Ava’s Closet

 photo Avas_zps4ff8f410.pngMy first Ava dress was from the Summer Collection. What caught my eye were the unusual print and the classic lines. The fabric felt soft and cool — perfect for the hot summery months of Saigon.

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As a Filipino, my worry with Vietnam-produced clothes is the sizing.  My frame is far far from the Vietnamese lean shape. That’s why I was quite happy that Ava’s made sure that my choice of dress fitted me well. Yes, they took my measurements and made one especially for me!

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Ava’s Closet is a feminine clothing line by Australian designer, Helen Corbett Holani. The fabric is sourced from India and other countries depending on what the design calls for.

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Ava’s brand caters to career-driven women with a unique sense of style. They are women that fly – able to balance a successful career with their family life and still have time to pursue their personal happiness.

To complete the Ava look, Ava offers accessories from local designers, scarfs,
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— and Mary & Marie bags.
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They’ve got dressy earrings —

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Bracelet and bangles too —

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Check out their necklaces —
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Intricately designed —
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There’s a T-shirt line as well for men called Nam’s shirts.
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Nam’s shirts also have Western sizes.

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If you or someone you know has that lookbook look, why not send your (or a friend’s) profile to Ava and be the next Ava’s Dress Up Girl.

 photo 20140929_173659_zps7e63610b.jpgYou can find Ava’s Closet at:

53B Nguyen Du St., District 1
Station 3A, 3A Ton Duc Thang in District 1

Happy shopping!

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Visiting Saigon with kids?

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Saigon has a rich cultural and political history but when you have kids tagging along in your vacation that doesn’t really translate to FUN, right? So how do you keep your kids entertained? Where do you bring ‘em in Saigon?

So here are some places where you can take your kids.

Vietopia

Start teaching your kids early about the value of money and hard work while they have fun trying different “jobs”. Vietopia is an indoor venue where you can take your kids try different hats — like being a doctor, pilot, engineer, construction worker, gas attendant, archaeologist, and more. They also get to try to do fun activities.

Kizciti

Kizciti has the same concept as Vietopia. It has actually been running in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi longer than Vietopia. What sets it apart from Vietopia is that it has both indoor and outdoor activities. Outdoor activities include mini golf and farming.

Suoi Tien 

Suoi Tien is a Buddhist-inspired theme park with indoor and outdoor activities. What I love most about this place is the water park. It just seems a bit crazy with the Buddhist theme going on but these days, there are a lot of things going on in this place and has upped the ante.

Damsen Park

Another  amusement park in the city is Damsen Park. Your child will pretty much have a whole park of activities to choose from. I am pretty sure the only time your child will cry is when you leave the park.

Dainam Park

Dainam Park is quite far from the city center (Binh Duong) around 2 hours away but you can stay here overnight at their hotel. Your family can enjoy the theme park, zoo, and water park and not have to travel back to the city with a cranky toddler.

Paintball Saigon

Paintball Saigon is for the bigger kids. If you and your kids want to blow off some steam or play strategy, suit up and aim.

Water Puppet Show

The Water Puppet Show is an interesting show about Vietnamese culture with puppets performing on the water. I am in awe of the puppeteers! They have a show daily. And although the show is in Vietnamese, foreigners will still get to understand what the stories are all about. Traditional Vietnamese instruments are also used for the show. My son was up from his seat the whole time watching!

AO Show

The AO Show is an acrobatic cultural show that uses indigenous materials as props. This is a real fun show that my son enjoyed. There never is a dull moment with the AO Show and best of all you get to watch it from the majestic Saigon Opera House.

Cu Chi Tunnels

I know this sound like a sad part in the history of Vietnam. But yes, the Cu Chi Tunnels tour is kid-friendly. If you’re up for it, why not also check out the tunnels yourself?

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

On our last visit this year to the zoo, both my kids loved it. They were actually asking about when they can see the dinosaurs. <insert roll eyes here> When you go here, spend half a day or more to explore the botanical gardens, see the animals, and spend some time at their mini amusement park.

Mekong Delta

My sons love riding boats and the Mekong Delta trip gives them that. Best of all, I get to try the different delicacies from Mekong. The floating market is a must see!

Food Tour

Who doesn’t love a food tour, right? Saigon Street Eats is the best in the kiddie food tour. I took my eldest for a food tour in the city and he enjoyed it immensely while also learning about the everyday life of the Saigonese.

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Zippy Bags by Caroline Istas

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Last year, Caroline Istas published the Travel Logbook for children. My son loved filling out the pages about his trips. Now Caroline is back with her Zippy Bags!

