivers, the lure of rural Vietnam — is the ultimate tropical adventure that this country has to offer. Yet it is mostly the travellers who are taking advantage of it, not the expats or locals. Now that there are more cave and trekking options available in Phong Nha, the hope is that people will start swapping their urban jungles for the real thing. It’s something I try to do a couple of times a year and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Accommodation Phong Nha has some beautiful countryside accommodation a few kilometers away from the main town. A couple of stand-outs are P HONG N HA F ARMSTAY (see the article on page xxx) and T HE P EPPER H OUSE (facebook. com/PepperHouseHomestay). Both are set in a rural environment to a backdrop of one of the most beautiful areas in Vietnam. Another well set-up option is the recently revamped C HAY L AP (, now run by the travel company Oxalis. Chay Lap is the closest accommodation to the National Park. In town the options include E ASY T IGER (, a hostel catering mainly to the backpacker crowd and a number of homestays including H O K HANH ’ S H OMESTAY ( and J UNGLE B OSS H OMESTAY ( | September 2016 Word | 139


DALAT ANA MANDARA VILLAS $$$$ Le Lai, Dalat, Tel: (063) 3555888 DALAT PALACE $$$$ 12 Ho Tung Mau, Dalat, Tel: (063) 382 5444

DALAT GREEN CITY HOTEL 172 Phan Dinh Phung, Dalat, Tel: (063) 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 TRAIN VILLA Villa 3, 1 Quang Trung, Dalat, Tel: (063) 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.

TRUNG CANG HOTEL $ 22 Bui Thi Xuan, Dalat, Tel: (063) 382 2663

M M M HANOI – INTERNATIONAL CROWNE PLAZA WEST INTERNATIONAL $$$ 36 Le Duc Tho, My Dinh Commune, Tu Liem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 6270 6688 This premier five-star property lies beside the My Dinh National Stadium and Convention Centre. Boasts two swimming pools, a spa, and a fitness centre in its 24 stories. DAEWOO HOTEL 360 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3831 5555

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This enormous structure offers the most modern of amenities, and with four restaurants and two bars, the events staff is well equipped to handle any occasion. Close to the National Convention Center, and a favourite of the business traveller, Daewoo even boasts an outdoor driving range. Shortly to become a Marriot property. FORTUNA HOTEL HANOI 6B Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3831 3333 This 350-room four-star set up in the heart of Hanoi’s financial district has a variety of rooms on offer, a “capital lounge” and three restaurants that serve Japanese, Chinese and international cuisine. And like you’d expect, there’s a fitness centre, night club and swimming pool, too, and even a separate spa and treatment facility for men and women. Set to the west of town, Fortuna often offers business deals on rooms and spaces to hold meetings, presentations and celebrations. HOTEL DE L’OPERA 29 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 6282 5555 Resting just a step away from the Opera House, the hotel mixes colonial architectural accents and theatrical interior design to create a contemporary space. The first boutique five star in the heart of Hanoi, the lavish, uniquely designed 107 rooms and suites contain all the mod cons and are complimented by two restaurants, a bar and complimentary Wi-Fi. HILTON GARDEN INN HANOI 20 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel (04) 3944 9396 With 86 fully-equipped guestrooms and suites, this is the first Hilton Garden Inn property in Southeast Asia. Centrally located and a short stroll from the historic Old Quarter, the hotel offers a full service restaurant, a stylish bar, along with complimentary business and fitness centres making it perfect for the international business or leisure traveller. HILTON HANOI OPERA 1 Le Thanh Tong, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 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: (04) 6270 8888 This stunning property built over West Lake falls in between a hotel and a resort. Beautiful views, great balcony areas, comfortable, topend accommodation and all the mod-cons make up the mix here together with the resort’s three in-house restaurants and the Sunset Bar, a watering hole located on a thoroughfare over the lake. Great gym and health club. JW MARRIOTT HANOI 8, Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 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. MAY DE VILLE OLD QUARTER 43/45/47 Gia Ngu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3933 5688 The largest four-star hotel in Hanoi’s Old Quarter, 110 rooms, a swimming pool, a top floor terrace bar and a location just a stone’s throw from Hoan Kiem Lake make this a great choice for anyone wanting a bit of luxury in the heart of the action. MELIA HANOI 44B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3934 3343 Excellently located in central Hanoi, Melia Hanoi draws plenty of business travellers and is also a popular venue for conferences and wedding receptions. State-of-the-art rooms, elegant restaurants, stylish bars, fully equipped fitness centre with sophisticated service always make in-house guests satisfied. MÖVENPICK HOTEL HANOI 83A Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3822 2800 With its distinctive French architecture and top end service, Mövenpick Hotel Hanoi is aimed squarely at corporate travellers. An allday restaurant and a lounge bar are available to satiate their clientele while the kinetic gym and wellness studio offer an excellent range of equipment. Massage and sauna facilities are available for guests seeking to rejuvenate. Of the 154 wellappointed rooms and suites, 93 are non-smoking. NOVOTEL SUITES 5 Duy Tan, Cau Giay, Tel: (04) 3576 6666 Suites and apartments with all the mod cons and attrac-

tive décor you’d expect of an Accor property. Located close to My Dinh and 20 minutes from downtown Hanoi, this new property with an inhouse restaurant and bar is perfect for business professionals or travellers looking to mix a stay in Hanoi with the feeling of being located in a place you can call home. PULLMAN HANOI HOTEL $$$$ 40 Cat Linh, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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. SHERATON K5 Nghi Tam, 11 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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 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. SOFITEL LEGEND METROPOLE HANOI 15 Ngo Quyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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. SOFITEL PLAZA HANOI 1 Thanh Nien Road, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3823 8888 Boasting Hanoi’s best views of West Lake, Truc Bach Lake and the Red River, Sofitel Plaza Hanoi soars 20 storeys above the city skyline. The 5-star hotel features 317 luxurious, comfortable guestrooms with spectacular lake view or river view ranking in 7 types from Classic Room to Imperial Suite.

HANOI – MID-RANGE 6 ON SIXTEEN 16 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem Another boutique hotel to grace Hanoi’s Old Quarter, the six rooms here mix contemporary and fresh with handicrafts and antique. Breakfast is included and in the long, lounge restaurant on the

second floor, home-style Vietnamese fare is served up with fresh fruit juices and Lavazza coffee. GOLDEN SILK BOUTIQUE HOTEL $$$ 109-111 Hang Gai, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3928 6969 Located in the centre of the Old Quarter, this little slice of heaven offers complimentary sundries and a replenishable minibar. The Orient restaurant, serves the finest in international and Vietnamese cuisine. JOSEPH’S HOTEL $$ 5 Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3938 1048 Located next to the cathedral, this popular wellappointed, airy and spacious boutique hotel mixes comfort with a nice ambience and great Western or Vietnamese breakfasts. All the modern amenities at reasonable prices. MAISON D’HANOI HANOVA HOTEL $$$ 35-37 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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. MAY DE VILLE 24 Han Thuyen, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 2222 9988 Set in the old French Quarter a short walk from the Opera House, May de Ville City Centre is a welcome new addition to the capital. Combining contemporary architecture with traditional Vietnamese style and materials, this elegant property has 81 well-appointed rooms including four suites.

HANOI – BUDGET HANOI BACKPACKER’S HOSTEL 48 Ngo Huyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3828 5372 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.

HCMC – INTERNATIONAL CARAVELLE HOTEL $$$$ 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 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. EQUATORIAL $$$ 242 Tran Binh Trong, Q5, Tel: (08) 3839 7777 This massive property boasts seven dining and entertainment outlets, a business centre, meeting rooms and a comprehensive fitness centre and spa. The Equatorial also has an on-site casino. HOTEL NIKKO SAIGON $$$$$ 235 Nguyen Van Cu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3925 7777 The five-star hotel and serviced apartment complex offers: 14 instant offices, seven meeting rooms, a 600-capacity ballroom, spa, outdoor swimming pool, a gym, 24-hour fine dining, 24-hours room service, and limousine services. INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON $$$$$ Hai Ba Trung and Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 9999 In the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, resides the Asiana with signature dining options, an innovative cocktail bar, exclusive spa and health club, together with luxury boutique arcade. LE MÉRIDIEN SAIGON $$$$ 3C Ton Duc Thang, Q1, HCMC Tel: (08) 6263 6688 Marking the brand’s debut in Vietnam, Le Méridien Saigon is the gathering place for curious and creativeminded travellers. Located in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City next to the Saigon River, the property is close to the metropolis's entertainment and commercial areas, making it an ideal base for exploring the local culture and community. Experience this cosmopolitan city in stimulating surroundings. LOTTE LEGEND HOTEL SAIGON $$$$ 2A–4A Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3333 Immaculate architecture, spacious rooms, and a fine selection of fine dining, with buffets specialising in Americana and Pan-Asian cuisine. NEW WORLD HOTEL $$$$ 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 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 $$$$$ 2 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1234 Fabulous in style, prime in location, everything one would expect from the Hyatt. The Square One and Italianthemed Opera restaurants have garnered an excellent reputation, as has the landscaped pool. PULLMAN SAIGON CENTRE $$$$$ 148 Tran Hung Dao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3838 8686 Recently completed on the site of the old Metropole, this upscale, contemporary property boasts 306 signature rooms combining design, comfort and connectivity. Innovative cuisine, a great downtown location and hightech meeting venues able to host up to 600 guests make up the mix. RIVERSIDE APARTMENTS 53 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 4111 Situated on the banks of the Saigon River, a 15-minute scenic boat ride or 20-minute bus ride from town, Riverside’s complementary shuttle services take you right in the city centre. With 152 fully equipped serviced apartments, the property offers special packages for short-term stay starting at VND2.1 million per apartment per night for a onebedroom facility. RENAISSANCE RIVERSIDE HOTEL SAIGON $$$$ 8-15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 1117 This distinct French architectural wonder offers complimentary Wi-Fi, airport pickup or drop off, a first-floor ballroom, and authentic Vietnamese cuisine at the River Restaurant. SILA URBAN LIVING 21 Ngo Thoi Nhiem, Q3, HCMC, Tel: (08) 3930 0800 Stylish apart-hotel with 217 apartments (from studios to one and two bedrooms) for short and long stays, close to the Reunification Palace on the edge of District 1. Facilities include a 24-hour reception, a 24-hour gym with a 20-meter swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Western and Eastern specialties are served daily at Twenty-One restaurant and bar. SHERATON $$$$$ 88 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08)

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 $$$$ 17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1555 This 20–story building in downtown Saigon, caters to upscale business and leisure travelers seeking a classic yet contemporary stay in Saigon. WINDSOR PLAZA $$$ 18 An Duong Vuong, Q5, Tel: (08) 3833 6688 The full ensemble with its own shopping hub (including a bank), fine dining, a sauna, health club, and superb panoramic views of the cityscape. Also hosts the largest Oktoberfest in the region.

HCMC – DELUXE CONTINENTAL $$$ 132-134 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 9201 This charming old hotel has been fêted in literature and in film. In the heart of Saigon, this is the first choice to highlight Vietnamese culture. NORFOLK HOTEL $$$ 117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 5368 Intimate atmosphere and excellent service, this boutique business hotel is located minutes from famous landmarks, designer shops, and is renowned for its fabulous steaks at its in-house restaurant, Corso.

STAR CITY SAIGON HOTEL $$$ 144 Nguyen Van Troi, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 3999 8888 The newly-built hotel is near Tan Son Nhat International Airport. With spectacular city views and a comfortablydesigned outdoor swimming pool, there is little reason not to choose this shining star.


room. Low prices, friendly staff, clean rooms. This modern oasis is only a few steps from the backpacker’s area. DUNA HOTEL $ 167 Pham Ngu Lao Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 3699 HONG HOA HOTEL $ 185/28 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 1915

ROYAL HOTEL SAIGON $$ 133 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 5914

SINH HUONG HOTEL $ 157 Nguyen Du Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 4648

LAN LAN HOTEL 1 AND 2 $$$ 46 and 73-75 Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 7926


THE ALCOVE LIBRARY HOTEL $$$ 133A Nguyen Dinh Chinh, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 08 6256 9966

HCMC – BUDGET DUC VUONG HOTEL $ 195 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 6992 Free Wi–Fi offered in every

HOI AN & DANANG AN BANG BEACH RETREAT An Bang Beach, Hoi An CUA DAI $ 544, Cua Dai, Hoi An, Tel: (0510) 386 2231 DANANG BEACH RESORT $$$ Truong Sa, Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang, Tel: (0511) 396 1800

FURAMA RESORT AND SPA $$$$ Vo Nguyen Giap, Khue My, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang, Tel: (0511) 384 7888

PULLMAN DANANG BEACH RESORT $$$$ Vo Nguyen Giap, Khue My, Ngu Hanh Son, Danang Tel: (0511) 395 8888 Located on the stunning white sands of Bac My An Beach, the stylish Pullman Danang Beach Resort is an oasis of activities and facilities for the modern traveller. With an idyllic setting, this luxury property is perfect for a family holiday or romantic beach getaway. And with extensive function facilities, Pullman Danang also provides the a great location for your next incentive getaway or event.

HYATT REGENCY DANANG RESORT AND SPA $$$$ Hoa Hai, Ngu Hanh Son, Da Nang, Tel: (0511) 398 1234 The Hyatt Regency Danang

Joseph’s Hotel Foreign-run,boutique hotel Next to the cathedral

NOVOTEL SAIGON CENTRE $$$ 167 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3822 4866 Novotel Saigon Centre has a contemporary feel, an international buffet — The Square — a rooftop bar, and a wellness centre including a swimming pool, gym, sauna and spa. VILLA SONG SAIGON $$$ 197/2 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 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, Indochine-influenced design, a great setting and good drinking and dining options make this a great, non-city centre choice.

Free wi-fi, international breakfast, spacious and airy, lift, plasma TV, multi-shower, friendly service 5, Au Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi | Phone: 04 3938 1048 | Mob: 0913 090 446 | September 2016 Word | 141


Resort and Spa is beachfront with a stunning view of the Marble Mountains. There are 182 luxurious residences and 27 private ocean villas, each with a private pool. MERCURE DANANG $$$ Lot A1 Zone Green Island, Hoa Cuong Bac, Hai Chau, Danang, Tel: (0511) 379 7777 Set on the Han River, this well-appointed, Accormanaged property is one of the nicest hotels in Central Danang. Kitsch but contemporary design and some phenomenal views over the city make up the mix. THE NAM HAI $$$$ Hamlet 1, Dien Duong Village, Quang Nam, Tel: (0510) 394 0000 Includes three massive swimming pools, a gourmet restaurant and elegant spa on a lotus pond. Each massive room has its own espresso machine, pre–programmed iPod and both indoor and outdoor showers.

M M M HUE & LANG CO ANGSANA LANG CO $$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien Hue, Tel: (054) 369 5800 Located on Vietnam’s South Central Coast, Angsana Lang Co commands an unrivalled beach frontage of the shimmering East Sea. Traditional Vietnamese design encompasses the resort’s contemporary buildings and chic interiors.


BANYAN TREE LANG CO $$$$ Cu Du Village, Loc Vinh Commune, Phu Loc, Thua Thien, Hue, Tel: (054) 369 5888 Built on a crescent bay, The Banyan Tree offers privacy

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and unparalleled exclusivity with all-pool villas reflecting the cultural and historical legacy of past Vietnamese dynastic periods. LA RESIDENCE $$$$ 5 Le Loi, Hue, Tel: (054) 383 7475 la–residence– PHUONG HOANG HOTEL $ 66 Le Loi, Hue, Tel: (054) 382 6736

M M M NHA TRANG EVASON ANA MANDARA AND SIX SENSES SPA $$$$ Beachside Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (058) 352 2222 2.6 hectares of private beachside gardens and villa–style accommodation furnished in traditional native woods, this resort offers verandah dining, a pool bar and the signature Six Senses Spa. JUNGLE BEACH RESORT $ Ninh Phuoc, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (058) 362 2384 On a secluded promontory north of Nha Trang, this budget place is all about hammocks, the sea, the jungle and nature. MIA RESORT NHA TRANG $$$$ Bai Dong, Cam Hai Dong, Cam Lam, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (058) 398 9666 NOVOTEL NHA TRANG $$$ 50 Tran Phu, Nha Trang, Tel: (058) 625 6900 This four-star hotel with 154 guestrooms, all with a terrace and sea view. Complete

with a pool, spa, restaurant, bar and meeting room that caters for up to 200 delegates. SIX SENSES HIDEAWAY NINH VAN BAY $$$$ Ninh Van Bay, Ninh Hoa, Khanh Hoa, Tel: (058) 372 8222 The upmarket Tatler magazine voted top hotel of 2006. The location is stunning, on a bay accessible only by boat. SHERATON NHA TRANG HOTEL AND SPA $$$$ 26 – 28 Tran Phu, Tel: (058) 388 0000

M M M PHAN THIET & MUI NE NINH CHU BAY BEACH CLUB & BAR Hwy 702, Ninh Hai, Phan Rang, Ninh Thuan, Tel: (068) 627 2727 Enjoy the private beach with excellent facilities and have a massage. Evenings are sublime at this beach club, soon to become a fully fledged resort. Grilled seafood, European sausages, sangria, draught beer, and specialityinfused vodka all make this one of a kind destination. BLUE OCEAN RESORT $$$$ 54 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: (062) 384 7322 COCO BEACH $$$$ 58 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Phan Thiet, Tel: (062) 384 7111 With charming wooden bungalows, a private beach, a swimming pool (both with attached bars) and a French restaurant, Coco Beach con-

tinues to be run by those who opened it in 1995. JOE’S GARDEN RESORT $$ 86 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ham Tien, Mui Ne, Tel: (062) 384 7177 A leafy, seafront bungalow resort and café with nightly live music all in one. Reminiscent of the type of places you’d find on the Thai islands, an international and Asian food menu together with a cheap happy hour on beer make up the relaxing mix. MIA RESORT MUI NE $$$$ 24 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Mui Ne, Tel: (062) 384 7440 VICTORIA PHAN THIET RESORT AND SPA $$$$ Mui Ne Beach, Phan Thiet, Tel: (062) 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.

M M M PHONG NHA EASY TIGER AND JUNGLE BAR $ Son Trach, Bo Trach, Quang Binh, Tel: (052) 367 7844 easytigerphongnha@gmail. com 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 night. 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: (052) 367 5135 The first western-run farmstay in Phong Nha, this wellappointed 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.

M M M PHU QUOC BEACH CLUB RESORT $$ Ap Cua Lap, Xa Duong To, Long Beach, Phu Quoc Island, Tel: (077) 398 0998 A quaint and popular island guesthouse featuring a beachside restaurant, and includes free Wi-Fi. Motorbike rental, boat trips and tours are easily arranged. Discount rates during rainy season. MANGO BAY $$ 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. SALINDA RESORT PHU QUOC ISLAND $$$$ Cua Lap Hamlet, Duong To Commune, Phu Quoc, Kien Giang Tel: (08) 3929 3097 Hotline 0907 99 55 02 Set on the sea and only 4km away from Phu Quoc International Airport, Salinda is inspired by an interplay of rustic local heritage with

contemporary design. The property has 121 rooms and villas with private balconies, and provides a luxury experience that embodies the understated beauty and enchanting spirit of the pearl of Asia.

M M M SAPA CAT CAT VIEW HOTEL $$ Cat Cat Road, Tel: 0203 871946 The best view in town from its bar restaurant, the Cat Cat Guesthouse is paradise at very reasonable rates. The rooms have big windows, balconies, and log fireplaces. TOPAS ECOLODGE $$$ Thanh Kim, Sapa, Lao Cai Tel: (04) 3715 1005 (Sales) With its panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valley, Topas Ecolodge is the perfect place to experience the remoteness and quiet of the Northern Vietnamese mountains — the landscape, the fresh air and the ethnic peoples. Guests stay in private bungalows with dinner served in a local stilt house restaurant.

M M M VUNG TAU & HO TRAM BINH AN VILLAGE $$$$ 1 Tran Phu, Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 335 1553 CON DAO RESORT $$ Nguyen Duc Thuan, Con Dao, Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 383 0939 HO TRAM BEACH RESORT AND SPA $$$$ Tel: (064) 378 1525 This attractive property is the ideal getaway from Ho Chi

Minh City. 63 uniquely bungalows and villas promise a local experience complete with an excellent spa and two swimming pools. HO TRAM SANCTUARY $$$$ Ho Tram, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 378 1631 The spacious villas come with their own pool and have direct access to the beach. Extras include tennis courts, a mini supermarket, and cycling and motorbike tours. REX HOTEL $$ 1 Le Quy Don, Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 385 2135 SIX SENSES CON DAO $$$$ Dat Doc Beach, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 383 1222 THE GRAND-HO TRAM STRIP Phuoc Thuan Commune, Xuyen Moc, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tel: (064) 378 8888 The Grand-Ho Tram Strip is Vietnam’s first large scale integrated resort and includes a 541-room five-star hotel, a world-class casino, restaurants, high-tech meeting space, an exclusive VIP area, as well as a variety of beach-front recreation activities. Is located next to the Greg Norman-designed golf course, The Bluffs, one of the best golf courses in Vietnam.

M M M TRAVEL SERVICES — HANOI BUFFALO TOURS AGENCY (BTA) 94 Ma May, Hoan Kiem Dist., Ha Noi, Tel: (04) 3828 0702 A boutique Travel Agency at the service of all Vietnamese and expatriate residents in Vietnam offering easy, hassle-free travel around the world and in Vietnam.

