Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vietnam to declare higher education quality in 2009

VietNamNet Bridge – The results of the training quality appraisal of 20 universities will be announced in January 2009. It will show the overall picture of the higher education situation, while helping create a competitive environment among universities, according to the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET).


The deputy head of the Examination and Education Quality Accreditation Department under MOET Pham Xuan Thanh said that the department has got information about the appraisals of the first 20 universities, including two people-founded universities. However, the appraisals still need to be reviewed by the National Council for Education Quality Accreditation, which will be the body announcing the results.


“The council was established on October 23. I hope that the results will be approved in January 2009,” Thanh said.


The Examination and Education Quality Accreditation Department has ‘placed orders’ with Higher Education Project No 2 to hire experts and foreign institutions to appraise the training quality of 60 universities. The appraisals will be carried out in three periods and focus on established universities.


Thanh said that the appraisals will be completed by early next year at the latest. Thanh said that the goal of having 80% of universities and 50% of junior colleges accredited by 2010 proves to be within reach.


“Every year, the Examination and Education Quality Accreditation Department surveys the situation of training quality at universities and colleges. However, the universities have reported inaccurate information, making it difficult to appraise and accredit training establishments,” Thanh said.


According to the department, in the last three years, 173 universities and 178 junior colleges, including 20 universities, two of which are people-founded, have finished the self-appraisal process, and have got appraisals from independent institutions. The universities are awaiting accreditation. Meanwhile, 27 universities, 16 junior colleges and 10 junior colleges have appraised their own curriculums, and are waiting for independent appraisal.


An appraisal of teaching quality by collecting opinions from students has been carried out at Can Tho University, the Hanoi University of Education, and the Academy for Journalism and Communication.


Meanwhile, the Hanoi and HCM City National Universities are striving to meet international standards in training and have been registering for accreditation with international accreditation institutions.


Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said that most learners do not have enough information about training quality. Sometimes, universities launch big advertisement campaigns, but learners later find out that it was no more than that – just advertising.


Nhan has decided that by April 2009, universities have to announce the number of students who can find jobs one year after they graduate.


MOET has decided that 2009-2010 will be the time for pushing up education appraisal and accreditation for higher education. MOET encourages universities to be accredited by international institutions.

Top Gear coming to Vietnam

 Top Gear team is going global. Location shoots are planned to take the British trio all over the planet, starting with Vietnam. Clarkson, May, and Hammond loved the idea when they were plotting it in the pub, but they didn't actually plan for the fact that Nam doesn't have adequate roads... or very many cars. That made the idea of finding a £600 vehicle and racing it across the country a non-starter, but that doesn't mean the crew couldn't come up with an adventure worthy of Top billing. James May didn't want to give too many details of the Vietnam show during his interview with the Daily Mail, but he did provide enough of a tease to make us want to watch. The program will include the bike-loathing Clarkson on two wheels, and there's even footage of the Top Gear star strapped to a third world Ski-Doo (pictured above). 

The Vietnam show will be followed next year with trips to Hong Kong, Johannesburg and Sydney. Since there is a 21-year waiting list to see the Top Gear crew do their thing in-studio, these exotic locations may be the best chance anyone has to see the popular show in-person.

Vietnam targets to export 4.8 mln tons of rice in 2009

HANOI, Dec. 29 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam made the target to export 4.8 million tons of rice in 2009, exceeding the estimated 4.5 million tons in 2008, the local newspaper Industry and Trade reported Monday.

    The export is expected to go up next year because the global economic crisis may drive some people into starvation and to rely on rice instead of fruit, vegetables and meat, according to Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade.

    The estimate is also based on increasing demands from potential foreign importers. African countries, especially Nigeria and South Africa, have expressed interest in importing Vietnam's rice in coming years, said the ministry.

    Despite the estimated increase in volume, the prices for Vietnam's rice exports in 2009 are forecast to decrease, causing the shrink in export revenue, according the ministry.

