Archive - August 2017

Hue

Hue – the old imperial city of Vietnam

Posted on: August 26th, 2017

Delightful for those interested in history and culture, Hue is the old capital from the Nguyen dynasty, a vibrant town with ruins and interesting architecture. Located close to Hoi An, it is the perfect stop if you are crossing Vietnam from south to north or the other way around.

Hue

The imperial citadel.

From 1802 to 1945, the Nguyen dynasty made Hue the national capital, as noticeable from the main attraction in town: the imperial citadel. Called Dai Nôi in Vietnamese, this is the old fortified city where the emperor and the royal family used to live.

Now partly in ruins due to the bombings and past wars, but there is a lot of infrastructures still standing. It is a beautiful and interesting site for those looking for culture and history.

You can visit different palaces (such as the Thai Hoa, or coronation hall), temples and galleries, understand better the life of the royal family and the city in general, or even just roam around and take photos of beautiful old architecture. The entry is 150.000 dong but it’s totally worth it, needless to say, the place is a Unesco World Heritage so it will certainly enrich your trip with a better cultural understanding of this country!

The traditional court music has been proposed to Unesco as well. Every two years there is a big festival celebrating Hue culture and music being a big part of it. Do research before coming since you may be lucky enough to be able to attend it 🙂

Hue

The guardian statues at the Tomb of Khai Dinh.

Don’t miss the complex of Tombs of the Emperors on the surroundings of the city, easily reachable by road but also by boat along the Perfume river. The guardian statues defending the emperor will welcome you and, inside the tombs, there are delightful decorations and intricate ceramics works. The admission for each tomb is 100.000 dong but it is better to buy the 360.000 dongs ticket which includes the entrance to the citadel and three tombs (valid for two days). And definitely the three you must go are the Tomb of Khai Dinh, the Tomb of Minh Mang and the Tomb of Tu Duc.

Hue

The architecture of the Tomb of Khai Dinh.

Besides that you can visit the beautiful Thien Mu Pagoda, or the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady, a symbol of the city. With its seven-storey architecture, it sits peacefully on the river bank of Perfume, the river that crosses the town. The river is also an icon of Hue – take full advantage of it and have a stroll along its promenade. Don’t forget to enjoy the street food!

And indeed, Hue is quite famous for its food. There is a big difference between everyday food (that people commonly eat) and imperial food (that the royal family used to eat)! Some  examples of popular local dishes are the tiny mussel rice (com hen) and bún bò Hue, a beef noodle soup that is specific of this city. Don’t forget to try also the grilled meat vermicelli (bun thit nuong) and the khoai cakes (banh khoai) which are fried rice cakes served with different things such as eggs and shrimps.

Hue

The colorful incense sellers decorate the city and its surroundings.

Hope this article made you curious about Hue, definitely one of the highest cultural spots in your journey.

Start your Vietnam trip from Ho Chi Minh and then go up the coast from there. You can visit Hue and Hoi An on your way to the north.

Check the options to reach Ho Chi Minh on Camboticket website, for instance from Phnom Penh is just a six hours trip!

Happy traveling!

 

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Work in Cambodia

Working in Cambodia – all you need to know!

Posted on: August 25th, 2017

It is common in Cambodia that travelers who at first came for some weeks, extended the visa to stay a bit more. Then months after month the ex-traveler notices that is indeed living in Cambodia and doesn’t want to leave. (True story for the one writing this!) Cambodia is, in fact, a very easy country to live and find work in. The cost of living is still relatively low while the opportunities increase. With a rising economy and a vibrant non-profit sector, working in Cambodia in companies or NGOs is easy. Alternatively, if your English language skills are good, a variety of schools have teaching positions available.

Following the article last week about the different visas and how to get them, we continue this series about living in Cambodia with some info about working in the kingdom.

Working in Cambodia

Phnom Penh is one of the capitals in Southeast Asia developing faster, with many opportunities rising in different sectors.

First, make sure you read all about the visa in our previous article about living in Cambodia, including the different sub-types, such as the ones adequate for business or entrepreneurs, people looking for job, etc.

Focusing on job search, the easiest way is to hang out with people of the sector of your interest. Many connections in Phnom Penh come from word of mouth and social relationships are crucial for that. In the meantime, check some of the websites with job vacancies, like Bongthom, Khmer24 or Khmeradz.

