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Online grocery shopping clicks with Saigonese during social distancing



As Vietnam amps up its social distancing mandate to battle the fourth wave of coronavirus transmission, home-bound consumers in the country are frequenting digital shopping channels, including delivery apps, social media, and e-commerce platforms, in order to get their groceries.

Due to several social distancing periods intermittently introduced throughout past year, consumers in Vietnam have gradually moved away from panic buying and have become more accustomed to online shopping for food and other necessities.

In demand

The footfall at a grocery store on Tran Nao Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s Thu Duc City has been sparse lately.

Nevertheless, store staffers still work hard to fill orders for delivery drivers, each of whom stops in front of the shop for just a few minutes to pick up bags of groceries for customers.

According to the store’s manager, online and phone orders have tripled since social distancing guideline were reinstated in Ho Chi Minh City on May 31.

Other retailers across the city have also reported an upswing in online orders, mostly for food and other necessities, since early May when the first cases of community infection in Vietnam were detected after weeks without local transmission. 

In fact, grocery delivery has been such a boon that several local stores have to suspend their order systems to process a backlog of deliveries.

Tung, a tech-based delivery worker, said the majority of the orders he delivers are placed in the morning, meaning he only needs to work half a day to pay his bills. 

“Customers have mostly been ordering spices, bread, veggies, and meat instead of instant noodle like they did during the first lockdown one year ago.”

To handle the soaring demand, all staffers at the retail chain Saigon Co.op have been mobilized to process online orders, a company representative said.

“Our customer care hotlines have been repurposed to take orders and transfer them to the Co.op supermarket closest to the customer’s address. We’ve also shifted the focus to our mobile application for the sale of fresh groceries and essential items.”

Saigon Co.op competitor VinMart has also launched several tech-based shopping options, including apps, websites, hotlines, and shops on various e-commerce platforms.

Through many of these portals, they are able to offer four-hour delivery and cashless payments in order to decrease the risk of virus transmission. 

According to a VinMart representative, the company has received twice as many orders from Ho Chi Minh City during the current social distancing compared to its typical figures.

Echoing other retailers, Aeon Vietnam saw online sales in May rise four to six-fold compared to April. 

Aeon’s sales continued their upward trajectory during the last week of May, with soaring figures across all channels, including their e-commerce site AeonEshop, shopping application Aeon App, and delivery apps such as Grab and Now. 

The growth in demand has also benefited grocery sections on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Tiki. 

Lazada reported a whopping ten-fold boost in fresh and frozen grocery sales on their system, while Tiki is expanding its inventory by 50 percent in all product categories to meet the swelling demand.

A delivery worker sends packages for a customer in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Q.Dinh / Tuoi Tre
A delivery worker sends packages for a customer in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Q.Dinh / Tuoi Tre

Protection galore

The social distancing mandate has not only boosted grocery sales, but also driven demand for the online purchase of home appliances and tech products.

Electronics retailer Dien May Xanh and its sister chain mobile retailer The Gioi Di Dong have witnessed online sales triple during the current social distancing period.

Mobile chain Di Dong Viet also reported that its online customer base has risen 45 percent, with sales across Facebook and YouTube rising by 40 percent. 

Meanwhile, delivery orders for mobile retailer Shopdunk increased by 50 percent.

Many retailers have announced a free shipping policy for areas with virus outbreaks, including Ho Chi Minh City, to persuade customers to make purchases from home.

To ensure safety during the pandemic, delivery workers from each company are ordered to limit their travel area and avoid direct contact with sales clerks.

They are also required to uphold stringent measures, including body temperature checks before each shift, social distancing, face mask wearing and hand sanitizing.

Delivery drivers for The Gioi Di Dong and Dien May Xanh have even been told to divide themselves into two team and rotate shifts in order to reduce transmission risks.

Additionally, they must ensure social distancing during deliveries, including when customers are signing for packages.