    To achieve the target, Vietnam's Finance Ministry has recently approved the elimination of the export tax for rice as part of the government's effort to boost the country's rice export.

Vietnam's An Binh Securities to begin remote trading

HA NOI — An Binh Securities will begin conducting remote trading on the HCM City Stock Exchange on January 12. Buy or sell orders from clients will be input directly to the stock exhange’s central computer system-without going through brokerage representatives at the exchange. An Binh Securities will also conduct remote trading via the Ha Noi Securities Trading Centre on a trial basis.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Surfing Internet Vietnamese-style

16:50' 12/12/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – An Internet service investor shook his head, said: “We can’t understand Vietnamese people’s Internet surfing habits. We have invested a lot to study their habits but we can’t understand.”


This fact explains the losses suffered by many foreign networks which have invested in the online industry inVietnam.


The following four items about Vietnamese and their relationship to the Internet may be of use to some.


Yahoo! Messenger, the “king”


A survey ordered by a world-famous social network that plans to enterVietnam shows that 90% of Vietnamese people immediately log in to Yahoo Messenger when they open their computers.


Email, blog, online transactions and many other things are conducted through Yahoo! Messenger. Recently, many people have begun using Yahoo! Messenger mobile.


Talking to friends around the world, to colleagues in the same office, exchanging files, information, sharing photos, etc. and even declaring love to somebody are conducted via Yahoo! Messenger.


Yahoo! Messenger is the “king” in Vietnam, despite the presence of Skype and many other applications, thanks to one simple reason: The whole society is using Yahoo! Messenger, so nobody does differently.


Some employees have even quit their jobs when their employers banned Yahoo! Messenger at the office. “Without Yahoo! Messenger, I feel like I’ve lost an arm. For me Yahoo! Messenger is an indispensable part of life,” said Nguyen Bao Anh Huy, who left a foreign bank for a financial company for this reason.


Willing to pay unexpectedly


It is not true that Vietnamese Internet users just like free products. The evidence is that many online gamers are willing to pay a hundred US dollars to buy a pair of shoes for his/her characters while they wear real shoes costing around $10. They are also willing to pay several dollars to download a game from the Internet or to open an online shop on a website.


An official from an online entertainment service company said if a website has around 50,000 members, it can support itself with just VND3,000 ($0.17) collected from 20% of the members a day.


Kind-hearted people


It is interesting that online games are no longer considered dangerous by elderly people, who often don’t like their children or grandchildren seated behind computers the whole day. Vietnamese people have realised the real usefulness of the Internet.


Programmes for public benefit originating from the Internet are spreading in various forms, from raising funds for charity to assisting others via blogs, Yahoo! Messenger and websites on social activities.


Vu Thuyen, the owner of Dalatskill blog, confirmed: “Without the Internet, I don’t know how I could lend a hand to others so effectively. With only woolen hats and sweaters woven by myself during free time, many kids can have a warm winter.”


More time for computer than TV


More and more Vietnamese people spend more time on the Internet than watching TV because their favourite TV shows are available on the Internet. They can also submit comments about the shows.


The attractiveness of interactive services on the Internet is now a real challenge for TV show producers.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Vietnam to have circular on Internet-based information violations

16:58' 25/12/2008 (GMT+7)

Mr. Luu Vu Hai

VietNamNet Bridge – The Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) is compiling a circular to deal with violations related to the provision, use of the Internet, including information on blogs, said a senior official.


The Chief of the MoIC’s Broadcasting, Television and Electronic Information Control Agency, Luu Vu Hai, said: “The state encourages the use of blogs to serve personal freedom but bloggers have to respect social interests and community interests under the laws”.


VietNamNet talked with Hai about the new rules on blog, which was issued recently by the MoIC.


According to circular 07/2008/TB-BTTT, bloggers are banned from some things. But they can claim freedom of speech as stipulated in the Constitution. What is your opinion about it?


Nobody is banned from freedom of speech and giving information but freedom of speech and information must not harm the public interest, the personal freedom of others and the interests of the country and society in general.


