Thursday, December 23, 2010

Mindmaps best practise - Part I

I am addicted to mindmaps. I think that's the best tool ever, in particular since it is available as software. So in this little series I want to introduce you to some best practise of how to use mindmaps.

Mindmaps are basically pictures of your thoughts or notes, in a node-based structure. The advantage is that you can move these nodes around as you like. And you do not have to care about hierarchies when you taking these nodes. But it goes further: You can add links, pictures, due dates für project management, notes and documents to mindmaps. I used it e times for project management With collaboration features you can use it together with co-workers and friends. Mindmaps can be used in a wide range of things, from planning party to managing a project. In the upcoming posts I will show you some public mindmaps I find interesting and worth sharing. Let me know if you are interested in using mindmaps...

Best online collaboration tools (Mindmeister Map) by Robin Good

Saturday, December 18, 2010

E-Market in Vietnam

The first e-market for Viet Nam's agricultural, forestry and aquatic produce made its debut yesterday.

The site hosts up to 150 businesses and is expected to help lower costs and increase efficiency, says its owner, the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.

More than 340 products were immediately listed on the Vietnamese-English site.

Member enterprises can link their own web sites or "stalls" to the site as well as complete basic trans-actions.

Each Agromart member is also provided with an account to manage and update information about their products and services.

Deputy Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Diep Kinh Tan said: "Agromart will provide both enterprises and the public will have better access to information related to products and legal documents.

"Enterprises could also better establish and maintain contacts with customers and partners."

Agromart would also provide links with other units in the agriculture sector including the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD) and the Plant Protection Department.

Viet Nam's agriculture had scored significant achievements despite numerous difficulties and "growth of the sector is always high," the deputy minister said.

Total exports for 2010 is expected to be worth more than US$18.6 billion, an increase of 12 per cent compared with 2009.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Doing business in Asia

Today I found this in my inbox. A brief description of someone wanted to do business in Asia. It doesn't even matter what country this is about:

I have applied for an investment license at the One Stop Unit in March
2009. I have still got no answer. The process is lengthy, complicated
and completely in-transparent. In reality, investors buy themselves to their licenses. I didn't pay, so I didn't get the license.

After all I have given up to make business here. If you are not
ruthless, you will only burn your fingers.

As someone who believe that business is driving development, this story shows the real problem of developing countries: It's not so much poverty or lack of education (though this is a huge problem, but not the cause). It is a lack of desire from governments. Desire in developing the country. Most governments in SE Asia are just fine with the situation, since their members already made enough money for themselves.

Let's see a developing country as a start-up business. The way they do it now is the way start up operated in the time of the first internet bubble. VC (in our example NGO and IMF and Worldbank) gave money, they burned it and asked for more money. Because there was a steady stream of new money coming in, there was no real reason to focus in the business model. That's the way developing countries operate: The infrastructure of the country is not financed by income from operations like taxes, but from donations and support from international institutions. The lack of taxes used to run the country is caused by a) lack of tax collecting processes and b) corruption.
So why aren't countries collecting taxes? Actually they do, but the system is far from transparent. First of all, foreign companies are due to tax, always. Local family businesses have to pay tax as well, but seldom do. The reason is: They won't get caught, and tax officers always think its too much work for them to collect the few dollars from small businesses. Then of course is a total lack of infrastructure and understandable tax laws. The reason is simply again the missing desire. If you want to get tax, you will establish a system.

The main reason why there is no system is corruption. This is all over Asia, and it's the biggest obstacle for the developing countries. Corruption kills competition and kills development of markets. Only the wealthy elite can afford to pay the bribes, so they run moist of the businesses and get a de facto monopoly. Without competition there is no incentive to grow and improve, so most businesses aren't developing much. Just look at state owned Hotels in Asia, or the quality of local run companies in general. Most use quite old equipment, producing same products since 10 years.

Why its important to have foreign companies?
Because they drive markets faster on a higher level. The know the process of competition and they know also they have to work harder then local companies (not only because of corruption, but also because cultural differences, lack of networks in the country a.s.o.) Successful foreign owned companies are a challenge for local companies, so the they have a quite good reason to improve and get the business.

But as long as the desire of the people in charge is their own bank account and not the countries wealth, there is no change at all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

General advice for buying dogs in Vietnam

First of all: Do not buy from any breeder. I haven't seen a reliable breeder in Vietnam. It's all about money. There are some breeds more or lesson fashionable, like Phu Quoc Dogs, Retriever, German Shepard, and some chinese and japanese breeds. The best way to get a healthy dogs is to look around your neighborhood. You may see a pregnant female Vietnamese street dog. Follow and ask the owners. Or look around if there is a small dog between 1 and 2 years old. If so, ask the owners if they sell it. My experience is, that most locals dogs are just smart.

Most important:

Do not buy puppies less than 8 weeks old

First Vaccination should be given:

- the age of 6 weeks and then at 9 weeks old and 12 weeks old (if the mother did not receive vaccine and there is not enough antibody in her body for the puppies)
- at the age of 7-8 weeks and then at 12 weeks old (if the mother was vaccinated before)

Rabbies should not be given before 3 months old.

Please inspect the place where the puppies grew up, look at their living conditions.

If the puppies look tired, they may be under medication to keep them quiet. Dont buy

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Do not buy puppies in Saigon from Tracy Lee

On the Phu My Hung neighbours list a Tracy Lee tried to sell 5 weeks old Golden retriever puppies. I suspended her from the list. 5 weeks is to early to take puppies away from the mother. She insists that a doctor told her that she can give away puppies when they are 5-8 weeks old. She also mentioned the dogs would be vaccinated, but did not mention what vaccinations. By the way, the same doctor she mentioned said "The puppies will receive their first injection at: the age of 6 weeks and then at 9 weeks old and 12 weeks old (if the mother did not receive vaccine and there is not enough antibody in her body for the puppies)
or- at the age of 7-8 weeks and then at 12 weeks old (if the mother was vaccinated before)."

She told me first that she can't afford to feed the dogs, that why she is selling, but later she admitted that it is just about money. "Who dont need a business? who dont need money?"

Doctors told me that Puppies were in "terrible conditions" when they saw them.

So be careful, do not buy puppies from Tracy Lee in Vietnam, I think she is irresponsible and only wants to make money with the dogs.

UPDATE: I just rejected a comment who was recommending Tracys service. The reason was since this lady lied to me so many times, I can#t proof if the comments is true or just made or requested by her.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Construction work in Vietnam seems a real threat

The first floor of a shopping mall in Ho Chi Minh City's new Phu My Hung urban area collapsed during construction Wednesday morning.