Delivery company J&T went a step further by adding a label declaring the delivery workers’ health status on packages and thoroughly sanitizing each package before each delivery.

Even with such precautions in place, many delivery services are declining orders from grave outbreak areas around the city, including Go Vap District, particularly considering it has been cordoned off by authorities.

Delivery workers sit in safe distancing while waiting to collect orders for their customers at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: K.L. / Tuoi Tre
Delivery workers sit in safe distancing while waiting to collect orders for their customers at a supermarket in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: K.L. / Tuoi Tre

Delivery workers at risk

In the past few weeks, many customers have complained about mass cancellations of air conditioner orders on e-commerce platforms.

Responding to customers, a seller explained that delivery workers and installation technicians are deemed at high risk of infection and have been put to isolation after entering customers’ houses. 

In light of the looming risks, many online sellers have shut down their at-home installation service for furniture and home appliances to ensure safety for their delivery workers.

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Your Vietnam

Cashless payments on the rise: convenience and security for expats in Việt Nam



A customer scans QR codes while shopping at Cồn market in Đà Nẵng. VNS/VNA Photo Quốc Dũng

Seán Nolan

HÀ NỘI — Gone are the days of ‘cash is king’, and cashless payments are changing how we all transact and manage our finances. But, while the convenience is clear, is this change entirely a good thing?

As digital payment methods surge in popularity, expats in Việt Nam are not alone in embracing the change to cashless transactions. 

The advantages are clear; secure encryption and biometric authentication lowers the risk of theft, and many expats see these payment options as a safer alternative to carrying cash. 

Even if you are unlucky enough to fall victim to a pickpocket, you can rest assured that your money is not accessible. For the hapless tourist, unwary expat or tired local, cashless payments reduce the risk of being short-changed, scammed or robbed. 

Competition among payment providers has also increased, with companies vying to provide the most convenient and secure digital payment options to attract customers, including expats living in Viet Nam.

Many banks now offer internet banking to foreigners and have fully-fledged English-language versions of their mobile applications to simplify the process.

However, navigating the local banking system and ensuring all paperwork is in order can still pose challenges for some expats (hands up if you’ve ever been locked out of your account because you forgot to send the bank your new work permit?).

Despite these hurdles, the shift towards a cashless society in Việt Nam is inevitable, as seen by trends worldwide. 

In the UK, restaurant chains such as Prezzo and Pizza Hut simply do not accept cash anymore and, according to a 2019 survey, in South Korea just 17 per cent of total transactions involved cash. 

To become a truly cashless society, international cooperation will be needed to ensure seamless transactions for expats with bank accounts outside the country though, as the competition among payment providers heats up, expats can expect even more convenient and secure options in the near future.

As the world becomes increasingly digital, it’s important for expats to adapt and embrace new technologies to stay ahead of the curve. 

Whether it’s mobile banking, e-wallets or other digital payment methods, these tools make transactions easier and more secure for everyone.

In conclusion, around the world the days of ‘cash is king’ are over. Cashless payments are coming to take the crown, and will forever change the way we transact and manage our finances. 

For expats living in Việt Nam, this shift towards digital payments offers a wealth of opportunities and should be embraced to stay ahead in an increasingly digital, and cashless, world. VNS


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Your Vietnam

Couple in seventies rewrite travel rulebook



Mong Phước Minh and his wife in Hà Giang. — Photo courtesy of Minh

By Thanh Nga

Mong Phước Minh, 74 and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc, 70, from Long Xuyên City, An Giang Province, have completed hundreds of trips at home and abroad, and say these trips are like a spiritual medicine to help them stay healthy and happy.

Back in 2005, Minh’s wife was diagnosed with thyroid and ovarian cancer. And though Minh was depressed and couldn’t hold back his tears, Cúc proved to be a hugely courageous woman. Along with timely treatment at a prestigious hospital, she spent time taking exercise and often asked her husband to travel to relieve stress and find joy in life.