BTA customizes leisure and corporate travel plans while offering a selected range of small group tours. EXO TRAVEL 66A Tran Hung Dao, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3828 2150 A one-stop, all-in-one travel agency with an extensive operational track record in the Indochina region and beyond. Providing up-market services, Exotissimo brings their clients close to culture through personalised tours. Also find travel desks at the Hilton, Sofitel Plaza and Intercontinental hotels, which are open on weekends and holidays. HANDSPAN TRAVEL 78 Ma May, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3926 2828 Established in 1997, Handspan provides customers with safe, high quality, diverse, small-group adventure tours to both popular and isolated locations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Has a focus on off-the-beaten-track sustainable and responsible tourism initiatives. Also provides to excursions to more well-worn destinations. HG TRAVEL 47 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3944 8844 Travel company specialising in small-group tours around Vietnam and further afield in Indochina. Is also the sole representative agent for Kenya Airways (for 40 cities in Africa — kenya-airways. com), American Airlines (aa. com) and Turkish Airlines ( INTREPID TRAVEL VIETNAM 57A Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0904 193308 Intrepid Travel Vietnam is an international travel company operating in Vietnam since 1992, offering innovative day tours, short breaks and small group adventures. With expert guides and guaranteed

departures, Intrepid focuses on real life experiences in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Mekong Delta, Halong Bay, Sapa and beyond to get you up close to Vietnam’s people, cuisine, history and culture. TRAVEL SENSE ASIA Suite 8, 2nd Floor, 103 Nguyen Truong To, Ba Dinh, Hanoi Tel: (04) 3715 3977 A homegrown travel agency providing small group journeys and tailor-made holidays to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. Voted in Trip Advisor’s Top 10 of best tours in Hanoi since 2010.

TRAVEL SERVICES — HCMC BUFFALO TOURS AGENCY 70-72 Ba Trieu, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3828 0702; 157 Pasteur, Q3, Ho Chi Minh City, Tel: (08) 3827 9170 This premium travel agency helps travellers select their destinations and organise their trips. From corporate travel to small group tours, explore the world or Vietnam. EXO TRAVEL 41, Thao Dien, Q2. Tel (08) 3519 4111, Ext. 15/17/19 A 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. FLIGHT TRAVEL COMPANY 121 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 7744 Flight travel services, including global travel management, domestic and international air booking and travel insurance, to corporate companies, family and individual travelers. GRASSHOPPER ADVENTURES Tel: 0946 704095

Escape the bustle with Southeast Asia’s top rated bike tour company. Run guided day tours to the Mekong Delta and Cu Chi Tunnels. Also organize longer, two to 14-day tours throughout Vietnam. TERRAVERDE 12/20 Nguyen Canh Di, Ward 4, Tan Binh District, Tel: (08) 3984 4754 If you like cycling through the Mekong Delta, trekking in the highlands, or lazing in a junk on Ha Long Bay — all while making a difference in people’s lives — then this company will suit you well. VIETNAM VESPA ADVENTURE 169A De Tham, Q1, Tel: 01222 993585 Vespa Adventure offers multi–day tours of southern and coastal Vietnam on the back of a luxury motorbike powered by clean, renewable biodiesel. English-speaking tour guides lead the way.

TRAVEL SERVICES — ELSEWHERE BACK OF THE BIKE TOURS Tel: (08) 6298 5659 Offer motorbike tours combined with the finest street food to give customers a truly immersive Vietnamese experience. BEENINASIA.COM Online travel in Southeast Asia. Offers you selection of best hotels and great tours. Create your own trip or we can tailor make your itinerary. TU TRAVEL 60 Hai Ba Trung, Can Tho City, Tel: 0713 752436 tutrangtravel-mekongfeeling. vn Want to set up non-standard tours in the Mekong with local guides who’ve got extensive local knowledge? This might be the place to contact.

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The Alchemist / The Therapist / Bar Stool / Coffee Cup / Medical Buff / A World of Good / Book Buff Photo by Julie vola

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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.


HANOI HOLISTIC HEALTH GUIDE A guide to various holistic health practitioners in Hanoi. Only available online, but a great information source.


44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 3711; 1/28 Nghi Tam Village, Tay Ho Tel: (04) 3829 2322 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 secondhand fiction and nonfiction titles in stock, the shop also buys used books and offers free travel advice. Has a second shop in Tay Ho

BRITISH BUSINESS GROUP VIETNAM (BBGV) 193B Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung Tel: (04) 6674 0945 The chamber of commerce for all things relating to the UK and British-born expats living in the capital. Puts on monthly networking events, gala dinners, fundraising events and much more. CCIFV Sofitel Plaza, No 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 2229 EUROCHAM G/F, Sofitel Plaza Hanoi, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 2228 ICHAM Sofitel Plaza, Ground floor, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 2229 SINGAPORE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION VIETNAM Business Center Fortuna Hotel, 6B Lang Ha, Ba Dinh


23/67 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3726 4896

22A Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3936 2648 Not a movie theatre per se, but a private film club that charges a membership fee in return for entrance to a wide selection of movies, new and old. The management has an eclectic taste and shows films and opera from all over the world. Call to arrange membership.





44 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3936 2151






32 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3825 4068

M M M BUSINESS GROUPS AMCHAM 4th Floor, InterContinental Hanoi, 1A Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3934 2790 AUSCHAM 4th Floor, 100 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung Tel: 0909 710994

21 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3824 1850 GOETHE INSTITUT GERMAN CULTURAL CENTRE


76 Yen Phu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3823 8115





5 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3828 6965 This shop’s motto “Western sizes, Vietnamese prices”, says it all. While mostly retailing women’s separates in soft cotton jersey and linen, the store also carries a range of accessories like embroidered canvas totes and printed tees. Has a good selection of unique men’s shirts.


24 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3936 2164



84 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3923 1147


CHULA 43 Nhat Chieu, Tay Ho; 24 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem Tel: 0904 258960 The work of Spanish couple Laura and Diego, this homegrown Hanoi brand describes themselves as creating wearable art. Designing pieces that are trendy, elegant, Western and yet distinctly Asian, their shop and arts space focuses on lifestyle, with regular events and more. CONTRABAND



15 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3928 8725




44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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.


23 Nha Chung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3928 9891 Launched in Hanoi in 2007, Contraband targets young hip working women. Garments are made from versatile fabrics that are comfortable to wear and easy to look after – making them ideal for work and travel. New styles are introduced each month with limited production runs, offering a sense of exclusivity.



147 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: 0912 254045 A wide range of Vietnamese culinary classes are offered in these well-appointed and clean facilities. The knowledgeable staff will guide you through the secrets of Vietnamese cooking in an open air courtyard.




36 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 6233 With new styles arriving in store every second day, this shop offers a huge range of dresses, shirts, pants, skirts and accessories in local and imported fabrics. Clothes fit all sizes, from petite to average to the generous figure. Alterations and a made-tomeasure service are available at no extra cost.


8 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho Fair trade or bought directly from the artisans who made them, Betterworld stocks unusual handicrafts from around the world as well as second-hand books, DVDs and more. MEKONG QUILTS HANDMADE / CHARITABLE QUILTS


33 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 6758 Stocks women’s wear, leather bags, shoes and handicrafts. This chic boutique offers both ready-to-wear and made-to-fit clothing.

9 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3926 4831; 58 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3824 4607; 13 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3926 4831 Community development non-profit quilt shop featuring handmade quilts and accessories. Styles vary from traditional to patterned and Asian-inspired. Founded in 2001 and with outposts in


Hanoi Essentials

several locations around the region, the shop employs women in rural areas, enabling them to make an income and care for their families.


Tel: (04) 3928 5190 Established in 2002, this American-run gallery has championed Vietnamese contemporary art for more than two decades. Holds regular exhibitions and artist talks.

Duan, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3941 2789 LINHMART 116, D4 Dormitory, Giang Vo, Ba Dinh (near Ha Noi Hotel) Tel: 0936 491136 or 0916 504548 Stocks organic vegetables from Sapa, Soc Son and Dalat; seafood from Hai Phong and Quang Ninh; Norwegian salmon and highlands pork and beef. Also offers foreign spices and convenience store products from Japan and Thailand. Free delivery for any purchase above VND400,000.





16 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3719 3719


14 Phan Huy Ich, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3716 3397 Founded in 2012, this independent contemporary art centre holds regular exhibitions, workshops and a wide range of art events. Manzi promotes emerging artists while presenting established artists from Vietnam. The space also sells works by leading contemporary Vietnamese artists at affordable prices.

70 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0904 244941





24 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0985 870316 The first experimental art space in Hanoi, the non-profit, artist-led space has given contemporary Vietnamese artists the chance to nurture their talent and experiment. Holds regular exhibitions and artist residences.

38 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 6680 2770


15 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh IBIKE SALES

34 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho; 53 Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem QUAN’S RENTALS


29 Nhat Chieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 3156



3 Nguyen Du, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: 0906 200434



2nd floor, 51A Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 2286 peacedentalclinic.wordpress. com

66 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3733 2131 Maintains and promotes the treasures of Vietnamese cultural and artistic heritage, allowing visitors to appreciate and understand the entire history of Vietnamese fine arts.




Packexim Building Tower 1, 23rd Floor, No. 49 Lane 15, An Duong Vuong, Tay Ho A place to work. A space to create. Somewhere to see something new. Work Room Four is pulling together the threads of creative endeavours across Hanoi. A collective that promotes collaboration and new ideas, exhibitions, workshops, artist studios, courses, contacts and events.


2nd Fl, Syrena Center, 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3710 0555 The Westcoast International Dental Clinic is composed of dental professionals who deliver modern, high-level dental services throughout Vietnam. The clinic provides the highest quality technology, comfort and after-service care to patients.


24 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem,

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6T Ham Long, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3943 1009



First Floor, 51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 4487

162A Hoang Hoa Tham, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3847 3366 JUST.IN.M WOMEN’S HAIRDRESSER

48A Ly Thuong Kiet , Hoan Kiem, Tel: 04 3939 3907 LAN SALON Sofitel Plaza, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3266 8190


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. BUMRUNGRAD INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL




4 Lane 67, Alley 12, To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 6674 4130

136G Tran Vu, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3715 3717


24 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3719 1196 WESTERN CANNED FOODS GROCERY STORE

17 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3934 3854 VEGGIE’S GROCERIES, FRUIT & VEG

99 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3719 4630 THE WAREHOUSE WINE RETAILER

59 Hang Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3928 7666; 27 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 3701






96 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3826 2076; 65 Le

2A Cua Bac, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0987 718899

The Manor, Me Tri Street, My Dinh, Tu Liem Tel: (04) 3787 5500


241 Xuan Thuy, Cau Giay, Hanoi, Tel: 1900 555596


54 Lieu Giai, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3333 6016 PARKSON

Viet Tower Plaza, 198 Tay Son, Dong Da Tel: (04) 3537 8666





RED APRON 10 Da Tuong, Hanoi Tel: (04) 3943 7226; 28 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho. Tel: (04) 3719 8337



3 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3719 9911







JAPAN INTERNATIONAL EYE HOSPITAL (JIEH) INTERNATIONAL EYE HOSPITAL 32 Pho Duc Chinh, Ba Dinh, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 3715 3666 JIEH is a 100% Japaneseinvested eye hospital. Using the latest technology and built according to Japanese standards, the facility is the first in Vietnam to use Mel 90 (Carl Zeiss - Germany), and is one of first three eye hospitals in the country using Visumax (Carl Zeiss - Germany) for refractive surgery. Top-end customer service and a friendly, contemporary environment add to the mix.


298 I Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3843 0748 On the little street directly below Kim Ma, with all sorts of specialists including OB/ GYN, Pediatricians and ENT. A Medium-sized practice with both Vietnamese and international doctors, but they are

229 Tay Son, Dong Da, Tel: (04) 6682 0400


51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3719 7214


cnr. Hang Bai and Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi VINCOM CITY TOWERS

191 Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3974 9999


72A Nguyen Trai, Thanh Xuan, Tel: (04) 3974 3550

used to treating expats. Also a 24-hour emergency service. FRENCH HOSPITAL

IGCSE and A Level. Pending authorization, will offer the IB programme from 2016 onwards.


1 Phuong Mai, Dong Da, Tel: (04) 3577 1100 HONG NGOC HOSPITAL PRIVATE GENERAL HOSPITAL

55 Yen Ninh, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3927 5568; Keangnam Office Tower, Khu B1 Pham Hung, Cau Giay, Tel: (04) 7305 8880 INTERNATIONAL SOS 24-HOUR CLINIC MEDICAL / DENTAL CLINIC

51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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 check-ups through to vaccinations, paediatrics and specialist care. VIETNAM-KOREA FRIENDSHIP CLINIC KOREAN CLINIC & HOSPITAL


458 Minh Khai, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3974 3556

INSURANCE IF CONSULTING CCIFV/Eurocham, Sofitel Plaza, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3936 5370 LIBERTY INSURANCE 16th Floor, Hoa Binh International Towers, 106 Hoang Quoc Viet, Cau Giay Tel: (04) 3755 7111 REGENCY INTERNATIONAL INSURANCE 5th Floor, Press Club, 59A Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem Tel: 0966 857 488

M M M INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, HANOI Hoa Lan Road, Vinhomes Riverside, Long Bien, Tel: (04) 3946 0435 A selective, independent, co-educational day school. Provides a British-style education following the National Curriculum for England, with students taking

CONCORDIA INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HANOI CMC Building, Duy Tan, Cau Giay, Tel: (04) 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: (04) 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, Dinh Cong, Hoang Mai, Tel: 3540 9183 A not-for-profit, pre-kindergarten 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.

of ‘quality schools’ established by the Quality Schools International. The institution specialises in instructing preschool and lower elementary age students. SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 2D Van Phuc Diplomatic Compound, 46 Van Bao, Ba Dinh, Tel (04) 3726 1601; Block C3, Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel (04) 3758 2664; Road 2, Gamuda Gardens, Km 4.4 Phap Van, Hoang Mai, Tel (04) 6666 1818 Provides an international education for students from primary up to university level. A strong curriculum provides core subjects from the Singaporean and Vietnamese curricula, as well as specialist programmes from Britain, America and Canada, all taught by qualified teachers. ST. PAUL AMERICAN SCHOOL HANOI Khu Do Thi Bac AnKhanh, An Khanh, HoaiDuc, Tel: (04) 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: (04) 3758 1551 Established in 1988, 1,050 students from 60 nationalities follow the IB programme from aged 3 through to aged 18. A notfor-profit entity, UNIS aims for its students to emerge as responsible stewards of our global society and natural environment.


37 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0915 066096 MR CAO MOTORBIKE RENTAL


17 Ve Ho, Xuan La, Tay Ho, Tel: 0914 931390 Trains disadvantaged youth to be fully qualified, Australian-certified motorbike mechanics. Does sales, restoration, repairs and rentals.


6 Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 6332 GIA LONG HOUSING RENTALS

R714, Blg CT13B Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3743 0589 HANOI RENTING RENTALS

No. 809, Ct13b building, Lac Long Quan, Tay Ho Tel: (04) 6294 4828


106 Hang Bac, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0912 094464 PHUNG MOTORBIKE MOTORBIKE RENTALS

13 Ngo Huyen, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3938 1105


38 Hang Hom, Hoan Kiem, Tel: Tel: 0933 534999

KINDERWORLD INTERNATIONAL KINDERGARTEN Unit 9 – 10, Shophouse CT17, Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel (04) 3743 0306; 3rd Floor, 49 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel (04) 3934 7243; C5 – C11, 1st floor, The Manor Building, My Dinh, Tu Liem, Tel (04) 3764 0209 Classes are kept small with a foreign teacher leading the class with the assistance of a Vietnamese teacher according to the teacher-student ratio. KinderWorld provides pre school education for children from 18 months to below 6 years. QSI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF HANOI #17 Lane, 67 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 6418 QSI International School of Hanoi is next in a long line | September 2016 Word | 147



trip home to Canada this summer put me squarely in the midst of the Pokémon Go phenomenon. This wildly popular mobile game has its players chasing digital characters in ‘augmented reality’ — real world environments augmented by computer-generated effects. The normally peaceful and tranquil English Garden of my hometown was teeming with Pokémon Go “trainers.” The Garden, described as a horticultural attraction and floral sightseeing destination, has since attracted a wider range of visitors with the Pokémon craze.

Off the Grid In a less crowded garden, I encountered a neighbour who informed me that my former elementary school cultivated the community garden in which we stood. He and his young daughter strolled through the plots naming the assorted vegetables. They were interacting much more with their surroundings than the Pokémon enthusiasts at the English Garden. When I commended my neighbour on

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his knowledge of the plants, he replied that he was preparing himself for a possible collapse of “the grid.” We’ve become so reliant on technology that the slightest glitch can wreak havoc. An interruption in the power supply can affect access to water, fuel, fresh food, as well as hamper communications. A case in point is the recent grounding of one of the world’s largest airline carriers due to a simple power outage.

Connect Within Barring an imposed disconnection from the grid, many of us are unable to detach ourselves from our technological shackles and are unable to function without them. Along with the physical and social repercussions from the overuse of technology — particularly electronics and information technology — there are challenges to our self-identity. Research indicates that as the use of technology increases, the locus of control for a sense of being, which should come from within a person, has become increasingly external. According to spiritual healer, Mas Sajady, the more we are bound to our


electronics, the more we reside outside of ourselves and are disconnected from our true essence. In other words, in unhealthy use, we connect to technology to disconnect from ourselves. In other words, is Pokémon Go ‘augmented reality’ or is it diminished reality?

The Soul or the Machine Sajady distinguishes between spiritual technology and mechanical technology and suggests that we get off the grid in order to become aware of our own spiritual technology. He states that our spiritual technology is much more advanced than any mechanical technology humanity has created and it allows us to know ourselves at a deeper level. Like the two gardens I visited this summer, we can choose to consciously engage in the web of life that surrounds us or we can allow the artificial web to dictate our life experiences. Which garden will I find you in? Karen Gay, A-Roaming Bodyworker, is a holistic health practitioner practicing in Hanoi. For information on the types of services provided, visit



21 Alley 1/22 Au Co, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 5203



RELOCATION AGENTS ALLIED PICKFORDS Room 302, 12A Ho Xuan Huong, Tel: (04) 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: (04)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.

SANTA FE RELOCATION SERVICES Suite 821, Vietnam Trade Hotel, 14 Tran Binh Trong, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3941 0805 With 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.


51 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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. N SHAPE FITNESS



41A Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3938 8762 A worldwide leader in international removals and relocations, with 130 offices globally. Have the capacity to move property to and from any location.


5th Floor, 71 Nguyen Chi Thanh, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 6266 0495 STUDIO FIVE





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.

84 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3923 1147



247 Au Co, Tay Ho; 62 Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem; Tel: 0904 356 561 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.




5th Fl, 135 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung. Tel: (04) 6263.1515

19 Nui Truc, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 6273 3095


HANOI SPORTS SHOP 146, Mai Dich, Cau Giay, Tel: (04) 2218 5757

SUPERMARKETS SCORE-TECH 44, Ngo 31 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 8246 Apparel company offering 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.


13 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3771 3305

BIG C 222 Tran Duy Hung, Cau Giay; Garden Shopping Centre, The Manor, My Dinh, Tu Liem CITIMART Ground Floor, Hanoi Towers, 49 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3934 2999

FIVIMART 27A Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem

INTIMEX 22-23 Le Thai To, Hoan Kiem

METRO THANG LONG Pham Van Dong, Co Nhue, Tu Liem, Tel: (04) 3755 1617


Dear Douglas, For the past year, since I have lived in Hanoi, I have been sharing a house with three other expats. One is a woman who amazes me with her constant ability to be positive. She never complains or criticizes. When I, or the other housemates, talk badly about someone or bitch about work, she listens but doesn’t really say anything. When she does comment, it is usually to give someone the benefit of the doubt. It really bugged me for a while, at first, and I thought she was just hiding her real feelings. Now, I have to say that I am affected by her and wish I could be less negative and sarcastic. Is it possible? Can people change their personalities? I don’t want to be fake. — Elizabeth (not real name) Dear Elizabeth, You sound inspired. You are asking a good question about whether people can change. The answer is yes and no. Our personality is generally thought of to be an inner structure that remains constant over the course of one’s life. However, there are many aspects of who we are that are not fixed and are a matter of choice — things we can learn or unlearn, attitudes and outlooks we can modify. Our mood is also a significant part of what influences our behaviour and our thoughts.

