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  • 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

  • The everyman’s tennis.

    Nestled in there with tennis and badminton, table tennis is a popular sport among the Saigonese. Unlike other racquet sports, the equipment is fairly cheap and it can be enjoyed throughout the year – even when the outdoor courts are drenched in rain. With dozens of ping-pong clubs spread throughout the city, it’s just a matter of grabbing a paddle and challenging a friend to a best-of-three. Table tennis ( bóng bàn ) has a long history in Vietnam, as the country used to be at the forefront of international competitions in the 60’s and early 70’s, at a time when ping-pong competitions were of great political importance in smoothing East-West relations. Back then, the nation boasted some of the best players of the world, all united under the umbrella of the Vietnam Table Tennis Federation , which was founded in 1959. Following the events of 1975, the popularity of ping-pong waned, only to resurge again some two decades later. The most recent high-point of the sport was the year 1993, when Vietnamese players brought back numerous gold medals in international competitions. Since then, competitive table tennis has taken a back seat to more popular sports, but if its past history is any indicator, ping-pong will find a way back into the national spotlight before too long. Are the days of pro ping pong behind Vietnam? Given the immense number of casual players, the number of athletes that go professional is surprisingly small. There are two factors that are holding back the emergence of a new generation of players: low salaries and a lack of professional competitions. The two are closely connected: since it’s hard to make a decent living (much less feed a family) solely by playing table tennis, there are few athletes willing to dedicate their future to

  • Time to make boolooloop soon.

    No Southeast Asian is worthy of the name without a certain level of pride and passion for the ever-juicy mango. There are so many varieties and subtle variations in flavour that a connoisseurship for mangoes is about as complex as an appreciation for fine wines. Regionalism amongst mango lovers can be fierce – if you value your friendship with a local Vietnamese, never mention your penchant for foreign mangoes if you can help it. The best mangoes are always “our” mangoes Mangoes are available almost the whole year round, although they’re at their best in April. Of the varieties available in Ho Chi Minh City, the favourites nowadays are xoài cát , especially the variety known as xoài cát Hòa Lộc (yellow skin, yellow meat); xoài xanh (green skin, white meat); xoài tượng (the largest variety of green mango, weighing in at over 500 grams to 1 kg each); and xoài nghệ or xoài keo (dark green skin, yellow meat). These are the types you’re most likely to encounter at the market – but there are many more, and the phenotypes for each can be markedly different. The knack of selecting a mango determines how long you expect to preserve it for. Mangos must look fresh and be scratch-free. You can test the freshness by trying to gently squeeze the stem – if it smells nice and exudes a little oil, that’s the sign of a fresh mango. Ripe yellow mangoes must be a gentle, light yellow on the outside (and a rich, honey-yellow within), and fully-shaped with that distinctive curve on one side like the waist of a beautiful woman. Don’t buy green soft ones of this variety, as these are most likely to have been harvested before their time and forced to ripen artificially. In this bountiful country

  • If you like it, then you should put a ring on it.

    An engagement ring may not have been quite what you expected you’d be shopping for when you moved to Vietnam – but here we are. One of the first questions you may have (besides where to find one) is whether or not it’s even customary for a lady to wear a ring to signify her betrothal at all in this country. Traditionally, it’s more complicated than that – Vietnam has a total of fourteen procedures and rituals concerning weddings that date back centuries. With people living in the north of Vietnam, upon an engagement, the groom’s family will bring trays of offering (usually just fruit and canned goods) to the bride’s house in order to ask her family’s permission to marry. These trays usually don’t include jewellery. People in the south, however, tend to lay it on heavy with a ring, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings as well as the groceries. Just the right bling factor Nowadays, however, all of this has been pared down – and many people actually only buy wedding rings, as the celebration of an engagement isn’t considered all that necessary. It’s probably fair to say that most international couples will do things a little of both ways, however – which means an engagement ring will more than likely be considered appropriate. Most commonly in this situation, a groom will buy two wedding rings – one for himself and one for his fiancée – and a single ring for his fiancée to be presented with on the engagement day itself. In Western countries, diamond engagement rings and gold bands for a wedding are standard, but in Vietnam, there’s no such rule for what kinds of rings can be used for each purpose. The couple can choose any kind of ring they prefer. The wedding ring, however, is

  • From elegant bouquets to elaborate arrangements, they deliver.

    Whether you’re visiting a friend’s house for dinner or looking to congratulate a colleague at work, giving flowers is a universally-appreciated gesture all over the world. Unfortunately, it’s not always convenient to stop by the florist when you want to help someone celebrate a special occasion, or even to brighten your better half’s day with a surprise while you’re out of town. This is why many flower shops in HCMC now offer a convenient delivery service, which can be arranged over the phone or entirely online. Ready to go out to the one you love Most of the flowers available at local florists are either brought in from Dalat or imported from abroad. Although the Saigonese generally prefer to take care of picking out an arrangement and delivering it by themselves, flower delivery is becoming a popular trend as the city dwellers’ lives become increasingly busy. Many local flower shops have started offering the service to meet the growing demand, but not all of them are able to provide a great selection of flowers, prompt delivery, and an overall high level of service. When choosing a florist to do business with, it’s important to find one that employs knowledgeable staff. A bouquet of flowers can say many things, and the florist should be able to help you create something suitable for the occasion. Do keep in mind that some flowers and their colours carry a different meaning in Vietnamese culture. A tuberose, for example, may seems like a beautiful flower suitable for any occasion, but it is only given as a sign of mourning during funerals here. Likewise, daisies and chrysanthemums carry a different message – they are never to be given to friends or business partners, as they are reserved for the elderly, parents, and during funerals. Consulting with

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