This is the second building in this area that collapses, since 2 years ago close to that site a fifth floor of an office building (the one where Tokio Deli now is in) fall to the fourth floor. One worker was killed. I remember some houses falling down in the business dictrict this year, as well as some other incidents like a bridge floor collapsed in the north and of course the bridge accident in Can Tho.

I don't know who to blame for that. Is it again that workers save money and use poor quality of cement (what also includes corruption)? Is it the general low level of quality of construction work in Vietnam? In all these buildings were foreigns companies involved, but I was told that even if you have the best architects and engineers from abroad local stuff will mess it up. That's kind of right, just look at new streets.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cafe Do: tiny cafe with live music

cafe do

What I like the most about Saigon are the cafes. There are hundreds of them, many are hidden in small alleys, and you have to know the place. These cafes are the real beauty of the city, usually providing a quit place, slow beats if any. Recently a friend took me to Cafe Do. It's in an alley, oneandahalf room, with a corner as a stage for young musicians. I was listening to three singers, one of them, a young girl, said she will sing in English because there is one foreigner (me) there tonight. I was stunned.
These places offer you a glimpse into the world of young Vietnamese people who are not spending all their money for bags and phones (although some of them might do this as well). But at least they are building a scence, something thats quite important for developing a diversified music and events business. In one of this cafe I discovered Le Cat Trong Ly, who is sometimes even on HTV.

Cafe Do
118/30 Tran Quang Dieu
P.14 Q.3, Ho Chi Minh City
(083) 931-4008

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Back in Saigon

My wife just asked me how I feel coming back to Saigon after 3 months already living in Laos. I must admit, it's nice to come back for some days, but I do prefer to live in Laos now. Thanks to easy travelling it's convenient to travel between these countries.
Nothing really changed so far, some new shops, some missing. I am happy to see that Barcamp Saigon is going on, and I am also happy to see some good friends (and unhappy to not meet other good friends).
So, Saigon, I will not forget you, but I found a new love :-)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday, August 20, 2010

Treating diarrhea in Vietnam

I got the quite common of having diarrhea, it did not occour to me many times in Vietnam, but this time my stay in Bac Lieu wasn't as pleasant as before.
So it happened to me that I had to stay close to the restroom. The problem is, how to get medicine? Luckily some participants of the training offered their help and went to the pharmacy. I asked my coworkers to buy some anti-dehydration powder. What the pharmacy gave them was:
Calcium tablets
Antibiotics, used for treating a specific amoebia
Tablets for treating blatter infection

and finally: Hydrite, the stuff I needed.

Shows, that trusting a pharmacist might be risky in Vietnam. and the best way to treat diarrhea is still:
Stop eating
Drink water
Use electrolytes like Hydrite

if its a common infection it should be over in 2-3 days. If not see a doctor.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's your experience with climate change?

In late April 2009, thousand of people in Vi Thanh commune, Hau Giang province had to buy drinking water because sea water encroached into all rivers and canals in the area. This phenomenon had never happed so far in the region. This year a severe draught effected parts of Vietnam. In 2009 expertes were gathering at a conference in Can Tho and discussing climate change issues related to the Mekong Delta. But you dont have to be an expert, to see what's going on.

So please, tell us how you experience a change in the delta. Write a comment or upload a picture and take part of the Mekong Photocontest (you can win up to 10 million VND).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Join the GTZ Mekong Photocontest in Vietnam

The GTZ Projects of “Sustainable management of coastal forest and wetland in the Mekong Delta Provinces Bac Lieu, Soc Trang and Kien Giang” jointly carry out an online photo contest on the topic “Climate Change in the Mekong Delta” from July 2010 until September 15th 2010.

The coastal zone of Vietnam particularly in the Mekong Delta is one of the most effected regions which is facing the challenging impacts of climate change. Rising sea levels and storms of increasing magnitude, flooding and drought threaten the poor rural population, Viet Nam’s rice and shrimp production and Ho Chi Minh City with increasing regularity.

The Mekong Delta is of extreme economic importance though, as it is seen as Viet Nam’s “rice chamber”. Intensive rice production and the rapid expansion of aquaculture have contributed to economic growth and poverty reduction. In addition, the population of the Mekong Delta makes a living principally from agriculture (rice cultivation) and aquaculture (shrimp production). Over the last 20 years, however, large areas directly behind the protected mangrove forests were converted into shrimp farms, which further endangers the protective function of the coastal forests.

Every Vietnamese aged above 16 years can participate in the photo contest by uploading photos to the website “Effects of climate change on
peoples living conditions” and “Effects of climate change on agriculture” are the two categories and focus of the contest. The range of the best pictures will be carried out by online voting on the webpage and by a jury nominated by GTZ and Goethe Institute.

The prices will be awarded in the two categories “Jury voting” and “User voting”. In each category the prices are nominated as follows:
1. Best picture in the category:
10 million VND
2. Second best picture in the category:
5 million VND
3. Third best picture in the category:
2 million VND

The exhibition of the best photos will take place within the “Information days on Integrated
coastal Management” during October 12th and 13th 2010. The “Information days” are part of
the “German Year in Vietnam” events to celebrate 35 years of diplomatic relations between
Germany and Vietnam. The winners will be invited to the event for a prize giving ceremony.

Please also spread the word!!!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hacking iTunes accounts: Smart guy or douchebag? (or just a crime)

So some people in Vietnam seem to go the wrong way: In a country already renown for its copyright violations, stealing intellectual property, faking products now the focus turns on worldwide technology. But do not expect news of any great software made in Vietnam. Instead, the news are: VN (as Google complained) was compromising Google with trojan horse attacks. Vietnamese bloggers publish a Video of a leaked iPhone 4 (what means it was stolen apparently at the factory in China).

And now a Vietnamese developer hacks iTunes accounts and try to push his apps in the Top 10 lists buying the apps through the hacked accounts.
I would call this a serious cybercrime. Hackers usually find leaks and holes and REPORT this, either publicly or to the company that is affected by the incident. But they DO NOT make money out of it.
But the recent case isn't even hacking. What Thuat Nguyen did, was apparently just fraud. Or better, a kind of break in. He got access to iTunes accounts, most likely through phishing, were people were directed to a false landing page, were they entered their account details believing its a official apple page.
What a real hacker would do if he knew a security hole: He would try to push his FREE apps in the store to bring awareness to people and apple.

