Grahame Cox is director of the Australian arm of global PR and communications firm Bite Communications. With leading name clients including Adobe, Cisco, HTC and Skype, he's kept on the go – yet somehow always seems to find his way back to Ho Chi Minh City, judging by the many tips he shares!
What city do you most often visit for business?
Ho Chi Minh City, which some of us older folks also know as Saigon – I’ve flown there about twice a year for the past five years in support of a wine business for tasting exhibitions and local marketing counsel.
Every visit becomes memorable: bustling buzzing motorcycle traffic, thick tropical heat, strange cooking smells, yells of hawkers, smiling happy people who remember you from a previous visit, easy business meetings, Durian ice-cream, motor-cycle ‘taxi’ rides, and a changing cityscape.
What are your best tips for Ho Chi Minh City?
Try to get your accommodation in the Dong Khoi area. It’s central, safe and features a host of hotels at different price points. English is widely spoken here. Restaurants are plentiful and low cost: a few restaurant and bars have wi-fi and are great for meetings.
You’ve got a spare day in Ho Chi Minh City: what do you do?
Breakfast at a French patisserie ($4) followed by a dental checkup ($35), a haircut ($3 with tip) and a late lunch at Pho 24 ($4). Then buy a business shirt and jeans ($15) and head back to the hotel for a siesta before for an early evening drink or two with a local contact ($10). Then it’s dinner at Augustine’s French restaurant ($25), followed by a couple of beers at The Metropolitan Hotel’s open air penthouse bar overlooking the river ($6). After midnight, icy cold beers with Minh, manager of a small hole-in-the-wall bar in the backpacker area who just likes to listen ($6).
What's the one thing you do on every trip?
Ongoing maintenance of my travel diary for tax office reporting! And alway visit someplace new, off the track, after the business bits are done.
On any business trip, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Shop, shop, shop! I visit every antique market I can find, and I also have a few markets that I always end up at. They’re Ben Thanh Market in Saigon; Fake Market at Technology Museum station in Shanghai; and the Silk Market in Beijing.
What’s your favourite hotel?
The Sofitel Hotel, Shanghai. Incredible service in a key location hotel. Also, it features the best bircher muesli on the planet.
Tell us about your best overseas dining experience.
Oddly enough, this was a seemingly non-descript barbecue lunch restaurant in one of Shanghai’s biggest shopping malls. The cooks bring out different cooked meats on large skewers – ham, beef, duck, chicken, lamb – all double-cooked in special ovens. Add a salad and an icy cold beer and this truly was heaven!
What are some essential carry-on items you’d never leave home without?
A quality neck pillow, a good book, noise-cancelling headphones and sleeping tablets for a long haul flight.
How do you typically spend your in-flight time?
These days I use my in-flight time to think. I also switch from book to iPhone to laptop to book to iphone. And try to sleep.
How do you beat jetlag?
I don’t. I take sleeping tablets to just wipe out a lot of boredom, particularly if it is a night flight.
What are the first things you do on a business trip after settling into your hotel?
Go for a long walk.
What do you like most about travelling, even though it’s for work?
Checking out the people and their lifestyles.
What advice would give airlines to improve the experience of the business traveller?
Provide on-line support focused on major airports to help people cut through the craziness.
What are your biggest travel gripes?
You never, ever have enough time to check out the interesting things you want to do; and so many online travel and tourism resources prove way out of date.
What’s your best travel advice?
- When you get sick (especially if it’s the runs) tell the hotel concierge. They will organise you appropriate medicine and call a doctor if need be.
- Always do some research on your destination way before you arrive, to ensure you have a more successful and less hassled visit.
- Include a good-quality power outlet adapter in your takeaway gear, and remember to take it with you, along with your Leatherman multi-tool.
- Buy a good quality suitcase with solid multi-directional wheels and pull-up handle. It’ll pay for itself quicker than you know.
- Travel with a pen. It's a writing world out there.
- In most Asian cities, getting across town can take hours – so leave plenty of time between meetings.