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Visit Vietnam after Covid-19 crisis, exhorts US travel magazine


Visit Vietnam after Covid-19 crisis, exhorts US travel magazine

An aerial view of Con Dao Island in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, southern Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

“Gorgeous” beaches and “insanely good food” make Vietnam a great post Covid-19 destination, says New York-based travel magazine Travel + Leisure.

Vietnam and the Philippines are the only two Southeast Asian representatives in the magazine’s list of 17 must-to-go destinations in the world after the Covid-19 crisis ends.

With Vietnam continuing to suspend international flights and halting entry for all foreigners as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the leading U.S. travel site urges its readers to make travel plans to visit the country soon after the pandemic passes.

“Lying side by side with your friends on a gorgeous tropical beach and going to packed street food stalls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, eating insanely good food elbow to elbow with strangers are not bad ideas,” it says Wednesday.  

The Travel+Leisure list also included many famous tourist destinations around the world such as Rome, Australia, London in the U.K., Paris in France, Mexico and Italy.    

Vietnam has eased its social distancing restrictions since April 23 and its popular tourist destinations have reopened. The government has also allowed “non-essential” services except karaoke parlors and discos to resume operation.

Coracle boats along Quy Nhon Beach in central Binh Dinh Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai.

Coracle boats along Quy Nhon Beach in the central province of Binh Dinh. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai.

A survey released this week by Thailand-headquartered hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks and communication firm Delivering Asia Communications says many Chinese citizens keen on traveling to Vietnam after the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.

The country’s infection tally rose to 288 after 17 Vietnamese repatriated from the UAE were confirmed positive on Thursday night. The country has ended 22 days without community transmission of the disease.

Head in the clouds in dreamy Da Lat



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Visit Vietnam after Covid-19 crisis, exhorts U.S travel magazine


Visit Vietnam after Covid-19 crisis, exhorts U.S travel magazine

An aerial view of Con Dao Island in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, southern Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.

“Gorgeous” beaches and “insanely good food” make Vietnam a great post Covid-19 destination, says New York-based travel magazine Travel + Leisure.

Vietnam and the Philippines are the only two Southeast Asian representatives in the magazine’s list of 17 must-to-go destinations in the world after the Covid-19 crisis ends.

With Vietnam continuing to suspend international flights and halting entry for all foreigners as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, the leading U.S. travel site urges its readers to make travel plans to visit the country soon after the pandemic passes.

“Lying side by side with your friends on a gorgeous tropical beach and going to packed street food stalls and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, eating insanely good food elbow to elbow with strangers are not bad ideas,” it says Wednesday.  

The Travel+Leisure list also included many famous tourist destinations around the world such as Rome, Australia, London in the U.K., Paris in France, Mexico and Italy.    

Vietnam has eased its social distancing restrictions since April 23 and its popular tourist destinations have reopened. The government has also allowed “non-essential” services except karaoke parlors and discos to resume operation.

Coracle boats along Quy Nhon Beach in central Binh Dinh Province. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai.

Coracle boats along Quy Nhon Beach in the central province of Binh Dinh. Photo by Shutterstock/Huy Thoai.

A survey released this week by Thailand-headquartered hospitality consulting group C9 Hotelworks and communication firm Delivering Asia Communications says many Chinese citizens keen on traveling to Vietnam after the Covid-19 pandemic is contained.

The country’s infection tally rose to 288 after 17 Vietnamese repatriated from the UAE were confirmed positive on Thursday night. The country has ended 22 days without community transmission of the disease.

Head in the clouds in dreamy Da Lat



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Pine tree retreat offers sophisticated Tam Dao escape




Hidden on a forested slope, this Tam Dao family home provides a suave take on nature living.

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Meet the national Phu Quoc Ridgeback champion barking up a storm


Khieu Bang Doan, an expert dog trainer, said: “No Phu Quoc dog has ever achieved the highest title in such a short time.”

In his nine years of experience in the profession, training hundreds of dogs, Doan said Loc is his best pupil.

Four-and-a-half-year old Loc, meaning tornado or swirl in Vietnamese, is famous for having a “nearly perfect” body ratio and topped six out of seven national dog shows after only two months of training.

His owner is Le Thi Ha, a pharmacist running a chain of pharmacies. She owns an additional five dog training camps in Hanoi.

Loc caught Ha’s attention when he was just an “ordinary” dog belonging to a couple in northern Nam Dinh Province who Ha paid VND100 million ($4,270) in exchange for the animal.

Loc is a four and a half years old Phu Quoc Ridgeback. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc is a four-and-a-half-year-old Phu Quoc Ridgeback. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

“The former owners in Nam Dinh consider Loc their spiritual friend. When deciding to sell Loc, the couple told me about his personality and preferences. They agreed to sell me Loc since they knew I would bring out the best in him,” Ha said.

