Food Promotions in Ho Chi Minh this August…
Three-Way Vietnamese Buffet
@ Riverside Café, Renaissance Riverside Hotel
At Riverside Café from Sep. 2 till Sep. 9, taste the unique sweetness of Saigon, the spices of Hue and the secret sauce of Hanoi in one buffet, all accompanied by traditional live music. The Vietnamese Three Region Buffet costs VND850,000++ per person at the base level, and VND950,000++ per person with a free flow of beer, wine and soda. Get your National Day plans on the calendar early, and make sure your loved ones are there too.
Red Meat & Fish
From Aug. 9 to Aug. 15, the Innovative Ostrich Offerings from Reflections Restaurant brings adventurous dining back to Saigon — in a display of low-fat and high-protein ostrich dishes like ostrich goulash and ostrich kofta. Expand your ostrich horizons to the three-course level for VND810,000++, or four courses for VND938,000++. Head on up to Saigon Saigon Bar for a reboot of their classic Fish n’ Chips, from Aug. 16 to Aug. 22. With a twist of enhanced texture and flavours, this mouth-watering opportunity clocks in at VND298,000++ per serving.
@ Yu Chu, Intercontinental Asiana Saigon
Yu Chu will prepare fresh and succulent crab in a cooking style of your choice, from now to Aug. 31. The chefs at Yu Chu are offering the following cooking styles: fried with fresh garlic and chilli; fried with onions; fried with chilli sauce; fried with glass noodles and XO sauce; or steamed with Chinese wine. A whole crab will be served with a Tiger draught or soft drink for the price of VND350.000++.
@ Shang Palace
To celebrate the 15th day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar, Shang’s Hong Kong-trained chefs are rolling out the healthy alternatives, with steamed black mushroom stuffed with tofu, deep-fried seaweed roll with potato, pumpkin and carrot dishes, sautéed asparagus with shimeji mushrooms and an array of mouth-watering desserts. Enjoy this creative changeup from now until Aug. 25.
Amigo Grill Restaurant
With the support of the US Consulate and Amigo’s parent group, WMC Group (aka the people behind Windsor Plaza and Time Square), Amigo Grill on Nguyen Hue is bringing USDA Choice beef to your post-July 4 sensible eating slump. With this subsidy, Amigo is dropping the price on their Omaha, Nebraska-originating, USDA-certified cuts by 30 to 40 percent at various points in August.
Scouting locations and procuring helicopters for movies and television shows are all in a day’s work for Trinh Tien Trung. Words by Julian Ajello. Photo by Quinn Ryan Mattingly
The past decade has seen Vietnam’s international profile elevate right along with its economy and the number of people who visit each year. Among those taking notice are the myriad of TV shows in western countries who covet shooting in Vietnam for an array of subject matter ranging from cuisine to travel to motor vehicles. While these shows are eager to film here they are often unable to navigate the paperwork and logistics necessary to do so on their own.
Cue Trinh Tien Trung. Known as a local fixer, Trung helps foreign production companies traverse the obstacle course. Born in Halong City, Trung attended Hanoi Open University and studied to be a professional tour leader. He spent five years studying and working in Hanoi for various travel companies specialising in adventure tours that included activities like cycling, kayaking and hiking.
Trung moved to Ho Chi Minh City in 2006 and opened up Le Pub, a popular watering hole in the Pham Ngu Lao area with two other partners: one Australian and one British. It was with that same organisation, who at the time was also involved in a media production company, that he cut his teeth working as a local fixer. After learning the ropes he struck out on his own and started his own company called Sen Travel. Sen Travel works with foreign production companies to arrange working permits, visas, location scouting, logistics and travel.
“This business can be a bit like fishing,” explains Trung. “Sometimes you just sit there with nothing going on and then all of a sudden you have work lined up for months with no breaks.” Stacking up the chores of procuring visas and permits while also trying to scout locations and arrange travel is a time consuming process that often requires Trung to delegate some of the work. It also requires integrity — when the stars come to Vietnam there is often immense local interest. One of Trung’s jobs is to prevent information from leaking on where celebrities are staying, what their filming schedule is and what locations are being used. Failure to keep the information under wraps can cause problems.
