Get Lost in Saigon

 photo peter-nguyen-594832-unsplash 1_zpsabxqbcpi.jpgPhoto by Peter Nguyen on Unsplash

So this morning as the car I was on passed by the Tourist Information Center by the river, I thought to myself what it would be like to work in that center. How much information should they know and would they always have the answers. And I wondered if I was asked what’s the best place to visit in Ho Chi Minh City, what would be my answer?

I realized that I’d still recommend the usual tourist spots in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. The thing is that historical sites are within the CBD wherein you can experience being around the locals as they vroom and zoom in the city going about their business. So much local color around and Saigon is best seen on foot or a motorbike.

After drinking in the tourist sites while downing ca phe sua da, I’d recommend just wandering around the roads and hems (alleys). There is so much life along the alleys and each alley has its own theme. I remember ducking into an alley along Mac Thi Buoi and boy, I was amidst rows of boutiques selling quality local goods. It was a dream. But do watch out for alleys that seem to be never ending. I got lost in one and I really had to ask a local for help to get out of the labyrinth.

Having lived in HCMC for the past 8 years, I have been lucky to have met trustworthy locals. There was one time when I was still writing for Word Magazine and I had to interview installation artist, Hoang Duong Cam in his studio. It was back in 2011. I remember being pregnant with my second son and I was dropped off by a taxi in an apartment complex. I don’t remember where. My husband was like, “Are you sure you’re going to go? You don’t know these people. What if you get locked up in the studio or something?”  The joy of ignorance and stupidity I guess. Off I went and I had a memorable time. https://hello-saigon.com/2011/09/17/meeting-hoang-duong-cam/

Another interesting interview was with Anh Tuan. He makes replicas of famous paintings. He doesn’t speak a whole lot of English so I had request my officemate to go with me to help translate. My mom was visiting from the Philippines then as well and so she was also with during the interview. We were sitting on those small plastic chairs on the sidewalk in front of Anh Tuan’s shop. Those were real good times.

So what am I saying? If you’re going to see HCMC, just get lost in the city, talk to a lot of locals, and know your embassy’s number just in case. Haha.

Advertisements
Posted in Exploring Saigon | 2 Comments

Chúc mừng năm mới!

While our neighborhood was practically a ghost town on Tet Eve, people were flocking to District 1 to visit the Flower Street along Nguyen Hue and wait for the fireworks display.

Last year, there were no fireworks display so people were more excited this time around. The traffic was so bad on Tet Eve and 3 hours before the fireworks, motorbikes started parking along Nguyen Hue and Ham Nghi to get a good viewing spot.

Here are some shots of Flower Street.  May the year of the dog be a prosperous one!