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Caroline is from Antwerp, Belgium. She studied History of Art at the Brussels Academy of Art and Photography at Sint Lukas, Brussels.

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She moved to Vietnam some 10 years ago and spent her time initially specializing in underwater photography and teaching diving with Rainbow Divers where she also met her husband.

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After launching the Travel Logbook, she became busy preparing illustrations and commissions for a wide range of exclusive clients.

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To further her education in design, she trained in the Saigon Academy of Design.  And now, she is focusing on printing her own designs.

 photo 10717573_10154561822885136_2021723207_n_zpsaef10a3e.jpgZip by Albetta Kids in District 2 or 7 to get your very own handy Zippy Bag.

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Encapsulating Kaiteki Hotel

One of my frustrations living in Ho Chi Minh City is not being able to try the different accommodations in the city. I still feel very much like a tourist and I sometimes miss the Renaissance Riverside or the Park Royal. But I am most curious about the backpackers district in Pham Ngu Lao. An opportunity presented itself when the most talked about capsule hotel, Kaiteki agreed to an overnight stay. I tapped photographer, Adam Robert Young if he could do the story and he said yes! Sharing with you Adam’s experience.

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Bucket lists – we’ve all got one whether we admit it or not – those things you really want to experience before you kick it. I’ll admit mine is a long one, and just recently I managed to tick one more item off.

Right up there with standing over the ruins of Machu Picchu high in the Peruvian Andes, or taking one of those iconic photographs that becomes as recognisable as Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, sleeping in a capsule hotel was one of those things that I just had to experience once in my lifetime. I imagined I would most likely check that off the list on a visit to Japan sometime in the future, but I never expected to do it right here in Ho Chi Minh City!

So when the opportunity to stay a night in Kaiteki Hotel here in Saigon arose, I jumped at the chance!

Kaiteki 2w

Having read some less than glowing reviews of the place, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how great my experience was at Kaiteki.

It was just after 5pm on a Thursday afternoon when I checked in. The girl behind the counter was welcoming and made me feel at home right away. She called an attendant who gave me a pair of slippers from my own allocated cupboard opposite the reception desk, along with a small pack containing a towel, toothbrush and cup to use during my stay.

Kaiteki 1w

Already something magical had happened: I received slippers in an Asian hotel that fit my large Western feet! That never happens! Normally I have to squeeze my toes into the front and walk around on tippy toes so that my heels that extend beyond the end of the shoe don’t touch the floor. That may not seem like a big deal to some, but after over ten years in Southeast Asia, I was impressed beyond words.

The attendant took me up to the mens’ floor. At Kaiteki, each floor is either for men or women only, in a similar way that many hostels have women only rooms. As I walked in, I saw that there were two groups of capsule rooms. The first were the economy capsules, and beyond them were the business capsules. The business capsules were a little more roomy than the economy ones, but both had more than enough room to move and looked clean and comfortable. Apart from a little wear and tear on the rubber strips that line the entrance to the capsules, they were in good condition.

Kaiteki 8w
The economy capsules

Kaiteki 9w
Inside one of the economy pods

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The business capsules

I’ll admit that before arriving at Kaiteki, I had been a little concerned about the safety of my possessions, as having an expensive camera stolen is not an experience I’d like to repeat. You can imagine my relief when I saw the large lockers for each guest, complete with a digital lock that can only be opened with a PIN number set by the guest.

Kaiteki 6w

The lockers had plenty of room for clothes and moderate-sized travel cases, and I could have even hung a suit or two in there if I was a business traveller on a budget.

Kaiteki 7w

My other fear was one that has led to me avoiding cheaper hostel rooms for years: the shared bathroom. Bad experiences from my travels back in the day have led to me insisting on booking rooms with ensuites regardless of what I have to give up to pay the extra dollars – I still have nauseating flashbacks from the surprises left by fellow travellers in those shared bathrooms!

I cannot tell you just how relieved I was to see how clean the bathroom was. Not only that, but each shower cubicle was basically a large room – both spacious and private.

Kaiteki 4w

Kaiteki 3w

By this time, I was well and truly won over, especially when considering that the cost of one night in a Kaiteki capsule is just $8! If I had to choose between a bed in a shared dorm room and this, it would be a no-brainer! But perhaps I was being too hasty – I still hadn’t actually tried to sleep in the capsule yet. That would be the true test!