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Your housemate is someone who seems to hold the trait of resilience. It is an ability to see the difficult aspects of life, without being caught by the negative feelings or perspectives. It starts with an acceptance that life is difficult or painful, and the choice to see “beyond” that truth. William James, one of my favourite early psychologists, said: “The art of wisdom is the art of knowing what to overlook.” We do have selective choice about where we put our attention and focus. Most of us get caught in our pain, disappointments and expectations and find ourselves with a negative outlook from time to time, or maybe a lot. Your awareness has been raised and you are seeing yourself differently. Changing can feel strange at first, like we are not being “ourselves”. But over time we morph in the direction of our intention. Catching yourself at being sarcastic or overly critical, creates space for something different. Trying to give people the benefit of the doubt or putting yourself in their shoes shifts the way we see things and results in change. When you think about it, change is inevitable. We grow up, we mature, we learn from our mistakes, we develop perspectives from the experience of life. So, doing that consciously is what I think you are talking about. One aspect of those who tend to a


positive outlook on life is their ability to hold gratitude. When we consciously are able to see the ways that life is good, not to the exclusion of painful reality, we can keep things in perspective. Every day it is possible to see beauty, to experience pleasure and joy, to feel love and connection, and to value the small ways that life offers gifts to us. Sometimes we have to overcome a deep belief that we do not deserve happiness or the desirable aspects of life. Deep down we have come to believe that we are not worth it, we are not lovable, we are not “good” enough. It can be a major obstacle to the resilience I am talking about. It is a core belief that needs to be challenged and was probably learned from an early age. It can cause us to sabotage our own growth and steal away the positive aspects of life. Ask yourself a deep question: Do I feel like I don’t deserve to have a life that includes joy, gratitude and contentment? This is where therapy can be really helpful, to understand where the belief has come from and to strip away the inhibiting power of that false belief. I wish you continued inspiration, — 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 On the Town


23 Ngo Van So, Hoan Kiem Housed in a colonial building, bare brick, comfortable sofa-like 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: (04) 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. ANGELINA CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN

Sofitel Metopole Legend Hotel, 56 Ly Thai To, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3826 6919 Top-end bar and Italian restaurant all in one. Five star prices, but has an atmosphere to match and a great cocktail selection. The kind of place you’ll order a wagyu and eat it at the bar. BACKYARD BIA HOI UPMARKET BIA HOI

15/50 Quang Khanh, Tay Ho From the Tet Lifestyle collection, this outdoor, hideaway, garden-based bia hoi is every bit as attractive (and popular) as its café peers in the West Lake area. A Vietnamese-style food menu and regular live music make up the mix. BARBETTA ARTSY BAR & CAFE

34C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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. CAMA ATK MUSIC & ARTS BAR

73 Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: 01262 054970 With well-poured drinks, a foosball table, no smoking and a midnight closing time, CAMA ATK knows exactly what it wants to be — and that’s refreshing. The space is a part time venue for smaller acts and DJs. The venue is hip, comfortable and will likely provide the serious drinker with a reliable place to pull up a stool and take pulls in a relaxed haven.


End of 264 Au Co, Tay Ho When it comes to outdoor parties, big outdoor parties, the setting at Eden makes this place difficult to beat, with well over a 1,000 revellers packing in at the weekends. Check out their Facebook page for the party list. 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. FATCAT BAR DJ / LATE NIGHT JOINT

25 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0986 495211 A small establishment from the minds behind the party and event organisers, LinkHanoi. The bar has tables filling the first floor and spilling onto the sidewalk as well as a small loft area for lounging. FURBREW CRAFT BEER BAR

8B/52 To Ngoc Van, TayHo 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. HOA VIEN BRAUHAUS CZECH MICROBREWERY

1A Tang Bat Ho, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3972 5088 LE SOLEIL DDJ BAR / LATE NIGHT

284 Nghi Tam, Tay Ho, Tel: 0915 663993 Open late, Le Soleil has become a place to be seen,

especially if you’re the dancing-into-the-early hours kind of person. Sofas, bar stools, menus on blackboards and neon-coloured lighting, there’s a grunge-style feel to the place, but it’s an ambience that Le Soleil’s customers seem to love. Has a pizza joint, Paolo and Chi, upstairs.

anyone looking for some good conversation. Cheap beers, oodles of Jameson’s and often open late. Oh, and check out the Danish hotdog stand out front. To die for. TADIOTO LOUNGE BAR AND CAFE

from the US with a beer hall, drinking food and a DJ booth, it created the start of a new scene — beer clubs. The original Vuvuzela on Tran Thanh Tong is still going strong, but it’s so popular that it’s best to book your table in advance. For a full list of Hanoi locations, check their website.



7 Ta Hien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3926 3104 There’s only one Mao and there’s only one red lounge. This late-night bar has been going for years, and despite its Old Quarter dive status, it still packs in the drinkers. POLITE PUB

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.


5 Bao Khanh, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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


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.


25 Duong Ven Ho, Tay Ho Located on the lakeside lane just below Xuan Dieu, this warm, quiet and friendly pub offers a selection of international and local beers, wine, cocktails and a nice view of West Lake. Serving pies and pasties from The Cart, Vietnamese food from Dieu’s next door, or delivery from nearby favourites. Unpretentious, dog-friendly. ROCKSTORE LIVE MUSIC BAR

61 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 01653 336087 Hanoi's home-made, homegrown version of Hard Rock Cafe without the stigma and the expensive prices. Nightly live music or DJing events are coupled with creative decor, a selection of Belgian Beer and a food menu. Check their Facebook page for details.


19th Floor, Pacific Place, 83B Ly Thuong Kiet, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3946 1901 The first up-on-high bar and restaurant in the capital and still a leader in its field. With DJs spinning EDM and great views of the city, this is a must for a more Vietnamese, top-shelf experience. THE UNICORN BAR COCKTAIL BAR & LOUNGE

2A Hang Than, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0904 886266 The latest offering of wellknown champion bartender, Pham Tien Tiep, Unicorn offers up a lounge space, a small bar area and an attractive seating space out front. Now, as for the cocktails… TRACY’S PUB AND GRILL SPORTS BAR/GRILL

199D Nghi Tam, Tay Ho A bar and grill with an eclectic, DIY-style semi-outdoor setting. Regular DJ nights and live music add to the great ambience. Check out their grill fare. Tasty.

114 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 6675 9838 A miniscule sports bar on the main drag of Xuan Dieu is perpetually crowded with regulars drinking out front on plastic stools. Notorious for its burgers, cooked fresh to order, Tracy’s is also famous for their draft beers, claiming to serve the coldest draft beer in Hanoi.






12A Nguyen Huu Huan, Hoan Kiem, Tel: 0932 373802 A cheap, cheerful and welcoming slither of a watering hole popular with expats and

2A Tran Thanh Tong, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3972 8922 When Vuvuzela opened up, mixing the Hooters concept


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. CIAO CAFÉ RESTO LOUNGE

2 Hang Bai, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3934 1494 A stone’s throw from the shores of Hoan Kiem Lake, this Saigonese franchise offers a variety of different western dishes at reasonable prices. Loaded with booths and a steady, young Vietnamese crowd, the establishment is a great place to squash a sandwich or bowl of pasta and people watch. They also do coffee. COFFEE BEAN AND TEA LEAF INTERNATIONAL COFFEE HOUSE

28 Thanh Nien, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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. 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. D’ALICE BOUTIQUE CAFE

89 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung Put together coffee and cake and you get one of those timeless combinations. And if you really want to binge on the cake-end, then check out | September 2016 Word | 151



pened a year and a half ago by owner Hanh Pham, Lantern Lounge (80 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi) is her vision for a chilled out, beautiful and unique drinking and dining space. It has been wowing patrons from day one. The first thing that will strike you as you emerge at the top of the stairs from the modest restaurant below, is the décor. Inspired by the famous lanterns which illuminate Hoi An’s ancient riverside shophouses, all of the main rooms of Lantern Lounge are bedecked with dozens of colourful lanterns in all shapes and sizes.

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Best enjoyed in the evening, these lanterns provide the perfect amount of light to create the relaxed atmosphere which is an excellent antidote to the madness of the Old Quarter streets outside. The walls depict scenes of old Hanoi, sketched out in black against a backdrop of red. Propped up against them are massive comfy pillows, on top of spongy futon-like seats.

Flavours On the third floor, there is a large room hosting a full-size pool table, seating and a meaty speaker system. The second floor is

home to the smoking area, where locals and foreigners sit side-by-side enjoying one of the many flavours of shisha on offer, or simply enjoying a cigarette on the balcony, watching the lost backpackers trundling around outside. The main room is non-smoking, and often full of people tucking into some of Hanoi’s most famous dishes. The manager, Duong Pham, tells me that the restaurant below has been connected with Lantern Lounge from the beginning. “We’ve always had food here,” Duong explained. “We even have a whole separate menu just for vegetarian food.” He guides me through the menu, proudly pointing out


a few customer favourites. “Foreigners love nem so much, and we have many other traditional Vietnamese dishes,” he says, pointing to other local favourites such as bun cha, cha ca and pho bo. In a nod to my student days, I order a couple of deep fried dishes to accompany the flow of alcohol. The Hanoi spring rolls (VND85,000) were just as they should be, crispy and not overly filling. After that, the crispy mushrooms (VND65,000) were given zest by the tangy chilli and soya sauce.

Electric Blue With an almost unbelievable Old Quarter

price of just VND55,000 for a rum-based cocktail, I wasn’t expecting much from my first drink, the snow caipirinha. Happy to be proven wrong, I had to admit to the pleasant surprise of electric blue crushed ice, delicately flavoured with lime and sugar. Despite the first drink hitting the spot in all the right ways, and believing that variety is the spice of life, for my next drink I went for an old favourite and cocktail classic, the pina colada (VND85,000). A no-thrills version, simply made with rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream, it was as pleasant to behold as it was to taste.

Served in a hollowed out pineapple, it was the perfect balance of sweet coconut and sour pineapple. As a restaurant, Lantern Lounge is pretty good. As a bar, it’s excellent. A cool place to hang out, the drinks are reasonably priced and well made, and the comfort of the seats combined with the atmosphere created by the décor and music means you will be in no rush to go home. — Edward Dalton Lantern Lounge is located above Cuisine Viet at 80 Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi. Open from 11am until midnight, the kitchen closes at 11pm | September 2016 Word | 153




ake one step through the door at Typograf Café and Restaurant and you know you’re in for something different. Propped up along the corner of Le Duan and Tran Hung Dao, Typograf is a comfortable hub for creativity and expression. The room itself is a large open space; it looks like a barn converted into an old speakeasy. Plants and artwork hang from the walls. The floor space is busy with little square tables set out to provide an unblocked viewing of the stage, the centrepiece of the room. Standing on the stage is a drum kit, a piano and a microphone stand under a red-brick backdrop decorated with heavy neon letters that read You Are What You Listen To. The first time I walked through that door I was surprised to stumble upon a collective painting session. The square tables were lined up in two rows, each with an artist occupying a canvas. Some two dozen artists were painting the same scene, coordinated by the painter of the original work. These painting sessions take place every Sunday from morning until evening for a VND400,000 fee.

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You Are What You Listen To Once the paintings were finished, and the artists had posed for pictures with their newest works, the tables were rearranged linearly to face the stage and a drummer began his sound check. A rattling chorus of drum beats filled the room for five minutes. A group of girls hurried on to the stage to the piano and began quietly practising classical melodies. Typograf is part of an emerging group of bars and cafés that host free live music daily. From 9pm the lights are dimmed and the floor is overtaken by eager ears tuned in for a session of jazz and acoustic music from some of Hanoi’s finest young talent. During my last visit the stage was graced by a five-piece outfit including a pianist, a saxophonist, a guitarist and a drummer, who opened with an instrumental jazz cover of Zombie by The Cranberries.

Tech Café During weekday afternoons, Typograf is an ideal workspace for the creative digital nomad to get work done in a relaxed and welcoming environment. Plug sockets are conveniently placed around the floor to cater for techies and in the daytime the music is

kept at a non-intrusive background volume. Whether working alone at one of the wooden coffee tables or meeting friends and colleagues in one of three sofa booths, you can find comfort and inspiration from the artistic and homely decoration. The drinks menu is impressive. A diverse range of flavoured hot fruit tea for VND59,000 or a ‘Colour of Love’ soda mix for VND69,000 will help you to relax in the afternoon. During the later hours, when the atmosphere gears towards jazz, you can sit back with a whisky sour or any other of a good size selection of cocktails for VND80,000. Typograf is just another example of Hanoi’s unrivalled café scene. It has enough space to cater for groups of friends who want to catch up over a coffee while not disturbing those who are looking for a space to set up a laptop and get some work done. The added cream on top is its lively jazz and acoustic sessions that take over the atmosphere every night of the week. — Billy Gray Typograf Café is located at 99 Le Duan, Hoan Kiem, Hanoi, opposite the Hanoi Train Station. On their Facebook page they post in detail about daily live music and other events | September 2016 Word | 155

Hanoi On the Town

d’Alice and its quirky interior. Perfect for that more modern combination of sweet tooth and iThingy. DUY TRI VIETNAMESE CAFÉ

43 Yen Phu, Tay Ho The longest-running café in the capital, this 1936-established, three-floored 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. HANOI COOKING CENTRE CAFÉ

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: (04) 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.


44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh Relax in a leafy courtyard, aircon 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 all-day 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 colonialera 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. HIGHLANDS COFFEE CONTEMPORARY / COFFEE CHAIN

5 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3936 3228; Opera House, 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem; Hanoi Towers, 49 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem With numerous locations around town, what originally started as a fourth-floor joint overlooking the lake has become one of the most popular, home-grown cafes in Vietnam. JOMA COFFEE/BAKERY

22 Ly Quoc Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3747 3388; 43 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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 in 2009. Joma contributes 2 percent of each sale to charitable organisations. KAFEVILLE COFFEE SPECIALIST & CAFE

22 Nguyen TrungTruc, Ba Dinh, Tel: 0906 221030

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14 Phan Huy Ich, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3716 3397 A stunningly designed contemporary café and events space that screams out the words ‘modern art’. Housed in a converted colonial-era 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: (04) 3823 9722 On-site coffee roasting, comfortable seating arrangements, rustic style furnishings and décor, and a focus on healthy, non-processed 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. MOC CAFE CAFE / INTERNATIONAL

14-16 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem. (04) 3825 6334 Set in a slightly run down colonial villa, the faded but charmingly run down Frenchstyled retro interior, good WiFi and some of the best coffee in town makes this a great spot to while away a couple of hours. The food menu mixes Vietnamese fare with sandwiches, western and pan-Asian mains.





5 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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, TayHo A pleasant, ground floor cafe with an outdoor terrace that sits below offices and a co-working space. Serves up coffee, juices, breakfasts and western-style cafe fare. Perfect for work, Wifi, a bite to eat and coffee. TET DÉCOR CAFÉ ART CAFÉ & ESPRESSO BAR

Villa 25, 1, 3 Ha, Dang Thai, Tay Ho Cloistered among the back streets of West Lake and sheltered from the noise of Xuan Dieu, TET Décor Café is a destination for those who appreciate life’s pleasures: coffee, food, art and music. Simple and unpretentious, the café has an old-fashioned warmth and rustic feel combined with unique and inspiring art installations. THE HANOI SOCIAL CLUB CAFÉ / CONTEMPORARY EATERY

6 Hoi Vu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3938 2117 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


16-18 Tong Duy Tan, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3938 1745 This spacious spot on Food Street is open around the clock, offering Aussie-inspired 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 no-smoking downstairs space is filled with people working and socialising. Serves as community centre, especially late at night.

32C Cao Ba Quat, Ba Dinh Boasting an abundance of communal seating, funky decor and a full roster of regular live music performances, this rollicking café-slash-bar has quickly earned a place in the hearts of Hanoi’s young and trendy. Fun, unpretentious and unashamedly quirky, it’s endearing use of recycled furniture — antiques and colourful artwork create a vibrant atmosphere — make for a popular hangout. Open 24 hours.

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.


24 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3938 1155 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: (04) 3845 5224 A Brazilian churrascaria offering all-you-can-eat grilled meat and seafood on the skewer. In typical Brazilian rodízio fashion, waiters bring cuts of meat to the table for patrons to pick and choose, all for a set price. They also offer wine pairings, a salad bar and an a la carte menu, with a creative selection of fruit caipirinhas.


288 Ba Trieu, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3974 5945 CAFÉ 129 MEXICAN/COMFORT FOOD

129 Mai Hac De, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3821 5342 Long-running, slightly incongruous hole-in-the-wall café and restaurant that has served up up a Western menu since the late 1990s. Check out their and their excellent breakfasts, all scoffed down in a traditional, Vietnamese environment. CHOPS GOURMET BURGER & CRAFT BEER

4 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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 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. DA PAOLO CLASSIC ITALIAN

18 Lane 50/59/17 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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 woodfired oven pizzas from VND120,000 and other Italian delicacies. Open every day for lunch and dinner, delivery is also available. DALUVA FUSION / MIDDLE-EASTERN

33 To Ngoc Van, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3718 5831 A popular hang-out for expats and trendy Vietnamese in the Xuan Dieu area on West Lake. This bar and restaurant offers casual dining with a classy, Middle-Eastern twist, as well as wine, tapas, events and attractive décor. DON’S TAY HO CONTEMPORARY NORTH AMERICAN

16 Quang An, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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. EL GAUCHO STEAKHOUSE ARGENTINIAN STEAKHOUSE

11 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3824 7280; 99 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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. FOOD EXCHANGE INTERNATIONAL BUFFET RESTAURANT

5 Duy Tan, Cau Giay, Tel: (04) 3576 6666 Food Exchange offers up a well-priced international buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a live cooking station. Excellent Asian and Western cuisine set in a contemporary restaurant with trendy décor and a chilled out ambiance. FOODSHOP 45 INTERNATIONAL INDIAN

59 Truc Bach, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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. FRENCH GRILL A leafy, cobblestone courtyard with dark green castiron backed chairs greets you as you walk into this French era-built villa that houses the main section of this Indochina-styled restaurant. Serving up an enticing mix of classic and contemporary French cuisine, blended in with Vietnamese ingredients and cooking styles, the resultant fare has had customers coming back again and again. A traditional Vietnamese and kids menu is also available, as is a wine list focusing mainly on French wines. HIGHWAY 4 VIETNAMESE / ETHNIC

5 Hang Tre, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3926 4200; 25 Bat Su, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3926 0639; 575 Kim Ma, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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! INDIA PALACE NORTH INDIAN

10B Quang An, Tay Ho Tel: 01247 668668 Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, so India Palace has once again returned to Tay Ho, this time on the strip between Don’s and The Warehouse. Tasty North Indian fare in a pleasant environment from the team behind Tandoor.


JW Marriott Hanoi, 8 Do Duc Duc, Me Tri, Tu Liem, Tel: (04) 3833 5588 With unique decor, 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: (04) 3825 1286


G2-G3 Ciputra, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3758 2400 One of the larger and more comfortable bars in Hanoi, 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.

and booth-like seating on the upper floors.





23J Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3938 8388 An all-day eating and drinking lounge fit for all occasions, with of course, a focus on steak. Has three floors all with different vibes, the kind of slick service you’d expect from the Al Fresco’s Group and an extensive wine list. JASPA’S INTERNATIONAL / AUSTRALIAN

Hanoi Towers, 49 Hai Ba Trung (4th Floor), Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3934 8325 Recently refurbished, the Australian-influenced Jaspa’s is known for its attentive service, tasty food and large portions. Popular with both the western and Asian expat communities who come back again and again. The comprehensive menu is a fusion of western and Asian cooking. The cocktails come large and the wine is mainly New World. KOTO ON VAN MIEU RESTAURANT / CAFÉ / BAR

59 Van Mieu, Dong Da, Tel: (04) 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. KY Y JAPANESE RICE EATERY

166 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 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

10 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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 SALSA IBERIAN / MEDITERANEAN

5 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 3995 0950 A small but eternally popular Spanish-themed café and bar with an extensive list of reliable cuisine. Tapas are available, as well as full courses such as veal, and duck with currant sauce. Known for its good, European-style coffee and first-floor terrace area with views over the cathedral. LA VERTICALE CONTEMPORARY FRENCH

19 Ngo Van So, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 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: (04) 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. LINGUINI FINI ITALIAN-AMERICAN

36-38 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3266 8968 With branches in Hong Kong and Manilla, the contemporary Italian-American 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

serves all the traditional Italian fare you could need — homemade mozzarella and fresh pasta, spinach and ricotta ravioli, cold cut boards, soups, salads and fish. Boasts an extensive wine list and a traditional wood fire oven. MING PALACE PAN-CHINESE

Sofitel Plaza, 1 Thanh Nien, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 3823 8888 A fine dining destination at the Sofitel Plaza serving Cantonese and pan-Chinese cuisine in a sleek modern setting with private dining rooms. With more than 80 dim sum selections available along with Chinese entrees, Ming’s is an ideal eatery for those hungry for higher end Chinese fare.


27 Nam Ngu, Tel: (04) 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. MAY MAN CHINESE CUISINE PAN-CHINESE

Fortuna Hotel, 6B Lang Ha, Ba Dinh, Tel: (04) 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.


11 Hang Hanh, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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. MOOSE AND ROO CANADIAN / AUSTRALIAN RESTAURANT

42B Ma May, Hoan Kiem, Tel:(04) 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.