For volunteering, have a look at the online platforms focused on social and non-profit sectors, such as Idealist. Just reflect on the impact you will have on the people, especially if children are involved. In fact many of the short-term volunteering opportunities are actually proven to do more harm than good. For more on this topic you can read this article on the Guardian about volunteering and the orphanage industry in Siem Reap.

working in cambodia

One detail to take into consideration is not to “steal” it from a local person. It is better to find jobs requiring skills that are still not available locally and help the country to develop!

One of the most typical jobs for a foreigner is teaching English in local schools. Usually you don’t need certificates or teaching experience, but you are still influencing the children’s education and having an English language certificate will definitely raise your chances of a better salary. If your skills allow you to teach something different maybe it is more adequate for you and helpful for the locas. They will need more a teacher of computer literacy or other specific vocational training than another English teacher!

Other thing to pay attention to is the work permit. The cost is 130 dollars for this year. Last year it was 100 dollars and, in case you were already working here, they will charge that as well. In addition you will have to pay 30 dollars for the medical paperwork. More info here, where you can also register yourself if needed.

In case you are a freelance, have a look at our article on available coworking spaces.

Opening your own business is an option as well: a shop, bar/restaurant or something more “serious”. You have to register it, get your taxes right and an employee quota registration (check the government website for more info). There are some good news though: Cambodia is one of the few countries where foreigners can own their business, even without a local partner. However, a Khmer person that helps you out with the paper work is recommended, especially if your tolerance to bureaucracy is low!

working in cambodia

In case you want to open your own businesses, besides the obvious rules there are some little ones to remember. For example, the name of the company has to be translated in Khmer and displayed above the English name.

We hope to have clarified some of the common doubts about living and working in Cambodia. If you are traveling by and thinking of staying longer, go for it! You will enjoy the relaxed Khmer lifestyle, contributing to the growth of the country.

 

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Hoi An Vietnam

Hoi An, a charming old town in Vietnam

Posted on: August 12th, 2017

Hoi An is a Unesco World Heritage city, with lot of cute Chinese-style shop houses telling the story of this once prosperous port town of the Champa empire. The old town makes a charming break from the typically Vietnamese roads, always crowded with traffic and noise. Here there are pleasant streets to walk around while enjoying the old architecture.

Typical front of an Assembly Hall.

Hoi An is an old city in Quang Nam province, with more than 2000 years of history. It was once crucial for trade during the Champa empire, the ancestor state of the ethnic group Cham. Nowadays their descendants are living between Cambodia and Vietnam.

It’s near the sea and well connected through the Thu Bon river, with a more cozy feeling than the nearby city of Danang. This is mainly due to its small pedestrian streets, very pleasant for a walk, especially in the evening, where the temperature is cooler and people lighten up many colorful Chinese lanterns – probably the main reason that contributes to the general charm from which this town is known.

During the day, renting a bicycle is a good option to explore the city and its surroundings!

To enjoy the old town you will have to pay an entrance ticket of 80.000 VND or 120.000 VND (respectively Vietnamese and foreigner prices).

It will give you access to five of the various attractions scattered on the streets of the old town. Some are old Chinese houses such as Quan Thang, Diep Dong Nguyen, Tan Ky, Phung Hung and Tran family chapel, others are beautiful (and sometimes very kitschy) assembly halls such as Quang Dong, Phuoc Kien, Trieu Chau and Hai Nam. There are also some museums, namely the museum of history and culture, the museum of folk culture, the museum of trade ceramics, and the museum of Sa Huynh culture. Check the map to see the addresses and choose the five attractions where you want to use your ticket.

Hoi An Vientam

Colors in the walls in the old town.

Probably the most famous feature of Hoi An is the Chinese-style shop houses’s aarchitecture, not really part of the local community anymore (which sold most of them to tourism businesses) but at least still a pretty picture of the old Chinese influence in this town. Being near the sea and having such a huge trade importance for the Champa empire, the city was exposed to many external influences. The major ones were from China, as you can notice from the typical Chinese architecture of the shops in the main roads, and people from Arabic countries, who slowly converted the Cham people from Hinduism to Islam. Nevertheless, the Muslim culture is hard to see here. Some places like Kampong Chhnang or Kampong Cham in Cambodia better to dig into their culture and lifestyle.

Nevertheless, the city has many influences. For instance in terms of spirituality which is an eclectic mix of Buddhism, worshiping of Chinese deities and animist practices. Japanese influences are also visible: don’t miss the photogenic Chua Cau, better known as Japanese Bridge.

