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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Fast Food Saigon Style

Sure, the streets are full of vendors selling all manner of tasty Vietnamese treats but the fast food chains are making steady inroads too.

Fast food Saigon, Kentucky Fried Ga

KFC franchises are probably the most numerous.

Fast food Saigon, Jollibee

Jollibee, the Philippines contender for the burger crown is well established. At least their happy bee mascot isn't as creepy as the clown used by McDonald's.

Fast food Saigon, Illy cafe

At the higher end of the market Illy cafes have sprung up jostling with Gloria Jeans, Highlands Coffee and, more recently, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf to capture cafe high society.

I wonder if we'll ever get a Greggs ?

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

French Architecture, Central Saigon

I think this is the Party Headquarters in District 1. I know I've never been able to take pictures of it before because there are always armed guards outside looking sternly at me but I managed to grab this image from a taxi.

French architecture, Saigon

I love the slightly debauched and louche face surrounded by hair and roses and I'll have to try to take more stealth snaps of the building in future.

Home made designer chic

Fashion, grooming, style and labels are very important in Vietnam and the high end labels do good business. However once you hit the streets originality is more evident than originals.
Kind of Calvin Klein belt

I'm guessing this is not part of the official collection.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Dalat Christmas Break

A four night trip to Dalat for Christmas in the well posh Sofitel Dalat Palace was a nice break from Saigon. Vietnamese people tell me it's very romantic, certainly unheated rooms do encourage cuddling up, but I enjoy it for the cool air during the day and the kitschness.

First, here's a picture of the cool air:
Dalat, from Sofitel Dalat Palace

And now some of the kitsch:

The Dalat wine Christmas tree

Dalat makes a wine, and from the bottles they have also made a Christmas tree which will also double as a general purpose tree for the upcoming flower festival.

One of the "romantic" attractions of Dalat is to take a swan pedalo onto the lake.

Swan boats on the lake in Dalat

You can take your swan for a tour past the potato crisp heart:

The potato crisp heart

Or gaze at the Dalat Eiffel Tower courtesy of the Post Office:

Eiffel tower dalat style

Pony rides are popular, so is taking pictures of people taking pony rides. Look carefully (you might want to click on the picture for the full size on flickr) you should be able to see the best combination of hats in any one picture ever.

Christmas scene, Dalat

A stetson, a non la or cone hat, a sun hat complete with face protector if the hat doesn't provide enough coverage and, being Christmas, a santa hat. There's also a hat on the guy on the pony that I don't know the name for.

Merry Christmas

Monday, 21 December 2009

Mumtaz Indian Restaurant, Saigon

Mumtaz, HCMC
In the interest of fairness I'm posting Mumtaz Indian Restuarant,226 Bui Vien - in the backpacker area.

Me and the man fight over whether this or Ganesh is the best in town and truly there's not much to choose between the food. Ganesh has airconditioning and is a bit spiffier, Mumtaz is friendlier. Both serve very good Northern and Southern Indian food, a great line in vegetarian dishes and for me, crucially, Mumtaz delivers within half an hour.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Saigon acrobats

The recent Loreto Fest went all out to create a carnival atmosphere complete with acrobats and slightly creepy isnie-disney costumes.
Loreto fest, actual acrobats

While the acrobats were impressive, as is so often the case in Vietnam, it was the unexpected that really caught my eye.
Balancing act Loreto Fest Saigon
Another shot of the real acrobats

Lighting rig, loreto fest with acrobatic worker
Accidental acrobat
The lighting rig needed adjusted. Ladders? Harness? Hard hat? Clear the people underneath? Why on earth would you do that?
Lighting rig acrobat
I would lay money on the power still being live too. Still, at least he isn't wearing flip flops.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Loreto Fest Saigon 2009

A few more posts from this event will eventually make their way to my adoring public but to keep you satiated here's the best 'fro seen since the Seventies.