What Thuat Nguyen did, was a simple crime, made of desparate greediness. We are talking about 1 Million Dollar. And some people already think about that there might be a network of cyber bandits established, so it would not be a single case.Apple Insider shows how it works in China although it describes the way of distribution, not so much of the how-to-get-the account-data, is pretty scary.

What leaves me quite concerned is that Thuat Nguyen is becoming a kind of hero for some people. He fought against Apple, like the boys did with the iPhone. But he is neither cool nor smart. He is just a dumb guy too stupid to rob a bank (just because first people can reclaim the money from credit card companies and also Apple already started an investigation, so it's a matter of time when they will get him). we will see, if he lives in Vietnam, if the VN authorities handle this case as an international crime.

So my point is: Instead of praising thief's and bandits, it would be way better to actually start making good products. Otherwise VN will become a rogue country for IT. And with this reputation, it might be difficult to get more jobs in the important outsourcing industry.

If I would outsourcing my developing work or data processing just to find out that my suppliers staff praises guys like Thuat Nguyen in certain forums, I would immediately cancel the contract.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Business Week on Vietnams economy: WTF?

Business Week runs a story with the headline: Is Vietnam Finally Ready for Foreign Investors?" They say
Hanoi is cutting taxes and improving infrastructure in hopes of becoming the low-cost alternative for new factories and outsourcing call centers

Where have they been the last years? Actually the time for outsourcing in the software industry is nearly over in Vietnam, many companies are suffering right now and looking for domestic business. Same for call centers (what is by the way quite funny knowing the language skills in Vietnam.)

For factories VN might be still a good place, but they did not mention all the strikes in the past, as well as the strict labour laws. And you may find cheap workers, but not skilled ones.

President Nguyen Minh Triet's government has cut taxes, such as import duties on personal computer parts, and is promising to improve the country's roads and ports. It's building nuclear power plants and a high-speed train line from the capital to Ho Chi Minh City.

First, the National Assembly just rejected the plans for the train. Second, what is announced is not necessarily realized. And actually VN just raised taxes for unnecessary goods, whatever that means. And the Worldbank and others recently mentioned that VN needs innovation, otherwise it will not succeed because there will always be a country with cheaper labour force.

The leadership also vows to eliminate some of the notorious red tape that has frustrated investors.

Arent they vowing this since decades?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Geeks on train - join us

Some people - in particular @3105, Jan and me - are tinking about having Geeks on a train in the next weeks or months. Some more information is on

The basic idea is to book a coach from BKK to Vientiane in Laos (or at least to Nong Khai). We set up our own network there and then lets hack or what ever.

If you like the idea, send commenst, emails or tweet. Hastag is #geeksontrain.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Moved to Laos

Although I still have shares in a company in Vietnam and will be there several times this year, my headquarter is now in Vientiane, Laos. Find more about my life in Laos here:

Monday, May 24, 2010

Crumpler bag shop in Saigon

It took me arround two years in Vietnam to discover a little paradise: a crumpler shop in Ho Chi Minh City. It's located at 52M Nguyen Huu Hao in District 4, right at the market, 10 minutes from District 1. The name is BAGVINA. They do have some models of crumpler bags, a freindly and well english speaking staff. Its actually there wholesale warehouse, but unsless they did not open the shop in the backpacker area (its pallned this year), they sell from dictrict 4 branch.
Don't ask me if the bags are fake or real, but at least it is a way better quality compared to what you get at Saigon Square. A huge messanger bag is around 380.000 VND whiel a smalle one for netbooks goes with 300.000. The selection is smaller than in origianl licenced shops and you may not get the latest models. Also, I don't know if this comes form any manufacturer in Vietnam, since I was told in Australia that Crumpler is not producing in Vietnam anymore.
Whatever, I liked to get at least a taset of Crumpler, and I am bag addictive, so I will take higher risks for shopping :-)
Check out their website as well: www.bagvinacom

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Outdor gadgets, GPS, Leatherman in Vietnam

When I was looking for a bluetooth GPS receiver, a friend connected me with Tabalo, a shop in Phu Nuan District.
It's a quite small office, but check out the website for the range of products. They not only have the GPS receiver I was looking for, but also a lot of other GPS devices like car tracking tools. They also sell leatherman, the popular and high quality multi-tool, and also aquabags, waterproof bags for your gadgets.
The service was really good, I was able to try the device (which was pre-charged), got also free GPS software transfered to my Phone (a Nokia 3720 classic, good for outdoor use).
For any reason they sell also the Razor computer mouse, pad and keyboard, also high quality devices.
Check the shop during common business hours or visit the website. I can really recommend it if you are a outdoor guy (or girl).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What power cuts can tell you about your company

Picture by CC Licence

Powercuts are quite common in Vietnam, in particular now when it comes to the end of the dry season where is no water left for the hydropowerplants. Companies know that, and there are different ways to deal with it. It also shows you a lot about your own company, how leadership is done and the state of your staff.

First rule: Be prepared. Do you know that many powercuts are announced in advance? Did you check already the website of your power company and local newspapers? If yes, your company seems to be prepared. If not, ask yourself why you didn't know it - have you been complaining instead of taking action?

Second rule: Deal with the situation. Wether the power cut is announced or not, it will come anyway. So what do you do then? You stop working? If yes, ask yourself why. You don't have a external power supply? And if so, does it supply only computers or also at least air-condition (what kind of productivity you can expect from staff that works in a 40 degrees environment?).
Advise: Let the power supply run the mailserver (if you still maintain the server in your own place instead of a server farm where there is 24/7 availability), and let your staff work remotely.

That might not work for every company and every worker, but at least you get some things done. You can even see how takes leadership in your company: the one who tells you that they will work from home or from the coffee shop ist the one that needs to be on the promotion list next time, while the ones who are asking for advise are not.

I was once working a in a company in Cambodia where we went to coffee shops during power cuts, and when we came back in the afternoon the boss told us to stay longer because of the power cut. I was laughing at him and told him that we already did our work, and that work (especially office work) is not determined on the time you stay in the office anymore. So better pay the bill for the coffee shop instead of treating your stuff like cheap factory workers in the 19th century. (By the way, it seems to be more and more common that employees using their own laptops for work. That's quite nice, but do the get any reward for that?)

A powercut tells you, if you prepare in advance, if your staff is prepared as well, if your staff is looking for solutions, and if you are willing to accept different approaches.