23 Nha Tho, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3826 6288 This long-running, cozy restaurant near the cathedral

The American Club, 19-21 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3939 2470 | September 2016 Word | 157



couple travelling through Asia (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia) came to see me a few weeks ago. The 28-year-old Caucasian female of the couple had been in Hanoi for the last five days. She had been suffering with sore bones and was feeling she may have overdone it in Thailand where they had been trekking, but the pain was getting worse. But she had woken that morning with a bad headache and some eye pain. “It felt like a hangover,” was her first thought, but she’d had an early night. What concerned her was that when she woke she was really hot, and now was shivering. Over the previous few hours a rash had started to develop between her fingers. I’ve seen this many times — patient arrives with a list of varied symptoms, and I find it’s really important to talk about date of illness onset, travel history, the start of symptoms and vaccination history. This is the season for dengue fever, not to mention zika and chikungunya. And to make it more challenging, patients are diagnosing themselves before arriving. A blood sample was taken and immediately sent to the lab for analysis — it would take 30 minutes to get the results. This is a lot quicker than waiting for the symptoms of dengue to appear, which can take three to 15 days after the mosquito bite transfers a virus to you. A range of symptoms can develop; fever

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and chills, painful muscles, bone and joint aches combined with headaches and retroorbital (behind the eye) pain. Symptoms in mild cases can last from four to seven days and then disappear, and in many cases dengue’s parting gesture is a painful itchy rash. We had confirmation within an hour — dengue fever. As I’ve already mentioned, the symptoms of dengue fever make it easy to diagnose. The symptoms include mild bleeding in the nose and gums, and easy bruising can occur due to depressed platelet count and, in severe cases, damage to lymph and blood vessels, enlargement of the liver and failure of the circulatory system which may lead to shock, and death.

Treatment Dengue is caused by a virus — there are no medicines or antibiotics which can be used as a cure. For my patient I immediately recommended bed rest, paracetamol and fluids. She spent two nights with us and started to feel better after the first day. We kept on monitoring her, but after rest she felt better, although still weak. She carried on with her holiday going slowly and being more careful. There is no real medical treatment for dengue fever other than rest and hydration, but sometimes natural remedies can help, so we recommend papaya fruit which is rumoured to increase blood platelets faster than normal.


Prevention There is no vaccine to prevent dengue fever. The best way to avoid the disease is to prevent bites by infected mosquitoes, particularly if you are living in or traveling in wet, tropical areas. This involves protecting yourself and covering up when possible. Fortunately, dengue doesn’t spread from person to person but you need to prevent the disease by watching your surroundings; empty or drain any standing water (pots) since the mosquitoes breed there. Wear protective clothing. The dengue mosquito likes to attack at dawn and dusk, and favourite spots are below the elbow and knee. They are generally active between August and October, but they tend not to breed during the cold times of the year. If you want, you can turn to natural repellents like lemon eucalyptus oil and lavender oil, which may give you some protection. There are also a number of plants that have mosquito-repellent properties like citronella, catnip and lavender. Place them around your house to keep mosquitoes away. Even herbs like garlic, lemongrass, basil, peppermint and rosemary may help. Dr. Brian McNaull is a hepatology specialist, medical director and a specialist in tropical medicine. He works at Family Medical Practice Hanoi. For more info click on

Hanoi On the Town

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. MOTO-SAN UBER NOODLES

4 Ly Dao Thanh, HoanKiem Ramen, stewed pork banh my, ha cao dumplings and banh my trung, all served up in an eclectic, Berlinesque setting a stone’s throw from the Opera House. Add in a beer, a G and T or a coffee, and this is the perfect munchie-satisfying joint to keep you going at any time of the day. NAMASTE HANOI PAN-INDIAN

46 Tho Nhuom, Hanoi, Tel: (04) 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 49 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: 0922 087799 Specialising in Pakistani cuisine and of course nan bread and kebabs, this semioutdoor, bamboo tabled, laid back eatery also sells fare from Afganistan and India. In a sentence? Curry, but not as you know it. NINETEEN 11 INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN

The Opera House, 1 Trang Tien, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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


4 Ton That Thiep, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 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. PANE E VINO PAN-ITALIAN

3 Nguyen Khac Can, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3826 9080 Just a stroll away from the Hanoi Opera House, Pane e Vino serves up authentic Italian food and has done for as long as anyone can remember. Renowned for the highly rated, oven fresh pizzas and large variety of pasta and salad dishes — look forward to fine food done well at this eatery that has the feel of Europe. Huge wine lists, friendly staff and a loveable owner. 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. POTS ‘N PANS CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE

57 Bui Thi Xuan, Hai Ba Trung, Tel: (04) 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. SAINT HONORE BOULANGERIE / BISTRO

5 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 3933 2355 This bakery and Frenchstyle bistro is best visited in the morning when that Gallic, fresh-cooked aroma of bread, croissants and patisseries 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 French and international fare is served at meal times. THE CART SANDWICH SHOP / CAFÉ

8B, Lane 1, Au Co, Nghi Tam Village, Tay Ho, Tel: (04) 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. THE KAFE CONTEMPORARY CAFE / CUISINE

18 Dien Bien Phu, Hoan Kiem, Tel: (04) 3747 6245 Spacious, casual, energetic and beautifully designed, The KAfe serves up unfussy comfort food that aims to satisfy the modern urban diner. Preparing fresh food and drinks that show respect to natural ingredients and flavours from around the globe, this café-cum-restaurant is a popular choice for Hanoi’s metrosexual community. WANNAWAFFLE WAFFLES

27 Dinh Tien Hoang, Hoan Kiem; 138 Trieu Viet Vuong, Hai Ba Trung; Unit 108, Indo-

china Plaza, 241 Xuan Thuy, Cau Giay 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. WRAP & ROLL 5th Floor, Trang Tien Plaza, 24 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem Tel: (04) 3824 3718 The lime green walls and bright pastel colours of Wrap ‘n Roll are just part of the theme of this homegrown, Vietnamese brand which is all about spring rolls of all types, and healthy, Hue-influenced cuisine. Now with two restaurants in Hanoi — the second in Royal City. ZENITH VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT HOLISTIC VEGETARIAN

247Au Co, Tay Ho, Tel: 0904 356561 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.




67 Hang Dieu, Hoan Kiem BUN CHA DAC KIM BUN CHA

1 Hang Manh, Hoan Kiem; 67 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem KCC (KIEN CAN COOK) COM RANG DUA BO



54 Hang Chieu, Hoan Kiem PHO BO CU CHIEU PHO BO

48 Hang Dong, Hoan Kiem PHO CUON HUNG BEN PHO CUON

26 Nguyen Khac Hieu, Ba Dinh PHO GA BA LAM PHO GA

7 Nam Ngu, Hoan Kiem PHO GA HANG DIEU PHO GA


49 Bat Dan, Hoan Kiem PHO LY QUOC SU PHO BO



18 Dang Thai Mai, Tay Ho

13 Lo Duc, Hai Ba Trung PHO TRON MIXED PHO

14 Hang Ga, Hoan Kiem

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






6 Ngo 31 Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho

23 Hai Ba Trung, Hoan Kiem





25 Hang Ca, Hoan Kiem

44 Hang Hom, Hoan Kiem | September 2016 Word | 159






“Charity is everyday people helping one another.”


uring the summer, silly season media outlets tend to report on the goofy or frivolous simply because most law courts and government administrations are not in session and everyone’s on holiday. There’s usually just no big (read: important) news. But the unrelenting grimness of the news lately makes me wish government antics were indeed on holiday indefinitely. We need other things to focus on, now. Enter International Day of Charity (IDC) held every Sep. 5. IDC is a UN initiative, coinciding with the anniversary of the death of Mother Teresa, the Kolkata-based nun awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize for her work alleviating poverty. Now I’m not holding up the IDC like a twinkly bit of tinsel to distract you for a day of feeling good (or at least slightly less lousy about many of the world’s current affairs). I’m suggesting acting charitably for much longer than that.

Solidarity The UN urges us to act generously because there is so much wretchedness in the world. Its development officers say that “expressions of solidarity help us in our shared quest to live together in harmony and build a peaceful and sustainable future for all.”

160 | Word September 2016 |

But kindness and empathy is really hard in the face of time, distance and a lack of ideas or money. What might those ‘expressions of solidarity’ look like? Well, for starters, charity is not just about the rich giving to the poor or member governments sending bags of cash to the UN. Development workers are not all employed in poor countries. (Did you know that Save the Children has projects in First Nations communities in Canada?) Nor are all humanitarian workers only working in far-flung war and disaster zones. They are also responding to immediate crisis needs in urban food banks. Charity is everyday people helping one another. Charity is us, all of us. It isn’t just those big-name NGOs dashing around in their white Land Cruisers coordinating joint appeals. It’s neighbours helping neighbours or kids helping kids. Think block parties and community centres, or the water jugs you see on the sidewalks around town and the Vietnamese youth who quietly hand out loaves of bread at bus stations or fill neighbourhood bread boxes. Helping each other creates social bonding and solidarity, strengthens the vibrant fabric of our communities and ultimately makes us all more resilient. The UN believes this charitable impulse resides in every single human being. I believe that too.

Overwhelm This pro-people mindset strikes back at the criminal idiocy of those who — in the face of human suffering — wish to close our borders, abandon refugees, shoot unarmed civilians, set off bombs and ignore abuse in detention centres. Where is all this fear coming from that has pushed so many to such extremes of hysteria and intolerance? It’s because we’ve stopped talking to one another and are too easily goaded into seeing the world as ‘us versus them’. We accept the simplicity of this Manichean darkness because people are overwhelmed with ugly news. But switching off isn’t the answer. You cannot ignore your own self-humanity. You’re not hopeless and neither are those caught up in circumstances they didn’t choose. But you do have a choice… the choice is acting on our common and shared humanity. A friend sent me this quote. It’s misattributed to Anne Frank, but regardless of who said it, it’s pretty much perfect. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Dana McNairn is the CEO of KOTO, an award-winning non-profit social enterprise and vocational training programme for at-risk youth




he full heat of the ripening season was upon us like a millstone, crushing the juice out of everyone.” This description of a summer day in 1,000 BCE in a newly united Israel could easily be applied to Hanoi’s recent, oppressive sweltering heat. One of our readers spent much of those juice-crushing months in cool places having historical adventures with Geraldine Brooks, the author of the above statement. She began with Brooks’ 2015 novel The Secret Chord which recounts the life of the biblical King David through the eyes of his personal prophet Natan. In his middle age, David sets Natan the task of recording his life, words, songs and deeds from sheep herder to supreme King with no air brushing of warts or other blemishes. As Brooks points out, David is the first man in literature whose story was told from early childhood to extreme old age. However, outside the Bible, there is little trace of him. Brooks is convinced that such a man must have actually existed “for no people would invent such a flawed figure for a national hero.” It’s a ripping, hard-to-put-down yarn full of full-blooded and very gory battles and skirmishes. It recounts David’s bloodspattered life from his childhood years as a lion killing sheep herder; through his adolescent encounter with Goliath; his enmity with King Shaul (throughout the novel the author uses personal and place names in their transliteration from the Hebrew of the Tanakh); into and out of his love affairs with his several wives and one beloved male; his anointing as the rightful king of Israel by Shmuel- Samuel; the foundation of Jerusalem or Ir David; until his death at 70, when he appoints his youngest son Schlomo-Solomon to be his heir after condoning the murders of other young males who may have had a claim to the throne. Reputedly David was a talented harpist and the novel’s title is drawn from that instrument. After a couple of days and late nights riveted to this novel our reader decided to anoint her summer by reading the other five Brooks novels. She raced through the Pulitzer Prize-winning March and decided that Year of Wonders was her personal favourite. As I write this, she’s into Brooks’ non-fiction output and enjoying Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women.

A Different David Another reader half-heartedly started Roger Williams’ novel Lunch with Elizabeth David and found herself so intrigued that she followed up immediately with nosedives into David’s several cookbooks which, after World War Two, saved the British from a diet of bland, grey stodge, by introducing them to the delights of French and Mediterranean cuisine. David was an intriguing person who eventually ended up living as a hermit in her kitchen. She insisted that she know the exact provenance of any foodstuffs that she used in her cooking. However, in Williams’ novel we only meet Elizabeth three brief times. The first is in 1940 in a field near Antibes where, as a young woman, she is having a picnic lunch with a raconteur and learning about the delights of fresh herbs, with the advancing German army only days away. The second is on Capri in 1951 where the ailing raconteur invites the now well-known food researcher to a lunch with several luminaries of the day including novelist Graham Greene. The last is in the 1990s, not long before her death, when she invites a young female food caterer to stay for a simple meal in her crowded basement refuge. The first half of the novel revolves around the southern European travels of real-life essayist, travel writer, novelist and raconteur, Norman Douglas from 1910 to 1951. Throughout the author evokes a sunny Mediterranean atmosphere

fragrant with rosemary and olive oil. Douglas, however, was a paedophile who encouraged working-class, adolescent males to travel with him as ‘nephews’ and much of the absorbing novel is told through the eyes of one of them, Eric Walton, who journeys with him through Calabria, preWorld War I. The question at the novel’s centre asks if Douglas was “a monster, the paedophile of the century” or was he as Eric states, a great and talented man who led him into a “warm and sensuous world of adventure and light?” Douglas did spend a brief time in jail because of his dalliances with adolescents. Douglas inscribed a novel to David with his motto: “Always do as you please and send everybody to hell, and take the consequences.” Eric becomes a game warden in Tanganyika, marries a German and has to give his house boys a vacation when Douglas visits in his greying years. The shorter, second half of the novel is set in London in the latter part of the last century and is related through the point of view of the young caterer who is a David enthusiast and is married to an Italian fishmonger who is implied to be Douglas’ grandson. And as convoluted as all that sounds, the section is full of savoury prose. Truong is an avid reader and runs Bookworm (44 Chau Long, Ba Dinh, Hanoi). For more information on go to | September 2016 Word | 161

162 | Word September 2016 |


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Body & Temple / Location, Location, Location / Coffee Cup / Bar Stool / Top Eats / Know Your City Photo by Julie Vola

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HCMC Essentials




223 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1 Baguettes, croissants, pizza, cakes, muffins, donuts and brownies, this bakery and café all in one is a popular stop for those heading through the Backpacker District. Online ordering available. BREAD TALK CHAIN BAKERY

106 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3; 2 Cao Thang, Q3; Vivo City, 1058 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 A Singaporean bakery chain that is vying for the Vietnam cake and bread market. Produces Asian-friendly patisseries and cakes in a spacious, airy atmosphere. Has eight locations and counting. HARVEST BAKING AMERICAN BAKERY With a production facility in Thu Duc, Harvest Baking focuses on both the retail and non-retail trade, cooking up the best American-style bakery products in the city. Has an excellent home delivery service. Check the website for details. L’AMOUR BAKERY & CAFE

Hung Phuoc 2, Le Van Thiem, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 4072 TOUS LES JOURS


40 Nguyen Hue, Q1; 60-62 Le Loi, Q1 Selling up a good selection of English language books — in a range of reading areas — this multi-storied bookshop also does stationery, toys and a range of related products. Has a good selection of ESL texts. LIBRAIRIE FRANCAISE NAM PHONG 82 Truong Dinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 7858 Nam Phong Bookstore was founded at the of end 2002 in Ho Chi Minh City as the first and only francophone bookshop in the whole of Vietnam. Only books written in French are for sale, covering for all ages and tastes. A catalogue is available at PNC VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE BOOKSTORE

2A Le Duan, Q1; 2nd Floor Parkson Center, 35-45 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 Although there are some English-language texts in this modern, well laid out bookstore, the focus here is on all things Vietnamese. Worth checking out, thought, for the occasional gem.



180 Hai Ba Trung, Q1; 59 Tran Hung Dao, Q1; 187 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1; 66B Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3; Lotte Mart, 469 Nguyen Huu Tho, Q7; 17/14 Le Thanh Ton, Q1 The background of this Korean bakery chain makes interesting reading. Established in 1996, in 2004 they opened in the US, 2005 in China and 2007 in Vietnam. French-styled with an Asian touch, the bare-brick décor makes this a popular joint. Has over 25 locations in Vietnam. VOELKER BAKERY

39 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 6296 0066 French–run bakery selling probably the tastiest range of patisseries, breads, quiches and pies in town. The signature passion–fruit tart is a must try.

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merce aims to create an effective network of business associates together and to facilitate discussion forums about business in Vietnam.

AMERICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (AMCHAM) New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 3562.

NORDCHAM 17th Floor, Petroland Tower, 12 Tan Trao, Q7, Tel: (08) 5416 0922 PHILIPPINES BUSINESS GROUP VIETNAM 40/4 Pham Viet Chanh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3518 0045 SINGAPORE BUSINESS GROUP 6th Floor, Unit 601, Tran Quy Building, 57 Le Thi Hong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 3046



37 Thao Dien, An Phu, Q2, Tel: 0917 567506 In addition to a varied selection of garments for babies and children up to 10 years old, Little Anh-Em stocks sleeping bags and other accessories. L’USINE LIFESTYLE / ACCESSORIES

First floor, 151 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6674 9565 Exclusive labels, elegant and sophisticated clothing and casual high-quality cottons are stocked at this boutique/ café. Lifestyle accessories include shoes, homewares, knickknacks, cameras, stationery and a range of vintage bicycles. MANDARINA TAILOR-MADE SHOES

171 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 5267


9 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2394 Monday to Sunday, 9am to 8pm This centrally located unique boutique has been converted into an eco-boutique which exclusively retails the complete Anupa leather and semi-precious jewellery range as well as other unique eco brands such as bamboo eyewear, pendant scarves and cushion covers. BAM SKATE SHOP



152 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3820 2620 9am to 10pm PAPAYA BUDGET CLOTHING


39 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 4556 U.BEST HOUSE TRAVEL GEAR

163 Nguyen Thai Hoc, Q1, Tel: 0978 967588


1B Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 2210 2084


AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (AUSCHAM) 2nd Floor, Eximland Building, 179EF Cach Mang Thang Tam, Q3, Tel: (08) 3832 9912 BRITISH BUSINESS GROUP OF VIETNAM (BBGV) 25 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 8430 CANADIAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE (CANCHAM) Room 305, New World Hotel, 76 Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 3754 Open to all nationalities, the Canadian Chamber of Com-


10 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3521 8755; 54-56 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 6270 5928 Quality, original, Vietnamthemed tees are the showpiece at this airy French-run store. Designs are inspired by anything from the Vietnamese flag, local telecom wires and motorbikes to creative, Siddharta-style imagery. IPA-NIMA BAGS & ACCESSORIES

77-79 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 3277; 71 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 2701

DIAMOND PLAZA 34 Le Duan, Q1. Tel: (08) 3825 7750 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


126 Hung Vuong, Q5. Tel: (08) 2222 0383 9.30am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court



174 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: 0903 641826


80 Xuan Thuy, Q2 Stocks a wide range of Vespa-inspired tidbits and memorabilia including t-shirts, riding gear, Italian helmets, Respro face masks, DVDs, books, bags, magazines, posters and more. Rental scooters and bikes available.

CORPORATE GIFTS AMBRIJ 14-16-18 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 8364 A one-stop-shop concept company providing marketing services including POSM, corporate gifts and luxury ranges of business gifts from international brands like Swarovski, Cerruti 1881, Nina Ricci, Christian Lacroix,


35-45 Le Thanh Ton, Q1. Tel: (08) 3827 7636 9.30am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


65 Le Loi, Q1. Tel: (08) 3829 4888 9am to 9pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court

SAIGON SQUARE 77-89 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q1 9am to 9pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics

VINCOM CENTER 70-72 Le Thanh Ton, Q1. Tel: (08) 3936 9999 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court


54-56 Nguyen Trai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3925 0339 9am to 10pm Cosmetics, Perfume, Clothing, Accessories, Electronics, Café, Food Court

Ungaro and more. Also do event management services.



OVERLAND CLUB 35Bis Huynh Khuong Ninh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3820 9734 The Overland Club organises pottery classes, VietnameseJapanese cooking classes, cultural art events and monthly special activities, such as the Soba Festival, pottery painting classes, the art of decorating paper and multinational cuisine days. SAIGON COOKING CLASSES BY HOA TUC 74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8485 Learn to cook quality Vietnamese cuisine with local specialist Hoa Tuc. The threehour lesson, conducted by an English-speaking Vietnamese chef, includes a trip around Ben Thanh Market to gather fresh ingredients for the class. VIETNAM COOKERY CENTRE Suite 45, 4th Floor, 26 Ly Tu Trong, Q1,Tel: (08) 3827 0349


268B Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Dist.3, HCMC, Tel: (08) 3932 6455; 30A Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, HCMC, Tel: (08) 3840 3946 AUSTIN HOME REPRO FURNITURE / FABRICS

42 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 0023 This An Phu-based shop stocks antique repro furniture. All products are samples, so it’s limited and exclusive with only one or two pieces of each particular item. Also has a great range of imported fabrics up on the 2nd floor and an in-house sewing room for cushions, sofas and curtains. Offers custom-made furniture and delivery within four weeks. CHI LAI



175 Ha Noi Highway, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4543 This well-known Vietnamese furniture brand is a good choice for most families with its respected highquality designs and competitive prices. Located on the corner of Pham Ngoc Thach

and Dien Bien Phu, the spacious showroom specialises in sofas and other furniture such as table sets, shelves and kitchen cabinets. There is a large selection of carpets as well as numerous choices of curtains and accessories. EM EM SOUVENIRS

38 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4408 8am to 9.30pm FEELING TROPIC FURNITURE & ACCESSORIES

51 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2181 Specialising in interior designs and landscaping, this three-storey building is so packed full of items for sale that it doesn’t seem to have enough space for all of its products. The basement storey carries outdoor furniture such as bamboo-imitation and mosaic table sets, while the second level stocks all types of indoor furniture except beds. Accessories are found on the level above. MEKONG CREATIONS FAIR TRADE CRAFTS

35-37 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1, Tel: (08) 2210 3110 NGUYEN FRERES NIK-NAKS / CRAFTS

2 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 9459 8am to 8pm MEKONG QUILTS HAND-MADE QUILTS

1st Floor, 68 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 2210 3110 NHA XINH HOME FURNISHINGS

2nd Floor, Saigon Centre, 65 Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 6115 REMIX DECO INDOOR FURNITURE

222 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3, Tel: (08) 3930 4190 THE FURNITURE HOUSE HOME FURNISHINGS

81 Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4640/4643 THE FURNITURE WAREHOUSE EUROPEAN-STYLE FURNITURE

3B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 6657 0788 vn | September 2016 Word | 167

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HCMC Essentials

CYCLING FIRSTBIKE VIETNAM FirstBIKE balance bikes for two to five-year-olds eliminate the need for training wheels or stabilisers, and support proper balance development. JETT CYCLES OWN-BRAND CYCLING SHOWROOM

384 Tran Phu, Q5; 168 Vo Thi Sau, Q3 The showroom home of Jett Cycles, a homegrown cycling company with all products designed in Vietnam. Sells up budget bicycles to high-end product, with the full range of accessories in between. Also stocks GT and Cannondale.

