Blog : Vietnam

There’s More to New Year Than January 1

There’s More to New Year Than January 1

For peoples across the ASEAN, New Year means more than the first day on the new calendar. Whether it’s Songkran, Thingyan, Choul Chnam Thmey, Tet, or Nyepi, the happy day is publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and joy. As celebrations kick off, traveling can be difficult. We think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018. Have a safe journey!

A public procession celebrating the Thingyan Festival, Myanmar / Photo: Tayzar

The New Year Festival differs from country to country across the ASEAN. It’s part of a tradition that has been in existence long before the advent of the new calendar. The happy day goes by different names — “Songkran” in Thailand, “Thingyan” in Myanmar, “Choual Chnam Thmey” in Cambodia, “Tet” in Vietnam, and “Nyepi” in Bali. It’s publicly acknowledged with enthusiasm and festivity that has transformed into the Region’s timeless attraction. If you’re planning a visit during the holiday season, we think it wise to plan ahead. Here’s the period the New Year Festival is traditionally celebrated around the ASEAN in 2018.

An elephant and tourists splash each other with water at the scene of a Songkran event in Thailand. / Photo: JJ Harrison

Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia share a common culture when it comes to celebrating New Year. The season of goodwill and festivity is based on Buddhist/Hindu beliefs that they received from India. It’s celebrated around mid-April in keeping with the Buddhist solar calendar. The occasion marks a change of seasons from cold to hot, which coincides with the rising of Aries in ancient astrology.

Over time, each country has developed its own system of beliefs associated with the beginning of a new year. The Myanmar version is concerned with the elephant-headed deity Ganesh, son of Shiva, who is worshipped as the destroyer of obstacles and patron of learning. In Thailand, the beliefs center around the legend of Thao Kibil Prom, a deity who was beheaded after losing a bet on intelligence games. The two stories reflect elaborate systems of Buddhist/Hindu beliefs about cleansing rituals, to which the Southeast Asian mainland is greatly indebted. Over time, the use of water to rid a person and place of something deemed unpleasant or defiling has evolved into a tradition, which later transformed into a popular water festival that we see today. 

The Thingyan water festival in Myanmar / Photo: Tayzar

– Myanmar –

Thingyan is the most widely celebrated festival in Myanmar. Traditionally, it was a public holiday that usually lasted about ten days to allow the people plenty of time to travel, celebrate the water festival, and reunite with families in far-away provinces. Just recently the holiday period has been cut short despite opposition from some sectors. As for 2018, the Thingyan Festival is scheduled for April 13 through 16, and culminates in Myanmar New Year’s Day on April 17. In Yangon, the water festival centers around Kandawgyi Pet Lann Road, and Kabaraye Road.


A bucket and a water pistol are absolutely necessary if you plan on taking part in the water festival celebrating Thailand’s New Year come mid-April. / Photo: Takeaway

– Thailand –

Thailand’s traditional New Year, known as Songkran, falls on April 13 through 15. In Bangkok, the water festival takes place on various locations, such as Khao San Road that’s popular among foreign tourists, and Silom Road that’s favorite among the general public including the gay community. In fact, a good time is had by all during Songkran, and it’s not limited to just the two spots mentioned. Up north, the province of Chiangmai is mega rich in Songkran tradition. Tourists, both local and foreign, traverse thousands of miles to converge in the city during the high season.


Songkran Festival in Laos / Photo: Njambi Ndlba

– Laos –

The people of Laos start celebrating Songkran or Pi Mai Lao (literally Lao’s New Year) on April 13. Take time to relax since April 14 through 16 is the official public holiday. It’s a slice of paradise for those impressed by warm, sweet, and welcoming hospitality unique to the Lao PDR.


