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  • 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.  

  • More than just a batsman

    Cricket’s not amongst Vietnam’s more popular sports. Many locals would have no shame in admitting that they have no idea about cricket, even when referred to by its Vietnamese name ( mộc cầu ). The sport’s first arrival in Vietnam wasn’t until 2005, and the following year the Vietnam Cricket Association (VCA) was established with the aim to provide an umbrella administrative and organisational body responsible for the management of expat cricket activities, both in Ho Chi Minh City and across Vietnam. So far, the majority of cricketing activities within Vietnam have been based in HCMC, although there have also been a number of matches played in Hanoi and Nha Trang, and they are all led by expat cricket professionals. The League encompasses seven regular teams and over 100 competitors, and a community of over 500 players, 98% of whom are expats from five nations: Australia, England, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The English Cricket Club of Saigon The seven teams currently participating in the league are: ECCS (The English Cricket Club of Saigon) Contact person: Paul McLardie | 094 9531 897 ICCS (Indian Cricket Club of Saigon) Contact person: Manish Sogani | 090 8200 898 ISCS (Indian Sports Club in Saigon) Contact person: YadhavaPriyan | 016 5601 6915 PSSC (Pakistan Saigon Cricket Club) Contact person: Suleman Gill | waiting for permisson to use their number SACC (Saigon Australian Cricket Club) Contact person: Stephen Green | waiting for permisson to use their number SSC (Sri Lanka Sports Club) Contact person: Jeewantha Jayasuriya | 090 3670 380 UCC (United Cricket Club) Contact person: Mark Jones | 093 2072 043 These teams are all connected via the VCA, since the number of Vietnamese cricket players are not so many. All matches in HCMC are played at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

  • Time to dust off that dobok.

    Taekwondo is an immensely popular martial art in HCMC. Take a short drive around the city and you’re bound to come across at least a couple of dojos that advertise classes. In fact, the Korean martial art is so popular here that the city has already hosted a series of events, with the Asian Taekwondo Championship in 2012 being the most recent notable one. Fortunately for those looking to don a dobok and get their poomsae on, there are quite a few taekwondo centres that offer classes in English. Can you kick it? The martial art has a long history in Vietnam, starting with an attempt to propagate it in the 1950s, when a South Korean delegation came to the country and asked the Southern president Ngo Dinh Diem for permission to teach taekwondo here. The president, however, decided to test the new fighting style by staging a fight between a team of Vietnamese martial artists and a South Korean team of taekwondo practitioners. The latter suffered defeat and the Korean martial art remained unknown here until the 60s, when South Korean soldiers fighting in the war reintroduced it to Vietnam. At that time, taekwondo was relatively unknown outside of Korea, so the clubs and dojos that were first formed in the central part of the country were among the first in the world. To this day, Central Vietnam is known for its large number of practitioners. Taekwondo really took off in HCMC after 1989, the year that marks the inception of the HCMC Taekwondo Club. Within a year of this event, a city-wide championship was organised for the first time and later became an annual thing. The following few years saw a great increase of taekwondo enthusiasts in the city. Perhaps the most obvious sign of the martial art’s

  • Increased interest in golf has created opportunities for learning and practicing the game in Saigon.

    Golf in Vietnam is really only in the early stages of its development, despite huge infrastructural investment in world-quality courses to promote golf tourism following the Thai model. It has started to attract attention globally, however, and Vietnam has begun to appear in premier international golf publications such as Golf Digest and Asian Golf Monthly , often receiving recognition for the sheer beauty of its courses such as the Long Thanh Golf Club . In 2011 it received an industry award as the "Unexplored Golf Destination of the Year". Ho Chi Minh City is rapidly investing in golf to fall in line with this strategy, and is set to overtake the rest of the country as its premier golfing destination – while some well-attended courses are located within city limits (such as Vietnam’s first 36 hole course, the Vietnam Golf and Country Club ), others are slated for development, and several more are within close proximity (such as the 27-hole Twin Doves Golf Club ). Conditions have improved here to the point where professional-golfers-in-training have started choosing Ho Chi Minh City as the venue for high-level drilling during winter months. Practice makes perfect This emerging interest in the sport has created good conditions for the establishment of formal golf training courses, but it hasn’t been an easy business to get into here. Much ado was made about the planned opening of the International Golf Academy, founded by Golf tour operator John Nguyen and American professional golfer Bradley Wright, a player who has enjoyed some successes on the Ohio State circuit. It was to be home to the Vietnam chapter of the Mizuno Golf School, which offers a five-module systematised curriculum based on decades of experience and results from the schools based in Japan. Sadly, however, the school never got on

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