I locked up my camera in the locker and headed out for dinner. I’ve gotta say that as far as location goes, Kaiteki is a ripper! It’s located at one end of Bui Vien Street – restaurant heaven! It’s the one street in the whole of the city where you can find virtually any cuisine you like at very reasonable prices – from Indian or Mexican to traditional Vietnamese fare – and it’s a great place to socialise, with all manner of bars, cafes and nightclubs all in one convenient location. For travellers, Pham Ngu Lao Street which runs parallel to Bui Vien has countless travel companies for booking day trips or transport to other cities or even into Cambodia.

Kaiteki 10w
Bui Vien Street from the 4th floor of Kaiteki Hotel.

With a full belly I came back to settle into my capsule. I was happy to find that there was more than enough room for me in the business capsule, with an extra 30cm or so beyond my feet when I stretched out (I’m just over 6 feet tall).

Kaiteki 12w

Initially I thought I wouldn’t be able to make use of the free wifi for very long, but then I noticed the control console with all the light switches and electrical outlets also had a built-in USB charger port (although I may not have figured that out if I couldn’t read the Chinese that the lift-up cover was labelled in).

Kaiteki 13w

So after a quick chat with the guy in the capsule next to mine, I wound down the blind that sealed off my capsule from the rest of the room and set to work watching free pay TV and surfing the net until my eyes grew heavy and I drifted off to sleep.

I slept well.

The next morning I got up and went to take a shower. The good thing with the majority of guests being Chinese and Japanese is that they typically prefer to shower at night, so the bathroom was deserted in the morning (actually it was pretty empty the previous evening also). I’m a man who isn’t easily pleased when it comes to showers, but I actually found it hard to get out! The water was nice and hot and the pressure was perfect (first shower as you enter the bathroom if you stay on the 4th floor, although I assume they’re all the same).

Feeling refreshed, I checked out and had a bowl of pho in the alleyway next to the hotel (good authentic street pho). If I was here on holiday, I could have walked for about 5 mins to Ben Thanh Market – more or less the central hub of Saigon – or checked out nearby sites like the Mariamman Hindu Temple (also about five minutes’ walk). If I’d been craving for some McDonalds (as you may after a couple of weeks of rice and noodles), that’s just three minutes away on foot, right opposite the park where you can watch locals doing morning exercises.

But me, I just jumped on a bus back home. I felt happy not only that I’d checked off one more item from that bucket list, but that I’d actually had a really relaxing time doing it. If I were travelling alone to Saigon in the future, I’d definitely consider staying in Kaiteki again – no longer for the novelty, but for the fact that it’s actually great cheap accommodation!

Kaiteki Hotel
22 Bui Vien, Pham Ngu Lao Ward, Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam
Phone: +84-8-38364904

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Albetta Kids Opens Its District 7 Store!

 photo _SMM2617_zpsc4a6a6df.jpgAlbetta Kids, a UK children’s fashion brand has opened up a shop in Phu My Hung, their second in Ho Chi Minh City (the first is in District 2).

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They offer beautifully crafted toys, accessories, shoes, and of course clothes!

If you’re looking for a perfect gift for your toddler, you can choose from an array of products from Albetta.

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The shop also has a play area on the second floor.

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To celebrate its opening, Albetta will hold a party on Saturday, September 27 from 2:30-5:30 PM.

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Bring your kids and enjoy the activities Albetta has prepared: face painting, nail painting, coloring, and more.

Albetta Kids
58 Nguyen Duc Canh, Tan Phong Ward, D.7 HCM
32 Tran Ngoc Dien, Thao Dien Ward, D.2 HCM

http://www.albetta.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/AlbettaUK

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Catch “The Mist” at the Saigon Opera House

Last night, we were invited to watch the premiere showing of “The Mist” featuring the performers of Arabesque at the Saigon Opera House.

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I love the Saigon Opera House. It’s like stepping back in time. The French colonial architecture is well-preserved.

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Directed by AO Show Saigon‘s Nguyen Nhat Ly and Nguyen Nat Loc, The Mist is a contemporary dance performance depicting the life of farmers as they go about their daily tasks in the early morning mist. Unlike the AO Show Saigon though, The Mist caters to a more mature audience.

 photo 20140915_191813_zps81c03750.jpgTo set the tone, the entrance of the opera house was adorned with native products covered in rice husks. And once you enter the main auditorium, you would hear the sounds of crickets and frogs like you would in the countryside.

 photo sympolicdance_zps113d7d85.jpgThe performance began with farmers waking up to perform their tasks in the rice paddies.