Bloggers are not forced to declare their true names when they use blog services. When they commit violations of the rules, will it be very difficult to find out who they are?


It is difficult but it is not impossible.


We will have to ask social network service providers to force blog service users to declare their true personal information.


An issue always has two faces. But we have to see the requirement of development of the society to have measures of management. State agencies want to take feasible measures of management, which are appropriate to the trend of development and create favourable conditions for the people to use scientific and technological achievements, especially Internet applications.


Why does the circular ban bloggers from diffusing press works on their blogs? Maybe bloggers are correspondents who want to archive their works on their blogs or bloggers who are not correspondents but want to archive information for their own reference.


The Press Law stipulates responsibility in using press works. When we use the press freedom right we have to obey the Press Law and we couldn’t use the press freedom right in a non-press environment.


Blogs are encouraged to develop to help individuals share information which is suitable to customs and habits and Vietnamese laws.


Is it troublesome for social network service providers to report on their blog services every six months?


I don’t think this is an administrative difficulty because the contents that they have to report are readily available. This is two-way cooperation between businesses and state agencies.


How will bloggers who commit violations be punished?


The MoIC is compiling a circular on dealing with violations related to the provision and use of Internet services, including information provision on blogs.


Violations related to blogs are stipulated in various legal documents and now they are being grouped together.

Tourism sector hindered by poor infrastructure, services

It is time for the tourism sector to stop focusing on how many foreign visitors travel to Vietnam, but on how satisfied they feel, a tourism official said
Vietnam needs to improve infrastructure and diversify its tourism products to attract more foreign visitors in the long term, experts and insiders have said.

The tourism industry is already feeling the effects of the global economic downturn, with international arrivals falling by 22 percent year-on-year in November.

The sector, which employs more than 10 percent of country’s workforce, faces zero growth or even worse next year, AFP quoted Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh as saying earlier this month.

But analysts said once the world economy recovers, people will start travelling again and Vietnam should be prepared for opportunities.

Ngo Minh Duc, Huong Giang Travel Agency general director, said Vietnam needed to restructure its infrastructure for tourism, especially accommodation, otherwise tourists would not return.

Analysts said there were several factors that decided the success or failure of a tourist destination, including the convenience of air traffic and the availability of accommodation, entertainment facilities and public services.

Shorokin Andrey of Russia’s Capital Tour Company said because Vietnam only has international airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, it is hard for operators to arrange tours.

Russian tourists are often exhausted after a 10-hour flight to Vietnam, but they then face another four to eight hours in a bus to get to resort cities like Phan Thiet or Nha Trang, he said.

If Vietnam could launch more air routes, the country would attract as many Russian visitors as Thailand or China, he said.

Many tour operators said the local tourism industry depended too much on natural attractions and it has failed to diversify tourism products or improve services.

Patrick Gaveau, marketing director of HCMC-based Focus Asia, said after complaints that prices of tour packages to Vietnam were high, many people suggested travel agencies lower their prices.

However, lowering prices would not solve the problem once and for all, Gaveau said, noting that it was necessary to figure out why there were such complaints.

He said tour packages to Singapore, for instance, were even more expensive, but tourists were happy to pay because both the infrastructure and services were good and most people speak English.

Meanwhile, there are few tourist attractions in Vietnam and foreigners only know a handful of places such as Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Phu Quoc or Da Nang, even though Vietnam has a coastline of more than 3,000 kilometers, Gaveau said.

La Quoc Khanh, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said it was time for the tourism sector to stop focusing on how many foreign visitors travel to Vietnam, but on how satisfied they feel.

Nguyen Manh Cuong, deputy head of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), said poor infrastructure was the biggest problem that the local tourism industry had to face now.

But analysts said even the administration was not determined to solve the problem. They said the government set a higher target for the sector every year but it had not created any specific plans to improve infrastructure or develop accommodation for tourists.