Loc is raised in a barn in the suburbs of Hanoi covering an area of over 400 square-meters with lots of open space, sand, and tall trees. The barn also houses other animals like rats, birds, and even snakes to satisfy the hunting nature of Phu Quoc Ridgebacks.

Loc proved he was unique when he was just a pup. He would hold his ears taut and tightly forward, bark loudly and remain still when facing a stranger, contrary to other dogs that normally bark in retreat or attack.

“It is the behavior of a dog with a stable and calm nerve,” Doan said, sharing his first impression of Loc before deciding to train him in 2017.

Doan said Loc has lots of standard Phu Quoc Ridgeback features, as defined by Vietnam Kennel Association (VKA) – long and slender head, deep abdomen deep, wide peck, seashells-shaped ears and curved tail. Like others, Loc has almond-shaped eyes, but “has a more intense yet friendly look.”

Loc has almond-shaped eyes and sword-shape ridge on its back. Photo VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc has almond-shaped eyes and sword-shaped ridge on his back. Photo VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

In particular, a ridge of hair shaped like a sword covers the animal’s back. Ingrown hair is typical of Phu Quoc dogs with many different shapes located along the spine.

Doan first met Loc at one-and-a half-years of age. With its outstanding beauty, Loc was already famous among dog trainers even though he had yet to win an award.

From his first training session, Loc displayed a knack for memory.

After two months, Loc headed to Saigon to participate in his first contest. Local judges praised him for carrying the “typical beauty of native Vietnamese dogs.” An international examiner from World Canine Organization (FCI) in turn highlighted Loc’s body proportions.

He ranked first in his age group and finally won first prize.

Loc then participated in different regional competitions and raked in the awards. At Vietnam Champion Dog Show in December 2017, he surpassed a H’Mong dog breed to claim Vietnam Grand Champion.

chó Phú Quốc

Loc sired many beautiful offspring, including three that later also scooped the Vietnam Grand Champion title. As a result, each of Loc’s offshoots are sold for tens of millions of dong (VND23,195= $1).

One time, a person from Saigon offered to buy back Loc for $15,000.

“I would not sell him even if I was offered a higher price,” Ha said.

She fell in love with Phu Quoc Ridgebacks when she was only a third grade student. With German Shepherds known for their intelligence and H’Mong dogs for their ferocity, Phu Quoc Ridgeback’s are loyal and display a deep foresight.

Once, when Ha was sick and could not go to work, Loc watched over her.

“He understands my emotions. When I am sad, Loc walks quietly beside,” she said.

The last time Loc won a competition in Saigon, Ha was in her last month of pregnancy and couldn’t go.

“On the day of their return, the whole family came over to welcome him back. He ran back to me, wagged his tail, his ears pushed back and his face radiant with joy.”

Loc poses for picture next to owner Le Thi Ha. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Loc poses for picture next to owner Le Thi Ha. Photo by VnExpress/Tuan Kiet.

Ha said Loc can be hyperactive, attempting to chase down a heard of cows only to have a bad fall from which he luckily recovered quickly.

At the end of last year, Ha spent nearly VND300 million (around $12,800) to buy another Phu Quoc Ridgeback named Cop, one of the offspring of Dom who won a dog beauty pageant in Paris during 2011.

Ha said Loc and Cop are the two most famous of the 100 Phu Quoc Ridgebacks she currently owns.

“Letting my spiritual children shine is my greatest wish,” Ha said, adding she is looking to bring them overseas to attend international competitions.



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Ba Ria-Vung Tau reopens beaches


Locals and holiday-goers are allowed to swim in public beaches in Vung Tau, the southern province’s capital, but large crowds are still banned as a preventive measure to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Early in the morning, locals rushed to Bai Sau, a popular beach in the town, a top holiday destination in Vietnam.

Nguyen Van Hung, a local resident, said streets leading to the beach were crowded Thursday morning and everyone was excited to be back to the beach after more than a month.

Barricades along the road leading to public beaches in Vung Tau have been removed and chairs and umbrellas have reappeared along the beaches.

Bai Sau beach in Vung Tau on May 7 when the beach reopened after one-month closure. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

Bai Sau beach in Vung Tau on May 7, 2020 when the beach reopened. Photo acquired by VnExpress.

All beaches in the country had closed down for more than a month as the nation battled the coronavirus pandemic with strict travel restrictions and a social distancing campaign.

However, many beach-goers ignored the ban and flocked to Vung Tau on April 30- May 1, prompting local police to stand guard and prevent the gathering of large crowds on the beach.