ELITE DENTAL GROUP. 57A, Tran Quoc Thao, Q3, HCMC, Tel: (08) 3933 3737 Elite Dental is an international and well-equipped clinic, which provides specialized dental services including ALL-ON-4 Implants, ALL-ON-6 implants, dental implants, prosthodontics, Invisalign & orthodontics. Luxury design and our dental experts will bring you an extremely comfortable experience.



44 Phan Van Nghi (S51-1 Sky Garden 2), Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 3114 Specialising in Trek and Surly, Saigon Cycles is also famed for its Sunday morning rides. Sells the full range of accessories and also does bicycle repairs.

167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 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. MINH KHAI DENTAL CLINIC INTERNATIONAL DENTAL CLINIC


250 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6405 The go-to location for all your cycling needs in District 2. Sells a range of brands including Cannondale, Jett, GT and Aluboo, as well as the full selection of accessories. Organises regular cycle rides, does repairs and rentals. Check for more details.



2 Bis Cong Truong Quoc Te, Q3, Tel: (08) 3822 6222 24, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 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.


Kumho Asiana Plaza, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8800

WESTCOAST INT’L DENTAL CLINIC INTERNATIONAL DENTAL CLINIC Ben Thanh Clinic, 27 Nguyen Trung Truc, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6999 Thao Dien Clinic, 27 Nguyen Ba Lan, Q.2, Tel: (08) 35 191 777 An international dental clinic equipped with the latest technology, the comfortable clinics offer cosmetic and implant dentistry with a focus on making each patient’s experience anxiety and pain free. | September 2016 Word | 169



ietnam is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world. Americans drink approximately 400 million cups of it per day. It is the most socially acceptable and popular drug in the world; coffee is big business. Coffee can be both beneficial for health, performance and fat loss as well as detrimental. The world’s most popular drink packs a variety of positive punches but if consumed at the wrong time and by the wrong people, coffee can have just as many negative effects. Often thought of as a vice, it really depends or your individual genetics to how much you can beneficially drink. There are also smarter times to consume this social liquid to avoid negative health and performance outcomes.

What does caffeine do? Caffeine acts by mimicking a compound called adenosine and binding to its receptors before the real thing can. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases cognitive function and counters sleepiness. Caffeine also inhibits widening of blood vessels (vasodilation) and stimulates a cortisol response. Cortisol is our fight or flight hormone, fuelling a high-energy response to danger or perceived danger (stress).

The Good Observational studies have concluded that caffeine can protect against and fight cancer, slow the rate of mental decline, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, lower oxidative stress, reduce risk of stroke and Parkinson’s Disease and its high antioxidant (polyphenols) content is associated with

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protection from sun-damaged skin. Coffee can help you lose fat, as it’s packed with compounds that have been shown to increase metabolic rate, improve exercise performance, stop cravings, and make you more effective at burning fat.

The Bad There is a very important genetic element to whether coffee is good or bad for you. The gene CYP1A2 encodes an enzyme from the liver to metabolise caffeine. A slow metaboliser has the CC variant of the gene, a moderate metaboliser has the AC variant and a fast metaboliser has the AA variant. The effects of caffeine last longer and are stronger in slow and medium metabolisers. Whereas, fast metabolisers can process caffeine very efficiently so it affects them less. Slow caffeine metabolizers who drink more than two cups per day appear to have higher rates of hypertension, glucose intolerance and heart problems.

Rules for Consumption 1) Don’t drink it first thing in the morning Coffee produces a cortisol response. High cortisol levels are closely related to high levels of belly fat. Cortisol is your body’s natural wake-up hormone. Right before you wake up, cortisol spikes to prepare you for the day. Right after you wake up, it spikes again, pushing you to the highest levels of the day. Drinking coffee when cortisol is high is somewhat redundant and can lead to an excess of circulating cortisol and cause fat storage. 2) Drink coffee when you don’t need it


Coffee is not a good solution for lack of sleep or tiredness. If tired, instead of having a coffee, you should get more sleep. Coffee will work best when your adenosine receptors are functioning well and not under stress. If you are tired, caffeine only really equalises energy rather than providing a boost. Drinking too much too often can make you dependent on coffee, and fatigue your natural energy producing system. 3) Don’t drink coffee post-workout Again, this is related to cortisol. Cortisol is a catabolic (muscle breakdown) hormone and the minute you finish training you want to promote an anabolic (muscle building/repair) state. When you drink coffee post-workout you prolong the catabolic state, which will limit recovery, fat burning and muscle development. A coffee pre-workout is great, as cortisol is a stimulating hormone. It will provide energy for the workout and breakdown protein for energy. Some people under certain contexts, or with certain genetic variants, shouldn’t drink much coffee. For most, coffee should not be consumed at night or postexercise but all in all, coffee has some very beneficial effects depending on if you metabolise it well. Drinking it at the optimal times will improve productivity and mood, boost training and protect against a host of diseases and conditions due to its whopping dose of antioxidants. Phil is founder and master trainer at Body Expert Systems. Contact him on 0934 782763, at his website or through Star Fitness (

HCMC Essentials


Md6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7 (across from FV Hospital), Tel: Tel: (08) 5410 0100 Specialising in healthcare, dental services and chiropractic medicine, the recently opened Maple Healthcare comes replete with the latest technology together with efficient and comfortable service.

M M M GALLERIES CRAIG THOMAS GALLERY 27i Tran Nhat Duat, Q1, Tel: 0903 888431 Craig Thomas Gallery offers a compelling mix of up-andcoming and established local artists. In operation since 2009, its founder has been promoting Vietnamese art for a decade. Now has a second newer gallery at 165 Calmette, Q1, HCMC DOGMA 8A/9C1 Thai Van Lung, Q1 The home of Vietnamese propaganda art and a collection put together over the last two decades by art collector Dominic Scriven, the majority of the work comes from the war period when provocative poster art was used to inspire and motivate. Sells prints of the originals and related products. GALERIE QUYNH 65 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 8019 In addition to working with artists based in Vietnam, Galerie Quynh also exhibits the work of artists from around the world. This wellestablished gallery supports education through talks, lectures and publications. HO CHI MINH CITY FINE ARTS MUSEUM 97A Pho Duc Chinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4441 Set in one of the finest remaining buildings of colonial-era Vietnam, this multi-storey museum houses collections spanning centuries of Vietnamese art. Has regular exhibitions. SAN ART 48/7 Me Linh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 6294 7059 San Art is an independent, artist-run exhibition space that offers residency

programmes for young artists, lecture series and an exchange programme that invites international artists / curators to organise or collaborate on exhibitions.

imported foods, also sells frozen meat and fish, fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices and a wide selection of dairy products.




16–18 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9332; 41A Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2630 Attractive and spacious French–owned grocery shop stocking a large range of foods, organic fruit and vegetables, imported beers and wines. Also sells luxury branded products from the likes of Fauchon. The deli upstairs in the Hai Ba Trung branch serves tasty baguette rolls in a comfortable lounge area with free Wi–Fi, and offers probably the best selection of cheese and cured meats in town. CLASSIC FINE FOODS GROCERIES & IMPORTER

No. 17, Street 12 (perpendicular to Tran Nao street), Q2, Tel: (08) 3740 7105 Supplier for the city’s five– star hotels, also distributing brands like San Pellegrino, Rougie foie gras, Galbani cheese, fresh poultries, meat, live seafood and vegetables. You can now find all the products at the gourmet shop on location.

MEATWORKS BUTCHERY BUTCHERS 1 Street 2, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2565 Focusing on the retail trade, the meat at this Australianmanaged 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 grassfed steak.


58 Ham Nghi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 1318 A small yet amazingly wellstocked store that puts many a supermarket in this country to shame. As well as a dizzying selection of

15/5 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8826 One of the busiest wine retailers in town. In addition to their excellent range of wines, they also stock imported beers, bottled mineral water and spirits. VEGGY’S GROCERS & DELI

29A Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8526 Courtesy of a farm in Dalat, Veggy’s retails some of the best quality fruit and veg available in the city. Also has a wide selection of imported food products including USDA beef, the same beef served up at El Gaucho.

HAIRDRESSERS, SALONS & SPAS AVEDA HERBAL SPA Villa 35A, Street 41, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel:(08) 3519 4671 CAT MOC SPA 63 Tran Dinh Xu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6295 8926 Aimed exclusively at ladies and couples only, treatments at this Japanese spa include facial, body and foot care, and Japanese-style haircuts, as well as steam-sauna, paraffin and waxing services. CONCEPT COIFFURE 48 Tran Ngoc Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4625 Hair stylist and colourist specialist Sandrine has relocated her long-standing flagship salon Venus Coiffure to a villa in Thao Dien. A full range of services is offered including a dedicated kids salon. FAME NAILS SALON 3 Truong Dinh, Q1, Tel: 0909 682 827 GLOW SPA 129A Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8368 Modern and bright downtown spa, offers massages lasting from 30 minutes, to two-hour hot stone therapy, includes one suite with a Jacuzzi bath; offers hand and foot care and a hair styling area.

SPORTS CRICKET ECCS (THE ENGLISH CRICKET CLUB OF SAIGON) Adam Zakharoff Email: adamzakharoff@ ICCS (INDIAN CRICKET CLUB OF SAIGON) Deeptesh Gill, Tel: 01228 770 038 ISCS (INDIAN SPORTS CLUB IN SAIGON) Munish Gupta, Tel: 0986 973 244 PSSC (PAKISTAN SAIGON CRICKET CLUB) Samie Cashmiri, Tel: 0976 469 090 samie.cashmiri@gmail. com SACC (SAIGON AUSTRALIA CRICKET CLUB) Steve Treasure, Tel: 0903 998 824 SSC (SRI LANKA SPORTS CLUB) Suhard Amit, Tel: 0988 571 010 UCC (UNITED CRICKET CLUB) Asif Ali, Tel: 0937 079 034 VIETNAM CRICKET ASSOCIATION (VCA) Manish Sogani, Tel: 0908 200 598

FOOTBALL & RUGBY AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL Tel: 0937 683 230 LES GAULOIS DE SAIGON OLYMPIQUE SAIGON Contact Fred on 0919 709 024 or Viet Luu 0909 500 171.

SAIGON RAIDERS SAIGON RUGBY CLUB RMIT University, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, Tan Phong, Q7 saigonrugbyfootballclub@ SAIGON SAINTS

SPORTS — GENERAL HASH HOUSE HARRIERS RANGERS BASEBALL TEAM SAIGON INTERNATIONAL DARTS LEAGUE SAIGON INTERNATIONAL SOFTBALL LEAGUE SAIGON SHOOTERS NETBALL CLUB saigonshootersnetball. SAIGON SPORTS ACADEMY 28 Tran Nao, Q2, Tel: (08) 7303 1100 SQUASH The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2098 ext 176 TORNADOS HOCKEY CLUB 436A/33 Ba Thang Hai, Q10, Tel: 0938 889899 ULTIMATE FRISBEE RMIT, 702 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7 X–ROCK CLIMBING 7Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 6278 5794 | September 2016 Word | 171



hen Vietnam’s National Assembly passed on Nov. 25, 2014, the long-awaited amended Housing Law that finally addressed the issue on foreign ownership of property, we in the real estate industry had no idea what to expect. Now, over 18 months on, this single piece of legislation has (supported by favourable market conditions) helped to drive the Vietnam real estate market from what was considered oblivion pre-2015 to becoming one of the more attractive markets in the region. You want to know the best thing about it? Now foreigners have a slice of the pie — well, perhaps more of a bite than a slice, but nonetheless the dessert is being shared with the guests, which is delightfully refreshing. The Vietnam residential market had seen very sluggish growth leading up to 2015, due to a number of factors including the previous restrictions on foreign ownership; the lack of quality developments; a speculative bubble from 2006 to 2008; the small size of the leasing market, and more attractive and transparent investment opportunities elsewhere in the region. However, the new legislation played a major role in addressing many of these issues and even removed some of those cumbersome conditions that foreigners previously faced making the Vietnam market somewhat ‘sexy’ again.

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So how does the foreign ownership law impact expats living in Vietnam and foreign investors? Who can buy? Individuals — all foreigners who are granted a visa to Vietnam are allowed to buy residential properties in the country. Entities — all foreign investment funds, banks, Vietnamese branches and representative offices of overseas companies are eligible to buy. Types of Property. All types of residential sector properties including condominiums and landed property such as villas and townhouses within a development project (previously only applicable to condominiums) Volume. There is no limit on the number of units a foreigner can buy, but the total number of dwelling units owned by foreigners must not exceed 30% of the total units in one condominium complex, or not exceed 10% of landed property within a development project. Purpose of Purchase. The properties owned by foreigners can be sub-leased, inherited and collateralised (previously only for owner-occupying purpose and not to be rented out). Tenure. The tenure allowed to foreign individuals buying homes is a 50-year leasehold with renewal possibility upon expiration, which remains unchanged. Foreign individuals married to Vietnamese


citizens are entitled to freehold tenure. Opening the gates of the local property market wider to foreigners proved to be a very positive step in the right direction, and certainly did not come too soon. However, with the gate swung open, affordability now reigns as the major issue impacting investors, as property prices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have hit record highs. For example, a villa in Tay Ho, Hanoi, starts from US$1 million at the lowest entry level, higher than in a city like Paris. Even new mid-range condominium developments in gentrified District 4, Ho Chi Minh City now start at US$2,500 per square metre. So are we entering a housing bubble similar to bubbles seen in cities like London and New York? Or is this a flash in the real estate pan? I think it’s a little too early to tell. But seeing the strong interest monitored at recent launch events for residential projects in Ho Chi Minh City, for the foreseeable future prices will continue to rise, which bodes well for investors. However, when it comes to first time buyers, the rising cost of real estate is making getting into the housing market prohibitive. Greg Ohan is the Solutions Development Director for Jones Lang LaSalle, a global real estate services firm specializing in property and investment management. You can contact him on


68 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1, Tel: (FREEPHONE) 1800 1108 A unique themed hair salon where stylists use no scissors but styling equipment only, giving female clients the opportunity to get their hair done on the run. Of course, they have to look fabulous, too. Fortunately this is one of Hair Bar’s specialities. Check the salon out on Facebook: hairbarvn. INDOCHINE SPA 69 Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7188 Indochine Spa provides a peaceful and serene atmosphere with aromatic scents and lulling melodies. Customers are pampered by qualified therapists using natural French products in a clean and pleasant environment. JASMINE 45 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2737 Spa–related salon with a good reputation for quality and comfort offers washes and leisurely haircuts from VND330,000 plus a range of related services including massage and some excellent treatments. MERCI 17/6 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8799 A unique nail spa and bistro where you can pamper your nails, enjoy a massage, meet your friends, enjoy a meal and sip a cocktail. Provides only waterless nails treatments to avoid bacteria and dry skin as well as Zoya and Kure Bazaar non-toxic varnishes. QUYNH BEAUTY SALON 104A Xuan Thuy, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3512 4321 A District 2 favourite, this is the salon to head to for anything from massage to haircuts, hairwashing to nails. Cheap prices, too. SOI SPA 6th & Rooftop, 44 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8678 A lovely little place with nail services, shampoo head massages, and other simple treatments for a quick getaway experience. Also features a rooftop terrace and a great little drinks and wine selection. Open daily from 10am to 9pm.

SPA TROPIC 79 Phan Ke Binh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 5575 Spa Tropic is a stylish boutique spa housed in the refurbished former Chilean Consulate. Spa Tropic has a long-standing reputation among expats and visitors alike for its professional quality service.


161-161A Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 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 American Eye Center is located in the heart of Phu My Hung, providing eye care services to Adults and Children by an American Board-certified ophthalmologist with 17 years of experience. The American-standard facility is equipped with state of the art equipments for the early detection and treatment of important eye diseases from Lasik and cataract surgeries to presbyopia, glaucoma and diabetic eye disease treatments. Cosmetic procedures such as eyelid surgery and Botox injections are also available. CENTRE MEDICAL INTERNATIONALE (CMI) FRENCH MEDICAL CLINIC

1 Han Thuyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 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

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 HOSPITAL INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL

6 Nguyen Luong Bang, Saigon South Parkway, Q7, Tel: (08) 5411 3333 Emergency: (08) 5411 3500 International hospital whose standard of health care matches that found anywhere, with 19 full–time French doctors and 58 Vietnamese doctors, providing expertise in 30 medical and surgical areas, especially maternity care. FV SAIGON CLINIC INTERNATIONAL CLINIC

3rd Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6290 6167 State–of–the–art medical centre located in District 1. Experienced American, French, and Vietnamese doctors provide the full spectrum health care. Plus sports medicine, cosmetic treatments, skin care and surgical consultations. HANH PHUC INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL

Binh Duong Boulevard, Thuan An District, Binh Duong Tel: (0650) 363 6068 Claiming to be the first Singapore-standard hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, this institution based on the outskirts of town is gaining a growing reputation for service and treatment. Specialises in providing healthcare to women and children. Has a clinic at 97 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1 HAPPINESS ORIENTAL MEDICINE ACUPUNCTURE CLINIC ACUPUNCTURE

432 Pham Thai Buong, Q7, Tel: 0906 684969 Well-known traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Phu My Hung specialising in acupuncture. Established in Ho Chi Minh City for over a decade.


34 Le Duan Street, Q1; 95 Thao Dien Q2, Tel: (08) 3822 7848 Family Medical Practice (FMP) is the largest and one of the oldest foreign, privately-owned, international health care providers in Vietnam. As the only health


167A Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3829 8424 The world’s leading provider of medical assistance and in- | September 2016 Word | 173


ternational healthcare offers primary health care, diagnostic services and 24/7 emergency care. Specialist care is available in many fields.


SIAN SKINCARE CLINIC SKIN CARE / COSMETICS 107B Truong Dinh, Q3 Tel: 01676 71 75 79 The Australian and Canadian managed SIAN Clinic offers a wide range of skincare medical therapies to treat problems by an experienced dermatologist and facial care team. The clinic utilises the latest therapies.


99 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3925 1990 Stamford Skin Centre offers a broad range of medical and aesthetic skin treatments. Their international dermatologists and doctors ensure accurate diagnosis and safe treatment procedures. It houses excellent equipment for a variety of procedures. TRADITIONAL MEDICINE HOSPITAL EASTERN MEDICINE


79 Dien Bien Phu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 4545 Well-regarded clinic offering general examinations and specialising in pediatrics, digestive diseases, cardiology, women’s health and internal medicine. Offers a membership programme and cooperates with most insurance companies in Vietnam and abroad.

