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PHU QUOC ISLAND

» Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City (Otherwise Known as Saigon)
» Things to See in Ho Chi Minh City (A-Z): Cholon
» Things to Buy: Vietnamese Modern Art
» Things to Eat in Ho Chi Minh City: Restaurant Guide
» Places to Party in Ho Chi Minh City: Bars and Clubs
» Places to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City: Saigon Hotels
» Getting There: Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport
» Further Afield: Dalat
» Mui Ne
» Phu Quoc Island
» Vinpearl Resort & Nha Trang
» Buying Real Estate in Vietnam?
» Learning Basic Travel Vietnamese
Map of Phu Quoc





Uncowed, Undaunted SOMETIME SOON (I AM WRITING THIS IN OCTOBER 2009) I AM GOING TO GET MARRIED TO A VIETNAMESE GIRL AND I FIGURE PHU QOUC WOULD MAKE THE PERFECT PLACE FOR A HONEYMOON. For my girlfriend/fiance Nga it is the penultimate Vietnamese paradise -- ironically located just off the Cambodian shore. But the Vietnamese have been encroaching on Cambodian land for centuries, which is a pity since I find Cambodian culture more exotic than the Vietnamese! By Air : Vietnam Airlines ATR72 aircraft fly daily from Ho Chi Minh and 5 times from Rach Gia (Mon., Tue., Thu., Fri., Sat.) to Phu Quoc and back (2002 flight schedule).
Vietnam airlines ATR72 aircraft fly from/to Ho Chi Minh City daily (3-5 flights a day) and from/to Rach Gia (1 flight a day). Air ticket rate:
- Ho Chi Minh -Phu Quoc Island : 1.040.000 VND (2 ways) ($63.63.)
You can book flights to Phu Quoc Island online -- check this link.
Or even better, book flights and check the flight schedule using the official Vietnam Airlines website.

GO BY SEA
- Rach Gia - Phu Quoc Island : 530.000VND (2 ways) By Sea: High speed ship ply between Rach Gia and An Thoi in the South (2 hours 30 minutes, 4 boats/day), Ha Tien and An Thoi in the South (1 hour 15 minutes, 1 boat/day) By Ferry : Public boats ply between An Thoi (in the south) and Rach Gia (6 hours, daily) and between An Thoi (in the north) and Ha Tien (4 hours, once every other day). The best season for these short voyages is from late October to late September when the sea is calm. Located in the Gulf of Thailand, the hear-shaped island lies just 62 nautical miles from Rach Gia and nearly 290 nautical miles from Laem Chabang (Thailand). It covers an area of 567 sq. km (about 62 km long and 3-28 km wide) and is situated at 10o01'-10o27' north latitude and 103o51'-104o50' east longitude. Its population is approx. 85,000 (2001). Phu Quoc is called the island of "99 mountains" because of its many sandstone chains gradually descending from the north to the south. The longest one is Ham Ninh which stretches for 30 km along the eastern edge with its highest peak called Mt. Chua (603m).

Writes John Borhtwick of the Age newspaper, in Australia: "Phu Quoc is the classic before model of a tropical island. It's the kind of place you might be lucky enough to find just before the forward scouts of after arrive: the planners, scammers and ravers for whom paradise is never enough."

"An hour's flight south of Ho Chi Minh City (in an aircraft with disturbing signs that caution, "Do not open door during flight") we land at Duong Dong, "capital" of Phu Quoc. The sealed road stretches as far as our beachfront digs, Kim Hoa Resort, about two kilometres south of town. After that it runs out. And why not? The island has barely 90,000 residents, most of them dwelling around Duong Dong, and annually hosts a modest 40,000 international visitors, although there's a Great Leap Forward-style plan to triple that by 2010.

"Along with the rest of Vietnam, the island was occupied by the French from the mid-1800s and rubber and coconut plantations were established. Colonial rule ended when the Japanese invaded Vietnam during World War II, although the French tried unsuccessfully to reclaim the country after Japan's defeat..."

