Tan Son Nhat Airport expansion

HO CHI MINH CITY AIRPORT EXPANSION - TAN SON NHAT

TAN SON NHAT AIRPORT EXPANSION – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has decided to expand Tan Son Nhat International Airport towards the south wing as proposed by ADPi Engineering, a French airport architecture and engineering company, local news reports said. ADPi proposed building a new terminal covering 200,000 square meters in the south where the current domestic and international terminals of the airport are located. The newly proposed terminal would be able to serve around 20 million passengers a year. The cost of the new terminal is estimated at VND18 trillion (US$800 million). Meanwhile, land in the airport’s north wing where there now exists a golf course and 16 hectares of land managed by the Ministry of National Defense will be used to develop supporting facilities such as cargo terminal, aircraft repair and maintenance, logistics and food processing from 2025.  

This option will spare tough land clearance work, and prevent inconvenience from the separation of the current terminals in the south wing and a new terminal in the north wing. If a new terminal is built in the north wing, its cost would be twice as much as the one in the south. PM Phuc said the decision had been made in a transparent manner and has got the nod from the HCMC government. The solution can ensure the efficient use of investment capital and land as well as security and safety for the airport. He assigned the Ministry of Transport to help ADPi coordinate with local consulting firms to complete the solution for effective land use in both the north and the south of the airport. Phuc said investment capital should be urgently sought and investment procedures promptly completed so that the new terminal could be up and running soon to ease overload at the airport which now handles 44% more passengers than the capacity forecast for 2020. When in place, the new terminal would raise the annual capacity of the airport to nearly 60 million passengers.

Last year the airport served 36 million passengers. In a proposal for expanding Tan Son Nhat which was sent to the Ministry of Transport on February 27, ADPi said the airport should be expanded southward while an aircraft repair and maintenance center should be developed in the north. Meanwhile, a consulting team established by the HCMC government suggested expanding the airport to the north to better connect with the traffic system outside the airport. Source: THE SAIGON TIMES

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HCMC waterway tourism

HCM City water tourism.

HCMC waterway tourism businesses in still face many difficulties when it comes to attracting more tourists heard a conference on the city’s waterway tourism development held on July 5. To address the situation, the city needs to implement the waterway tourism development project with the participation of all districts, and particular attention paid to infrastructure quality, Deputy General Director of Saigontourist To Tan Dung said.  

The city will maintain an 800m wharf at Nha Rong-Khanh Hoi Port to serve customers of local floating restaurant boats. It will upgrade the port at Hai Thuong Lan Ong street, also known as the city’s oriental medicine street. In addition, Ho Chi Minh City’s tourism sector has been working with neighboring provinces to create middle-range tourism products along the three rivers of Saigon, Dong Nai, and the Mekong.

The deputy head of the Economic and Budget Committee under the municipal People’s Council, Cao Thanh Binh, pointed out that infrastructure investment in the city’s waterway tourism remains modest, and there is a lack of systematic cooperation between travel companies and relevant agencies. Besides, the city has yet to complete its tourism development plan, which is a spanner in the work for the building of local tourism products, he added. At the conference, representatives from the municipal Department of Transport proposed several measures to improve waterway tourism, namely the acceleration of major waterway routes, the construction of Binh Loi railway bridge on Saigon River, and a project to replace all unqualified bridges. The department also plans to upgrade the Saigon-Khanh Hoi Port so it can receive domestic and international passenger ships in the future.

The conference saw more than 30 reports analyzing activities in waterway tourism in the city and its sustainable development. The ideas proposed in the conference will be collected and sent to the municipal People’s Committee and then to be delivered at the upcoming session of the People’s Council. The Ho Chi Minh City metropolitan area, downstream of the Dong Nai-Saigon river system, is surrounded and traversed by nearly 1,000km of rivers and canals, with huge potential for waterway tourism plans in the future. Waterway tourism in the city is expected to receive about 450,000 tourists in 2018 and the figure is projected to increase by 15 percent in the following years.