A gong and tom-tom procession heralds the Cambodian New Year. / Photo: Rdghalayini

– Cambodia –

For 2018, the Cambodian New Year or Choul Chnam Thmey falls on April 13 through 16. The annual event is celebrated with a multitude of joyful festivities and merit making ceremonies in Buddhism. People often confuse Choul Chnam Thmey with the Cambodian Water Festival, which is an entirely different event. The Water Festival, known as Bon Om Touk, is celebrated with row boat racing in the capital Phnom Penh usually in October or November each year.

ASEAN Tourism / What a Difference a Slogan Makes!

ASEAN Tourism / What a Difference a Slogan Makes!

Since 2013, the ASEAN as a whole has attracted upwards of 100 million visitors from across the globe. Slogans appear to have a significant role in motivating the potential tourists and travelers to make a visit. While we have grown familiar with our amazing memorable phrase, other countries have theirs. Let’s see what works across the Region.

/// ASEAN ///


Floating Market, Thailand / Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

According to the 2016 World Economic Forum report, the ASEAN Region “continues to be one of the most exciting parts of the global economy, having grown by around 5% a year in nearly two decades.”

The WEF report said that about 104 million foreign travelers visited the Region in 2015, while, a division under the AEC Department of the ASEAN Secretariat, put the number in excess of 108 million. Of this, nearly 46 million or 42.2 percent were travelers from within the ASEAN membership. Meantime, the Region welcomed about 18 million travelers from China. A forecast indicated the number could top 20 million in 2017.

Slogans appear to have significant impact on the tourism industry. Many countries have seen great success for they provide a glimpse into pretty much everything a destination has to offer, from natural and cultural attractions to food to history and the people. All the good attributes are encapsulated in a single striking phrase.

Since 1998, “Amazing Thailand” has been the short and sweet slogan that worked best for the Kingdom. It contributed to propelling Thailand to the ninth place among the World’s Top 10 International Tourism Destinations in 2016, during which it drew up to 32.6 million foreign visitors. 

Phi Phi Le, Thailand / Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand
Breakfast is served Singapore style / Photo: Sittisak Namkham

At the same time, WEF’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report ranked Singapore as Southeast’s most tourism-friendly country, followed by Malaysia and Thailand in second and third places.

As for Cambodia, the tourism industry accounts for 28.3% of GDP and counting, thanks to Angor Wat being the country’s landmark attraction.

The Philippines has seen success in tourism as a result of having many beautiful islands, while Indonesia thrives on rich and diverse natural attractions.

Myanmar is coming back strong, albeit with a few hiccups in the areas of accommodations, conveniences, and modern amenities.

Indonesian version of the Monkey King Photo:
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangoon, Myanmar / Photo:

For your reading pleasure, here’s a list of tourism slogans from around the Region. Check it out.

Brunei – The Kingdom of Unexpected Treasures

Cambodia – Kingdom of Wonder

Indonesia – Wonderful Indonesia

Laos – Simply Beautiful

Malaysia – Truly Asia

Myanmar – Let the Journey Begin

The Philippines – It’s More Fun in the Philippines

Singapore – Your Singapore

Thailand – Amazing Thailand

Vietnam – Timeless Charm

Fresh fish in Laung Prabang market, Laos / Photo: Samutcha Viraporn


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Bangkok Is Top Global Destination City, Continued Growth Forecast for 2017

Bangkok Is Top Global Destination City, Continued Growth Forecast for 2017

Bangkok was at the highest place on the chart of Top Ten Global Destination Cities attracting 19.41 million visitors in 2016, outranking London, Paris, Dubai, and Singapore. A Mastercard index released recently showed the Thai capital benefited the most from international travel, while further growth in visitor arrivals were in the forecast for 2017.

/// ASEAN ///


Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), Bangkok / Photo: Tanakitt Khum-on


Visitor Volume

The Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index predicted that Bangkok’s visitor arrivals would increase by 4.0 percent in the 2017 calendar year, while Singapore was forecast to move up one notch growing by 2.6 percent and outranking New York (at minus 2.4 percent). Meantime, Kuala Lumpur was likely to post a strong 7.2 percent gain in visitor arrivals for 2017, enabling it to keep its eighth place on the chart.

