At the time of writing this blog, I have been in Chengdu for just five days. This is my third day as an intern in the InternChina office but I am already getting into the swing of life here. Having spent my year abroad as part of my degree studying at a university in Taiwan, I was eager to get a taste of living and working in mainland China. Chengdu appealed to me as it is a more manageable size and less international than the huge metropolises of Beijing and Shanghai, but still with lots to explore within the city and surrounding areas!
I chose to start my time in Chengdu staying in a homestay with a family and their seven-year-old son. While living in Taiwan and briefly travelling in China certainly broadened my understanding of certain aspects of Chinese culture and life, I had not developed an insight into Chinese family and home life. My family have been extremely hospitable and gone out of their way to help me get accustomed to life in Chengdu. Even in this short time, I have got an insight into their daily routine, met their family and colleagues, and tried a huge variety of delicious home-cooked meals. In Taiwan, I found that it was easy to learn what you liked on the menu and then stick with what you knew to avoid translating the menu every time. However staying with a family has led me to try new dishes, fruits and vegetables almost every meal, including foods that I would not usually have ordered myself, such as 美蛙鱼头火锅 (frog and fish head hotpot)!
Difference and Similarities to the UK
Whilst there are many similarities between family life in the UK and China, there are also some striking differences, most noticeably the pressure on young children to study. However, what particularly surprised me on my arrival, is that my family also have an 18-month-old son who is being raised by his grandparents almost 3000km away from Chengdu until he is old enough to attend kindergarten. While I had read about the phenomenon of parents living in urban areas sending their children back to their hometown to be raised by other family members, I had not grasped how common this was among Chinese families. Only seeing your parents once or twice during your first few years of life seems almost incomprehensible to me, and 3000km away from my hometown of London would mean crossing multiple countries ending up in Turkey, for example. However, the pressures of Chinese working life and the lack of affordable childcare options in urban areas, mean that this is a necessity for millions of Chinese parents who have to instead make do with video calling their child.
Communicating in Chengdu
Although I have been studying Mandarin for over four years, the language barrier with my family can still be a challenge. While I generally understand what is being said on a one-to-one basis, group conversations at mealtimes are definitely more difficult, especially with my host dad often switching into Sichuan dialect! However, I am definitely becoming more confident to say to the family when I don’t understand, and, with the help of Pleco (a Chinese dictionary app), I am learning lots of new words and phrases so, as is said in Chinese, 慢慢来 (it will come slowly)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s 40 degrees Celsius, you’re in a full suit, you show up to the office dripping in sweat.
No one wants to turn up to work for his or her first day in the wrong attire. Whether it’s too smart or too casual. You want to slide in just perfect, like you’ve been in the office for ages.
In Vietnam, you can hop on the back of a motorbike and get into work with ease. This means pretty much door-to-door service. No need to work up a sweat running for the bus!
So, you want to know what to wear?
In Ho Chi Minh City you will not be expected to wear a suit as it is simply too hot! Most office workers will wear a simple trousers and shirt combination along with a smart pair of shoes. It may be an idea to bring a tie just in case you have an important meeting and need to smarten up!
No need to pack a suit!
Women in the office are much the same. You won’t be expected to wear a suit. Due to the modest and conservative nature of the culture in Vietnam, women should not wear anything too revealing. Skirts should fall below the knee and sleeveless tops are a no-no. Also when it comes to footwear, you are not expected to wear high heels. A small-heeled shoe or a pair of flats is more than acceptable.
However, it is the case that your attire should match those you are meeting. If you have a meeting with a high-ranking official, it may be an idea to smarten up a little!
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Travel From Vietnam
So you’ve decided to do a life-changing internship in Vietnam. But whilst you are in Vietnam why not take some time to travel elsewhere in South East Asia!
Vietnam borders 3 countries; Cambodia, Laos and China. All of which are easily accessible by either plane or train from Vietnam!
Famed for it beautiful temples and stunning natural beauty this is somewhere you’ll definitely want to visit if you plan on travelling.
Temples to see in Cambodia include the world famous Angkor Wat. This temple dates back to the 10th century and is surrounded by a vast moat. There are a large number of temples in Cambodia each unique to the next.
Furthermore, in the South, there are some beautiful as yet untouched islands, unlike the mass tourist destinations of Thailand. Expect endless rolling sandy beaches, picturesque fishing villages and bright blue oceans.
