Got cheese?

I love cheese.  Too bad that my present situation limits my cheese consumption. Ugh.

I know I have been under the radar for the past two months only resurface to talk about cheese. Haha.

Well, I guess that’s how it is. What you can’t have, you must covet and rant about.

Sooooo… for some reason, cheese tarts have been all the rage for first half of the year. My friend who went to my home country for a vacation came back bearing gifts of Lava Cheese Tarts.

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Sooooo… I didn’t love it but maybe it was because the freshness wasn’t what I hoped for since it had to travel for over a hundred miles over sea before it reached my mouth. 😛

So I looked around HCMC and found that there were 3 popular shops selling cheese tarts. There’s Hokkaido (who always turn down my request for delivery), Whip (which was nearest my home and actually tasted good especially with the salted egg! YUM! Oh and yeah, they deliver), and there’s BAKE! Oh my BAKE I love!

How could you possibly turn away from this golden yummy goodness?

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Been reading a lot about Bake and I visited them last Tet.

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Been craving for this for weeks. Haven’t been back to their shop. Somebody send me some!

Posted in Gastronomic Delights | 1 Comment

Get Lost in Saigon

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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.

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.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 😛

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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?

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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.

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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.  😉


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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!

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