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  • Rolling like royalty.

    Exotic imports and limousines are still a relatively rare sight in HCMC, usually reserved for visiting politicians or celebrities. Short of hiring a helicopter to drop the VIP off at the Bitexco tower, hiring one of these opulent cars for a distinguished guest shows the highest form of respect while communicating the host’s affluence. While this type of service is still relatively new to Saigon, there are a few companies that can cater to the needs of those looking to roll in luxury. Usually used as a wedding prop Navigating the narrow streets of Saigon in a stretcher is a big challenge, and inching along in a supercar isn’t much of a thrill either - which might explain why this type of service has been slow to gain popularity among the city’s wealthy residents. Another limiting factor might be the astronomical customs rate levied on importing such lavish displays of wealth. For now, limousines are mostly rented for the wedding ceremonies of affluent couples, while supercars are sometimes used for brand promotion. A rare sight in HCMC In the west, limousine and supercar rentals are often run by two different sorts of businesses. However, due to the limited market and appeal of such services in HCMC, many companies offer both limousine services and exotic cars. Below, you’ll find a list of businesses as well as the vehicles they offer and corresponding rates – which include driver wage, fuel costs, and other commuting fees. The deposit is usually 30%       Saigon Limo (2, Pham Van Hai, Ward 2, Tan Binh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam | 84 8 38447989) is the only company that specialises solely in limousine services. They rent limousines out by the day or hour, inside or outside of the city. Rates : VND3-4M/hour or VND14.5-19M/8

  • The “who can tell you to do what” of living in HCMC.

    Many expats are used to having just one police force that takes care of various aspects of public security, from enforcing traffic rules to dealing with crisis situations. In Vietnam, however, there are three main forces and one auxiliary one, each having its own set of responsibilities and scope of authority over the country’s citizens. The multitude of uniforms might seem confusing at first, but in reality it’s fairly easy to tell them apart from each other. The real trick is knowing who can tell you what to do in this city. The traffic police ( Cảnh Sát Giao Thông ) are perhaps the most visible in Vietnam. Easily recognisable by their tan uniforms and helmets that read “CSGT”, the force falls under the jurisdiction of both the People’s Public Security Force and the Ministry of Transport. As the name suggests, this type of police deals entirely with traffic safety, which includes such aspects as enforcement, traffic research, setting rules and regulations, and facilitating traffic flow. Out of all the police forces, the CSGT is the only one with the authority to pull over and fine traffic offenders for their infractions.       Uniform: Tan shirt and trousers, black shoes, tan CSGT cap or helmet. Authority: only officers with a blue ID card clearly displayed on their chest have the authority to pull over traffic rule violators. The card includes information such as name, rank, department, and police identification number. Those attempting to pull over vehicles without a clearly displayed ID card risk facing disciplinary action. This measure is meant to prevent the abuse of power by ensuring that citizens know the identity of the officer in case they feel mistreated and want to file a report to a higher authority.       CSGT officer with a blue

  • Finding meaning in numbers

    Vietnam is home to at least 54 ethnic groups, and when it comes to talking about the country’s culture, it is one of the most diverse places in the world. Even among the most populous Viet group, there are some significant differences between the conservative northern provinces and the more relaxed south. However, if there is one aspect that could be said to unite the whole country culturally, it would be the universal belief in luck. In fact, most people here take it as a given that one’s whole life is largely predetermined by the day on which he or she is born. This belief is deeply rooted in the Vietnamese zodiac, a wonderfully comprehensive system that has been in use for millennia. Saigon welcomes the Year of the Dragon in 2012 While many expats are familiar with the concept of the Chinese zodiac (sometimes called Eastern zodiac), few have heard of its Vietnamese counterpart before moving here. The core concept is the same: each year is given an animal sign, and people born in that year are thought to have the characteristics attributed to their sign (much like the Western zodiac). In total, there are 12 animals: rat, buffalo, tiger, cat, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig. The year also determines whether you’re yin or yang , as well as assigning one of the five basic elements. Aside from the “year” animal, there are two more animal signs that each person has: the con giáp tháng and the con giáp giờ , which are determined by the month and hour of birth, respectively. In total, there are five characteristics that will define a newborn. Don’t worry if all that’s making your head spin right now, as we’ll cover them one by one later on. Those familiar

  • Still not mainstream.

    As the city’s denizens enjoy ever-increasing levels of disposable income, many of them have started seeking out professional spa services to relax after tiring hours at work. The majority of the customers belong to the fairer sex, but it’s not uncommon now for men to take a spa day. Bucking traditions in style (source: Miumiu Spa) Until very recently there was no such thing as a men’s spa in HCMC. The main reason was cultural – in Vietnam, visiting a spa is largely seen as a very feminine thing to do. While for women, getting beauty treatments such as skin whitening and waxing may be seen to be perfectly natural; for men, going to get a massage and facial is just not something that screams masculinity here. Also, there is another aspect: traditionally, Vietnamese men tend to be embarrassed of being semi-nude in front of others. For these reasons, in the past, the only males that would tend to go to a spa used to be performing artists and models, for whom taking care of their appearance was just part of the job description. The Saigonese, however, don’t always hold on to traditions for too long – and an increasing number of men are now seeking out spa services, thus making it an increasingly socially-accepted practice. Spas in Vietnam tend to be modest in terms of space, and are generally located in small streets and alleys away from the traffic and noise of main throughways. The masseuses are mostly women, ostensibly because they are thought to provide a softer, tenderer massage than men. Some establishments, especially larger ones, employ men as well, although their area of expertise is usually specialised massage such as the Thai Nuat or Japanese Shiatsu , both of which traditionally require more physical strength than run-of-the

  • Vietnam’s natural heat is not limited to its brazen sun.

    Thermal pools and springs have been associated with good health and wellbeing for centuries. Their occurrence in Vietnam, however, is relatively rare, and there’s no wide-ranging cultural sanitarium spa tradition as there is in other East Asian countries such as Japan or Korea. Those hot springs that do exist here are nowhere near as fully-developed as they would be in either of those countries, but they are still well-enough established to make for relaxing basic health resorts at hot pools. Vietnam has a total of eight natural hot springs available to guests, which are best-known for their natural scenery and hot mineral water. The list that follows is arranged based on their distance from HCMC, from closest to farthest away. Binh Chau Hot Springs Binh Chau (Quoc Lo 55, Binh Chau, Xuyen Moc, Ba Ria Province, 70 km from Vung Tau Beach) This magical hot spring is located 150 km from Ho Chi Minh City to the northeast. Binh Chau not only has a fine spring, but also thermal ponds with water temperatures ranging from 40-82°C, pouring out from over 70 sources day and night. It’s considered the most special of all of Vietnam’s hot springs. Within this area, there’s a place where many wells are located, often used by tourists to boil eggs in natural hot mineral water for fun. Locals associate Binh Chau Hot Springs with a folk legend. There was once a happy young couple living in the area. One day, while the husband was going hunting, he heard an unusual sound coming from a strange bird, and followed the sound to reach a wonderful place, never coming back to his ordinary life. The wife was so distressed at the non-reappearance of her husband after several days that she poured out all the boiling water she had

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