Vietnam Local – A local guide for Vietnam travelers

Mar 17 2011 Published by under Life

I was inspired and fascinated by, a website that we used when I was traveling to Brussels. And I thought I could do the same for Vietnam.

When my foreign friends ask “hey i’m going to ho chi minh city. Any places to visit/see/eat?”. I usually go like “Cool! Of course I know a lot. There’s this street restaurant that sells really cheap Vietnamese food you must try. Ehhhh but how do I tell you, it’s a bit hard to get there”. And it repeats over and over again, from friends to friends.

The true image of Vietnam, the places me and my friensd  hang out are not commonly known to the tourists. For many reasons: It’s hard to get there (sometimes you have to go into a small street to reach – hẻm), people there don’t speak English well. So the memory of Vietnam I have in mind is not the Vietnam most travelers would experience.

The idea

I imagine a little guide for young travelers to Vietnam. The guide can be download and printed out on some A4 papers.

The guide would have a little cartoonized walkable map of District 1 – where most travelers will probably end up staying around. On the map it pinpoints places that we – the local – usually hang out for food, coffee or shopping. Place like “Street coffee besides Notre-Dame Saigon” (cafe bệt nhà thờ Đức Bà) is a perfect example of these.For each place we could print a little note talking about its uniqueness, some expectations and tips to truly enjoy it. Sometimes a little history would really add the touch.

The guide would be revised updated every 3 or 6 months, according to the feedback others make. It’s important to note that the places suggested in the localguid would come from our own experiences, rather than allowing local business to pay a fee to be listed there.

Then there is the website, the website would initially host the local guide, take the feedback on the guide, and provide some other practical information like transportation and accommodations.

Also, we must understand that one’s experience in a new place is not necessary about the sights or the food it offers, but the new local people s/he meets everyday. The website will have some kind of a system that allow a traveler to find a local volunteer to reach and take him/her around. These volunteers are most likely young students who want to meet new people from different places and practise English. We could even partner with the people from CouchSurfing Vietnam to work something out.

Then there’s the Q&As section (something like stackoverflow), people can go in and ask specific questions related to Vietnam travel, we’ll have our local team/volunteers to answer them.

Scaling out

We can expand the idea to other cities as well, we can lend our resources, branding and experiences to local people at each city, helping them building their own version of VietnamLocal in their city.

Financial Sustainability

In the short term, it’s hard to find a way to fund the project. However the cost involved wouldn’t be that much, either. We can just seek donation from the travelers. I’m sure if they have a good time in Vietnam, they are willing to fork out a buck or two.

In the long term, we could open our own hostels that focus on young travelers. It won’t be the typical hostel where people use to stay overnight. It’s a place for travelers meet each other. Activities like party, wine tasting, food tasting could be carried out frequently.

We could also operate our own paid history tour among interesting historic places.

The goal

Ultimately, the purpose is to help young travelers a better experiences with Vietnam through the exposure to local people, food and sights.


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What university is about

Feb 18 2010 Published by under Life

I realize what university is really about, at least to me.

First, University is about networking. It’s not the kind of networking event where you come, exchange namecards and send a follow-up email afterwards (though I’m not against this, just that this is not the ‘netwokring’ I’m mentioning).

It’s the network of people you hang out and work together during your university life. Or it’s the people who know you due to your reputation on some work that you did the other day.
Think about it, where else could you have the chances to try out working with different people to find the best people that you can do serious stuff with? If you get that, I think you’ll get why business courses tend to have more group-projects as compared to other courses.
I think ‘trust’ is a nice word for that ‘networking’.

While some of the people on the same program with me (NOC) are very keen on organizing events (like seminar, conferences), mainly to get contacts and network, I’m just against that mentality.

Second, university is about finding out what you want by trying out different things.
Not many people are certain about what they want to do. Even if they’re keen on what they want to do at the moment, that might change anytime. Things that you thought that you don’t like, but you never know, until you try it.
The fact is, asking an 18-year old kid to choose which career to go to (by filling out the college application form) is just as same as closing his/her ‘exploration’ door (that is exactly what I felt when choosing my college).
That’s why, university is the time for you to try things out. How? By taking various courses that are out of your major. By joining different ECAs (extra-curriculum activities). Or just by listening to stories of people around you.
That’s how I come to appreciate the concept of ‘liberal art colleges’.

I have a couple of other realizations wanted to pen down, but I guess I’d leave that to some other day then.

For those who ever undertook a Vietnamese education, think about the above in the context of Vietnam Education. Some questions to ponder would be: How does Vietnamese education currently enable students to have that ‘try things out’ mentality? Or does it? Why is it so and what can we do to make it better?

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Miền Trung

Oct 01 2009 Published by under Life

Mấy ngày nay lu bu với nhiều chuyện, ko lên mạng đọc tin. Hôm qua nhận email của con Lan, lật đật mở VNX ra xem, tự nhiên thấy muốn khóc. Miền Trung là quê của nó, người thân của nó, nếu ko ở Sài Gòn, thì chỉ có thể ở miền Trung.

Nó ngồi nghĩ hoài, ko biết khi nào đồng bào mình mới bớt khổ, mới có 1 cuộc sống đầy đủ hơn. Cuối cùng nó quyết định bước tiếp, hẹn vài năm sau sẽ quay lại quê hương.

I’d like to urge all of you, those who read my blog (I know it’s not a lot of people) to open your heart and help those people overcome this typhoon. We’re lucky to have a good life; they aren’t. Every little penny of yours, counts.

Gửi SGD50 cho Lan mà cứ muốn gửi thêm, nhưng tiền mình cũng chẳng có nhiều..

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Vietnam won Singapore in semi-final woohoohoo

Dec 24 2008 Published by under Life

Last Sunday, I took my junior just coming to Singapore (study in NJC) to Sim Lim Square to buy a laptop for her. That was really fun. We hang around, asking for prices, bargaining. It took around 1 to 2 hours. Eventually I got her a Compaq Presario V3703 at S$962 (GST inclusive). That was a quite good deal I’d say. Second time buying laptop for friends xD

The specs:

  • AMD Athlon X2 1.9GHz,
  • 3GB RAM DDR2-667 Transcend
  • 160GB (forgot to check the brand)
  • 1 mouse + bag

After that, I went to Singapore National Stadium to watch the right-leg semifinal between Singapore and Vietnam. That was the first time I go to a stadium to watch football. And it was really great! When Quang Hai scored the only goal for Vietnam, the feeling was so great and special. I remember the last time I have the similar feeling was in the last National Day, September 2nd. After that we went to Geylang for supper, Frog Porridge. I must admit that this is also my first time go to Geylang.

Some pictures updated:

More on Facebook

Been occupied with work and stuffs. Probably should spend more time on organizing myself and gym.

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