The problem with productivity in office is that it is hard to put that in numbers. How much money you are loosing in an hour? What's the value of a workhour of your office stuff? But even if you can put that in account, motivation and engagement is still a soft value that is absolutely crucial. There is no excuse not finding a good solution or a problem.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Barcamp Mekong

Barcamp Mekong
Originally uploaded by preetamrai
pic by

Sunday, May 9, 2010

One of the smartest presenters I ever met

I couldn't catch her name, but she was one of the smartest persons I ever met on a Barcamp. Her talk at Barcamp Mekong in Can Tho, Vietnam, was about being an active student. Not only that she presented in fluent English, she did not use a single powerpoint, instead she draw a mindmap during her speech. In her hands some notes, where she took a look from time to time, but mostly she spoke free.
The topic was, in summary, that students should find their own way of learning and researching. She herself, she said, discovered the way of speed reading while browsing the internet, and she also discovered how to use mindmaps.
Maybe because I am a huge fan of mindmaps I was so excited. It also shows, that Barcamps even in remote areas like Can Tho are always full of surprises.
Although this Barcamp was more for students than developers, I do not regret to took the trip. It was exciting, I learned a lot, mainly about other people and their skills, but also about traditional music in the south.
Thanks to the organizers, Mario and Hong Phuc, for doing a great job, and also thanks to APC school and the volunteers.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Public live blogging from Barcamp Mekong in Can Tho

Goodbye Eden Mall

Found this in Simon Kutchers Saigon Today Blog:

Goodbye Eden Mall: "
These two fantastic old buildings form part of the Eden Mall. However they are about to be demolished with the rest of the city block to make way for a new development. There are supposed to be height restrictions in this area so it will be interesting to see what happens

(I used the blog this function in Google Reader, but instead of using a blockquote tag it look like its my post. Its not. Its Simons.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Forte La Pizza Italiana - new in Phu My Hung

The S area of Phu My Hung - the part where waterfront is and Greenview and CanhVien - lacked of western restaurants- until now. Forte La Pizza Italiana just opened inCanh Vien 1. Italian chef, italian owned says the brochure. whatever they did it Italy it was not running a restaurant. First try revealed that lasagne is not available. Second try no pesto.. pizza starts at 150000 vnd because toppings are expensive, the Australian lady apparently in charge for the service told me. and basil is hard to get, she added.

I was the only customer, but they could not get the lasagne heated up inside. and the piece of food was kind of small. second try brought the lasagne warm, but far from hot.

The food is just average, but way to pricy. Its seems some friends decided to open a pizzeria - and facing now reality. They better have opened a pub or a bar where they can do what they enjoy most - chatting with friends instead of taking care of the customers. They later offered me the meal free of charge after I complained, but I insisted of paying. I got a lot of " I am sorry", let's see if they learn from that.

UPDATE: Laziness brought me back one more time. The local staff is quite nice and helpful, the italian chef as well (he made me spaghetti pesto for free since he remembered the story, that was quite nice). I am still not a fan of the pizza and I still think it's too expensive and I am convinced that the western lady working there better should get some training in hospitality. But after all, give it a try.


Someone was selling an iPad on a mailing list here and was asking for 100 USD more than US retail price. I was responding, that the price might be too high and if you want save money wait until the iPad is shipped end of May to Singapore and Bangkok. I also pointed out that Apple Care includes the risk once the repaired iPad is shipped back that VN customs want to get an extra share. The seller wrote me an email calling me an asshole.
Greed in this country is just incredible. When I was young I learned that you shall not be greedy. I guess, this is only valid in western countries.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Barcamp Mekong aka Barcamp Can Tho

Vietnam is getting its third location for a Barcamp (after Hanoi and Saigon), this time further south in Can Tho, the capital of the Mekong Delta. With German efficiency and Vietnamese enthusiasm Hong Phuc, Mario and their team organized the Barcamp for May the 8th an the Can Tho University.

Form the website:

Good topics are topics you are passionate about. Previous Barcamps in Vietnam were held in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with an incredible range of topics. We feel that the “unconference” style of Barcamps are a great chance to share and learn and bring the community of the Mekong Delta together. Some of the topics we would like to see are:

Copyrights and Creative Commons for education
Making educational videos
Google Maps and Google Earth in education
Collaborative tools, microblogging tools, classroom polling tools
Virtual Worlds in education
Making better presentations
Digital Photography
Making themes and setting up CMS like Joomla, Drupal and Wordpress
Ideas on using social networks with students
Finding the right job
Marketing in Vietnam
The “camp” however, is not restricted to these topics and we encourage everyone to suggest topics and lead sessions. We want to invite the wider community in the Mekong Delta to participate.

Together with my buddy Dylan I will do a iPad presentation. Expect a lot of fun!

Repair Vietnamese style

This is a lamp in the park next to us. Children are playing around, dogs as well. Sometimes it's wet, because of rain or watering the plants. I guess the lamp was reported broken and this is the way things getting fixed in Vietnam. That is also the reason why a girl got electrocuted recently using a ATM. That's why boys last year died when loose cable hit them.
With very very fews exceptions (the camera repair shop in the antique street, apple future world and my Yamaha Dealer) I haven't seen any proper fixing or repair in Vietnam. It's always very poor standard, no sense of craftsmanship.
Some of my friend told me that this is the way things are done in Vietnam. I can't accept this. First, everyone can always improve. Second, people die because of this so called fixing culture. It's actually just the laziness to do things properly, and the lack of a desire to do better.
That's what actually, on a larger scale, will keep Vietnam on the current level of economy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

IKEA Dining table for sale

I am selling a IKEA dining table with extension with 6 chairs. If you are interested, please give me a call 0122 350 4593 or send an email thomas.wanhoff(at)

Also for sale: a computer desk

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Colonial building

Colonial building
Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
I am in Bac Lieu for a project and I am kind of surprised about some gemstones in architecture I found. One is this huge french colonial villa. It's a hotel and a restaurant now, but it was used to be the living place of a playboy (at least that's what my assistant told me), who was the son of a rich family and did partying with girls all the time. These days of parties are definitely over in Bac Lieu - there is not much to do beside working.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eating place Hoi An

Eating place Hoi An
Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
I wonder what idiot set this up in Hoi An??? That destroys the whole image of the old town. It seems greediness is border-less this days. (Of course all stalls offer the same, nothing nice decorated, staff is shouting on you - a tourists nightmare)

Springrolls at River Lounge in hoi an

I can really recommend the River Lounge in Hoi An, located across the bridge on the new part, opposite to Cargo Club and Mango Rooms. The food is delicious, beautiful presented and for a reasonable price!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Blog in Laos

Even I will move to Laos this blog about Vietnam will still be alive. If you want to know more about my life in Laos, check out Since my company in Vietnam still exists I will be on and off in the next years, so still a lot to blog about this country.
Why I leave? Because my wife got a new job. Why I still come back? Because I really like Vietnam, and I don't give up hoping that it will improve more.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Ho Chi Minh song contest launched in Laos

Vietnam’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Lao Culture and Information Ministry on April 2 jointly launched a contest on composing songs about Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh in Laos.
The contest was held in celebration of the 120th anniversary of the late Vietnamese leader’s birthday (May 19).

