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Bus driver's life

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

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

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.

In Praise of the Vietnamese Toilet

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.

More Visa Updates - Vietnam

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.”

Stairways to heaven

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.

Stiff drinks lift male spirits

Nguy Ha

“This transforms an 80-year-old man into an 18-year-old boy. When a husband drinks it, his wife will absolutely worship him. After drinking one small cup, you can have sex for a whole night without rest.” Hoa, a seller of medicinal wine shop says.

Both men and women prick their ears up to listen to conversations with friends or vendors of ‘medicinal’ wines. All men want to be heroes in bed, and the effects promised by these home-brewed herb or animal based wines offer some two million Vietnamese men suffering from erectile dysfunction hope, according to the country’s leading urologist, professor Tran Quan Anh.

Saigon’s New Bar District

Tim Russell

Vietnam may have many qualities as a tourist or expat destination, but traditionally nightlife hasn’t been one of them. A handful of seedy pubs or bland hotel bars, local nightclubs playing naff techno, and everything shutting down at midnight. And in the last couple of years it’s often felt as if there was a concerted plan to make Saigon’s nightlife even worse, with popular venues such as Why Not and No5 (in its Ly Tu Trong incarnation) closing down, and flash, ephemeral “lounge bars” opening and closing every few days.

Paper Chase

Brian Webb - photos by Nick Ross

A Rare Look into Paper Making
The Dieu family is one of the few remaining households that stick to this old art. Not accustomed to curiosity from outsiders, it took several phone calls before Mr Dieu opened his gates to us. But once he did, it was immediately obvious how non-industrial their process is. Every part of the house and every available family member is devoted to some stage of the production.

Asia Pacific Breweries Expand Operations

The Mekong Times

Asia Pacific Breweries (APB), the producer of the ubiquitous Anchor and Tiger beers, has further expanded its operations in the last month with two new breweries, one in Laos and one in Vietnam.

APB will construct a second brewery in southern Vietnam to complement its already existing operation on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City which opened in 2003. The brewery, producing Tiger Beer, Heineken, Anchor and Bivina, has had its initial capacity of 30 million liters increased by more than 50 percent, to 46 million liters.


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