Sen Travel has some clients who are interested in making corporate and commercial videos, but the bulk of his clientele are western TV shows. Among them are Top Gear, BBC World News, Man vs Wild and many of Samantha Brown’s spots on the Travel Channel in the US as well as Dutch and Australian shows. Depending on which story Trung recounts, he will drift from a slight chuckle to head shaking frustration. Among his favourite recollections is an Australian production team who requested a helicopter for use the following day. It fell to Trung to explain that there was no earthly way to pull that off and that the complications of arranging permits would mean that inside of a week was the best for which they could hope.
The Bear Minimum
Sometimes, however, the fault is not with the lofty expectations of foreign production companies used to working under more film-friendly conditions, but with his preparations. The first time Trung was contracted to work with Man vs Wild he thought he was asked to make sure that there would be suitable food and water available in the jungle for a bear to survive on its own. Thinking that a bear was fully capable of finding suitable food he didn’t need to prepare much. Or so he thought. It wasn’t until the team arrived that he realised his mistake. The show’s star, Edward Michael Grylis, goes by the nickname Bear. “With such a busy schedule I don’t always get to research a show as much as I would like to.”
For those who harbour dreams of breaking into the business and starting their own venture Trung offers some advice. “Grow your list of contacts and travel extensively to get to know the country well.” He also encourages aspiring fixers to carry a camera and take a photo of anything that might be useful for a TV show, even if it’s years down the road.
“Being a local fixer can be quite frustrating at times,” says Trung. “I’m always under tremendous pressure to help these productions meet their schedules while dealing with the bureaucracy of getting things done in Vietnam.”
Despite the frustrations Trung enjoys what he does. He gets to work with interesting people like Brown, Grylis and Gordon Ramsey. He was also involved in one of the most lauded programmes to come out of Vietnam in the past few years — the Top Gear Vietnam Special. Presented by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, the three hosts drove from Saigon to Hanoi and then onto Halong Bay on a Minsk, a Honda Cub and a Piaggio Vespa. While the footage and the final edit provided viewers with a unique insight into this country, by all accounts, putting the show together was a nightmare.
But this is all part of the job, and as Trung says, “What I love most about what I do is that I get to show Vietnam to the world.”
If you’ve heard of Bibi then you’ve heard of one of Saigon’s best-known restaurateurs. Famed for his long-running restaurant on Thai Van Lung which closed its doors in 2007 after 10 years, his latest venture teams up with Alibi to bring his take on Gallic fare back to Saigon.
Born to a Vietnamese mother and French father in Vung Tau, Bibi earned his stripes in the restaurant trade from the age of 14 in Aix-en-Provence, his career including a stint at a two-star Michelin-rated establishment in his hometown.
Returning to Vietnam initially to work at the city’s first French restaurant, Augustin, he specialises in French-influenced Mediterranean cuisine.
Using freshly-sourced market produce, the menu at his new venue mixes anything from duck confit to his famed, prepared-at-the-table steak tartare through to fisherman’s soup and classic grilled fare such as the rack of lamb and the rib of beef for two, which with a flourish from the old master is carved at the table.
Everyone knows the advantages of a bicycle: it does not require gas and does not emit pollution. Riders have time to look around the city while training their health. However, those who ride bicycle sometimes are discriminated against in big cities in Vietnam.
When I was a student, I cycled to school. After getting a job, I was able to buy myself a scooter. However, since my workplace is close to home, I started to ride a bicycle again. On the first day, everyone at the company quickly learned about me cycling to work and started to ask various questions, embarrassing me.
People were doubtful on hearing that I opted for a bicycle to cut down on gas and do morning exercises. Only after a month did my cycling to work become normal in everyone’s eyes.
Riding a bicycle, I cannot wear a skirt to work or go out with colleagues who only ride motorbikes. At the Gia Dinh People’s hospital, they put out a sign: “We do not take bicycles”.
It is indeed difficult to search for a place to park. Last month in the evening, I paid a visit to a friend in a hospital. When I arrived, I was told that there was no more space for bicycles, while those on scooters could easily get in. I tried to park on the pavement but got a polite refusal, although there were both prices for bicycles and motorbikes written on their sign board. In the end, I went back home and rode a bike to the hospital!