All amateur and professional composers holding Lao nationality can send in works in the Vietnamese or Lao language from April 2 through the end of May.
The winners will be announced in early June.

According to the organising board, the contest is a good opportunity for Lao artists to express their sentiments toward President Ho Chi Minh, the symbol of Vietnamese heroism and someone who made great contributions to fostering the special friendship between Vietnam and Laos. via VOVNEWS

Monday, March 29, 2010

Vietnam to expel foreigners without work permit

Thanhniennews had an article in the weekly print edition saying that Vietnam is planning to expel foreigners who don't have a work permit but do work. Although it is officially targeted on cheap construction workers, it effects everybody.

34/ND-CP on recruitment and management of foreign laborers working in Vietnam, expelling those without working licenses.

The draft decree stipulates that the Government will refuse the issuance of a visa and temporary residence permit at the same time as expelling illegal foreign laborers, who work in Vietnam for more than three months without applying for working licenses.

Six months after the effective date of the new decree, all illegal foreign workers will be expelled if they still do not acquire the licenses.

Foreign workers - who specialize in production operation and management, and do not hold any professional certificates, but want to continue working in Vietnam - must acquire written papers issued by Vietnamese investors certifying that they have at least five years of working experience.

Mr. Le Quang Trung, deputy director of the Employment Department under the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, said that Decree 34/ND-CP only covers conditions for foreign laborers to apply for working licenses. It does not draw any penalty for non-licensed foreign workers.

The new decree, however, will empower appropriate agencies to legally expel non-compliant foreign laborers, the Director continued.

Moreover, project contractors and investors will have to present reports on their employment of foreign laborers to local authorities.

The new decree will be effective on July 1, 2010.

I am not questioning the right of a country to expel illegal workers. I am not questioning the need of a work permit. But I am questioning the obstacles of getting one. For most foreigners it's not only a month long process, it is sometimes not possible, since the requested qualifications are often not clear. Just to notarize certificates is just a pain, and nobody in Vietnam can estimates what the certificate really means. But there is such an bureaucratic process in place, that I really think it's on purpose. At least it's not made for an easy way to attract foreign workers.

Every country needs foreign workers, for several reasons. One might is certain language skills, like Japanese people in a company on Vietnam that exports mainly to Japan. But it's also just important to get people with more knowledge in this country, because you can simply learn from them. It doesn't seem that this is really what the new regulations are targeting.

Vietnam is not a the easiest place to make business for foreign companies. High personal income tax, too many regulations and no real path of how to walk through this jungle, corruption, and visa regulations are on top of the list. Yes, you can make (fast) money in Vietnam, but this system will not last for long.

Education is culture, not business

I just came back form Singapore and on the plane I was thinking about what is the difference between Singapore and Vietnam. Of course, Singapore is way more developed. But what's the reason for that? I think at least on reason is education.
In Vietnam, education is a business and it's business driven. People are focussing on certificates and degrees, no matter what it is about. The curriculums are outdated, teacher's are clueless, and parents as well. Kids have to go to a international schools, but nobody cares about what they learn. So it's all about business and impress neighbors with the kids school uniform. (Doesn't mean by the way that this is not also reality in western countries).

But education is more, and that really makes the difference. It's culture. You not only learn, you have to learn THINKING. It's not so much about the result of the test, it's about your approach. It's about think different, be curious, think out if the box. Look for alternatives, try a different way. Learn from others, research information, share your knowledge. This is the fundament of good and successful education, but it lacks in Vietnam.

The state of the country is quite obvious when you look on women's fashion. It tells you a lot about the current status of development. The average middle class woman in Vietnam buys clothes because of famous brand names (although it's a fake) and try to be dressed sexy (although she looks like a prostitute). There is no real sense of how to combine colors and materials. Even better is the way people dressed on the motobike. No problem with sun protection, but why the hell everyone is just wearing what was available at the next corner? Because there is no sense of it.
Fashion is deeply connected to education and culture. The better you education, the more you understand (the need of) culture. The better you are dressed. and i am not talking of be dressed in western style. Actually there is nothing more attractive than asian women in traditional clothes. Transform the old patterns, fabrics and use of colors and you would have a nice local, but high level fashion trend.
Instead, its all about money. Look at average interior design of houses. I have seen only a few where you felt comfortable in - one was an ancient Vietnamese house from 18something somewhere n=in the Mekong Delta.

I am not complaining, I try to analyze and give some advise. What is part of education as well. So called soft skills are so important in these days, but I haven't seen any approach to teach this in Vietnam.

Experts are warning about the middle income trap for Vietnam. That actually means the Vietnam will not develop much further. I think that is a real threat. Cheap labor will not last forever, and then? Without having not only young, but creative, well educated people there is no way out.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Saigon Dogs Part III

oday it's the story about a dog that is kept usually in the yard, but mostly on a chain. The owners "take" him out 10 meters, then tie the dog on a tree. They want him to poo and pee there. UPDATE: After I shot the video the owner actually walked with the dog for the first time, around the block, but better then nothing. I told the son again that he should better walk with the dog, and it's seems they start at least thinking about it.

I don't like the Earth Hour, but I like the message

When I was at the Green Drinks Event in Saigon some weeks ago, a woman from WWF was talking about Earth Hour. She said (honestly) that it's a big PR campaign to raise awareness. Yes, that's true. My problem with the Earth Hour is, that it is actually nothing more than PR.

Technically it is ridiculous to shut off the lights for one hour. Light's are not consuming that much energy like a television or even computers. And it will have zero effect on climate change. Actually it can be worst because people using candles instead, they produce CO2 by burning wax and pollute the air.

Ok, so what's the message? It's about saving energy to save the planet. I like that. But I would like to see way more commitment to that goal than to switch off the lights for one hour. It's a bit like donating money for Haiti. Yes, it helps for now, but it's not really sustainable (at least this donation has a effect).
My concern is that many people will support the Earth Hour, will press big red buttons, but after they go back to business as usual. I would like to see announcements for Going Green, installing solar panels, support wind energy (Vietnam has ore than 3000 km coastline). Commitments by companies how they want to save energy.

I will be at Barcamp Singapore for the Earth Hour. What about a computer screens, do they count as a light?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Please vote for me!!!