If you're arriving by ferry you'll find yourself at An Thoi at the southern tip of the island -- kind of convenient to the lovely Bai Sao Beach but not much else. There are a few basic internet cafes in Duong Dong town -- the one facing onto the market is probably the most convenient, though out on the road to the airport there are a couple of larger, cleaner and more comfortable places. The Saigon Phu Quoc Resort has an ATM and can exchange travellers' cheques. There is also a Vietcombank branch in Duong Dong town.

There are very basic medical facilities at both Ham Ninh and An Thoi, with the latter being the better, but for anything more serious than a hangover or a paper cut -- head to Saigon.

CASINO
In March 2008 VietNamNetBridge reported: "The Government wants to make Phu Quoc an international deluxe tourism destination by 2020. The Government is examining the possibility of making the island a special tourism region in order to establish an international casino complex.
"While most experts at the seminar agreed that Phu Quoc had undeniable advantages, they were also concerned about the island's lack of infrastructure.
"Fourteen projects spanning 620 hectares and capitalized at VND2.4bil have been granted investment licenses on the island. If all of the projects are carried out simultaneously, water and power shortages are likely.
"Investors also worry that simultaneously occurring projects will negatively impact general zoning and strain local capacity. Additionally, the island's roads are not up to par and the international airport is minuscule compared to the number of travelers expected to arrive.
"Economic experts Tran Du Lich and Tran Dinh Thien said Phu Quoc would need a clear plan for development from the start. "Singapore and Hawaii should serve as exemplary models for the island," said Thien.
La Verandah Resort: French colonial style. The verandahs here are gorgeous, hence the name.

Bien Xanh Hotel US$15 Check rates online

Bo Resort: Ong Lang Beach.
Bo Resort on Ong Lang Beach, Phu Quoc Island Ca Li Hotel US$12 Check rates online Du Hung Hotel US$14 Check rates online Hai Van Hotel US$10 Check rates online Hai Yen Hotel US$16 Check rates online Hiep Thanh Hotel US$20 Check rates online Hoang Cung Hotel US$10 Check rates online Hoang Gia I Hotel US$9 Check rates online Hoang Gia II Hotel US$12 Check rates online Huynh Tram Guesthouse US$10 Check rates online Kim Hoa Hotel US$12 Check rates online Kim Nam Phuong hotel US$7 Check rates online Kim Son Hotel US$12 Check rates online Nam Phuong Hotel US$12 Check rates online Ngoc Dung Guesthouse US$8 Check rates online Phuong Dong Hotel (Orient Hotel) US$20 Check rates online Tam Xuan (Wild Rose) hotel US$10 Check rates online Thang Long - Phu Quoc Hotel US$17 Check rates online Thanh Quoc Hotel US$18 Check rates online RESORTS
Gecko Jacks: On Bai Sao Beach.
Most Vietnamese websites are crap, but the homepage of this resort (click here in case you missed the link above) is cool. With its slick design and innovative code, the site serves a good introduction to Phu Quoc Island in particular. One of the designers (Captain Jacks) who flew from Noose on Australia's beautiful Sunshine Coast, to the even more beautiful Bai Sao Beach, wrote of his assignment: "As I promised, a little about my trip to Vietnam, I went there to help in the set up of Geko Jacks, this will be a small resort on the island on Phu Quoc which is off the coast of Cambodia, although the island belongs to Vietnam. The is called Bai-sao and is with out doubt one of the most amazing beaches i have ever seen. We spent the time clearing the jungle and putting up a wall around the block to keep it from being moved in on by the fisherman, the rest of the time was enjoyed by drinking the local rum which at $1.50 a bottle was not to bad at all... Well from what i can remember it was not. Over time i will post more pics from the island.. and keep you posted as to when you can come over and enjoy the white sand crystal clear water and very cheap local rum for yourself."

