Showing posts with label news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label news. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What's been going on in the 'Gon

We’ve been back in Saigon for three months and many people ask me what I think has changed in the year I’ve been away. So what’s been going on in the ‘Gon that wasn’t before?

Well, you could just as easily ask – what’s not going on anymore? A lot of restaurants and bars have moved or closed and new one’s have sprouted to try their hand at the slippery food and beverage industry. Take Thai Van Lung for example. I was slightly disappointed to see Alibi has evaporated, but also slightly happy to know that the smug faces of Olympique Saigon’s team photo won’t be smirking down at me from behind the bar every time I order a drink anymore. Bernie’s Bar & Grill seems to be the new kid on this ever-changing block, but some stalwarts like Skewers have weathered the stormy wave of change.

On the other side of District 1, the Old Market (Cho Cu) area is flourishing into the new hotspot. With rent prices soaring in traditionally more sough-after areas, this was inevitably going to happen, with Phatties tapping into this rich vein early. Although some establishments have already disappeared, La Cantina being one, the duet of Gringo’s and Mexican Lindo have jumped up to take their place on this stretch in the shadow of that gigantic joint in the sky; the Bitexco Tower (come on, does it really look like a lotus bud to anyone?!). Other notable newbies include the Drunken Duck and the garish X Club. God only knows what happens in there. I think it’s time for an covert assignment to uncover the social evils of Vietnamese nightclubs ala Current Affair or Carte Blanche – hidden camera in tow – and I’ll report back. 

 The Giant Joint

Of course, the rise of shopping centres would always be inevitable, but I must admit a certain shock at the speed with which certain structures have suddenly, as if overnight, established themselves with a certain authority, as if being long-standing historical members of the city, swathed in culture. Cases in point are the ostentatious Kumho Asiana Plaza and the Vincom Centre. When I left, there was but a massive hole in the ground, hidden by tropical fish-painted construction barriers and just down the road, a little park where all the Parkson staff used to soak up some rays over lunchtime. Fast forward one year and ta da! Hard Rock Café, the much-feted Carl Junior’s and other such nonsense have arisen like the Colossus at Rhodes. I have yet to bring myself to enter either of these Leviathans of commercialism. Oh and Eden Mall’s gone, and the Saigon Square has moved (again).

Around my neck of the concrete woods, the construction of the Crescent Mall in Phu My Hung is bustling along quite nicely, along with a throng of high-rise apartment blocks said to rival Seoul by early next century. Reminiscent of the Cold War arms race sans the hate, the glory of being named Saigon’s “next city centre” is certainly on between PMH and District 2. There’s also the pretty new Phu My Bridge that I have a beautiful night-view of from my apartment. In this dynamic, ever-changing city, one thing remains a constant: construction. A lot of, as my students so often utter. Oh and potholes. Let’s not forget them. 

 Cau Phu My

Other things I’ve noticed is a much-welcomed following of the road rules, in a certain Saigon sense, compared to before. I was at first unnerved by the motorbikes sticking religiously to the right lane whilst blissfully cruising down Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard, wondering whether they’ve implemented Orwellian brainwashing techniques to try prevent (I guess a better word would be ‘limit’) road chaos. Looking around nervously for a remote-activated, hovering eye-in-the-sky camera, I was disappointed to discover that a couple of uniformed Big Brothers spattered along the tree-lined boulevard were the only semblance of authority in sight. Given, last month was “Traffic Safety Month”, and six pairs of stone-faced, aviator-shaded beige-men did greet me every morning on the way to work, but was this the reason for the sudden adherence to the law? Well, September came in a deluge of water, and left in pretty-much the same manner, along with Traffic Safety Month. I woke up on October the first, quite positive (it being a Friday and all) that life in traffic would soon be as traumatic as ever, only to discover that all the bikes and cars were at it, slowly puttering along in their own lanes. Must be something in the water…

Other random things I’ve noticed. The Dong’s sliding oh so subtly toward the big 20 000. Maybe we should hold a big coming of age ceremony when it hits the landmark, but all the fireworks might just get too excited and explode pre-emptively like at the last big bash in Hanoi. The tendency towards the proliferation of yoghurt shops seems to have abated, only to be replaced with a new one in the form of deluxe, multi-storeyed ice-cream shops. Perhaps this worrying trend warrants a post on it’s own, co-authored by the World Health Organisation’s Chair for the Propogation of Child Obesity and Diabetes in South East-Asia.