Many travel agencies said they had been asking for the construction of a tourism seaport for more than 10 years but it has not yet been built.

Focus Asia’s Gaveau suggested the government should play a greater role in the development of the local tourism sector and create a comprehensive plan for tourism with the participation of all related agencies.

Other hindering factors

The visa application process was the “largest obstacle to establishing Vietnam as a global destination,” AFP quoted Baron R. Ah Moo, CEO of Indochina Hotels and Resorts, as saying.

“Due to the processing time, last-minute travel to Vietnam is not an option and has been replaced by weekend trips to Phuket, Bali, Macao and Singapore,” he said.

Tour operators said the government should grant visa exemption for tourists from important markets.

For example, while many countries are easing their visa application processes to attract more tourists from China, a main market of Vietnamese tourism, it still takes a Chinese tourist up to one month to get a visa to travel to Vietnam.

Baron R. Ah Moo said an online registration or a visa-on-arrival system would help speed up the process.

Another weak point of the tourism industry was the lack of marketing.

Claire del Rosario-Bernabe, a hotel marketing director, said she wondered why Vietnam had not launched any new marketing campaigns to help its tourism sector overcome the current difficult time.

The recent political crisis in Thailand was a good opportunity for Vietnam to promote itself as a safe destination, and with effective marketing campaigns, the country would attract a large number of foreign tourists, she said.

But because of limited funds, it would be hard for Vietnam to be able to launch large campaigns like its neighboring countries, RosarioBernabe added.

According to VNAT, it is allotted around VND20 billion (US$1.18 million) for tourism promotion every year.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, deputy head of the Tourism Promotion Department under VNAT, said her department needed larger and more stable funds because it is hard to embark on a long-term campaign when funds were allotted on a yearly basis.

VNAT has asked the government to spend $20-30 million on a global marketing campaign to draw back visitors next year and afterwards, AFP reported.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vietnam Devalues Dong to Fight Slowdown, Help Exports (Update3)

By Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen

Dec. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Vietnam’s central bank devalued the dong by 3 percent to help exporters after the Southeast Asian economy expanded at the slowest pace in nine years and the trade deficit widened.

The State Bank of Vietnam fixed the reference rate at 16,989 dong per dollar, versus 16,494 yesterday, according to its Web site. Policy makers maintained a currency band that allows the dong to rise or fall 3 percent a day, said Nguyen Quang Huy, director of the regulator’s foreign-exchange department.

Export growth slowed in the past three months as stagnating global economies cut demand for Vietnam’s garments and coffee and the country became less competitive after currencies in neighboring markets weakened more than the dong. Vietnam’s currency has dropped 5.5 percent this year against the dollar compared with an 18 percent slide in India’s rupee, 14 percent decline for Indonesia’s rupiah and a 13 percent slump in the Philippine peso.

“The devaluation is necessary as the government is trying to increase exports,” said Do Ngoc Quynh, chairman of the Vietnam Bond Forum in Hanoi and head of currency and debt trading at Bank for Investment & Development of Vietnam, the nation’s second-biggest lender by assets. “Other currencies in the region have considerably declined against the dollar, but the dong hasn’t dropped that much.”

The dong traded at 17,250 to 17,499 a dollar after the central bank’s decision, according to Hanoi-based Lai Tat Ha, head of currency trading at Vietnam Technological & Commercial Joint-Stock Bank, also known as Techcombank.

Free-Market Rate

At money changers, or the so-called black market, the currency traded between 17,270 and 17,350 to the dollar in Hanoi, according to a telephone directory information service, known as 1080, run by state-owned Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications. The dong has tumbled 35 percent since the end of 1994 as the central bank devalued the currency every year.

“The State Bank of Vietnam will take necessary action to maintain dong at this level,” the bank said in the statement on its Web site.

Vietnam’s VN Index of stocks fell 0.6 percent to 302.19, the lowest level in more than a week. The measure has declined 67 percent this year, the worst-performing benchmark index in Asia.