I am nominated for THE BOBS, an award for Podcasts and Blogs organized by The Deutsche Welle. Please support me by voting for my Podcast Wanhoffs Wunderbare Welt der Wissenschaft

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Saigon Dog Stories Part II

These puppies are around 2 months old. The owners keep them in the yard. It's enough space for them, they share it with a chicken. The mother dog is very protective, but not aggressive, and she can walk around the house. The only problem is that there is a lot of traffic so it's a matter of time when the first accident there happens.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Saigon Dog Stories Part I

Some small reports about the way dogs were treated and kept in Saigon. Some best practise and roles models, but also some very sad stories. Today I show you two dogs that belongs to construction workers. At least in the morning the dogs are allowed to play around.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

English speaking clubs in Saigon

I am wondering if more free English speaking clubs would be helpful for students. My experience so far is that even if students pay up to 250.000 VND fee for English speaking clubs, they don't learn a lot. So I think foreigners have to step in and provide it for free. It's actually just an hour a week and both parties can learn from each other. I know that there are already some clubs, for example every Tuesday and Thursday 7pm to 8:15pm at Tomorrow Cafe locating at M1A That Son, Bac Hai area, Dist 10. Can anyone provide me more information?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

tomato shortage in saigon

Does anyone know why there is a shortage on tomatoes????

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Marketing via Wifi - and how to do not

When you go to a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf shop, you can use the Wifi there for free. What you need is a password. Usually shops say it's 12345 or 22222. Coffee Bean does better. The use their product names, like cafelatte or iceblended. Since many people more likely remember the internet password than a coffeeshop product, its a nice way of marketing.

Totally different does actually the Korean Company Angel-in-us. Ok, the name itself is silly, but their branch at Nguyen Hue Street does even better. See the screenshot of available networks and guess what the Angel-in-us one is.

Piano for 5000 USD or more

Some people in Vietnam still have a lot to learn how to make business.


Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

The ultimate food lovers map for Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

I created a map with restaurants in Saigon, and you can work on the map as well. Please add your favorite place! This map will be updated frequently

View Restaurants in Saigon in a larger map

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The vietnam shoe dilemma

There is so much to say about shoes in Vietnam. Usually people have sandals or flip flops. That's ok, as long as you wear them WITHOUT socks. Only German tourists do.
Then you have men with proper shoes, but for any reason the step on the heel part. That actually destroys the shoe. Women do that way more often. No idea why.
And then it comes to socks. It's a crime against any fashion rule to wear white socks with any kind of business shoes. White socks are for sport.
Unfortunately here in Vietnam either everything is sport or the message hasn't yet arrived. (When I was in Indonesia these days I got a complete different experience: blue socks for blue shoos, brown to brown, black to black).

There is a say that you can see style best in the shoes. You can wear a white T-shirt and blue jeans, the style comes with a high quality shoe.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why expats are so important for countries like Vietnam

Vietnams economy grows and grows. Investment banks aren't stopping to mention Vietnam as a good place for investment. so far so good. But is money the only issue? Does Vietnam just lack of cash? No. The biggest problem is still experience and education.

When it comes to global business, companies and business people in Vietnam still have less experience and knowledge. This is a bad news. but it's also an opportunity. Because help is there already.

The reason why expats work in developing countries is simple: They want to develop the country and - at the same time - markets and their own businesses. In many sectors foreign guidance is still neccessary.
Kenichi Ohno, research director at the Hanoi-based Japanese think tank, said recently:

Vietnam is still at stage one, which means simple manufacturing under foreign guidance... he country’s development has been “passive,” dependent on the “liberalization effect” after doi moi and large inflows of investment, capital and aid, and unable to create “internal value” to ensure sustainable growth.

The threat right now is that people are okay with the current situation. I know a lot of companies replacing expats with local staff. That might work in some cases. But overall, I think it is way to early to change the management positions. I know a lot of cases where companies failed. Most VN managers still have no mid- or longterm view, no idea of sustainability, of competition, of business rules in international markets.

See experts as support. Hiring an expat might be even cheaper than a consulting company. Expats are not just rich foreigners, they usually choose a lower living standard here and act more like a teacher.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mantis in Phu My Hung

Just saw this little creature this morning. A mantis looks always scary, even the small ones.

Mantodea or mantises is an order of insects that contains approximately 2,200 species in 9 families[1] worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term "mantid" was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other eight recently-established families are not mantids, by definition (i.e., they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term "mantises" should be used when referring to the entire order. A colloquial name for the order is "praying mantises", because of the typical "prayer-like" stance, although the term is often misspelled as "preying mantis" since mantises are predatory.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Wedding of Ray and Natasha

Our friends Ray and Natasha had their official wedding in Jakarta this weekend. It was a muslim ceremony. Quite amazing to see the beautiful costumes, witnessing a wedding full of traditional procedures. Nice lunch, nice dinner, lot if fun, and yes, we went shopping too. Jakarta is somewhere between Bangkok and Singapore when it comes to how modern it is. And of course far ahead of Saigon :-)

Friday, February 19, 2010


Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
This is a bear rescued from Wildlife at risk and brought to the rescue Center in Cu Chi. These gusy are doing a great job and need support!!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Al Fresco's: The very last attempt - and they failed

Al Fresco's is a popular expat restaurant chain in Saigon. They have two branches in district 1 and a branch in district 7. We went a few times to the latter when we arrived in Vietnam. The food is Pizza, Burger, Mexican. The prices are high, the service was always bad. One year ago we went there and they screwed up again: They brought us something what we did not order, what we did order was suddenly not available anymore and even the bill was wrong. We complained, we got many excuses and left.

One year later: we found a 250.000 VND voucher today in our coupon bowl and decided to redeem it before its outdated. I ordered a Chicken Burger with avocado and bacon, my wife ordered a quesadilla. And again, something was wrong: No avocado on my burger, no avocado sauce with the quesadillas.
They did not tell us in advance, they did not tell us when the delivered the food. Only after I complained they said "we were running out of avocados, sorry". "But I will be charged the full price? Forget it, I answered." We told the manager, that this was the very last time and left. She offered us the dinner for free, but we gave her the 250.000 VND voucher and left.

Al Fresco's and Jaspas are popular for no reason. The food is average, the service is under average. They may speak english, but the staff has no skills in service.

This is the reason why I prefer local vietnamese restaurants. You get great food for less money. And the service is a least as good as what you pay for.