 photo 20180215_070354_zpspuyoqyvr.jpg

 photo 20180215_150320_zpsa1zb1rzg.jpg

 photo 20180215_150122_zpsw3qdif0b.jpg

 photo 20180215_150038_zpsfeth8wls.jpg

 photo 20180215_145914_zpsuld8qge9.jpg

 photo 20180215_074808_zpswwdg73ar.jpg

 photo 20180215_074039_zpso3yl9ai0.jpg

 photo 20180215_073604_zpstnkmam6j.jpg

 photo 20180215_073506_zpsda9v2qu0.jpg

 photo 20180215_073433_zps4y6avwgl.jpg

 photo 20180215_073338_zpsua0puka6.jpg

 photo 20180215_073322_zpsw7cuoez2.jpg

 photo 20180215_073215_zpsf0kdvow1.jpg

 photo 20180215_073201_zpspaeipwof.jpg

 photo 20180215_072815_zpswklshhgk.jpg

 photo 20180215_072802_zpsbjgk8ue6.jpg

 photo 20180215_072744_zpszo22uiur.jpg

 photo 20180215_072656_zpsukd9ykon.jpg

 photo 20180215_0726430_zpskg4xfxzh.jpg

 photo 20180215_072613_zpsevut7qd2.jpg

 photo 20180215_072512_zpslnygh0ea.jpg

 photo 20180215_072450_zpsaq2ul3ea.jpg

 photo 20180215_072323_zpsdnmtafv5.jpg

 photo 20180215_072249_zpsocrx26ob.jpg

 photo 20180215_072143_zps8qk9uoyw.jpg

 photo 20180215_072058_zpspshcmmgz.jpg

 photo 20180215_072015_zpsha9pufpi.jpg

 photo 20180215_072003_zps8m4ins3y.jpg

 photo 20180215_071901_zpskpwvbhe3.jpg

 photo 20180215_071746_zps58hyk28p.jpg

 photo 20180215_071723_zpshqte7ww9.jpg

 photo 20180215_071525_zpskieq1vvz.jpg

 photo 20180215_071434_zpsujoqdzll.jpg

 photo 20180215_071422_zpslsjdvtb0.jpg

 photo 20180215_071355_zpshfmmea4j.jpg

 photo 20180215_071315_zps1zwqbxim.jpg

 photo 20180215_071230_zpsatlvlyvt.jpg

 photo 20180215_071102_zpsjqgr5nmj.jpg

 photo 20180215_071042_zpssp14i1ex.jpg

 photo 20180215_070841_zpsgghapvsw.jpg

 photo 20180215_070654_zpswuahzgag.jpg

 photo 20180215_070716_zpsbohdfdez.jpg

 photo 20180215_070639_zps18ktm7pd.jpg

 photo 20180215_070609_zpskqopr601.jpg

 photo 20180215_070532_zps9fcpp5sh.jpg

 photo 20180215_070516_zpsmndqodmz.jpg

Posted in Event, Exploring Saigon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Vietnam’s thrilling and informative motorbike tours

Vietnam’s rich ancient history, as well as its beautiful landscape and local culture draw individuals year after year to visit this picturesque country. Whether you are an avid thrill seeker, or just looking to glean a more intimate understanding of the country, the best way to check out Vietnam is by motorbike. The Vietnam motorbike tours and itineraries available from Tigit Motorbikes and XO Tours offer an exciting variety in speed and difficulty level that make it possible for anyone and everyone to enjoy the exciting opportunity to truly explore Vietnam’s various towns and landscapes.

 photo royal-grandeur_zpsrwxy5gaa.jpg

Guided, Passenger Tours

The variety of itineraries in Vietnam motorbike tours spans from passenger tours to off-roading. With XO’s passenger tour, visitors have the opportunity to ride on the back of a local’s bike.

This is a wonderful chance to hear about the intricacies of the area directly from someone who lives and works or studies there. As a passenger, you also can have your eye line open to be able to look around at the sights of the town, without having to focus on learning to ride safely.

The tour explores the remote areas of Cam Kim Island, stopping at local markets and getting in all the good sights of the breath-taking countryside. This tour offers a great combination of beautiful sights, thrilling adventure, and local culture. The passenger tours are often available as part of the groups tours, but they can be easily converted to a private tour for a small extra charge.

 photo PA01_26_zpsvbnyc0eu.jpg

Fully-Guided Off-Road Tours

For those looking for a little more thrill and adventure, Tigit Motorbikes offers an off-road Vietnam motorbike tour. Individuals are able to ride their own Honda Xr 150 and explore the expansive and beautiful countryside. This gives more experienced or more daring individuals the chance to really lean into those twists and turns and to get their heart pumping while they get to know the beautiful sights of Vietnam.

These tours are also fully guided, so riders can explore without fear of getting lost. Tigit Motorbikes has several scheduled tours readily available for booking such as the “Ho Chi Minh Loop” which is described as “Easy/Medium” difficulty, or the “Cat Tien Off-Roader” which is labeled as “Medium/Hard.” These labels are helpful to tourists and ensure that you are able to book the experience that is best for you.

 photo cat-tien_zpswsp3bzc8.jpg

Why Take Advantage of Vietnam Motorbike Tours?

