Pasalubong is a Filipino term which means “gift” – specifically for someone you’re coming home to. When I was younger, my dad or mom would always have something for me and my siblings when they get home from work.

My friend visiting this weekend is coming with lots of pasalubong for me and I can’t wait! As a thank you, am sending her a care package of my favorites here.

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I usually put em all in a Vietnam-designed eco-bag.

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Then it’s filled with some Vietnam goodies. There’s Con Soc Coffee with coffee filter, Amero’s Cappuccino-coated peanuts, Banh Sua which tastes like pastillas, and of course Jackfruit chips.

I’d be happy to hear suggestions on what else to add — specially those who visited Vietnam and misses stuff from here. Should I add in a banh mi?

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Notre Dame Cathedral Renovations

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Last week, I saw a group of workers putting this up around the Notre Dame Cathedral. Today, I saw that they’re done with the Cong Xa Paris side.

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Definitely an eyesore. And it wasn’t until I talked to chi looking after the entrance on Mondays that it became clear that the cathedral will be closed to tourists for its much needed renovation.

While I was there, an engineer was doing reconnaissance work.

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Chi was turning away tourists and the tourists were all incredulous when they hear chi explain that the church will be closed till 2020. Well, that’s what she said to me. She said like May 2020. But this article says it will be till 2019. Still a long wait.

But parishioners are still allowed to enter for the daily masses and the Sunday masses. They still allowed those who came in to pray. But if you’re a tourist (read: looks like a tourist), they will not let you in. You can still have photos taken from the outside.

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Saigon River Morning Cruise

Last Sunday, we celebrated the 1st day of our 9th year here in Saigon. What started out as a 3-year assignment became much more than we ever dreamed of.

So bright and early on Sunday, we headed to Tan Cang Restaurant in Binh Thanh District which is the starting point of most boat tours here in Saigon. The Saigon Boat Company was taking our family for a Breakfast Cruise.

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In our 8 years in Saigon, we haven’t done the river cruise. It was something that we’ve been meaning to do for the longest time and so finally, we did.

At 8 am, the boat arrived on the docks, with our crew, Ngan, Mia, and Captain Bau.

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Am one of those people who gets a bit seasick — especially on small boats, so I’ve been stressing over whether going boating was such a good idea.

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See me smile? Yup, that smile stayed on for the rest of our trip. The boat that Saigon Boat Company uses is well-maintained, stable, and of course equipped with life vests. The Saigon River is calm and can be easily navigated. The tour sailed smoothly except for that one time when a speed boat passed by and made big waves.
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The boat is spacious and can hold up to 27 people. We could actually lie down and get some shut eye if we wanted to because it’s that big. It’s also equipped with a toilet if you’re curious.

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My boys felt right at home on the boat and can I rave about the breakfast? I loved the breakfast spread of boiled eggs, pancakes, banh mi, banh cuon, yogurt, and fresh fruits. We were also served fresh orange juice and milk. My eldest kept coming back for the milk and I kept coming back for the fresh orange juice.

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I was worried that my 5 year old wouldn’t have anything to eat on board. But after seeing the pancakes, I knew we’d have no problem on this trip. My eldest loves eggs as well so he was happy. The banh mi served is one of the best tasting banh mis I’ve ever tasted so far in Saigon and the banh cuon? That’s one of my favorites!

Seeing the food photos make me wish that we’re back onboard. I wish I could have stuffed myself more!

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While my husband and I were stuffing ourselves, Sam was learning how to steer the boat and my youngest was lazing around. He was that comfortable on the boat.

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Ngan gave us a short lecture on the geography of Saigon and where we were headed. As it turned out, we were going round Thanh Da Island — which is still very much part of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a rural island right smack in the middle of HCMC. Tourism is alive in Thanh Da and it’s actually where tourist attractions like Binh Quoi is located.

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Lots of residents from Thanh Da worked at the mainland and they usually travel by ferry so they could bring their motorbikes with them. However, the ferry closes at 6pm. So when they get stuck in the mainland, they have to go around the island to get to the bridge.

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Saigon River is really bustling with life as boats go up and down to ship cargos, construction materials, and other products.

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We just had an amazing time watching the boats pass by and seeing the structures on either side. The weather was perfect and I was mentally patting myself on the back for choosing the breakfast tour.

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One of the reasons why we were not really that interested in doing river cruises is because we were not so sure about the water of the river. But now that we’ve done so, I am actually pretty amazed how “clean” the river is and that it doesn’t smell.