Thien Hai Son Resort: US$44.
Thien Hai Son is located in Ba Keo area, Duong Dong town, just take 10 minutes from Phu Quoc Airport and 35 km far from An Thoi Port.
150 Three-Star rooms with modern equipments. Services : Swimming pool, tennis, beach games, beach volley ball, massage, 200 place meeting room, restaurant with special sea-food. Taking and meeting tourist services at Thien Hai Son Resort. Receptionists are ready to serve visitors with pleasure. Saigon Phu Quoc Resort: 1 Tran Hung Dao, Duong Dong Town, Kien Giang,Phu Quoc Island, Kien Giang Province.
Phone: 84 77 846 999. Fax: 84 77 847 163.
Saigon Phu Quoc Resort. Saigon Phu Quoc resort is the first Vietnam's three-star island resort with 90 well-equipped bungalows and apartments of international standard. The Phu Quoc Island and resort offers pristine beaches and forests to all nature lovers and travellers, making the your stay there a memorable time.
sunset over the ocean.
90 rooms and bungalows of the resort equipped with AC air-con, safety box, private bathroom, in-house Internet, IDD telephone, satellite TV, mini-bar, decorative plant and Balcony.
Restaurants: Saigon restaurant with 150-seat offer international and local dishes, specializes in sea food. Pool bar and Beach bar offer barbecue dinner. Facilities: Swimming pool; Beauty salon and Health club: body, foot & hand massage & sauna parlor; Jacuzzi; Badminton and Foot ball field; Karaoke club. Water sports: water-skiing, snorkeling and scuba diving.
Services: tour desk for fishing, hiking, snorkeling, scuba diving, camping, eco-tour, sightseeing tour, car and motor-bike rental.

Thousand Star Resort US$18 Check rates online Thuan Thien Hotel US$12 Check rates online Tropicana Resort US$25 Check rates online Yen Phuong Minihotel US$8

SQUID FISHING OFF PHU QUOC ISLAND
"The Deputy Minister explained that the newly felt optimism was based on several factors such as Vietnam's WTO accession, the US ratification of Permanent Trade Normal Relations (PNTR) with Vietnam and a record of official development assistance (ODA) capital pledged by international donors for 2007.

"He said these factors enhanced Vietnam's attractiveness for foreign investment, including investment in real estate.

"Vo also said that high participation of foreign investors would help to reduce the prices of houses in Vietnam, which in recent times, have exceeded the financial capabilities of most of the population..."

v i o l e n t + p a s t

t.

The basics: Private car/bus and tuk tuk to Cambodia. Destinations in Cambodia include Kep, Kampot, Sihanoukville (departs 7am daily), and Phnom Penh (departs 7am and 3pm daily). Cambodian visas cost US $25 and take 15 minutes to prepare.
By Air : Vietnam Airlines ATR72 aircraft fly daily from Ho Chi Minh and 5 times from Rach Gia (Mon., Tue., Thu., Fri., Sat.) to Phu Quoc and back (2002 flight schedule).
Other services go by the names of Super Dong Hydrofoil oon/vietnam/ngabridge.jpg" width=163>

<<

o n l i n e + r e a l t o r s

"With reasonable fees 1% of total value for each sold property or 1 month rental for each leased property or you allow us to earn the markup value if you donft want to pay the above fees.
"Just fill out the Form then send to us with 1 – 8 photos of your property to: info@tinbatdongsan.com..."

Chao Co: Phone: 84-913-804-550. Web: www.chaocom.com. Email: davidhousing@gmail.com.
This website, written in English and Japanese, prvides a full range of services for expats in Vietnam -- from real estate to car rental and travel plans, to business investment consultancy.

Craig's List: http://vietnam.craigslist.org/rfs/.

Like other invaders from the past, Craig is on his way to conquering Vietnam. Well, at least the classified real estate market in Vietnam (and they say that land equals power!) For the latest offerings from Ho Chi Minh City, hit Craig up.