Kuala Lumpur / Photo: Sitthisak Namkham

From 2009 to 2016, two ASEAN cities also saw strong growth in visitor arrivals, namely: Jakarta up 18.2 percent, and Hanoi up 16.4 percent. Of all 132 destinations across the globe, Osaka was at the top with a whopping 24.0 percent growth in overnight visitor arrivals during the 8-year period.

Overall, international visitors to leading global destination cities increased in the 2016 calendar year. As for 2017, Tokyo’s visitor numbers were forecast to increase by as much as 12.2 percent, making it the strongest growth in visitors among the top ten.


National Gallery Singapore / Photo: Sitthisak Namkham


Cross-border Spending

The Mastercard index was more than just a ranking of top destination cities across the globe. Apart from international visitor volume, it also looked into tourist spending that contributed to furthering economic growth of countries. For the 2016 calendar year, Dubai was at the top with overnight visitors spending $28.50 billion, followed by New York ($17.02 billion), London ($16.09 billion), Singapore ($15.69 billion), and Bangkok ($14.08 billion), all in USD. Destination cities benefited greatly from tourism. Shopping accounted for 22.9 percent of tourist spending, local service 21.5 percent, and food and beverages 20.6 percent).

Royal Palace, Bangkok / Photo: Aphirux Suksa



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10 Countries Experiencing the Harshest Effects of World Climate Change

10 Countries Experiencing the Harshest Effects of World Climate Change


Four ASEAN countries are listed in the 2017 Global Climate Risk Index Report as among the 10 countries most strongly affected by world climate change between 1996 and 2015.

// ASEAN //

Who Suffers Most From Extreme Weather Events? Weather-Related Loss Events in 2015 and 1996 to 2015 In Order To Report Effects of Climate Change in Various Countries Around The World,” a 2017 Global Climate Risk Index report released by Germanwatch, shows that climate change caused more than 528,000 people to lose their lives between 1996 and 2015, with financial losses amounting to  US$3.08 trillion. UNEP (United Nations Environment Program) estimates suggest that by 2030, total losses will be two to three times greater, and by 2050, four to five times these amounts.

Loss of life, economic loss, and number of catastrophic events summarized in this data table show that the harshest effects have fallen on “developing countries” not rich in resources. In the the top ten are four ASEAN nations. Myanmar is in second place on the worldwide list; most of us probably remember the beating it took from Cyclone Nargis in 2008. An island nation, fifth-place Philippines is listed with the highest number of natural disasters. Vietnam takes the number 8 spot, with number 10 Thailand right behind, its economic losses – $7,574,620,000 US – greater than any of the others. 13th place Cambodia nearly makes the cut to join its ASEAN friends.

Table courtesy of Global Climate Risk Index 2017 by Germanwatch

The Climate Risk Index gives clear indications of the huge effects climate change will have on development, as well as on personal property, quality of life, and national GDP in these countries. A secure future depends on each country having a solid plan for cooperating with nature and with each other. Sitting back and doing nothing as before isn’t an option.


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Modern Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

Modern Tropical House in Ho Chi Minh City

       The architecture of this modern tropical house in Ho Chi Minh City is perfectly suited to the hot, humid climate, with an imaginative counterpoint of plants, greenery, and airy openings keeping it shady and pleasant inside and out.

/// Vietnam ///
Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa /// Photography: Tanakitt Khum-on

Sun diversion screens: the design comes from the hollow brick concept, but uses larger units, so the breeze enters more deeply and freely while keeping intense sun and rain from indoor areas.
A spiral staircase rises to the second floor.
The Nishizawa Architects office area

Mr. Shunri Nishizawa, architect and owner of this 5-storey row house, designed the Nishizawa Architects office into the basement. Floors 1-3 are rented to a Vietnamese family with bedroom and dining room on the first floor, living room on the second, and more bedrooms on floor three. The Nishizawa family itself has its living room on the fourth floor and bedrooms on the fifth.

