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Front of the Notre Dame Basilica
Top 10 Tourist Attractions – HCMC

Looking for something to do in Ho Chi Minh City? Well, you’ll find it pretty easy! It’s a city of contrasts, with the old mixing with the new in this wonderful melting pot of a place. It offers visitors a plethora of things to do; from its coffee shops, markets, cheap food and drink to its buzzing atmosphere – alive with the sounds of motorbikes (there are around 10 million in the city!) However, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best places to visit in HCMC to help you out!

 War Remnants Museum

Displays the brutal results of war on its civilian, including well publicized atrocities, that many westerners rarely hear about. The displays feature victims telling their stories of US military action. Many of the information about these atrocities are from US sources, including the infamous My Lai Massacre. This is a very important site to visit in HCMC if you wish to understand its history and how it came to be the place it is today.

Picture of the exterior of the War Remnants museum

Giac Lam Pagoda

The Buddhist temples has aspects of both Taoism and Confucianism in its design and Gives a great insight into Chinese influence on religion in Vietnam.

 

Reunification Palace

A window into the 1960s this historic government building has a solemn atmosphere as you walk around its quiet halls. Once home to the offices of the president of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war, it was designed by architect Ngô Viết Thụ and has some very interesting Architectural features.

Exterior of the Reunification Palace

 Jade Emperor Pagoda

This Taoist pagoda was built by Vietnam’s Chinese community in 1909. It is also known as ‘Fuhai Temple’ – Sea of ​​Luck Temple. This is a spectacular temple full of with beautiful statues depicting the gods and heroes of Taoist belief.

 

Phước_Hải_Tự

 

Fine Arts Museum

Ho Chi Minh City Museum of Fine Arts covers three buildings featuring Vietnamese silk paintings, sculptures and lacquer painting, as well as traditional woodcut paintings. It used to be the Villa home of the ‘Hua’ family but became a museum in 1987.

 

 

Antique Street

This street is just a short walk from the Fine Arts Museum. The art and antiques stores along this street are full of fun curios, but beware of fakes!

 

 

Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda

 

 

The built in 1902 the temple is dedicated to Quan Cong as well as several other guardians to happiness and wealth. The temple is full of beautiful features including brass lanterns and coiled incense hanging from the roof beams as well as fine woodcarvings.

History Museum

Built in 1926 museum home to a collection of artefacts from across Vietnams history, from the Dong son civilisation to the modern Vietnam. For those interested in Vietnamese history the museum is definitely worth a visit.

 

Binh Tay Market

Binh Tay is the main market in the Cho Lon district of HCMC. This area is part of HCMC’s China town, which covers almost half of an entire district of the city. The market is a bustling lively place and expect to have a warm welcome when You got eat at one of the markets many street food vendors! It is also home to a fantastic outdoor Wet Market where you can buy fresh local seafood.

 Binh Tay Market

Notre- Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

 

Completed in 1883, Notre Dame Cathedral lies right in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City’s government quarter. It still contains some of its original stained glass and with its 40m-high square towers the cathedral is a striking contrast to other styles you will see in HCMC.

 

 

Front of the Notre Dame Basilica

 

many people riding scooters in vietnam
Populations Demographics In Vietnam

Curious to know more about Vietnam’s population? It is a relatively young country, which has undergone incredible growth over the past 70 years and thus has seen some fascinating changing to its demographics. Here are some facts to help you get to grips with the country!

Vietnam is the 14th most populated country on the planet with a population of close to 100 million in 2018. It has seen a huge population increase over the last 68 years with estimated population in 1950 being just 28 million. The means the population has more than tripled since the 1950s – an impressive population increase considering Vietnam is a relatively small country.

Smiling Vietnamese Woman

The country’s life expectancy is continuing to grow and currently averages at 73.

Vietnam’s age structure further emphasizes the country’s population growth with the majority of Its population consisting of 18-64 year olds, who make up close to 70% of the population. Children make up almost a quarter of the population whereas the older generation is just 6%!

In terms of ethnicity, Vietnam’s population is made up of majority Kinh, who represent 85% of the population. However Vietnam has a very large number of ethnic groups, with 54 recognised by the government.

Gender is very well balanced in Vietnam with almost exactly the same number of men as women for under 65 year olds. However, Vietnam’s population demographics also reveal historical conflicts, such as the Vietnam war, which have meant  the older population has far fewer men than women, with a ratio of 0.6 men for every women.