Gross domestic product grew 6.2 percent in 2008, after expanding by a record 8.5 percent last year, the government said in a statement yesterday.

Trade Deficit

Vietnam’s trade deficit widened 56 percent to $16.9 billion in the first 11 months of the year, according to government data. The current-account deficit may grow to $12.1 billion in 2009, or 12.3 percent of GDP, from an estimated $10.5 billion this year, or 11.7 percent of GDP, according to a Credit Suisse Group research report dated Dec. 17.

State Bank Governor Nguyen Van Giau told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that the devaluation policy is aimed at helping exporters.

“The Vietnamese dong is facing downward pressure due to the current-account deficit,” said Yuichi Izumi, an economist at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The State Bank wants to guide the dong lower to support the export sector.”

Slower gains in consumer prices may have also provided more room for the central bank to weaken the dong. Inflation cooled for a fourth month in December to the slowest pace in nine months, with consumer prices rising 19.9 percent from a year earlier, the government said today. The rate touched a record 28.3 percent in August.

The devaluation followed five interest-rate cuts by the central bank this quarter to help bolster the economy. Policy makers last lowered the benchmark rate on Dec. 19 by the most ever this year to 8.5 percent, from 10 percent. The new cost of money became effective Dec. 22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen in Hanoi

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vietnam still fumbling with designing low cost tours

Thailand has surprised the world as just ten days after the chaos, they are ready with a new program to lure travelers back to the country. Meanwhile, in Vietnam, low cost tourism products are expected to be launched by January at the earliest.


Looking at Thailand


Foreign travelers in HCM City
With the slogan “Thailand sorry,” as well as lower tour fees and hotel room rates, Thailand has become more prominent than ever in a campaign to attract travelers back to the country after the chaos. Tourists have seemed to forget the political uncertainties that occurred only several days ago in the country.


The free flights on international routes provided by Air Asia, departing from Bangkok to Hanoi and HCM CityCambodiaMyanmar,MalaysiaSingapore and China are expected to bring several hundred thousand tourists to Thailand, with these flights occurring between January 6 and March 31, 2009.


Travelers have been promised surprisingly low hotel room rates with discounts of up to 50-80% in Phuket or Pattaya.


Many Vietnamese travelers have booked air tickets online to travel to Thailand. According to Bui Duc Hanh, Chief Representative of Air Asia in Hanoi, Vietnamese travelers like booking tickets on weekends or holidays. Travelers only have to pay the airport tax, insurance premium and administrative fees.


‘Jealous’ of Thailand, Vu The Binh, Director of the Travel Departmentm, under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), admitted that Vietnam is inferior to Thailand in the area of professionalism. With their professionalism, Thailand has not been on the defense with the political crisis, as it has discovered initiatives to persuade tourists back to the country.


Meanwhile, according to La Quoc Khanh, Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and TourismVietnam has not been professional in promoting tourism, as Vietnamese companies cannot cooperate with each other for the development of the tourism industry.


… to seek solutions for Vietnam


Many directors and officials of VNAT were present in HCM City late last week to meet 60 travel firms and hotels to discuss plans to lure more travelers to Vietnam. Two similar meetings will take place in Hanoiand the central city of Da Nang this week.


Nguyen Manh Cuong, Deputy General Director of the VNAT, affirmed that tourism products must be ready by December 30 at the latest.


Khanh said that a plan to cut tour fees has been designed, and is called a “6 in 1” program. The taskforces for key markets have been set up and they will sit together to discuss the measures necessary to cut tour fees and design mechanisms for controlling the implementation of commitments.


Once tourism products with reasonable prices are ready, travel firms will register to VNAT and the local department of culture, sports and tourism. Afterwards, products will be introduced and advertised to foreign partners.


Khanh said that in the meantime, HCM City’s tourism promotion will focus on JapanAustralia andMalaysia, while it will still need support from VNAT to promote tourism in France, East Europe andChina.