On Tuesday, the central provinces of Quang Nam, which boasts a long coastline of 125 kilometers and is home to the beautiful beaches of Ha My, Cua Dai and An Bang and Cham Islands; as well as Thua Thien-Hue, home to the famous Lang Co beach, reopened their beaches to the public.

A day earlier, Nha Trang, a popular beach town in the central province of Khanh Hoa, began welcoming beach-goers again. Nha Trang has been a top holiday destination in the country for years, favored particularly by Russian and Chinese tourists for its long sandy beaches and islands. It had closed all beaches on April 1.

A year-end trend report by Google last December showed beach getaways Nha Trang, Vung Tau and Quy Nhon were among most sought after destinations by Vietnamese Googlers in 2019.

Vietnam received 3.7 million foreign visitors in Jan-April, a 38 percent drop year-on-year, as a direct impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tourism revenues dropped 45 percent to VND7.9 trillion ($337 million).

The country has banned entry for foreign nationals since March 22, except for special cases. Since March 25, international flights have been suspended to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

Vietnam has gone five days in a row without new Covid-19 patients and 21 days straight without any community transmission of the virus. The nation’s Covid-19 tally has stood at 271, unchanged since Sunday evening. Of these, 39 are still under treatment.



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The beauty of countryside in Quang Nam


An aerial view of vegetable fields in Tra Que. This famous herb village is 2.5 kilometers northeast of Hoi An, and has 200 households that grow greens on a total area of 40 hectaresThe beauty of this place regularly attracts tourists from Hoi An, a UNESCO heritage site in Quang Nam. 

Tra Que boasts high fertility and mild climate, ideal for farming. The lush green soil provides fresh produce without manure or chemical interference. Instead, farmers retrieve special algae from the nearby lagoon or Co Co River, giving the vegetables a distinctive flavor.



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Banh mi, pho add flavor to Australian art project


Seeing Asian eateries fall quiet during the Covid-19 pandemic, Michael Souvanthalisith and Muriel-Ann Ricafrente (owners of a Sydney-based studio) worked with local artists to “invite people back into our beloved Asian restaurants in their time of need.”

In this way, “More of Something Good” was born.

Artists joining the project were asked two questions: What’s your favorite dish from an Asian restaurant in your city? And, why? Dishes were then replicated in several artistic styles.

Banh mi xiu mai by Kim Lan. Photo by MSG/Kim Lan.

Banh mi xiu mai by Kim Lan. Photo by MSG/Kim Lan.

Vietnamese banh mi and pho were included with other Asian dishes like Thai street food sai krok isaan (fermented pork sausage), and ebi mazesoba (dry, soupless ramen with prawns), etc.

“There’s no glamorous way to go about consuming this cornucopia of promised goodness, other than ‘smashing’ it, with crusty crumbs snowing and happy head nodding,” artist Kim Lam commented about the banh mi xiu mai drawing, adding xiu mai (meatball) is her ultimate.

Anime-styled pho by Mike. Photo by MSG/Mike.

Anime-styled pho by Mike. Photo by MSG/Mike.

Meanwhile, artist Mike chose to illustrate an anime-inspired bowl of pho bo tai, saying the rich taste of pho is tightly woven together with his memories of family and his hometown of Springvale.

Stating his mother’s pho is his all-time favorite, the artist maintained the noodles from Pho Hung Vuong Restaurant in Springvale is a close second.

Other artists also chose Vietnamese dishes: William Nghiem drew a bowl of mixed combination dry noodles and Viet-My Bui opted for char siu dry noodles.



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Vietnam lifts social distancing restrictions on aircraft


The Transport Ministry also approved the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam’s (CAAV) proposal to lift limitations on flight frequency for carriers. They can increase flights on routes linked to Hanoi, HCMC and Da Nang depending on demand.

Passengers on planes are currently required to sit one seat apart. Only families and people booking tickets together can sit next to each other. Local carriers are required to make sure the number of passengers not exceed 80 percent of the number of seats.

While the distancing restrictions on aircraft are lifted, passengers are still required to keep a distance of one meter from each other while going through procedures at airports until boarding. 

The CAAV early this week had proposed that from May 5, the daily frequency of flights on the Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City route be increased to 52 flights both ways instead of the current 36, and to Da Nang from either city to 20 from 12.

During the recent four-day holiday marking the Reunification Day (April 30) and May Day, Vietnamese carriers reported a 70-80 percent load factor on the Hanoi – HCMC route and 60-70 percent on flights to Da Nang.

With international flights and entry of foreigners still suspended, Vietnamese airlines are looking to better exploit the domestic market potential as many top tourist destinations reopened after a prolonged shutdown.

Vietnam has banned entry by foreign nationals since March 22 with exceptions and conditions, including 14-day quarantining on arrival. Since March 25, international flights have been suspended to prevent the spread of the virus.