Levels from basement up to the fifth floor alternate between open and closed design, according to their use. Catching sunshine and natural breezes, the second- and fourth-storey balconies are edged with small gardens. This makes the tall building less constricted while allowing for easy air circulation from the front through to the back. Alternating levels extend out from the building’s frame, floors above shading the ones below. 


The small gardens also make residents feel relaxed, filter out intense light, and cool the breezes blowing through. Floors two and four feature concrete ceilings sculpted with curves rather than the harsh lines often found in concrete buildings, softening reflected light and creating the sensation of being in natural stone caves.

Shunri says, “This house shows a true combination of ‘tropical’ and ‘modern’ architectural design coming from understanding traditional living patterns in this hot, humid Vietnamese climate as well as how to set things up perfectly for contemporary life. It’s safe and secure living with modern comforts such as air conditioning, yet still answers our need to be close to nature, with sunlight, breezes, and open spaces connecting to garden and plants right here in the house.”

For versatility in design, Shunri draws on his experience growing up with multipurpose spaces common in Japanese homes. Areas such as the living room are strategically partitioned to block direct light and view, simultaneously giving privacy and an open feeling. Hollow blocks, a popular Vietnamese building material, inspired the design of larger outside openings for efficient sun and rainstorm protection.

More than just comfortable living, this house offers a charming blend of nature and architecture, snuggled up to natural phenomena right in the middle of  Ho Chi Minh City. This row house is actually much better described as a “house and garden” than simply a “building.”



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Brick house For a Tropical Climate
Beautifully Designed Brick House
Well-made Home on a Narrow Lot

Well-made Home on a Narrow Lot

Having to build on a narrow piece of land, an architect creates an urban home ingeniously designed to utilize the space in imaginative ways. Relevantly called “A House in Trees,” the slim plan makes the best of circumstances by letting nature permeate.

/// Vietnam ///
Design: Nguyen Khac Phuoc Architects /// Photography: Trieu Chien

The so-called “House in Trees” sits on a narrow lot measuring 5 by 15 meters in Tu Son, a county town in Bac Ninh Province, Vietnam. The area is fast becoming industrialized as the city grows. Putting it mildly, the impacts of urban growth are already being felt, from noise to traffic fumes and other negative effects that come with industrialization. On top of that, the location dictates that the house be built facing west.

Be that as it may, the design team at Nguyen Khac Phuoc Architects succeeds in creating an uncluttered, incredibly relaxed home for a family with two teenage children. Where the land is so narrow, the only way to go is up. The slim floor plans afford three bedrooms with baths, living room, kitchen, carport and storage, as well as an entertainment center, worship room, laundry.

The five-story home makes good use of two void spaces, one in front, the other in the center court. Because the front façade is facing west, the architects fill the front void space with a leafy tree to protect the interior living spaces from hot afternoon sun and traffic fumes.

The second void space at the center is filled with greenery while lush shade keeps the homeowners naturally cool all year round. The idea is to let nature permeate as much as can be. Tall bamboo and leafy trees diffuse natural light during daytime hours and protect the interior from gusty winds and rain.

The greenery-filled center court not only evokes a walk in the park, but also provides privacy for all the rooms that are set at tree-top levels.
A patch of greenery lines the corridor connecting the living room, kitchen and dining room.

One of the unexpected ways to decorate with plants. Greenery brings good energy, textures, and character into every space.

“The design is done within the context of the home’s unique surroundings,” explained the architects. “We incorporate nature in the floor plan to promote better living condition for people living in it. Urban growth and industrialization are fast happening and they no doubt have impacts on the environment.”

Link: :

Brick house For a Tropical Climate

Brick house For a Tropical Climate

This rectangular brick home in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is designed for “hot and humid,” open to natural light and cool from air currents constantly streaming in and out through the bricks.

