Franco-Vietnamese Hospital in Saigon
Sometimes I get some really good tips in the comments section of prior posts from readers of my blog but they may get overlooked just because few people reread the older posts. For instance, one of the pressing issues for expats that want to live in Vietnam is that of medical/health insurance. I keep up with most of the popular expat blogs and forums and I don’t recall anyone really tackling this issue.
A reader named Mike asked about the availability of medical insurance in Vietnam in the comment section of my “How to get a 5 Year Visa Exemption” post and two of my blog readers were kind enough to answer this very question. As I personally found it difficult to find someone that could point me in the right direction I thought the answers were important enough to include in a separate post. Thank you for Anders from Expat.Vn and Royby for their replies!! click here to read more...
Exchanging U.S. Dollars
I went to exchange some U.S. Dollars (USD) into Vietnamese Dong (VND) today for the first time in a couple of months. I was surprised how much things have changed since then. It used to be that the gold shops around Vietnam offered a much higher currency exchange rate than the banks due to the high demand for dollars. The banks offer rates based on FOREX (foreign exchange market) and set by the SBV (State Bank of Vietnam), whereas the gold shops act as the de facto black market for the US Dollar/VND. People used to be willing to pay much more for the dollar because it (and gold) was viewed as a hedge against the rampant 20%+ inflation Vietnam has seen the last couple of years. The spread between the official exchange rate vs what the gold shops were offering got as high as 1,000VND/$1 Dollar….which would amount to an additional $5 for every $100 exchanged. Now the spread is only 90VND/$1 Dollar. 90 VND is less than 1 cent. click here to read more...
"Anh and Em" Me and my little brother in 1975
Titles, titles, titles….everyone in Vietnam has one. Adults, kids, teenagers and even babies have them….there are so many that it’s sometimes even confusing to the locals. For instance, you generally use the terms “Anh”, “Chi”, and “Em” within your immediate family. “Anh” is an elder brother, “Chi” is an elder sister and “Em” can refer to either a younger brother or sister. Now if only ended there it would be so simple…but most people use the same terms when they address friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands/wives and even strangers.
When you use titles like “Anh” “Chi” or “Em” with people that are not blood related, it is an issue of respect. I think it’s kinda nice that people address relative strangers in such a manner. When you use the same title with people outside the family as you do with your own blood…you are probably more inclined to be polite and kind to the person you’re speaking to. I know that I would think twice before I raised my voice at someone I called referred to as “Anh” or “Chi”. click here to read more...
My purple foot
It’s inevitable when driving in around Vietnam that you will occasionally be bumped, scraped against, or rear ended whether you are on a motorbike or in a car….most of time it will be minor and the parties involved will just give each other a dirty look or exchange a barrage of curses and that’ll be the end of it. No matter how safe you try to drive, there will be some situations you will not be able to avoid because there are just too many crazy drivers on the streets. The best way to drive is to try to stay within the flow of traffic and to only pay attention to the traffic in front of you…it’s the job of those behind you to avoid you. When you need to turn….you should flip on your signal light and slowly angle 45 degrees in the direction you are trying to turn; this gives the people behind you time enough to adjust to your movements.
Of course, knowing the right way to drive and doing it are two different things. Sometimes you’ve only got a split second to make a decision and if you make the wrong one you better hope the people around you have fast reflexes. I got into my first real motorbike accident last Sunday morning and it was entirely my fault. I was driving back home from teaching at DRD (Disability Resource and Development) and decided to drop by the local dry cleaner and pick up some stuff I had dropped off earlier in the week. The dry cleaner’s is located just a couple of blocks from my Aunt’s house right off of 3 Thang 2 Street. click here to read more...
Restroom Sign in Vietnam
Here is a list of words that I think would be useful to know while traveling in Vietnam. I am not going to write out a bunch of greetings and phrases you can easily find in most travel guides or Vietnamese language books….just words that you will often see on signs while traveling. I’m also not going to bother to include the accent marks because it’s doubtful that non-native speakers will be able to say any of the words correctly anyways. Just try to memorize what the words look like or write them down on flash cards that you can refer to when out and about… click here to read more...