The most expat places are totally overpriced. I guess they survive because many expats don't dare to go to local places or just want to be with other expats. As this is not my lifestyle, I am safe. I avoid this places as much as I can. You should do as well.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We don't need no middle management

I just read one of the most interesting and truthful articles ever. It proofes what I was thinking since a long time, that big companies suffer because of their middle management.
Joe Wilcox was wrinting abot Microsoft and why there is no innovation;

Based on communications with current and former employees, Microsoft's midriff problem is one of middling middle management. The number of middle mangers swelled over the last decade, and they also are the employees making key management decisions, which includes who gets laid off or fired and where the remaining people work.

There are two ways to structure a company: One is the old traditional way with a vertical hierarchy. That worked for thousand of years from Egypt to the Roman Empire and British one as well. The problem with vertical structures is the lack of horizontal levels. But that's where actually the work is done.

Lets have a look on a small company, like a coffee shop. You have some baristas, they are good in Coffee making and foam decoration. You have ONE shop manager, who is doing the administration work. Others are cleaners, waitresses, delivery boys. They all report to one manager. Scale it up to 3 coffee shops. Now the three supervisors will report to a new super-supervisor, who isnt in a coffeeshop anymore. . Scale it to 200 coffee shops and there will be more and more super-super-super-supervisors.
The question is: Why they have to report at all: Why they can't just send the numbers of profit and the orders of supply, and another department is just analyzing?
Reports are a dangerous virus, that has affected nearly every company, and they are usually useless. Nobody is reading that shit unless he or she is a middle-manager, whos only duty is to read reports and create new reports.

When Joe asked former Microsoft employees about the last layoffs, he got thsi answer:

Out of a starting staff of nearly 20, four remained, all managers. I'm not sure what they manage.

That's the point: Middle-Managers spend most of the time to keep their overpaid job. They lick asses to the superiors and kick asses of their employees. Sorry for the rude words, but that's how it works.

If you have a look on Sharepoint or Groove, than you will see that actually this so called collaboration software reflects the Microsoft dilemma. Instead of easy sharing it's actually more about structure and permissions. And because companies are used to Microsoft, they follow their way.

The question is: If Sharepoint and Groove are great tools to increase collaboraton with the goal of doing better, be more efficienct and innovative, why is Microsoft laying off people and the opposite of innovative? Because their products suck.

Look at Google on the other side: 20 percent time for own projects, leaner, sometime flat structure, less bureaucracy. Thats how you get ideas and new markets.

If you are a business in South-East-Asia and you want to improve the way your company works, let me know. My company and me can help you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Farmer flat

farmer flat
Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
Seen at Phu My Hung flower festival

Fountain in phu my hung

There is a flower festival in Phu My Hung at the new crescent buildings (opposite Saigon Paragon shopping center), and it's worth to go there. a lot of flowers of course, live bands, fruits and - most important - they sell Beer Lao in cans and bottles, the yellow and the dark one. Yummy. Go there alone, with your family, take your kids (and those from An Phu also your Nanny, driver, gardener, cook, ironing lady, back up ironing lady, maid, cleaner, shopper) and go there. Best parking behind Highlands Coffee or at Saigon Paragon.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dognapping in Vietnam

vietnamese dogs in saigon


Listen to this audioboo about dognapping in Vietnam. I forgot to mention that sometimes it is too easy for the thieves, because most dogowners don't really care about where their dogs are and what they do. So they roam around or sit in front of the house, easy to catch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

10 houses collapse because of construction work

Well done, french construction company :-)

In a chilling domino effect, the collapse of a house in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City Sunday caused nine others in a row to collapse as well, but no casualties have been reported so far.
The incident happed at around 10.15 p.m. when some workers at the construction site of Saigon M&C building on Ton Duc Thang Street, District 1, were working on its third underground floor, witnesses said.
The workers then found artesian waters coming out from a small hole and very soon the water made it into a very big hole despite their efforts to fix it.


I can't believe that no one was hurt. I just hope that the company who did this is really paying compensation, nit just a few bucks

Monday, February 1, 2010

Illy Espressamente service in Phu My Hung improves

Illy Coffee

I did a lot of criticism on Illy Espressamente in Saigon, especially the one in Phu My Hung. But since they do a customers survey, things changed a lot. First, I did a second attempt to ask for low fat milk (the first try was months ago and they said no), and suddenly one of the shift supervisors said "Yes, of course." Then I tried to do another step upwards on the service ladder and asked, if I can get a red invoice at the end of the month for all the purchases I did. Surprisingly the supervisor said "Yes, No problem, do you like us to collect the bills for you?" Boom. Never expected that. And yes, today I came in and they issued me the red invoice - I didn't even asked for.

But, there is one more thing. Having my coffee the waitress came to me and gave me money: "Sorry sir, last time you forgot to take your change money." That was 40.000 Dong, about 2 USD. I am impressed. I haven't expected this in Vietnam at all, but never ever at Illy (not that they would cheat, but it was one week ago since I was there and usually they just forget it).

I still think the male staff needs way more training and the female staff should more deal with the customers but I know that a long way.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Samba Dancer Saigon

Samba Dancer Saigon
Originally uploaded by thomaswanhoff
I have no idea why the Saigon Paragon chosed Samba Dancers for the New Year performances. but if you want to see them, go there every evening between 19 and 21 h. They do some Samba Dancing.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The fast growth in Vietnam

This is something rather personal than an analysis. When I was passing by the bridge that leads from Thon Duc Tang to Quan 4, I remembered that just 1.5 years ago when we arrived so many things were different. Within this short period of time the Saigon Paragon was build, opened and has already its first anniversary coming. Although its still empty, its a landmark. Or look at the parking place where my wife learned driving a motobike: it's now the foundation of the crescent mall (200 retails shops? Do they know that most of the retail shops in Phu My Hung are for rent?).
Or the office building behind Unilever: There are finished now, so is the bridge - a shortcut from Unilever to the Australian International School. Look at the buildings at the so called Canal Street in Phu My Hung: People living now in, frozen yoghurt shops opened, and the Photo shop turned already into a nice cafe (PF Cafe). Oh, and the Calmette bridge opened as well as the Highway connecting Quan 8 and Quan 1. and last but not least the Phu My Bridge connects District 7 and District 8.
Vietnam is changing dramatically everyday, business open and close, buildings rise and fall so does companies. I always say there is no sustainability in Vietnam, and I am pretty sure there isn't, but on the other side there is this fast rising of new things which I kind of like. I look for change, for development, and wether its the right or wrong direction> Vietnam is developing, thats for sure. And thats what I was missing in Germany.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How to work efficient and enjoy live

As many know I work mainly from my home office. For two reasons: The office of the company I am invested is not that comfortable and I don't have to be present there all day. Second, I want to work more efficient, and mist offices (and business owners) just don't allow this. I want to list some reasons why and how I work very efficient and can ensure quality of work as well as quality of life.