In 2011, when Cúc’s two cancers were finally under control, the couple started to travel more regularly. For Minh, as long as his wife sits behind him, he will drive anywhere to bring joy to his wife.

Recently, they made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam in their ageing Suzuki Vitara. The married couple have just returned home to welcome the Vietnamese New Year.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc have just made a journey of more than 30 days across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“After many days of constant moving, sightseeing and challenges, we have returned home safely to celebrate Tết with our children and grandchildren,” Minh said.

Earlier this month, they had seven days to explore the primaeval forests of Nam Trường Sơn where they had no electricity and no phone signal, but still set out to explore the waterfalls and forests.

“We have been travelling together for about 11 years now. We travel a lot, so it has turned into our passion. Whenever we have free time, we are ready for a trip,” Minh told Việt Nam News.

“As usual, we don’t have an exact date, time, and destination, only a general idea. It’s not exactly a principle, just a habit of not wanting to be tied down. We approach things happening on the journey randomly, because they are often unexpected and interesting things.”

Since they were students, they have loved travelling. When getting married, they often took their children around various destinations near their home.

Mong Phước Minh and his wife, Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“At that time, we were busy taking care of our children, working and doing business, so we didn’t have much time to travel. Later, when our children grew up, and the economy was more stable, we had more short trips on tours with our children and friends,” Minh said.

In 2011, at first, the couple planned to go with their friends but as the schedule approached Minh discussed a plan with his wife that they would travel by themselves.

Over the past 11 years, they have made hundreds of trips together, including a motorbike trip from Long Xuyên City to Bờ Y border gate in Kon Tum Province to Laos and a trip across Việt Nam from south to north.

On the first trip, they travelled with a motorbike made in 1990. According to Minh, except for the need to change tyres and spark plugs, the motorbike was completely good.

They made sure to prepare enough medicine, raincoats, umbrellas, flashlights, and a mini rice cooker for the long journey.

The couple have promised their children that they will travel safely so that everyone feels secure. Every day, they call home to let them know where they are.

After a few favourable trips, in early 2012, they asked several friends to ride motorbikes with them across Việt Nam, Laos and Cambodia. The trip was very successful, which left them even more motivated.

During this trip, they passed 120km of old forest belonging to the Don Amphan Reserve in Laos. There were no houses on the way, only the married couple in the middle of many majestic mountains.

Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Cúc takes photos in Thừa Thiên – Huế  during their journey across Việt Nam. — Photo courtesy of Minh

“This road was deserted, but very beautiful. My wife was in awe of it all,” Minh said.

The trip lasted a total of 25 days.

“The joy of travelling by motorbike is that it is a cheap and comfortable way to explore a favourite destination. Many people think that we are rich, as we often travel, but we have to consider it properly. That’s why we often choose to ride a motorbike,” Minh said.

In 2013, Minh and Cúc completed a 30-day trip through Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar. Initially, Minh planned to travel by motorbike. However, Cúc wanted to ride a bicycle. To please his wife, Minh bought two folding bicycles, then sewed bags to fit the bike to carry through the border gate.

They travelled by coach through cities and countries, when they stopped to visit, they used the bicycles to move around.

Wherever they go, they obey their principle of never heading to the next destination after 4pm, to help ensure safety.

“We have a responsibility to ourselves and our families, promising our children that we must go safely to give them peace of mind,” Minh said.

During their journeys, the thing that Minh and his wife feel most fortunate about is that they have never had a serious incident other than their motorbike or car breaking down a few times.

The couple have also had the chances to visit many places in the US and Australia by train and bus when they went to visit relatives.

“We don’t care how many cities and countries we’ve been to. We try to feel and remember the experiences we’ve had together on our journey,” Minh said.

