Longer stay in Vietnam: Finding a good newspaper or website to keep you up to date

I travel often in the SE Asia region and even when not traveling daily read multiple national and regional newspapers, website and story aggregators to keep up to date on the region.  I not only read the larger more obvious news sources like AP, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Flipboard, Google Alerts, etc. but regional and local papers like the Bangkok Post, the Nation, Vietnam News, Saigon Times, South China Morning Post and Singapore Strait Times.  For Vietnam, the major newspapers of note that make efforts to appeal to English-speaking audiences are: VNExpress and VietnamNet. Vietnam News also has a BizHub section, which has some gems once in a while.
The above help to keep me up-to-date on the region and on Vietnam but if I really want to know what is happening in say a city like Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), the above really don’t give you much info.  If I want recommendation on a good new restaurant, a tailor, a place to shop, how to get around, where are the best neighborhoods, the best up and coming weekend resort areas, how to find a good doctor, education opportunities, how to get a work permit and the information most important to expats and those staying longer, I need to go to one of the expat monthly publications.  These give you life at street level – not the view from 5,000 feet.  In Ho Chi Minh City, here are my top picks of these publications:
  • #IAMHCMC:  This is not the oldest but in my view is one of the best publications out there.  The editorial, writing and graphics team is truly superb.  Subjects to cover are well picked, sourced, written and edited and the pictures, colors and visuals are always first choice.  Reading this gives you a much better feel for the subjects important to expats.  They often highlight upcoming issues and issues to keep in mind.  I often search them out and also follow their website.
  • Saigoneer: The writing team is less top notch here.  They rely primarily on sourcing stories from VN newspapers and reformatting them for an expat audience. They do regularly write their own stories, which are done well and are usually interesting. Saigonteer has a very “hip” reputation in HCMC, and they have a loyal social media fan base. They are a solely online company.
  • The Word: Perhaps the oldest and most well-established expat monthly magazine that covers stories in both Hanoi and HCMC. Much of their content relies on social issues and lighter subjects; they rarely take on more hard-hitting journalism. They thrive on travel stories and profiles. They’re quite well-respected, but haven’t transitioned well to the digital era. Their social media reach is quite limited.
  • AsiaLife: Highly respected, with a wide reach. They do well both online and in print, and have a Cambodian AsiaLIFE as well. Like The Word, they focus on travel, F&B and reviews, with a few feature stories about social issues. They have a news section, but it’s a bit limited.
  • Oi: Definitely a lifestyle magazine. They get a lot of advertisements, and focus on travel, fashion, the arts, F&B, family and business. They have a monthly print magazine and seem to do pretty well. Their focus on Vietnamese insights and history sets them apart from the more expat-centric magazines.
  • Bliss Saigon is geared toward women in Vietnam. Their writing and editing is often fairly sub-par but they do have some interesting subjects from time to time.
  • Any Arena used to primarily event listings but has recently added articles and is worth a read now and then.

About the Author:  

Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)

Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, Mr. Runckel was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.