Loreto Fest is the biggest live music gig in HCMC and all for a good cause so that makes getting drunk in the open air a good thing. Here are some details.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

The terrible truth about the Ao Dai or The Pajama Party

Browse any website aimed at tourists to Vietnam and you'll be hard pressed to find one that doesn't feature the undeniably beautiful national dress, the Ao Dai (áo dài). Sure you'll see them worn by receptionists in hotels, in tourist oriented shops and of course on Vietnam Airlines but far, far more prevalent is the pajama suit. They're EVERYWHERE.

Polyester miracles of bright patterns not seen elsewhere since the sixties adorn everyone from children to ancient grannies. They come in all sorts of patterns and styles according to the preferences of the wearer and hardly ever featured on the tourist industry websites as an attraction.

Pyjama on bike
Sleeveless and short trousered.

pyjama suit 8
Stretchy and spaghetti strapped.

pyjama suit 5
Puff sleeved and tailored.

pyjama suit 3
Flowing and edging on elegant.

pyjama suit 6

Covered with a big cardigan to provide further protection from the sun.

I love pajama suits and think they should be celebrated more but I doubt there will be a day when Miss Ao Dai competitions are replaced by Miss Pajama Suit. Shame.
Ao Ba Ba
Thanks to Louis Pasta on flickr for letting me know that the correct name for the flowing suits is Ao Ba Ba

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Scotia Vietnam Fashion?

I'd seen the helmets, tried them on, not photographed them, I'll have to now for comparison. The helmets have a strip of tartan down the middle and the slogan "Scotland, every day is lovely". I hadn't seen the complimenting shirts though.

Scotia-Vietnamese fashion brand?

I'm suspecting, what with the wrong colours on the flags and all, that this is a local design but I'd be delighted to be informed otherwise. The Lovely Scotland helmet would go much better with this than the hibiscus strewn one.

Wiring solution?

In my previous post I showed pictures of power cables, mainly on Trang Hung Dau and mused about them being moved underground some day.

Co-incidentally Vietnam Daily News published an article about the same thing.Full article here

The main concern is that there are no standards in place and cables are being buried in a haphazard manner. On Tran Hung Dao they'll be in lined ditches with power and telecom wires kept apart. On Le Than Ton they'll be buried 75cm underground in plastic pipes with no concrete support.

Great, the era of the permanent roadworks is dawning.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Power talks

You know what it's like, you stop seeing things after a while then something happens and whatever it is is back in focus.

I'd been trying to take some pictures of buildings and bemoaning the power cables always getting in the way so, of course, soon I see nothing but power cables.

Quite ordered power cables
These are fairly well ordered, there's still a lot of them though.

Power cable overload
The busier the road, the more houses and businesses there are, the greater the need for power and things start to get a bit more complex.

Snagged, tangled, confusing power cables

Then there's this, it reminds me of the last time I decorated a Christmas tree. Snagged, tangled and horribly confused.

I suppose one day they'll all be underground and what excuse will I have for not being able to take good pictures of buildings then?

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A shoe with everything

A shoe with everything

Diamondesque jewels set on a giant multicoloured, multifacet jewel, surrounded by a ring of clear jewels sitting on more of the same on a gold trimmed and silver studded Be Be flip flop with a bit of wedgieness about it and silver studs teamed with flesh coloured, sun evading thong socks and, if you look very carefully, a flower painted on the big toenail. A winner on all fronts I'd say. 

Sometimes I am so glad my giant western feet don't fit into these things because I would, I know I would.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Franco Vietnamese Hospital Benches

I've been spending longer than I particularly want to FV hospital this week. I'm still in negotiations about whether I can blog the reason or not, meanwhile, here's a picture of the benches there that throw shadows shaped like sunglasses.
Bench and sunglasses shadow

Yes, I was THAT bored.

Newspaper Headline

Newspaper suffers shortage of proof readers

Newspaper suffers shortage of proof readers

Saturday, 17 October 2009


There's been a lot of running about recently trying to comply with new visa regulations, some of my documents went missing a while back and it's not proving too easy to get them replaced. Thankfully I still have all my originals but this morning I made my second attempt to get my police check sorted. I was turned away last time because it was too busy so early Saturday morning I turned up at the Department of Justice:
Public justice office regulations

I think I got it sorted, at least I got a slip telling me when to go back and pick it up but worryingly, I got it from the counter where they organise marriage licences.