Vietnamese is the county’s official language however, some minority groups also speak Chinese, French and Khmer. English is also taught widely in schools.

Smiling Children

ho chi minh city river at night
Ho Chi Minh City’s 24/7 Accessibility

Ho Chi Minh City, also called Saigon, has many things do offer during the day time as well as during night time. If you need urgent medical help or just want to buy some snacks late at night, you can find it in Ho Chi Minh City 24/7.

Shopping

Shopping malls are mostly opened till 9 – 10 pm but many small convenience stores are opened 24/7. You can find most of the elementary products there if you need it in the middle of the night. Inside most of the 24/7 convenience stores or nearby them you can find ATM s where you can withdraw money anytime you want.

Citymart in Vietnam

Eating

There is no problem to find food place in Ho Chi Minh City at any time of day or night. Most upper and middle class restaurants work only until late evening but you can enjoy food from small restaurants and street food at night.

Transportation

Moving around Vietnam takes a lot of time, so choosing overnight travel might be a good option. If you want to go from/to Ho Chi Minh City to/from other cities or just around the city, you have choice of taking plane, train, bus, taxi or motorbike. Vietnam Railway Systems (VRS) and The North – South train are providing good quality connections across the country also during night. You can buy tickets directly at the train station or, if you need English service, some websites and travel agencies are providing it. The taxi and bus are relatively slow, as the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is extremely heavy. Good alternative to taxi and bus for going around the city is motorbike (you can get it as a taxi, rent it or buy – if you’re staying for longer).

Alternatively, you can rent a car. It is easy – requires only passport and valid driving license. The car rental company might only accept international driving license or one in common language such as English or French.

grab moped taxi in vietnam

Entertainment

The most popular (non-stop) party place in Vietnam is Pham Ngu Lao, well-known amongst backpackers as it’s comparatively cheap. If you’re looking for some more fancy clubbing places popular within young people, then you should check out clubs in District 1. If you’re a fan of Karaoke, you will be able to find a few places where you can rent a room at any time.

Healthcare

Hospital Symbol

In case you need urgent medical help, those places have 24/7 emergency service with English speaking doctors: Family Medical Practice Clinic, Franco-Vietnamese Hospital, International SOS Clinic, Columbia International Clinic and Hospital (3 locations), Cho Ray Hospital, Emergency Centre. For urgent dental cases you can seek help in Victoria Healthcare Dentist Department in District 1. 24/7 pharmacy can be found in Family Medical Practice Centre and International SOS Clinic.

The Vietnamese Retail Market

Going to a foreign country is always intimidating due to the new environment – even the retail market might be very different to what you are used to! Even going for some shopping might become an adventure. This blog is here to give you an insight of the Vietnamese retail market and prove you that it will still be possible to find some familiar shops there !

  • Which popular conveniences stores can I find there ?

If you are familiar with Asian conveniences stores, Vietnam will feel like home. More than 70% of convenience stores in Vietnam belong to foreign companies (mostly from Asia)!

  • How is the retail market in Vietnam and what about its organization ?

Vietnam has a huge retail market : 800 supermarkets, 150 shopping malls, 9,000 traditional markets and about 2.2 million retailers (Source : Aseantoday.com).

Roughly speaking, the Vietnamese retail market can be divided into different types of modern distribution, as follows :

Conveniences Stores :

Popular ones : Circle K / Family Mart / Shop & Go / Mini Stop / 7 Eleven / G7 Mart. 

They are competing directly with roadside stalls and traditional markets in Vietnam. In those, you will be able to purchase everyday items such as snack foods, soft drinks, groceries, confectionery, tobacco products, toiletries, newspapers, and magazines. You can find them everywhere!

+ : Very convenient, easy to find. Hungry at 2AM ? No problem, let’s get some snacks at the neariest Family Mart!

– : Some may have more choice than others. Chose carefully!

Shopping Malls:

Quite a new concept for Vietnam but this is also the best place to be for a perfect shopping afternoon! The most renowned ones are the Lotte Mart (one in HCMC and one in Hanoi) and the Vincom Center in HCMC. These shopping malls may include special stores, a cinema, and of course a hypermarket, supermarket and department stores.

+ : You can find and do anything, you will never get bored!

– : It is very easy to spend too much money. Your bank might not be happy!