1. Check your emails in the morning from home, on the way to the office or in any coffee shop. But don't do this in the office. Why? Because you will get disturbed there by colleagues, paperwork, phone calls.

2. Turn off Skype and other IM as much as you can. They are time killers. Turn Skype really OFF if you have to work on a presentation. It saves you time!

3. Schedule meetings for one hour and be prepared. Have a agenda. Share your notes with others using collaboration tools.

4. Don't do multitasking, It simply doesn't work most of the time. Exception: While downloading 20 GB you can work on a document. While driving from A to B you can check emails.

5. Use mindmaps, Believe it or not, but they save you time in meetings, while thinking.

6. Have lunch. You and your brain needs a rest. It's important.

7. Finish your work in time: There is always another email that needs to be done. If so, answer it on the way home or even at home. No problem with that. Your family will appreciate your early arrivals even if you answer a email after playing basketball with the boys in daylight.

8. Work with To-Do-Lists. Only only list is better than several lists. Use tools with checkboxes for it (Outlook has it build in), and tools that work with your mobile, so you can manage your to dos anywhere.

9. Enjoy life.

10. Add more ideas in the comments section.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Qype: Saigon Paragon in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City - Shopping - Shopping Malls

The Saigon Shopping Center is one of the landmarks in the new urban area Phu My Hung. at night yiu see the skytrackers getting attention. It's build as a luxury shopping mall, so expect some fashion shops, jewelry, watches. That's pretty much it. No international brands beside Levi's and Esprit. All products are incredible expensive. Do not expect the sellers to have any idea about what they are selling, so no advice from them or any explanation. No western sizes above 34 for men available.
The food court in the basement is not bad, yet no real luxury atmosphere but reasonable prices.
The still strange thing is that the co-owners, the Khai Silk Cooperation, think that they will attract customers playing loud music outside the building.
Main reason for many people to go to this place is actually the cinema in the 5th floor. International standard, although not many movies on the schedule.

Check out my review of Saigon Paragon - I am thomaswanhoff - on Qype

Qype: Yogen Fruz in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City - Eating & Drinking - Cafes & Coffee Shops - Juice, Shakes & Smoothies

Frozen yoghurt just reached Vietnam, and more and more shops are popping up. Yogen Fruz is a international franchise with at least two shops, one in District 1 at Ngyuen Thi Minh Khai and the other one in Phu My Hung at the Canal Street.
They have low calorie yoghurts with a lt of different stuff to blend and as a topping. What I liked is that only the staff touches the yoghurt machine, what gives you a bit more guarantee than the self service shops. Staff is also very helpful with the selection process (which is a bit confusing at the beginning). They speak good english as well and are very friendly.
Prices are a bit high, but after a view visits we already got some discount coupons.
My favourite is Vanilla low fat no sugar blended with strawberrys and topped with coconut and almond.

Check out my review of Yogen Fruz - I am thomaswanhoff - on Qype

Qype: Rock it in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City - Eating & Drinking - Pubs & Bars - Pubs

A new venue in town, classic sports bar wit a pool table, many tv screens showing ESPN and Star Sports. It's located in the so called Lucky Plaza mall, just go upstairs and you will find it. Best tables are the ones with a view on the Nguyen Hue street.
Try the pizza, the 15inch is about 200.000 VND and more than enough for 2 people.
It's a modern places for tourists, expats and middle class locals, so its clean and they have english speaking staff. Free Wifi and Happy Hours for draft beer. Expects Burgers and Salads for a reasonable price.

Check out my review of Rock it - I am thomaswanhoff - on Qype

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Vegetarian restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon

I already mentioned the variety of vegetarian food in Vietnam. It's mainly based on the buddhism and the meat-free-day during full moon. So many people go to vegetarian or vegan restaurant, how it's called here.
We recently went to a new place, called The Loving Hut. It seems to be a branch of an Australian Vegan Food Chain. It's located in District 7, right behind the Lotte Mart (if you come from District 4, turn left after the Lotte Mart, turn left again on the next corner and then follow the street about 300 Meter. It's a 242 Le Van Luong Street.
Prices are average, around 40.000 VND for a dish. The presentation is just great, the restaurants (one month open) is clean, nice decorated. The staff is friendly and speaks some English.
See some pictures below

This is called Fried Tofu Rolls
fried tofu rolls

We also ordered Tofu BBQ skewers
fried bbq tofu skewers

Find below a map with all the Vegetarian restaurants (and some other nice locations)

View Restaurants in Saigon in a larger map

Monday, January 4, 2010

Vietnams economy and the future - face reality

On the weekend I read the probably best article about the economic reality in Vietnam since a long time. It was published by Thanh Nien News in a special report. If you, dear reader, are interested in Vietnams development, then read carefully what the experts say about the middle income trap. Some quotes:

Jonathan Pincus, dean of the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program, said Vietnam’s approach to lower middle-income status is still based on growth that draws from “moving people out of very low-productivity activities.

Growth for middle-income countries must be based on “mastering new technologies, producing more sophisticated goods, breaking into new markets and improving workers’ skills,” Pincus said.

The country’s development has been “passive,” dependent on the “liberalization effect” after doi moi and large inflows of investment, capital and aid, and unable to create “internal value” to ensure sustainable growth.

Vietnam is still some years away from the middle-income trap, he said, “but since it takes a long time to build the institutions of a modern economy, it is never too early to start.”

Why do I like this article so much? Because it show the reality: Vietnam may developed a middle class, but this class represents a small percentage and is mainly based on cash. People got rich and wealthy by selling assets like land and gold, some by getting licences from foreign companies. The Vietnamese value comes only from rice, coffee and fish. There is no industrial good Vietnam is able to export. Beside food there is not much left that is produced in Vietnam. so the country needs innovation and improvment. That's the challenge for 2010.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

hard rock cafe ho chi minh city

We went to the Hard Rock Cafe at Hai Ba Trung today. It's what you expect: A Hard Rock Cafe. Good Burgers, good music, beer and music memorabilia. Really pricey, 300.000 for the burger and 80.000 for a beer is up-market. So mu suggestion is come Tuesday to Thursday when it's not overcrowded and have a Saigon Beer for 60.000, the cheapest beer. Arrive after 8pm, so you can enjoy the band. The current band rocks the house and they are in town until January 31st.