Pubic justice office guidance

I am a good citizen and did not take information from The Outsiders.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Polka Dot rainwear

The Saigon equivalent of a dreich day, it was overcast and cloudy all day with near constant drizzle gave me lots of time to mull over the rainwear solution.

I've more or less given up on working out how to get the plastic poncho to keep anything other than my shoulders slightly dry. They flap around and leak and whatever I'm wearing on my legs wicks up water to waist height. I put it on when I'm on the bike but it's more a case of fitting in that providing any practical wet weather protection. How two Vietnamese manage to stay snug and dry under one of them is beyond my comprehension.

Pola dots

I like the look of the clear plastic polka dot poncho draped over the blue and white Attila but know that on me It'd look like I've been shrink wrapped so mine is dark blue, anonymous and a waste of space in the boot box.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Clever camera tricks

Some people, not me, are very good with photo manipulation tools. Here's a photograph I took back in 2008 at Angkor Wat, Cambodia.

Rippling robes, Angkor Wat

Below is something created using it by a Flickr member called Jeloid (click the name for the original work in a larger size)

Pretty impressive huh? I think I'll stick to the odd crop and fiddling about with lighting in photoshop when things turn out really bad, if only because I have neither the skills nor the time to develop them.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Praying Mantis

There are two insects I like here, the metalic green scarab looking ones that I don't have a picture of yet, and the Praying Mantis. Here's one that was hanging about outside the glass kitchen door.

Praying Mantis on kitchen door

Much nicer than cockroaches.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Saigon Ballon Seller

All over the country, but especially in the cities, people sell balloons. They're available in all sorts of shapes and styles to suit the individual and the time of year.


But for some reason there's always at least one Santa in there.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Giant fish in Saigon skies

Lots of houses have what I only know as chimney grannies. In the cold countries they stop wind coming down the chimney and blowing smoke back into the house. Here they do the opposite job and help vent hot air out of the house in form of natural airconditioning.

Most of them look like this:

Chimney granny

However, I spotted this;

Shiny fish chimney granny
I must keep my eyes trained upwards on my travels to see if I can spot any other roof creatures.

Thursday, 27 August 2009


Our house has airconditioning in all the rooms above the ground floor but we spend most of our time on the ground floor. To maximise air circulation we keep the front and back door open and often open a door on the roof too. So we get visitors.

Visiting lizard
I think it sets off the indoor scooter parking facility beautifully.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Phu My Hung Bridge

A view of the new Phu My Hung bridge from the lower reaches of district 7.

Phu My Hung Bridge
It should make the road to Mui Ne a bit shorter but I have no idea what effect it's going to have on traffic in the "Saigon of the Future."

Monday, 17 August 2009

New Motorbike Helmet

It's been put off for too long, we've been driving around with Vietnamese helmets knowing that they're not going to do a lot of good if there's an accident. Off we went to the Saigon Scooter Centre to get a couple of Italian Vemar helmets. We were 50% successful but I have to wait for the smaller sizes to come in in the next consignment. However the difference is very clear.

New Helmet Front
The one on the right is properly shaped and padded using excellent materials, it's light and comfortable to wear and makes you feel safe.
The one of the left is mine.
New Helmet Side
It's a plastic bowl.

Things I miss by living in Vietnam

There's not a lot I miss. Except this:

Available in Malaysia but best enjoyed during happy hours when the price isn't too shocking.


I like getting up early on holidays and taking a stroll along the beach. Sometimes it's pristine and deserted, sometimes full of people hauling up catches and sometimes it's got quite a lot of rubbish on it. Here's some rubbish.
Beachfind cruiser
A cruiser
Beachfind plastic lighters
A school of lighters
Beachfind warrior
A warrior
Beachfind closer crustacean flotation
A crustacean flotation device
Beachfind, thongs gone
Where the flip flops once were
The beaches mainly get cleaned up during the early morning so you have to be out sharp to see these kinds of treasures.