Each year a new wave of teachers, businesspeople, long-term vacationers, snowbirds, and others start to build their nests in Ho Chi Minh City. Here we try to provide a few tips on where to find stuff, and how to reduce potential headaches. Photos by Vinh Dao.

At some point we were all new to Vietnam. We all arrive for various reasons, but one thing that keeps everyone loosely related is that when we first arrive, we have no idea what the hell we are doing. We languish in random streets and hems, feverishly seeking out organic flour, kitchen supplies, toiletries, or whatever else is needed to build up a new home base.

Thinking back on the first few months making things work here, I’m sure we all have thoughts about “If I had known that this place was here back then, I’d probably have a lot more hair and less wrinkles.”

Luckily, we here at AsiaLIFE have an eclectic group that has been in Ho Chi Minh City, and elsewhere in Vietnam, for many years, and we think that the right thing to do is to spread what information we have about some of the cultural aspects, business, and convenience knowledge that we all have accrued over the years.

If there is a small list of things or places we wish we knew about if we were new transplants…

Ham Nghi Foreign Food Stores

These places are a literal gold mine if you are looking for that odd Western ingredient that you just can’t find anywhere else. There is a strip on Ham Nghi (right next to one of the oldest and most famous delis with fantastic banh mi) that plays host to a handful of stores that jam pack thousands of seemingly random Western products into their tiny spaces.

There is a method to the madness, however. There are baking supplies, spirits, oils, health food selections, and a slew of culinary appliances. Basically, if you’ve exhausted all of your neighborhood shops, and you just have no idea where else to turn, head to Ham Nghi. They are lifesavers. You will have miss something from home. You will want to create a recipe to keep you from losing your mind. When that time arises, you will have a hard time not finding it here.

Phuong Ha – 58 Ham Nghi

Thai Ha – 60 Ham Nghi

Movies in Vietnam

Newcomers are eventually going to want to see a motion picture from the Western half of the world.

Luckily for them, Saigonese theatres screen a lot of the stuff that we get back home. The caveat is: they will more than likely be edited.

Take into consideration our former editor Simon Stanley’s story last June about this phenomenon:

“In February 2015, the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey was released in movie theatres across Vietnam after exceptional audience demand. But it was a commercial failure. Despite the hype and excitement, a last minute cut by the censors left the film 20 minutes shorter than the original and void of the very thing everyone had paid to see. (I’ll assume you know what I’m talking about).”

This isn’t the end of the world, just something to keep in mind when you show up for the next Star Wars film, and there is any continuity concerns. It could be worse, you could have your hands full like the locals do when trying to keep up with the lightning-flash fast subtitles barreling on the bottom half at the screen after each short line of dialogue.

Delivery Service

People fresh to Saigon will more than likely find out quickly about the beauty that is Vietnammm.

The restaurant delivery service that brings piping-hot meals to your doorstep for an insanely affordable price – all from your mobile device or computer.

The real star of the delivery show, and much lesser-known, is the service called MarketOi.

MarketOi is a food and grocery delivery service. Think of it as your personal shopper. Their motto is “You Choose. We Shop. At Your Door In ‘30.” They deliver food from your favorite restaurants, as well as groceries or everyday necessities like toilet paper, water, etc.

They feature more than 200 local businesses around Ho Chi Minh City where you can get food, groceries, drinks, delivered right at your doorstep oftentimes in less than the thirty minutes they quote you. You just enter your location, pick the items you want, and they’ll handle the rest.

The greatest thing is after you’ve developed a relationship with this company, they have such great customer service that we personally sent a Whatsapp message on Christmas for sage, because we had forgotten to pick it up at the grocery store, and they showed up with both dried and fresh in 25 minutes! Talk about saving the day.

When you’re new, sometimes life here in Vietnam can get overwhelming. Hopefully these little insights will save you a headache or three in the future.

Then you can start saving time being lost, and start spending more time enjoying this fantastic country.