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The performance focused on the life in the countryside, like going to market, husking the rice, and tending the rice fields. photo _DT_5410_zps10972d45.jpgI was happy to sit beside James Pham who helped me understand some parts of the show.

 photo Spiritual_zpsd98c72ca.jpgI have to admit though that one part of the show confused me — the scene right after a big storm where the women danced as if possessed. Was it the storm they were interpreting? :P

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I mean in the Philippines, we name our typhoons using women’s name because as theysay, as a typhoon always changes directions and the wrath it inflicts , so do women. :P

 photo su31B0o31B0ngSo31B03010m4_zps9884b6f0.pngTwo performances stood out for me. The first was when the farmers began using native instruments to make music. The audience were able to join in using these —which according to my 6 year old were nunchuks. LOL. Hubby said that these are actually rice ladle joined together.

 photo 20140915_192109_zps6ed6e514.jpgMy second favorite performance was the love story portrayed in ballet.

 photo Love_zpsec57ebd4.jpgIt was a lovely, elegant performance! It was like watching a dramatic choreography by Sonya Tayeh of  So You Think You Can Dance. :)

 photo Ngo3230cAnhampTo30203010Nhu31B0TrongSu31B0o31B0ngSo31B03010m_zpsd3f4f478.jpgThe show ended with a rain of rice symbolizing abundance.

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The Mist will be shown again on September 18, October 15 and 16. The show starts at 8 pm and is approximately 60 minutes.

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You may book your tickets at Arabesque Vietnam or send an email to reservation@themist.com.vn.
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What is in the air?

Unlike in other countries where you can log on a website and get the pollution index, Vietnam doesn’t seem to have one — well at least none that is in English that I can search through Google. That’s why when Aron Szabo of IQ Air began posting about the quality of air in Ho Chi Minh City, I was really happy. Aron took it upon himself to post on days when pollution got really bad. When you got kids and when you have someone like me who has allergic rhinitis that doesn’t really go away, his updates are heaven sent. Here’s Aron and Aron’s wife, Rita’s take on air quality in Vietnam.

The air that we breathe has a great impact on our lives. We can survive for days without food and water, but only a few minutes without air. The quality of air that we breathe is also of essential importance for our well-being.

The less allergens, microorganisms and chemical pollutants we breathe, the smaller the chance of becoming ill.

Air pollution in Vietnam? Yes!

You may have already heard, that the air quality in Vietnam is among the worst world-wide. Although the awareness is not as high as in China, particle count in the bustling cities of HCMC and Hanoi can resemble to those in Beijing or Shanghai.

The fact is there are over 3.5 million asthma sufferers in Vietnam, which is a rather significant number of the total population.

There are a number of reasons for air pollution in Asia, among which the high number of manufacturing sites and the yet missing environmental regulations and awareness are three major factors.

Significant sources of air pollution in Vietnam:

    • Traffic pollution (millions of motorbikes)
    • Mold (indoors – formulates very easily in places of high humidity)
    • Burning trash (at the side of the road, even within residential areas)
    • Constructions (continuously all around)
    • VOCs (in any households photo traffic_hcmc_hs_zps68783b01.jpg

Air pollution can affect our health in many ways with both short-term and long-term effects. Different groups of people are affected by air pollution in different ways. Some individuals are much more sensitive to pollutants than others. Generally speaking, the most endangered groups by air pollutants are young children, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune system. The most common effects of air pollution are asthma, bronchitis, allergies, nausea, and eye, nose and throat irritation.

Did you know…?

Indoor air quality is often 3-5 times worse than outdoor. Since statistically we spend over 90% of our time indoors, indoor air quality significantly influences our general health. While we tend to pay a lot of attention to the quality of food we eat or to the purity of water we drink, we have only recently started to understand the significance of the one factor that is just as, if not more crucial – the quality of the air we breathe.

Clean air in Vietnam? It’s possible!

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What can I do to improve the air quality in my home?

IQAir tips:

  • Keep your rooms well-ventilated
  • Put plants into your home (best ones: aloe, bamboo palm, snake plant, etc…)
  • Do not smoke indoors
  • If outdoor air quality is ok, open your windows for half an hour (especially after cooking indoors)
  • Prevent mold formations
  • Reduce VOC emitting household products (more on this: http://www.air-purifier-vietnam.com/content/vocs-%E2%80%93-personal-experience-harmful-household-products)
  • Keep a healthy level of humidity (30-50% keeps allergens and mold spores under control)
  • Have your ACs cleaned frequently
  • Get rid of fitted carpets

For further information, interesting news and IQAir tips, please visit our website:  http://air-purifier-vietnam.com/

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