Hoi An Vietnam

The river that passes in Hoi An.

You can also cross the Thu Bon river and visit the islands of An Hoi and Cam Nam. Perfect for your evening strolls lighten up by the colorful lanterns spread along the river and nearby streets.

If you are interested in shopping, go beyond the somehow bland businesses of clothes or shoes and beware of people trying to advise you on where to go. They are certainly doing it for the commission they’ll receive afterwards!

Also the city is quite famous for its ability to produce clones of your clothes. Practice your bargaining skills and go to one of the countless tailors in town!

If you want to escape shopping, rent a bicycle and explore the surrounding villages. Many of them with interesting handicraft traditions and definitely more genuine products, like wood-carving, ceramic, skillful carpentry and bronze making. Check your map to find, for instance, Tra Que Vegetable village, Thanh Ha pottery village and Kim Bong carpentry village. Other places to visit are Bay Mau coconut forest, Cham island and the tombs of old Japanese traders.

Hoi An Vietnam

Fields on the surrounding of the city (the wheat for the white roses must come from somewhere!)

And, of course, don’t forget to try some of the local delicacies! For example the Hoi An-style chicken rice (locally known as Com Ga), the quang noodles, white rose (special shrimp dumplings to dip in an unique sauce, called banh bao vac by the locals) and the Cao Lau. This is the signature dish of the city, with pork and yellow noodles, crispy croutons and vegetables. The main secret? The water used in the dish must come from one of ancient wells in town.

One last note, before going to Hoi An check the lunar calendar. Every 14th and 15th motorbikes can not enter in the old town, and they organize a full moon festival on 14th night, including many cultural activities and folk games where local people celebrate the old prosperity of the city. Try to plan your trip for that time of the month!

Hoi An Vietnam

A random tree with small Chinese lanterns.

There are many reasons to go visit the charming old town of Hoi An. An evening strolls near the canals and the colorful Chinese lanterns are images that will always stay in your memory.

Have a look on Camboticket website for tickets to Ho Chi Minh, a great place to start your Vietnamese trip. From there you can then make your way up along the coast to Hoi An!

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Visa in Cambodia

Travelling or Living in the Kingdom – Visa in Cambodia, all you need to know!

Posted on: August 9th, 2017

Bureaucracy sometimes can be one of the biggest barriers to get out of your comfort zone and explore the world. The uncertainty of not having a job or another way of receiving a stable income can be frightening for some. The cultural shock or the difficulty in understanding the language and local procedures can be a challenge. Adding to these the hardships of bureaucracy is a bit too much.

Hopefully this article will help you! It is the first one of a series trying to clarify some of the most common questions if you want to travel or live in Cambodia. This first one is about the visa policies, so without further ado let’s jump right in…

 

 

 

 

If you come as a traveler from Europe, tourist visa can be purchased on arrival at the airport or land border crossing for 30 USD. You just need to have a passport valid at least for six months and one free page. Also don’t forget to bring one passport-sized photo to the immigration counter. In alternative, you can also arrange it before-hand in any Cambodian embassy for the same price, or online for 40 dollars on this government website. This type of visa is valid for one month, single entry, and can be extended only once for another month. It costs 45 dollars in most of the agents dealing with visa extensions.

Are you from a country in Southeast Asia? Then you can actually get this one month tourist visa for free. Except for Thais who get only two weeks, Filipinos who get three weeks, and Burmese who get to go through the normal process as every other country.

If you are originally from Nigeria, Sudan, Sri Lanka or most of the countries in Middle East we have bad news. Since no agreement for visa on arrival was made you will have to get a visa in advance in a Cambodian embassy.

In case you are planning to stay longer to be able to travel to more places, relaxing in one of the many chilling spots in the country (for instance Kampot or the islands will be difficult to abandoned after just a few days), the best option is to go for the e-class visa.

It’s actually only five dollars more than the tourist visa, and with the possibility of longer extensions. So for 35 USD you will be able to extend indefinitely for one, three, six or twelve months. The six and twelve months extensions have also the advantage of being multiple entries. You will have the chance to travel to nearby countries such as Thailand and Vietnam.

In order to renew your e-class visa, the best way is to go to one of the many agents in any town. They will take care of the process for you in exchange of a fee. Expect to pay around 50 dollars for one month visa extension, 80 for three months, from 150 to 200 dollars for a six months, and 260 to 300 dollars for a one year visa extension.

