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  • Get on the other side of the iron.

    There are few things that bring as much long-term satisfaction as getting inked by a talented tattoo artist, but those with a penchant for art and design may want to see what it’s like from the other side of the needle. For tattoo lovers who nurture a dream of one day being able to wield the iron themselves, HCMC has professional tattoo artists courses available at incredibly low rates compared to the West. Tattooing in HCMC, being an underground art, has not received much public coverage in Vietnam. The information and knowledge are here, but both are concentrated in a small community of body artists. In fact, it wasn’t until 2011 that the media even mentioned that professional training courses are available in the city. The first publication to break the silence was Tien Phong in a series dedicated to tattooing. Unlike the reports from years past, it represented a fairly unbiased view of the art, a remarkable feat given the widespread bias against tattooing. Since then, information on professional courses has been gradually becoming easier to come across. It takes a steady hand and years of experience In general, tattoo artist training courses are offered by two types of business entities: tattoo studios and beauty career centres. Even a cursory search for tattooing courses ( khóa học xăm hình ) shows that the latter are far more prevalent and outnumber tattoo studios nine to one. There are a variety of reasons for this status quo , with the main one being marketing: beauty career centres offer professional training in many fields related to beauty (make up, hair styling, etc.) and have a dedicated marketing department, which helps them get a lot more publicity and exposure. Also, these centres are registered as educational institutions and thus have far more flexibility

  • Welcome to the dark heart of the Vietnamese real estate landscape.

    Once you’ve found an apartment or a home you like in Ho Chi Minh City, you’re only about halfway there. With the sheer number of pitfalls and problems that could beset you – as they have so many before you – you’ll need to keep your wits sharp and pay mind to the following. Tenants usually deposit three months’ rent-in-advance into the landlord’s pocket and then spend the remainder of their tenancy believing naively that they’re going to see that money again one day. Of course, if you back out on the deal before you move in because you’ve suddenly found somewhere else with a slightly wider TV, you’re not going to have it cheerfully returned. You’re also more or less begging the landlord to forget to return the bond if you neglect to give him or her the appropriate month’s notice before you decide to leave. The low rate of bond return is an expat-specific issue. Vietnamese people, in general, have few problems in this regard. In those cases where locals actually have lost their bond money to the landlord/agent, it’s usually wholly justified. If your bond is unfairly withheld, however, you’re not helpless in attempting to recover it. According to Vietnamese regulations, the landlord is obligated to return the bond money in full within 30 days of the tenant fulfilling these two conditions: 1/The condition of the rented property upon exit is exactly as it is upon entry. If the landlord resorts to claiming you’ve damaged the sofa since you moved in, they can pretend to have good cause to withhold your bond. To avoid opening yourself up to that tactic, photograph and record the state of every object on the premises on the day you arrive, and furnish your landlord with copies – along with a list

  • How to be really, really, really Vietnamese.

    You can become Vietnamese; the law allows this, and as long as you meet all the criteria and go through the correct process, you can legally and honestly count yourself as being a true citizen of this country. Under certain conditions, you may not even have to give up your original nationality either. I want to be extremely Vietnamese If you’re applying for Vietnamese citizenship, you need to meet one of these conditions:       Be the natural parents or natural offspring of a Vietnamese citizen Have made special meritorious contributions to Vietnam’s national construction and defence (and have been awarded orders, medals or other honourable titles by the State of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam or the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam or have your special meritorious contribution certified by competent Vietnamese agencies) Have been helpful to the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Persons whose naturalisation in Vietnam is helpful to the State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam must be those who have talents in scientific, technological, cultural, social, art and sport domains and are certified by their employing agencies or organisations and ministerial-level state management agencies or provincial-level People’s Committees that their naturalisation in Vietnam will contribute to the development of these domains) in which case you may be permitted for naturalisation in Vietnam without having to fully meet the following conditions: Understanding Vietnamese sufficiently enough to integrate yourself into the Vietnamese community; Having resided continuously in Vietnam during a period of 5 years by the time of your application for naturalisation; Being capable of making your livelihood in Vietnam       If you want to apply, you’ll need to file a dossier at the Justice Department of the locality where

  • In Vietnam’s busiest city, it’s still cheap and easy to stay connected – even beyond the reach of WiFi.

    Internet connectivity is pretty much standard issue on most portable devices – including mobile phones – which has not only revolutionised the way people stay in touch, it’s also brought the online addiction to the great outdoors. While most mobile carriers in this city provide high-standard mobile connectivity services, however, these are not necessarily the default – there are sometimes a few steps to go through to hook up. And… we have internet. Like most countries, Vietnam’s mobile communications standard is GSM. CDMA services were available in Ho Chi Minh City until 2012, when the last remaining entity providing the service closed its doors permanently. There are currently no plans to reactivate the CDMA standard in Ho Chi Minh City, and it is expected that the remaining CDMA service towers will soon be dismantled, if there are any still remaining that haven’t already been harvested for their scrap metal. Vietnam’s GSM service, offered by most carriers, can reach speeds of 384kb/s - 42mb/s with modern 3G phones. The average price is around VND5-10/kb. 3G services from all carriers are considered to be quite good, although in some districts such as outer Tan Phu and Cu Chi, the quality of services may be weaker, but still acceptable for light usage such as checking email or reading online newspapers. 4G technologies have been tested in Ho Chi Minh City, although full commercial services are not expected to be rolled out until after 2015, pending further government consideration. 4G ready… With the range of devices compatible with Ho Chi Minh City’s mobile internet network, the number of different methods required to connect them are voluminous. While most cell phone models will come with some kind of default Internet access to local networks, this is not always the case. Depending on the model of

  • Swim with the fishes… in a good way.

    People all over the world have watched in awe as Jacque Cousteau explored the ocean depths and shared his crew’s stunning footage with the world. Many have dreamt of one day following in his footsteps, but not everyone is prepared to don a scuba tank and go through the costly process of certification. Fortunately, snorkelling offers a peek into the lives of underwater denizens without the time and money commitments of scuba diving. In Vietnam, it is also a very affordable pastime that the whole family can enjoy. The crystal clear waters await There are four main spots for snorkelling in Vietnam: Con Dao Island, Phu Quoc Island, Nha Trang, and the nearby Whale Island. The first two are considered to be the top diving spots in the country, with a variety of coral and a multitude of ocean dwellers populating the shore waters. Also, both Islands are only an hours’ flight from Tan Son Nhat Airport, making them an easily-accessible getaway for expats tired of the city. Nha Trang and Whale Island have a few interesting diving spots, but years of dynamite fishing and bottom trawling have destroyed much of the biodiversity of that region. Efforts are being made to repair the damage, but it will most likely take decades for them to make a visible difference. Have a look at our corresponding articles in the Destinations section for a more in-depth analysis of each diving location, as well as some useful travelling advice. Whichever destination you happen to choose, it’s best to go on a snorkelling tour with a reputable company rather than trying to find the spots on your own. Unlike famous diving spots such as Hawaii, it’s very uncommon to find a coral reef just off the main beaches here in Vietnam, so going snorkelling usually

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