Hypermarket:

Examples of foreign popular hypermarkets : Loblaw and Superstore (Canada), Fred Meyer, Meijer and Super Kmart (US), Asda and Tesco (UK), Carrefour (France) and NTUC Fairprice (Singapore).

Basically, this is a superstore combining a supermarket and a department store. Therefore you will find a wide range of products, from full groceries lines to general merchandise.

The only Vietnamese brand name of hypermarket is Big C. They are usually located on the outskirt of the city and cramped which means you should probably avoid going there on evenings and weekends !

+ : Wide range of products, many foreign brands, you might feel familiar in these!

– : Avoid at all costs going there on evening or weekends as they are very busy.

Supermarket:

Popular ones : Intimex / Co.opmart /Fivimart /Citimart. 

If you are more of a weekly shopper, supermarkets are the perfect fit! You can often get discounts as some of them offer frequent buyer cards. Their goods and services are likely to be the same from one to another. By going there you will have a wide choice of food and household products.

+ : Possibility to get discounts with a frequent buyer card. Good for weekly shoppers.

– : If you are a daily shopper, you should rather head to a convenience store to save time and money.

Department Stores:

Popular ones (HCMC): Parkson / Diamond Plaza.

Popular ones (Hanoi): Vincom / Trang Tien Plaza / Grand Plaza / The Manor / Parkson.

These stores sell luxurious items such as brand-name clothes, shoes and high class electronic devices.

+ : Very clean, luxurious, can find many foreign luxury brands.

– : Expensive.

The Vietnamese retail market is such an intriguing and exciting experience. And if you ever feel homesick, you will still be able to warm up your mood with imported products. I hope this blog will help you during your adventure to Vietnam!

If you are ready for an adventure in Vietnam, please click here!

a picture of vietnamese food
Dietary Requirements

Life would be so much easier if everyone liked to eat everything or could eat everything. I know my life would, but, like many people, there are some things that I don’t like and others I can’t eat because I am allergic. There are so many dietary requirements in one’s life that you have to be careful, especially when you are not cooking yourself. When you go to a restaurant and order something, it is hard to know what ingredients they use exactly.

Vietnamese food is full of fresh ingredients and spices. If you are planning on going to Vietnam and you have specific dietary restrictions, this blog may help you get through.

It is ok! You don’t really have to eat EVERYTHING there is. There are several reasons why someone doesn’t eat a specific type of food. It could be allergic reactions, religious reasons or simply because you don’t like it.

Allergies

I hate it when I start eating something and all of the sudden my entire body starts itching because of something I ate (a lot of times I don’t even know what exactly). Others react very differently from me. Sometimes you could have a serious reaction to it, so you have to be careful.

I am allergic

Vegetarian / Vegan

Many of us have chosen to live a certain lifestyle and we all have to respect it. Vegetarian restaurants are really common in Vietnam, as there is a large Buddhist population. It means that being a vegetarian is not a big deal!

It is important to know the Vietnamese word for vegetarian (chay) and that would get you through. You can make any Vietnamese dish into a vegetarian dish like phở chay, bánh xèo chayhủ tiếu chaycà ri chay, and so on. Or say “Tôi ăn chay”, which means “I’m vegetarian” or, if you are a vegan, “Tôi là người ăn chay trường”.

I don't eat meat

Religion

In some religions, certain animals are sacred like the cow in Hinduism. In other cases, for example in Islam is forbidden to eat pork.

I don't eat beefI don't eat pork

But also in Judaism you can find dietary restrictions. Jews are only allowed to eat Kosher.

Only eat kosher

Or if you simply don’t like a certain time of food you just simply say “I don’t eat (type of food)” in Vietnamese “Tôi không (…)”. For example,

I don't eat seafood

 

There are many other dietary requirements and restrictions. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You never know if you like something if you haven’t tried it!

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How easy is it to get by with just English?

If you are going to Vietnam and have no knowledge of the language, you ask yourself: How easy is it to get by with just English? I will talk about English in Vietnam and how difficult it is for a foreigner to get by without any Vietnamese in this blog.

In the past, Chinese and Russian were largely taught in most of schools and were considered as second language. In recent years, as Vietnam’s contacts with Western nations have increased, English has become more popular as a second language and taught in a larger scale, eventually replacing Chinese and Russian.