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Japanese Bunraku puppetry theatre in HCMC

The Japan Foundation Centre for Cultural Exchange in Việt Nam will present a performance of traditional Japanese bunraku puppetry theatre in HCM City

The Japan Foundation Centre for Cultural Exchange in Vietnam will present a performance of traditional Japanese Bunraku puppetry theatre in HCMC in mid-July to mark 45 years of Vietnam-Japan diplomatic ties. The 20-minute performance will include an excerpt from Date Musume Koi No Higanoko (The Red-Hot Love of the Greengrocer’s Daughter), a bunraku masterpiece based on a real story that occurred during the Edo period about 300 years ago.

The performances in HCM City will start at 3pm and 7pm on July 12 at Thế Giới Trẻ Theatre at 125 Cống Quỳnh Street in District 1. The program is not recommended for children under 12 years old. The Japan Foundation Centre will also organize two other shows at the Vietnam Youth Theatre in Hanoi on July 14. Free tickets will be available at the center from July 7.

HISTORY: Bunraku’s history goes as far back as the 16th century but the origins of the modern form can be traced to the 1680s. It rose to popularity after the playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) began a collaboration with the magnificent chanter Takemoto Gidayu (1651-1714), who established the Takemoto puppet theater in Osaka in 1684. Originally, the term Bunraku referred only to the particular theater established in 1805 in Osaka, which was named the Bunrakuza after the puppeteering ensemble of Uemura Bunrakuken (植村文楽軒, 1751–1810), an early 18th-century puppeteer from Awaji, whose efforts revived the flagging fortunes of the traditional puppet theater.

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HCMC waterway tourism

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HCMC keen on developing shopping tourism

HCM City has become a veritable shopping mecca, but experts say that tourist spending remains at a low level. Traditional markets such as Ben Thanh, Binh Tay, An Dong Plaza and Saigon Square as well as luxury department stores Takashimaya, Vincom Centre, Parkson and Diamond Plaza can be conveniently reached by different means of transport or on foot from the city’s centre.

HCM City keen on developing shopping tourism: As the country’s economic hub and tourism magnet with name-brand boutiques and a wide variety of local and foreign goods, HCM City has become a veritable shopping mecca, but experts say that tourist spending remains at a low level. Traditional markets such as Ben Thanh, Binh Tay, An Dong Plaza and Saigon Square as well as luxury department stores Takashimaya, Vincom Centre, Parkson, and Diamond Plaza can be conveniently reached by different means of transport or on foot from the city’s center.  

While a wide array of international brands and renowned local designs can be bought at many of these sites, the city also has many streets that specialize in selling paintings, fabric, antiques, jewelry or traditional medicine in or near the downtown area. Because of the wide variety of Vietnamese-made products and souvenirs, wandering around downtown is a must-do experience, especially for foreign tourists, according to Nguyen The Trung, a tour guide of Transviet Tour Company.

The famous Ben Thanh market, located in an easily accessible central location, is open all day and night, offering a taste of local lifestyles. It offers clothing, footwear and textiles as well as brocade, jewelry, and special local dishes, among countless other items. However, prices at Ben Thanh Market and the discount shopping mall called Saigon Square can be inflated and tourists are urged to bargain up to 50 percent under the ticketed price.

“I visited Ben Thanh market one time, and bought nothing,” said Alexander Markos Kennedy, who has worked in HCM City for five years. “It’s exciting to look around inside the market, but it’s not a good place for shopping as you have to bargain and the quality of products is not good. I just wandered around some streets and visited stores in the city center. I finally bought two cups with photos of Ha Noi, and some T-shirts, paintings and jewelry boxes at different stores to take home. The items were inexpensive, lightweight and easily portable for his flight back to the US, he said.