The natural beauty and undisrupted nature of Laos make it a fantastic destination for travellers. Whilst Laos is completely landlocked this doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any beauty. Nature lovers can tour the country taking in the wildlife including gibbons and elephants.
The extensive network of rivers and caves in Laos make for great exploring. It’s a more off the beaten track destination than other locations in the region. Laos is the perfect destination for the traveller within!
Whilst China might not be the go-to location for travellers in South East Asia there is so much to see and do in the country of over 1 billion people. From the deserts and grasslands in the north and west to the bustling cities on the east coast.
China is full of culture and beautiful nature. A short trip from Vietnam can get you to Hong Kong or the beautiful tropical island of Hainan. China is definitely a country to consider when you are thinking of travelling around Asia.
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Transportation in Vietnam, especially in big cities like Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, can be chaotic and confusing for foreigners. Many even called it an “organised chaos!” However, you can easily find services like taxis, Uber, Grab, Easy Riders, among others.
Taxis are really cheap and you can find them everywhere. However you might find the occasional fake taxi, especially around the tourist areas, so be careful.
Did you know that there are more than 38 million motorcycles in Vietnam? That’s 18 times more than cars! That means that mopeds are make up more than 90% of the whole country’s vehicles. The main reason why there are more motorcycles than cars is certainly because the cities are extremely compact and dense. Also, no license is necessary for motorcycles under 50cc, or electric bikes!
It is quite impressive what Vietnamese locals can balance and transport on just a motorcycle, from live animals to stacks of chairs. If you see 4 dogs and an entire family on just one motorcycle, don’t be surprised!
Uber versus Grab
Uber started operating in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh in mid-2014.
It offers 5 types of transportation services, UberMoto, UberBlack, UberX, UberSUV and UberTOUR. Since Vietnam loves motorcycles, UberMoto it may be faster to travel with the motorbike due to traffic jams. They are also a very cheap form of transportation. UberX is a low-cost Uber, while you can also use UberTOUR for longer trips.
Prices with Uber are almost one third versus Vietnamese taxi services due to their promotion programs.
Uber not only offers transportation services, but also delivery services. Since September 2017, UberDELIVERY delivers your food from your favorite restaurant to your doorstep.
Uber is not the only company offering transportation services with an app. Grab is their main rival in Vietnam, who also started operating in 2014. It was the top-ranked ride-hailing app in 2017 in Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In this case, Grab has 3 types of transportation services, GrabTaxi which are regular taxis, GrabCar which are private vehicles and, like Uber, Grab also has a motorcycle taxi service, which is very unique to Vietnam. GrabExpress it’s their delivery service.
Taking the bus is probably the cheapest way to get around Vietnam. The bus network is very extensive and goes across the country.
Every province in Vietnam has a main bus terminal,, mainly in the big cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. These are interprovincial buses. Prices always depend on where you want to go and which type of seat you choose. There are travel agencies who can help you buy a ticket in advance.
Wherever you go, I advise only to buy bus tickets of registered booths from large companies inside the bus terminals.
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After a long week at work, you are probably looking for a weekend trip away from the traffic and the noise in Ho Chi Minh City. You daydream while working about a nice relaxing getaway , and you are not the only one! There are so many places around Ho Chi Minh City which you can explore.
Cat Tien National Park
At only 3 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, you can enjoy nature and some fresh air away from the city. The National Park protects around 30% of Vietnam species and it is home to gaur, sun bears, deer, elephants, several species of monkeys, and dozens of bird species. You can explore its wonders by foot, by bicycle, jeep or kayak!
12 km away from the park headquarters you can explore the villages at the Ta Lai Longhouse, where you can find Ma, Tay S’tieng ethnic minorities.
Mui Ne is a coastal fishing town on the southern side of Vietnam, only 200 km from HCMC, and is the perfect place for a weekend trip at the beach. The beach is very popular among kite- and windsurfers due to its strong wind conditions. But it is also equally popular for its sand dunes located about 10 km from the main resort strip.
Mui Ne is where the famous Vietnamese sauce (fish sauce) is produced. So you can visit their plants!