INSURANCE PACIFIC CROSS VIETNAM 4th/12th Floor Continental Tower, 81-83-85 Ham Nghi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3821 9908 Pacific Cross Vietnam recently changed names, from Blue Cross Vietnam, to align with their regional sister companies. Together they form 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

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reliable service means they are the strength behind your insurance. Contact them now for a free quote. IF CONSULTING IBC Building, 3rd Floor, 1A Me Linh Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 7362 Independent advisors that represent top reputable medical insurers provide you with the best suitable medical cover for individual, family or company needs. For emergencies call 0903 732365 LIBERTY INSURANCE 15th Floor, Kumho Asiana Plaza, 39 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: 1800 599 998 International insurance firm providing the full range of services to the individual — car insurance, travel insurance, health insurance, home insurance and much more. NOAH JAMES INSURANCE AGENCY Mobile: (1) 617 676 7858 Skype: A full service broker offering expatriates and local Vietnamese customized solutions from highly rated insurers for life, health, travel, as well as speciality cover for student travel, medevac, international marine, extreme athletics and adventure. For details contact: TENZING PACIFIC SERVICES 181 Dien Bien Phu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 5367 A full-service insurance broker offering a wide range of insurance solutions from the best local and international providers. Recommendations are based exclusively on client needs.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS ABC INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (ABCIS) Saigon South Campus 1 (Primary & Secondary), Tel: (08) 5431 1833/34/35/36; Saigon South Campus 2 (Foundation Stage & Early Primary), Tel: (08) 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, the Education Development Trust and members of COBIS and FOBISIA. Provides education for two to 18

year olds in a supportive and friendly environment. AUSTRALIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (AIS) Xi Campus, 190 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 2727; Thao Dien Campus, APSC Compound, 36 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6960; Thu Thiem Campus, 264 Mai Chi Tho (East-West Highway), An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3742 4040 The Australian International School is an IB World School with three world-class campuses in District 2, offering an international education from kindergarten to senior school with the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP), Cambridge Secondary Programme (including IGCSE) and IB Diploma Programme (DP). ETONHOUSE INTERNATIONAL PRE-SCHOOL @ AN PHU 1st and 2nd floor, Somerset Vista, 628C Hanoi Highway, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 6287 0804 Following an international curriculum for children aged 18 months to six years, in the early years, an Inquire-ThinkLearn approach is followed, inspired by the Reggio Emilia Project of Northern Italy. It is a play-based, inquiry model in which children co-construct their learning in close, respectful collaboration with their teachers. This helps us provide an environment where children take responsibility for their own learning, allowing them a head start in life. BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (BIS) 246 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2335 Inspected 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. CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 7 Road 23, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5412 3456 The first Canadian international school in Vietnam serves local and foreign students from Kindergarten to grade 12. Talented, certified teachers implement the internationally recognised

KIDS CLASSES & SPORTS DANCENTER 53 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4490 Children and teenagers can enjoy jazz, ballet, hip-hop, funk, belly dancing, salsa and in multi-level classes at this modern dance studio. HELENE KLING OIL PAINTING 189/C1 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0903 955780 INSPIRATO MUSIC CENTER 37 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0932 737700 MINH NGUYEN PIANO BOUTIQUE 94A Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 7691 PERFORMING ARTS ACADEMY OF SAIGON 19A Ngo Quang Huy, Q2, Tel: (08) 6281 9679 Has a range of music-based programmes teaching kids in anything from guitar and drums to piano, clarinet and saxophone. Also provides musical assessment and a mixture of private and group classes. PIANO CLASSES Tel: 01225 636682 SAIGON MOVEMENT Tel: 0987 027 722 SAIGON SEAL TEAM 55 Nguyen Dang Giai, An Phu, Q2, Tel: 0905 098 279 SAIGON PONY CLUB 38, Lane 42, Le Van Thinh, Q2, Tel: 0913 733360 SAIGON SPORTS ACADEMY 28 Tran Nao, Q2, Tel: (08) 7303 1100 International coaches provide training in soccer, basketball, tennis and swimming for children aged four to 16 years and private lessons for children and adults. Youth soccer league Sundays from 2pm to 6pm in District 7. TAE KWON DO BP Compound, 720K Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: 0903 918 149 VINSPACE 6 Le Van Mien, Q2, Tel: 0907 729 846

Ontario curriculum to create a student-centred learning environment promoting academic excellence. Has a newly built campus.

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.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HO CHI MINH CITY 28 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (08) 3898 9100 HCMC’s most established international school offers three International Baccalaureate programmes for students from two to 18 years old. ISHCMC will be launching a new secondary campus in 2017, featuring Vietnam’s first Innovation Center, a 350-seat professional theatre, NBA-sized basketball courts and a 25m competitive swimming pool.

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL HO CHI MINH CITY — AMERICAN ACADEMY 16 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (08) 3898 9100 ISHCMC — 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.

KIDS CLUB SAIGON 79/7 Pham Thai Buong, Q7; 27/3 Ha Huy Tap, Q7, Tel: (08) 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: (08) 7300 7257 The European International School offers a supportive and challenging academic

INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL SAIGON PEARL 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 2222 7788/99 Vietnam’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.

MONTESSORI INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL 42/1 Ngo Quang Huy, Q2, Tel: (08) 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: (08)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 350-seat 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: (08) 3740 8081 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. SAIGON SOUTH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL (SSIS) 78 Nguyen Duc Canh, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 0901 Offers an American-style education (SAT, IB and AP) from elementary to high-school, emphasizing a multi–cultural student environment and a commitment to well–rounded education at all levels. SAIGON STAR INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL Residential Area No. 5, Thanh My Loi, Q2, Tel: (08) 3742 7827 Supported by the Cambridge International Primary Programme, SSIS integrates Montessori methods into nursery and kindergarten programmes to create a stimulating learning environment. Small class sizes allow experienced teachers to cater to individual needs. SMARTKIDS 1172 Thao Dien Compound, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6076; 26, Street Nr. 10, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3898 9816; 15 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4236 This international childcare centre provides children ages 18 months to six years with a high quality education in a playful and friendly environment. 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 American-based 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.

M M M PROPERTY RENTALS CHUM’S HOUSE 121/21 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 7237 EASY SAIGON Tel: 0932 112694 The Easy Saigon website is a useful real estate website | September 2016 Word | 175

HCMC Essentials

helping expats to find apartments in Ho Chi Minh City. Enquiries via their website are welcome. HAPPY HOUSE 32-34 Ngo Duc Ke, Suite 701, Q1, Tel: 01659 419916 NAM HOUSE 48A Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: 0989 007700 Expert in providing rental properties, constructions and interior decoration, especially in District 2. Supports professional services and aftersales. RESIDENT VIETNAM Unit 601 48 Hoa Su, Phu Nhuan, Tel: (08) 2226 8855 SNAP 32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4282 Owners of Snap Café in District 2, Snap offers a web– based real estate search service with information on rental properties all around the city, as well as an advisory service for those averse to wading into the internet depths for their needs. THE NEST 216/4 Nguyen Van Huong, Q2, Tel: 0938 580800 Well–known property search and real estate agency with a useful website listing properties available for rent and sale, orientated towards expats. Website is in English, French and Spanish.


185/30 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: 0903 643446 Probably the best-known motorbike rental joint in town with over 200 bikes and a range of models and makes. Rents by the day or by the month. Call or check the website for details. Also does visa extensions. SAIGON BIKE RENTALS Tel: 0972 451273 Rents out a range of models including Honda Waves, Yamaha Nouvos, Classicos, Luvias, SYM Attilas and Excels. Call for details and prices.

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77a Hanoi Highway, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: 0903 013690 Just relocated to its new home in District 2, Saigon Scooter Centre is more than just the place to go for all your classic scooter needs. Also does accessories, quality imported helmets and bike rentals.

M M M RECRUITMENT & HR ADECCO VIETNAM 11th floor, Empire Tower, 26 - 28 Ham Nghi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3915 3430 Adecco is the world leader in human resources solutions. Established in Vietnam in 2011, Adecco offers a wide array of global workforce solutions and specialises in finance & legal, sales, marketing & events, IT, engineering & technical, and office. HR2B/TALENT RECRUITMENT JSC 1st Floor, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 6288 3888 G.A. CONSULTANTS VIETNAM CO., LTD. Ho Chi Minh Office: Room 2B-2C, 2nd Floor, 180 Pasteur, District 1, HCMC. VIETNAMWORKS.COM 130 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1, Tel: (08) 5404 1373 The best-known recruitment website in Vietnam. Post you’re the position you’re looking for and wait for the responses. You’ll get many. Also a good site for expat jobseekers.


ALLIED PICKFORDS 12th floor, Miss Ao Dai Building, 21 Nguyen Trung Ngan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 1220 With more than 800 offices in over 45 countries, Allied Pickfords is one of the worldwide leaders in removal services. In Vietnam, Allied also provides tailored relocation services. ASIAN TIGERS MOBILITY Unit 9.3, Floor 9, Ree Tower, 9 Doan Van Bo, Ward 12, District 4, HCMC, Tel: (08) 3 826 7799 Asian Tigers is one of the largest regional move management specialists, with services including door-to-door moving, housing and school searches, local and office moves and pet relocations. JVK INTERNATIONAL MOVERS 1st Floor, Saigon Port Building, 3 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, Tel: (08) 3826 7655 Focused primarily on the international and local movement of household goods, JVK is a leader in the field. LOGICAL MOVES — VIETNAM 396/4 Nguyen Tat Thanh, Q4, Tel: (08) 3941 5322 Specialists in international, local, domestic and office moves for household goods and personal effects through our global partner network. Experts in exporting used scooters that do not have documentation. SANTA FE RELOCATION SERVICES 8FL, Thien Son Building, 5 Nguyen Gia Thieu, Q3, Tel: (08) 3933 0065 With 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 Vietnam@santaferelo. com for info.

SERVICED APARTMENTS AGS FOUR WINDS (VIETNAM) 5th Floor, Lafayette De Saigon, 8A Phung Khac Khoan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3521 0071 A global leader in international removals and relocations, with 130 offices globally, we can move your property to and from any location.

DIAMOND ISLAND LUXURY RESIDENCES No 01 – Street No.104-BTT, Quarter 3, Binh Trung Tay, Q2, Tel: (08) 3742 5678 Diamond Island Luxury Residences offers 68 fullyfurnished apartments, from two to four-bedroom units with spectacular panoramic views of the city. Each apartment comes with a fullyequipped kitchen, en-suite bathrooms, separate work and living areas, a balcony, modern amenities, elegant

furnishings and carefully chosen trimmings. INTERCONTINENTAL ASIANA SAIGON RESIDENCES Crn. of Nguyen Du & Le Van Huu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 8888 Adjacent to the InterContinental Asiana Saigon you’ll find 260 luxurious and spacious residential suites. The residences offer panoramic views of the downtown area. NORFOLK MANSION 17–19-21 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 6111 Offers a wide choice of luxurious and modern furnished accommodation with attentive and discreet service. Facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, sauna and steam room, as well as two on-site restaurants. RIVERSIDE APARTMENTS 53 Vo Truong Toan, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 4111 Over four Saigon Riverbank hectares, Riverside Apartments combines a resort lifestyle with the amenities of a fully serviced-apartment. Located minutes from downtown by high-speed boat shuttle. SHERWOOD RESIDENCE 127 Pasteur, Q3, Tel: (08) 3823 2288 Sherwood Residence is a luxurious serviced apartment property where modern living spaces meet prime location, comfort and class, with five–star facilities and service. SOMERSET SERVICED RESIDENCES 8A Nguyen Binh Khiem, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 8899; 21-23 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9197; 628C Hanoi Highway, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 6255 9922 Somerset Chancellor Court, Somerset Ho Chi Minh City and Somerset Vista Ho Chi Minh City serviced residences combine the space and privacy of an apartment with the services of a top-rated hotel. They come with separate living and dining areas, as well as a fully equipped kitchen where guests can prepare a meal for themselves, their family and friends.

SPORTS & FITNESS CHIARA SQUINZI Tel: 01278 163620 Experienced health coach and corporate & school wellness coach. Can help clients achieve health and weight

TATTOO ARTISTS With tattoos becoming increasingly popular, over the past few years there has been an increase in the number of tattoo studios around the city. Customers have the choice of picking their own tattoo out of the many look books on offer in the studios or bringing in their own design. Most of the studios offer bodypiercing services as well. Pricing depends on size and style.


57 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: (08) 6675 6956 SAIGON BODY ART

135 Cong Quynh, Q1 Tel: 0908 443311 SAIGON INK

26 Tran Hung Dao, Q1 Tel: (08) 3836 1090



206B Le Van Sy, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 01204 738939 (Fiona) spirittatts

Respected tattoo and body-piercing studio specialising in traditional Japanese, black and grey, portraiture, realism, western traditional, neo-traditional, dot work and geometric.


128 Nguyen Cu Trinh, Q1 Tel: 0938 303838

goals through an innovative holistic approach of food, body and mind. Email for info.

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

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


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


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

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

The Landmark, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2098 ext. 176 In addition to the squash court, facilities include a fully–equipped gym room, a rooftop swimming pool and separate male and female saunas.

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. Tuesday to Friday every week at 5pm. All activities are safe and run by Cyril himself.


Truc Duong, Q2, Tel: 0966 920612 A bouldering gym and pro climbing wall replete with a showroom and café offers something that this area has never experienced before, a place to climb. Has a number of climbing sections, runs training courses and also sells daily climbing passes for VND150,000 (for a 10-visit pass pay VND1 million).

VETERINARY CLINICS ANIMAL DOCTORS INTERNATIONAL 1 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien, Q2. (08) 6260 3980 Offers the very highest levels of compassionate, competent and professional veterinary medicine and surgery to all pets in Ho Chi Minh City with international veterinary surgeons. Upholding international standards, the team works tirelessly to help clients with the support of a dedicated surgical suite, digital X-Ray and comprehensive diagnostic facilities.



SCORE-TECH 1870/3G An Phu Dong 3, Q12, Tel: (08) 3719 9588 Apparel company offering 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.

VIETNAMESE LANGUAGE GARDEN 135/10 Nguyen Cuu Van, Binh Thanh, Tel: 0916 670 771 vietnameselanguagegarden. com




34 Nguyen Dang Giai, Q2, Tel: (08) 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.

VLS SAIGON 45 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3910 0168 Offers courses ranging from basic conversational Vietnamese to upper elementary, intermediate and advanced levels, as well as special courses including Vietnamese literature, composition or a 6-hour survival crash course.

SAIGON HASH HOUSE HARRIERS 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 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2828 SOFITEL PLAZA FITNESS CENTRE HEALTH CLUB & GYM


Level 5, Crescent Mall, Nguyen Van Linh, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5412 2222; Level 10, CT Plaza, 60A Truong Son, Tan Binh, Tel: (08) 6297 1981; Level 2, Thao Dien Mall, 12 Quoc Huong, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 3000; Level 5, SC VivoCity, 1058 Nguyen Van Linh, Q7, Tel: (08) 3775 0555; Level 7, Hung Vuong Plaza, 126 Hung Vuong, Q5, Tel: (08) 2222 0388

17 Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 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 HEALTH CLUB & GYM

Manor Apartments, 91 Nguyen Huu Canh, Binh Thanh, Tel: (08) 3514 0253 Steve Chipman, who had a hand in establishing gyms at the Sofitel hotels in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, is behind Star Fitness — one of Vietnam’s largest and bestequipped gyms. | September 2016 Word | 177



n the four months since its grand opening, Piu Piu has arrived in Saigon with such a splash upon the social scene, it’s hard to remember what we were doing before it found its feet. Located behind the Opera House on Hai Ba Trung, this bar has provided a muchneeded departure from rooftop cocktail bars and chic clubs, a down-to-earth place to experience local musicians with a billiondong view and decently priced drinks. What makes Piu Piu stand apart is that it is not just a bar, but also a community space; since April the events have ranged from weeknight networking, language

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practice, comedy nights and spokenword performance, to heavy sweat hip-hop shows and drum ’n bass in the soundproofed, second-floor fridge stage. This means that anyone can come and find something they love at Piu Piu, because not every night consists solely of drink and dance, though you can guarantee that most weekend nights will end that way. Each of the bar’s three floors offer a different style of music and relaxation; the first floor is for live music, the second floor for insane dancing, and the third floor disco, soul, and good conversations over delicious drinks.

A Beautiful Friendship Thibault Guincet and Lee Lam have been friends for the past 15 years and dreamt of running their own space together for the past 10 years; now they get to live out that dream in Saigon. Their passion lies in creating a space where anyone can feel comfortable partying, and helping to develop the local musical talents garner a following and a regular venue. “We’ve been approached by artists we host to create a Piu Piu mixtape,” says Lee, “and we want to stay involved in helping to develop the local music scene as much as possible.”


Piu Piu has partnered with the already successful My Chicken Run for food and snacks, with the menu prices starting at VND20,000 for popcorn and VND45,000 for fries with bigger menu items such as meals and burgers costing VND200,000. Though Piu Piu doesn’t yet have table service, they are renovating their first-floor space to include an open kitchen/dinerstyle area for people to come and fulfil their late night food cravings in between DJ sets and socialising. Thibault, who has had past experience as a Parisian cocktail specialist, is the brains behind the drinks that get the crowd going on

a Saturday night. One current favourite of my own is the Ginger Margarita (VND130,000) served up in a martini glass with a sprinkle of pepper to complement the fruity passionfruit. There are hints of some more complex flavours to the drink, the tequila dominates the palate while the elderflower and lemongrass tickle the taste buds. One of the new additions to the menu is the Bourbeezy (VND150,000), Thibault’s take on a traditional southern mint julep, served up ice-cold in a copper mug, and adorned with mint and lime. Even with the slightly silly name, this drink goes down deliciously on a steamy Saigon day. Containing

homemade saffron syrup, almond liquor and bourbon, this was just what I needed to quench my thirst on a Friday afternoon. With such a packed social calendar and the amount of developments going on, it’s hard to imagine what else the Piu Piu team are dreaming up next, however there are many plans on the horizon for the venue. Lee and Thibault can envision a Piu Piu Out festival one day, and even dream of opening more locations beyond Saigon. — Siân Kavanagh Piu Piu is at 97 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, HCMC. For more information click on piupiusaigon | September 2016 Word | 179

HCMC On The Town


Park Hyatt, 2 Lam Son, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 1234 International décor blends seamlessly with local themes. Style joins forces with a wide-ranging 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: (08) 3930 2239 Though only 1km from the city centre, Acoustic is well off most foreigners’ radars. Come see the Vietnamese house band play nightly, as well as performances from overseas bands and guest artists. APOCALYPSE NOW DANCE / NIGHTCLUB

2B-C-D Thi Sach, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 6124 An institution and the kind of place you end up drunk after midnight. Famed for its notso-salubrious clientele, this two-floor establishment with DJs and occasional live music is also famed for its hotdogs, which are served up in the garden terrace out back. BIA CRAFT CRAFT BEER BAR

90 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 2588 As craft beer continues to take over watering holes around Ho Chi Minh City, so a bar dedicated to all things ‘craft’ and ‘real ale’ seems like a pretty sensible idea, right? Well, it is. Only small, but with wooden tables perfect for sharing, 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. BLANCHY’S TASH RESTOBAR / NIGHTCLUB

95 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: 0909 028293 A multi-storey bar with décor and atmosphere more akin to such an establishment in New York or London. Has a reputation for bringing in big-name DJs. And when we say big, we mean big. Check their website for details. BREAD & BUTTER INTERNATIONAL / COMFORT FOOD

40/24 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3836 8452 With a free book exchange,

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and tasty Sunday night roasts, the tiny Bread & Butter is a perfect place for homesick expats and beer enthusiasts (excellent HueBrewed Huda beer served here exclusively in Ho Chi Minh City). BROMA, NOT A BAR COCKTAILS / ROOFTOP

41 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 6838 Broma’s medieval rooftopcocktail lounge conglomeration is a magnet for the city’s weirdest and coolest events/ random moments. A sophisticated cocktail menu and quite possibly the best lamb burger in town. Check out their bun bo Hue-inspired cocktail.


Level 52, Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8750 Breathtaking views require a vantage point and EON Heli Bar is by far the highest spot in Saigon for a spectacular cityscape, appealing drinks and a vibrant ambience. Night live music and DJs. GAME ON

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

115 Ho Tung Mau, Q1 Tel: (08) 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.

175/22 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 7679 Warm colors, artsy décor and a friendly ambiance combine to create a perfect setting for enjoying tasty international and Vietnamese cuisine. Gets busy at weekends with a clientele made up of hip, young Vietnamese and the occasional foreigner.





Tel: 0906 912730

www. restaurants-ben-style CHEZ GUIDO

Tel: (08) 3898 3747


7 Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 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. CHAMPION SPORTS BAR SPORTS BAR

45-47 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 3920 4202 A recent addition to the sports-and-watering-hole drinking scene, Champion is located in the Backpackers’ area and shows all the major televised sports. Also has a pool table, darts, tasty Western and Vietnamese food, great cocktails and ice cold beer. Western managed, wonderful local staff. #BeAChampion.


28 Mac Dinh Chi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 8605 The original microbrewery, this large, wooden-panelled, brass-kegged 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.


Rooftop, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 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.


24 Hai Ba Trung, Q1 One of this city’s longest running watering holes — and the original home of the darts league — has recently reopened in its new premises. Naturally, darts are still key here, with each of the bottom three floors having elements devoted to this most pub-friendly of sports.


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


55, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 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.


46-48 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1 Malt is a non-smoking bar in downtown Saigon offering shuffleboard, darts, craft beers on tap, signature cocktails and delicious tapas and pub grub. Its unpretentious vibe and casual atmosphere will have you feeling at home. MAY RESTAURANT & BAR LOUNGE BAR & RESTOBAR

19-21 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 3686 An international comfortfood menu mixes with excellent cocktails and an extensive winelist at this attractive, international bar and restaurant. Dine at the bar or upstairs in the restaurant space.

DOMINO’S PIZZA Tel: (08) 3939 3030 EAT.VN


Tel: (08) 3848 9999



Tel: (08) 3910 0000

PIZZA HUT (PHD) Tel: (08) 3838 8388 SCOOZI

Tel: (08) 3823 5795




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




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

59 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08)


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. OMG! FUSION CUISINE / LOUNGE BAR

Top Floor, 15-17-19 Nguyen An Ninh, Q1 A contemporary and attractive rooftop restaurant with


a lounge bar just 50m from Ben Thanh Market. Features a glass shell modeled in the image of the Eiffel Tower, a jungle-like atmosphere and views over central Saigon. O’BRIEN’S





S52-1 Sky Garden 2, Q7, Tel: (08) 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.