Many souvenirs shops and stores providing these kinds of products, however, had failed to satisfy tourists’ shopping needs and tastes, Trung said, adding that handmade embroidery, silk fabric, clothes, handicrafts, lacquerware, tea, and coffee were all popular tourist purchases. Tran Van Long, general director of Viet Media Travel Corporation, said that foreign tourists’ length of stay in HCM City averaged only 2.6 days but could be longer if shopping was promoted. Because of its many shopping centers and premium stores, the city should develop specific plans to promote the city as a shopping destination for tourists, according to Nguyen Quoc Ky, chairman and general director of Vietravel. Pedestrianized streets such as Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao in the popular backpacker and budget area of HCM City’s District 1 should have more stores and entertainment services for tourists, he said. Nighttime activities for tourists, including entertainment shows and leisure activities as well as shopping hours between 6pm and 2am, could result in a huge volume of revenue for the tourism sector, according to Ky.

Most tourism services now operate from 7am to 5pm, even though most tourism revenue is gained by nighttime services and activities. Vietnamese tourists often travel to Thailand not just for beautiful landscapes or historic sites but also for shopping and entertainment services. Nguyen Dinh Quang, the operation supervisor at Indochina Tourist & Trade Co., Ltd, said the city should develop shopping complexes for tourists that would offer a wide range of products at reasonable prices and a guarantee of high quality.

“Overlapping products at different stores and poorly designed souvenirs are among the shortcomings,” he said, adding that product price and quality at markets and souvenir stores are not strictly supervised. “Counterfeit goods also flood the market and stores, causing concern among local and foreign tourists about the availability of genuine, high-quality products.” To prevent fraud, tourism authorities and market supervision agencies should strictly monitor markets and stores that attract many tourists, Quang said.

Bui Ta Hoang Vu, director of the city’s Department of Tourism, said the number of foreign tourists visiting HCM City in 2017 hit a record-high of 6.4 million, up 23 percent compared to the previous year. However, tourism receipts increased only 12.6 percent year-on-year to reach VND116 trillion ($5.11 billion), he said. “To encourage spending, the department plans to set up a shopping complex with authentic made-in-Viet Nam products with properly fixed prices to meet demand.” Only 60 stores and shopping centers had received certifications for quality standards issued by the Department of Tourism, he said, adding that the department planned to expand the number of certified stores. This year, the department would organize a contest on designing and producing souvenirs and gifts for tourists and would work with the Department of Industry and Trade to regularly hold sales programs for tourists.

Souvenir shopping is an integral component of the travel experience and contributes a significant proportion of overall travel expenditures, according to Pham Trung Luong, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Tourism Education Association under the Viet Nam Tourism Association. The country should develop shopping complexes geared toward tourists at popular destinations in the country, which would make it easier to manage prices and the quality of products.

The procedures to receive refunds on value-added tax (VAT) for foreign tourists should also be simplified, he said. As of the end of last year, only 573 stores of 77 enterprises were taking part in the VAT refund program, according to the city’s Department of Tourism. Economist Dinh The Hien said that many foreigners were unaware of Viet Nam’s VAT refund policy. “VAT refunds are more common and more easily secured in Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan among other countries,” he said.

Le Tuan Binh, deputy director of the customs department of Tan Son Nhat International Airport, said that VAT refunds processed daily at the airport amounted to only VND100 million ($4,400), reflecting low demand. The electronic data connection between stores, customs agencies and banks should be improved to facilitate VAT refunds and purchases, Binh said.

Kenneth Atkinson, executive chairman of the accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton Vietnam, said the low amount of tourist spending was not only an issue in HCM City but also in other destinations in the country. More visitors are coming from mainland China, Russia and Taiwan and other countries, but they spend less than $860 (2016 data), while visitors from Europe and North America spend an average $1,400 to $1,600. Under a new government resolution, the country aims to have by 2020 18.5 million visitors and US$20 billion in spending by international tourists for leisure and business travel, Atkinson added.

