Gong Cha

Generally, I am not fond of milk teas but I’ve tried Gong Cha Matcha Red Bean Milk Tea and I was hooked.

Gong Cha is located in several locations in Vietnam and they don’t have a delivery service on their own but uses a 3rd party site, Delivery.vn and Foody.vn. So today, I tried ordering via Foody.vn — only to find out that Matcha wasn’t listed. I checked the menu, it was there but not listed in the tea that you can order.

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Since I was partly desperate (haha!), I sent a message to their FB site and asked why isn’t Matcha available for ordering. And they answered.

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Gong Cha contacted Foody.vn and 2 hours later, it was in the menu.

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Sometimes, Vietnam customer service surprises me.

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Exploring EOs: Homemade Lip Balms

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In my attempt to make the most out of my essential oils and after receiving my friend, Ging’s homemade lip balm, I thought to myself, I can make one too.

It was easier said than done because I am not sure how to find the materials. And before you find the materials, you have to know the Vietnamese names for those.

Fortunately, someone chanced upon my EOs post here — Vivian (Hi Vivian!) and sent me a link where I could get raw materials for skin care, Beauty Natural. So yay!

I purchased shea butter, beeswax, Jojoba Oil, coconut oil, grape seed oil, and lipbalm containers. It was easy navigating their site and having my order processed. I received my order the next day.

I set to work and made some Orange Peppermint Lip Balms. Have to work on the labeling though. The lip balms look toxic with the black labels. Haha.

More DIYs to come.

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Travel Mistakes when Traveling Locally in Vietnam

So Travel Oopsies asked me to share a travel mistake I’ve made and some of my pet peeves when traveling.

This got me thinking of other mistakes that I may have made traveling locally in Vietnam.

Not bringing our passports.

This is what I shared in Travel Oopsies when we visited Dalat via land travel and opted to stay in an Airbnb home. We didn’t bring our passports because… it was Airbnb? Haha.

When traveling in Vietnam, you need your to give your passports for registration with the local police. It kinda makes sense with hotels, but in an Airbnb? Well, the Airbnb owner has to do it for you.

How did we avert this? Well luckily, we brought our resident cards issued by the Vietnam government. Without em, I really don’t know what would have happened. So yeah, bring your passport.

Not checking the weather.

Stupid, right? Isn’t that the first thing you check when traveling? But yes, I didn’t. We were just new in Vietnam then and we decided to travel to Nha Trang on a September. I figured since Saigon was hot almost the entire year, Central Vietnam would be the same.

Hell, no. Nha Trang was unbelievably miserable during this time of the year. It was not fun lugging your toddler ducking from the rain. Plus, we experienced a major typhoon on the day of our flight back and yeah, our flight got canceled. We only had an option to take the evening train — which stopped after an hour because the freaking railroad was flooded. Yes, 22 hours on the train. Did I mention that we were running low on diapers then? Wee.

Not checking the amusement park schedule.

So last year, we went to Nha Trang again (You think we would have stopped after the awful first adventure, right? We’re masochists.) — thankfully on summer. 😛 We were 8 adults and 4 kids and we of course had to visit Vinpearl Land. We expected to try both the amusement and water parks so we brought extra clothes and whatever stuff we could bring for such a day. Then upon queuing to ride the cable cars to Vinpearl Land, we found out that the water park was closed for the entire summer due to renovations. Son of a gun, our stuff was all for naught. Argh. So maybe it wasn’t on the website – I am not sure…. So yeah, next time, I have to call em up to confirm. Le sigh.

Unaware of hospitals/medical services.

In one of our trips to Mui Ne, my youngest who was just a year old experienced high fever. He woke up the next day beside me with a 41 degree Celsius temperature.

Mui Ne is a coastal town — very provincial and I wasn’t really aware of medical services in this area. The night before the high fever happened, my son felt warm already so I took note of a clinic near where we had dinner, just in case.

Luckily, the place we were staying at was helpful and assured us that the clinic will be able to help us and called ahead to expect us. The doctor and nurses were actually quite efficient. Even our doctor in the city was amazed when I brought her my son’s medical record.

So now, every time we travel, aside from bringing our usual meds, I research on hospital or clinics nearby.

Not consulting the group regarding your itinerary.

So a few years back, we went to Hoi An which is a lovely, quaint, UNESCO World Heritage site. It was my favorite! Bbbbut… I didn’t ask my mother-in-law if she wanted to go. I just assumed. She was not too happy because of the heat and we had to do lots of walking. Hoi An is a place to be explored on foot or on a bicycle and I should have planned better when with senior citizens.

Traveling during the start of the holiday.

Do you know that Vietnam only has 8 official holidays? I mean yes, there’s a longer holiday during Tet much like a Christmas break but officially, there’s only 8. Christmas is not a holiday. So the Vietnamese take their holidays seriously.