Easy Property: Phone: 848/840 7962. Web: www.izproperty.com/.
This website touts itself as Vietnam's premier real estate services network. It is a big claim to make, but the listings at Easy Property are in a word, exhaustive. A huge range of properties are listed, ranging from serviced apartments in District 3 (the rent is between US$1100 to $2100 a month) to potential golf course sites in Dong Nai Province, to the entire Hoa Binh Towers in the capital Hanoi, to "possibly the best villa in An Phu" (that one is going at US$6000 a month in rent.)
Along with all the listings, Easy Property has realms of important information about the state of the rental and real estate market in Vietnam. There are nuggets of information like this, concerning international standard serviced apartments: "Ho Chi Minh City only has a combined stock of serviced apartments of about 2,000 units, an inadequate number relative to the ever increasing demand. Thus rentals have almost doubled in less than 5 years to the current levels. However, local investors have recently seen the investment opportunities available and are thus now rapidly filling the supply gap with a wide variety of new developments, both big and small. By the end of 2006, it is estimated that the number of units available will have doubled to over 4,000 units with several thousand more under construction. Though many of these are being built for sale on the local market (foreigners are unable to buy or sub-lease), many are being bought to rent to expats, at prices ranging from USD$800 – USD$2,700 per square meter, with a view to obtaining rentals from USD$10 – 30 per square meter per month.
"However, given the relatively stable number of expats living in Vietnam, coupled with strict new foreign employment registration stipulations, and the dramatic increase in stock, one can foresee rentals falling to levels more in line with those of ASEAN regional competitor cities over the course of the next few years.
"The largest and best located serviced apartment buildings with the widest range of facilities and services were constructed in the mid to late 1990's by foreign developers with deep pockets – typically USD$20+ million Joint Ventures. Since then, very few foreign investors have ventured into the domestic market. These established buildings have all had average occupancies of over 90% since @2002 and so are able to command premium rentals. Some offer short term accommodation (at up to USD$50/sqm per month) but many have waiting lists and so are only interested in minimum 12 month contracts. The majority of these are in the downtown area but some are a 20 minute commute."

Living in Vietnam: 42/63 Nguyen Hue Street, Dist.1. Phone: 08/291 0366. Web: www.livinginvietnam.com/travel.htm.
There is a lot of information on this website about living in Vietnam, how to get a visa or a job, and how to deal with the people in Vietnam. There is also a forum for travellers and expatriates, and lesson plans for those wanting to study Vietnamese. For those looking for real estate in Saigon (or Hanoi for that matter), this website also delivers. For example, if you were hoping to rent a two-bedroom apartment in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City's District 1, you might be able to find one for US$1200 a month. If a French colonial style villa with three bedrooms, garden and a swimming pool was closer to what you were looking for, you could find one in District 3 for US$3000 a month. These are just some of the current rental properties listed on Living in Vietnam. There is a whole database of listings there, from apartments to office blocks -- it it is worth checking out.

P Index: 140 Nguyen Van Thu, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Phone (8) 910 6445. Web: www.pindex.vn/.
Vietnamese language site including listings and market information.

Property World: Web: Property World Vietnam.
As the name suggests, Property World has a searchable database of properties all over the world. Bulgaria seems to get a good representation in the database, given that country's current popularity with European buysres. When it comes to Vietnam, on the other hand -- well, in a recent search for properties for sale in Greater Vietnam ranging in price from US$0 to US$1000000000, Property World only returned one result. This was a property in the Saigon Pearl development at 92 Nguyen Huu Canh, HCMC. You can read about Saigon Pearl further down the page under the "Coming Developments" header.

Saigon Bat Dong San: 31 Ly Tu Trong, P. Ben Nghe, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Phone: +84 (8) 823 4702/8013. Web: www.ttbatdongsan.com/.
Vietnamese language real estate site.