English in School

Nowadays, English is mandatory in most schools in Vietnam, sometimes alongside French. English proficiency is now seen as a vital requirement for employment. According to an educational reform, all students will have a minimum level of English by 2020. English in schools is limited in reading and writing skills, but not much speaking & listening skills. As part of the strategy, officials have adopted the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) to measure language competency. Students are expected to reach the level B1 by the time they graduate.

EF English Proficiency Index

The EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) attempts to rank countries by the average level of English language skills amongst those adults who took their exam. Vietnam is in place 34 of 80 countries worldwide and 7 of 20 in Asia with a score of 53.43, which is considerate a moderate proficiency. While the Southeast and the Red River Delta, Ho Chi Minh City’s and Hanoi’s regions respectively, are regions with the highest English proficiency within Vietnam; the North Central Coast, on the other hand, has the lowest proficiency. According to EF EPI, women have a higher English proficiency than men, but the difference is not big.

Vietnam English Proficiency
English Proficiency per Region
Source: https://www.ef.edu/epi/regions/asia/vietnam/

So…is it easy to get by with just English? Long story short, the answer is yes, BUT depends on where you go. Residents in all the tourist areas are able to communicate in English. In more remote areas, English speakers can be very rare. Some older Vietnamese people will speak more French than English, especially in the former South Vietnam. The importance of promoting English in Vietnam is growing due to its importance in the business world.

If you want to know about Vietnam, don’t hesitate and live this adventure with us! Apply now!

Healthcare in Vietnam
Healthcare in Vietnam

Vietnam’s public healthcare system only covers about 30% of the population. This means that many Vietnamese have to use private health care.

Hospitals in Vietnam

Hospital Symbol

The quality and accessibility of health services differs considerably on whether you are in the city or in rural areas. The majority of hospitals and clinics are located in the larger cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Public hospitals in Vietnam are not the nicest of places due to a general lack of funding by the government in the health sector. Doctors and nurses tend to only speak Vietnamese so communication may be difficult.

However, private hospitals in Vietnam are a completely different story. With doctors and nurses usually speaking English and the quality of the hospital being much higher. This is usually the preferred place for travelers and expats alike.

Ambulance?

If you are in Vietnam and need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible an ambulance may not be the best idea. Ambulances can take a long time to arrive so it is recommended to try and get in a taxi and take yourself to a hospital as quickly as possible.

Changes to healthcare

Vietnam is aiming to improve its health care system to public system which covers all citizens. Following the trend of nearby Thailand, Vietnam hopes to be able to provide a public health care system in the not too distant future.

Individuals, however, will still be able to add on additional private healthcare should they wish to do so.

Ho Chi Minh City has a wide selection of different private and international hospitals on offer.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), basic health indicators are better than those of other developing countries in the region with similar per campita incomes. By 2013, there were more than 11,000 health communes, and 1,040 hospitals.

Although Vietnam’s health status has improved over the years, it has still a long way to go. Vietnam still has three problems to solve. First, more Vietnamese are diagnosed with some sort of chronic disease and increases the cost burden. Second, the big difference on quality and accessibility of health services between urban and rural continues to be a big problem. Last but not least, overcrowded hospitals. This a big issue due to long waiting lists for surgeries.

Health Issues

By taking some basic precautions, people who are traveling to Vietnam can minimize the chances of experiencing a visit to the hospital.

Drinking tap water in Vietnam is not recommendable, even having ice in the drinks at restaurants and bars. In this case it is better to buy bottled water.

Temperatures in Vietnam can soar so sunburn, sunstroke and dehydration are significant problems for new arrivals.

Common diseases are tuberculosis and malaria. It is recommended to have all basic vaccinations up-to-date.

The boy who receives vaccination

Vietnamese language
Vietnamese Crash Course

Today I am going to do a Vietnamese Crash Course for those who are learning or want to learn Vietnamese.

As redundant as it may sound, Vietnamese is the official language in Vietnam. But for a very long time Vietnam didn’t really have its own language. For so long it was object of constant foreign intervention. Therefore, Vietnamese has borrowings from Chinese, French and also English. Vietnamese is a difficult language, especially because it differs between regions.

Like other Southeast Asian languages, Vietnamese has a comparatively large number of vowels.

InternVietnam - Vowels

Some consonant sounds are written with only one letter like “p”, other consonant sounds are written with a digraph like “ph”, and others are written with more than one letter or digraph. Vietnamese has no use for the letters F, J, W and Z. Also, not all dialects of Vietnamese have the same consonant in a given word (although all dialects use the same spelling in the written language).