While before there was just one kind of e-class, this year were introduced four different sub-types of this visa:

  • EB – for the ones wanting to work in Cambodia, start a business, freelancing, etc.
  • EG – theoretically for people looking for a job (the only sub-type not allowing 12 months visa)
  • ER – a retirement visa for the ones with paperwork from their home country stating their retired status
  • ES – a student visa, you will have to show some proof that you will be attending school or university in Cambodia

If you come to work for a NGO, you can get a b-class visa which is free. However, since it is only available for some NGOs, better to ask your new employer for details.

Hope this article helped you understand a little bit better how visas in this country work.

Stay tuned for more tips on how to travel or live in Cambodia! And, of course, don’t be afraid to check on internet for further questions. There are a lot of forums and groups on Facebook for expats living in the Kingdom where you’ll get answers to your questions. Happy travels!

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vietnam culture

Vietnam culture and religion are rich and complex – discover them while travelling!

Posted on: August 2nd, 2017

With ancient culture and many centuries of history, costumes, rituals, traditions and spiritual practices in Vietnam are extremely rich and complex. The main religion is a branch of Buddhism called Mahayana, with many influences from Chinese culture, including Taoism and Confucianism. Besides that, there is still a strong presence of ancient folk traditions. So with a melting pot as complex and rich as this, there is definitely a lot to explore in terms of culture and religion in Vietnam!

vietnam culture

As much arms as Vietnam has influences in its religion and culture.

While Buddhism came from India (it started around 2500 years ago with Prince Siddhartha, but only came to Vietnam in the second century BC), Confucianism and Taoism arrived in the country with Chinese immigrants, when Vietnam was a colony of China (111 BC to 938 AD).

They were all mixed in Buddhism that became the official religion during the Ly dynasty of 1010 to 1214. Confucianism brought the social order and hierarchies, the notion of loyalty and morality. In fact it is focusing a lot on obligations to others such as family, society and authorities.

In the opposite spectrum, Taoism is all about freedom from conventions and following the effortless flux of nature. It’s about the harmony between everything, simplicity and the ability to be patient and let things following their natural course. Morals are replaced by the belief that everything has a positive and a negative side, light and darkness, male and female energies. Remember that yin and yang symbol that is nowadays so cliché in stickers, t-shirts or tattoos? 🙂

Vietnam culture

Incense burning in a temple in Hanoi.

The co-existence of these three religions is called ‘tam giáo’, or the three teachings. Buddhism is the organized religion that most people in Vietnam identify with (the majority identify themselves with the folk religions but we will cover this later!). One of the particularities of Vietnamese Buddhists compared to other Asian countries Buddhism is the love for Quan Am, a female bodhisattva (a kind of saint in Buddhism, someone who dedicates his or her life to uplift the life of others). She was famous for her compassion and you will notice many statues in her honor, some of them quite huge! Another venerable figure is Thich Nhat Hanh. This Vietnamese monk brought Buddhist culture in western countries and wrote many books, making his philosophy very popular and spreading Buddha’s message of peace and love.

Monks are people too!

Other small religions that co-exist in the country are:

  • Islam: especially practiced by people from the Cham ethnic group, existing also in Cambodia;
  • Christianism: introduced in the 16th century by Portuguese, Spanish and French missionaries, namely the Jesuits. Ho Chi Minh has spectacular examples of Christian architecture. For instance the Cathedral of Our Lady of The Immaculate Conception inspired by the Notre Dame in Paris;
  • Caodaism, a recent religion, around 100 years old, based in South Vietnam. It tries to be a synthesis of many religions such as Christianism, Buddhism and Confucianism. A lot of personalities that we normally don’t link to Religion are considered saints: Victor Hugo, Joan d’Arc, Shakespeare, Pasteur and Lenin.

Last but not least, Vietnam still has very present its old folk traditions. This is the spiritual practice majority of population identify with, often mixing it with the organized religion. Besides a Buddhist temple, every village has a community house, ‘dinh’, where elders meet and spirits rest. Mediums or astrologers fill the markets, and people often consult them before taking decisions in their lives. This is still not recognized as a state religion and faced great repression under the communist governments. However, this type of animism still thrives in the imagination of Vietnamese people. They believe more in spirits (for instance the thần) than in the gods of the organized religions.

Vietnam culture

Small shrine with offerings to the spirits.