Vietnam House Rentals: http://www.vietnamhouserentals.com/saigon.htm.
Vietnam House Rentals & Real Estate (otherwise known as Toan Cau Co. Ltd) specializes in: apartments, serviced apartments, single private houses, luxury villas and offices for lease to travellers, professionals, and the legions of International Vagabonds who are flocking to Viet Nam at the present, as well as local customers.

Vietnam Total: http://realestate.vietnamtotal.com/.
This site has plenty of listings and information about properties in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and other cities like Vung Tau. At the time of writing (February 2007) there are family houses listed on Vietnam Total at Nguyen Huu Canh ($117,000), a stunning beach front property on Tran Phu St in Vung Tau ($1,000,000), a rubber harvesting farm in Bing Duong ($2,064,000), and a rental property in Hanoi (no price given). The website also offers a limited news resource including this recent story (recent for February 2007): "US-based Rockingham Asset Management company has gotten the license for its $1billion resort on Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam. The island will be a luxury resort with more than 2,000 rooms and villas for rent, a 6-hole golf course, a motor racetrack, a tourism school, and other tourism facilities. The resort should be completed in 2015."

VVG Property Development: http://www.vvg-vietnam.com/prop_dvlpmnt.htm.
This piece of online property lists land and resort developments, including the Cua Lap Beach Resort Development. The website claims: "A very visible sign of Vietnam's leap towards the 21st century is the horizontal construction sector (hotels, multiple-dwellings, and offices). On these pages, we feature the Ho Chi Minh City Region, with emphasis on Vung Tau and Saigon. The HCMC region (including Bien Hoa, Binh Duong, Vung Tau and Saigon) has a real (unofficial) population in excess of 11 million people, more than half the total foreign invested capital (US$ 25.15 billion or 55%), and 3,147 (63% of all) foreign invested projects (Jan05).
e similar developments in the central region around Dalat, and in the north, particularly in Hanoi. We intend to expand these pages over time to cover the nation."
" The site boasts a section called Monday in Saigon, a photographic database of developments in the business capital over the years. Monday in Saigon promises: "Many people interested in Vietnam, both those living here and abroad, enjoy photos of boys on water buffalo, women in conical hats of straw, street vendors hawking almost everything, the polychrome vistas at outdoor markets, and the fast-moving motorized traffic, peppered with ox-drawn carts.
"Foreign and Domestic visitors to HCMC rarely lift their heads up to see all the new signs of economic growth. Most are too busy running and dashing about, looking forward. Particularly when driving or crossing the streets of this bustling metropolis, rarely do we lift our eyes to see what has grown around us.
"The V V G Staff began taking photos for these pages in December 1997. We are constantly updating them to keep up with developments. The most recent photos were taken only days before this page was last updated.
"Here are photos of vertical construction. We want potential investors to see the City of today and tomorrow, not just yesterday. Every new building pictured has been completed in the past four years. We also show buildings in which construction waits to recommence, and sites where it has not ever begun. A few older structures recently renovated are also shown simply to retain the flavor of what is still Saigon."

h i g h r i s e + d e v e l o p m e n t s

ONE OF THE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT VISITING HO CHI MINH CITY REGULARLY IS NOTICING JUST HOW FAST THE SKYLINE OF Tkind of city into another Oriental supermetropolis -- another Bangkok or Singapore. Inside those high-rise steel and glass needles are often where foreign residents prefer to live. If you want to know about coming developments of a high-rise nature, you are in the right subdirectory.

Before we start, here is a word from San Francisco architect Mel Schenck, who wrote: "Most of the housing in Ho Chi Minh City, like all of the other cities in Vietnam, is four or five stories tall. This is true for new middle-class houses even in the smaller villages. I understand there is some new high-rise housing in Hanoi in the new suburban new urban areas, but I did not get out to see them. In HCMC, some Taiwanese investors built a new high-rise apartment complex in the Cholon (Chinese) area of Saigon. Very few of these apartment or condo units have been rented or sold. In speaking with some HCMC citizens, they felt that they had not sold because the units are too expensive compared to normal units in Saigon, and the Vietnamese much preferred the walk-up four-story houses to the elevatored high-rise housing. This is certainly counter to the Chinese pattern of replacing low-rise housing in all of their cities with high-rise housing. Interestingly, the density of population per hector or acre for these high-rises is about the same as low-rise housing since these new high rise towers are usually towers in the park with a lot of space (usually wasted, in my opinion) around them. I vote with the Vietnamese -- I prefer my density in active low-rise units rather than sterile units in the sky, unless the high-rises are as dense as in Hong Kong."