Now, whenever I go to a new place, I do not want to ride a bicycle anymore for fear I may have to spend a lot of time looking for a parking lot.
Earth Hour is not the only event during the year that suggests riding a bicycles. In my opinion, these activities are just formalism, as they simply have groups of cyclists riding around the city. There is as yet no way to apply the campaign to daily life, such as encouraging employees of a company to cycle to work for a day.
In developed countries, locals go to work on bicycles and there are roads reserved for cyclists. In Vietnam, there was a time when people rode bicycles on the street. But now, there is only discrimination for those who ride this eco-friendly vehicle.
Thai authorities arrested two men as they attempted to smuggle 120 dogs to Vietnam last month, according to the Bangkok Post.
Civil volunteers stopped two pickup trucks carrying fertiliser sacks containing the dogs, 31 of which had suffocated, at Pho Sai Village near the Mekong River in Nakhon Phanom Province.
The volunteers, who are members of a taskforce unit under the Ban Phaeng District office, apprehended the drivers of the two vehicles. The pair confessed to local police that they had been hired by a gang to take the dogs across the Mekong River to Vietnam, where dog is a delicacy served at restaurants.
They face charges of unlicensed trade of animals, transporting unvaccinated animals, and torturing animals. It was not known where the gang had collected the dogs. The 89 dogs saved by the unit have been sent to Nakhon Phanom Animal Quarantine Station.
As the dog meat trade in Vietnam has flourished over the last several years, so have dog thieves. In some rural areas, local residents have taken the law into their own hands to punish dog thieves, as they think the legal penalties against stealing dogs are too light.
Ash Apollon’s unlikely football career has taken him from his native Boston all the way to the pros in Vietnam. Words by Harry Hodge
Ashkanov “Ash” Apollon has certainly taken the path less travelled in his professional football career. And that journey has brought him from the other side of the world to playing for Long An FC of the V-League.
Apollon was a late bloomer in the game, playing it sparingly growing up in Massachusetts since he was more into other sports like basketball.
“Football really started to become my passion around the age of 16 when I was living in Haiti with my parents,” he recalls. “The passion for the game there is enormous; it was then that I started getting into it.”
In spite of his late start, he was able to secure a scholarship to Peninsula College in the Pacific Northwest of the US. From there he made the cut for the academy side of the Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer (MLS).
Apollon’s pro career started in Thailand, where he played in 2014 and 2016. He called it a “slow start” to his career since he was already 23 when he signed the contract. A Thai connection contacted Long An’s manager and suggested him, and he was on a plane as soon as his Thai contract ended. Prior to arriving he’d watched some videos and Asian Football highlights to get a feel for the Vietnamese game.
“Nothing can really prepare you (to play here), there are so many unexpected things and it is a mistake to ever underestimate the league,” he said. “After the team had discovered me, their main expectation after signing me was for me to bring some flair into the attack, to score and create goals in general.”
As for the team, that’s another story. After the first few games, Long An FC was languishing near the lower end of the league standings. This included a bizarre match against Ho Chi Minh City FC where a soft penalty led to an on-pitch “boycott” by his Long An team-mates, who refused to try playing despite the game being locked at 2-2. Their goalkeeper even turned his back during a penalty kick in what ended as a strange 5-2 loss.
The fiasco made worldwide headlines for all the wrong reasons. Suspensions and two-year bans ensued, with a new chairman appointed shuffling the line-up over the black eye it gave Vietnamese football.
“For me, as long as I’m playing, living well and getting paid I’m good,” Apollon said. “The league is not easy, any team can get a result anywhere at any time, nothing is ever given.”
But Apollon has remained positive about prospects for the rest of the season. He’s currently on a one-year contract with Long An FC.
“It’s been a great experience so far and it’s nice that I’m starting to make my name in the league,” he said.
The Class of 2016 at the International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has set the new highest average IB diploma score in the institution’s history.
In addition, more than half the class earned the IB Bilingual Diploma, maintaining the school’s reputation for excellence. 19 nationalities are represented in this year’s class of 60 students, marking ISHCMC as a truly international school.
Graduates will be attending further education in places as far flung as New York University, Seoul National University, University College London, UCLA and California Berkeley.
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