Japan will be the first target in the tourism promotion campaign with roadshows and press conferences to be held when the 30% decreases in tour fees will be announced.


HCM City is hurriedly selecting “Saigon, 100 most interesting things,” which includes the 10 most attractive sightseeing points, the 10 most delicious dishes, 10 original markets and the 10 best hotels to be introduced in the campaign.


Binh, from VNAT, said that the tourism products need to be designed and available soon so that VNAT can advertise the products directly to 500 foreign travel firms and the foreign press in January 2009 at ATF 2009.

Ben Thanh Market - District 1 - HCMC - Vietnam

Last night we headed in to Ben Thanh Market. One of the most famous markets in Vietnam which by day is a crazy place selling foods and assorted goodies, while by night it transforms in to a bustling Night Market full of great food at cheap prices!

We hit the Hai Lua Restaurant and managed to get a table with out to much hassle, however 10 minutes later, people we're queuing at the front to get in. The busy eatery has a great menu with plenty of choices from beef, chicken, pork, frogs and seafood. There are also plenty of Vege dishes for vegetarians and a full range of soft drinks, beers and fruit shakes.

We went for the BBQ Whole Fish, BBQ Pork Kabab's, Seafood Fried Rice, Stir Fried Vege's with garlic, all washed down with an icey cold Saigon Beer!

I have to say the food was fresh, hot and really hit the spot. The staff we're flat out, but still attentive and friendly.

Overall it was a great meal and worth the 300,000VND which included food and drinks for 4 people.

The only real issue was the BBQ and smoke as it got rather thick at times! But with the atmosphere, good food and craziness of a Sunday night in HCMC, it was all good!

Ben Thanh Market is located at the end of Le Loi Street in District 1. The Night Market is open from 6pm and finishes up between 11 - 12pm.

Images From Ben Thanh Market

Cooking up a storm at Ben Thanh Night Market

Popular with Locals and Travelers

BBQ Pork Kabab's 

BBQ Whole Fish with a lemon, chili and salt dip

Seafood Fried Rice

Cooking Mekong Elephant Ear Fish and Pork Kabab's

Smokey but a great atmosphere!

Woking good times! 

Busy in the Kitchen

Smoking BBQ


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Saturday, December 20, 2008

IMF urges Vietnam to scrutinise stimulus plan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has suggested that Vietnam thoroughly consider its economic stimulus plan and give priorities to such vulnerable groups as the business and banking sectors.

The IMF made the recommendation in a notice released on December 18, following a week-long Vietnam visit by an IMF working mission led by Shogo Ishii, Assistant Director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

The IMF forecasts that Vietnam ’s economic growth rate will reach 6.25 percent in 2008 and may reduce to 5 percent next year due to the worsening global economic environment, said IMF Senior Residential Representative in Vietnam Benedict Bingham.

Vietnam ’s trade deficit is expected to go down in the following year but will remain high, accounting for around 9 percent of GDP, he added.
The IMF experts also predicted the country’s inflation rate to decrease to a single-digit level by late 2009, leading to the government’s loosened monetary and financial policies. However, Vietnam ’s position in the international arena is not so strong compared to some regional countries, which may restrict the government’s capacity in pursuing those policies, they said.

The IMF mission, however, noted that Vietnam ’s outlook remains positive given that the government maintains sound policies and continues reforms to increase the country’s competitiveness.

Maintaining reforms in this difficult period is very important for Vietnam to bolster investors’ confidence and ensure a better position for the country when the world escapes from the current economic recession, Benedict said in conclusion.

Vietnam's pepper exports to reach yearly target of US$310m

Vietnam will reach its target of exporting US$310 million in pepper by the end of this year, helping the country cement its number-one position in the world pepper market, according to the Vietnam Pepper Association (VPA).

The country exported 86,000 tonnes of pepper over the past 11 months to earn a turnover of US$300 million, the association said.

Despite global economic difficulties, world demand for pepper would still rise by 15 percent, or 50,000 tonnes, next year, a representative from the India Pepper and Spice Trade Association predicted.