In a reportage for National Geographic, a Vietnamese man summarized quite well the spiritual practice of the country: “Most Vietnamese, the best educated and the illiterate alike, believe exactly what the emperors believed. They believe in the morality propounded by Confucius. They are in awe of vague Buddhism. Above all, they bow to the spirits. To the spirits of their ancestors and to many others, to the spirit of great men, to the spirits of the sky and the fields, of the trees and of the animals, to the spirits good and evil and changeable in between.”

Hope this article helped you clarify a bit the complex and rich culture and religion in Vietnam. Go explore the many temples, shrines, pagodas to learn more about what Vietnamese people believe!

If you need a bus from Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, where you can start exploring visiting the “Vietnamese Notre Dame” or the main Caodaism temple nearby in Tây Ninh, check Camboticket website for the best tickets options!

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Cambodian book shops: where to find your perfect travel companion!

Posted on: August 2nd, 2017

With so many relaxing places where hanging hammocks by the river wait for you, or empty kilometers of white sand ask you to sit down, no wonder Cambodia is a great country to catch up with your readings.

In case you haven’t bring enough books from home, don’t worry, this article is for you. Here we list some of our favorite bookshops along the kingdom!

Reading room at Petra café in Battambang.

In Phnom Penh you can head to Monument Books, which has one of the widest selection of titles available in the country. From fiction to non-fiction, books in different languages as well as about Southeast Asian region. In town they have shops on Norodom Boulevard and Phnom Penh International Airport, besides others in Cambodia, as well as Laos and Myanmar. Also to purchase new books, Royal Bookstoreon street 454, is a great option, as well as to check out their collection of CDs, DVDs and magazines.

To buy second hand books, a valuable option is Boston Bookson street 240, with a lot of old books and the bonus of having a nice café to start your new book right away. Have a look as well at Bookshouse Cambodia on the corner of 390 and 113. Also for used books, on street 240, D’s Books is an endless hole for bookworms, with so many titles for you to search and get lost. If you still have not found the book you want, try Bohr’s Books on Sothearos Boulevard, with a wide range of new and used books at reasonable prices.

If you are in Siem Reap, there are two shops of the chain Monument Books, one in the ground floor of the Taprohm Hotel and other on the departures lounge of the Siem Real Angkor International Airport. Closer to the city centre there is another shop of the chain D’s Books (near the Pub street), the La Siev Phov bookshop on Wat Bo road. The New Leaf Eatery has not only a lot of used books, but also a comfortable restaurant/café and they donate part of their profit to charity. Not far away you can also have a look at the Peace Café, on the river road 172. They have a book exchange policy, delicious food and interesting workshops and classes (yoga, meditation, etc).

Being probably the most chilled town in the country, Kampot has lot of great places to read. Believe us when we say that even the least interested person will become a reader! Hammocks in comfy guesthouses near a river, fresh breeze and beautiful sunsets..Unbeatable!

So, in case you don’t have a book yet, check the Bookish Bazaar near the old market area, with lots of crowded book shelves (supposedly with more than 7000 titles!) and choose your companion for the next days. They accept exchanges as well (you deliver two books to receive one for free) and have an art gallery, top-quality pastries and Italian delicacies. Other option is the Kepler’s Bookshop, on the other side of the old market, with a lot to choices as well.

If you are more a beach person, and we highly advise you to be while traveling the Khmer coast, you can also find the Q&A Book Café on Mithona Street in Sihanoukville. It has thousands of different books in a great variety of languages and you can buy, sell or exchange them. They also have a restaurant with Khmer, Vietnamese and Western food! Don’t forget to pass by Casablanca books, the first bookshop that opened in town, with a huge variety of genres and languages. Find them in the Mick & Craig guesthouse, on the road to Serendipity beach nearby the golden lions. Try also the Idle Hour Bookshop and Library on the Greenhouse Effect, Otres 1, with a great beach to lie down and enjoy your book.

Another town in Cambodia where you will be able to visit some bookshops with English titles is Battambang. Our favorite is probably Petra café, near the Borey Thmei mall, the first library café in town and with a very local-feeling, not touristic at all. On street 3, near the Chhaya hotel, check the books at the Smiling Sky bookshop, to buy or exchange. There you also find from souvenirs to DVDs, from postcards to a great cup of coffee.

Hope we convince you to dig in some readings while traveling in Cambodia. It’s definitely a country with many places worth stopping for a while to chill, browse a bookshop for a new book or finish that one you started already  but couldn’t finish yet. Happy readings!

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