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We’ve actually seen lots of folks fishing beside the river. In fact, there are a lot of restaurants along District 2 that opens up right beside the river. The only problem would be the water lilies (which actually get caught in the boat’s motor every now and then), but otherwise, the Saigon River is such a pleasure to cruise on.

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I can honestly say that I’d recommend Saigon River Cruise to tourists visiting Saigon. And am actually going to convince friends living in Saigon to take a trip too!

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Our trip ended at Mong Bridge just between District 1 and District 4. We got off on the District 4 side.

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I have to say that this trio, Mia, Ngan, and Bau, were just the perfect team for our trip.

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The Breakfast Tour is just one among the many tours offered by the Saigon Boat Company. They also do private charters — best for parties! Ngan shared that they’ve had 2 wedding proposals done on the boat! So romantic!

Do check out their website for more information.

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The Ultimate Architectural Brilliance in Saigon

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by Jason Mueller, Guest Post

Saigon is a beautiful conglomeration of different architectural styles and it’s a great place to witness some truly awe-inspiring buildings that still stand today. Some of the designs are not only worthy of the most popular landmark buildings in Saigon, but would also be lovely if used in home designs worldwide to bring a little of Saigon to other locations globally.

If you are considering incorporating those beautiful architectural designs from Saigon into your own home, be sure to consult with a licensed contractor to get the results you want for your home. Below are some of the most impressive places to visit during your travels throughout Vietnam that will inspire you and maybe give you some ideas for your own house.

Ho Chi Minh City Opera House
 photo theult1_zpsfeslzdnd.pngThe Ho Chi Minh City Opera House is a massive building and an excellent example of French architecture in Vietnam. Today it’s used for opera performances, concerts and a variety of other entertainment purposes. It’s worth the visit just to look at and revel in the beautiful features of the building, but there’s a lot going on within it as well.

Vietnam Quoc Tu Pagoda

 photo theult2_zpsbsofhpgt.pngThis building is one of the largest Buddhist temple in all of Vietnam and stretches seven stories into the sky. It’s not the height of the building that’s impressive though, it’s the attention to detail and unique appearance of it. It was constructed back in 1960’s and houses a beautiful Buddha statue today while serving as an attraction in the area and a place for Buddhists to visit.

Saigon Central Post Office

 photo theult3_zpspv2zk2ra.pngThis large central post office is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture in Vietnam, and it was designed by a famous French architect. It shows off a massive picture of Ho Chi Minh, along with a set of French colonial maps of the area. The building is still used for post purposes and there are several counters available inside where workers can help you send out your packages.

Thu Thiem Tunnel

 photo theult4_zps0suxqb8n.pngThe Thu Thiem tunnel is an architectural marvel that’s exciting to look at. It’s an underwater tunnel that runs right through the Saigon River. It was constructed in 2011 to connect Ho Chi Minh City with the Thu Thiem New Urban Area, making a more convenient path to follow for travelers looking to go from one section of the city to the other. This bridge is sturdy in construction and attractive to look at.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Building

 photo theult5_zpslvy4jmed.pngThis building was originally known as the Hotel de Ville and was built in 1908. It’s a good example of French Colonial architecture and still stands today, though you won’t be able to get a look at the inside since it’s considered to be an official government building today.


Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica

 photo theult6_zpsxzusuxxt.pngThis breathtaking building is located right within Paris Square in HCM city. It’s a beautiful cathedral and was originally established by French colonists. This building is a good example of neo-Romanesque architecture and it’s composed of red bricks imported from Marseilles and colored glass that was constructed in the Chartres Province within France.

It’s clear that the French had a profound effect on Vietnam and Saigon specifically, and many of the leading buildings in the city demonstrate some type of French architecture. It’s the type of architecture that takes your breath away, but you could incorporate many of the elements found in Saigon right in your home as well.

About the Author
Jason Mueller loves travel the world and meet new people. He has a fascination with construction and architecture.

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Essential Oil Chronicles

I don’t want to flood Hello Saigon with oily posts as I feel this should be an entirely different topic. Maybe from time to time, I’d do some cross posting. Since I am still a newbie in exploring this wonderful world of essential oils, am not sure you’d get a lot of useful information from it but should you be interested, do head on to my small project, Oilbularyo.

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Oilbularyo is a play of words between oil and albularyoAlbularyo is a Tagalog/Filipino term for a witch doctor, folk healer or medicine men. The husband said that it has a negative connotation but hey, am just having fun here. And it isn’t even original. This term is fast becoming popular in its hashtag form. Just go to IG and check it out. photo Screenshot_20170626-122932_zpsioaziome.png
See you on the other side.

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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, and So today, I tried ordering via — 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 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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