24, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 16
the telephone company's directory-inquiry service provides a personalized
touch above and beyond the call of duty. In Vietnamese, English or French,
charming female operators answer questions about new restaurants, where
to buy antique jewelry, how to find a veterinarian or practically anything
else. Locals use the service to get up-to-the-minute football scores (to
see if they won their bets), weather reports, exchange rates and cinema
schedules. Children ring up to listen to fairy tales and folk stories (to
lighten operators' workloads, the company recently switched to taped renditions).
Intriguing Mix of Past and Present
With more than half of its residents under 25 years of age, Ho Chi
Minh City is one of Vietnam's most youthful cities. Yet it's still
making a career largely from its past.
Looking for a value-for-money meal in Ho Chi Minh City?
There are many roads to sainthood, and not all of them lead through
the Catholic Church.
More than just a phone number
If you're seeking the offbeat side of Vietnam this is the site for
The service started in 1994 in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and is now available,
fully computerized, in most provinces. The dial-up number used to be 108,
but due to the high volume of callers who just wanted to chat up the operators
or talk about their personal problems, it has been split into two services.
Dial 1080 for "ordinary" queries--and yes, operators also do the standard
work of giving out phone numbers and addresses--and 1088 for psychological
and medical needs. The latter service, staffed by professional counselors
and doctors, costs 10 cents a minute, four times as much as 1080. For curious
visitors, the only challenge is finding a telephone.
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