Wednesday, April 15, 2009


(Part One, Saigon-Siem Reap-Hanoi-Halong vacation)

Forget all those 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad' books, and their ilk.

All you have to do is board a plane and fly to Vietnam, where one US Dollar gets you the equivalent of 17,700 VND [Vietnam Dong].

So, when i exchanged US$100 at the airport upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh (also known as Saigon) city, i was handed more or less 1.7 million VND. Woohoo!

As can be seen from the pic below, the VND notes come in big denominations, most commonly 100,000, 50,000 and 10,000 VND.
The largest note is 500,000 VND [not in photo].

The smaller ones, such as the 500 VND and 1000 VND notes, also come in coins and are pretty much useless, since most prices seem to start at 10,000 VND.

Of course, it took a while to get used to seeing and hearing prices quoted at such huge amounts. And even more difficult was mentally converting prices into US dollars (and then on to PHPs).

While at the Ben Thanh market, i inquired how much a box of coffee was.

"50,000 VND," stated the rotund vendor.

"What?! Mac Qua! [Too expensive!]" i cried, only to realize a few seconds later that this amount was something like US$3.00 only. Well, it was still expensive, and we eventually bargained her to a more reasonable level.

A sampling of other typical prices include:

Paper fan at Ben Thanh market = 15,000 VND
[noodle soup] at a Pho 24 outlet = 34,000 VND
N & M [local upscale brand] men's pants = 499,000 VND

Of course, the astute reader will point out that there is a catch to my millionaire status in Vietnam. After all, it is not the amount of money per se that matters, but the amount of goods and services one can purchase or exchange for it.

As my college thesis partner-turned-financial whiz MonT. will probably put it, "You may be a millionaire on paper, but you have the purchasing power of a pauper. Olats ka pa rin! [Loser!]"

1 comment:

Ramon Melchor said...

The Dong is the new Yen... before it was the Rupiah. I was in Jakarta in Aug. 2007 (yes during that great quake, I woke up at 1 A.M. as I felt the 'earth shake under my feet') and when I exchanged my $100 then... IDR900,000! I stayed in one of the Sol Melia hotels in Jakarta. My bill for 4 days? IRD2.8Mn.! Then I asked my Indonesian counterparts (it was a business trip) how much stuff cost there... housing... cars... salary of household help... school tuition... just to compare back home. Turns out, effectively, the cost of living in the Philippines is still cheaper. You'd think the Yen is still like the Rupiah or the Dong... high nominal amounts but really cheap. Check it again: JPY2 = PhP1. Hence, a JPY1Mn. price tag is really PhP500,000!