InternVietnam - Consonant

So in Vietnamese, every syllable is a separate word, this is why Vietnam is sometimes written as Viet Nam!

Tones

Vietnamese is a tonal language, with 6 tones in total, which means that one syllable can have at least 6 different meanings. Be careful with the tones! You’ll probably end up calling someone’s mother a horse or a grave at some point. Tones differ in length, melody, pitch height and phonation. The tone is indicated by diacritics written above or below the vowel.

InternVietnam - Tones

Grammar

Similarly to languages in Southeast Asia, there is no real number and gender for nouns in Vietnamese and verb tenses generally don’t exist.

Useful Phrases

Basic
  • xin chào = Hello
  • Khỏe không? = How are you?
  • Khoẻ, cảm ơn = Fine, thank you!
  • Tôi tên là… = My name is…
  • Làm ơn = Please
  • Cảm ơn = Thank you
  • Không sao đâu = You are welcome
  • Vâng = Yes
  • Không = No
  • Xin lỗi = I’m sorry
  • Tạm biệt = Goodbye
Lost in Translation
  • Biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Do you speak English?
  • Tôi không biết nói tiếng Việt [giỏi lm] = I can’t speak Vietnamese [well]
  • Có ai đây biết nói tiếng Anh không? = Is there someone here who speaks English?
  • Tôi không hiểu = I don’t understand
Emergency
  • Công an!/Cảnh sát! = Police!
  • Việc này khẩn cấp = It’s an emergency
  • Tôi bị lạc = I’m lost
  • Tôi bị ốm = I’m sick
  • Tôi cần một bác sĩ = I need a doctor
  • Nhà vệ sinh/wc ở đâu? = Where’s the toilet?
  • Cứu (tôi) với! = Help!
Transportation
  • Một vé đến … là bao nhiêu? = How much is a ticket to …?
  • Xin cho tôi một vé đến … = One ticket to …, please.
  • Tàu/xe này đi đâu? = Where does this train/bus go?
  • Tàu/xe đi đến …ở đâu? = Where is the train/bus to …?
  • Tàu/xe này có ngừng tại…không? = Does this train/bus stop in…?
  • Tàu/xe đi…chạy lúc nào? = When does the train/bus for…leave?
  • Khi nào tàu/xe này xẽ đến…? = When will this train/bus arrive in…?
  • Tắc xi! = Taxi!
  • Làm ơn đưa/chở tôi đến… = Take me to…, please.
  • Mất bao nhiêu tiền để đến…? = How much does it cost to get to…?

Money

  • Có nhận thẻ tín dụng không? = Do you accept credit cards?
  • Tôi có thể đi đổi tiền ở đâu? = Where can I get money changed?
  • Máy rút tiền (ATM) ở đâu? = Where is an automatic teller machine (ATM)?
Food
  • Cho tôi một bàn cho một/hai người = A table for one person/two people, please.
  • Cho tôi xem menu? = Can I look at the menu, please?
  • Tôi ăn chay. = I’m a vegetarian.
  • Tôi không ăn thịt heo (South) / lợn (North) = I don’t eat pork.
  • Tôi không ăn thịt bò. = I don’t eat beef.
  • Tôi chỉ ăn thức ăn kosher thôi. = I eat only kosher food.
  • Cho tôi xin một chaicà phê / nước trà  /  nước / rượu vang / bia? = May I have a bottle of coffee / tea / water / wine / beer ?
  • Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a glass of …?
  • Cho tôi xin một ly (South) / cố (North) …? = May I have a cup of …?
Shopping
  • Có size của tôi không? = Do you have this in my size?
  • Bao nhiêu (tiền)? = How much (money) is this?
  • Đắt quá. = That’s too expensive.

Tips

Seems like these tips might have been said many times before, but they are so true and useful!

  • First of all, look for language classes. Either in a one-on-one class or in a group class, you can learn about the differences in tones and the Vietnamese grammar. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you don’t understand.
  • Also, practice makes perfect! For some people, learning a new language might come easier than for others, but no one can be fluent without practicing. You can look for a language partner. Go out and make friends!
  • Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Locals will appreciate that you are making an effort on learning their language and you can also learn from your mistakes.

Learn more and apply now!