I’ve spent the past 5 years living a nomadic lifestyle, wandering from one destination to another in my 6 favourite countries in Southeast Asia. For this past Western holiday month of December, I visited my beloved Borneo, a part of Malaysia which is a rich tapestry of many indigenous groups and religions who bond together to celebrate each group’s big holidays including Christmas. One of the most interesting aspects of my lifestyle is that I never get in a rut or bored in any one place, getting a fresh new perspective with each trip. Usually I’ll spend a month or two in one spot, although my trips to Vietnam have become longer as I fall in love with it more each passing year. Moving from one destination to another presents no culture shock feeling because I’ve been doing it so long, so each time I arrive at one of my destinations it’s more like a homecoming. But this past time, after only 5 short weeks, I was blown away by many things when I came back to … [Read more...] about Even a short absence is revealing in Vietnam
Several experts in wildlife preservation have shared their knowledge with Tuoi Tre News of “myths” surrounding the medicinal benefits of wildlife consumption. ‘Not worth the risk’ I first came to Vietnam in the year 2000 to work in both Cat Ba and Ba Vi National Parks, assisting in a facility which was set up to rehabilitate birds confiscated from the wildlife trade. It was that year that I made a personal commitment to return to Vietnam and improve animal welfare. I’ve been working with Animals Asia since 2011, holding the post of Bear and Vet Team Director and Animals Asia Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre (VBRC) since 2016. I lead a team of 66 people, both Vietnamese and foreign experts in the rehabilitation of the bears who call our sanctuary “home." There are currently 175 rescued bears living at VBRC, both Asiatic black bears and Malayan sun bears. Most of these bears were formerly incarcerated on bear bile farms across Vietnam where they underwent … [Read more...] about Wildlife consumption poses significant health risks: experts
Hungover? Reading this after sleeping all day? Did you meet someone fabulous on Lunar New Year’s Eve? Great! And for all the rest of you who celebrated quietly at home…well done! So what comes next? Visiting! But wait…hang on…it’s not as simple as that! From the first day of Tet, it’s the custom to go around and visit family and friends. This is probably more common in the countryside as folks live closer together in the villages and relatives are often in the same village. In the modern style, a lot of Vietnamese do this and then head off on a quick trip or holiday – depending on their income and means of transport – before kicking off the working year. Again, the idea of ‘luck’ plays a strong part in the arrangements. The first visitor of the New Year should ideally be someone of good character who’s successful in life – so the black sheep of the family who’s always borrowing money for football betting has … [Read more...] about Let’s welcome Year of Dog to Vietnam!
Ta-Da! And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for! Drum roll, please! Lunar New Year’s Eve…! You’ve survived the Year of the Rooster … now it’s time for the Year of the Dog. And that’s my year! 2017 was a hectic and wild year. APEC and Damrey both came and went. Folks protested about unfair highway tolls and the ever-present pollution issues. The U23 football team broke records and made sporting history for Vietnam. Economically, it was a good year for Vietnam and tourism numbers are slowly rising. Dengue fever sadly hit record highs amid confusion over the use and effectiveness of dengue vaccine trials. Fortunately, banh mi continued to be the best thing since sliced bread! Some people love to party on Lunar New Year’s Eve and others absolutely loathe it. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, a ‘curl up by the fireplace’ person or the life of the party – you can’t ignore LNYE. LNYE also marks the … [Read more...] about Say hello to Lunar New Year’s Eve in Vietnam
Two foreigners living in and outside Vietnam recalled their cozy memories with the Lunar New Year, or Tet in Vietnamese. 'Starting afresh' I’ve witnessed ten Tet since I started living here. In the early years I went to the fireworks and partied with friends in the expat bars around Hoi An. Often I would meet people I hadn’t seen for months as I tend to live quietly but was also busy with teaching. In the more recent years as I had some dogs as pets, I tended to stay at home or take the dogs for walks during the holiday evenings because it’s so calm, peaceful and lovely to see how people have decorated their houses. I like the idea of “starting afresh’ – throwing out old things, cleaning up and yet, remembering their ancestors. I’ve lost both my parents in the last two years so this has been on my mind. I admire the devotion to the family, helping out with the Tet chores and working for the parents while they do stuff for Tet. I like the … [Read more...] about Tet is the time for family, friends in Vietnam
