Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NY Times on Ho Chi Minh City

I just found out that the New York Times has a really great section on Ho Chi Minh City. It's a mix of interesting articles and practical travel information.

I've been living here for six weeks and I often ask the locals about this building or that piece of history. I'm often given conflicting information. For instance, I was told that the Ho Chi Minh City Museum was a retirement home! There also seemed to be some confusion about what happened to the former president of South Vietnam. I was told that he had escaped to England. According to the Times, Ngo Dinh Diem was executed in 1962. Maybe they were thinking of a different former president.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Organic Grocery Store in Sài Gòn

We found a great little organic grocery called Veggy's. It's at 15 Thai Van Lung in District 1. They don't take credit cards so bring your cash. My favorite part is the walk in refrigerator in the back. The clerks wear winter coats when working there. It's a great place to cool down after riding your motor bike to the store. They have bike parking right in front.

Veggy's, 15 Thai Van Lung, District 1

It turns out the NY Times has a bit to say about Veggy's as well.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Leave on a Jet Plane

0400 Wake up, take shower, shave. Finish packing.
0430 Get taxi to SGN
0445 Arrive SGN
0500 Made it through security and to first class lounge.

When I arrived this morning the new international terminal at SGN looked all shiny and clean. I stood in the first class line for United, which is pretty much the first counter inside the terminal. There were about 8 or so people in that line.

A United agent came up and asked me if I was in First Class. I said I was. They do this all the time in the states. They want to keep the riffraff out of the wrong lines. It turns out here they do it because the riffraff get in the line. He told me he would start another line for me. And took me to the next counter, which was empty. As he did this, a guy who was already in the line complained to him that he was also in first class. I'm guessing he wasn't asked since
he was Asian. It's typical in Vietnam to get special treatment if you're white. I'm not sure how long that will last. Probably not long. As the country gets more affluent and there are more Vietnamese who are also affluent they won't stand for the discrimination. It's a pretty good bet that you're well off if you're white and in Vietnam, at least relatively speaking.

The lounge was very nice, as you can see from the pictures. It's right next to the gate so you can hang out there until the last minute.

I splurged and upgraded using my frequent flyer miles. The first class cabin is nice. Each person gets a pod with storage cabinets and a chair that will go completely flat so you can really sleep.

The first leg of the trip is SGN to Hong Kong. It's morning so you get a nice breakfast. I chose the fruit plate over the Chinese congee. That's papaya and dragon fruit. The fruit was excellent.

The flight to Hong Kong was short and sweet. Next stop, the United lounge at the HK airport.

Maybe I was a little whacked out from lack of sleep, but I made this video of the restroom...

Schoolbus for One

This is how we get to school in Vietnam!

My Vietnamese language teacher calls my helmet a rice cooker (nồi nấu cơm). Most folks don't wear helmets in Vietnam. The thinking is that they cause accidents because they reduce your field of vision and impair your hearing. Given that most signaling is done with a horn and the top speed is 20 mph, there may be some truth to that.

BTW, the brand of bike is a SYM. I've never heard of them before but they seem to be pretty popular in Vietnam.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Texas BBQ in Saigon

I was missing American food last week and so we had lunch at Texas BBQ, a restaurant in District 3. I had a burrito, which was good but strange. You can't tell from the picture but it seemed like a spring roll with cheese and chicken inside.

One strange thing about this place is that they served the food almost instantly. Loan had a BBQ sandwich, which came out in about 60 seconds. My spring roll burrito was right behind. It had cold cheese inside. After I ate a few bites, the heat from the grilled chicken started to melt the cheese and it tasted much better.

I also found my first dark beer here in Vietnam. Not bad, but I still miss my Fat Tire beer.

I like this last picture for the juxtaposition of the iced coffee and the beer. It also has an interesting digital photo artifact at the bottom. Perhaps my RAZR was adversely effected by the heat and humidity. That would make two of us.

Texas BBQ - 206 Pasteur St, District 3, T: (08) 823 1459.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Must Eat Brains

I'm not sure whose brains these are, but they sure look yummy. We ran across these for sale at the Chợ Lớn market here in Saigon.

If brains aren't your thing, then maybe you would like some worms:

Of course you will want something to drink with your snack, so pick up some limes...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Saigon Saigon Bar

We took a tennis friend of ours to the Saigon Saigon Bar at the top of the Caravelle Hotel. It was National Day here in Vietnam, their version of Independence Day. On our way through the Caravelle hotel I couldn't resist taking a picture next to the Vietnamese flag on ice surrounded by shellfish. The bar is nice but very expensive by Vietnamese standards. The drinks are about $7 each. You know a place is expensive when they quote all the prices in dollars. I'm not sure where we're supposed to get dollars anyway. All of the ATM machines spit out Vietnamese Dong. The Saigon Saigon drink is very nice though, even at $7.