These figures would gradually increase average direct visitor spending to $1,080 from the current $860, but it would entail changing the mix of visitors and attracting more tourists from developed countries. To accomplish these goals, there should be changes in policies on destination marketing, improved visa facilitation, visa exemptions for more countries, and expansion of the e-visa program, he said. Extending visa exemptions to 30 days and offering a one-visa policy for the four countries in Indochina (Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar), as well as more targeted marketing of destinations, would all contribute to a higher number of tourists and spending, according to Atkinson.

Source: http://bizhub.vn
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HCMC coffe culture

The first thing a stranger needs to learn in Ho Chi Minh City is how to cross the road. It’s a daunting challenge that requires a fine balance of nonchalance and acute awareness, of deliberate forward motion and hesitancy. Facing down a phalanx of buzzing mopeds with riders expressionless behind helmets and masks is dizzying. It takes a while to discover that it’s a dance of giving and take; that the moped riders will flow around you; that, in the end, the last thing to do is stop. Maybe that’s the essence of Ho Chi Minh City itself.   

It’s a metropolis where it feels as though the future has burst its banks. Skyscrapers rise out of the ground, obliterating neighborhoods where family life once played out at street level. And yet, at the foot of one of these glass-and-steel monoliths sits an old lady, skin like fragile rice paper, serving steaming pho (noodle soup) from an old cart, as if nothing at all has changed.

The best way to enjoy this peculiar balancing act is to sit on the balcony of one of the innumerable coffee houses scattered throughout the city. This way you will be out of the fray but able to look down on the street hustle below. You will also be drinking the beverage that must be at least partly responsible for the kinetic energy that has transformed this city into one of the most sophisticated commercial hubs of south-east Asia in just 20 years.

On the terrace of L’Usine, a French-inspired café overlooking the opera house, I ordered the classic Vietnamese coffee known as ca phe sua da – literally “coffee, milk, ice”. It comprises strong coffee, dripped from a small metal filter into a cup containing a quarter as much sweetened condensed milk, then stirred and poured over ice in a glass.

At first, I couldn’t bear its cloying sweetness, but three days in I’d grown addicted to the sweet buzz that follows a refreshing coolness on the tongue. It suits the humidity of the place in a way that an ordinary latte wouldn’t. Coffee was introduced to Vietnam by the French in the late 19th century but the country quickly became a strong exporter, as vast swathes of the highlands were given over to this important new cash crop. And now the Vietnamese have taken coffee to new levels of almost gastronomical – even medicinal – heights.

At Trung Nguyen Coffee – the Vietnamese equivalent of Starbucks, with a chain of cafés across the city – the coffee menu stretched to five pages. The vibe was studiously chic, with low-slung sofas and Seventies retro branding in orange and brown. Fellow patrons were largely beatnik-inspired youths and businessmen.

Coffee is taken seriously here, with beans from Italy, Japan, Turkey, and Ethiopia, but it was the varieties of Vietnamese coffee that deserved more exploration. They came with different bean combinations and recipes, and lofty names such as “Success”, “Creation”, “Discover” and “Thought”. I went for the “Passiona”, which was exclusively promoted for women with the promise that to drink this nectar would be to maintain perfect skin and a life of “passion and success”.

I drank it a lot, not necessarily because of its promises but because it was delicious. A kind of coffee smoothie, it was developed over the course of nine years and included a concoction of collagen, vitamin PP (to combat skin dryness) and rare oriental herbs. It was probably a calorie overload but became for me a daily ritual while I contemplated the city’s exquisitely balanced fusion of old and new.

At Mr Huynh’s street restaurant with no name, eating his signature beef pho under neon lights, I realised that no matter how many skyscrapers rise and how many mopeds speed towards the future, Vietnam’s past lives on in its food – in the steaming pho on street corners, in the markets with fish thrashing about in gleaming steel bowls, in the mounds of rice of a dozen varieties and the heaps of freshly harvested herbs. As Mr Huynh explained, few Vietnamese people own refrigerators because they buy everything fresh from the market.