On our first bus ride to Mui Ne, we left on the start of the holiday. According to press release it should take around 5.5 hours. It took us 7 hours because of the expressway traffic out of the city. I wouldn’t complain too much except that we had toddler with us.

Going to an amusement park on a public holiday

If it’s better not to travel outside during the start of a holiday, don’t go to an amusement park too on a public holiday! Back in 2010 when we were still new to Saigon, we visited Suoi Tien. Suoi Tien is one of the more popular amusement parks with a Buddhist-inspired theme. They have a humongous water park that I love BUT during a public holiday, it was gnarly. Not sure if we were swimming in water or pee with the number of people in the pool.

Not checking in online.

Because we’ve had bad experiences traveling on the start of a holiday, we decided to leave a day ahead. There may be likeminded people doing the same but not as much on the start of the holiday, right? NOT.

So last year during Labor Day weekend, we decided to go to Hanoi via VietJet. When we got to the airport, the airline overbooked and since we were not there yet when the counters started accepting passengers, we were bumped off! We had to leave on a later flight (READ: Midnight) with a 7 and 3 year old. No fun.

Next time, we have to check-in online.

How about you? Have you made any travel mistake while exploring Vietnam? Misery loves company. 😛

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Exploring EOs

I didn’t realize that there already is an expat community who is into essential oils in Vietnam. I heard Mandala Wellness hosts sessions. And since I had the most difficult time getting my oils from the US, I really better make the most of it.

Below are just some of my favorites — all natural balms that help in that itch, bump, and wound among others. They’re all oil-based and that got me interested.

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I wanted to make rollers for the oil blends and wouldn’t you know it, I couldn’t find a local supplier because well, I didn’t know the Vietnamese word for it. But they had in Lazada luckily. But a month after I ordered, I still haven’t received the rollers. After letting Lazada know, they told me the shipment is lost. If I hadn’t followed up, I wouldn’t have known! I better get my refund soon!

Prior to this, I came across the Vietnamese term for rollers — chai bi lăn thủy tinh. I did try contacting some local suppliers after but it was only last weekend that a supplier finally delivered. Just one day after negotiating, the bottles were delivered.

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A friend has been complaining of some discomfort when she stands and walks for long periods of time so I made her a blend of Copaiba, Panaway, and Peppermint aka Triple Threat to hopefully ease the ache. This one worked for me so I hope it works for her too.

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Now that I have my rollers with me, am off to make some blends for the family.

Do you use essential oils? Are you in Saigon? Would love some leads where to get carrier oils like Sunflower, Jojoba, Rosehip, and Fractionated Coconut Oil. Leave me a message!

To order bottles, try my supplier at 0947990991. I tried 7! This one delivered!

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Marawi Refugees Need Your Help

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Last week was not a good week for my home country, the Philippines. Rebels hostaged the town of Marawi, a town in Lanao del Norte, Mindanao (south of Philippines) and honestly, I don’t understand the news anymore. But what I know we can do is help the refugees that fled Marawi.

My breastfeeding group, Breastfeeding Pinays are coordinating with Modern Nanays of Mindanao to help reach out to the refugee families. Please, I ask that you open your hearts to them — especially the children in this most difficult time.

Below is what will be included in the care packs to be distributed. You can do your part by

  • If you’re abroad, you can donate by sending cash donations to their GoFundMe site
  • If you’re in the Philippines, you can also send cash donations to:
    • Cash donations
      BPI Savings 2059 2061 79 Tracy Kaye Salagantin
      BDO 000870 452 940 Windy Park
  • Send donations in kind to:
    • Modern Nanays of Mindanao
      c/o Ivy Yrika Frantz Merilles
      362 Apovel Subdivision, Bulua,Cagayan de Oro City
      Call 0917-7069040

Thank you very much and God bless you.


Moms Wrap Care Packs in Malong for Those Affected in Marawi Siege
We laud this group of moms from Mindanao for using the malong that can serve as blanket, baby carrier, among other uses.
by Rachel Perez 

Filipinos are no stranger to national crisis. We have rallied to help those in need whenever there’s a storm that ravages a town or city. We can do it again for our brothers and sisters in the South. Since the Marawi crisis started, there are already 1,432 families or 7,439 persons who have fled from Marawi City as a result of the ongoing clash. About 691 families or 3,688 persons are housed in evacuation centers.

So how else can you help our sisters in the South? Send cash donations to Modern Nanays of Mindanao (MNM), a group of mothers who advocate breastfeeding, babywearing, and cloth diapering. It currently has more than 6,000 members, composed of moms, pediatricians, obstetricians, and family advocates who support their principles

More from Smart Parenting

The Importance of Breastfeeding During Emergencies
MNM has been asking for donations for the 120 and 250 females in Buru-un and Ma. Cristina evacuation centers, respectively along, with 160 and 400 children who are seeking for relief operations. The group has responded with Malong Care Packs, which contains essentials that are specifically for moms with children below 2 years old.