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


74/A3 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 3198 This Irish-themed sports bar with classic pub décor is widely appreciated for its excellent international fare, large whiskey selection and upstairs pool table. Great pizzas. And for a real treat, check out their zesty rolls. ONTOP BAR Novotel Saigon, 167 Hai Ba Trung, Q3, Tel: (08) 3822 4866 Located on the 20th floor with stunning views of the city, houses an upscale, contemporary interior and an outdoor terrace. A good venue to chill out in a relaxed and casual, yet hip ambience. PEACHES CURRY PUB

S57-1 Sky Garden 2, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 0999 Known as the ‘Curry Pub’, this pleasant Saigon South watering hole mixes the beer with all things curry — anything from Goan fish curries to beef rendangs and more. A popular local haunt. PHATTY’S AUSTRALIAN / SPORTS

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


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: 0122 4283198 Up-cycling and innovative design form the foundation for this bar / arts venue / mini-skate park and graffiti space. Come for barbeque and reasonably priced drinks, stick around for entertaining events and markets. SAIGON RANGER


Landmark Building, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9698 A sophisticated yet down-to-earth cocktail bar and restaurant with subtle lighting and one of the best spirit selections in town. Serves creative, Japanese and German-influenced cuisine to supplement the drinks.


5B Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 4738 Named after the Danish artist Storm P, this long-running bar is the home of Saigon’s Scandinavian community thanks to its laid-back atmosphere and excellent food menu. A good place to watch the live sports.


70 Pasteur, Q1 Tel: 0907 890623 A small but popular bar with all the shenanigans of the nightlife scene set to a backdrop of classic 60s, 70s and 80s tunes. Has a darts area out back and is a popular space for watching the live English Premier League. WINE BAR 38


31B Ly Tu Trong, Q1 Tel: 0903 369798 A sleek, industrial looking restobar with edgy décor and just a hint of Spanish style. Tapas, sangria, Iberian-influenced cocktails and an emphasis on all things Latin.


38 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 3968 With a huge selection of self-imported wines from Bordeaux, this classy but contemporary venue is a wine bar downstairs, and a lounge on the first floor. Has a French-Asian menu paired to all the wines, with a huge selection of the good stuff sold by the glass. XU CAFÉ / LOUNGE BAR


5/7 Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 7300 0559 Aspiring to be a focal point for artistic activities, the space at Saigon Ranger has been established to create encounter and dialogue between different forms of art. Boasts concrete floors, dark wooden furniture, quirky wall designs and a stage for live music and other types of performance.

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.


71-75 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 8468

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.



C0.01 Riverside Residence C, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (08) 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: (08) 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.

9th Floor, Caravelle Saigon, 1923 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 This iconic bar is a great place to watch the sun go down over the city and relax for a few drinks with friends. Has live entertainment six nights a week courtesy of resident Cuban band, Q’vans, from 9pm Wednesday to Monday. SHRINE BAR LOUNGE BAR

61 Ton Thap Thiep, Q1 Shrine creates a drinking and dining experience in a temple-like atmosphere. Inspired by Bantay Srei, a temple from the ancient Angkor kingdom, the walls are covered in statues depicting ancient Khmer gods and kings. With ambient lighting and town tempo music, here it’s all about good cocktails and an even better atmosphere.

THE SOCIETY GRILL AND LOUNGE BAR 99 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 3999 Designed as a Laneway-style 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.


R2-24 Hung Gia 3, Bui Bang Doan, Q7, Tel: (08) 5410 3900 The first bar established in Saigon South, great food, great music and loads of laughs. Has regular live | September 2016 Word | 181




idden in an alley off the sleepless backpacker area, Ut Lanh stands out with its peaceful and vintage look. Even the signboard is reminiscent of an old advertisement in Saigon newspapers of the 1970s. Ut Lanh is small. The space consists of a 20-square-metre ground floor and a tiny mezzanine, furnished with ageless tables, chairs and a cupboard — a typical southern wooden flat. Small details including floral plastic tablecloths, vases made from tin cans, framed posters, old-fashioned electric fans, an old cassette player which the background music is played through, an old box-style TV and floor tiles, which were selectively collected and arranged.

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Everything is designed to bring the feel of old Saigon alive.

Remembering Childhood I grew up enjoying tiny packs of pickled fruits, finger-shaped tubes of candies, pocket-sized boxes of dried beef and other favourite snacks. And now I can find them at Ut Lanh. I bought three packs of xi muoi hoa mai (sweet and sour candies) for VND10,000 and slowly enjoyed them. Don’t come here if you are looking for modern drinks like you would get at Phuc Long or Starbucks. What you can find here are traditional Saigonese coffee and drinks. You can go for either an iced black coffee without sugar or a beautifully green pandan juice with milk.

Or a salt-pickled lime is also a good choice. What’s special about this place is that all of the traditional drinks are homemade, and priced from VND35,000. And if you’re in the mood for a beer, they also serve green and red Saigon beer for VND30,000 a bottle. The charm of Ut Lanh doesn’t lie only in the decoration, snacks and drinks, but also in the way they take care of their clients, with a 10 percent discount for any take-away. They also pay your VND5,000 bike parking fee. But perhaps Ut Lanh's greatest service is the ability to enjoy the slow life when you stow your phone out of sight while at the cafe. — Vu Ha Kim Vy Ut Lanh is at 283/37 Pham Ngu Lao, Q1, HCMC | September 2016 Word | 183

HCMC On The Town

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.

CAFES & ICE-CREAM (A) CAFE 15 Huynh Khuong Ninh, Da Kao, Q1, Tel: 0903 199701 Settle into the Javanesestyle interior and enjoy possibly one of the best brews in Saigon. Using own grown and specially sourced Dalat beans, speciality coffee such as cold drip, siphon, and Chemex are must haves for the avid coffee drinker. AGNES CAFE DALAT COFFEE HOUSE

11A-B Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 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. BANKSY CAFE 1st Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: 01699 990003 A small but swanky cafe, Banksy promises a young and vibrant hideout in an old 1960s-era apartment building. Remember to head up the steep stairs within to dig into their secret stash of clothes and accessories. CAFE THOAI VIEN 159A Nguyen Van Thu, Q1, Tel: 0918 115657 Veer off the street and find yourself plunging straight into lush greenery. Cafe Thoai Vien serves up a spacious and airy setting to enjoy a quiet sip. From small eats to big bites and everything to drink, it’s a

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great place to unwind from all that buzz. COFFEE BEAN & TEA LEAF 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. DECIBEL INTERNATIONAL

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

34D Thu Khoa Huan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2910 Centrally located near Ben Thanh Market, i.d offers casual café dining with a wide variety of food and beverages. Where modern design and a warm ambience meet for coffee. KLASIK COFFEE ROASTERS




40 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6685 4160 Nitro cold brew coffee, single origin coffee and healthy food. Klasik Coffee Roasters is a small coffee shop with a passion for seeking high quality coffee beans from around the world to roast in Saigon. Holding the belief that each cup tells its own story, drinking coffee at Klasik is all about pleasure and experience: the aroma, the taste, the warmth and the senses inspired by each and every cup. Open daily from 7am to 10pm.



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.



First Floor, 151 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6674 9565; 70B Le Loi, Q1, Tel: (08) 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.


41/1 Pham Ngoc Thach, Q3, Tel: (08) 3822 4222 Hidden in a colonial building with an outdoor courtyard, the ample soft, sofa seating renders a great spot to relax. The mouth-watering western menu is well-priced and maintains a creative flair. I.D. CAFÉ CONTEMPORARY CAFE

MOCKINGBIRD CAFE 4th Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: 0935 293400 Sitting atop of a number of cafe establishments in an old apartment complex, Mockingbird is just the place for a romantic time over mojitos, or good ol’ caffeine-infused relaxation.

M2C CAFE 44B Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2495 At M2C (Modern Meets Culture), everything gets a touch of modernity. From the rich menu of Vietnamese food and drinks, shows immense local culture, done with a modern flare. Be seen here at one of the latest popular joint in town.

8A/10B1 Thai Van Lung, Q1 Tel: 0945 830905 Tea, tea and more tea, all in a contemporary, quirky environment. At Plantrip Cha customers go on a sensory journey to experience the tastes and smells of teas from across Asia, Europe, America and the Middle East. THE LOOP HEALTHY CAFÉ FARE / BAGELS

in this candy-land inspired cafe. THE PRINT ROOM CONTEMPORARY CAFE

158 Pasteur, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4990 Second-storey coffeehouse offers a quiet atmosphere to chill out or read from their book-nook collection. Comfortable couch seating, open table space and a cappuccino costs VND40,000. THINGS CAFE 1st Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: (08) 6678 6205 Feel the calm and serenity of this rustic little quiet corner tucked away in an Old Apartment. The quaint and relaxing atmosphere sets for some alone time, or quality conversations held over a drink or two.

49 Thao Dien, Q2 Tel. (08) 3602 6385 Low-key yet nice-on-the-eye décor helps create the caféstyle 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 Have a book to read? Pick a bright spot by the window and get snuggly with the comfy upholstery in this second-floor cafe. With a cup of well-brewed coffee, accompanied by some background jazz, it is an afternoon well-spent.


THE OTHER PERSON CAFE 2nd Floor, 14 Ton That Dam, Q1, Tel: 0909 670272 Fancy being served up by maids in costume? Call for a booking and enjoyed customized service to your liking while spending an afternoon



Top Floor, 29 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 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.


Rooftop, AB Tower, 76A Le Lai, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2372 Besides the spectacular views, the cuisine at 27 Grill is a real draw, with steaks and other international grillstyle fare in a refined yet contemporary atmosphere. Subtle lighting and an extensive wine list make up the mix. AL FRESCO’S INTERNATIONAL

27 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 38238424

The downtown outlet of one of Vietnam’s most successful restaurant chains, Al Fresco’s offers international, Australian-influenced comfort fare in a pleasant environment with efficient, friendly service to match. Also has an excellent garden-style branch at 89 Xuan Thuy, Q2.


164 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 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.



BRAZILIAN CHURRASCO 238 Pasteur, Q3, Tel: (08) 3820 7157 Au Lac Do Brazil is home to the city's best Churrasco menu with a wide variety of meats from Calabrian sausage and picanha through to D-rump steak and smoked hams. Pioneering the eat-asmuch-as-you-can theme in Vietnam, passadors bring the meat skewers to your table, and you, the customer then choose your accompaniments from the salad bar. Best washed down with red wine or a caipirinha or five.



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

17/10 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 1372; 33 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel : (08) 3744 4177 Long-running, award-winning Indian restaurant famed for its excellent kebabs, creamy curries and Chinese-Indian fare.

13 Phan Van Dat, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 2055 Creatively named burgers, tasty Vietnamese-styled sandwiches, spiced up cocktails, mains and more, all served up with a Californian edge at this small but popular two-storey eatery close to the river. BLANCHY STREET JAPANESE / SOUTH AMERICAN

The Courtyard, 74/3 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 8793 The work of former Nobu chef Martin Brito, the Japanese-South American fusion cuisine at Blanchy Street is among the tastiest and most unusual in the city. All complemented by fresh, contemporary decor and a leafy terrace out front. BOAT HOUSE AUSTRALIAN / INTERNATIONAL

40 Lily Road, An Phu Superior Compound, Thao Dien, Q2, Tel: (08) 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. Australian themed but Singaporean-owned eatery and bar on The Crescent with great terraced seating specializing in huge-portioned international fare, all set in a contemporary, spacious environment. CAFÉ IF VIETNAMESE FRENCH

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

40/31 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 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. CHRIS FOOD ONLINE TRADITIONAL FRENCH / DESSERTS

Tel: 0909 365525 (English) / 0909 320717 (French) chrisfoodonline.blogspot. com or Traditional French cuisine and exotic dishes from the Reunion Island served up in Ho Chi Minh City and delivered to your door. All dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients, nothing is frozen. Options include cheesecake, tiramisu, lasagna, chicken curries and muffin. All speciality foods are cooked to order. CIAO BELLA NEW YORK-ITALIAN


CR2 3-4, 107 Ton Dat Tien, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 6592

11 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 3329 New York-style Italian restaurant offering a range of tasty and affordable antipasti, pas-

tas, and pizzas. Friendly staff and rustic bare brick walls adorned with Hollywood film legends make for a relaxed and attractive setting. CORIANDER THAI / VIETNAMESE

16 Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 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. CORSO STEAKHOUSE / INTERNATIONAL

117 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 5368 Although a hotel restaurant, the enticing range of US and Australian steaks plus great grill and comfort food menu in this contemporary eatery make for a quality bite. Decent-sized steaks start at VND390,000. ELBOW ROOM AMERICAN

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


Level 51, Bitexco Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 8750 Situated on level 51 of the most iconic building in town, Eon51 Fine Dining offers a unique fine dining experience accompanied by unparalleled 3600 picturesque views of Saigon. The sky-high restaurant proffers the taste of Europe in Asia, orchestrated from the finest local foods and top-quality imported ingredients. GANESH PAN-INDIAN

74 A2 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 38229366 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. HOA TUC CONTEMPORARY VIETNAMESE

The Square, 74/7 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3825 1676 Highly rated restaurant with stunning outdoor terrace. Specialities include pink pomelo squid and crab salad, mustard leaf prawn rolls, fishcake wraps and barbecue chicken in ginger, onions and a lime leaf marinade.


74 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3827 2090; Unit CR1-12, The Crescent, Phu My Hung, Q7, Tel: (08) 5413 6909 A themed eatery mixing an Argentinian steakhouse theme with pork, chicken, lamb, homemade spicy sausage, skewers, burger dishes and everything that can come off a grill. Slick service, a good wine menu, and caramel vodka teasers at the end of the meal. Probably serves up the best steak in town.


7 Ngo Duc Ke, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 1101; The Crescent, 103 Ton Dat Tien, Q7, Tel: (08) 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. | September 2016 Word | 185



op-ups are becoming all the rage, and the particular style of eatery is likewise popular with the growing Vietnamese middle class. Combine the two, and what do you get? 5Ku Station, a kind of movable feast-maker; a restaurant that settles into vacant lots, fires up the grill and dishes out beef and beer to the waiting masses, though the one at Le Thanh Ton shows every sign of becoming a permanent movable restaurant. 5Ku was started almost five years ago by Thien Dinh, the founder, who had been involved in several ventures together before finding this successful formula.

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I’ve been a fan of the 5Ku for years. It’s great for parties and get-togethers, with plenty of good eats at a reasonable price, and a cheerfully loud, even festive atmosphere. I try to approach it fresh this time, coming with my fiancée and a good friend of ours. We’re seated at one of the low tables, and of course I bang my knees into it. The restaurant has a certain booming charm, from the graffiti art on the walls to the plain but sturdy furnishings. To me, however, the real charm lies in the intangibles of the atmosphere; everyone there is having a good time, and it’s noisy from people talking and laughing, not painfully over-loud music.

Meat and Beer The first order is obvious — bottles of Saigon beer (VND19,000) all around to lubricate the process of ordering. We go through the menu with more care than usual, aiming to order an aesthetically balanced supper. 5Ku offers a lot of food, from simple grilled meat to expansive hotpots. Prices are fair, though bills can mount if you order like I do. We start with mango 5Ku salad (VND99,000) — we are warned that it’s perhaps not to Western tastes, but proceed anyway. I love it — the mango is just balanced on tart and sweet, and the mix of


greens and meats that comes with it is a nice balance. Next up is slices of ostrich meat (VDN125,000), grilled at the table. The ostrich is lean and tender, reminiscent of beef in its taste. Along with the ostrich comes shrimp roasted with salt (VND169,000) which are a mess to peel but excellent after a dip in lime juice, salt and pepper. We finish the order with a rousing dish of frog ‘sapo’ stewed (VND169,000), served in a spicy, tangy sauce. Normally, I don’t like frog — it often combines the worst parts of fish and chicken — but 5Ku does it well. The

meat is tender, and the sauce complements the flavour very well. Service is catch-as-catch-can, and given how busy the place always is, it’s understandable. But be prepared to shout “Em oi!” any time you want to order more food or another beer. That said, the service is speedy, and the waiters are willing to help hapless grillers cook their food.

Younger, Hipper BBQ 5Ku is the younger, hipper version of the standard Vietnamese BBQ place, with a few touches and a location that makes it more popular with Westerners. It’s actually

a decent place to meet other expats and tourists alike — I’ve met an Australian rugby team, a lovely Japanese couple, and a Turkish family. If you’re the social type, that diversity alone makes it worthwhile to visit. For foodies like me, the food is the thing. Vietnamese BBQ is fun and tasty, though there’s one drawback I’ve yet to mention. Whether you’re at 5Ku or any other place, you’ll go home saturated with the scent of charcoal and cooking pork. — Owen Salisbury 5Ku is located at 27 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, HCMC and is open from 4pm to late | September 2016 Word | 187

HCMC On The Town









Ground Floor, Bitexco Financial Tower, 2 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 3915 6066 Mixing hearty pub grub such as burgers, salads and prime rib steaks with a sports bar atmosphere, this Australian chain also offers regular promotions and a 4pm to 7pm happy hour. Excellent outdoor terrace. INAHO SUSHI / SASHIMI

4 Chu Manh Trinh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 0326 A sushi bar needs a good chef, and the chef-owner of Inaho is one of the best. Sit downstairs at the low-key bar or upstairs in the private VIP rooms. Either way, this is one of the best sushi and sashimi joints in town.

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

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


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

Renaissance Riverside Hotel, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang. Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0033 Offers authentic, gourmet Cantonese cuisine in an elegant, classic setting, with striking décor and the bonus of views over the Saigon River. Dishes range from VND80,000 to VND900,000. KOH THAI CONTEMPORARY THAI FUSION

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

3rd Floor Rooftop, Kumho Link, 39 Le Duan, Q1. Tel: (08) 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!

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5D Nguyen Sieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 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: (08) 3825 8465 Unpretentious but tasty French fare in a relaxed garden setting within the French cultural centre. The robust, bistro-style cuisine is very well-priced, and excellent, cheap house wine is served by the carafe. LION CITY SINGAPOREAN

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

29 Hai Trieu, Q1, Tel: (08) 6260 2727 Located bang opposite the Bitexco Tower, Loveat serves up three floors’ worth of Mediterranean cuisine mixed in with continental favourites like moules frites. A great place for dinner, cocktails and wines in a contemporary Saigon atmosphere.

97B Thao Dien, Q2 Tel: (08) 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. Has petanque on the terrace. LUONG SON PAN-VIETNAMESE

31 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 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. MAD HOUSE CONTEMPORARY CAFE, BAR, RESTAURANT

6/1/2 Nguyen U Di, Q2, Tel: (08) 3519 4009 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. MARKET 39 INTERNATIONAL BUFFET

Ground Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, Crn. of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1, Tel: (08) 3520 9999

23 Thao Dien, An Phu, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6478 The rustic looking, bananaleaf roofed Mekong Merchant has long been the place in An Phu. Set around a cobblestoned courtyard the cuisine includes gourmet seafood and pastas. Bakery-style Bistro out front. MONSOON PAN-SOUTHEAST ASIAN

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

136/15 Le Thanh Ton, Q1, Tel: (08) 38 250261; 116 Suong Nguyet Anh, Q1, Tel: (08) 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. NINETEEN INTERNATIONAL / ASIAN

Ground floor, Caravelle Hotel, 19 Lam Son Square, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 4999 One of the top three buffet restaurants in town. Although the selection is small, the meats, fishes and seafoods are all fresh, and everything you eat here is quality. OSAKA RAMEN


19 – 21 Dong Khoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 6291 3686 may.restaurant19@gmail. com Casual yet stylish, May places international-style wining and dining in the heart of historic Saigon. Subtle lighting, comfortable seating, an extensive wine and cocktail list, and beautifully crafted comfort food from Europe, the Antipodes and Asia all make up the mix at this multi-floored restaurant and bar. Check out their set lunches and happy hour.


18 Thai Van Lung, Q1; SD04, Lo H29-2, KP My Phat, Phu My Hung, Q7 If you fancy dosing out on ramen and soba noodles, then Osaka Ramen is noodle soup heaven. A typically Japanese aircon environment mixes bar-style seating with booths and private dining. Open late. PENDOLASCO PAN-ITALIAN

87 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 8181; 36 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel: (08) 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. PITCHERS SPORTS AND GRILL SPORTS BAR & GRILL RESTAURANT

C0.01 Riverside Residence C, Nguyen Luong Bang, Q7, Tel: (08) 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 4P’S EUROPEAN/ASIAN FUSION

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

14M Quoc Huong, Q2, Tel: 0938 754251; 273 Phan Xich Long, Phu Nhuan, Tel: 0938 754851 A street food eatery concept that originates from Los Angeles and New York, and born from a passion for sharing, here it’s all about the loaded fries. The potatoes are twice-cooked and come piled high with a range of inventive toppings. Funky décor and long benches make up the mix. PROPAGANDA CLASSIC VIETNAMESE / BISTRO

21 Han Thuyen, Q1 Part of the group that includes Au Parc and Refinery, Propaganda serves up classic Vietnamese cuisine in an atmosphere of barebrick walls interposed with Propaganda Art murals and prints. QUAN BUI TRADITIONAL VIETNAMESE

8 Nguyen Van Nguyen, Q1, Tel: (08) 3602 2241; 17A Ngo Van Nam, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 1515 Make sure to try the sautéed shrimps with cashew nuts and crispy fried tofu with lime wedge, at this popular, high-quality, chicly designed eatery where all food is served in traditional crockery. One of the best Vietnamese restaurants in town. QUAN UT UT US-STYLE BARBECUE

168 Vo Van Kiet, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 4500 It’s a no-brainer, right? American-style barbecue in a contemporary Vietnamese, quan nhau-style setting. Of course it is, which is why Quan Ut Ut is constantly packed with grill-obsessed diners going for the burgers, meats off the barbecue and Platinum pale ale served on tap.