<< Picture copyright Robert SullivanDiamond Plaza: 34 Le Duan St (corner of Pham Ngoc Thach St), District 1. Phone: 848 825 7750. Email: ibcourt@diamondplaza.com.vn. Web: www.diamondplaza.com.vn/.
When I first noticed this huge green building during my most recent visit to Vietnam, my thought was: "Is that whole building dedicated just to diamonds?", especially because there seemed to be a gem shop visible on the first floor. Of course, Vietnam is not really a player on the diamond front, and the Diamond Plaza is not a glorified Bangkok style stone ripoff joint. In fact, it is reportedly one of the hottest addresses in town and is like a city within a city as well as a retreat from the mania of the streets, a little enclave of internationalism. As its managers claim, Diamond Plaza is an integrated development, the largest in Vietnam, with entertainment, shopping, apartments and offices all under the same roof:
"Our landmark building overlooks many of the City's famous sites, including the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and April 30th Park, the City's most mature green space.
"Diamond Plaza's one, two, three and four bedroom fully furnished, serviced apartments are amongst the most spacious in Vietnam, having internal net areas of between 83-240 square meters. The size and luxurious finish to these apartments, together with the fantastic views of the city they offer, have quickly allowed Diamond Plaza to achieve the status of Ho Chi Minh City's premier residential address.
"All apartments are fully air-conditioned and free internet access is now offered to all Tenants. For convenience, parking is located in the basement of the building. To complete the total sense of well being associated with residence at Diamond Plaza, membership to the executive fitness club and 14th floor terrace swimming pool is provided at no charge, as a part of the tenants' package."

<< Picture copyright Hoang Quan Plaza: 34 Le Duan St (corner of Pham Ngoc Thach St), District 1. Phone: 848 825 7750. Email: ibcourt@diamondplaza.com.vn. Web: www.diamondplaza.com.vn/.
Plaza seems to be the buzz word of the decade in Vietnam, it creeps up in development names as insidiously as "Hills" does in Tokyo, Japan. There are any number of "plazas" in Ho Chi Minh City and greater Vietnam at the moment, none of them true plazas in the Italian sense of the word. It doesn't matter, because Tokyo doesn't really have any real hills (unless you count tall buildings as hills.) In Asia these days English or Italian or French words are only used for decoration, the same way westerners cook Asian dishes at home without comprehending the cultural matrix from which they sprung. Postmodern, but potlatch it ain't.
This particular non-plaza is located in the going off south of Ho Chi Minh City, near the Nguyen Van Linh highway.
Comforts: - The apartments are designed luxuriously, modernly, and warmly. The Panorama.
The Panorama tọa lạc trong khu Kênh Đào (được mô phỏng theo Khu Kênh Đào tại Mỹ) vốn dĩ từ lâu như tự hữu một �chiếc máy điều hòa khổng lồ�Etừ thiên nhiên cảnh quan bao quanh. Trong đó, tự nhiên sắp sẵn những hình khối theo �tone�Exanh chủ đạo với nhiều biến tấu: gam xanh của dòng sông cảnh quan dọc theo thế đất, bên kia sông là mảng xanh dự kiến quy hoạch sân Golf 36 lỗ; trên là bầu trời trong vắt nối liền hai mảng xanh ấy như một đường chân trời xa xa mà khoảnh khắc nào trong ngày cũng có thể tận hưởng; gần hơn là hai mảng xanh công viên đô thị rộng với diện tích cộng gộp gần tròn 16ha gần như viền gọn ôm Khu Kênh Đào ở giữa. Có ví von Kênh Đào là một �thành phố của cảnh quan và gió�Ethì cũng chẳng có gì là quá bởi sự giao hòa của thiên nhiên hoa lá, sự kết hợp mặt nước, bầu trời, sự gặp gỡ của nắng, củ, The Panorama sang trọng với 6 building kiêu sa vươn cao ngay cửa ngõ phía Tây vào Khu Kênh Đào.