My friend Long called me today and asked if I would like to join him for a massage and steam room treatment. I think I am probably one of the few people in the world that absolutely hates massages so I declined his invitation. I think massages are very uncomfortable….and yes I’ve had a lot of people try to convince me otherwise. I guess I just don’t like people touching me….especially strangers.
And why would you pay for a steam room in Saigon at this time of year? Saigon IS A STEAM ROOM right now!! I told Long he could save a lot of money by getting his wife to give him a massage and then pull out a lawn chair and sit outside for awhile. 🙂 I hardly used the AC in my room the first month I was here…but I have it on most of the day now. It has been SO HOT and humid in Saigon for the past month and a half….and my Aunt says I haven’t seen anything yet!! She says it will get so hot in the next few months that steam will be rising from the streets. I don’t know what I’m dreading more….the coming heat wave or the rainy season that follows. click here to read more...
A few weeks ago, a NPO (Non Profit Organization) I volunteer at set up a meeting so that the Supervisor and teachers could discuss the current curriculum for the English Class we were teaching. The meeting was at 6:00pm….I showed up at 5:50pm and the Supervisor arrived a little after 6:00pm. I asked the Supervisor where all the other teachers were…..she laughed and said that they were probably on “Vietnamese Time”. One teacher showed up at 6:15pm and the 4 other teachers never came and didn’t even bother to let anyone know they weren’t coming.
One of the most frustrating things about living in Vietnam is dealing with “Vietnamese Time.” People here do not have the same concept of time that most of us in The States do. “I will meet you at 5:00 pm” actually means “I might be there at 5:30 pm if I bother to show up at all.” “Yes, I will come” translates into “Maybe I will show up, but don’t expect a call telling you that I’m not coming if you don’t hear from me.” click here to read more...
5 Year Visa Exemption (Mien Thi Thuc)
It used to be that anyone wanting to stay in Vietnam for a long time could just get a 3 or 6 month tourist/business visa and extend it indefinitely. Many expats have stayed in Vietnam for years using this method. However, in the past year there seems to be a concerted effort by the Vietnamese Government to crackdown on “undesirables” which includes “backpackers”, illegally employed Chinese/non-Vietnamese Asians, and Africans that are accused of propagating drugs and prostitution.
There seems to be two goals for this recent crackdown:
1.) To control (and get an accurate count of) the number of foreigners in the country by forcing them to the border checks.
2.) To get rid of foreign workers/cheap labor that take jobs away from the local people and money out of the country. click here to read more...
Gia Rai Kids
A little over a month ago, I went with the Ngan Hac Giay Organization on a trip to help the Gia Rai people in Chu Prong and Duc Co, two small cities in Central Vietnam near Pleiku. Pleiku is known by many in the United States as one of the main staging areas for the American military during the Vietnam War and the site of the war’s first conventional battles. My trip with the NHGO was only going to be for a few days….we left on a Friday and would return Sunday night.
Most of the Gia Rai families that we were going to help suffer from Leprosy and live in small villages isolated from the nearby Vietnamese communities. The local Catholic Church has been organizing aid missions to help the surrounding Gia Rai villages…which is how the Ngan Hac Giay Organization in Saigon got involved. This was just one of the many trips that the NHGO has been making to the Gia Lai province in the past few years. The goal of the NHGO is to not only deliver aid (food, clothes, toys, medicine) to the Gia Rai people, but to further help them become more self sufficient, by teaching them how to plant crops and raise farm animals…not to mention providing them with educational tools like TVs and DVD players. One of my primary motivations for coming to Vietnam was to be part of volunteer efforts like this. click here to read more...
DISCLAIMER!! You should not read the following post if you have a weak stomach!!
The other night I took my Aunt and her friend out to celebrate a belated International Women’s Day (Phu Nu Quoc Te), which is held on March 8th of every year. IWD is apparently a big deal in Vietnam. It’s like Valentine’s day all over again. Many women expect flowers and to be taken out to dinner. I never even knew this day existed until I arrived in Vietnam.
My Aunt (Mo Bay) actually called me Sunday night and told me that she was going to take me out to dinner with her friend Huyen Anh to celebrate Phu Nu Day. Phu Nu (woman) is one of the words I have learned only since coming to Vietnam (I’ve always called them Dan Ba)….and it still takes me a moment when someone says it for me to register what it means. click here to read more...