Meanwhile, the International Pepper Community (IPC) forecast that the world pepper supply would be lower than the demand due to the world’s shrinking pepper cultivation area as well as the recent poor weather and disease outbreak in major pepper exporting nations like India, Brazil and Indonesia.

Vietnam would remain the world’s leading pepper exporter in the coming years, said the IPC.

The Vietnamese pepper industry is playing a more important role in the world pepper industry, said VPA general secretary Truong Thi Thong.

Vietnam Visa - Apply Online

Asian passport stamps vectors
© Photographer: Smithore | Agency:

Not so long ago, Vietnam introduced an Online Visa Service where by travelers can apply online instead of the traditional and sometime painful method of contacting Embassies in your local area.

Whilst I have yet to use the service myself, several people I know have and they are all saying good things about it!

To find out more details and what it is all about I spoke to staff an online company based in Hanoi. Check out below for the details!

Adam - Who needs a visa for Vietnam?

My Vietnam Visa (MVV) - All visitors to Vietnam require a visa except those coming from ASEAN Countries, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway. As of the 1st Jan Russian visitors will not require a tourist visa either for visits of 15 days or less.

Adam - Whats the process for applying for Visa?

 Travelers wanting to apply for a visa, can simply visit our site (see below) and follow 3 easy steps. Firstly fill in and submit a form through our site, then confirm and pay for the visa. Finally travelers will receive a Visa Approval Letter via email which they can show immigration officials on arrival in Vietnam.

Adam - How long does it take to get a visa approved?

MVV- The Visa Approval Letter is sent to customers with in 48 hours of applying. For special cases, the Letters can be approved within 4 - 8 working hours. 

Adam -
 Can you use Online Visa's to enter Vietnam via airports and land borders?

MVV - No. Travelers can only enter through Vietnam's 3 International Airports in Hanoi, HCMC and Danang. Online Visa's can not be used for land crossings.

Adam - How much does it cost for visa's online?

MVV - The cost varies for different visa's your visitors can visit our website for exact costs. (Ed - Go here for Pricing)

Adam - I believe there are two payments travelers need to pay. Can you explain what they are and when they have to be paid?

MVV - There are two payments required. When you apply online for a Visa you pay a processing fee (pay online).

Then once you arrive in Vietnam, you must pay a Stamping Fee direct to the Immigration Official at the airport (upon arrival in Vietnam). Payments in Vietnam are payed in USD.

Adam - What sort of visa's are offered online?

 Visitors may apply for tourist, business and student visa's online.

Adam - Thanks for your time!

For more information about Vietnam Visa's or to apply for a visa,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Vietnam: Where pirated apps match personal budgets

Posted by Dong Ngo

The bootlegging in operation at a store in Hanoi, one of many such shops that sell pirated goods.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CBS Interactive)

Editor's note: CNET editor and Crave contributor Dong Ngo is spending part of December in his homeland of Vietnam and is filing occasional dispatches chronicling his impressions of how technology has permeated the culture there. Click here for more of Dong's stories from abroad.

HANOI, Vietnam--You say you can't afford the $699 price tag on Adobe Photoshop CS4? How about a $698 discount?

That's the kind of deal you'll get here in Hanoi, where pirated software--and virtually any other kind of digital content--is sold indiscriminately at many local shops for about $15,000 dong (90 cents) per DVD, or half of that for a CD.

These shops are open, just like any legitimate business. I checked one out and was impressed by the number of software titles it carried. While there, I also learned a thing or two about the piracy industry here in Vietnam.

The store I visited is a small shop facing a busy street, with walls covered in CD and DVD sleeves--all black and white copies of those found in the original software package.

"I hate having to use some sort of hack for them to work, but it's worth it. It's a no-brainer, really."
--Trung, college student,

Virtually any PC software application I've ever heard of can be found here: Windows operating systems, popular Office suites, and high-end professional software such as Photoshop, AudoCad, and Corel Draw, are available in any versions. I even found different builds of Windows 7, which is currently still in pre-beta and is supposedly available to only a limited few.