Ho Tram Beach
Another nearby beach is the Ho Tram Beach, situated about 125 km southeast from HCMC. Thanks to its accessible location, the beach attracts not only locals, but also tourists from all around the world. The Grand Ho Tram Hotel offers a casino and a golf course, which is also open to non-guests. You can either go camping around the beach or have a relaxing day in the hot springs.
Da Lat is located just about 300 km from HCMC, and is a very popular spot for the Vietnamese on the weekend. Someone said Da Lat is a mix between the French Alps and Vietnam, and if you visit you will see how well French legacy is preserved among the streets.
Mekong Delta Villages
The Mekong Delta Villages offer several travel destinations for the weekend. Can Tho, My Tho, Vinh Long, and Ben Tre are some of the villages in the Delta region. The area is famous for its maze of rives and canals with floating markets, and is also known as the “biological treasure trove”.
The region is home to cải lương, a form of Vietnamese folk opera.
Stu’s Explorer Club
From the city jungle to the real jungle, some offer two-day long jungle trips from HCMC. These take you through the Đồng Nai forest, a natural landscape of Vietnam
Bao Loc is one of the city’s most underrated weekend getaways. The temperature in Bao Loc is a little bit cooler than in HCMC. Their best-know attraction is the Dambri Falls, the highest waterfall in the province! Another attraction is the Nam Phuong Lake, where travelers love to walk around. You can also visit the Bát Nhã Temple.
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Ho Chi Minh City is also known as Saigon. It is definitely a party city with a variety of bars and clubs to choose from. Of course, Saigon parties to late, and it seems like the perfect place to spend your time is around the Pham Ngu Lao district area. Due to its popularity among foreigners, it is usually called the backpacker district, right in the heart of the city. The Pham Ngu Lao area is made up of two parallel streets, the Bui Vien Street and the Pham Ngu Lao street. In between, there are small alleys connecting them.
The streets are full of light and people. Small shops tend to set up tables and chairs on the street and offer drinks. Pham Ngu Lao is where the expats and the locals come together to eat and drink. The most popular places to go around the area are the Go2 Bar, Allez Boo Bar, Crazy Buffalo Bar and The View Rooftop Bar at Duc Vuong Hotel Saigon, where, rumor has it, you can find beer for US$1!
Because they are the perfect place to enjoy the sunset, rooftops bars are really a thing in Saigon. Enjoy the sunsets in one of the most exclusive rooftop bars in HCMC, Chill Skybar on the 26th floor of the AB Tower. If you can afford it and if you can get past the strict door policy, it is the place for a classy drink or a date. Glow Skybar and MGallery are favourite among expats and tourists.
In case what you are looking for is to dance all night long, then Lush is your place. It is probably the most famous nightclub in the city, especially among foreigners. Ladies’ Night is every Tuesday!
Saigon has something for everyone. In some places in the city you can find good coffee shops with live music. Whether you are into rock or jazz or anything in between, you can go to Abracadabra Café, House 7 Café, Yen Café, Cúcuta Café, and others.
Quiet Nights in Saigon
If all of this sounds like too much for you, there are some quiet activities you can do. Good for a quiet night out, the Bonsai Dinner Cruise takes you to a journey down the Saigon River with live jazz music and traditional Vietnamese dance. Or enjoy a play, opera or even ballet shows at the Saigon Opera House.
Nguyen Hue Walking Street is the place you wouldn’t want to miss. It is the perfect place for a night walk through the city. The visitors, the performers and the local shops create an upbeat atmosphere.
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At age seventeen, I was awarded a one-year scholarship to study in Tianjin, a two-tier city around 100km from Beijing. Five years later and here I am, my fourth time in China, and interning in a brand new city, Qingdao.
Tianjin was an amazing place to live and is where my true appreciation and understanding of Chinese culture developed. After my Tianjin experience, how could I turn down another opportunity to live in another fast-developing tier two city? Even though they are more than 500 km apart, I have already noticed some similarities between the two cities.
Tianjin and Qingdao, throughout history and up until now, are very important treaty ports. This meant that in the past they were very desirable to foreign powers. The cities are unique as there still remain numerous European-style buildings, such as churches and villas, which stand as legacies from the time of foreign concessions during the Qing dynasty. A direct contrast to the new modern buildings found in every Chinese city, they are an absolute must see when visiting either city!
