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  • Are you feeling lucky today?

    All goods arriving in Vietnam are subject to inspection and are charged appropriate taxes. Expats coming here for the first time may wonder which items they’re allowed to bring, and those who have been here for a while may wonder how much would it cost to import hard-to-find items into the country. We’re here to help you wade through the legalese of decrees and decisions so that you can at least get a ballpark figure of what you’ll pay at the border. After all, taxes are a part of life, but knowing in advance how much you’ll pay can at the very least save you an unpleasant shock. Most people entering Vietnam with personal effects have nothing to worry about, since the items that expats typically pack in their luggage are exempt from being taxed. If brought in reasonable quantities, clothes, shoes, personal electronics, and other miscellaneous items are considered to be non-taxable personal belongings (Clause 6 of Circular 66/2002/ND-CP). One caveat to keep in mind, however, is that customs agents enforce restrictions on expensive electronics such as smartphones, laptops, and cameras: only one of each is allowed per person tax-free. Other than personal belongings, those entering the country are also allowed to bring in a certain amount of duty-free goods. The allowances for adults over 18 years of age are as follows:       Alcohol: Alcohol stronger than 22% (44 proof): 1.5 litres or Alcohol weaker than 22% (44 proof): 2 litres or Weak alcoholic beverages (e.g., beer, coolers, etc.): 3 litres             Tobacco: 400 cigarettes (two standard cartons) or 100 cigars or 500 g. of loose tobacco             Tea and Coffee: 5 kg. of tea or 3 kg. of coffee       Make sure you’re within

  • Treat your kids to some extracurricular good times.

    There are occasional moments of guilt you’ll experience as a parent in Ho Chi Minh City, and they’ll come at you from all sides. You’ll worry about the rough city environment you’re bringing up your kids in, and you’ll worry that local people seem to take parenting both more seriously and less seriously than you do. You’ll see them drop off their kids at local primary schools at 6.30 in the morning and bringing them home late at night, and somehow still manage to find the time tohead off to swimming pools, after-school art classes, and all manner of fun activities you’d never have thought to let your own kids have a go at. The thing is that expat kids are often on different timetables than the locals are anyway. Many Vietnamese families are struggling to break out of the poverty cycle, so the long school hours are the only way to deal with the fact that both parents – and sometimes grandparents too – have to work. Expat schoolkids will tend to start school a lot later than their Vietnamese counterparts, finish earlier, and learn a great deal more for their time – thus the exorbitant fees. As an expat parent, though, you’ll find you have the time and the means to arrange for your kids to participate in fun activities outside of class, whether that be in the afternoons, evenings, or weekends. Identifying what activities are available, appropriate, and safe for your kids, however, can be challenging. There are over fifty swimming pools scattered throughout the city where kids love to swim after school, although you’ll find yourself walking away from most of them when you see what the water’s like. While your children won’t need to know much of the local languagein order to join Vietnamese cultural clubs (in music and painting, for example), you’ll probably disagree with local teaching methods that emphasise imitation over creativity.

  • For when the storm clouds gather.

    The Vietnamese claypot works magic on dishes with contrasting elements, and the most representative fare of this region – or more accurately, of the Mekong Delta – is cá kho tộ , a caramelised sweet & sour fish recipe most commonly hankered after on rainy days. Fabulous in the rain The dish is spicy and slightly salty, and is served with hot rice, often paired with a bowl of canh chua cooked with the head and tail of the same fish. Snakehead fish is most commonly used, but you can also replace it with basa or anabas. There’s a secret to the unique flavour of the meat, however – it’s not 100% fish. A little bacon is usually added to accentuate the flavours. Cooking time is one hour, and the dish is enough for four claypots.       500g snakehead fish meat 1 coconut for its milk, or 200 ml boiled water 2-3 cloves of garlic, spring onions, brown sugar, pepper, fish sauce Bột nêm seasoning powder             Wash and cut the fish into slices, from 2-3 cm each. Dip each slice into a mixture of sugar, pepper, two spoons of fish sauce, and seasoning powder for 15-30 mins. If you like it spicy, add some sliced chillies in. Heat the claypot, put 1 tsp of cooking oil and 2 tbsp of sugar in, and stir until you have a beautiful caramel colour. Quickly put minced garlic in the clay pot and stir-fry for a bit. Turn off the cooker and arrange the fish. Pour the dipping mixture on top and bring it back to the boil. Add the coconut water while the temperature is still high, and let it boil until the water mostly evaporates and add the pepper and spring onions.  

  • Thrash your opponent at one of the city’s many courts.

    In recent years, tennis has become a growing trend amongst Saigon locals. Some play it as a hobby, some as exercise to maintain body fitness, and some out of mere curiosity. As a result, tennis courts have been constructed by enterprising sports lovers with increasing fervour; even so, the supply is always short of the demands of players. People usually book their courts beforehand, at least one week in advance if they are frequent players, or otherwise book a schedule covering a period of a month or more. Locals often gather as a group to play tennis on specific days of the week as a way to reduce court rental fees as well as to learn new skills from each other. They’re typically tennis enthusiasts, professional players, or beginners trying the sport out. Generally, the quality of tennis courts in Saigon (as well as in Vietnam in general) can’t be compared to other countries in the region – however, much attention has been given to making improvements in recent years, since players generally have high requirements when choosing a court. The tennis court at Binh Quoi Ancillary services are also important. Some courts offer ball hire, ball-boys, and a free drinking stall for players during their practice in order to attract regular clients. The rental fee ranges from between VND40K and VND200K/hour, depending on the location, rental time, and the quality of the court. In residential areas where foreigners are generally based, many tennis courts have been built and are open almost the whole day. The most reputable courts are Lan Anh Club , Yofi Club in Sky Garden, and Nam Saigon Sports Centre . They have English-speaking coaches who are available to instruct players on request. A list of local courts available follows – be aware that many predominantly

  • We’re living in a material world.

    Vietnam is generally known by visitors for its exceptionally cheap tailoring. Tourists coming through here tend to have ‘buy a suit’ on their bucket list of things to do while they’re in the country – and some claim that good clothing is so affordable here that you’re actually losing money if you don’t buy something significant while you have the chance. If you actually live here, there’s another dimension to the same phenomenon – not only are the clothes cheap, but the material used to make them isn’t expensive either. If you have an interest in making clothing or other fabric items, you’re in the right place to do it without parting with too much cash in the process. The modern Vietnamese fabrics industry is one that developed from traditional weaving practices that were maintained for thousands of years in Vietnam. It’s thought to have its roots in the north of the country, where cotton has been grown by minority groups for a very long time – and where woven products came to be used in bartering for essentials. The modern textiles industry was born in the early days of Socialism in that region, and it became one of the main national industries. Tradition in the modern world Nowadays, Vietnamese textiles have a large export market around the globe. Vietnam exports its textiles and fabrics to Japan, the USA, and Europe. Part of the industry’s success is the pure range of materials available – and for those residing here, you’ll find that in any market or specialised store, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Cotton – the most popular and widely-used fabric in making clothes – is durable, dries quickly, absorbs moisture, and is known as an all-season fabric. Silk ( lụa ) is favoured by women who want to make

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