Saturday, October 22, 2005

Eating everywhere and everything

In Vietnam, eating out is an experience. It is always joyful, relaxing and full of surprises! The flavours of dishes are enhanced with fresh (read 'uncooked') vegetables which add to the taste of soups and meats in the most psychedelic ways. Granted they say its best to take your Hepatitis A shots and with bird flu around, avoid chicken, duck and quails, but when the scent of Vietnamese dishes waft by you, you just can't resist, no matter what is served (reptiles, dogs and cats excluded!)

They sit on the tiniest stools and sup on the tiniest morsels, watching the world go by. This is the morning crowd, having breakfast before going into office. Impeccably dressed, they sit daintly on the stools, unperturbed they are so close to the ground. The same scene is repeated for tea, lunch, tea, dinner, tea... somehow tea and coffee-breaks never does end.

i asked for pho bo (beef noodles) but i got pho ba (chicken)! Must i consume this? What shall i do? ['think - bird flu....']

A tiny kitchen will do. The sooty walls add to the flavours; the handmade noodles and the chunks of unknown meats inevitably gets tastier in this sort of environment. They say, the grubbier the place, the more tasty the meal.

This is how a meal begins - a multiplicity of bowls, vegetables, sauces and stuff.

This is how it progresses - bowl of soup multiplied by spoonsful of condiments plus tasty sauce minus Ajinomoto, equals multiple burps

REMAINS OF THE DAY - hardly anything gets left behind...especially if it was sheer poetry in a bowl!

I have eaten just too much
Read more about Vietnamese food.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

House Hunting

House hunting is the bane of all expatriates intending to stay some time in Vietnam. Homes range from simple apartments to large villas and in-between is the ubiquitous VIETNAMESE VILLA. Often tall and thin, squeezed between two non-residential buildings or standing starkly alone, the villa's interiors often attempts styles much larger than it has space for.

Here is an uncompleted Vietnamese house which would be ready in about 20 days. This type of Vietnamese home is highly marketable.

The entrance of the home showing the basement GARAGE

This is taken from the KITCHEN, looking at the staircase going up to the second floor. The living room is on the left.

And finally, this is taken from the second floor but looking down the staircase. Notice the textured wall which goes down to the GARAGE

Friday, October 07, 2005

Sane in Saigon

A step out of the comfort of your air-conditioned hotel room and you're confronted with the crazy Saigon traffic and heat! But meditate a moment, and take a step of faith - you will find the whizzing motorcycles part like the Red Sea. So too the still, hot air which suddenly turns to wet thunderstorms and then stops again like a tap turned off. A reflection of - Saigon - a city that never is what is seems to be.

A CLEAN SWEEP - Saigon seems impeccably spotless for an Asian city! And all this without heavy littering fines. At a key corner opposite the Opera House, where the menfolk seem to gather for tea and a chat, helpers sweep away rain water so the streets don't turn muddy.

CRAZY TRAFFIC - Ten years ago it was whizzing bicycles but now its an endless stream of motorbikes and increasingly larger SUVs. There are no traffic rules, only an unspoken agreement to not hit you (or so it seems)! Walk confidently but make sure you catch the driver's eye before crossing. Never dash across! See how this driver teeters along the double white line. Hey, which lane is he on?! Check out the oncoming car! But all seem oblivious, noone seems worried....except the Singaporean backseat drivers.

TRADITION AND MODERNITY - The past and the future coexist side by side, each building upon the other. There seems to be a stark jump between elegant European architecture of the 19th century to functional blocks of the 1960s and 70s and then the sparkling steel-clad high-rise buildings of the 21st century. A dilapidated residence beside the spanking new hotel

WAR & PEACE - Talking to the Vietnamese, their cheerful and patient ways often belie a troubled past where many may have lost a parent or been separated from a relative in recent wars. But they don't carry their troubles like a large chip on their shoulder. Instead, their optimism is real and infectious - especially in vibrant Ho Chi Min City where the rosy economic climate seems to promise much for young couples. Here a wedding car is parked beside an American jet plane used in the war.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Buying & Selling

Vietnamese handicrafts make for delicate yet attractively priced souvenirs although the cheaper end of the spectrum can get rather tacky. This includes

WOODWORK - wood is carved to make signs from Disney characters to the Simpsons. Or else they are crafted for something more functional such as stools, cutlery or jewelry boxes. Skills in sculpting result in more intricately shaped results such as an animal carved from a single piece of wood. Check out the sculptures of Thu Nguyen Lacquerware is very much part of the woodwork.

BASKET WEAVES - rattan leaves dried in the sun are woven by hand to create fine basketry. The tribal groups make unique designs (Check VVG for samples and purchases)

EMBROIDERED LINEN - White linen for the table are often finely embroidered with the flora and fauna of Vietnam. Ranging from table cloths to fine silk jackets embroidered ala Imperial China brocade, the Vietnamese literally paint with needlework. Find out more about Ngoc Anh Embroidery,

CERAMICS - Although fine celadon tableware is often associated with Thailand, Vietnam has its own industry of celdon products. Minh Long makes some of the finest pieces in Vietnam. Today tourists buy creative cups and plates, products of centuries of craftmanship. Whether antiques or the modern versions, you can buy some online instead.

FRUITS & VEGETABLES - the simplest and most traditional way of selling items may prove to be the most successful way!

A link to Vietnamese products online.

Ben's new home

This is Ben's new home! It has enough room for all of you wanting to visit. You wish!

Actually this is the block to his one-room apartment. He is standing at the foyer, just beside the little red bus which brings us to town - one of the many conveniences offered(or rather a necessity considering how ulu this apartment block is)

Here he is unpacking and

here is a view to the rooms

BEDROOM - the toilet is behind and it has a bidet! We took awhile to know how it worked or why it squirted water. Use it to wash hands?

LIVING ROOM - there is a TV and internet access (all that Ben needs to survive)

KITCHEN - Fully equipped (with a rice cooker lugged from home by Bons - "what for?!" was Ben's appreciative response)