Otherwise, most things haven’t changed much. Bikes. Dust. Culture. Stares. Rain. Smiles. Yummy food. Noise. Charm. Gloves and toe-socks. Internet censorship. Strange smells. Mystery meat. Apo and Go2. And bucketfuls of uniqueness…

Friday, April 03, 2009

A Short Newsflash

*We interrupt this April Photoblog Celebration to bring you a short newsflash*

Despite political jabber and picketed protests in London,

The Toon Army rejoice the
return of their prodigal son.

beauty is censored (for good reason) and plenty of gullible fools are found

should really be banned is seen all around.

An atrocity to squeeze a crocodile tear, from even the most cynical eye,

Yet, we can still see the
funny thanks to that big pie in the sky.

So get ready for a
(fraudster) fight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I just found this jewel up on the notice board at school. It's from the Viet Nam News English daily from 16 February. The editors of this paper are notorious for their "ambiguous" headlines.

It's the headline for an interview with the director of the Department of Social Evils (no, I'm not making this up):

"Government inspectors get hard on prostitution, vow stiff fines".

'Nuff said...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A new beginning, part 2: Old news

Troi Oi, Mr President!
25 May 2007

HCM CITY, VIETNAM – President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, made a brief and disappointing visit to the southern city on Friday to speak at a business forum of expatriate South Africans and Vietnamese business delegates regarding improved trade between the two former-colonial nations.

Held at the Caravelle Hotel, the business delegation from South Africa consisted of a number of bored government officials, including the always-eloquent Minister of Foreign Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Deputy Minister of the Department of Trade and Industry Rob Davies and Minister of Education Naledi Pandor. A number of CEOs and directors from big South African companies, such as SAB Miller, Absa and Standard Bank, were also present.

Following an enthusiastic welcoming speech by the vice-chairman of the HCMC People’s Committee, Mr Nguyen Trung Tin, Davies led an informative presentation regarding South Africa’s increased trade role in Vietnam. Davies concluded that SA could supply mining technology, pharmaceuticals and chemical and agricultural products to Vietnam and that South Africa did not need the country's cheap labour because “we have our own, thank you” (okay, I made up that last part - journalistic freedom). In 2006, exports to the socialist republic were only $48 million – SA’s 68th biggest trade partner compared with Japan at $6000 million – and imports only $100 million.

The audience, which included two South African expatriates currently residing in the city and working in the education sector, waited anxiously for the promised speech by the president. The business forum was clearly treated as a stopover lacking in diplomatic clout, after official meetings in the capital Hanoi earlier the week, however, and it was evident that the president had no intention of preparing a speech of omniscient proportions for the event, much to the disappointment of the Vietnamese (and the expatriate) businesspeople present. In fact, he had no plan to prepare a speech at all and instead President Mbeki said he would just answer questions, of which most were from his own delegation.

The lack of communication, cooperation and clear goals between the two countries’ business sectors baffled Mbeki, who said “We have to look at the weakness of our organised business structures.” He was clearly surprised by his own delegation member, Mr Rob Davies’, statistics regarding trade between the two developing countries.

Perhaps the most emphatic point Mbeki made was concerning a question set by a Mr Lai Huu Phuong, of Ben Thanh Tourist, inquiring whether any South African tourism company had any plans to invest in Vietnam. Mbeki replied that one has to look at the [lack of cooperation in the tourism industry] from “a holistic point of view”.

“I have my doubts whether South African Airlines have any plans to fly to Vietnam,” he said.

Cam on, Mr President, xin cam on.