/// Vietnam ///
Story: Wuthikorn Suthiapa /// Photography: Tanakitt Khum-on /// Design: Tropical Space by Ms.Tran Thi Ngu Ngon and Mr.Nguyen Hai Long

Brick doesn’t retain heat, but insulates against it, and its porosity helps retain early morning moisture which evaporates to cool at midday.
Work corner next to the food preparation section is screened off for privacy.

Mr. Tung Do and Mrs. Lien Dinh, the owners here, are newlyweds who wanted a small house with a straightforward design for pleasant living. They had seen Tropical Space’s “Termitary House,” which won, among others, a 2016 Brick Award, and admired its form and design so much that – even with their limited budget – they engaged the Company to design and build their own home.

Ms. Tran Thi Ngu Ngon and Mr. Nguyen Hai Long of Tropical Space said, “we want to build living spaces that connect people with nature, natural spaces that are easy to understand. The beauty of nature can reach deep into a person’s spirit to improve life in ways they would not have imagined before.”

Mr. Nguyen tells us he grew up in a house of brick and never forgot his childhood vision of sunbeams flowing through open spaces between bricks to throw patterns of light and shadow on the light dust in the air, and how beautiful it was. Little phenomena such as this connect people with their surroundings, and support the choice of brick as a building material.

The brick wall both gives privacy and provides channels for air and light to pass through.

Stair frame of rebar saves space and adds structural definition.

Most of Tropical Space’s design work makes use of brick, partly because the form has a certain beauty, but deeper than that, brick is an inherently Vietnamese material, indigenous to the area. The designer pays attention to its true characteristics and searches out new ways of using and arranging it, creating channels for wind and light and taking advantage of its moisture-retaining quality.

Seen from outside, the home is a rectangular block that itself resembles one humongous brick. It faces north because of sun, wind, and rain directions, and without being too hot it gets good light all day long. The ground floor living room features a wall of bricks alternating with open spaces, lighting and cooling at the same time during the day. Outside, a little distance from the house to the east and west are walls that keep sunlight from directly hitting it, instead reflecting light through the perforated brick wall and into every inside area. These outside walls also create channels that guide the wind in and out. Trees are planted there, too, which cool the house with their shade.

The house may look a bit severe, but in this tropical climate its architecture aligns beautifully with nature to provide an amazingly comfortable residence built on a moderate budget.

Openings above and on the sides for natural light to enter during the day.




The Café Apartment, a Super-hip Building in Ho Chi Minh City

The Café Apartment, a Super-hip Building in Ho Chi Minh City

A cutting-edge idea: turn an old apartment building into cafés, restaurants, and co-working spaces. The Café Apartment, 42 Nguyen Hue Street (Walking Street) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, is a must-see.

/// Vietnam ///

It’s all the rage in Ho Chi Minh City! We’re referring to the coolest imaginable conversion of this 9-storey former apartment building into a fantastic collection of restaurants, coffee shops, beauty parlors, fashion boutiques, co-working spaces, and a great bookshop. Here nearly 30 shops have remodeled and redecorated what were once living units to adapt to new functionalities, many removing inside walls and extending onto outside balconies.

The Café Apartment retains its mid-20th-century form: viewed from outside, it might remind you of a chocolate box. In early days it housed government workers and military personnel, later the general public. All rooms face southwest, with balconies looking out on Walking Street, the city, and the Saigon river. A stair leads up to each floor, but there’s also elevator service for 3000 Vietnamese dong (VND) – don’t worry, this isn’t anywhere near as much as it sounds – which is reimbursed when paying the bill at any café. Normal opening hours for cafés are the same as for the building itself: 8AM to 10PM. Drinks and snacks are reasonably priced, but you couldn’t call them cheap. There’s visitor parking nearby at Lucky Plaza for 5,000 dong.

You can easily spend the whole day here soaking in the history and enjoying the atmosphere. The Café Apartment has brought back the vibrant flavor of old Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City: fresh, contemporary, bustling, here is a truly hip spot where travelers from far-off lands checking into the scene can mix with a new generation of Vietnamese. You won’t find this sort of renovation everywhere: in some countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand, legal building restrictions are too stringent, which makes this cool spot even more unique.

