The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Notes From Mui Ne's Streets

My friends tell me there continue to be numerous fatal motorbike/automobile accidents in Mui Ne and Phan Thiet, including some decapitations recently.

A friend of mine is a motorbike taxi driver in Mui Ne. He recently gave a ride to a Vietnamese person from Saigon, who was visiting Mui Ne. The passenger acted strangely and instructed him to go to an uninhabited area in the countryside. Fortunately my friend knew something was wrong, and instead dropped the passenger off and went immediately to the police station. Surprisingly, the police actually responded and went and picked the guy up and searched him. They found on him a knife, pair of gloves, and drugs. They concluded that he intended to kill my friend, rob him and steal the motorbike. Lesson learned: don't give rides to strangers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kinda Gross

This was so nasty I just had to post it. It's a sign out in front of a hospital in Cambodia. It appears to be a photo montage of various serious health ailments, combined into a single "person." I blurred out a key graphic element... still pretty nasty!

Adventure Travel Has Its Disappointments

Sometimes as a travel writer I arrive in places that are real dumps, and sore disappointments, such as Koh Kong, Cambodia today, on the border with Thailand. I can relate to Alec Guinness here in this "lost scene" from Star Wars (warning, R-rated for language).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Vietnam Purges Expat Community

The following comes from Vietnam News Agency. I don't normally like reposting things, but this item was so telling of the current situation and I'm afraid it might be taken down at some point. First are letters from two expats echoing the concerns of many, followed by a response from the editor.

Dear Viet Nam News,

The main topic of conversation amongst the expatriate community at the moment concerns the sudden withdrawal by the immigration department of the six- month business visa. This visa is what 90 per cent of the expats living here use and now only being able to get a one month visa extension will make life here quite difficult. Apart from the cost, there is the difficulty in being unable to travel, go to the bank, etc., because we won’t have our passports for one week for every month. Also we will have to register every month with the local People’s Committee. Why has it been withdrawn? Why is the expat community being treated like this? Does the Government no longer appreciate the wealth of experience, and to not mention money, that this group of people bring to Viet Nam? Are there any plans for the State to return to the six-month visa policy?

David Wood Nha Trang.
Dear Sir,

I had a visa from the Vietnamese embassy in the UK for one month. I had several of these. Then I had a one-year visa, then I could only get a six-month visa. Now we can only get one month visas that are single entry.

I have lived in Viet Nam since November 2008 and find that the B3 visa is now so restricted that it is of great concern. This rule also applies to foreigners who have been here five or 10 years.

Does the Vietnamese Government not want the British, Europeans and Americans to live, work and pay relevant taxes in Viet Nam?

Kind Regards,
Mark Tu
Dear Viet Nam News readers,

Above are letters from two readers, who wrote to the newspaper expressing their concerns about recently approved visa procedures, which have stopped the issuing of six-month visas. Regarding these issues, we have talked to the Deputy Director of the Immigration Management Department, Le Thanh Dung, to seek answers.

Dung confirmed that the regulation on visas in Viet Nam, approved since 2000, has not changed. The only difference that was made since the passing of Decree 34 pertained to the recruitment and management of foreign employees, which happened last year.

According to the decree, all foreigners, except for diplomats, staying in Viet Nam for over three months will have to get a work permit to stay in the country. Within the next three months, if they do not get a work permit, they will be sent back to their countries.

Details about Decree 34 can be found at the website of the Ministry of Justice:

The Decree is part of the efforts to reorganise the foreign labour market in Viet Nam in order to attract skilful workers to the country.

Regarding the concerns of tourists, Dung explained that the Government encouraged the development of tourism and wanted to attract more and more overseas tourists to Viet Nam. However, with regards to national security and social stability, this was the way the Government had acted in order to ensure expats’ equality as a Vietnamese citizen, while they are living in Viet Nam.

Dung also said that this was an effort by the Government to attach responsibility to the Vietnamese companies and offices that hire foreigners.

He said that under the regulations, issuing visas would be based on the purpose of the individual entering Viet Nam. Companies that recruit overseas labour would have to take legal and social responsibility for the safety and social rights of these workers while they are living in Viet Nam.

For individuals who are coming to the country to work, they should have long-term contracts with a legal entity in Viet Nam. They can also get a temporary residence card, for one to five years, in accordance with their work contract and passport duration.

As the conditions for each case are unique and with the agencies possibly trying to extort foreigners, Dung suggested that individuals work directly with local immigration departments in order to follow the exact procedure. In the event that an individual is pestered by a bureaucratic staff member, he/she can directly contact the Department of Immigration Management Department and Ministry of the Public Security by post at 40A Hang Bai Street, Ha Noi or contact them at by email.

Dung confirmed that if foreigners had been living in Viet Nam with clear purposes, and had documents to prove their skills then their visas will be approved without any difficulties. An individual that had been living in the country for years legally should be able to get a visa extension.

He also added that the department would strengthen their enforcement in the near future. The issuance of one-month visas would also be reviewed. Individuals who had stayed in Viet Nam for a long time, but had failed to find reliable sources to state their reasons for why they are here, would be dismissed from the country.

Therefore, our advice to those concerned is to quickly contact the nearest immigration departments. In case they still have difficulties with the procedures, please provide us with specific information about their job, employer name and living location in Viet Nam, and we will try to help find a solution.

Best wishes,
The Editor

My favorite paragraph:

"Regarding the concerns of tourists, Dung explained that the Government encouraged the development of tourism and wanted to attract more and more overseas tourists to Viet Nam. However, with regards to national security and social stability, this was the way the Government had acted in order to ensure expats’ equality as a Vietnamese citizen, while they are living in Viet Nam."

These references to ntnl scrty and scl stblty are a little bit alarming. Exactly how are the average expats a threat to this? Can we expect crackdowns in other new areas as well?

As regards "equality as a Vietnamese citizen." LOL. Will I be given the right to vote? Right to travel freely? Own property? Not in a million years... But would I also lose some rights that I already have?...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Typhoon Destruction in Quang Ngai, Vietnam

From a Vietnamese friend in Quang Ngai:

"I have been witness to a very violent storm and flood which came over to our area like never before. It was on Sept 28th-29th, 2009, during 2 days and 1 night. It was so terrible, so strong with level 12, 13 and effected most of the houses here (most of the tile-roof were taken away...and the water came in the houses made everything wet in the house, even food). The crops also suffered damage because of the water-logging. Some Enthic Minority houses were completely collapsed and they are now sleeping under tarps and have no food. My house was affected by that storm, too. Our area was overwhelmed by water for 1 day and 1 night."