Tourists visit Vietnam in order to better experience the historical towns and expansive countryside. Tigit Motorbikes and XO Tours know this, and they tailor their itineraries to meet these needs and make sure that individuals visiting the country are able to get the fullest, most exciting and most informative experience of the local culture, ancient history, and untouched natural landscapes.

 photo moto-tours_zps66ki0qjn.jpg
It is incredibly simple to book online through their respective websites, which offer detailed itineraries and pricing information. With local guides giving you intimate details of what it is really like to live in some of Vietnam’s picturesque old towns or taking you through the ups and downs of the countryside they grew up in, individuals visiting Vietnam are sure to see a side of the country they would not have otherwise seen.

 photo contr-tour_zpsfx8osdlp.jpg

By Helen O’Connor
Motorbike enthusiast, traveler to more than 25 countries

Posted in Exploring Saigon, Getting Around, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jane’s Bistro: a gem of a restaurant

I am not big on MY birthdays and I dislike doing preps for a celebration unless it’s for my boys. Since my birthday fell on a mid-week and didn’t want to inconvenience my closest friends on the venue. We just had a lunch get together at the Atrium Café of the Lotte Legend Hotel which was by the way, YUM.

I would like to personally apologize to everyone that when gorging delicious food, adjectives fail me. So yes, YUM.

In the evening, we met up with my extended family, Soki and Ryan’s at Jane’s Bistro.

 photo 20180117_201856_zpsfzpanqch.jpg

JANE’S BISTRO. It’s been operating in Phu My Hung for the last 3 years and I must admit, I have always been curious about this tiny restaurant whenever I walk by it. After a quick exchange of SMS with the owners at 10 pm the day before my birthday (I heard they only accept reservations), we were all set. When we came at our scheduled time, all was set and they even prepared a baby chair for Soki’s wee one.

 photo 20180117_183242_zpsyfb5fycf.jpg

Jane’s Bistro is run by couple, Jane and Chef Michael from Oregon. Chef Michael used to work at the Marriott Hotel.

They only make use of organic ingredients and undoubtedly take pride in their dishes. We ordered 6 mains, and 1 salad, because you know, Asians. 😛

 photo 20180117_190506_zpsw46jkckb.jpg

We ordered the salmon salad. Yup, hidden under the fresh greens were the absolutely delicious salmon. We really should have ordered more but we had 5 mains so we were pacing ourselves.

 photo IMG-5549e15b26e6fe400c3abbf91a538868-V_zpszuxulycu.jpg

We ordered 3 sets of pasta. Carbonara was one of them. There’s a special pasta dish too which am so sorry I forgot it was called. The third one was for the kids so it was not spicy and the kids devoured everything quickly.

 photo 20180117_191808_zpswxz6f0dn.jpg

Now this succulent dish above was mouthwatering and literally melts in your mouth.

 photo IMG-beffadeeb6495ca9f9fdeee4c003f2ff-V_zpsedcgou8h.jpg

Duck on quinoa. Crispy and savory. One of my favorites!

 photo 20180117_190449_zpspsdwaoc8.jpg

The highlight for me was the bone marrow steak — only because I have been wanting to taste one for the longest time. This is quite popular in Manila and I haven’t seen this in Saigon. So I was excited to see this on the menu. Verdict? Good for sharing but even better if you can have one solely for yourself. Hahahaha! It was sooooo good!

Apart from the food, the staff was attentive to all our needs and since we were on the second floor, they made sure there was always one waitstaff near us. And I must say, Jane was very hands on and her personality filled up the room. She reminds me so much of my favorite character in Jugglers, Jung Young-Joo. Chef Michael also visited our table and thanked us while we really should thank him. Am still dreaming of that bone marrow and duck. We really should go back.

Do visit Jane’s Bistro at 19 Hung Gia 4, Phy My Hung, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. For reservations, call them at +84 90 909 65 05. You will not be disappointed!

Posted in Gastronomic Delights, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Shoutout to Simrans!

They say — “Life begins at…” WHATEVER.

Well I thought to myself, it’s better to enjoy my birthday with this unicorn-themed cake now than when I hit 60. What do I know? Is anybody really too old for unicorns and sparkles? HAH. Who cares?

 photo 20180117_184818_zpsfq6nu579.jpg

BIG BIG SHOUTOUT to Simrans for this gorgeous cake. The little girl in tutu inside of me was doing pirouettes — giddy with this delicious chocolate cake.

 photo 20180117_185100_zpsniylkhck.jpg

It was so easy to talk to Simrans (all done through Facebook Messenger) and get everything ironed out before delivery. THANK YOU, SIMRANS!