In true Chinese style, food culture is huge in Qingdao and Tianjin. Due to proximity to the sea, the seafood in both cities is particularly fresh and delicious. A must try Qingdao dish is spicy clams (蛤蜊), which are pronounced as géli in standard Putonghua but in local Qingdao Hua are pronounced gála. Although Tianjin is known for its seafood, Goubuli Baozi (狗不理包子) and “Cat can’t smell” dumplings (猫不闻饺子) are also some well-known delicious dishes.
Before I arrived in Qingdao, I was under the impression that Qingdao locals would have a southern accent. I realised very quickly that this was not the case as the accent is just as northern sounding as it is in Tianjin, with plenty of er’s(儿)! Tianjin was the perfect environment to not only learn Pǔtōnghuà, but also the local dialect (天津话). The locals were always enthusiastic and patient with me as I bumbled my way through sentences in my early days of learning Chinese. The locals also became especially excited whenever I tried out some Tianjin Hua. For example, instead of saying hen(很 )for very, locals will say bèr(倍儿). Qingdao also has its own dialect (青岛话). For instance. here they pronounce hē（喝）, meaning to drink, as hā. So, it’s dōuhāshui!
As much as Tianjin will always be my home in China, Qingdao is rapidly becoming my Chinese home away from home! I can’t wait to see what else Qingdao has to offer!
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My name is Zachary Black and I am from York in the North of England. Although I pride myself on being Yorkshire born and bred, I have been very fortunate to travel a lot. Having frequently visited South-East Asia as a child, it is safe to say that I have always had an affinity with this part of the world.
My passion for Asian culture led me to my study of Mandarin at Newcastle University along with Spanish, Catalan and Business. As part of my BA at Newcastle, our year abroad was spent at a partner university in China in order to improve our language skills. This proved to be a life-changing 12 months for myself and has in fact led me to being here at InternChina today. Living in Shanghai ignited my passion for the way of life in China and was the driving force behind me studying mandarin for a further year after completing my BA.
After returning home in the summer of 2017, I found myself itching to get back to the middle kingdom and was fortunate enough to secure this fantastic opportunity with InternChina which is only just beginning. Although Chengdu is completely different to Shanghai, there have been a few elements that have pleasantly surprised me – Not just the Pandas !. For example, there is an unparalleled emphasis on the slow-paced rhythm of life here with people just seemingly going with the flow and taking a more ‘laid-back’ approach to life. This is definitely a welcomed release from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, and even the UK sometimes.
My First Impressions
I have been overwhelmed by how friendly people have been here which has helped me settle in my short time here. One further aspect of life here so far which I am enjoying is the food, Chengdu has definitely justified being selected as a global gastronomic site by UNESCO. The juxtaposition of 火锅-‘hotpot’ and 串儿 – ‘anything possible on a stick’ is complimented wonderfully by an array of western restaurants for that occasional change of cusine .
My time in Chengdu has already pushed me out of my comfort zone, yet I am more than committed to welcoming the InternChina participants here to China. I feel lucky to be experiencing life in a fantastic part of the world whilst further improving my mandarin. I can’t wait to see what the next few months hold, so all that is left to say is “加油”－Let’s go !
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Most of the apps on your phone will still be useful in Vietnam, and there is no need to download a VPN. Popular apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Uber will all work (although you can Uber a motorcycle as well as a car!) You can also use Google Translate and Maps to get around and speak to locals!
Grab is a Vietnamese Uber equivalent. Much like Uber, you can see the rate before you get in the car, and the app will also give you a driver profile so you can see who’s picking you up. Of course, you can also keep an eye on the driver’s route!
Cốc Cốc Map
This is the Google Map Vietnam equivalent. In this app, you can find your nearest restaurant, ATM or petrol station (if you ever need one.)
This super useful app will help you get around on public transport in Ho Chi Minh. With over 2,000 bus stops and 100 different bus routes, navigating public transport is made simple with this easy to use app.
Zalo is Vietnam’s answer to Whatsapp. With over 30 million users, nearly half of the country can be found on Zalo! It has group chat, video call and voice call features. You can also post to your profile and view the profiles of your contacts in order to stay up to date with your friends!
Foody is Trip Advisor and Deliveroo all in one, which gives you restaurant reviews as well as the option to order for delivery or reserve a table! This app does it all! Get 5 star reviewed food delivered to your door whenever you want – what more could you want?
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