Saigon Pearl DevelopmentSaigon Pearl: 92 Nguyen Huu Canh Street, Binh Thanh District. Phone: 848/821 9999. Web: www.saigonpearl.com.vn/home.htm.
According to the promotional material, Saigon Pearl, a high-rise apartment complex on Saigon River, represents "the largest, most elaborate development ever created in Vietnam." Due to come online from 2007 to 2009, Saigon Pearl incorporates eight 37-storey apartment buildings, a lavish clubhouse, two office towers and a large-scale shopping mall. Quoting from that promotional material again: "Picture living right beside the enchanting Saigon River, surrounded by a tropical paradise of natural and landscaped gardens. Watching clouds of mist swirl across the water as you prepare for the day ahead. Here, secluded from the rush and roar of daily life, the natural beauty of the scenery constantly seduces you..."
The following properties are available for sale: two-bedroom unit, three-bedroom unit, and penthouse. Visit the website listed above to find about pricing and other details.

<< Picture copyright Chaocom Real EstateZen Plaza: 54-56 Nguyen Trai Street, District 1.
Zen Plaza is a 14-storey tower in the heart of Saigon consisting of an 8-storey shopping complex, five floors for offices and a penthouse for events. Hit Chaocom if you are interested in hiring some of that office space. You will also be able to see floorplans and a price list. The building itself is something of a landmark with its distinctive black and white facade, and is a popular meeting place. I myself was due to meet Jennette, a local Chinese lass, outside the front of Zen during my visit back in March 2007, but the venue was changed to Ben Thanh Market. True to the Japanese sounding origin of the tower's name, on the 7th floor of the Zen Plaza you will find the Sushi Bar, whose motto is "not only tasty but funny". In fact, this whole building is like a little chunk of Japan dropped into the heart of Vietnam, and thriving in its new environment. At Zen Plaza, the emphasis is on fashion.
According to the Ho Chi Minh City People's Committee: "In August 1999, Nhat Nam Shopping Center was put into operation as a joint venture between Vietnamese and Japanese partners. In August 2002, the Ministry of Planning and Investment endorsed the plan to turn the joint venture into a 100% Japanese-owned project, and in October 2003, Zen Plaza came into being.
"The difference between Nhat Nam and Zen Plaza is that Zen specializes in fashion. 'We see Vietnam's potential in this industry,' Fukukawa says. 'First, many more Vietnamese are interested in fashion as the economy develops.' Another reason for Zen to be a fashion center is because this 12-story building is on the part of Nguyen Trai Street dubbed Saigon's fashion street. A third reason is that Vietnam has a strong garment industry and a contingent of young and talented designers.
"However, these young designers are encountering difficulties in developing their career. 'They lack professional training, lack materials to realize their creations, lack a stage to make the public know about their designs and lack capital for start-ups,' Fukukawa says.
"One of Zen Plaza's ambitions is to help bridge these gaps by providing young designers with finance and space so that they have a place to show their creativity. Zen is one among a few organizations in Vietnam to hold regular fashion shows. These shows always feature young designers. 'We were a co-organizer of the Vietnam Collection Grand Prix 2004, the biggest stage for Vietnam's young fashion designers,' he says.
"In 2005, Zen Plaza will push its plan to produce garments under the Zen brand. Japan and some other countries are the target mae all know that measurements of Europeans are quite different from those of Vietnamese. Therefore, we must pay attention to this difference...'"



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