The aviation industry has been severely hit by the pandemic, and a recovery is only likely at the end of the year, the transport ministry has said. The number of air passengers this year could fall by 46 percent to 43 million, it said.

The ministry has also decided to remove social distancing limitations on buses, taxi, trains and ships starting Thursday.

The country recorded no fresh Covid-19 case Wednesday, meaning it remained clear of community transmissions for 20 consecutive days. The Covid-19 tally was 271, with 39 still under treatment.



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Lecturer helps Vietnamese in Taiwan overcome stigma, language barrier


Looking at a calendar page filled with pencil scribbles, Trang recalled first moving to a new country. The teacher, now residing in Taipei, said it was the homework submitted by a student in her free Mandarin class on Facebook who had moved to Taiwan to work as a house maid.

“Many Vietnamese who come to Taiwan cannot speak Mandarin and struggle to integrate. I hope my language course can open more employment doors. Some who move here live in very remote areas and can’t even afford to buy a pen and a notebook,” she said.

Huynh Xuan Trang during an interview with local media in Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Huynh Xuan Trang during an interview with local media in Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Trang was born to a poor family of eight kids in Cai Be District, southern Tien Giang Province. She moved to Saigon to work as a blue-collar employee after finishing middle school but her income was not enough to support her family back home.

At 21, she tied the knot with a Taiwanese man and moved to Taiwan in 2001. In the early days of marriage, she distributed flyers at intersections and worked as a waitress to help make ends meet.

Once, a customer complained the restaurant hired only foreigners who did not know Mandarin, which caused Trang to immediately enrol in a Mandarin course at a nearby church. A few years later, she took an elementary school graduation exam and went on to attend high school, taking further classes in Mandarin.

In 2012, she was injured while climbing the restaurant stairs and had to stop working. Stuck at home, she decided to take a cosmetology course.

After four months, she considered opening her own beauty parlor, renting a room of about six square meters built 20 years previously. Witnessing the shabby state of the premises, her husband told her: “No one would come get a makeover at such as a shabby place.”

Determined, Trang decided to tackle the damp walls herself, gaining confidence with each new lick of paint.

To continue supporting herself financially, Trang worked late into the night, which made her husband angry. In 2016, they filed for divorce, leaving her empty-handed and sleeping in a shop after hours.

In this most difficult period, Trang met an inspiring life coach who, caring for a terminally ill cancer patient, assured her: “When you feel the most miserable, look to those less fortunate than yourself. In helping them, you will find the meaning of life.”

Trang realized how lucky she was and that she could use her Mandarin skills to empower other Vietnamese women struggling to adapt in Taiwan.

“I will try to help others using my skills,” Trang promised herself.

Trang teaches Vietnamese migrant workers in Taipei how to write in Mandarin. Photo courtesy by Trang.

Trang teaches Vietnamese migrants in Taipei how to write in Mandarin. Photo courtesy of Trang.

The first thing that came to mind was teaching Mandarin to migrant workers and Vietnamese brides. Hoping to open a classroom of her own, Trang bought 10 chairs.

But not until five years later in 2018, when her work stabilized, did the new seats enter use. At its peak, Trang’s weekly free Sunday classes included up to 20 students newly arrived in Taiwan. In 2017, she created a Facebook group that specializes in teaching Mandarin to Vietnamese, attracting 1,000 learners.

Besides offering free courses, Trang also taught her students how to adapt quicker to their new lives and used her own pocket money to buy textbooks, pens and other equipment.

“I had a more comfortable life after overcoming the language barrier between me and my in-laws thanks to Trang’s free class,” said Nguyen Thi Trang, a student residing in Taipei.

Over the last two years, at her beauty parlor, the 40-year-old has also provided free vocational training.

In 2019, Trang became the first Vietnamese certified to teach community service lecture to the elderly and children of New Taipei, assisted by a Taiwanese government agency.

Huynh Xuan Trang holds a social work lecture for senior citizens in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Trang conducts a community service lecture for senior citizens in New Taipei City, Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Trang.

Now, Trang lectures two to three times a month, with her classes funded by the government. Besides, she travels with her friends to remote areas to massage and cook vegetarian meals for lonely elderly citizens.

Also in 2019, via the Department of Immigration, Taiwanese media reported on her positive volunteer programs.

“I believe this is my way of repaying society for helping me pursue and make my dream come true.”



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The last book restorer of Saigon


He says book restoration used to be popular in the 1980s. At that time there were many bibliophiles who often brought books to him for restoration. Then, with the advent of the Internet, the habit of reading books declined and he had fewer and fewer customers. But even in his heyday, when there were many customers, his work could not make him wealthy.

“All the steps are done by hand and so it takes a lot of time to restore a book. I cannot do more even if I wanted to: a few books a day is the maximum.