Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Open Coffee Saigon

When I was visiting the Bay Area last month my friend Jeff Clavier suggested that I try starting an Open Coffee meeting here in Saigon. So now is the time.

Open Coffee is simply an open meeting for internet people. According to the main site, it's a Place for people who love startups to hangout and meet. As an internet entrepreneur, I'm interested in meeting other internet entrepreneurs or folks who are just interested in startups.


Highlands Cafe, Saigon Centre
10am November 8th, 2007

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rainy Week in Dalat

We just got back from five days in Dalat. We stayed at the Evason Ana Mandara Villas & Spa. The Ana Mandara Villas are great. The rooms are in renovated, circa 1920, French villas. Each villa has a butler who takes care of you while you're there. This is a nice touch. Our villa had four large suites, three of which we rented. There is a common area with kitchen, dining room, and sitting room. The suites have very comfortable beds, fireplaces, satellite TV, DVD players, and large bathrooms with big tubs. One reason to go to Dalat is to get away from the noise and pollution of the city. These villas are a great place to relax. Since it's on the outskirts of Dalat, it's very quiet. The rooms have blackout shades so you can sleep as late as you like.

The restaurant, Villa 9, is amazing. Breakfast is included with your stay and it's not to be missed. This is the best coffee and croissants I've had in Vietnam. They kick it off with a plate of fresh fruit. Dalat is known for its fruit and the staff at Villa 9 take advantage of this bounty in creating this fruit plate. Besides the pastries and coffee, you have a wide selection including Vietnamese Phỏ as well as western style breakfast fare. Don't forget to try the restaurant for dinner either. The Aussie beef filet mignon is very good.

On Saturday we tried out the Six Senses Spa and were very pleased. The Vietnamese massage was great. It's a deep tissue massage but they finish it off with medicine cups on your back. These are the glass jars that they heat and then place on your back. It immediately sticks to your skin because of the suction from the cooling air inside the jar. The masseuse then slides the cup around your back, massaging as she goes. They seem to know just how hot to make the cups so they don't burn your skin but are pleasantly warm.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spa Lunch: La Maison de L'Apothiquaire

Ok, I'm not sure why this blog is always about food. It's probably because I like to eat and Saigon has a lot of great food.

If you want to be healthy, the spa lunch at L'Apothiquare is great. It's a fixed menu with soup, a main course, and a fruit course to finish it off. We usually add some fresh fruit juice from their drink menu as well. The menu is different every day, but always good. The chef really knows how to make great healthy food. The seating is outdoors under umbrellas. They have spritzer fans going to combat the warm weather. Unlike many Vietnamese restaurants, they know how to pace the courses. An innovation of L'Apothiquaire is a wireless remote control. When they bring the first course, they also drop off a mini remote. It looks like a small garage door opener. When you've finished the course or need to speak to the server, just push the button. A silent alarm goes off somewhere inside the villa and the server will appear. This is allows you to pace the meal as you like. Very nice!

The drawback to this spa is that I can never remember how to spell it so I always have trouble finding the address. On our last visit I took a picture of this vintage Mercedes sitting near the front door as a reminder of how to spell the name. Of course, now it's in my iPhone address book so I'll never have to wonder again.

Note L'Apothiquaire has two locations. The one I describe is in District 3, housed in a lovely villa. The other I have not visited and is in a storefront in District 1. I recommend the D3 version. It's a peaceful break from the hectic frenzy of downtown.

La Maison de L'Apothiquaire
64A Truong Dinh, D3
+84-8-932 5181

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Scoozi? Best Pizza in Saigon?

Recently we had lunch at Scoozi (aka Cafe L'Opera, aka illy) at 6 Thai Van Lung in District 1. Boy was the pizza good. They have free wifi and an air conditioned room upstairs too. Unfortunately (for me) the inside was pretty smoky, so if you're a smoker, this could be a great hang out for you. They do have well shaded outdoor seating which is nice too.

This street has a lot of great restaurants. Also check out Skewers for Mediterranean and Veggies for organic groceries.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Friday, October 5, 2007

Banh Xèo 46A

Our last lunch before heading to the US was at Banh Xèo 46A. It's called 46A because it's at 46A Dinh Cong Tran Street. This is a very small street that heads east from Ha Ba Trung just north of the pink church in District 1.

I found out about it from noodlepie's blog. He claims that it's the best banh xèo in Sài Gòn. I would have to agree. The funny thing about it, is that there is a seemingly nicer place across the street that is called Banh Xèo 49A. (You can see it in the background of noodlepie's picture here.) The poor folks at 49A have a nice big clean dining room which is almost totally empty. While across at 46A they have a row of tables under a tin roof and it's packed. When we drove up, the lady at 49A started waving us in. This immediately told us that it was not the right place. I looked around and saw our true destination under the cheap awning. Give it a try sometime. Maybe we'll try 49A at some point to see if it really is inferior or if it just gets a bad rap.

Don Diego's of Indian Wells

Ah, back the the US for some nice Mexican Food. The hotel concierge recommended Don Diego's and it was a great suggestion. Since we were dining at 4pm due to jet lag, we fit right in with the retired folks heading out for the early bird specials. (There are a lot of retired folks here it seems.) They had a special on margaritas, only $3. All appetizers were half off as well. It's sort of a standing joke that when you get old you start loosing your sense of taste. At dinner I noticed an older couple sitting near us. When the chips came, the older lady took a bite of one and immediately went for the salt shaker, adding a generous amount of salt to her chips. I can't imagine salting tortilla chips, which are already very salty. I suppose I shouldn't talk, you can see my salt rimmed margarita in the foreground here. Yum!

The Palm Springs area is great. The weather this time of year is perfect. We're in the middle of a desert and the sun is very hot midday, but it's a dry heat. The surrounding mountains make for a wonderful backdrop. I can see why so many people retire here. In a lot of ways it's like Las Vegas without the cheese. They even have streets named after old time entertainers here, like Bob Hope. It seems this is where Hollywood comes to retire.