Hardly a week goes by without a Vietnamese parent telling me if they can afford it they’ll send their children to be educated abroad and the U.S. is the first country they usually mention. For many Vietnamese families it’s a status symbol to send their children abroad to study, thus assuring a higher level of technical formation. In the U.S. alone there are over 20,000 Vietnamese students, most enrolled at undergraduate level. Now take a look at this chart produced by the World Bank indicating TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) scores by country based on GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Most of the data plotted follows the trend we would expect - i.e. the richest countries produce the highest scoring students, but there is one exception: Vietnam stands alone on the left side as a low-GDP country whose students score high on the TIMSS tests. How can that be? There have been many studies similar to the World Bank one above conducted by organizations … [Read more...] about Grass is often greener on the other side
Ladies! Since women love a bargain, how’s this one; Valentine’s Day this year is just before TET…so…you should get two sets of goodies or at least getting spoilt by your loved ones! Yes, boys, it falls on Wednesday, the 14th of February this year. Glue it to your brain! Fellas! In the madness that precedes TET, what with cleaning, shopping and winding up the office business for the year, it would be far too easy to forget to give your special someone something on this oh, so, romantic day. Since we all know how cranky Vietnamese women can get if you offend them – this tragic failure of the memory would be like challenging a cement truck to get out of your way. For the expats, a lot of you have kids already or recently have become new parents. 2017 was a remarkable year for foreign babies born on Vietnamese soil! So you know the wife (and yourself) have been frantically over-worked (ok, that may be an exaggeration) so it’s time to … [Read more...] about Oooo…Valentine’s Day!
Unless you’re in solitary confinement, you know Tet is coming. Yes, folks, it’s that time of the year for giant sound systems, end of year parties, shopping madness and babies hanging off the front of motorbikes in the cutest brand new clothes mum could find. Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, begins on the 16th of February (Western calendar) 2018. It’s both one of my favorite times of the year and frequently the most stressful. The shops are jammed full of locals stocking up on food, gifts and offerings for the celebrations that occur over the four official days of Tet. Please note that stocks of little red envelopes for the lucky money run out pretty quick too. If you’re part of the non-75% complaining expat crowd, Tet is a fun time to be around. Lots of party invites, unless you’re Daniel Hauer and off the A-list. And with many Vietnamese out of town, it’s a rather quiet time. As I’ve mentioned recently in other articles, you need to plan … [Read more...] about Are you ready for Tet in Vietnam yet?
After spending some months in Saigon and trying out different food stalls and restaurants there were lots of dishes that I liked and some I returned to, leading to a very personal list of favorite foods in Saigon. 1. Bun cha Bun cha is a dish that I never knew I loved, before I tried it. Its components are rather clear-cut and could also be found on the plate of a European dish, which might be the reason I like it so much. The ingredients of bun cha come on different plates and add up to an insanely tasty composition that is simultaneously savory and sweet, and just the right amount of filling for a hot Saigonese day. Ordering bun cha, you will be served a plate of fresh noodles, a plate of herbs and fresh salad, and a bowl of grilled pieces of pork, pork patties and some vegetables that are swimming in a sweet and sour sauce that – and this is important – is not a soup. A bowl of bun cha at Bun Cha Hanoi. Photo: Nadine Wolter Along with the dish comes another … [Read more...] about More than pho: An expat’s top 5 favorite foods of Saigon
After spending some months in Saigon and trying out different food stalls and restaurants there were lots of dishes that I liked and some I returned to, leading to a very personal list of favorite foods in Saigon. 1. Bun cha Bun cha is a dish that I never knew I loved, before I tried it. Its components are rather clear-cut and could also be found on the plate of a European dish, which might be the reason I like it so much. The ingredients of bun cha come on different plates and add up to an insanely tasty composition that is simultaneously savory and sweet, and just the right amount of filling for a hot Saigonese day. Ordering bun cha, you will be served a plate of fresh noodles, a plate of herbs and fresh salad, and a bowl of grilled pieces of pork, pork patties and some vegetables that are swimming in a sweet and sour sauce that – and this is important – is not a soup. A bowl of bun cha at Bun Cha Hanoi. Photo: Nadine Wolter Along with the dish comes another … [Read more...] about More than pho: An expat’s top 5 favorite food of Saigon