“Since we were students, we have always been together. Now, whether going near or far, I want to take my wife with me. As long as I have her, I know it’s going to be a great trip.” VNS


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Your Vietnam

Spring festival season sees surging visitors with improved safety measures



FROM ALL OVER: Tourists enjoying spiritual ceremonies at Đông Cuông Temple Festival in the northern province of Yên Bái’s Văn Yên District. VNA/VNS Photo 

 HÀ NỘI — Authorities and experts are reporting a surge in the number of visitors at festivals held across the country, as the country gears up for the festival season after three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MoCST) reported on its website that after three years of impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the halting and reducing scales of many cultural festivals nationwide, this year’s festivity season has returned with a spike in the number of visitors, though safety hasn’t been compromised.

Since the beginning of the season, the ministry has issued many documents requesting localities strengthen management and organising works for all cultural activities. Local authorities have undertaken sufficient measures to ensure participants in the 2023 Spring Festival season are “safe, joyful and healthy”.

Meanwhile, experts say the Spring Festival Season 2023 of the Year of the Cat is considered as an occasion for the community to reach a ‘boom’ in travelling to enjoy the traditional and cultural celebrations in famous spots, which were halted for long time due to the pandemic.

So far, most of the famous spring festivals have opened, including the Hương (Perfume) Pagoda Festival, Sóc Temple Festival or Cổ Loa Citadel Festival in the North. They have attracted tens of thousands of visitors everyday, with no reports of violations in security and social order.

BACK WITH A BANG: After three years of COVID-19 delays, the festival season has returned this year with a spike in the number of visitors. Photo

Nguyễn Bá Hiển, head of the Management Board of Hương Sơn tourist site in Hương Sơn Commune, Hà Nội’s suburban Mỹ Đức District, said the Hương Pagoda Festival 2023 was taking place with the theme “An toàn, Văn minh, Thân thiện” (Safe, Civilised, Friendly).

This year, the festival has seen a reform in organisation with ticket sales changed from traditional to the electronic application model.

On the opening day of the festival, which fell on January 6 of the lunar calendar (Friday last week), the festival welcomed more than 40,000 visitors without any congestion, according to the official.

“We print e-invoice tickets and complete a new ticket control system via QR Code at 10 ticket control entrances,” Hiển said.

“A bus service has been piloted to deliver and pick up tourists on three routes. The first route starts from Hội Xá bus station to Yến Vỹ wharf, the second is from Đục Khê bus stop to Đồng Cừ in front of Trình Temple and the third is from Bus station 1 to Tuyết Sơn Pagoda wharf. Congestion has been controlled,” he added.

TIMES ARE CHANGING: The pig sacrifice ritual of the Ném Thượng Festival in Ném Thượng Village, in the northern province of Bắc Ninh, is now performed behind closed doors instead in public on the communal house’s yard. Photo

Ném Thượng Festival, in Bắc Ninh City’s Ném Thượng Village in the northern province of Bắc Ninh, in the past few years has organised its pig sacrifice ritual behind closed doors instead on the communal house’s yard. The once-controversial practice has changed its way of organising following a direction of the culture ministry and the People’s Committee of Bắc Ninh Province.

Ninh Thị Thu Hương, director of Grassroots Culture Department under the culture ministry, said the department had sent inspection teams to localities since October 2022 to help them boost the organisation and management works in spiritual ceremonies and festivals at heritage sites.

AND THEY’RE OFF: The Gò Thì Thùng traditional horse racing festival in the central province of Phú Yên’s Tuy An District. VNA/VNS Photo Tường Quân

This was instructed in the ministry’s Directive 274 on strengthening State management of local cultural and artistic activities and festivals to protect and promote heritage values as well as restore and develop tourism.

“As has been forecast that the 2023 festival season will see a sudden increase of visitors and contents of activities, the department has worked with some localities which still organised controversial activities in the previous season, such as buffalo fighting in the northern province of Vĩnh Phúc and some others that need to undertake better organising measures, plans, and scenarios so that to have the best results,” said Hương.

In addition, the ministry also asked authorities to enforce inspection before, during and after the festivals, while requiring an improvement in awareness and management among local authorities. VNS


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