Whether rich or poor, they prefer to eat on the street on tiny stools, and every restaurant uses family recipes passed down through generations. So it is that the hunky-dory youths with mobile phones pinned to their ears park their mopeds on the pavement, pull up a stool and eat the same food as their great-great-grandmothers did, long before the Vietnam War interrupted the gathering of rice in the paddies of the Mekong.

I bought my last cup of ca phe sua da from a street vendor outside the War Remnants Museum and drank it in the shadow of an old American tank with Lou, a young Vietnamese woman who still struggled with the war. Her name, Lou, had been given to her by a much-loved aunt who was separated from her family as a girl and ended up being taken care of by a French army deserter hiding from US troops in the mountains.

She went with him to France and it took her 30 years to find her way back to her family; to achieve that, she had to leave her beloved dog behind. The visit to the museum brought up sore memories for Lou, who’d had to change her foreign-sounding name in school to protect her from hatred as she might have been thought of as mixed-race.

“Everyone here has a story,” she told me. “Everyone lost someone, and many had to live with the shame of fighting on the wrong side. We fought and killed one another. No one talks about the war any more, as if it is over, but it isn’t really. It lives on in the silence.”

So in the cacophony that is street life in Ho Chi Minh City, each person carries the past as a secret wound, offering it quietly at his or her ancestral altars but forgetting it during the daily rush and the forgiving clatter of commerce. Vietnam has been invaded by the Chinese, the Japanese, the French and, finally, the Americans. That last legacy fills the rooms of the museum, where a visit concludes with eloquent photographs and testimony from the many, many people bearing the scars and disfigurements of chemical warfare.

Lou didn’t talk about it. Neither did I. We both sipped through our straws, drawing on the sweetness of our ca phe sua da as if it might dilute the bitterness of memory and loss.”

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk

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Saigon nightlife

SAIGON NIGHTLIFE. HCM CITY. Nightlife in the megacity has something for everyone, be it partying hard or watching the skyline with a cocktail. Respected travel site Rough Guides just released a list of eight best night experiences in Southeast Asia, and Ho Chi Minh City is named THE place to delve into bars and clubs. “When the sun goes down, the bustling energy of southern Vietnam’s megalopolis transfers to its many clubs and bars,” Rough Guides says. If you’re thirsty for a chic experience of Saigon’s nightlife, put on your best dress or suit and head to the rooftop Chill Sky Bar in District 1, one of the city’s most popular and fancy spots.

It stays open from 5:30 p.m. till small hours the next morning, offering a dusk till dawn-ish view of the city, fabulous cocktails and a small but exciting music scene to check out. The U.K travel site also named Saigon Acoustic Bar in District 3 as a great rendezvous for a night out with pop-rock cover bands, while Carmen Bar in District 1 offers an odd selection of Spanish flamenco played by skilled Vietnamese musicians. For a casual good time, the plastic tables along Bui Vien are a must, Rough Guides said, calling it the “Beer Street” of the city’s backpacker district. Bui Vien is part of the city’s famous backpacker precinct that is closed to vehicles on weekends. It has drawn much attention from nomads with its bustling and energetic atmosphere, where they wander into the world of beer clubs, bars and pubs, shaking up the night in loud music, blink lights and cheers.

Other best night experiences in the region that are named on the list are music scene in Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur and Sarawak, an overnight stay at Thailand’s most populous city The Big Mango or dance parties in Malaysia’s Penang. Or, visitors can grab a bite at Myanmar’s former capital Yangon, indulge in street life and live music at Yogyakarta’s Malioboro strip in Indonesia and dive into Singapore’s art hub Kampong Glam. Saigon, Vietnam’s biggest commercial center, is one of the most popular destinations in the country. Official data showed that it received 6.4 million foreign arrivals in 2017, a 22 percent pickup from the previous year. The city hopes to receive seven million foreign visitors this year.” Source: e.vnexpress.net

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