Top 10 Houses to Beat the Heat / Tropical House

Top 10 Houses to Beat the Heat / Tropical House

Hot and humid climate being one of the inevitabilities of life, architects across the Region aptly responded with a range of ingenious designs from the cool traditional to the energy-efficient modern. Living ASEAN presents top 10 houses well suited to the circumstances. Check them out.

 /// ASEAN ///

Best Marathons in the ASEAN 2017

Best Marathons in the ASEAN 2017

If running a marathon is one of your goals, the ASEAN Region has what you’re looking for. Here are some of the challenge updates to fill your calendar for 2017. Check this out.

/// ASEAN ///

Vietnam Mountain Marathon


Vietnam Mountain Marathon
Vietnam Mountain Marathon
Vietnam Mountain Marathon

– The Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2017 –

The Vietnam Mountain Marathon is scheduled for 22-23 September 2017. Dubbed the hardest running in the country, the VMM takes athletes on unique trails covering distances of 10, 21, 42, 70, and 100 kilometers through spectacular mountain terrains of northern Vietnam. The multi-event challenge takes place as the paddy field turns gold, water buffalos graze on the open meadows, and various ethnic groups prepare for the harvest. Normally used only by locals, the long and winding dirt trails take runners through the majestic mountains and valleys. The sunlight is strong, and heavy rains are always a possibility in the mountains. Participation in the unique event is completely at your own risk. You don’t have to be fast runners. Just make sure you’re physically fit and come well trained to hike up a trail.


Luang Prabang Half Marathon
Luang Prabang Half Marathon
Luang Prabang Half Marathon

– The Luang Prabang Half Marathon 2017 –

The Sixth Luang Prabang Half Marathon is held on 22 October 2017 to raise funds for the Lao Friends Hospital for Children. All monies from the race go directly to supporting patient care at the hospital, where medical attention is provided free of charge for all Lao children. Runners can participate in seven, 14, or 21 kilometers (half marathon) runs along a scenic loop passing beautiful temples and homes in the heart of Luang Prabang. Situated in northern Laos, the former royal capital has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1995. Laos. Stay tuned for more details on the specific marathon route through beautiful Luang Prabang at link


Penang Bridge International Marathon

– The Penang Bridge International Marathon 2017 –

The international marathon is held annually on the Penang Bridge, the iconic bridge that connects Penang Island to Penang State on the northwest coast of the Malay Peninsula. The PBIM is the largest mass-participation sporting event in Penang, drawing tens of thousands of runners into the streets every time. In 2014, the ASICS Penang Bridge International Marathon (APBIM) attracted a record 60,000 runners both local and overseas, making it the largest crowd ever assembled on the 24-kilometer bridge, the longest in South East Asia.  The bridge is also known as the Sultan Abdul Halim Muad’zam Shah Bridge, or the second Penang Bridge. By popular demand, the Penang Bridge run happened twice in 2015, first in June and then in November. The next marathon, scheduled for 26 November 2017 across the old Penang Bridge, will offer three races; 10-km run, half marathon, and full marathon.


Jungle Marathon Indonesia
Jungle Marathon Indonesia
Jungle Marathon Indonesia

– The Jungle Marathon Indonesia 2017 –

The footrace is tough and absolutely full of adventure. If you seek a challenge on the shores of beautiful Jatiluhur Lake, then the Jungle Marathon Indonesia 2017 is the place to be. This marathon run will take it to the limit. The Jatiluhur Trail is an exciting, amazing challenge worth a visit. For the second time in Indonesia, the finish line on the Jatiluhur Trail will be located in the forest at the edge of Jatiluhur Dam. From the finish line, participants will be transported back to Jatiluhur Resto by boat or bus. The next JMI run is scheduled for 30 September, and runners can choose between the 15-km race, or the 42-km full marathon run. Visit the link below to learn more.