These software applications, of course, come with "crack"--a hacking application that allows for bypassing the vendors' antipiracy mechanism. All are guaranteed to work; if not, you'll get another copy that does or get your money back.

Out of curiosity, I asked one of the shop's two operators, Nam--a friendly 24-year-old man--where this copious amount of software comes from. He said there's somebody who gets his shop the "master" copy of any titles he wants, and the master copy costs just about $5.

I made up a fancy name of a nonexistent software title and asked for it. After searching his large database to no avail, Nam indeed picked up the phone and made a quick call. After that he told me to come back the next day. "They don't have it now, but they probably will soon, don't worry!" he said, sounding very sure.

Of course, not everything in this shop is bootlegged. There is also stuff you can legally download for free, such as OpenOffice, Linux distros, and service packs. It's a good way to save time and Internet bandwidth at home.

The shop's business is going very well. Nam said it sells about $100 worth of discs a day, which comes to about $3,000 a month. However, Nam himself gets paid only $150 a month, which is a little above average for a Hanoian.

A short list of what you can get at one Hanoi store for less than $1 per DVD.

(Credit: Dong Ngo/CBS Interactive)

It's interesting to note that Nam, if he ever wanted Photoshop SC4, would have to save for months before he could afford it at the full retail price. Maybe that's the main reason bootlegging is so rampant here in Vietnam.

I talked to Trung, a college student, who stopped by the shop to fetch the latest revision of Medal of Honor. Trung is an avid gamer whose knowledge of video games could easily land him a job at GameSpot, even in these tough economic times.

He told me there's no way he could afford any of the games he's played--and he's played a lot of them--at the retail price. "I hate having to use some sort of hack for them to work, but it's worth it. It's a no-brainer, really," he said. The truth is that getting even one game legally could easily cost a student like him a whole month of food and rent.

According to the Business Software Alliance's and International Data Corporation's Fifth Annual Global Software Piracy Study (PDF), 85 percent of all software currently used in Vietnam is pirated. In 2007, piracy in Vietnam accounted for $200 million in losses for copyright owners.

I wonder how they came up with that number, however, as it is hard to calculate what the real "loss" would be if antipiracy laws were strictly enforced. Most people here would stop using a lot of software applications at all. They simply could not afford them.

The truth is the law doesn't seem to be strictly enforced here. Asked what would happen if the police found out, Nam said that he knows all the officers in the local unit and that they know what the shop does. He hinted that there was some sort of arrangement and the shop would close on those days, several times a year, when antipiracy inspectors head out to clean up bootlegged software.

In the event that the owners get caught and their equipment is confiscated, it's not hard to start anew. All a software shop needs are a couple of computers equipped with fast burners and large hard drives.

It seems bootlegging and using bootlegged software have become so common that nobody here considers those practices illegal or even "bad." They don't even seem aware of the fact that the software might come with malicious code designed to compromise their computer's security. It's going to take a long time for people here to change this mentality, if that's even possible.

In the meantime, it would probably be helpful to price the software differently for low-income parts of the world, such as Vietnam. After all, it's better for software vendors to have their products used for less than for nothing. And I would think that it's still better to have them used for nothing than not used at all.

The good news is that there are vendors that are making just such price adjustments. BitDefender, for example, has been using separate pricing for the Vietnamese market. Its Total Security 2009 suite, for example, costs$59.95 in the U.S. but only 399,000 dong ($24) in Vietnam. Kaspersky is doing the same thing.

While these two won't change much about the piracy landscape in Vietnam for now (and I think their prices could still go a little lower), they will hopefully raise awareness that legitimate software can be affordable, help create jobs, and come with benefits that are worth the price. Now that's a start.

Dong Ngo is a CNET editor who covers networking and network storage, and writes about anything else he finds interesting. You can also listen to his podcast at Dong.