RACHA ROOM CONTEMPORARY THAI RESTOBAR 12-14 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel (08) 6253 7711 The 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.

of international quality, with the bonus of being able to watch the action on the river sidewalk. Features western, Asian and Vietnamese buffets.


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

Renaissance Riverside, 8–15 Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 0033 Offers versatile all–day dining


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


RELISH & SONS GOURMET BURGER BAR 44 Dong Du, Q1, Tel: 01207 214294; 105-107 Xuan Thuy, Q2, Tel: 0909 004294 Relish & 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 inhouse from scratch.


great place to catch up on your seafood addiction or to pig out over a Sunday brunch.


51 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3824 8358 Sporting food from around the Mediterranean rim, this compact and cozy eatery with pots hung from the ceiling is a popular choice with expats and tourists alike. Reservations advised. SAIGON CAFÉ

Ground Floor, AB Building, 76A Le Lai, Q1 Tel: (08) 3823 9513 Open until 3am, this popular, contemporary Cantonese dining hall mixes contemporary with traditional, in a space that takes Chinese dining in Saigon to a new level. And if you like your dim sum, look no further. SEOUL HOUSE



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



33 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 4297 The longest running Korean restaurant in town, with all the Koreans moving out to the hinterland, the clientele here are mainly Vietnamese. Fortunately the food preparation remains traditional. An excellent place for group dining. SHANG PALACE RESTAURANT PAN-CHINESE / CANTONESE

Norfolk Mansion, 17-19-21 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Tel: (08) 3823 2221 Featuring over 200 dishes and 50 kinds of dim sum prepared by chefs from Hong Kong, Shang Palace has nine private dining rooms and a main dining area seating over 300. Good for events.


Level 1, Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers, 88 Dong Khoi, Q1 Tel: (08) 3827 2828 If you like your buffet selections to be big, then here it is gargantuan, with every type of option under the sun. A



9A Thai Van Lung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 4798 Simple, unpretentious Greekinfluenced, international cui-

the type of environment and 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.

39 Tong Huu Dinh, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 4634 Located on the main drag in Thao Dien, Tamago has indoor and out door seating, a terrace and private rooms. They have a ladies’ night on Tuesdays as well as a Teppanyaki themed night on Saturday evenings. Have a second restaurant in Mui Ne. TEMPLE CLUB PAN-VIETNAMESE

STOKER CONTEMPORARY STEAKHOUSE 44 Mac Thi Buoi, Q1, Tel (08) 3826 8691 One 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.


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

29-31 Ton That Thiep, Q1, Tel: (08) 3829 9244 Once a hotel for Indian dignitaries visiting old Saigon, the elegant and atmospheric Temple Club is one of the city’s best-preserved buildings. Serving quality Vietnamese and Indochine cuisine at reasonable prices. THE DECK MODERN ASIAN FUSION

38 Nguyen U Di, Q2, Tel: (08) 3744 6632 Set on the banks of Saigon River across from Thanh Da Island, this innovative restaurant serves up modern Asian fusion cuisine in a Bali-style atmosphere, complemented by great cocktails and a long wine list. | September 2016 Word | 189



feature of colonial cities is the presence of recreational activities from the colonising country. Throughout the former British empire there are cricket ovals and rugby fields, polo fields and racecourses. Growing up in one of the former British colonies these were part of our culture, bequeathed to us by our colonial masters. Of those activities, the sport of horse racing — sometimes called the Sport of Kings — is very popular. It is a $A6.3 billion a year industry in Australia alone. It is therefore a big business with a vast infrastructure supporting it. I only knew the English style of horse racing and was surprised to discover, when I arrived here, that there was a racecourse in Ho Chi Minh City. I was too late; the race course was abandoned in 2011 and the grounds turned into an athletics facility. Nevertheless, I took a taxi to Phu Tho and wandered around it one afternoon. I was surprised at what I saw as I expected some elegant old French grandstand with some ornate metalwork and decoration, but instead found a 1930s heavy concrete structure that was definitely not elegant. It is very basic and nowhere as refined as some of the buildings built by the French in the city at or near the same time. It is hardly a celebration of horse racing.

190 | Word September 2016 |

Origin Horse racing began in Vietnam in 1893, controlled, naturally, by the French military. After being suspended during the First World War, it resumed, becoming increasingly popular with the French as well as the Vietnamese. The track itself was relocated in 1932 to what is now Phu Tho Stadium and new facilities built, but racing was halted again in World War II resuming under Vietnamese control after the war until 1975. Battles during the American war were fought around the race track. After reunification, gambling was prohibited and the race course was temporarily turned into a Sports and Education college, until it reopened in 1989 as a track again. The stopping and starting proved to be a significant factor in preventing the sport becoming viable again. To understand why, we need to understand that racing is an industry and the racetrack is merely the outward manifestation of that industry, requiring for its success an enormous investment in infrastructure. Even in Australia the sport is facing challenges with too many racetracks and too many racing clubs. The track alone claims a large amount of taxable land — usually a length between 1km and 2km long — and the facilities at the


track must include restaurants, stables, administration areas, carparks and so on. To make all this work needs public support. The racing industry in Australia is supported by an entire culture spanning a wide spectrum of society, from the extremely wealthy to workingclass people, and attracts men and women in equal numbers. When people go to the races they dress up. It is not just about gambling but an enjoyable day out. It is that aspect of the industry that fuels its popularity, a popularity that requires facilities attractive to the public. The now abandoned Phu Tho building is a reminder that without these things supporting its existence, it is no longer relevant. The building is not one of the remaining elegant structures that the city is renowned for and the facilities are basic. There are plans to build the country’s only horse race track in Binh Phuoc, as part of a US$100 million Binh Phuoc Recreation Complex Project. The building itself may be the cheapest part of the investment if there is no racing infrastructure to support it. Ed Haysom is the general director of Mode / Haysom Architects and is based in Ho Chi Minh City. You can contact him on

On The Town




THE SOCIETY GRILL AND LOUNGE BAR 99 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3914 3999 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.


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

164 Cong Quynh, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 3248 The service is often slow, and the staff are often surprisingly lazy, yet the food here is so good and so unique to this city, that no-one seems to mind. The perfect place to feast out on gyros and all things off a skewer. Cheap, too. ZOOM CAFÉ AMERICAN / TEX-MEX

169A Bui Vien, Q1, Tel: (08) 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.

Nghia, Q3, Tel: (08) 3930 3917

38 Dinh Tien Hoang, Q1





189 Bis Bui Vien, Q1 PHO DAU 288/M1 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Q3 PHO HOA



84 Dang Van Ngu, Phu Nhuan

260C Pasteur, Q3 PHO LE




23 Hoang Sa, Q1


55 Tu Xuong, Q3 BA GHIEN



195 Co Giang, Q1




413-415 Nguyen Trai, Q5


67 Le Thi Hong Gam, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 7751


Landmark Building, 5B Ton Duc Thang, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 9698 Headed up by well-known chef Andy Ertle, Vesper is a sophisticated yet down-toearth 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. WRAP & ROLL 62 Hai Ba Trung, Q1, Tel: (08) 3822 2166; 111 Nguyen Hue, Q1, Tel: (08) 3821 8971; 226 De Tham, Q1, Tel: (08) 3837 5097 The lime green walls and bright pastel colours of Wrap ‘n Roll are just part of the theme of this homegrown, Vietnamese brand which is all about spring rolls of all types, and healthy, Hueinfluenced cuisine.


Alleyway to the left of 162 Tran Nhan Tong, Q10



146E Ly Chinh Thang, Q3


70 Vo Van Tan, Q3







170 Vo Van Tan, Q3


1st Floor, InterContinental Asiana Saigon, crn.of Hai Ba Trung & Le Duan, Q1 Tel: (08) 3520 9999 Skillful chefs prepare authentic hand-pulled noodles, fresh dim sum and hot wok dishes within an impeccably designed open kitchen, as diners look on. Stylish and spectacular.




200 Bis Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Q3; 157 Nam Ky Khoi | September 2016 Word | 191


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192 | Word September 2016 |


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The Final Say



Bike to the Future? With so many new transport options becoming available and a metro system in the making, Edward Dalton takes to the streets of Hanoi and asks a question we all want to know the answer to: Can anything dethrone the motorbike?


etting from A to B should be a simple task. In Hanoi, however, nothing is simple where transport is concerned. A city of nearly five million motorbikes and around half a million cars, chaos on the roads is well documented, and a tourist might be forgiven for thinking any given time of day was rush hour. For more than a decade, the motorbike has been the dominant form of transport throughout Vietnam, and no more so than in its biggest cities. There are buses, but people are using them less every year. There is a metro system in the pipeline, but who knows when that might finally emerge. Unless for exercise, bicycles are now the preserve of students or the poor, and there is no intercity train network worth speaking of. Our survey was designed to discover the opinions of local people on current transport preferences, and what their hopes and expectations are for the future of transport in the capital, especially with regards to the upcoming metro lines.

No Big Surprises Young and old, rich or poor, male or female, there’s one conclusion no one will be surprised by; the motorbike is at the top of the transport food chain. Ferrying students to classes, shifting families around town, hauling goods to customers and transferring young couples away from the prying eyes of their families, the motorbike was the main mode of transport for 98% of young male respondents, and 99% of young females. The data becomes more interesting when we look at the older age groups, the 46 to 60s and 61 plus. Although the majority still use motorbikes, averaging at 74% between male and female, the figure is significantly lower than their younger compatriots. In the group I would cautiously term middle-aged, more people reported owning and using a car. Once they got over the peak of retirement, however, the figure for motorbike usage creeps back up again, suggesting convenience trumps style and status in old age.

194 | Word September 2016 |

The Wheels on the Bus There are lots of buses in Hanoi, as anyone who has routinely been nearly murdered by one whilst cycling will tell you. The answers revealed that in all age groups, more than double the amount of women than men use public transport frequently. Overall use is rather low, with a genderaverage figure of 13% of men and 29% of women using the bus regularly (once a week or more). The most commonly cited reason for avoiding public transport was duration; respondents said it was too inconvenient to wait for a bus to arrive, and then endure a

slow journey with multiple stops or transfers on the way. More young women spoke of their concerns about safety and hygiene on public transport, whereas a higher proportion of men said the crowded nature of buses at peak hours were deeply off-putting. A few women mentioned that it was easier to avoid the sun if travelling by bus, while another I spoke to told me she uses public transport exclusively, because a serious motorbike accident had left her too afraid to go on a motorbike again. | September 2016 Word | 195

Uber or Metro? One of the newest additions to Hanoi’s transport options is the use of apps such as Uber or Grab, essentially a glorified way of calling a taxi. However, somewhere over the horizon is the impending metro, looming large over the livelihoods of anyone driving a bus, taxi or xe om for a living. The first line was due to open at the end of this year, but that’s been pushed back to 2020. It’s anyone’s guess as to when the whole network will be up and running. Among the younger age groups, which includes students, 81% of men are more

196 | Word September 2016 |

excited about the metro rather than Uber or Grab, and a whopping 94% of women. In the middle-aged groups, and the elderly, those figures drop to 60% of men and 74% of women. A clear 100% of men and women aged 16 to 24 said they would definitely use the metro when it was finished, suggesting the younger generation are as forward-thinking and progressive as one would hope. Both hilariously and tragically, many of the respondents over the age of 75 laughed away the notion of using the metro, the main reason

being they don’t expect to be alive by the time it’s finished. Unsurprisingly, the younger generation said they will be more drawn to using the metro regularly if it meets their modern standard of living. This means free WiFi, comfortable and stylish carriages and affordability. Older, although not necessarily wiser, respondents said it would depend on whether they could park their motorbikes or cars close enough to metro stations, and if the service was faster and more reliable than buses.

“Everyone we spoke to expects either the car or metro to be the dominant mode of transport in Hanoi in 15 years’ time. Among young people, 73% believed the motorbike would no longer be dominant in just five years’ time”

The Survey Focusing on three main demographics — age, gender and income — we questioned 100 people around Hoan Kiem, Cau Giay and Hai Ba Trung, targeting as diverse a group as possible. The questions were as follows:

What Does the Future Hold? Right now, overcrowding is a big concern to many Hanoians, according to 61% of all respondents we spoke to who wished Hanoi had fewer people. The second most popular wish was that Hanoi’s millions of motorbikes would be far fewer in number, regardless of whether the respondent drove a motorbike or car. On the future, everyone we spoke to expects either the car or metro to be the dominant mode of transport in Hanoi in 15 years’ time. Among young people, change is the flavour of the day, as 73% of people believed the motorbike would no longer be dominant in just five years’ time. The general consensus seems to be that

Hanoi is, sadly, heading the way of Bangkok and other Southeast Asian capitals, where the car has replaced the motorbike at the top. Hanoi has a golden opportunity to avoid repeating the mistakes of more developed cities, and instead focus efforts on improving infrastructure and public transport; the survey shows that young people are open to a future of using public transport. Unfortunately, with cars being made cheaper by various cuts to import duties and luxury taxes, and motorbikes targeted in a proposed plan to ban them from downtown by 2025, the opportunity is flying past, and all we can do is stand by, watch and call an Uber.

1) Which vehicles does your family currently own? 2) Which vehicle do you use the most? 3) How often do you use public transport? 4) What is the biggest problem with public transport? 5) Which new mode of transport are you most excited about? 6) Will you use the metro when it’s finished? 7) What feature would make the metro most appealing to you? 8) Do you think the metro will be good for Hanoi? 9) Do you expect the metro do reduce traffic? 10) Would you swap your motorbike/car to only use public transport? 11) What do you wish Hanoi had less of? 12) After five years and 15 years, what do you think will be Hanoi’s main mode of transport? | September 2016 Word | 197

The Final Say



10 Ways To Keep Your Road Trip From Falling Apart I

A veteran of road trips by motorbike both good and bad, Jesse Meadows gives a few tips on how to ensure your two-wheeled travels don’t end up in disaster

arrived in Vietnam on a whim, and I didn’t stay for a person, or a job, or any place in particular. I stayed for the road trips. I’ve done quite a few now, from two hours to two weeks, from one companion to 15. Some were smooth sailing, others fell apart completely. And I’ve since realised there are certain guidelines that, when followed on the road, ensure a trip doesn’t spiral into catastrophe.

1) Keep Your Companions in Sight Make sure you have a visual in your rear-view mirror on those behind you. Depending how big your group is, it might be useful to split into groups — faster drivers at the lead, slower ones trailing behind, but everyone sticking with a buddy or two. This way if there is a problem — flat tyre, emergency pitstop, etc. — no one is left alone on the side of the road. When your companion pulls over, you pull over, too.

2) Honk When Passing Anything Whether you’re passing someone on a bicycle, another motorbike, a car, or a truck, lean on the horn. I once saw a road trip

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companion plough into a woman with a baby — he tried to pass her on the left, she turned left without signalling. Baby went flying. (Everyone was okay, thankfully, but we narrowly escaped an angry dad with a stick.)

3) Appoint a Sheepdog and a Navigator The navigator leads; they have reliable GPS and are skilled enough at driving a bike that they can safely check it without pulling over. The sheepdog needs to be fast, so they can float between the front of the party and the back, keeping everyone together, hanging towards the back most of the time in case anyone pulls over with a problem, but ready to speed up to the front to inform the leader of any situations.

4) Leave no Biker Behind If you want to keep the group together, then you are only as fast as your slowest person. I once had an experience where certain companions tried to show off, driving fast and recklessly weaving through traffic instead of going at the pace of the group.

And guess what? They got lost. Put your pride away and stick together. And when you make a turn, wait in clear view of the rest of your party and make sure they all make the same turn, too.

5) Make Your Pitstops Count You all need to be on the same schedule. Granted, bikes burn through petrol tanks at different speeds — automatics like Nuovos need to fill up first, then semi-autos like Waves, and last, manual bikes like Wins (which can sometimes go all day without refuelling.) It also helps to fill an empty water bottle with petrol for emergencies, and for those bikes that will run out faster than others — this way you can pull over quick and refuel without losing much time.

6) Don’t be Picky about Food If you’re road-tripping rural Vietnam, you’re going to eat rice and noodles for a week — just accept that now. And forget about finding food during nap time (noon to 2pm) or late at night. On a road trip, you eat what you can get. I always pack emergency snacks, too, in case I can’t find anything else.

And try to be nice to the vegetarians in your group — it’s especially hard for them to find food out there.

7) Cover your Skin We all know that helmets are mandatory. But your skin is vulnerable on a motorbike, too. Heatstroke is no joke. I learnt my lesson on my very first road trip, driving back delirious from Mai Chau, feeling like simultaneously puking and passing out on the highway. When you’re in direct sun for hours, sunscreen does absolutely nothing to ward off harmful UV rays. Always cover your skin with long sleeves and pants — it will also help minimise your roadburn in the event that you hit the asphalt. Those women on the road in full body suits aren’t doing it just for vanity.

8) Set off Early Seriously, 9am should be the latest you leave. The earlier the better — remember, you’re racing the light. You don’t want to be on rural mountain roads in the dark. Have you ever been on a night bus in Vietnam? Those

drivers are crazy — same goes for the latenight truckers. Make sure you have enough light to get to your next destination, and if you start to lose it, stop in the nearest town and wait for the next day.

9) Be Skeptical of Google’s ‘Shortcuts’ Google Maps does not differentiate between highways and dirt roads. I once took what appeared to be a shortcut through Ha Giang, only to find myself struggling up and down two mountains on an unpaved, muddy track. What should have taken two hours took five, and was terrifying, too. Stick to the highways.

10) Try Not to Complain There is probably no worse fate in life than travelling with a chronic complainer. If you don’t have anything positive to say, keep it to yourself. Road trips are exhausting, stressful, and intense. It’s important to keep group morale high — negativity spreads like a virus. Laugh at your misfortune instead of moaning about it. It will make a world of difference. | September 2016 Word | 199

The Final Say


When Ben Mitchell and his wife Bich set up their farmstay on the edge of Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, people thought they had a screw loose. Six years later and they have a thriving business What brought you to Phong Nha? My then-girlfriend, now wife, Bich, bought me here to meet the family for Tet in January 2007. When we got to the train station in Dong Hoi, there was nothing there but two beat-up small cars moonlighting as taxis, and a shop selling coffee and warm beer. We squeezed into one of the old cars to go to Phong Nha and when we arrived, I met the family.

What was it like when you first arrived? Rural Quang Binh was remote, had no internet, very few landline phones, no mobile network, very few motorbikes, no cars, trucks, buses, and very few fridges or TVs. The locals lived in small

wooden houses, normally consisting of one big room and a kitchen.

Why did you and your wife decide to set up a farmstay there? In 2008 I was working on a project in the Middle East when the global financial crisis hit. Bich and I decided to move back and start a business in Phong Nha. I wanted to be able to stay in the area without having to go overseas to earn money, and both of us wanted to make a business that shared Phong Nha with outsiders. We bought a block of land next to her brother’s house that had one of the best sunset views I’d ever seen. We built the farmstay there.

What difficulties did you have to deal with when you first opened? I’d been working in construction around the world for years and thought myself quite experienced. Yet I found myself on a huge learning curve. What these guys can do with the simplest of products and equipment made me a student from day one. Then there was the opposition to the project from both the community and some family members. Some people didn’t want the business to be built, because they thought it would be an embarrassment to the community and the family. Bich’s brothers stuck by her, though, and threw themselves at the project. The four of us run the business together.

How did you manage to get the tourists in? Any way we could think of. As we’d been working in different parts of Vietnam and we’d done a few road trips, we’d met other people who were ahead of us on

our learning curve. Guys who worked at places including Hoi An Motorbike Adventures, Vietnam Backpacker Hostels, Sleepy Gecko Hoi An, Jungle Beach, VIP Bikes, Wide Eyed Tours and Le Pub to name a few. These guys also provided us with access to journalists and travel writers that they knew. At first it was primarily backpackers who were on the road for a long time and who were told about it. People came for a night and tended to stay on.

When did your venture really start taking off? We opened the Farmstay in December 2010. The business built gradually through word of mouth, and then in early 2012 we got mentioned in the newly released Lonely Planet and Rough Guide travel books.

How did the opening of Son Doong, the largest cave in the world, help both your own businesses and Phong Nha as a whole? It got the area a lot of publicity. In December, 2010, National Geographic released a documentary about the exploration of the cave and in January 2011 they did an editorial on it. By 2013, when Oxalis Tour Company ran the first tour to the cave, we were prepared to make the most of the moment.

How well has the area developed over the past few years? There are many more accommodation, eating and entertainment options in the area. There are many more tours and activities, and much more infrastructure for getting in and out. A lot of local people have benefited through a massive increase in employment and small business opportunities. This means a lot to me personally.

Why should people visit Phong Nha instead of, say, Sapa, Halong Bay or elsewhere in Vietnam? Compared to elsewhere, there are still very few tourists. And Phong Nha isn’t only a place to see caves or go trekking, but an opportunity to visit rural Vietnam on a bicycle or a motorbike taxi. People who spend a few days here find a variety of things to do at different budgets, levels of fitness and ability. For more info on Phong Nha Farmstay and visiting the caves, click on phong-nha-cave. com | September 2016 Word | 3

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Word Vietnam September 2016  

Everything you need to know about Vietnam and a little bit more... This month? Vietnam by motorbike.

Word Vietnam September 2016  

Everything you need to know about Vietnam and a little bit more... This month? Vietnam by motorbike.