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Bus driver's life

By: Nguy Ha Posted: November-04-2009 in
Nguy Ha

Though everyone complains about the red and yellow buses barrelling down the centre of the road at peak hour, often oblivious to traffic and pedestrians, spare a thought for the men at the wheel.

35 year old Nguyen Ngoc Bau and 47 year old Tran VanToan are drivers for Hanoi Bus a subsidiary company of Transportation Service Company (TRANSERCO) I meet them at a tea stall at the end of their shift. They call for a third glass of iced tea and light up Vinataba cigarettes, puffing plumes of blue smoke reminiscent of the clouds emitted by their buses. Their weary eyes, drawn faces, and sweat-stained shirts are ample evidence of a hard day at work. This is the probably the most relaxed it gets for the two.

Lanterns for the Mid Autumn Festival

By: Jonny Platt Posted: September-30-2009 in
Jonny Platt

The mid-autumn festival, or Tet Trung Thu as it is known in Vietnam, is a major festival celebrated on the 15th of the 8th Lunar Month every year. This year, it falls on Saturday 3rd October.

I Love You, You Pay My Rent

By: Tim Russell Posted: September-24-2009 in
Tim Russell

This Friday will be a sad day for Saigon’s nightlife scene when Cantina Central, the city’s only Mexican bar/restaurant, closes its doors after a successful two-year stint. I have particularly fond memories of the place having DJ’d there at several Saigon Soul Brothers nights with my fellow funkateer Mr Pete Murray (aka the Saigon Pieman). The food was always affordable and authentic, and the owner, the charismatic Othello Khanh, always on hand with generously poured margharitas.

Top of the list

By: Darren Gall Posted: September-20-2009 in
Darren Gall

One of Hanoi’s favourite and finest Restaurants, the Vine Wine Bar has just been awarded its fifth consecutive ‘Best of’ Award of Excellence by the Internationally renowned U.S. wine magazine, the Wine Spectator. This award recognizes Vine’s wine list as being one of the finest restaurant wine list in all the world.

In Praise of the Vietnamese Toilet

By: Tim Russell Posted: September-07-2009 in
Tim Russell

Today’s letters page in Thanh Nien contains a highly amusing tribute to Vietnamese toilet facilities from one Michael Smith, an Australian living in Saigon.

Yes, he says, Vietnamese toilets can be bad, but the problem is by no means confined to Vietnam, and in the cities at least, one can relieve oneself in international-standard facilities.

I have to say I agree with him about city toilets - most bars, cafes & hotels in Saigon have more than acceptable bathrooms. It’s when you get out of the cities that the problems begin. I’m not talking about rural fish toilets (as seen in the film Slumdog Millionaire) - whilst these may be uncomfortable, they’re eco-friendly and generally hygienic.

Understanding Visas and Permits - Vietnam

By: Nick Ross Posted: September-02-2009 in
Nick Ross

No clear information is readily available on what you are entitled to if you want to visit or work in Vietnam. So, to follow is a rundown of what foreign nationals can apply for.

1) Tourist Visa Exemptions
Citizens of the following countries do not need a tourist visa to enter Vietnam.
- Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Laos for a stay lasting no more than thirty days

More Visa Updates - Vietnam

By: Nick Ross Posted: August-31-2009 in
Nick Ross

Based on an article published in on Thanh Nien’s website in July, it seems there is more to the problems people are now facing with visa renewal than was at first thought.

According to Ho Chi Minh City’s police department, there are presently 50,000 foreigners residing in the city. Of these, say the labour authorities, only 14,500 have work permits. As a result, writes Thanh Nien, “Labour authorities are seeking stricter measures to curb the rising number of foreign workers working in the city illegally.”

Such measures may include requiring “foreign workers to acquire a labour permit before entering Vietnam. The body also said immigration agencies should not be allowed to extend visas for foreigners working in the country without the permit.”

Naked truth: nude photography in Vietnam

By: Nguy Ha Posted: August-24-2009 in
Nguy Ha

“Vietnamese nude art is like a neglected and malnourished child,” says famous local photographer Nguyen Thai Phien, author of Vietnam’s first nude photo book and calendar, and potentially the country’s first nude photo exhibitor.

Clinging to traditional Oriental values, Vietnamese people have tended to evaluate the beauty of women through their character, not appearance, and consider Eve in her birthday suit an unsuitable image. Therefore, Vietnam’s nude photography was born into silence as illegitimate, and has yet to be officially recognised and treated the same as other forms of arts, Thai Phien believes.

Observations of Saigon Street Life

By: Allyson Keane Posted: August-24-2009 in
Allyson Keane

Here’s a little report on my observations of street life in Saigon.... as it is the place where life (and death) seem to centre.

Looking Down
I seem to spend an inordinate amount of my time here looking down - quite practical given the nature of the uneven pavements, if they exist, and the Vietnamese penchant for placing rubbish of all kinds in small piles for collection or burning at some stage. Yesterday as I left my guesthouse I was ambling along watching the gutter as usual, when a Bedford van, highly decorated in what looked like Hindu metal work, blocked my path. As I negotiated the open doors, a large orange funeral casket of the highly lacquered wood favoured here, complete with clear Perspex lid was being unloaded from the back of it. In every town there seems to be a casket maker, ranging from simple wood and stone to quite ornately decorated affairs, highly painted and trimmed with gold.

Stairways to heaven

By: Nguy Ha Posted: August-23-2009 in
Nguy Ha

The journey to the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai is to explore boundless golden terraced rice fields, resembling a staircase to the sky, in Mu Cang Chai district which used to be an opium poppy hub. The yellow steps to the sky, and the hospitable ethnic people, who have flattened hills to grow rice and construct irrigation systems on the mountain tops, are unforgettable images.


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