Each Malong Care Pack consists of:

5 water bottles
5 easy-to-open canned goods
1 dozen shampoo sachet
3 pieces of soap
18 pieces of diapers
2 packs of sanitary pads
1 face towel
2 toothbrushes
6 toothpaste sachets
1 pack baby wipes
1 bottle of isopropyl alcohol
Baby clothes

We laud the group for wrapping these essentials in a “malong,” a Maranao garb, which the mother can use as a turban, dress, blanket, sunshade, bed sheet, dressing room, hammock, prayer mat, baby carrier and many others. Look:

As of May 31, the group has already sent their first batch of 306 Malong Care Packs.

Pediatrician Dr. Francesca “Zeka” To, a breastfeeding advocate and co-founder of non-profit group L.A.T.C.H. (Lactation, Attachment, Training, Counseling, Help), stressed in an article in Smart Parenting that breastfeeding is essential during emergencies. Evacuation centers are often crowded and have very limited water supply, and the risk of contaminated water to mix formula or wash bottles leads to diarrhea, infections, other illneses, and even death.

That’s why today, June 1, MNM set up a mom-and-child-friendly spaces with a community kitchen in evacuation centers in Iligan City. These spaces aim to help and encourage moms to breastfeed and be a place where young children can eat healthy foods that do not quickly spoil such as kamote, kalabasa, corn, monggo beans.

MNM are still open to welcome volunteers and receive donations whether in kind or in cash:

Cash donations
BPI Savings 2059 2061 79 Tracy Kaye Salagantin
BDO 000870 452 940 Windy Park

Or you may ship the items to:
Modern Nanays of Mindanao
c/o Ivy Yrika Frantz Merilles
362 Apovel Subdivision, Bulua,Cagayan de Oro City
Call 0917-7069040

Visit Modern Nanays of Mindanao on Facebook for more information.

http://www.smartparenting.com.ph/life/news/moms-and-babies-in-mindanao-need-your-help-a00041-20170601

Please help spread the word!

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Globetrotter: 3 Ways to Get Most Out of Your Saigon Trip

As a globetrotter or traveler or a vacation addict, you only have a limited amount of time to explore and discover a new city. As an 8-year resident of Saigon who still feels very much a tourist in her adopted country, I came across two articles that may help you (and me) how to get the most out of your short visit to a new city.

In an article by Verona von Pfetten, a Conde Nast contributing writer, “Six Ways to Get the Most Out of Every Vacation”, she advised that the best way to get most of the experience is to “embrace life as a local”. This means putting yourself out there by taking a chance (within reason) to maybe ditch expensive hotels for local accommodation through Airbnb or homestays and getting in touch with locals that can give you a better insight to the city you’re in. It also meant putting on your “local hat” and do as the locals do by say, grocery shopping to give you a “real sense of local flavor”, as well as really diving into local dishes by repeating restaurants. Overall, Pfetten suggests that trying to be more social and saying yes often will lead you to memorable experiences.

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In another article by guidebook author and travel TV host, Rick Steves, “Making the Most of Your Trip”, he outlined some great tips as well — for a European audience where we can also get valuable information. He explained that while there are no perfect trips, you can plan ahead to avoid screw ups and if ever you encounter a hurdle, “tackle the issue creatively” and “don’t let one unpleasant interaction ruin a travel day”. Having a good attitude by shooing away pre-trip anxiety and being sociable will pave the way for “meaningful connections” to locals and new experience. One must not be afraid to “butcher the language” when you need to ask questions and to “perceive friendliness and you’ll find it.”

Drawing on these two articles and my experience in living in Saigon, I have listed 3 tips to get the best experience when visiting Saigon.

  • Contact a local – While yes, you want to visit famous spots in Saigon, contacting a local who can share with you his view as a resident can be more enriching. There’s this wonderful site, withlocals.com where you can get in touch with a local and customize a tour just for you in case you don’t know anyone in Saigon.
  • Ride the bike – You cannot get more local than by riding a motorbike or a bicycle in Saigon. Hopping on and off while immersing yourself in the frenzy of Saigon traffic is the best way to tour in the city and get that local vibe.
  • Say yes – Ride the bike, yes; Eat hot vit lon (hard-boiled duck egg), yes; Drink a strong ca phe sua da, yes. Just be open to local experience and saying yes often will lead you to exciting and new experiences.

These 3 tips paired with a positive attitude will surely make your trip to Saigon an unforgettable one.

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Ava’s Closet is back!

Ava’s Closet is back and has now found a home at The Snap Cafe in Thao Dien.

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They have chic ready-to-wear dresses and shirts. And if you don’t find anything you like, Ava’s Closet can sew one for you — just choose from their collection of fabric. They also do home and office service if you’re too busy to drop by the shop.

Check out their Facebook page or IG for updates.

Ava’s Closet
32 Tran Ngoc Dien
Thao Dien, District 2
Ho Chi Minh City

Posted in Exploring Saigon | 1 Comment