I do have to thank my financier though, my husband, who didn’t say no to anything I wished for on this birthday.  😉

 

Posted in Exploring Saigon, Gastronomic Delights | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Vietnam wins over Qatar at AFC U-23 Championship

It was just your typical Tuesday afternoon at the office — everyone was busy working on deadlines — when a colleague on my left suddenly clapped loudly! Vietnam just made a goal, tying the match with Qatar to 1-1 in the AFC U-23 Championship.

That was the end of the work day for everyone. Nobody could hardly work. Those who were secretly watching the match came out in the open and throughout the office you’d hear shouts, claps, and gasps.

When I looked out into the street, the traffic was light — close to nil. And by 5:30 PM, people started pouring into the streets, flags waving, convening in popular spots making noise and just joining in the revelry as Vietnam won over Qatar via penalty.

I really thought I wouldn’t reach home that night. The police closed down Nguyen Hue St. and  Ham Nghi was filled with motorists using the entire area as parking space. Since I was stuck in traffic for 2 hours, all I could do was take photos. It was an amazing night and I absolutely didn’t mind getting home late as it was such a joy watching the locals and tourists celebrating the win.

Congratulations Vietnam! Can’t wait for Saturday to see the match with Uzbekistan!

 photo 20180123_192746_zpsmnf8gymg.jpgAlong Le Duan St.

 photo 20180123_194506_zpsufmzi2kp.jpg

 photo 20180123_194556_zpsje7jjple.jpg

 photo 20180123_194617_zpsk5mcrgmq.jpg

 photo 20180123_195233_zpsmyzspgpl.jpg

 photo 20180123_195240_zpsaxxx7mg7.jpg

 photo 20180123_195519_zpshbvvlbhj.jpg

 photo 20180123_200511_zpswhxuembc.jpg

 photo 20180123_200947_zpszxfstblu.jpg

 photo 20180123_202413_zpswnza5evd.jpg

 photo 20180123_202602_zpsxforzbpg.jpg

 photo 20180123_202634_zpsgu51wbkm.jpg

Posted in Event, Exploring Saigon | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Smashing Day

Because it’s the start of the year, I make a long list of resolutions — at least in my mind. To make things simple and doable, I just promised myself I’d like to get back to some sport activities.

Today, my husband dragged me to badminton. Badminton was the farthest thing on my mind as I wanted to go biking. So anyway after frantically looking for our rackets (Ummm…yup, it’s been a while), we headed to the courts. It was a good day to smash something.

There’s not a whole lot of options for badminton courts in our area, so was pretty surprised a new one opened. And this one is so darn hard to find.

 photo 20180106_115158_zpssdlyuss2.jpg

Had we not joined our group to get here, we would have some trouble finding the place.

 photo 20180106_114858_zpsqknf8f5v.jpg

The place has 10 courts and is open from Tuesday till Sunday from 8 am till 4 pm.

 photo 20180106_092311_zpsq25bsyqk.jpg

We arrived past 9 am and half the place was filled. Good thing the place wasn’t filled up because it was quite warm.  I can’t imagine how it would be during summer months.

 photo 20180106_093437_zpsbejbkdvr.jpg

The clincher? Players can only wear gum sole shoes. So we ended with:

 photo FB_IMG_1515222006303_zpsoy4pgb46.jpg

Yup, gum sole shoes being sold conveniently at the courts as well. 😛 For 160,000 VND (~8 USD), the fit wasn’t too bad.

Court rent is at 70,000 VND per hour.

 photo 20180106_114830_zpspvdmiiqg.jpg

Looking forward to next week! Fingers and toes crossed.

CLB Cau Long T793
Hẻm 793 Trần Xuân Soạn, Tân Hưng, Quận 7, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
+84 91 841 06 09

Posted in Exploring Saigon | Tagged | Leave a comment