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Friday, 28 September 2007

Eye Spy


I asked what the eyes were for and was told it was so the boat could see where it was going, I can't escape the feeling that someone was taking the michael. However it's a nice image from around the neighbourhood.


There's a great deal of development in the area where we live, buildings are going up everywhere, from relatively simple houses through giant appartment blocks and modern mansions. As yet no supermarket but we have lots of little cafes and a floodlight tennis court for those who feel the need to sweat even more.

Sunday, 23 September 2007



Vietnamese coffee is addictive but getting one is a fairly lengthy affair. First you get tea, iced tea usually, most coffee shops serve up a glass of this along with the menu. Then comes the coffee in a little metal filter, slowly, very slowly, dripping into a glass containing condensed milk. Once all the coffee has worked the way through the filter you need to stir the conconction well before pouring it over ice.

Posher places like Highlands Coffee serve it ready made but I like the waiting. Iced black coffee is available too for times when such a sugar rush isn't required.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Guitars, Motorbikes and Vietnamese Music

We've been shopping, mainly for guitars. Saigon has a convenient system where specialist retailers set up together on one street so obviously if your looking for a guitar Guitar Street is the place to go "Nguyen Thein Thuat" to give it it's official name. Just off the big roundabout where Districts 1,3 and 5 converge.

Guitar street

It's a nice street, lots of clothing shops which will dig out some XXL tshirts if you have the time for them to search. I try to remind myself that Vietnamese XXL is European M but it doesn't really help. I particularly liked the dummy outside the shop below.

Britney Mannequine

But this is what we came for, guitars.

More Guitars

And more guitars.


We bought two.
our guitars
At £20 and £40 respectively they're hardly going to be world beaters but they both play well and have a nice tone, the one on the right is fitted with pickups and is steel strung hence it's higher price.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Motorbiking Vietnam

Vietnam runs on two wheels, while car ownership increases the motorbike is the main form of transport for the majority. A group we'll be joining next week when we take delivery of a bike. No matter how long we ride for I doubt we'll ever reach the expertise of some of the drivers we've seen.


This is not an unusual sight, the fridge isn't tied down to the bike in any way and more often than not the driver has some other electrical equipment between his knees. The guys driving these seem to be wearing a uniform, my guess is they're delivery drivers.
Vegetable delivery

I wasn't close enough to see whether these were swedes or celeriac but this is another example of excellent balance and driving skills.


A lighter but much brighter load, most balloon sellers work from bicycles but this was too colourful a sight to miss out.

And finally a three wheeled juggernaut carrying the motherlode.
The Motherload

Friday, 14 September 2007

Plant life

Topiary deer
Originally uploaded by amasc

Plants here look very exotic, some familiar, some not but these topiary deer outside a church caught my eye for their sheer exoticism.

Closeup deer

A closeup of the deer creature.

Aquatic plants seem popular too.
water lily
This was taken at a branch of Highlands Coffee, the Vietnamese Starbucks, I think this was the branch beside the opera house, good coffee, posh shops.

Floating plants
These floating plants are found in shallow bowls all over the place, the leaves are about as big as a pinkie nail and if you're lucky you'll see a dragonfly hovering over them. Obviously I wasn't lucky for this picture.

water lotus
Finally, a lotus pod, I think, very attractive anyway. This was taken outside the appartment, I'm still wide eyed at the plant life having previously only seen most of the specimens in a botanic garden hothouse.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Carlsberg don't do Post Offices

Possibly the best post office in the world.
Post Office
Bright and airy with fantastic architecture, it looks untouched. Staff are incredibly helpful and Uncle Ho looks down on you as you address your envelopes on the conveniently placed writing desks.
Possibly the best Post Office in the world
As well as the resting area shown there are old style phone booths, all red wood and glass and areas where you can buy collectible stamps, postcards and tourist treats. All it needs is a bar and a snack concession and I'd spend days in the place.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Central Saigon

Rex reflections

Central Saigon is a fabulous mixture of old and new and this has to be the shiniest brass plaque in town. The Rex Hotel is an amazing building, one of the older hotels in town and internally a palace of kitsch. This is famous as the gathering point for journalists during the American War. Even though it looks as though it's been there forever it's only been a hotel since the mid Seventies. We've had a drink on the roof but I didn't have the camera with me so I'll be forced to go back.

This part of town is home to the designer stores Louis Vuitton et al, the high end hotels and the trendy bars. It's very cosmopolitan and could be any successful city in the world, but look down any alley and you'll see a view like the one below.


Thursday, 6 September 2007

It rained

It rained
Originally uploaded by amasc

Of course it rained, it was a bank holiday weekend. It's the rainy season too so it was inevitable. I remembered to take the camera to town and grabbed a couple of pictures.

Above is a chom chom seller outside Ben Thanh market, the one all the tourists (and me) go to. I know these fruits as rambutans, they're a little like lychees but to my mind nicer. The rain was fairly moderate at this point

and rained

but got heavier

and rained more
and heavier.

Ponchos are the order of the day and available all over town.


But inside the market was dry and hot but well appointed with handy drinks stalls.

Drink stall

I thought this was a very impressive display, of course the fruit in the glass case is plastic but everything else is real, we had coconuts to drink and eventually found an umbrella stall. Although I think the ponchos would have been a more stylish and practical option.

We got here

view from roof 2
Originally uploaded by amasc

It wasn't too bad a journey and we've settled in, we got our internet connection fixed yesterday so this is the first opportunity to update the blog from Vietnam. There have been more pictures taken but this is the first, a view from our roof of the nearby river. However since I'm doing this before heading off to work it's going to be short and sweet.

We like it here.

View from roof
So work's over for the day and time for a little longer post, but not much, there's a social life to think of too. The picture above, also taken from the roof is our landmark for getting home. Most taxi drivers don't know our area too intimately yet so as soon as the bridge hoves into view we know we're on the right track.

Obligatory first impressions?

Hot and frenetic at first glance, we'd researched the traffic situation on Youtube of course and were mildly dreading making crossings but, as predicted, traffic flowed around us and within a couple of days we had stopped doing a victory dance once we reached the other side.

The food has been fantastic, lots of choice and fresh. Of course a couple of curry houses have been tracked down and sampled, we have to get some sort of taste of home from time to time. Mumtaz in the backpackers district scored highly, really tasty thali's costing around £1.50 as I recall as did Ali Baba's in a more salubrious area despite their tendancy to use the red food colouring on vegetable dishes but there are many more to try.

The beer's more than drinkable, sometimes served with ice, slightly odd to begin with but at least you rehydrate as you dehydrate.

We both have a fine collection of mosquito bites but their effect is getting less intense as we build up some immunity to them. We both got bitten on the arse and of course they were the itchiest bites in the world!

Clothing, I'm officially elephant size and will be forced to get things made for me, a certain person is "average" for the first time ever and can swan in anywhere and be overwhelmed with choice.

All in all, we're quite chuffed with ourselves, it seems like we made a good choice of countries and we're not missing much at all (except clothes in size 12).